And the villain (whom, incidentally, I like better when it’s Dooku) takes some interest. Good luck, Kenobi.
[10/27/2013: Edits to correct errors and lack of inflection.]
[11/2/2013: Changed tagging to reflect current story status; aka, completed.]
Obi-Wan groaned as he came back to the world that he had been forced to live in all his life. His whole body ached, but that was nothing new. He had long ago learned to assess his injuries, let himself heal, and move on. For most people, pain was accompanied by passion. With Obi-Wan, physical suffering was emotionless. It had to be. He couldn’t survive both flip-flopping feelings and physical torture. For other people, torture was psychological as well as inflicting physical pain. For Obi-Wan, the psychological effects had long ago vanished. Not that he had ever disregarded the moral implications, but he had long ago ceased to feel the emotions that most people associated with being put to torture.
The door creaked open. Obi-Wan had enough skill in the Force, despite the heavy shielding and the minimalism of use that he had to maintain to keep from seeming other than what he appeared, to tell that it was Ventress. “Come!” he called, trying to sound brisk, even though she hadn’t bothered to knock. Ventress’ footsteps approached, haltingly.
“They… they…” she sobbed. “Again?”
“Yes.” Obi-Wan said quietly, seeing no reason to mince matters, or sugarcoat or try to hide the truth. How could he, when he was lying on his face on the bed, unable to move?
Fingers that were clumsy but gentle ghosted over his back, sending healing power into the whip cuts. Obi-Wan almost screamed aloud. Torture he could bear, but Dark Side healing techniques were a torment on a completely different plane. Dark energy running through his body was something that he still had no true defense against. Still, Ventress was helping as best as she knew how, and he would be a blackguard if he did something so inconsiderate when she was only trying to help him.
Ventress finished her ministrations and Obi-Wan sat up. As he did so, he bit back a gasp. At some point during the beating—he couldn’t remember it, the memories were blurred as they always were—his mind’s defense mechanism against that torment—the electrowhip must have coiled around his thigh, and been hurriedly jerked away. He wouldn’t be able to walk at all for at least a day, even if he had been able to have the luxury of being able to go into a healing trance, something he most certainly could not risk. The twelve-year-old girl slipped under Obi-Wan’s arm, huddling close to him. “Why do they always want to do that to you?” she whispered, huge melting blue eyes confused. Obi-Wan sighed.
“Because they can.” he replied. “You don’t want to be like them, do you, Asajjlet?” Ventress perked a little smile at the fond nickname.
“Never!” she whispered faithfully.
“Then never, never give into hate. Never. Don’t seek power for its own sake. It is never worth it.” Force knew it wasn’t. Asajj coiled herself closer into him.
“I can’t hate anyone,” she replied. “Because I love you soooooooo much.” The adoring gaze she shot up at him was enough to make all the suffering worthwhile. She was like the little sister he had never had. “I’m afraid, Obi’an.” She still didn’t try to put the ‘w’ in there.
“Why?” Obi-Wan asked.
“The dark. I don’t like it. It scares me.”
“Fear is a good thing, Asajj, but it’s also dangerous. It’s good, because it tells you that something isn’t right. But it’s not so good if you don’t release it. If you don’t accept and then release your fear, Asajj, it will take you into the dark. Pay attention to your fear, it sends you an important message. But don’t dwell on it.” Obi-Wan paused and looked up. He wondered what Sidious would think if he knew that one of the prospective apprentices was practically in Obi-Wan’s pocket, playing into his hand, and that he was firmly rooting her in the Light. Probably nothing good. Never anything good. Force forbid. But this wasn’t the realm of honor. When souls were at stake, he was more than willing to play “dirty.” “Someday, Asajjlet. I promise. There won’t be any more hate. There won’t be any more darkness, even if we don’t live to see it. Even night can’t last forever. I promise you.” Asajj stood up. According to the whimsy of the Sith, her head had been shaved bald, and tattoos across her face proclaimed what she was slated to be, but Obi-Wan only saw the sweet soul beneath the pomp and veneer that wasn’t hers. “Oh, Asajjlet. One thing before you go, and before you go to bed… There’s a young woman called Padme Naberrie, perhaps two years or so older than you. She needs someone to be with her, and with what Xanatos did to me, that’s not going to be me. She’s in the women’s wing, among the adepts, in Jakariss’s old room. Tell her that you came from me. Stay out of the way if Sidious turns up, but don’t leave her alone until you sense that she’s mentally stable.”
“I will, akhranshi.” she said. She smiled sweetly at Obi-Wan around the door, then she was gone. Obi-Wan half-smiled. Akhranshi. One of the few words in Old Sith that had positive connotations for him. In the original sense, it only meant family member. But Asajj had put new meaning to it. Brother, teacher, mentor, friend. Obi-Wan mentally searched for an equivalent in his own native Shendi. The closest he could find was “akey’yana,” which had no exact translation in Basic and could either be used for a relative, or for a very dear friend and mentor. Akh’ransh’i in Shendi meant something Obi-Wan didn’t even care to try thinking about: the relationship between fate and reality, the balance between hope and practicality, and also the joy in life which made life worth living and held the galaxy together. He might use the word to describe the foundations of the Force. It was too large a word for the human mind to fully wrap itself around. Obi-Wan slipped into meditation without even realizing it, seeking solace. He had fallen asleep before he knew it, drifting off into dreams.
Padme knelt on the floor by the toilet in the bathroom, heartily thankful that she had her own private bath. She had been too sick to do anything or eat anything all evening. The meal that Obi-Wan had brought seemingly so many hours ago had gone back to the kitchens, uneaten.
A knock sounded at the door. Padme straightened up and pushed back her hair, trying to at least look all right in case it was one of the Sith. The person came right in, as Padme didn’t bother shouting at them to come in. Padme walked out of the bathroom to see a young Dathomirian girl, somewhat younger than herself, enter her room. “Obi-Wan told me that you shouldn’t be alone, not tonight,” the Dathomirian said. “So here I am.” She offered a slightly toothy, though genuine, smile. Padme couldn’t help but smile back.
“You’re Obi-Wan’s…” she began to ask.
“Protégé. Well, sort of.” The Dathomirian smiled again. Padme noticed a slightly gap-toothed expression that made the little girl look even younger. “I’m Asajj Ventress, by the way. Nice to meet you.”
“Padme Naberrie Amidala.” They stood still for a long interval, sizing each other up.
Finally, Ventress asked, “Do you want me to sing for you? Obi-Wan taught me how.”
“That would be nice, but…” Padme gestured to the walls. “Might we be overheard?”
“No, these rooms are practically soundproof,” Ventress said. “If you saw what happened to Obi-Wan, you’d know why.” There was a flat dedication to reality that made her voice rough and harsh in that. Padme shuddered at the memory. Ventress sat down on the bed and began to sing.
Blue blade that hummed and sang in his hand. It was the most beautiful thing in the universe, the blade of the lightsaber humming in its deadly dance.
The lightsaber had always fascinated him. Possibly because it represented his true self, and the reality of the Force running through his veins.
Red. Red clashing on blue, blue and green. It was fate. It was fate. The confrontation that could not help but become a reality. The reckoning for a thousand years and more of slavery, slavery to the Sith.
This wasn’t about him.
It was about hope, and courage, and generosity, and selflessness, everything that the Dark would crush if it could.
This was about the Light.
It was early again when Obi-Wan got up. The sleep he had gone through had done a lot towards healing his leg, allowing him to walk on it, though not toward reducing the pain. He walked down the corridors with a half-limping movement. After last night’s beating, he was aching all over, though Ventress had healed most of his wounds. His leg was the worst, though… Wrapping an electrowhip around a limb could easily result in permanent nerve damage. While Obi-Wan was strong enough in the Force to repair damaged nerves (and such a use of the Force would not be noticed,) the lingering results of the whip manifested themselves as an aching, burning, prickling sensation; his leg would be numb, sore and painful for days. The only way to block out the pain would be to fully immerse himself in the Force, and that would be dangerous, inviting notice and questions.
Dooku was an early riser, by his own choice. He walked along the hallways of the palace, toward the library. Along the way, he met Obi-Wan Kenobi. Dooku mentally remarked that the only reason he knew the boy’s true name was because he had been curious about the one they called Korzu. Something had struck him about the slave; he had not been surprised to find that Kenobi was Force-sensitive. What puzzled him, though, was that though the file had not stated the degree of Kenobi’s Force-sensitivity. And probing the boy’s Force-presence did little good, either. His presence was gray, but at times Dooku could feel light, brilliant light, just behind the gray, as if it were bottled up deep inside, just waiting for a release. Also, the boy seemed to be oddly opaque to mental probes, and it was practically impossible to read any distinct thoughts; emotions were all that he could ever get from Kenobi, which was confusing and made him difficult to read. Not for the first time, Dooku felt some concern over the boy. Kenobi paused across the hall from him as he passed, watching him with emotionless azure eyes. Nothing to be read from them. He was picking up nothing at all from the boy at the moment. Suddenly, Dooku noticed something. He had always thought of Kenobi as a boy—now he saw that though Kenobi was embodied in a young guise, those eyes were strikingly mature, a man’s eyes. Kenobi bowed slightly, still not speaking, and walked on. Dooku paused a moment longer, watching as the slave continued on down the hallway, then turned aside to pursue his own agenda.
“Korzu!” a voice shouted. Obi-Wan paused, lips pressed thinly together. Korzu. If that voice said Korzu, then it was Vader calling. Anakin Skywalker, while speaking with the same voice, would call him Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan rolled his eyes back in disgust. Korzu. How he hated and despised that name. His real identity known only to a few, Palpatine had given him the name Korzu, and Palpatine’s word was law. Obi-Wan disliked the name thoroughly. It was one that he had done nothing to earn, and Old Sith was not a forgiving language… and it was rife with brutality and other remnants you would expect from the spawn of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan turned slowly aside and into the closer of the two rooms which he had been heading to. He entered the room and stood stock still by the door. He would not bow, not to a petulant and angry child. He dodged gracefully to one side as an activated lightsaber—red as all the lightsabers in the palace were—swept down on the place where he had stood mere miliseconds before. Vader brought the blade up and deactivated it, pouting. “Ah, I almost had you that time!”
“You could do better than to call me in just to try and kill me,” Obi-Wan said, ice in his voice. “If I was armed, you would be the one who would end up dead.” Vader grinned wolfishly.
“What if you were armed?” he asked. Obi-Wan’s eyes flashed ice-blue.
“You would be a fool to try it. And I would not lay my hand to a weapon of the—” A lightsaber smacked into his palm. Instantly, Vader’s lightsaber was coming for him again. Obi-Wan had no choice. The lightsaber activated, the blade crimson, just like the other, and blocked, somewhat clumsily but equal to the child. Actually, they were fairly equally matched, or so it seemed; the child was only partially trained and let rage rule him, while Obi-Wan, despite fighting as if he had no experience whatsoever with the weapon, was staying calm. Besides, he was stronger and had more endurance than the boy, even without using the Force to reinforce his natural stamina. There was only one possible outcome—or rather two, but Obi-Wan chose the first option rather than the second in order not to humiliate the child too much. Obi-Wan’s boot came up and connected with Vader’s fist, and the lightsaber flew from his hand. The other option—using his greater strength to hold Vader down and then wrest the lightsaber from his hand—was not tenable. Obi-Wan tossed the palace lightsaber away, then pressed his fist against his ribs and staggered back against the wall. A curious change came over Vader’s face; he rushed forward to help Obi-Wan.
“Obi, are you all right?” Anakin Skywalker asked. Obi-Wan looked closely at Anakin, unfazed by the sudden change. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
“No, you didn’t,” Obi-Wan gasped. “Xanatos did.” Anakin’s fists clenched and the boy’s face went dark with anger.
“Why that no-good, son of a hutt…” he began, and went off into Huttese. Obi-Wan gave him a cold look.
“Anakin, control yourself.” he said, a thin, dangerous quiet in his voice. Anakin froze. Obi-Wan gave him a hard, probing glance. “Mind your feelings, they will destroy you if you let them control you. You will be no different from Xanatos, is that clear?” Anakin nodded.
“Yes, sir,” he said. Obi-Wan closed crystal-blue eyes and slid to the floor. Anakin was walking the gray. It was the dangerous stage in which he was open to either light or darkness, healing or destruction. He needed help, and better help than what Obi-Wan was able to give him. An image flitted behind the red glow of closed eyelids, a future that might yet come to pass, a future that was halved; part of it dark, the other part light… Obi-Wan knew enough of visions to know that what he was seeing was really two futures, two possibilities out of the endless supply of fate. The light was struggling with the dark; it was not dark, it was gray… In another world, Obi-Wan might have been something else from what he was now. But what was, and what might have been, were two completely separate things; what was was sweet-bitter, and what might have been, bitter-sweet… Obi-Wan blinked. What was reality? From his experience of the Force, it existed on different levels, and it was not immutable. And yet, it was solid enough to seem… to be redundant but succinct… real.
“Just let me rest for a moment, Anakin,” he heard himself say, distantly. It was an automatic response. It did not do to have premonitions in a room full of Sith without some sort of cover. “Give me a minute…” Obi-Wan took several deep breaths. Seer, possible prophet, though he had never gone into the prophetic trance… a fortunate occurrence. For obvious reasons, visionaries and oracles were exploited in Sith culture. Obi-Wan re-anchored himself in the physical world and stood up. “Come on. It’s time you saw your mother.”
Anakin leaped up, afire with excitement. “You got permission?” Obi-Wan sighed exasperatedly.
“Please, Anakin, one simply does not go and ask His Nibs for permission to do something that he expressly forbade.”
“So we’re breaking the rules?” Anakin whispered conspiratorially. Obi-Wan grinned.
“What did you think?” he asked, swinging Anakin up in the air. Anakin was nine now, not as light as he used to be, but Obi-Wan was stronger than he looked and could easily carry someone of his own weight, possibly more. Anakin giggled helplessly as he swung around.
“Hahahaha, stop it!” Reluctantly, Obi-Wan put him down. He picked up the child-sized cloak from the hook by the door and wrapped it around Anakin’s shoulders, putting the hood up. Anakin left the room, following Obi-Wan out. They walked through the confusing maze of passages towards the women’s quarter, neither one speaking. Finally, they arrived at their destination. Obi-Wan palmed open the door rather than hitting the panel—which might have been locked today for all he knew anyway—and stepped inside.
“Miss Skywalker, you have a visitor.” Shmi looked up from what she had been doing. Her face lit up in a bright smile.
“Ani!” she breathed. Obi-Wan stepped aside from the excited meeting, not wanting to intrude. He wasn’t a member of the family, after all. He was an orphan, and not up for adoption, either.
Though Shmi seemed determined to try.
Obi-Wan closed his eyes, remembering his own mother. Hazel eyes, unlike his. He was the first known Kenobi, she had told him, to be blue-eyed, in all the long ages of the clan’s existence. Gentle, kind eyes, a sweet face. Petite, small-boned, especially for being Shendi. His memories of her were fading; it had, after all, been twenty-two years since he had seen her last, when she had been dying… and he had only been barely old enough to remember her at all… It was her traits that he remembered best, her voice. Looking back, Obi-Wan vaguely wondered if she had been trained as a Jedi. He could remember too little of what she had told him to know, though thinking hard, just the general feeling made him think of his master. Sharya Kenobi had been nineteen at the time of her death; she had been young, far younger than Shmi. And in the end, she had only been one of the many women brought to the palace to be a slave, live and die unseen by any outsider’s eyes. Obi-Wan closed his eyes, remembering that day so long ago… the incident that had started it all, then her slow slipping away, was the only clear memory he had of his mother. Akerius had walked into the room drunk, and Sharya had stepped forward to protect her young son. He had hit her hard, and then Obi-Wan had flung the man violently into the wall with the Force, instantly snapping the Sith’s neck. He had stayed close by Sharya’s side for the long weeks that followed as she slowly sank and died. Obi-Wan shuddered at the memory. It had burned itself into his mind, the most painful relic of a pain-filled life.
Shmi came out to him. “He’s sleeping for now,” she whispered. Obi-Wan frowned.
“It isn’t even seven yet.”
“He seemed tired out.” The lightsaber duel. That had to be it.
“Ah.” Obi-Wan said. Shmi leaned back against the doorframe. Obi-Wan watched her, silently. Shmi half-smiled at him.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time I saw you,” she said, her voice soft with memory. Obi-Wan looked down at the floor. “You were fighting a whole pack of Sith in training, most of them bigger than yourself, in favor of a single little girl who was destined for the same life. It was then that I knew that you weren’t one of them… you wouldn’t have interfered if you were. And you were obviously generous… it takes a lot of character to stand up in defense of a potential enemy.” Obi-Wan sighed.
“She was a potential enemy, yes. An enemy, no.”
“Still,” Shmi said, as if she’d proven her point. “And now you’re standing up for my son. I wanted to thank you… You’re the other son I never had.” Obi-Wan bowed his head.
“I am honored.” he said softly. He had been fifteen, half of Shmi’s age, and she still had taken him under her wing, to the point of telling his high mightiness Sidious off, throwing a veritable temper tantrum despite her approaching middle age until Sidious acquiesced to her wishes. Obi-Wan had waited on her hand and foot after she had become pregnant, stood by her during the delivery, surreptitiously healed her when she would have otherwise died due to complications of her labor, and then practically raised her son single-handedly, being the father figure Anakin needed despite the fact that he was only sixteen years older. It was a formidable list. “I’m worried, Miss Skywalker,” he said.
“Please, just call me Shmi or Mom, I don’t mind.” Shmi smiled.
“Only when no one else is listening,” Obi-Wan teased gently. They both laughed softly. Obi-Wan went quiet and turned serious. “I’m worried about Anakin, Miss—I mean, Mother.”
“I noticed,” Shmi replied.
“Sidious wants him, wants him to turn,” Obi-Wan whispered. “And Anakin’s not helping. He’s flirting with the Dark, Mother. And that can’t possibly lead to anything good.”
“I’m afraid that all we can do is… hope.” Shmi said. Obi-Wan nodded slowly, brows still furrowed in concern.
“All too true, I’m afraid.”
Dooku completed his researches and went to find Palpatine. It was still early, but Palpatine was already awake and in the throne room. Dooku approached slowly with some respect in his attitude. It did not do to cross the most powerful Sith Lord in existence. He walked forward and made a deep obeisance. “My lord,” he greeted.
“Lord Tyrannus. What is troubling you?”
“It’s the boy Kenobi, my lord. Something about him does not add up. He is clearly Force-sensitive, but he is also difficult to read in the Force, and he does not shine out in an aura of power like most Force-sensitives. It’s more subtle, subdued even, but it is clear that he remains in the light, despite all that has happened to him. I would almost say he had been trained to shield his presence and hide within the Force, but that is clearly impossible.”
“What do you intend to do about it?” Sidious asked.
“I request that the boy be turned and trained, my master.”
“Doubtless,” Sidious purred. “But I have my reasons for not training Kenobi, foremost among them that to train him would make him into a deadly rival. You are aware, are you not, that he is Deriaka’s heir? He is aware of this, but as of now has no craving for power. To be a Sith is to be ambitious. If he were to be trained, if he were to begin to seek power, then he would stab in the back all those who opposed him and claim his birthright. By leaving him untrained, a plaything for Xanatos and Zan Arbor, I perpetuate my own safety, and possibly yours as well. You still have much to learn, Lord Tyrannus.”
“Then why not simply kill him and forever put an end to the threat?”
“An over-simplified solution that might present itself to my mind, but keeping him alive serves a purpose. True, he is only one slave, but a Force-sensitive slave is rare, and he has his uses. Though they may be few, they are also ones that no other would fulfill. Also, there is a certain pleasure in having your enemy under your hand, with the knowledge that you can do as you please with them, that you, Tyrannus, would not understand.” With that, Sidious dismissed Dooku. Dooku turned and left, but not without thinking in his own mind that the Emperor was a fool.