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Hello, all my readers out there. You know who you are (even if I don’t. ;-P) It’s that time again!!!! *does fiendish grin*
As for this one, nope, I don’t think there’s anything that needs a warning… Wait, no, there’s a bit of a nasty Sith lady. That’s about it.

[10/27/2013: Edits to fix minor errors.]

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

Chapter V

                “We are not truly extinct,” Qui-Gon said. “They hunt us, trying to find the scattered pockets of light-side Force users. However, what they don’t know is that we are not just a scattered two or three. We are an organized, cohesive unit. We will not hide forever. When the time comes, we will strike, and strike hard. Either we claim the victory, or we go to our death. There is no capitulation in this war.”

Padme watched the blades, entranced. There is something fascinating about a weapon that glows white-hot in the center and shimmers at the edges. She was almost disappointed when they deactivated their blades. Obi-Wan returned his to Qui-Gon. There was genius in that, Padme reflected. How could the Sith find the lightsaber when it wasn’t there to be found?

Anakin crept to Padme’s side and slid his hand into hers as Quinlan challenged Obi-Wan to a practice duel with training sabers. Padme watched with interest. This was completely different from the other duel she had witnessed. Though that had been to the death, while this was only for training purposes, this seemed far more serious than that had. This was a fight between two well-trained and fairly-matched young men, not an attack on the one side and a desperate defense on the other. Padme watched Obi-Wan with no little wonder. Gone was the clumsy, stumbling, desperate demeanor, the close shaves, the last-second survivals. He was quick, agile, decisive, clever, devastating. Not a whirlwind destroying everything in its path, but a precise, skilled, accurate fighter. Padme noted that he always seemed to be a step ahead of Quinlan, never overextending himself, never walking into a situation that might turn awkward. Qui-Gon crossed his arms and stood by her side, watching the mock battle. “They’re at it full strength tonight,” Qui-Gon observed. Padme gaped, open-mouthed, at the fight.

“Obi-Wan is better at this than Quinlan, I think,” she added.

“He is a true swordmaster,” Qui-Gon acknowledged. “From the beginning, he’s had talent. He might become the greatest lightsaber master of our day… if he lives long enough.” Underscoring the words was an undercurrent of regret, but also the hint that stated that he was perfectly ready should the apprentice be suddenly called from his side. Silently, Qui-Gon and Padme watched as the apprentice continued the mock-battle with his friend. It ended, unexpectedly, with Obi-Wan turning a reverse, back-flipping over Quinlan’s head, and then scoring a kill point by simply tapping the latter on the side of the neck. Padme watched Obi-Wan closely. Even though he used the fighting techniques of the Sith, something in his execution made it clear that here was no Sith. Perhaps it was the fact that, though fierce in the attack, he was merciful in victory. The two combatants bowed to each other.

“Not fair, Kenobi.” Quinlan grumbled. “All the rules are backwards when I’m fighting you.”

“Can you really blame me?” Obi-Wan asked quietly, the look in his eyes not particularly safe, or comforting, both haunted and haunting. Padme shuddered. He gave her the impression of controlled energy, veiled danger. He was enigma, riddle, and peril. He was contradiction. He was comfort and cold, fire and ice. Only one thing was certain, Padme decided. Never would he give her something sugary and insubstantial. Perilous or safe, it would have meaning.

“No,” Quinlan admitted. “You know,” he remarked, “I have the oddest feeling that, if things had been different, this would have been the other way around. You—you fight like an assassin.”

“Do I have a choice?” Obi-Wan asked softly.

“No.”

“Then it’s done.” Obi-Wan bowed, turned slowly toward Qui-Gon. For a moment, he looked as innocent as a child. Then the sad look of the knowledge of lost innocence came across his face.

“It’s a bitter cup to drink, child,” Qui-Gon said softly, brushing the ginger hair back from the young face. “And the dregs… they are no less bitter.”

“I have never once regretted it, Master.” Obi-Wan replied quietly.

“You have been a good apprentice, Obi-Wan. Your training is nearing its completion. I foresee that you will become a great Jedi Knight.” Obi-Wan bowed his head.

“Thank you, Master.” he said softly. “I will do my best to honor your teachings.”

“Obi-Wan…” Qui-Gon looked Obi-Wan in the eyes, and saw there something he could not quite name. The way the Force swirled around the younger man… The boy was not merely a confluence, but a convergence—something about him was important. Call it fate, destiny, but its mark was clear upon Obi-Wan. “Be safe.”

“Always, Master.” Obi-Wan spared Qui-Gon a quick grin, then vanished quickly into the shadows in a swift swirl of deep blue cloth.

Obi-Wan sat on the bed, reading a slender book, rocking slowly back and forth, his lips moving quickly as piercing eyes darted back and forth across the page. A sound alerted him to another’s presence, and he quickly closed the book and shoved it under the pillow. A small woman, dressed in a long blue robe with jingling coin trim, peered around the door. She was unusually small, even for a Ka’siin, and Obi-Wan remembered her as having an unusually blanked mind. Her mind had been completely destroyed by Dark Side influence, and though he had tried once to heal her and restore her to life once again, he had not succeeded; he had woken up screaming in agony due to the dark that surrounded her. Her expression was as flat as her blanked, non-existent mind. There was something odd about… well, not quite her expression, but something about her eyes… He wasn’t sure quite what it was, but it made him uneasy. He looked at her, his expression giving nothing away. “Vaquessa.”

“Lord Vader requests your presence in the long hall immediately,” she said shortly, then vanished. The message had been too short to glean much from, but there had been some flatness in the tone that warned him to be on his guard. Unsure of what had prompted it, yet not wanting to keep Anakin waiting, he rose. It could be nothing more than the Vader part of Anakin acting up worse than usual. Vader had come out in full force once and Force-choked Obi-Wan, but Anakin had been shocked by “his” actions into overcoming the darkness and releasing the older slave. Obi-Wan made his way toward the room that he had been told to go to.

The “Long Hall” was in fact one of the few areas where the Sith rarely came. It was almost always empty, and as such was the favored place for unseen battles. It was in the back of Obi-Wan’s mind the entire time that he might be walking into what could very easily be an ambush. Still, he had little choice but to go forward. Obi-Wan stepped lightly into the hall, poised for anything. Slowly, the door rumbled shut behind him. He didn’t bother to glance behind himself. “Anakin? Where are you?” His hand slid stealthily to his belt, where he had hidden a short, heavy stick. Instantly, he knew he was being watched… and he doubted it was by Anakin.

“I should think you’d know better than that,” a voice called, seeming to come from everywhere. Obi-Wan stood still, holding himself confidently.

“What do you want with me?” he demanded.

“I want… your attention.” Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow, turning slowly.

“Where are you?” He thought he had pinpointed his unseen adversary’s position, but was not certain.

“Come, come, surely you can tell?” the voice mocked him. Suddenly, Obi-Wan darted sideways, striking out with his stick. However, his attacker was too quick for him. Materializing out of the shadows, she flipped over his head and struck him from behind, knocking him flat. A booted foot landed on his back. “Well done, slave. Sheddra Azhrahai respects a worthy opponent.” Obi-Wan didn’t struggle, not yet. He remained perfectly still. “As you’ve already guessed, that worm Vaquessa was under a Force suggestion. She’s rather an easy one to coerce, don’t you think? Even for a weakling like you.” Obi-Wan reached out in the Force, flipping the Sith off his back and leaping to his feet. For the first time, he saw the face of his attacker.

Sheddra was by some standards devastatingly beautiful, but Obi-Wan had never been one to judge by outward appearances. He knew very well that physical beauty was only skin deep. In this case, he was repulsed by the cold feeling around her. Truly evil, he wasn’t sure if she even was alive… Sith had that effect on him. He always wondered if they were actually living beings.

Obi-Wan held the cold eyes, the eyes of a predator, with his own cool gaze. He stepped sideways out of the corner, so that he had the open hall at his back. She edged toward him; he moved back in response. “I wanted to speak with you, Korzu.”

“That isn’t my name,” he said, a dangerous thinness in his voice.

“It is the only name I know to call you by,” Sheddra replied silkily, inviting a revelation of his true name. Obi-Wan remained silent. In ancient Shendi tradition, call someone by their true name—not the honor-name—and order them to tell the truth, they could refuse to speak, but they could not lie, and no Shendi would give an enemy even their honor-name willingly. “Will you not speak to me?” the Sith continued.

“I am a prisoner here, why should I speak?” Obi-Wan replied icily.

“Do you not wish to know what I’m after?”

“I think I can guess, and I do not want any part of it.” Obi-Wan backed away slowly.

“Oh, come. You’re a slave… you have nothing to lose!” Sheddra’s fine speech was interrupted as Obi-Wan’s cautious backing away brought him up against the window. As Sheddra continued forward, Obi-Wan flung himself backward, through the window. A rain of shattered glass fell around him, slashing the sky. A sharp flare of pain shot through him, then the world went black.

Whoops, another cliffhanger. Oh dear. Heehee… 😛

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