by Christine Morgan
Author’s Note: the Star Wars universe and
the characters from it are the property of Lucasfilm Ltd. and are used
here without their creators’ knowledge or permission. All other characters
belong to the author.
Mature readers only, please.
“How come you don’t like
the Queen?” Anakin Skywalker asked as the transport began descending.
“Don’t like the
Queen?” Obi-Wan Kenobi turned to his young apprentice with a puzzled look.
“What gives you that idea?”
boy hoisted himself onto the counter beside the console, swinging his feet.
“Whenever we come here, you’re always in a hurry to leave.”
“That’s not true.”
“And you feel uncomfortable.
I can tell.”
“It’s not me that’s
in a hurry to leave. Our business demands us elsewhere. With things in
the Republic as they are, we have precious little time for visiting.”
“If our missions
are so important, then, how come you’re leaving me here?”
“This time, my Padawan,
I must go alone.”
“But I’ve got a
bad feeling about this. Is it dangerous?”
“Is it exciting?”
“Will there be fighting?”
“I hope not, but
“Then I should go
Obi-Wan sighed and
wondered if he’d been this much trouble to his Master, Qui-Gon. Upon reflection,
he thought not, for he had been identified and inducted into Jedi training
when he was barely out of infancy, whereas Anakin hadn’t been accepted
by the Council until three years ago.
“Anakin, you’re not ready
for a mission of this sort.”
“I helped you on
Endor’s moon,” the youth pointed out.
“That was entirely
different. And look how it turned out.” He gave Anakin a stern look.
Abashed, the boy
pretended to find the utmost fascination with the tuft at the end of his
thin braid. “I didn’t mean to. I was just telling them stories. How was
I supposed to know they’d take it so seriously? Besides, what harm could
“Don’t ever say
that,” Obi-Wan advised. “Those are the words that will come back to haunt
The ship settled
to a stop, and the pilot came into the rear compartment.
“Naboo Royal City,” he
announced. “There’s a greeting party on the way.”
“All right!” Anakin
hopped down and smoothed his cream-colored Jedi tunic. “How do I look?”
The portal irised
open and a ramp extended smoothly onto the marble flagstones. Directly
ahead of them was a mammoth arch of pale stone, elaborately sculpted and
decorated. Obi-Wan and Anakin moved forth into the clean, sweet-smelling
air to meet the approaching group.
Anakin rushed ahead.
He had shot up several inches in the past three years, and thanks to his
rigorous training, his build had kept up with his height, so that he lacked
the gangly appearance of most teens. He stopped, swept his dark brown cloak
behind him, and executed a gallant bow.
“I once believed
angels came from the deep reaches of space,” he said to the central figure
of the group. “Now, having been over half the galaxy, I know I was wrong.
They come from this world.”
Queen Amidala, her
slender body unbowed by the weight of her elaborate ceremonial gown and
headdress, smiled brilliantly at Anakin. Her blush couldn’t be seen through
the layers of white make-up, but Obi-Wan could sense that it was there.
Jedi,” she said. Her warm gaze shifted from Anakin to include Obi-Wan.
There, it lingered, and grew even warmer, until he had to avert his eyes
and will his own face not to redden.
inclined his head. “I’m afraid I must impose upon the generous hospitality
of your people once more.”
“We are always pleased
by your visits. It’s hardly an imposition.”
“He’s dumping me
here,” Anakin said brightly. “While he goes off and does neat Jedi stuff.
A flurry of excited
blips, beeps, and whistles issued from the squat droid as it trundled forward
to meet Anakin.
“Oh ... I see.”
Amidala looked at Obi-Wan again.
“If that is agreeable
to your Majesty. I would have sent word ahead, but this all fell together
with rather short notice. If we might speak privately ...?” he finished
The Queen nodded
graciously and her party escorted them into the palace. Obi-Wan could hear
Anakin regaling Artoo with the stories he’d spun for the poor primitives
of Endor, blithely answering the droid’s questions as if he still
hadn’t realized how unusual was his ability with languages
both organic and mechanical.
“We are prospering
under the guidance of the new Senate,” Amidala said by way of small talk
as the Jedi followed her to her smallest throne room. “Chancellor Palpatine
is working most diligently to drive out corruption. Some criticize his
methods as harsh, but he assures me it is necessary to lead with a firm
“I’m sure his wisdom
is a credit to his office,” Obi-Wan said.
handmaids flanked her as she slowly lowered herself onto the throne. Each
bore a vague resemblance to Amidala, and Obi-Wan wasn’t sure which was
the one who replaced the Queen as a decoy in times of trouble. It could,
he reasoned, be any of them. But he’d no doubts that the one he was speaking
to was the true Queen.
“I apologize again
for the suddenness of my request, Majesty, and I am very grateful that
my apprentice will be able to await my return here. However, should I ...
fail to do so promptly, the Jedi Council will send for him.”
Concern filled her
dark eyes. “Is there a significant chance that you will fail to return
“Don’t worry, Ami. They’re always saying things like that.”
A few of the handmaids
and most of the guards bristled at the youth’s casual address of their
Queen, but she paid it no mind.
“I must go ...”
Obi-Wan said heavily, “to Rannok.”
“The prison moon?”
Amidala’s voice stayed even, but he felt her spark of alarm and fear.
of Lancas has been usurped and taken there secretly. Some fear that he
may be slated for execution.”
“That cannot be
allowed! The Governor is among the most just and reasonable members of
the Republic. His death would be intolerable!”
“Which is why it
must be prevented.”
“Surely there are
other means. A plea to the Senate ...” she broke off with her lips pursed,
perhaps remembering how well her pleas to the Senate had gone when the
Trade Federation invaded her system.
“There’s no time.”
“No one has ever
“No one’s ever had
a Jedi come rescue them,” Anakin said.
“Why just one Jedi?”
Amidala asked. “Why ... you?”
This time the roil
of fear that didn’t show in the Queen’s outward composure was more intense.
Even Anakin caught it. He looked sharply at Obi-Wan, a line of suspicion
creasing his forehead.
Obi-Wan thought. “The Governor knows me. He will recognize and trust me.
That will save valuable time that might otherwise be spent convincing him
of our intent. One Jedi, alone, stands a better chance of entering the
“It’s not getting
the prison that’s the hard part,” Anakin remarked.
“Which is why I mean it
when I say there is a chance I might not return promptly,” Obi-Wan said
pointedly. “And should I not, I will be counting on you to --”
“Come rescue you?”
“No!” Obi-Wan dropped
both hands on the youth’s shoulders. “That, you shall not do. You’ll
return to the Jedi Council and complete your training. What happens to
me is not important.”
“How can you say
that?” Amidala protested, and Artoo warbled in agreement.
He ignored them,
fixing his will on Anakin. “Qui-Gon believed in you. So do I. You won’t
disappoint us, but neither will you throw your life away.”
Anakin’s lower lip
jutted stubbornly. “I’m supposed to be your apprentice.”
“You are. And a
good one. But that means I’m responsible for your well-being. I cannot,
in good conscience, lead you into a situation like this.”
“You’re going to
die on me, aren’t you? Just like Qui-Gon. Then I’ll be handed off to some
other master. It’s like being a slave again.”
“Ani!” Amidala gasped.
“It is not like
that,” Obi-Wan said, giving Anakin a little shake. “Don’t you believe it,
no matter what Master Yoda might say. You will be a Jedi Knight,
and a great one.”
“But in the meantime,
I get left behind.”
“Yes, I’m afraid
so. But hardly as the unwanted baggage you’d make yourself out to be,”
he added with a smile. “After all, aren’t you the Hero of Naboo?”
“Well, I guess ...”
Now, Majesty, if you’ll excuse me, I must be going.”
“Our thoughts go
with you,” she said.
“Thank you. May
the Force be with you.” He bowed, and left the throne room.
“I’ve got Cahaldra
in view,” Jefin Valtac said.
The pilot’s voice
roused Obi-Wan from a state that was part doze and part meditative trance.
“Let’s have a look.”
The screen filled
with the image of the gas giant, which hung in space like a clouded marble
of violets, blues, greens, and yellows. The bands of colors swirled and
revolved with slow grandeur in a smooth flexion of colors that gave lie
to what Obi-Wan knew must be the truth of the planet’s atmosphere. The
winds would be screaming, the storms sheeting acid.
“The God’s Eye is
just coming around.” Jefin tapped the edge of the screen. A colossal storm,
bright violet with a brilliant yellow ‘eye,’ appeared as the orb continued
in its rotation. Even from this distance, it was shot with flashes of electric
blue lightning, each flash large enough to incinerate an entire city. “We
should be picking up the Eye’s interference sweep in ...” he consulted
his instrument panel, “six-point-five.”
“Where is Rannok?”
Jefin called up
the image of a small moon, dark and featureless. “Not much to see, I’m
afraid.” He enlarged it until they could detect a few glimmers of light
-- signs of civilization. “That’s the main prison compound. I’ll set you
down here, two clicks away, past these rock formations. We’ll make our
initial pass when the moon is under the sweep of the Eye, so they won’t
be able to detect us. Our window won’t last long. I’ll have time to land
and take off again, and somewhere in there, you’ll want to jump out. You’ll
have to make your way overland to the compound, and then meet me back at
the same drop site.”
“How long do you
think you’ll need?”
“I wish I knew ...
give me forty-eight hours, and if I’m not there to meet you, another forty-eight.
After that, assume that I’ve failed.”
sensor will track the sweeps for you.”
it and leaned closer, studying the view intently. “Rock formations ...
they look too regular for that. Almost like ruins.”
“Trick of the eyes. Without regular supply ships and power generators,
even the prison colony couldn’t survive. Nothing grows. The only light
and heat that dead moon gets is from Cahaldra itself, what the astrogators
call a ‘brown dwarf.’ The system’s star won’t look much different from
anything else in the skies from this far out. We’re
almost closer to Nachu, the next star over.”
something ...” he let his eyes go half-closed and pressed his fingertips
to the screen. “I sense something down there.”
The pilot gave him
a sidelong look. “Um ... we’re almost into the interference sweep; I need
to shut down all non-essential systems until we get through it.”
sat back, only the slight furrow of his brow betraying his troubled state
Rannok was a tidally-locked
moon, the same face of it always turned toward Cahaldra. That side was
barely hospitable, with a thin but breathable atmosphere created by gases
issuing from fissures in the moon’s crust. The surface was bathed in dim,
flat, blue-violet radiance that was more shadow than light. The other side,
facing away from the gas giant toward the far reaches of space, was eternally
frozen and dark.
Not a place that many
would willingly go. The perfect choice, some twenty years ago, when the
Republic had authorized Minister of Justice Dol Bethra to oversee the construction
of a prison compound.
Like most things
that turned out badly, Obi-Wan reflected grimly, it had seemed like a good
idea at the time. But misuse of power, and the corruption that Chancellor
Palpatine was fighting in the Senate, had turned Rannok into a hellhole
where enemies of those in power, not even necessarily criminals, could
be kept out of the way.
“Entering the sweep
now,” Jefin said.
The cabin was lit
only by the amber glow of the instrument panel. The ship dipped slantways
as if caught by atmospheric turbulence. Irregular patterns skittered across
the screens. Outside, beyond the viewports, violet flickers sparkled and
swirled in the emptiness.
“How wide is it?”
“Like a cone,” Jefin
replied. “It widens but disperses, weaker the farther from the planet it
gets. We should be coming through in a few more minutes. Then I’ll swing
around the back side of Rannok and wait for the next sweep.”
Obi-Wan rose from
his seat, bracing himself with both hands as the ship continued rocking
side to side. He made his way into the rear compartment. His pack was there,
and he mentally went over the contents yet again. It was always a
challenge to balance what might be needed against what
was too much to carry.
The ship’s motion
smoothed out. Jefin spoke over the intercom. “We’re through, and beginning
the approach. Should be just shy of an hour until landing.”
“I have some things to
attend to back here,” Obi-Wan replied. “Alert me when we’re close.”
He sat down and
shut his eyes, turning his thoughts inward to clear them and prepare himself
for the mission at hand. The sought-after state of alert serenity didn’t
come as easily as usual. Distractions kept intruding.
The look in Queen
Amidala’s dark eyes.
A recent meeting
with Yoda, in which the diminutive Jedi Master insisted for the thousandth
time that there was still fear in Anakin, that it was a mistake and a dangerous
one for Obi-Wan to carry on with his training.
His own concern
that Yoda was right, overpowered by the promise he’d made to the dying
One by one he pushed
the distractions aside. Calm, calmer. Heed the future and the past,
but not at the expense of the now.
At last, his mind
relaxed and opened. He quested outward.
There. The mild
disturbance in the Force that was born of people, prisoners, in torment.
Flavored with the cruel malice of their Wardens and the savage sadism of
the Kadav warriors who served as guards and inquisitors. He let it flood
fully into him until he was faint and shaking from the horror of it, then
began systematically constructing barriers against it to keep from being
As he was finishing,
he felt again what he had briefly noticed before.
Something ... someone ... a
presence. He reached for it, and for a bare moment was assailed by a wave
of icy anger. It wasn’t directed at him; had it been, he might have been
Someone strong with
the Force. But no Jedi; he was sure of that.
“Landing in two-point-eight,”
Jefin announced. “Ready?”
He came out of himself
to the realization that the ship was rocking again, back in the interference
sweep. He looked out the viewport and saw the bleak and uninspiring landscape
of Rannok getting closer.
“Yes.” He shouldered
his pack and moved to the hatch at the rear.
When the ship touched
down, the hatch in the floor slid open and Obi-Wan was looking down at
black stones scoured clear of dust by their descent.
Jefin called back. “During the first sweep after that! Be here!”
“I’ll do my best.”
He dropped through the opening, ducked, and hurried out from beneath the
lifted off again. Obi-Wan spared a moment to watch the graceful ship wheel
and soar into the distance. Then he was alone, with Cahaldra filling half
the pale violet sky above him.
Obi-Wan broke into
an easy jog that carried him swiftly toward the rock formations between
him and the prison compound. As he neared them, he slowed.
His earlier instinct
had been right.
They weren’t rock
formations at all.
He saw the tumbled
wreckage of octagonal columns, and the shattered dome of the roof they’d
once supported. A rubble-strewn flight of wide steps leading nowhere. A
tilted obelisk of some obsidian-like substance, half-buried in the earth
as if it had sunk. At its base, an opening in the ground with stairs leading
down, but only a few feet before the passageway was choked with debris.
Further on, a broken statue of a woman in a draped sleeveless gown lay
face-down in the middle of what might have once been an avenue lined with
large decorative pots.
his hands across the objects, and the clamor of the past filled his head.
He heard voices crying out in agony and fear, silenced one after another
with brutal suddenness. He smelled blood and fire. He felt the ground trembling
beneath him, heard the topple and crash of buildings being destroyed.
The past ... but not the
far distant past that he might have expected. Not terribly recently, either
... but sometime between ten and a hundred years ago.
He moved on, more cautious
than ever, hand poised near his light saber.
Every now and again, like
whiffs of an elusive aroma, he caught faded impressions of that cold angry
presence. It had been here. Whatever ... whoever ... it was, it had been
Nothing grows, Jefin
had said. That wasn’t true. Vines snaked among the ruins, their color a
dark gold, their leaves veined and edged in a purple that matched the sky.
Matched, also, the clusters of tiny berries dotting the vines. Black mushrooms,
their flat tops merging into large soft plates, sprouted in the hollows.
He found part of
a fountain, the basin cracked into shards but water still trickling from
its central spout. It was cool and slightly oily to the touch, and when
he brought a drop of it to the tip of his tongue, it tasted of minerals.
Ahead of him, a
ridge of heaped stone blocks barred his way. He scaled it carefully, keeping
his head low until he could see what was on the other side.
The blocks had once
made a wall around a courtyard. The building across from Obi-Wan was impossible
to identify; it had been reduced to a heap, the very stones nearly pulverized.
But that wasn’t what drew his attention.
The bones ...
A huge mound of
them, their ivory painted lavender by Cahaldra’s glow, filled half of the
courtyard. They were laced together by more of the golden vines. He even
saw the tiny fragile bones of children. Hundreds of people.
Obi-Wan made his
way down the far side of the ridge and approached. A great and inexpressible
sadness washed over him. He reached out, but stopped before touching any
of the pitiable remains.
“Force be with you,”
he said softly.
him but he had no satisfactory answers. He was glad to put that terrible
sight behind him, although the sight ahead of him once he reached the edge
of the ruins was not much better.
By every report,
the prison on Rannok was to have been a simple thing. Long low dormitories
to house the prisoners, a few sentry towers to monitor them, a fenced perimeter.
The moon itself was their prison; there was nowhere to go and no way to
survive even if someone did escape.
Why, then, was he
looking at a fortress? The walls were sheer cliffs of stone topped with
razored coils of bladewire, the gaping eyes of motion and infrared sensors
set into them every few yards.
Obi-Wan crouched low,
blending himself with the terrain, and dug his scanner out of his pack.
Kadav warriors restlessly
prowled walkways on both sides of the walls, their grey-white skin and
four-armed shapes unmistakable. On many planets, their vulnerability to
sunlight made them nearly useless; here, they could be as formidable as
they were on their own home world.
According to Dol
Bethra, his guards were to be armed only with stun-batons. Yet those were
Nachuran whip-knives at their waists, and most of them paced with blaster
rifles resting on their shoulders. Security drone droids moved in precise
patterns over the compound.
Some of the structures
within bore a striking resemblance to the architecture of the ruined city
he’d just come through. Others were clearly of another design, solid and
functional. The prison had been constructed on and incorporating some existing
buildings that had already been on Rannok, long before Dol Bethra had informed
the Senate that the barren and uninhabited moon would be a perfect site.
aside, Obi-Wan was faced with a more immediate problem.
He began a wide,
stealthy circle of the walls, looking for a way in and not finding one.
There was a landing station atop the highest tower of the fortress, presumably
where the supply vessels docked, but no gates.
Obi-Wan waited and
watched for several hours.
With the moon tidally
locked, there was neither day nor night on Rannok. Just Cahaldra, always
looming in the heavens, always shedding that strange light. Thus, no one
time looked to be any better than another. No concealing cover of darkness
to ease an escape.
He let down his
mental barriers and viewed the fortress through the Force rather than his
sight. What he’d felt on the ship came back now, stronger than ever. Pain
and misery. Savage malice.
But when he sensed
the presence of that icy anger again, it wasn’t from within the fortress
but from the ruins behind him. Even as his mind touched it, he felt it
burst into a killing rage. And heard ... with ears as well as the Force
familiar and startling sound of a light saber flaring
As he ran, he heard
the sharp snap of whip-knives, blaster fire, and the death-bellow of a
Kadav, so loud it shook the earth. Mingled through it all was the resonant
hum and clash of a light saber.
He rounded a corner
and stopped short as a blaster shot blew off a chunk of wall just above
Two wide avenues
intersected at a large square that might have once been a marketplace.
The buildings around the square were demolished. At the center was a vine-entwined
octagonal dais with steps leading up to a round well. Half of the columns
rising from the dais were sheared off. The remaining four still supported
the domed roof, though as another blaster shot smashed a hole through the
dome and the whole thing shuddered, Obi-Wan didn’t think it would last
Six Kadav were converging
on the dais. A seventh was on the ground with two hands clamped across
the cauterized stubs of his other two arms, veins bulging and jaw tooth-cracking
tight in an effort to keep from screaming. An eighth was beyond such concerns,
sprawled on his back with his torso laid open from collarbones to belt,
his organs bulging out between the charred edges of the blow that had killed
The violet light
was brighter here, coming not just from the sky but from the light saber
wielded by a woman in black. It was an amethyst streak as she spun and
sliced through a stun-baton. Sparks showered as the baton exploded, sending
the Kadav head over heels down the dais steps. The woman threw back her
head and voiced a laugh part triumph, part challenge.
She was clad in
black from head to toe -- boots to the thigh, close-fitting trousers, a
long-sleeved tunic that fell in front and back panels to knee level but
was open to the hip on the sides, and a cowled cloak very much like the
one Obi-Wan himself wore. The cowl was thrown back, and violet energy spilled
across her face. Her hair was as black as
her clothes, drawn back in a braid.
The nearest Kadav
charged at Obi-Wan, shouting a guttural warning in his own language.
saber, vibrant blue-white, cut an arc through the dimness of the day. He
caught the woman’s astounded expression, then put it from his mind because
the battle was upon him.
The Kadav’s whip-knife
lashed toward him, each of the thousands of tiny needle-sharp blades winking
in the blue-white glow. But Obi-Wan anticipated its path, and severed it.
He thrust his other hand at the Kadav. With a single push of the Force,
he sent the four-armed warrior flying backward.
He deflected a blaster
shot from the second Kadav into the leg of the third, then made a cartwheeling
leap and came down right in front of the one who’d fired. Even as the Kadav’s
eyes widened in surprise, Obi-Wan had sheared his blaster into pieces.
The first Kadav
regained his footing and swung at Obi-Wan with a stun-baton in each of
his lower hands. The third, injured, flicked his whip-knife at an awkward
Obi-Wan leaped over
the whip-knife, parried both stun-batons, came down, pivoted, kicked the
first one in the head, drove his elbow into the face of the second one
who had been rushing him from behind, took a blaster shot from one of the
others through the flapping hem of his cloak, realized he wasn’t going
to be able to get out of this without killing them, beheaded the first,
and hit the second on the juncture of shoulder and neck, leaving a deep
burnt score diagonally
across the pale chest.
The third Kadav
was up and running despite his wounded leg. Obi-Wan pushed out at him again,
a hard sharp thrust of the heel of the hand, and the Kadav soared headlong
into a section of wall. It broke apart and fell on him, sending up a gout
around, Obi-Wan saw that there was only one Kadav left moving. He had the
woman cornered on the lip of the well, or so he thought, but as he lunged,
she jumped-flipped over backward, cloak flying, and landed neatly on the
The Kadav wasn’t
so lucky, striking the lip of the well at knee-level and plunging straight
down. After what seemed a very long silence, a crunch echoed up the well’s
Now it was just
the two of them, Obi-Wan and the woman, regarding each other warily through
the glow of their light sabers.
Her eyes were a
rich gold, like the eyes of a bird of prey. He searched them.
“You’re no Jedi,”
he finally said. “What are you?”
“Revenge,” she replied.
“You helped me against
the Kadav, and my idea of repaying debts doesn’t include leaving a stranger
to be slaughtered for things that I’ve done.” The woman in black indicated
the well. “This way. Quickly.”
“There’s a Kadav
“And there will
be more up here any minute. Hear that? It’s one of their groundskimmers.”
She grabbed one of the vines that trailed into the well and swung halfway
in. “Whoever you are and whyever you’re here, I don’t think getting caught,
interrogated, and then executed was part of your plan.”
“True,” he admitted.
She began a rapid
hand-over-hand descent, and he followed. The well opened out at the bottom
into a circular chamber with a narrow ledge ringing the water. It was upon
this ledge that the unfortunate Kadav had ended up, dead from a snapped
“There’s a hidden
door.” She edged halfway around the well and her body concealed her action
from him, but moments later, there was a grinding squall of stone and part
of the curved wall slid back to reveal an opening.
“Are you a prisoner?”
he asked as she started into the dark space.
She paused and turned
her forearm, pulling up her sleeve. There, burned into the tender flesh
of the wrist, was a brand in the shape of a diamond filled with an X. “Occasionally.”
“They did this to
you? The Senate outlawed physical torture --”
“Oh, yes, mind-probe
droids are so much better ... effective, they don’t leave marks, the prisoner
thinks he’s getting his skin peeled away in strips.” She yanked
her sleeve back down and looked at him evenly. “And the whip-knives the
Kadav carry are just for show. They’d never use them on the prisoners.
“They’re not supposed
to have those. The Senate --”
“-- has a lot to
learn about Rannok,” she finished. “Or maybe they know, and just choose
to hide the truth. Come on.” Her fingers folded around his and pulled him
into the darkness. The hidden door closed behind them, leaving them in
utter black silence.
With his free hand, he
tried to explore the walls. Sometimes he could touch them, the bumpy candlewax
formations damp and slightly moist and smelling of the same oily mineral
odor as the water. Sometimes he stretched his arm as far as he could and
found nothing. Once, while doing that, his foot strayed over a drop and
he halted with his pulse beating more rapidly.
“There’s a bridge
up ahead,” the woman said, and though she spoke in a very hushed tone,
she may as well have been shouting. “Stay with me, right behind me. One
misstep, and ... well, you think the Kadav had a long fall ...”
“How can you see?”
he asked as they began moving up a gradual slope.
“I just know.”
Obi-Wan shut his
eyes and let the Force tell him what was around him.
Everything seemed to suddenly
swim into visibility, dark on dark, a thousand
shades of grey. And, when he realized they were nearing
the center of the bridge
she’d warned him about, realized that it was a span that
he could have encircled
with both hands, and that the floor dropped away into
a fathomless fissure from
which a breeze sighed like cold breath, he almost wished
he had stuck to trying to
use his vision.
They reached the
other side and pressed on. When he touched the walls
again, he found them to be smooth stone, cut and worked
stone, not the natural
walls of a cave.
Finally, the woman
stopped and let go of him. “Stairs here. Spiral stairs.”
Obi-Wan became aware
of a faint light that grew brighter as they climbed. It came
from a small room that opened off one of the landings.
The room was nearly perfectly
round, and monastically simple in furnishings. At the
back, water from a fish-shaped
spout in the wall and pooled in a basin. The light source,
a battery-powered lamp,
rested on a low table ringed by stools. Aside from that,
there was a recessed bed-niche
piled with blankets, and some shelves holding a few books
and other effects.
“This is where you
live?” he asked.
“It’s a place where
I sometimes sleep,” she corrected.
“Where do you live?”
“Here and there.”
She took two earthenware jugs from a shelf, sloshed them,
nodded, and gave him one. “Now. I’m Raven. Who are you?
And what are you doing
on Rannok? You’re not a prisoner.”
“I am Obi-Wan Kenobi.
A man is being held unjustly in the prison, and I’ve come
on a rescue mission.” He sniffed at the jug. Juice from
the vine-berries, he surmised.
Risking a taste, he found it pleasantly sweet.
“Just you?” she
“Just me. I admit,
we’d been incorrectly informed about the size and security of
the compound. Dol Bethra has misled the entire Republic
as to what he’s doing here.”
She snarled at the
mention of the name. “You can’t expect to succeed.”
“I had hopes.”
“You’ll die. Without
His eyes narrowed.
“What are you suggesting?”
one of our Citadels for his headquarters. He keeps his most
important prisoners there. I know every inch of it. There
are secret passages that
they’ll never discover.”
“What do you want
“You must have access
to a transport.”
“You want to leave
She gestured at
her surroundings. “There’s nothing for me here. Bethra’s army
annihilated everything. I’m the only one left. There’s
no point in dying for the sake of
an empty pile of rocks and the memories of the dead.”
He nodded. “Very
well. What do we do first?”
“Eat, then rest.
The main shift will have started by now. We’ll wait until third
shift, when the prisoners sleep and the guards are less
attentive. Bethra sleeps then, too.”
As they ate, supplementing
her meager supplies with high-energy bars from his
pack, she described the layout of the Citadel for him.
in his cloak and a borrowed blanket, Obi-Wan sent himself into
the alert but refreshing trance-state that the Jedi used
when they didn’t dare risk full
slumber. Across from him, the woman fell swiftly into
a deep and genuine sleep that
erased the habitual pain and anger from her face, and
left her beautiful.
you get that?” Obi-Wan asked, watching as Raven checked her light
saber, activating it and turning it back and forth.
“It belonged to
the Noctus. He taught me to use it.”
“Who is this Noctus?”
“Our high priest.
Bethra killed him,” she said flatly, switching it off and
slinging it at her waist. “He foresaw the attack too
late to save everyone, but got
many of his people into hiding. My mother was a tei-gam,
a holy bride of Noct.”
“Why would Dol Bethra
destroy your people?”
“Maybe he feared
the power of the Noctus. Maybe he wanted the wealth of our
city -- what little of it there was -- for his own.”
She looked up at him with glittering
golden eyes. “Maybe he’s a viper on legs who deserves
to be cut slowly into small,
smoking pieces, a bit at a time, while he yet lives.”
The sheer venom
in her voice made Obi-Wan draw back. “Don’t give in to your
hate, Raven. It can only make you vulnerable to the Dark
“My hate keeps me
“It will destroy
you. Master Yoda says that fear and hate lead to suffering, which
is the path to the Dark Side.”
“I think your Master
Yoda has it wrong. Suffering leads to hate. And hate hones
the blade of revenge.”
“Is that the teaching
of your Noctus? What would he say to hear you speaking so?”
“As a matter of
fact, that is what he taught us. It’s Noct’s will.”
Obi-Wan sat down
and exhaled slowly. “Did ... did many of your people
subscribe to that faith?”
“All of them.”
“And your Noctus
... who was he? You said he had powers. What kind?”
“You have them too.
When I first saw you, I wondered if you were a Noctus.
You move like he did, with his speed, as if you know
what’s going to happen before
it does. I saw you throw that Kadav with nothing but
your power. The Noctus could
do that. How can you?”
“I am a Jedi Knight.”
“Jedi ... the Noctus
used to tell stories about the Jedi. I never thought they were
real.” She sat opposite him.
“What was his name?”
“He was only the
Noctus. He didn’t need a name.”
“Did he ever tell
you about the Sith?”
“You ... your entire
people ... worship the Dark Side of the Force! But you know
nothing of the Sith? This is madness, impossible!”
“How can you
have the powers of a Noctus and know nothing of Noct?” she
demanded in turn.
“It’s the Force,
Raven. It’s in all of us, in all living things. Stronger in some than
in others. I sense it is very strong in you. A Jedi is
trained to use the Force, but also to
control our emotions so that we do not fall prey to the
Dark Side. We serve the Republic,
and see that justice is done.”
She leaned forward
alertly. “So you’ll kill Bethra?”
“That’s not why
I’m here. I came to rescue the Governor Tredze of Lancas before
he can be wrongfully executed. But I will report Bethra’s
deception to the Jedi Council
and to the Senate.”
“What will be done
“I can’t say for
sure. He may be removed from his post. They might even
disband the prison altogether.”
“But they’d let
“Then it’s a good
thing that his fate’s not up to the Senate to decide.” She touched
her light saber and a cold smile curved her lips.
“No!” Obi-Wan recoiled
from the surge of deadly emotion he sensed.
“Murdering Bethra is not
the answer! It will not bring your people back, restore
your city. It accomplishes nothing.”
“Nothing but his
death, and that’s enough for me.”
“You can’t let your
hatred for him rule you. To give in to your desire for revenge
will lead you down that path.”
She came at him
with such speed that even he wasn’t prepared. Seizing his chin in
her hand, she riveted him with that golden gaze. “Have
you ever seen someone you care
for die in violence and agony?”
“Have you?!” She
gave his chin a shake.
“My master. My teacher.
He was ... he died in battle against a Sith.”
“Why didn’t you
“I tried! The energy
“You couldn’t get
to him. So you watched him die.”
He could feel the
Force pouring from her now. Not used with the subtlety and
finesse of a Jedi, but a raw bludgeoning that battered
at his will. That wouldn’t bend
the weak-minded but break them.
“How did it feel,
Obi-Wan Kenobi? Were you angry? Did you know hate? Like
a cold black flame consuming your heart? Did you fight
his killer? Fight him and kill
him, hoping that his death -- and your revenge
-- would douse some of that flame?
He pulled roughly
She reached again,
lightning-quick, but this time he reacted. Her wrist smacked into
his palm and he held her there, his fingers pressed against
the coarse scar of her brand.
His grip was so tight that his knuckles whitened, but
she showed no signs of pain, no
signs of backing down.
into minutes, neither of them dropping their challenge-locked gaze.
“You did,” Raven
“Only for that short
time. Only in the heat of battle. But yes. I did.” He let go of her.
She didn’t draw
back, but slowly brought her hand to his chin. She touched it gently,
then with one fingertip traced the line of his bottom
lip. “See? We’re not so different
a shiver. He dipped his head slightly, brushing his lips against
her hand, closing his eyes as conflicting impulses pulled
at him. “I wouldn’t have hunted
him for revenge. I wouldn’t have let myself be ruled
by that dark desire,” he said, his
voice little more than a harsh whisper. “That
is the difference.”
him. He’s dead and gone. You’ll never have to find out what you
would have done if he had gotten away.” Her tentative
caress, so warm in contrast to
the coldness of her words, moved to his cheek, his jaw.
“There is no good
in hatred and revenge. It can only bring evil, only the Dark
Side.” He spoke the words as if reciting by rote, covering
her hand with his and holding
it more firmly to his face.
“I don’t think life
can be that clear-cut. Good or evil, light or dark ... there’s some
of both in everyone.”
“That’s why the
Dark Side is so persuasive. You must resist it, or it will overpower
you.” His lips brushed her hand again, almost a kiss,
and his soul moaned in mingled
yearning and denial.
“I can’t turn my
back on everything I’ve ever known.” She withdrew, moved
away from him, the breaking of physical contact both
a relief and a piercing sense of
loss. “On everything I am. You said Noct was this
Dark Side personified?”
He nodded. “So it
“Then I can’t ever
escape it, even if I wanted to. Noct is my father.”
The cavern walls
were covered with carved images and statues. In the eerie
flickering unlight, they seemed to breathe and stir,
and observe the movements of the
Obi-Wan stood among
them, concealed, one shape amid many. He knew he
should not be here, but when Raven had left to prepare
herself for the coming
infiltration of the prison, he’d been unable not to follow
with discreet stealth. He had to
see if what she’d told him was true.
Daughter of the
Dark Side? It couldn’t be, it was impossible. Conceived through
her mother’s ceremonial union with this world’s god of
shadows and secrets?
And yet ... and
yet ... what of Anakin? His mother had been chosen to bear him;
was that so different? Qui-Gon had believed the Skywalker
woman, had known her so
well that lies would have been impossible between them.
He wasn’t inclined
to disbelieve in the power of Raven’s god, not here in this
place. This was one of their halls of worship, the deepest
and most secret sanctuary
known to her people. This was the cave of the Soulfire.
It burned in a circular
pit in the center of the onyx-smooth floor. With no visible
fuel, like no fire he had ever seen before. Its flames
were violet-edged black, golden at
the heart. They leapt halfway to the high ceiling, not
crackling but emitting a low songlike
melody. A blaze that size should have warmed even this
large chamber, but the Soulfire
seemed to give off no heat.
In front of the
pit where the Soulfire burned was a long low altar of that same
onyx-smooth stone. Raven knelt before it, head bowed,
black against black and nearly
invisible. If she knew she was being observed, she gave
She conducted her
prayers in silence, then rose and unfastened her light saber,
setting it upon the altar. She took off her cloak and
laid it there as well. Then her boots.
to mask his sudden shock as he realized she was undressing. Now
more than ever, he knew he should not be here, but was
unable to leave.
Raven lifted her
tunic. She was facing the altar, her back to Obi-Wan, and as the
black fabric came away from her pale skin he saw the
vivid thorny weals that striped
her from waist to neck.
His fists clenched,
recognizing the marks of a whip-knife. They weren’t recent
wounds but old, so old they must have been inflicted
when she was barely more than
She removed the
last articles of her clothing and unbraided her hair. It fell in ebon
waves to the middle of her back. With calm, measured
strides, she went around the
altar and approached the Soulfire.
“No,” he murmured,
knowing what she was about to do.
She stepped into
the flames. Her hair streamed upward as if tossed by an unseen
wind. She tipped her head back and raised her arms, her
features transfigured with joy.
Fire wreathed her limbs, danced along her body, clothed
her in black and gold and bright
Obi-Wan was drawn
helplessly forward by this dreadful wonder. He stopped far
from the altar. She opened her eyes, reflected flames
shining in their gold. Rather than
anger at his intrusion, she radiated serenity for the
first time since he’d met her. Now
hers was the mind of a Jedi, composed and aware.
When she emerged,
tiny flames ran along her body like water, coursing down her
torso and legs to leave glimmering fire-pools in her
footsteps. Violet-gold smoke rose all
She held out her
hands, palms upraised as if to show Obi-Wan that this was no
trick. He extended his own hands, holding them above
hers, and the smoke curled
around his fingers.
“What is in there?”
“You’re not burnt.”
He touched her hair, then gasped as runnels of flame flowed
from it onto his skin in a tingling path that left him
“It’s the same fire
that burns in us all,” she said. “It can only harm those who don’t
believe, or take their fears in with them.”
“But I do fear the
Dark Side,” he said.
“Then maybe you
need to redefine it ... or me.”
“You’re too beautiful
not to fear.” He took her face in his hands, and brought his
lips to hers. Their minds flared together, setting them
ablaze in a way even the Soulfire
Her arms went around
him, her body pressed against his, alive with its own heat
that went though his clothes and left him feeling as
if they were both bare. Her mouth
tasted of violet-gold smoke, her kiss both pleading and
demanding. There was no
hesitation in her; a creature of raw emotion, she gave
in to her passion as readily as to
her anger. Caught up in it, Obi-Wan tried to regain control
“No, don’t,” she
murmured, sensing his sudden resistance. Her breath was warm
on the side of his neck as she embraced him tightly.
Her lips made a trail down -- below
his ear, on the pulse beating in his throat, his collarbone,
along the edge of the vee
formed by his collar.
“Raven, this is
wrong,” he said, but he was stroking the starless night of her hair,
holding her to him.
She didn’t answer,
just parted his shirt and slid a hand inside, kissing his chest. His
restraint, his will, was crumbling, crumbling away. He
caressed the sleek curve of her
hip, the small of her back ... and froze as he felt the
ridges and knots of the scars.
Raven tensed at
his reaction and moved his hand to her waist. “I know how they
look. I know they’re hideous.”
“It’s not that.”
He very delicately touched them again, shutting his eyes as a terrible
sadness assailed him, reading the awful past in the writing
on her flesh. “They did this to
you. The Kadav. They did this and no one stopped them.”
“Why? You can’t
have been very old ...”
“I was thirteen.”
She pulled away, turned away, crossed her arms over her breasts.
“He wanted me. I fought him. Wounded him. He planned
to have me whipped to death
for it in front of all of his Wardens. He laughed while
I bled. The Noctus saved me, and
it cost him his life.”
bandaging Tredze’s wounds and sat back on his heels. The
governor had regained consciousness a few times, trying
to speak, but now he was
sleeping the sleep of the drugged, his pallor masked
by the strange glow of the Soulfire.
injuries were minor, and the only ones sustained during their
escape. Now all they had to do was stay hidden, survive,
and make their way to the
rendezvous point in ten hours, when the transport returned.
He stood, and looked
at the woman who stood taut as a wire facing the cavern’s
“You stopped me.
You drew on me.”
“I couldn’t let
I meant to kill him. I had to kill him. I thought you understood
“You didn’t want
to kill him. You wanted to torture him.”
She whirled on him,
eyes flashing dark fire. “And you stopped me.”
“We hadn’t the time
“That’s not it at
“No. It isn’t. Raven, I am a Jedi, I could not stand by and watch
you sear the flesh from him inch by inch.”
He winced at the
memory, of her light saber lowering toward the pinned and
terrified Dol Bethra. The man had been pressing against
the wall as if he hoped its
stones would turn to mist and allow him to pass through,
but there had been no way
out, no way to avoid the humming violet beam as it paused
just above his head.
In his mind, Obi-Wan
could still hear the crisp sizzle of Bethra’s leonine
silver-white hair burning away, and then the first scream
as the light saber had
scored a slow path down his forehead, forever marring
his aristocratic despot’s
handsomeness, headed relentlessly for his bulging, staring
Such control; even
in his horror Obi-Wan had been forced to admire Raven’s
control of the weapon, the precision with which she handled
it. Worthy of a Jedi ...
except for the savagely cold expression shown clearly
in the backsplash of amethyst.
He could feel the sadistic satisfaction emanating from
her, and how flash-quick it
had turned to cheated fury as he knocked her blade aside
in a the nova of blue-white
“He deserved it,”
she said now. “A swift death would have been too good for him.”
“It’s not the way.”
“It’s not your
way.” She began to turn away, and he took her by the shoulders.
“Raven, what you
could be if you could forsake this madness for revenge!”
It’s all I have, all that I am. You’re the one who doesn’t
understand. You and your Council, high and mighty, coddled
and comforted in your
righteousness, unwilling to admit to your own darker
emotions as if that’ll somehow
make them go away ... but do you know what? I think they
don’t go away. I think they
fester, buried and locked away in your hearts, and you
make greater monsters of them
than they truly are. If you let them out, accepted them
and admitted they were a part
of you, instead of calling them evil and condemning those
who don’t follow your strict
code ... oh, Obi-Wan, what you could be!”
“The Dark Side cannot
co-exist with --”
“Denying the Dark
Side doesn’t make it go away. If this Force of yours is to be
balanced at all, you have to have both.”
“What did you say?”
he asked, suddenly chilled.
“Both. Light and
dark. Good and evil. They both exist in all of us. Your Council
doesn’t seem to understand that. They’d destroy everything
they think of as evil. Then
what would they have? Nothing. They’d start seeing evil
other places, making it up
where it didn’t exist. There has to be a balance.”
“No ... no, that
can’t be ...”
“Am I all evil?”
He tightened his
grip on her, shaking his head as he wrestled with what she’d
said. “I ... I don’t want to believe that you are. There
good in you.”
“And there’s darkness
in you.” Overriding his protest, she continued. “In all of
us. Yes, I’m further one way than the other, it’s my
Maybe we both have a lot
“The Council would
never agree with your reasoning.”
“They would sense
the hatred and bloodlust in me and call me evil. It’s easy for
them to say, from their safe and lofty place.”
“No one can blame
you for accepting the only life you’ve ever known. But Raven,
Raven, it doesn’t have to be like that anymore. We’re
leaving Rannok. You can start
“If I leave now,
with Bethra still alive --”
“No!” His hands
slid from her shoulders to the sides of her neck, no longer
gripping but holding, loose tendrils of her hair tickling
softly along the backs. “Bethra
He sensed her struggling
with her next words, and saw the earnest appeal in her
golden eyes when she lifted them to his. “I cannot be
the kind of woman you’d have
me be. No matter how much ... no matter how much I might
like to be. This is what
“You can be more
“I wish that was
true.” Her fingertips found his face again in that tender
“You have been so
badly hurt. Let it go, Raven. Let it --” He was silenced by her
kiss, silenced and overwhelmed as her passion stormed
with power equal to her fury.
“Too far a distance,”
she murmured against his mouth, “Why ... why ...?”
“I don’t know,”
he murmured in reply. “I want ... I can’t ...”
“You can.” She moved
willingly against him. “The rest doesn’t matter.”
I ... if I were to ... make ... love ... to you ...” each pause was
filled with a kiss, unable to stop himself, on her lips,
her cheeks, her brow, the
smooth column of her throat, filled with helpless increasing
ardor, devouring her
with his kisses. “It would be ... like ... yielding a
part of myself ... to the Dark Side.”
She grasped him with devastating effect, and he threw back his
head with his jaw clenched against a hoarse cry.
“Raven, stop ...
you don’t understand ...” Now his pauses were filled with frantic
gasps for breath, his arms closing around her with involuntary
strength. “A Jedi ... is
not as other men.”
“That’s not how
it feels from here.”
He managed a strained
laugh. “Not what I meant.”
“Don’t tell me you’ve
sworn an oath of chastity.”
“No ... that’s not
it ...” It took a tremendous effort of will, but he made himself
take her arm and move her delicious, tormenting hand.
“When a Jedi is ... intimate ...
more than his body is involved. Even as I ...” he swallowed
and nearly trembled at the
thought, and she uttered a breathy moan as his feelings
transmitted themselves to her,
“even as I entered your warmth, I would be ... touching
“And my soul frightens
you more.” She leaned her head on his chest. His shirt
had come open and her cheek rested on the skin just over
his rapidly-pounding heart.
“My mind and my
emotions are at war. I want you, and I fear you. What
passes between us is more than a meeting of a man and
a woman. Our very fates are
“Are you my redemption,
or am I your downfall ... is that it?”
“It could be that.”
“I fear you, too,”
she admitted, drawing away from him. “You and all that you
represent. I ... don’t want to learn that there is more
to life than pain and anger; it
makes my purpose and very existence a hollow thing! But
at the same time ... oh, how
I want you.”
“You’re right ...
we’re not so different. I have been raised to be Jedi for as long
as I can remember. All that we are, is what we’ve been
taught to be, and now we are
a threat to each others’ way of living. My path is not
to be feared, Raven. You
wouldn’t find emptiness behind your pain, but a new
“My path’s not to
be feared either. But there’s no way ... except one.”
“What do you mean?”
“Walk in the fire,
Obi-Wan. If you’d know my soul, know all that I am,
you’ll find it in the fire.”
“The ...” he looked
at it, at the leaping gold-black-violet flames reaching toward
the cavern’s ceiling. “I can’t go in there.”
“It will only hurt
you if you let it. It won’t change you, only show you.”
“Will you come before
the Jedi Council?”
“A test for a test?”
she asked with a slanted half-smile. “Fair enough.”
“Then we’re agreed.”
He moved toward the Soulfire.
Raven stopped him,
her smile widening. “Oh ... you’ll need to remove your
He raised his eyebrows
said. Picking up a scrap of leftover bandage from his tending
of Tredze’s wounds, she tossed it into the flames. It
blazed gold, then settled in a
heap of glowing violet embers.
his throat. “And this will only hurt me if I let it?”
“You saw me go into
the fire. You touched me, felt the flames run over your
skin without burning.”
“Mm-hmm,” he said,
“I promise, I’ll
keep my hands to myself.” She placed them demurely behind
He shrugged out
of his cloak. “What about your eyes?”
“Oh, now, Jedi,
that is asking a bit much.” The eyes in question, bright gold,
“I think I finally
know what Master Yoda meant about being seduced by
the Dark Side,” he muttered, undoing his belt and stripping
off his shirt. “I never
expected it to be literally.”
When he finished
undressing and looked over, saw how she was biting the
fullness of her lower lip and watching him with such
desire, he came very close to
forgetting the fire and just going to her. Her hands
were still clasped firmly behind
her back, the posture pushing her breasts forth, and
they rose and fell in time with
the quickness of her breath.
Instead, with the
last strand of resolve, he turned and stared into the depths of
the Soulfire. Right beside it, he still felt no blistering
heat, but its radiance bathed his
bare skin and its whispering crackle filled his mind.
He hesitantly sent
one foot toward the flames. They reached for him, and there
was no searing pain, only a warm and welcoming fluttering
of the smoke, Obi-Wan stepped into the Soulfire.
Black and violet
and gold, all around him, seemingly all through him. No sense
of solid floor beneath his feet, as if he were suspended
in space, floating.
No fear. It melted
away like a thin sheen of ice. In the blink of an eye he was
in a depth of meditative trance that it usually took
even the best-trained Jedi several
minutes to reach. Keenly alert yet thoroughly relaxed,
distanced from his body yet
aware of every nerve ending.
Peace and serenity.
As one with all things. As one with the Force, both sides of
it light and dark and all the myriad shades between.
And he saw, understood, that as
far removed as Raven was from the Jedi, she was nearly
as far removed from the
Sith. Yet ... yet they were all far closer to one another
than he would ever have
“In us all,” he
said, and the words came from his mouth as visible puffs of white-
blue that mingled and then were absorbed in the hue of
He looked out at
Raven, saw the tension and anxiety on her face, felt her worry
that she’d been wrong, that he would find only agony
in the fire.
Her soul was laid
bare to him, as she’d known it would be, every secret and
every hope set out before him, and the bravery, the sheer
courage that would let her
so expose her innermost self ... the miseries that she
had endured brought him near
to screaming, what a wonder that she wasn’t evil,
under such torment, even a Jedi
might have broken ... then, stark and terrifying, the
realization that she would have
gladly died once she’d seen her revenge complete, that
the end of Bethra’s life
would be the completion of her own.
“Raven,” he called,
reaching out with hands and mind. “Don’t let it end that
way! If you die to kill him, he wins even in death!”
around him. The past, the future, a confusing cyclone that made
perfect sense. He saw himself approaching a domelike
structure in a dune-swept
landscape, an infant in his arms and a terrible sense
of loss and dread burdening his
steps. He saw the child that he’d been, standing with
the others as the Jedi Knights
came in to choose their Padawan. A vision heard but not
seen, of ominous mechanized
bellows laboriously drawing and releasing air.
Then came an image
still sharp and painful, only a few years old. Reddish energy
keeping him apart from Qui-Gon as his master knelt in
calm readiness, and beyond, the
horned scarlet-black visage of the Sith. But with the
new understanding of the fire, their
souls were open to him too, and something that he had
long suspected but never
admitted even in the most private corners of his thoughts
was now proved to him.
“Nooo!” he cried,
and stumbled from the flames.
He fell to his knees
and would have toppled full-length but Raven was there,
catching him, kneeling with him, holding him.
“He knew,” Obi-Wan
said shakily. “He knew he was going to die, and he let it
happen. It was the only way to bend them to his will.”
“My Master, Qui-Gon.
He let himself die so they would allow me to train
the boy. They wouldn’t ... I wouldn’t ... refuse
his last wish. He knew that. Had
he lived, he would have gone on fighting the Council,
defying them. He believed ...
he believed it that strongly. And I doubted him. We all
doubted him. He made us
accept it the only way that he could, at that cost.”
Mute sobs wracked him, the
unshed tears hot behind his eyelids.
She held him and
he clung to her until the wrenching grief began to ease. He
realized how foreign the task of giving comfort was to
this woman, something she’d
never done before. What, he wondered, would Qui-Gon have
made of her?
“He would have liked
you,” Obi-Wan said. “And seen the good well before
the danger. He was ... a much wiser man than I will ever
“I should have warned
you. I’m sorry. The fire ... it can be --”
“No. I needed to
know. All this time ... I’ve blamed myself for failing him. Now ...”
“Now you know he
had faith in you. If he let himself die, he did so knowing
that you would be able to finish what he’d begun.” She
twined his short hair through her
fingers. “He did better than trust you with his life,
Obi-Wan. He trusted you with
He closed his eyes
and lay his head on her shoulder. “Promise me you won’t do
the same. You have more to live for than revenge.”
“You’ve seen my
soul ... what else is there for me?”
He let his lips
be the answer. No longer colored with fear, no longer struggling
against himself, he gave over wholly into the kiss, feeling
her surprise swiftly drown
in sweet dissolving desire.
“My hands,” she
“I forgot about
keeping them to myself.”
“I forgive you.”
He unbraided her hair and let the midnight satin spill down her
back. “Do ... do as you will with them.”
“It’s much easier
now that you’re undressed.” She drew her palm and trailing
fingers down his chest, to his waist, lower.
He groaned softly,
pulling her close as she caressed him. “You’re not.”
“That can be remedied.”
“Let me.” He lifted
her tunic over her head. Soon she was as revealed as he
was. They reclined together in the shifting gold-violet
She explored his
body with a demanding fervor that left him breathless. Her
hands, her mouth, her full yet muscular curves, her hair
sweeping across him like a
curtain of night, her passion as intent and powerful
as her anger had been. Then,
startling, the brush of her mind that told him this was
her first time willingly, first time
with a man of her choosing, the apprehension she felt,
and a surge of amazing
tenderness filled him, no longer just wanting her and
needing her but consumed with
an overpowering wish to show her how it should be, share
with her how it could be.
He gently pushed
her down on the onyx-smooth floor, her skin untouched by the
light of any sun as pale as milk, beautiful, the scars
only accentuating that beauty, and
bent to explore her just as diligently, just as purposefully,
as she had done to him,
taking even greater joy in her gasping cries than he
had in his own sensations.
But as he rose over
her, made ready to complete the act ...
“No,” she protested,
suddenly tense, suddenly shamed. “I can’t --”
“Be calm, Raven,
and trust me,” he urged. He lay back and drew her atop him.
She hesitated, searched
his eyes and his mind, and saw that he never meant to
hurt her in love. With excruciating slowness, she lowered
herself, and they were one,
body-mind-soul as one, the Force so strong in both of
them creating a meshing,
sinking into one another.
“Ohhh,” she exhaled
Backlit by the Soulfire,
her body arched, her hips moving in a lazy rhythm, and
he could feel the gathering explosion in her loins, both
of them yearning for it and
then striving for it, and her wail was silent,
echoing only in his mind. She fell upon his
chest, his arms encircling her tightly, locking their
lips in a kiss as he let himself go, let
himself pour into her, not so much meshed now as fused,
her thoughts his, his thoughts
hers, a single soul shining between them like a star.
“According to the
sensor, the sweep should be beginning in a few minutes,”
Obi-Wan said. “The ship will be along soon. We’ll have
to be ready. He won’t dare
land for long.”
“Kenobi, I am in
your debt.” Governor Tredze glanced at Raven. “Yours and
your ... friend’s.”
“Don’t thank us
yet,” she said. “We’re not off this moon.”
Tredze nodded. He
was able to walk, albeit with a severe limp, and Obi-Wan
hoped the man would be able to move quickly enough.
He turned to Raven,
but before he could speak, the Force was on him with a
premonition. He saw her golden eyes go wide and she reached
for her light saber
even as he drew his. Both flared alight in time to deflect
the barrage of blaster shots
that streaked through the dim air.
commanded the governor.
“Kadav!” Raven spat
as a groundskimmer lurched over a rise.
Then came another,
and a third ... followed by a large armored vehicle with a
familiar figure standing in the back compartment.
and Raven said together.
“I want them alive!”
the Warden ordered.
“Never!” Raven leaped
in a somersault to the top of a broken pillar, and from
there onto the hood of a groundskimmer.
Her first strike
impaled the driver, passed completely through him in a shaft of
amethyst light, pierced his seat, and came out the other
side in a puff of smoldering
padding. Her second blow cut through the instrument panel.
began to veer out of control. She dove off, rolled, and
came gracefully to her feet.
Obi-Wan used the
Force to push a hard bolt at the second skimmer, bucking
the front end. A half dozen Kadav warriors tumbled out.
A blaster shot sizzled over
his head, he parried a second and sent it into the engine
of the already-ailing skimmer
that Raven had crippled.
she said in a low voice, getting back-to-back with him
as they stood protectively over the governor. “If you
had let me kill --”
He checked the sensor.
“No, we’re not.”
The ship soared
over the horizon exactly on cue and dipped briefly as Jefin
spotted and assessed the trouble. The lasers began loosing
pulses of emerald green.
The Kadav opened fire on the ship, but their blaster
beams rippled and diffused on
“Time to go,” Obi-Wan
said. He helped Tredze to his feet. The governor
tripped on a rock and went to one knee, ankle badly twisted,
his limp now a hobble.
Obi-Wan slung one of the man’s arms over his shoulders
and all but dragged him
along over the rough terrain.
The armored craft
bore down on them, its shields proving more than adequate
against the ship’s lasers. Bethra stood tall in the open
back compartment. “Surrender
She halted and wheeled.
“Raven, no!” Obi-Wan
shouted. Tredze was leaning heavily on him, the ship
was coming down with the hatch opening. “Forget him!”
“You’re a dead man
already, Bethra!” She tossed her light saber menacingly
from hand to hand.
“That toy of yours
may defeat a single blaster, but it’s no good against a
ten-spread!” Bethra hefted a gleaming silver cylinder
to his shoulder. The seared
swath in his hair and the burnt scar on his brow were
very visible. “Give up now
and I’ll let Tredze and the Jedi live!”
She began walking
steadily toward him.
“Get to the ship.”
“I don’t intend
His instincts told
him something altogether different. She continued on,
unwavering as the barrel of the ten-spread centered on
“No!” Obi-Wan made
a sharp seizing gesture but it was too far, too far
away, all his effort did was slap the weapon a few inches
to the side.
The moment he did
it, Raven went into a blur of motion. Bethra fired, but she
was no longer there, no longer even close to where the
ten projectiles struck and
detonated. She jumped to the top of the vehicle and then
down into it, tackling the
silver-haired Warden. They vanished from Obi-Wan’s sight,
inside the compartment.
Jefin appeared at
the top of the extended ramp.
the governor at the young pilot. “Take to the air. Quickly.”
“What about you?”
“I’m going back
“Why? Who is that
shot up and his jaw fell open, effectively widening his entire
face into an incredulous gape.
Obi-Wan paid it
no mind and ran back to the vehicle. It shook from within from
blaster fire, the hum of a light saber, a Kadav war-cry,
Bethra’s frantic orders, and the
snap-crack of whip-knives. He leaped up and over, dropping
neatly inside, almost
landing on a dead Kadav.
“Kill her! Curse
you all, what does it take to --” Bethra’s voice rose in a shriek
and he reeled backward into Obi-Wan, then went sprawling
on his back with his left
arm severed at the elbow and his left leg scorched from
hip to knee.
Ignoring the Warden,
Obi-Wan ducked through the door and another
premonition slid like melting ice down his spine. Deflected
blaster fire had gone
into the power core. Already, smoke was belching from
it and sparks rained down,
casting the interior into strobic flashes.
Then he saw her,
cornered by three Kadav, cloak missing, right sleeve torn and the
skin beneath bleeding, a blaster singe along her side,
He started toward
her and his foot came down on something cylindrical, her light
saber, he brought it instantly to his hand with the Force
and activated it; wielding both,
he struck down two Kadav from behind and Raven crouched
and drove a kick into
the belly of the third. That one drew his stun baton
as he fell, but the baton only
plunged into the damaged power core and burst in a gout
of phosphorescent fragments.
“Come on!” Obi-Wan
sheathed both sabers and steered her toward the door.
A shadow fell over
them as they emerged, and both looked up in alarm. But it
was the ship, hovering over the rumbling-shaking-smoking
vehicle. The hatch was
open, and through the viewscreen, Obi-Wan could see Jefin
mouthing urgencies and
“Jump,” he said
to Raven, and, drawing her close to his side, sprang straight up.
He landed with neat precision inside the opening.
The bladed whip
snaked around Raven's leg and Bethra yanked. The
sudden tug made Obi-Wan lose his footing just as he landed.
He was spun in a
circle and fell, ending up on his stomach, half in and
half out of the hatchway.
Raven slipped, and
he caught her by the left hand. She hung suspended
between him and Bethra, who jerked at the whip with his
right hand, laughing
Obi-Wan braced himself
and held on. The blades were shredding her clothes,
carving deep gashes in her thigh and calf. He was treated
to the hellish sight of her
blood raining down on Bethra’s upturned maniacal face.
A small explosion
jolted the vehicle. The ship rocked, nearly dumping them from
their precarious perch in the hatch.
Jefin made the ship
rise, and now Bethra was being lifted, hanging from
the whip-knife. Raven cried out as his full weight dragged
on the blades, digging
them cruelly into her flesh.
Using all his strength,
both physical and mental, Obi-Wan pulled her up
until she was able to catch hold of the retracted edge
of the ramp. She hooked her
left elbow over it and clamped her wounded right arm
with that hand. Her teeth
were clenched tight, her eyes slitted.
Obi-Wan leaned down
as far as he could, and sliced a blue-white arc in
as he tumbled down and away, his severed hand still clinging
to the haft of the whip-knife. The Warden landed with
a bone-jarring crash atop his
vehicle, tried to raise his head, and was engulfed in
red-orange as the power core
The shockwave tossed
the ship onto its side, sending Obi-Wan tumbling
across the floor and flipping Raven after him. They fetched
up in a heap on the
curved wall of the passenger compartment.
Jefin called back. “We’re away!"
"Is she all right?"
Governor Tredze asked.
used a damp cloth to wipe Raven's brow, and
checked the bandages that wrapped her from elbow to shoulder,
and from ankle to
hip. Her boot had protected her lower leg from the worst
of it, but maroon flowers
were slowly blossoming higher on her thigh.
"I am in your debt,
both of you."
"Then I must ask
that you indulge us a while longer."
"Of course. Anything."
"Before we can take
you to Coruscant to present your case to the Senate, we need
to stop on Naboo and retrieve my apprentice. As well
as seek proper medical attention
for both of you."
Tredze glanced wryly
down at himself in the dirt-smeared and singed grey prison
uniform, then skidded a hand up his gaunt, stubbled cheek.
"And an opportunity to
"I'm sure that can
The governor nodded.
Obi-Wan could see the weariness in his eyes and
feel it radiating off of him. He packed up the rest of
the medikit and dimmed the
lights, then made his way to the front where Jefin was
alertly scanning the starfield.
"All's well," the
pilot reported brightly. "After what happened, I wouldn't
have put it past the Wardens to be hiding their own armada,
but we're alone up
here. Naboo, next stop. Passengers?"
"I sent a transmission
ahead telling Naboo we've got wounded."
"Good." He slid
a small glass tube into the ship's scanner and observed with no
real surprise as the readout confirmed in Raven's blood
sample what he'd already
determined for himself. And what, he wondered, would
the Jedi Council make of
that? What would Master Yoda, who had been so opposed
to the young and
harmless-seeming Anakin, have to say now?
When he leaned back
and closed his eyes, he saw flames leaping there.
Violet-edged black ones with hearts of gold. Never mind
the Council's reaction to
Raven, what would they think of him? Would
they see it as he did? Would
All of his musings
left him with no greater insight, and before he knew it, the
blue-green ball of Naboo was growing in the viewscreen.
They touched down
in the same spot, in the marble courtyard. Obi-Wan went
back and roused the governor.
Even before the
hatch opened, he could hear Anakin's high, excited voice
assuring someone -- the Queen, most likely -- that she
shouldn't worry, that Jedi
never got hurt.
"If only that were
true," he murmured to himself.
He helped Governor
Tredze down the ramp, and felt the wave of relief
emanating from both Anakin and Amidala when they saw
him unscathed. The
Queen retained her demeanor, her regal manners, and inclined
her head to the
governor just as if he'd arrived in state as an honored
guest, instead of haggard
and in rags.
"You're back!" Anakin
crowed, rushing up to Obi-Wan. "I knew you
would come back!"
He smiled at the
youth. "Is this the same Padawan who was certain I was
going to 'die on you', as you put it?"
"Aw, I never meant
The physicians came
forward as Tredze finished managing a polite greeting
to Amidala, and coaxed him onto a floatpad. As they ferried
him through the great
arch and out of sight, the Queen approached Obi-Wan.
"We are pleased
to see you return promptly, and unharmed," she said, extending
He touched it. "I'm
pleased to do so, Majesty."
"Tell us all about
it!" Anakin enthused. "How did it go? Was there a lot of
"I will ..." perhaps
not all of it, he amended mentally, "but first, the
hurt?" Amidala asked anxiously.
"No, I --" he began,
then stopped, feeling her presence without even needing
to look. Confirmation of it was in the Queen's gaze that
shifted past him and upward.
He turned as Raven
emerged into the clean light of a living sun. She winced
and recoiled, then nearly fell as her leg threatened
"So ... bright!"
she said as he reached her side. "The world is full of colors. I ...
"I should have warned
you. It does take some getting used to." He took off his
dark brown robe and draped it over her shoulders, then
raised the hood, as tenderly
as he might turn down a bride's veil, to shade her eyes.
As he did so, he
sensed sudden hurt comprehension from the Queen and
a sort of leering curiosity from Anakin, but his attention
remained fixed on Raven.
She blinked several
times, then peered squintingly up at the crystal-blue sky
fluffed here and there with pristine clouds. "It's ...
pretty," she said.
"You shouldn't be
"I'm fine." She
tried to take a step to prove it, and this time her leg did
buckle. He caught her even as she began to lose her balance
and supported her
with an arm around her waist. She laid her hand alongside
his cheek and smiled
through the pain. "All right, maybe I'm not, but you're
going to carry me, Jedi!"
"Will you let the
physicians do it, then?"
"Um ... Obi-Wan?"
Anakin asked hesitantly. "Who's this? Picked up
another pathetic lifeform?"
"How many times
must I apologize for that remark?" he laughed. "This is
the Noctani Raven, who helped us greatly on Rannok."
"She's --" Anakin
broke off and looked meaningfully at Obi-Wan.
"Here we go again,"
Raven muttered. "He's one, too. Please tell me I'm not
getting the lecture on evil and the Dark Side."
"This is my Padawan
Learner, Anakin Skywalker. And this ... this is Queen
Amidala of the Naboo."
The two women regarded
each other, and Obi-Wan felt a flurry of unspoken
exchange pass between them. It occurred to him that perhaps
bringing Raven here
had been a mistake ... or the best thing, under the circumstances,
that he could
Raven's lips curved.
"Your highness. I'd curtsey, but then I'd fall down
and bleed all over your nice clean courtyard."
"We'd not want that,"
Amidala returned coolly. "Welcome to Naboo."
"What's going on?"
Anakin wondered in an undertone to Obi-Wan. "Why's
might be an explanation best left for another time."
He woke, bathed,
changed, and was just readying himself to go down to
the formal dinner the Queen was holding in the Governor’s
honor when the
chimes over his door sounded their sweet music.
Raven walked in
with the barest hint of a limp, her hair drawn back not in her
customary simple braid but in two golden clips that spilled
it in a loose torrent down
her back. “Talented physicians,” she said.
he replied, taking in the sight of her with great admiration.
She stroked the
simple gown of topaz-colored velvet. “I’d prefer black.”
“It matches your
“These Naboo are
very generous. This belt ... what are these stones?”
“Black pearls, from
one of the Gungun seas.”
“I’ve brought your
robe.” She set it over the back of a chair. “Thank you.
It’s one thing to hear of a sun, another to see it for
“There are many
more worlds for you to see. Snow-covered mountains,
desert sands, deep forests ...”
“And the planetwide
city where your Jedi Council might condemn me
straight back to Rannok as a threat to their galactic
He took her hands.
“I will not let that happen.”
“Nice to have at
least one ally.”
“You will win many
“Not your Queen.”
A grin played about Raven’s mouth. “She doesn’t seem to
like me much.”
“Ah. Yes. Well ...”
“What is there between
“It’s not like that.
Only her unspoken fancy.”
“Once, perhaps ...
but she is very young. And Anakin ...”
“Gallant of you
not to steal the queen away from your smitten apprentice. But
does she know your feelings?”
He caressed the
side of her face. “I imagine she does now.”
She covered his
hand and led it to her mouth to kiss the palm. “Careful, Obi-Wan
... remember, I’m dangerous.”
“Only to those who
stand between you and your revenge.”
“Which you did.
But then you killed Bethra, so I suppose I’ll forgive.”
“The danger is a
part of it. I do not know, and I fear to learn, what the Council
might say. I doubt you’ll ever be a Jedi. The restrictions
of our codes and ways would
infuriate you. Yet the Force is so very strong in you.
You’ve already learned much.
Your gifts should be trained. If only they could understand,
as I do, what the Soulfire
was, and what it meant.”
She backed away
from him, intent in concentration. Placing her fingertips and
thumbs together, she made a space like a rounded diamond
between them. “Watch.”
The air in that
space began to darken, to flicker. It took on the inconstant
shape of flames, then took on the deep, distinct colors.
“The fire ... how?”
“It’s in us all,
Obi-Wan. It’s in me. I am Noct’s daughter; where I go, the fire
goes with me.”
He passed a hand
into it, and felt the same things that he had before -- serenity,
awareness, peace, knowledge. And presences, fleeting
but comforting, brushing
against him like the barest flick of a moth’s wing. Presences
of the dead.
“Master,” he breathed
as he felt the familiar spirit nearby. Offering him silent
strength, counsel, support. Assuring him that what he
did was the right thing.
Then he sensed another,
stern and strong but kind. Through the smoke,
Raven’s face relaxed into a smile.
out, seeking. “A ... a Jedi? He was Jedi! Wait! Who are you?
What was your name?”
... gone as the chimes sounded again, startling Raven so that
the flames dissipated.
“What do you mean?”
“He was Jedi,” Obi-Wan
insisted. “I touched his mind. The training was
there, Raven. He was one of us.”
He was the Noctus, always the Noctus.”
The chimes rang
longer. Shaken, Obi-Wan called, “Come in.”
The door opened
and Anakin was there. He spied them standing so close
together, and grinned knowingly.
“Dinner time,” he
“A moment.” He looked
at Raven. “Where is your light saber?”
“I’m never without
it.” She hiked her skirt and Anakin’s eyes grew round. The
weapon was bound to her thigh with violet ribbons. She
extended her leg to untie it
and the youth’s eyes nearly fell from his head.
“Are you expecting
trouble at dinner?” Obi-Wan inquired amusedly.
She turned and pressed
her hip against his side. “I could ask the same of you, or
are you just pleased to see me?”
“I can tell them
to re-heat your soup for you if you’re going to be a while,” Anakin
offered with a smirk.
He looked at his
Padawan and sent a very clear message, which Anakin ignored.
Sighing, Obi-Wan took Raven’s light saber and studied
“This was made by
a Jedi. I’d stake my life on it. See these symbols?”
“It doesn’t make
any sense,” Raven argued. “He told us of Jedi, but he would
have said if he’d been one!”
“The Council will
have to see this. They’ll have the answer.”
“Um, so, are you
coming down or should I go make excuses?” Anakin said.
her light saber. “It can wait for the Council. But I don’t know
what kind of answer they’ll be able to give.”
“Nor I ... but there
must be one.”
They followed Anakin
to the spacious dining hall, where the setting sun
through the arched windows turned everything to crimson
and orange, and the
dancing waterfalls became showers of jewels cascading
into the dusk-shadowed
Obi-Wan was just
a little too late to stop his apprentice from gleefully
announcing to the assembled that he was so sorry for
the delay, but he’d
practically had to drag the two of them out of
“There is such a
thing as manners,” he scolded the boy as they sat, very
conscious of the way the Queen’s spine stiffened and
her clipped tone as she
ordered the droids to begin serving the meal.
“I thought you wanted
me to be truthful.” Anakin put on his most
innocent face and held it for several seconds before
breaking into snickers.
Mace Windu’s countenance
was as stony as a statue, a statue of some
unforgiving god who demanded regular volcanic sacrifices.
“You are becoming
too much like Qui-Gon,” he intoned.
“Thank you.” Obi-Wan
stood straight in the center of the Council’s circular
“It wasn’t meant
as a compliment.”
“But it is
“You are putting
yourself, your future, and our entire order at risk.”
“A danger, she is,”
Yoda agreed. One of the smallest and least threatening
in appearance of the beings in the room, his disapproval
fell on Obi-Wan like a
weight. “Yes, strong in her is the Force, but a Jedi,
she shall never be.”
“She was trained
by a Jedi.”
“No,” Windu said.
“But Master Windu
“Rules her does
the Dark Side. Consumed by it, she is.”
“It’s not like that,”
Obi-Wan said. “Her teacher, this Noctus, was a Jedi! I
know that to be true! I felt his presence.”
“You are mistaken,”
Windu said again, slowly, clearly, so that the upstart
would not miss a single word, would not dare contradict.
He dared. “The light
saber was built by a Jedi. Raven has been trained in many
of the ways of the Force.”
“Of the Dark Side!”
Yoda leaned forward, his wizened features pulled into a
scowl. “Much hatred is there in her!”
“Who was he?” Obi-Wan
asked. “This Noctus ... who was he?”
A murmur rippled
through the rest of the Council. He felt their minds closing to
him, shutting him out, but not before he learned --
“You knew. You knew
there was a civilization on Rannok, and you gave
Dol Bethra permission to destroy it!”
“It was necessary.”
Mace Windu’s voice was now as cold and dark as the
vast distances between stars.
A collective sigh
issued from every throat.
“Let this go, young
Kenobi,” Zadrek Kellnu, another of the Masters, advised
gently. “It does not concern you.”
“But it does. I
“Say it not!” Yoda
snapped, whacking the arm of his chair with his gnarled
“Then tell me! Let
me understand!” Obi-Wan pleaded. “What happened
“His name was Blake
Damon,” Zadrek Kellnu said, paying no attention to the
annoyed looks she earned from her fellow Council members.
“And yes, Kenobi, he
was a Jedi. A Master.”
“A fallen one,”
“A Sith?” Obi-Wan
Kellnu shook her
head. “No Sith, but one who followed his own ways, his own
teachings. He held beliefs that the rest of us did not
share. He was dismissed from this
Council, cast out of the order.”
“Never again the
ways of the Jedi was he to practice,” Yoda said. “Yet
discovered did we that a temple he had raised
to the Dark Side. The people in
the ways of the Dark Side he was instructing. Disobeyed
the Council’s edict, he
did, defied us.”
“You had him killed.”
He said it in a tone so shocked it was devoid of
Windu scowled stormily.
“He could not be allowed to continue. It posed
a threat to the way of life of the entire Republic.”
Obi-Wan shook his
head in slow unwilling belief. “He disagreed with you, and
you had him killed.”
“It was not like
that,” Kellnu said. “We do not order deaths.”
“But when Bethra
came forth with his idea to start a prison, you suggested
Rannok. You knew what he’d find there, and what he’d
do about it. You stood by
and let thousands of people die, all to rid yourselves
of one man ... one man who
was not evil!”
“Evil, he was!”
Yoda said. “To the Dark Side --”
“No!” Obi-Wan never
would have expected to hear himself interrupt Master
Yoda, but the word burst from him before he could stop
it. “Not like us, but not evil!
I have seen it!”
“You yet lack wisdom
and experience in these matters, young Kenobi,” Kellnu
“My eyes have been
opened, Master,” he said to her. “We have become self-
righteous and close-minded. Are we so threatened by any
way different from ours
that we must eradicate it?”
barked sharply. “You would do well not to challenge
this Council. What was done has been done, and it is
best put behind us all.”
“I understand that,
Master Windu.” He bowed his head. “But what of
A long and heavy
silence stretched out, during which he felt only barriers
around the minds of the Masters.
“See her again,
you should not,” Yoda declared. “A bad influence she is.”
“On you, and perhaps
also on your Padawan learner,” Windu said. “His
fate is already clouded.”
“I will not let
her be killed,” Obi-Wan said, putting into words that worst
“Has your faith
in us been so shaken?” Kellnu asked sadly. “We know you,
Obi-Wan Kenobi. We know your soul. Headstrong, yes, and
impetuous. Much like
your master, as Mace Windu noted. We know your feelings
for this woman. You are
a Jedi, and of great value to us. We would not wish to
make you choose. We caution
you ... we do not forbid.”
was sour; he, at least, Obi-Wan was sure, was more
than ready to forbid. “Dark times are there ahead for
us. This we have foreseen.
At risk are the Jedi, all the Jedi. If a part
of this threat this woman becomes ...”
“She will not.”
“See to it,” Windu
He nodded and, sensing
their dismissal, left the Council chamber toward
whatever future might await him.
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