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Hello, my beloved readers. Yes, The Hero’s Dream is finally back! With the revisions complete, I am free to take it off its hiatus. Also, I have good news: The series in which The Hero’s Dream is the first installment finally has a title! It will be called Shifting Tides, mainly because it is a story about renewal, and also because it’s very different from the galaxy we’ve all come to know and love, a long time ago and far, far away.

This chapter: More Obi-Wan and Dooku interaction! You know we didn’t get enough of it in Attack of the Clones. Here’s some more of the good stuff!

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

Chapter VII

                “Punctuality is a virtue,” Dooku observed as Obi-Wan came into the room, absent-mindedly banging the door behind him. Obi-Wan shot him a quick, hard glance.

“As is patience,” he said. Dooku merely stared at him coldly. Obi-Wan stared Dooku straight in the eye. “I doubt that Palpatine agrees.”

“Palpatine is a fool.” Dooku said. “You, my young friend, are merely an object to him.”

“And I’m not to you?” the young man challenged. Dooku acknowledged the hit with a nod. He was… fascinated… by Kenobi’s style. To say the least. Circling, probing the defenses, relentless once he found a gap, making the strike… without mercy. It was a Sith’s style. Dooku was slightly curious as to how deep it ran, since it was so overtly the fighting style of the Dark Side…

It wasn’t.

Dooku paused, shocked by this revelation. It wasn’t a Dark Sider’s true style.

Kenobi never twisted the blade in the wound, never poured salt in an open cut. It was startling to find everything but that one in place… and yet, on the other hand, it fit with everything that made up who the young man was. His very presence murmured with the sense of honor that, by all rights, was outdated by generations. A Jedi’s sense of honor. “Perhaps,” the Sith Lord said, “I should ask you if you have ever used anyone.”

“Were you intending to force a confession, or to make an ad hominem attack, or to efface yourself, or make a point that we have more in common than I think?” Dooku blinked. He hadn’t expected this. Kenobi was nothing if not unpredictable, it seemed. The boy had evaded the strike with the elusive grace of a Soresu master.

“Master Kenobi, how very astute of you.” Dooku said in a low tone. Obi-Wan inclined his head, giving nothing away. “I must admit, you fascinate me.”

“Prepare for disappointment,” Kenobi returned, his voice ice-laden.

“Sidious might not have noticed the one or two curious details about you, but they have not gone unnoticed, I assure you,” Dooku said. Obi-Wan walked slowly over to the table where the chess set waited, surveying it, then moving one pawn out of its place.

“Wait and the chance is lost,” he said. “Your move.” Dooku advanced a rook.

“If Sidious were to meet an unfortunate accident…”

“No.” Obi-Wan snapped. “There’s no love lost between us, but I will not resort to murder. I don’t stab people in the back, or kill them in their sleep. Is that not what happened to Aggradus?”

“Aggradus should have known better than to take the medicine Kolvaya prepared for him,” Dooku sniffed. He poured out two glasses of wine, offering one to Obi-Wan. The slave pressed it away.

“I would be better off dead than on that throne.” he said. “And if I were fool enough to wish to mount it, I would be as good as dead already.”

“Sidious intends to go to Naboo,” Dooku mentioned casually. Obi-Wan frowned.

“Oh, so he has the gall to go there after what he’s done with their Queen-elect?”

“It appears so.” Obi-Wan moved another piece.

“I suppose I’ll be the one that he brings along to push at the assassins when they come.” he said, icy disgust coloring his voice.

“It makes sense, doesn’t it, to put the one who is most likely to survive in the dangerous situation?”

“It’s been only sheer luck that I’m still alive.” Obi-Wan’s agile mind had not been idle. There were possibilities in this… Sidious doubtless meant to bear his insincere condolences to the Naboo, and install a puppet ruler while he was at it. In the galaxy, now, they had the appearance of democracy, not the reality. Dooku raised an eyebrow.

“In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.” In Obi-Wan’s, as well, not that he was going to let Dooku realize that.

“I’ve drawn the white shell from the box so many times now I’ve lost count. I’ve pulled the ‘life’ card out of the loaded Sabacc deck repeatedly. The odds have been stacked against me and I’ve survived time and time again. If that’s not luck, I don’t know what is.” Obi-Wan’s eyes met Dooku’s and locked, neither one betraying any emotion or thought.

“Perhaps the Force has another purpose for you.” Dooku remarked thoughtfully. “I don’t suppose anyone has ever taken the time to properly explain it to you?” Obi-Wan did not bat an eyelid. He was used to playing this role; here, he was a slave. Not a Jedi. He remained silent. Dooku decided to carry on. “You have doubtless noticed that you are like no other slave in the palace, and that you have the same abilities as the untrained children who are brought here. You are like us; you are Force-sensitive. I am surprised that you retain such a strong grasp on your more unorthodox abilities. Oh, yes, I’ve heard all about that little stunt you pulled in telekinetically flinging a bench at Xanatos while you were chained to the wall. Most children, if they are not trained, simply forget, in time, how to use those abilities. The Force, my young friend, is a sort of energy field. Life projects it, and it, in turn, feeds life. Perhaps you have found that you are more persuasive than most? No? You seem so spoiled, I would have thought that you have been subconsciously influencing others’ minds, in order to get your own way…” Obi-Wan gave Dooku an icy glance. Dooku shot him an unapologetic, white-toothed grin. “The truth hurts, doesn’t it?”

“Not as much as the possibility that you might not be telling it,” Obi-Wan retorted.

“Hmmm,” Dooku murmured, observing the stacked board. Slowly, he moved a bishop forward. “Check.” Obi-Wan promptly knocked it off the board with his king, and brought the king up to leave no option for Dooku.

“Checkmate.” Dooku stared with some surprise at the board.

“A bold move,” he acknowledged. “But reckless. I wonder if it is natural talent, or a series of worthy opponents, that has given you such a gift for effective, if unconventional, military strategy?”

“Possibly both,” Obi-Wan remarked. Blue-gray-green eyes sparked, challenging, pushing past the boundaries. Dooku raised an elegant eyebrow, impressed. The young man’s presence hummed with carefully controlled energy, shrouded and cloaked but impossible to fully hide. Beneath the layers, the slave practically glowed in the Force. The way it swirled around him—as though waiting on his every move—the future changing with every thought, every breath—he wasn’t just a confluence, he was a convergence. Dooku had heard of them before, but had never actually encountered one that had a person as its focus point. Thoughtfully, with his back to Kenobi, Dooku weighed his lightsaber in his hand. He wondered, fleetingly, what a lightsaber constructed by this young man would feel like. The resonances of a saber crystal were echoes of the lightsaber’s maker and user; for good or for ill. It was nearly impossible to imagine, however, since Kenobi kept himself so completely shielded. It was a natural ability that all the stronger-willed palace slaves developed subconsciously, to keep their minds from being invaded, and Kenobi was anything but weak-willed. In fact, Dooku mused, Kenobi had the sort of will that was stronger than the weak corporeal form which was its vessel, the kind of strength that would move mountains. Dooku picked up a training saber and tossed it to the prisoner. It smacked into Obi-Wan’s palm, rife with the solid weight. The echoes even of a saber used only for training were disturbing, to say the least. Obi-Wan closed his eyes briefly, deliberately blocking out the distressing echoes of rage and fear and greed and hate. This duel would probably neutralize some of it, overwriting the evil with his own calm restraint, but it would take intense meditation to completely clean the weapon of its Dark Side alignment, and he could not do that. The training saber flashed into being. Dooku saluted with his own weapon, the hilt curved like the hilt of his full-power lightsaber. Obi-Wan stood on the defensive, allowing some uncertainty that he did not feel to bleed out into the currents surrounding him. As if it had a life of its own, the training saber leaped up to deflect the first strike. Then all was chaos, and light, and heat, and energy. This duel was nothing like the fight with Maul. Maul had not been able to compare to Obi-Wan, at least as far as mentality went. Dooku might possibly be Obi-Wan’s equal in intellect, but was certainly his better in saber skills, even with Obi-Wan’s training, which he could not use anyway. What with having to hold back, Obi-Wan was fighting a losing battle, though, had this been a serious duel, he might have been able to use the unexpected skills he possessed to take Dooku off-guard and claim the victory. At last, Dooku’s saber slipped through his all-too-weak defenses, burning his arm. Obi-Wan deliberately made an initiate’s mistake, dropping the saber and grasping at his arm with a gasp. Dooku’s lightsaber hummed down, grazing his leg. Obi-Wan gave a low hissing cry of pain and staggered to the ground, with Dooku prowling around him.

“Never drop your saber, young one,” Dooku scolded. Obi-Wan slowly, painfully pushed himself up from the ground. He was burned, not cut, and though the injuries would hurt for a few days, they wouldn’t be seriously incommoding. “I think this is a good place to conclude our lesson,” Dooku remarked. Obi-Wan bowed silently, and went out. He was gone before the Sith could do anything about it.

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