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There is going to be some violence in this chapter, but I hope it’s not THAT bad. Anyway, enjoy!

[10/27/2013: Edits to correct minor errors and lack of italics where they should be.]

[11/2/2013: Changed tagging to reflect current story status; aka, completed.]

Chapter III

                Obi-Wan hurried along the corridors on his assigned duties, helping Anakin dress, bringing Shmi her breakfast (an extra item that Shmi insisted was spoiling her unnecessarily,) and bringing Padme hers as well. He hesitated briefly before taking Padme’s breakfast up, wondering if she would even be up yet, if she would be upset at the intrusion, but at last decided that it was as well to do it now as to wait. He made his way up to her room and knocked at the door. “Who is it?” Padme’s sleepy voice called out. Obi-Wan winced. Bad timing, but he still had little choice. He went in.

“I wish I had the comfort of knowing you could lock your door from the inside,” he remarked. Padme sat up suddenly in the huge double bed.

“Obi-Wan!” she gasped. “Why aren’t you resting?”

“Limitations don’t really concern me,” Obi-Wan remarked. “I do have my limits, my breaking point, but the Sith have never succeeded in reaching them yet. In fact, in trying to reach them, they only remove them further.” He set the tray down. Padme eyed it with some distaste.

“Have you eaten yet?” Obi-Wan was caught off-guard by the question.

“Well, no, but…”

“Then you’d better have breakfast,” Padme decided regally. “Sit down and stop blustering, silly boy.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Obi-Wan said meekly. Padme sniffed suspiciously at the air, then pointed to a small dish covered by a cloth.

“What’s that?” She whipped the cloth off and inhaled deeply. The aroma was delicious.

“Kulu berry muffins,” Obi-Wan explained, somewhat lamely. “I guess I just… I somehow… I thought…”

“How did you know?” Padme whispered. A tear trickled down her cheek. “They’re exactly what mom used to make me when I was lonely or depressed.” Obi-Wan bowed his head.

“I’m sorry if I’ve upset you,” he said quietly.

“No, never!” Padme said fiercely. “This is exactly what I needed.” She gestured to the muffins. “But how did you know?”

“Intuition, I guess,” Obi-Wan said. “I’ve always had it. It’s not like I look up your personality test scores or anything, I just… know.” Padme picked up a muffin, taking a big bite.

“Oh, these are heavenly. I’ll bet you five credits that the palace cook never did these.”

“You’re right,” Obi-Wan admitted. “I like to cook, but I get precious little chance to. Another five credits that you’re about to do something that will embarrass me.” Padme blushed and hurriedly backed up. She had been thinking about kissing him on the cheek a moment before, now she tried to bluster her way out of it.

“No, I wasn’t, you silly boy.”

“And I’ll go another five that you’re lying.” Padme scowled fiercely.

“Shut up, you’re crazy.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

A comfortable silence stretched out. Finally, Padme swallowed and asked, “I don’t understand something, Obi-Wan. Last night… after you passed out… Palpatine referred to you as ‘his Highness.’ And you’re royalty, but a slave… and Shendi… and the royal house isn’t.” Obi-Wan looked down.

“It’s a long story, and involved as well.”

“Well, now seems like a good time to me,” Padme countered. Obi-Wan sighed.

“I’d better start at the beginning then. Oh, if you get confused, stop me and I’ll try to explain. But I really don’t remember most of it myself, and I don’t understand some parts either. Still, I’ll try.

“When Darth Aggradus’s child was born, they realized that the baby wasn’t Force-sensitive. You see, Darth Deriaka had done something—I don’t know what—so that all of his heirs would be Force-sensitive. Palpatine, who was the only one present there, had the child left out to die and told Aggradus that his daughter had been stillborn. Then Palpatine went on a search for the true heir. Many, many years ago, Deriaka had married a Shendi woman. Their first and only child—a daughter—was entrusted to the care of a nurse, a former Jedi Padawan, by her mother, and the nurse took the baby girl away, leaving the woman to tell Deriaka that the child and nurse both had met with an unfortunate accident. In his rage, Deriaka killed his wife and married another woman, whose child would become Aggradus and Palpatine’s ancestor. But the daughter practically vanished. It turns out that she married a Kenobi, one of the few to survive the great Purge; they had fought in the war, allied with the Jedi against the Sith. And the line passed down from generation to generation, until the true heir was a woman called Sharya Kenobi—the name means ‘hope’ in Shendi. Somehow, Palpatine tracked her down and discovered that she was the true heir. He took her back to the palace and hid her so that no one would ever know that Aggradus was not the rightful emperor, and thus Palpatine was not the rightful heir. Sharya was my mother.” Obi-Wan hung his head.

“And your father?” Padme prompted.

“We still don’t know. I was born at the palace and brought up as a slave, and here I am.” Obi-Wan smiled humorlessly. “I’m the heir that wasn’t supposed to exist. It’s a horrid, disgusting, despicable thing to have a birthright to, but that’s what I am. Palpatine mocks me with my title every now and again. I’ve learned to ignore it. It’s not hard… It’s something that I never wanted in the first place anyway. As to being Shendi, well, I am. Almost completely pure-blooded Shendi. It’s the one drop that makes me Deriaka’s heir that means I’m not pure-blooded. It’s saved my life more than once—even though I am a slave, various people have wanted to put me out of the way at various times, and Shendi are immune to many exotic poisons.” Obi-Wan stood. “I have other things I need to do. For now, farewell.” With a graceful bow, he left the room.

Another day, another confrontation… Obi-Wan was beginning to wonder how many times he had to tell the Sith to get it through their heads. Obviously, they were obsessed with pushing the limits. But after running into Darth Krazhana on the way to the library, Obi-Wan wholeheartedly wished that the Rule of Two had taken deeper effect. He wasn’t even supposed to be in the library, by either the rules of the Sith or the normal rules of the Jedi, but Obi-Wan had been given a special dispensation due to his training to protect him against the temptations of the Dark Side and specialization as a Sentinel. As far as other things went, Obi-Wan was fairly normal, but he had been trained to shield his presence and had proven his faithfulness to the Order, and as such he had been given permission to make an active study of any Sith artifacts or such that he might come across. Of course, much of what he found was sickening, but there had been a few things that had been invaluable to Qui-Gon and the others.

While in the library, however, he had run into Maul. The Zabrack was a few years older than he was, and Obi-Wan would describe him as a destructive force capable of anything and worthy of the Sith. Maul obviously doubted that Obi-Wan had a good reason to be there. In the library.

The Sith hadn’t even bothered to ask.

He had just picked Obi-Wan up by the waist and flung him across the room, then left. Obi-Wan got up slowly, trying hard not to disorient himself even more than he was already, and met the sympathetic eyes of Jocasta Nu. It had confused him for a moment, until he remembered a vague note in one mission briefing about the archivist and historian—she, too, was an undercover Jedi operative.

There was a banquet that afternoon, and Obi-Wan was supposed to serve Palpatine. As usual, he was forced to submit to the indignity of identity-altering pigments added to the markings on his face. They would wash off, unlike the tattoos, but they were just another reminder of the forced servitude to which he had been subjected. Obi-Wan carefully checked that the tiny earpiece he wore was working properly. He always recorded and transmitted these events; valuable information could be extracted from the recordings. The servitors all waited for what seemed like hours behind the chairs of their assigned guests. Obi-Wan took the chance to drift off into a slight meditation until a fanfare announced the guests’ arrival.

As the guests paraded in, Obi-Wan quickly realized that this was no ordinary banquet. Under his breath, he whispered into the microphone concealed in his collar, “Garen. Something’s up. I don’t know what, but there is an unusual number of important dignitaries gathered here.”

“Can you tap into the security cams later and recover a copy of the footage for me?”

“I can try,” Obi-Wan whispered. “Here come the Banking Clan representatives… and the Techno Union one as well… Oh, and there’s that Umbaran sneak.” Of all the Sith… really? Sly Moore? Obi-Wan had grown up surrounded by Sith, and most of them turned his stomach, but Sly Moore (along with Palpatine and perhaps a few others) made his skin crawl, in addition. He was thankful that she could see in ultraviolet, not in infared. Infared-vision species were notoriously good at detecting and identifying others’ negative emotions, thanks to changes in the temperature in both core and extremities. Fortunately, there was no Ramarkan or Claustridian present tonight.

And now, Moore was moving up next to Palpatine… wonderful. Why hadn’t he bothered to glance at the place cards? There was no time, he reminded himself.

There was Dooku, still watching Obi-Wan with that curious look that was so difficult to decipher. While Sly Moore gave him the creeps and made it difficult for him to focus properly, the only Sith Obi-Wan was truly worried about at the moment was Dooku. Dooku, who seemed to guess what no one else did, who seemed to notice how impenetrable and opaque Obi-Wan truly was… the one who was equally inscrutable to the object of his concern. Obi-Wan mentally noted that he would have to see if he could hack deeper into the archive system and see what he could find out about Dooku. Other than that Dooku was the hereditary Count of Serrenno, the general use file had been bare-bones and basic.

All of the dignitaries were seated by now, and Obi-Wan carefully attuned himself to the Force in the room. The whole area was suffused by Dark Side energy, as usual, but this was the energy of greed rather than of hate, fear, and lust for power. The other three were mere undertones, janglingly discordant counterpoints to the symphony of greed. Obi-Wan covertly swept the room for any anomaly, anything unusual, by habit. He opened himself to the Force, allowing his mind to wander among the guests, noting their conversations. He opened his eyes to see fellow operative Quinlan Vos, in the guise of one of the aides of the Senator from Bellassa, and met the latter’s eyes. They would meet in secret after the banquet was concluded to compare notes; they were old friends. The Kiffar blinked twice, telling his human compatriot that he had picked up some valuable information, via his unusual Force talent of psychometry. Obi-Wan stroked his chin, thoughtfully, acknowledging the message. Vos turned back to his Senator, and Obi-Wan returned his attention to his duties. Mas Amedda came up to Sidious for a moment, exchanged a few whispered words, then turned toward the door.

“Ladies and gentlemen, may I present a new addition to our happy band.” the Chagrian said. “Queen-elect Padme Amidala!” Obi-Wan was careful not to stiffen as the doors opened and Padme walked in, her face concealed behind impersonal white makeup, a single red teardrop anointing her lower lip. She walked regally toward the dais, bowed icily to Palpatine, and continued to her seat.

Obi-Wan took up the pitcher from a side table and proceeded to refill all the empty cups. He whispered to Padme as he passed, filling her goblet, “Don’t touch the wine if you can’t help it. The tall pitcher to your right is water, though they don’t advertise the fact.” He nudged a small, chased-gold glass tumbler that sat close to her plate. “Palpatine has some plan concerning you,” he added as he passed her once again to set aside the jug. “I’ll speak to you later. Wait for me after curfew in your room.” Padme gave a tiny nod, scarcely daring to acknowledge him at all.

The first course concluded, Mas Amedda rose from his chair to announce a short recess, for the sake of the attendees’ amusement. Obi-Wan blinked at the announcement. It could not mean anything good…

Did not, for the very next moment he had been grabbed by Darth Maul and flung into the center of the room, off the dais, raising the dust on the floor as he fell, hard. Leaping to his feet once again, Obi-Wan stood on the defensive, watching Maul with a wary eye as the latter descended to the lower level. The Sith Lord activated a blood-red blade. Obi-Wan desperately dodged the next two attacks as Maul vented with a devastating flourish, the crimson blade screaming a hideous death song.

AAAAAAND… CLIFFHANGER! 😛 Those things are awesome… 😛 Until next time!