No Absolutes – 1/4 – Eff_Dragonkiller

Title: No Absolutes
Author: Eff_Dragonkiller
Fandom: Star Wars
Genre: Action Adventure, Crime Drama, Family, Hurt/Comfort, Mystery, Science Fiction, Slash
Relationship(s): Tyvokka & Obi-Wan Kenobi, Obi-Wan Kenobi/Quinlan Vos
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Violence – Graphic, Violence – Domestic and/or Against Children, Off-screen rape of a minor character, Assisted Miscarriage, References to Children in War (canon), References to Slavery (canon), Dark Themes
Beta: hmweasley
Word Count: 107,000
Summary: After almost a year of war and loss, Obi-Wan just wanted to go home. Unfortunately, neither Master Jinn nor the Temple were as welcoming as his dreams had always painted them. He was lonely, grieving, and certain that he was about to be sent away again. Master Tyvokka was not impressed with how the High Council handled the Jinn-Kenobi partnership. There was something wrong there and he was going to fix it no matter who stood in his way.
Artist: tpena19



Chapter 1: Rot at the heart of the Temple

3rd day of the 9th Republic Standard Month, 957 ARR

The cabin of the small ship was full of tension and bitter silence. It was clear that Qui-Gon Jinn felt just as betrayed as when the Master had left his Padawan on the Melida/Daan eight months before. The Force swirled with his anger, and Obi-Wan’s dreams of home died as fast on the trip back to the temple as his innocence had that first day he’d spent with the Young.

They had won. There was peace on Melida/Daan, but the cost had been higher than he’d thought possible. His friends were dead, and his hope was a fragile tattered thing. The dreams that had gotten him through months of screaming, blood, and hate broke against the fury that Jinn wrapped around his heart.

Obi-Wan had known at the sight of his former Master that Jinn did not see an accomplishment to be proud of when he observed the peace talks, only the betrayal of their teaching bond. Still, when Cerasi’s killer was captured and the treaty finally signed, Jinn gestured to the ship and Obi-Wan followed.

He hadn’t wanted to. Who wants to get in a small, enclosed space for days at a time with a person who hates you? Not Obi-Wan, certainly. Except, the Jedi could feel down to his bones that this was the path the Force wanted for him. Just as it had bid him to stay and fight for peace on Melida/Daan to the point of turning his back on his Master, now the Force was bidding him go. Back to the Temple where his actions would be put under a microscope and he would have to defend everything that he had done.

Following the Force did not guarantee an easy life, or even a good one, Obi-Wan knew, but what else was a lightsider to do? He’d ignored such promptings from the Force before, when he’d had to, and it never resulted in anything good.

“Why did you come back, Master Jinn?” Obi-Wan asked before the Master could retreat to the single cabin near the front of the ship. “You’re so angry with me; why did you come back?”

Jinn looked at him directly for the first time since he’d followed the man onto the ship. Just stared at him so Obi-Wan could see the apathy and disgust Jinn didn’t bother hiding, darkness twisted in the Force around the Master.

“I was ordered to. The High Council told me to go. They told me to mediate the dispute. They told me to bring you back. They did not require I absolve you of wrong-doing. Their orders do not make you palatable.”

Obi-Wan kept the gasp of pain locked behind his teeth. That hope he’d carefully nurtured the last eight standard months twisted painfully in his chest. “Yes, Master Jinn.”

The rest of the trip to Coruscant the ship was filled with a silence sharp as broken glass. Obi-Wan made no attempt to disrupt it.

“Pleased we are to see you whole, Padawan of my Padawan,” Master Yoda greeted them in the High Council Chambers.

“Indeed, the Council is pleased to see you well, Master Jinn,” Master Dapatian, the Master of the Order, said dryly. “When word had come that a Jedi was needed on Melida/Daan to negotiate a peace treaty, we thought for sure it was a lie.”

“Almost,” Qui-Gon replied with a smirk that was more like a grimace. “There was a treaty to be negotiated when I arrived, and there was a treaty signed when I left, but much happened in between.”

“Why don’t you brief us on what happened, then, Master Jinn?” Master Gallia requested. “It sounds like you have much to share.”

“I arrived on Melida/Daan to find that, while the planet was still torn from war, it showed many of the signs of attempting to rebuild, and not in the isolated clusters of towns that predominated the landscape while the civil war waged. Upon landing, I was educated that a third faction called the Young, made up of a mix of Melida and Daan youth–and one Jedi deserter–had managed to bring the fighting to a standstill and were negotiating for peace,” Jinn began, describing the mission as he had observed. Obi-Wan couldn’t help but be glad that this was a process between only the Jedi on the mission and the High Council.

Because it hurt. It hurt like a knife to the chest, and Obi-Wan could honestly say he knew what that felt like. He stood to the side and behind Master Jinn, not unlike while he was the man’s Padawan, and had to listen as his blood, sweat, and tears were summarized in the Master’s cool, detached tone. Where was Jinn when he held Miswa while she bled out on the battlefield? Where was Master Yoda or any of the High Council when there wasn’t enough food to feed everyone? When the soldiers who were breaking down the doors of their camps were the parents of the Young?

Obi-Wan let the rage rise–because it would, it had to–but where he’d let it sharpen his eyes and numb his ears to the fighting of war, now he locked it away. The chamber of the High Council was not a suitable place to release his emotions, nor was it a suitable place to indulge them.

“Padawan–No,” the Master of the Order peered at him, “that is not your title any longer, is it? So, Kenobi, why don’t you tell us your version of these events then?”

“My version?” Obi-Wan startled. “What do you mean, Master Dapatian?”

“What did you do, Obi-Wan Kenobi, that a society so entrenched in war was willing to come to the peace table? This is how the Jedi Council is briefed on missions. Everyone’s view of a situation is unique, and we need to hear yours.”

Obi-Wan couldn’t look at the masters, so he played with the hem of his sleeve. It was a shade of green popular on Melida/Daan, layered, because he felt naked in less than two layers, with a vest of rare blue. He couldn’t remember who the clothes originally belonged to. There was a chance, given how all the Young had was shared, that Obi-Wan had never actually met them.

“People break,” he eventually said, when the sound of Nield’s laughter had stopped ringing in his ear and he could no longer feel the touch of Cerasi, of Miswa, of Titra, on his arms or the taste of blood in his mouth. “The Young liked to say that we–that they–were born broken and that there came a time when they didn’t have large enough pieces to break any more. So, they fought.

“That’s all I did.” Obi-Wan said, “First, I fought with a saber, but Master Jinn kept it when he left; so they taught me to fight with a blaster. When we ran out of energy packs, we learned to fight with knives. And when our knives broke, we threw punches.

“I didn’t add much to the group. Just another willing body working to stop the war; sometimes Cerasi or Nield would ask me to look over a plan, and I would see something that they didn’t. Or they would ask me to sit down and talk to someone who might be willing to help. Maybe they couldn’t fight, but they could help with chores, or feeding the group, or helping piece people together. And at night, if there was a lull in the fighting, they asked me to tell stories.”

“What kind of stories?” Master Gallia asked quietly.

“Normal stories.” Obi-Wan shrugged. “The First Jedi, or the Sky Walker, or the Come Again King. All I knew were the stories that we hear in the Creche, but every night we could, I was asked to tell another. I didn’t know I knew so many stories.”

“Their favorite, which was?”

Obi-Wan flushed. “The Way of the Winds. It’s my favorite and I’m sure they knew that.”

“I’m not familiar with that story.” Master Gallia smiled. “Is it from your home world?”

“I was born on Coruscant, Master Gallia. I couldn’t say where the story came from.” Obi-Wan shrugged. “I could tell you about our fights and our losses, but it wasn’t anything I did. I just talked a lot.”

Master Dapatian pressed taloned fingertips in front of his mask, “Were you there the day the Melida and the Daan agreed to try for peace?”

“Yes,” Obi-Wan said quietly.

“Will you tell us about it?”

Obi-Wan cast his mind back to that day only weeks ago that had been the most brutal and hopeful he’d ever known. Not even the caves under Bandomeer could compare.

The youth took a deep breath and began, “There is a plant on Melida/Daan called Shupasi, and it has properties not unlike Bacta. Completely non-toxic, they use it for everything. It can be cut and pressed into a poultice, dried and steeped for a tea, or eaten raw. The valley it grows in is called the Resting Place because the plant grows best in soil enriched with – cremation ashes.”

There was a stunned silence as Obi-Wan took a breath and felt Master Jinn shift uncomfortably next to him.

“There were rules about who was allowed to cultivate the plant and when they were allowed to reap it. I don’t know all the details, but I do know that Iopi woke me up one morning–before the sun had risen–and said that Nield had information that one of the factions was going to burn the Resting Place.”

Even now it didn’t make sense. For hundreds of years, the Melida and the Daan had allowed the Resting Place to be undisturbed. One of the only places on the planet that could handle Shupasi, and they were going to destroy it. It didn’t make any sense.

“Whatever had been planned for the Resting Place was interrupted, and the Young ended up in the middle of a field facing their parents on either side. And Cerasi just asked me to speak.” He shook his head, “I didn’t know what to say. I am a Jedi. I was raised without close kin ties and don’t really understand how families work. But Cerasi had asked, and Nield was staring at his mother like he was about to cry; he hadn’t seen his family in more than a year, and now his mother was prepared to kill him on the say so of her leader. I couldn’t not do anything.

“I asked them to consider what they were fighting for. Did they even remember? I asked them if they knew where their children were, were they already dead? I told them to look around at the fields and the flowers–the dead did not know sides, and the gardeners didn’t ask who the ashes belonged to when they spread them. Melida/Daan was broken and scarred by war and the death it brought, but it didn’t have to be that way. The people could build a life out of the death, just like the Shupasi.”

“And they stopped fighting?” Master Poof, a Quermian male who sat at the far side of the Council, asked skeptically.

“No,” Obi-Wan said. “There was an explosion and many more bodies, but when the sun set that day there was a ceasefire and it was because the parents among the Melida and the Daan still loved their children more than their hate. Nield and Cerasi got them the rest of the way to the treaty table.”

“So, Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Master Dapatian asked, “why did you reach out to us for help?”

Obi-Wan frowned, “We were there. We had peace in our grasp. The treaty table wasn’t the first time someone had tried to set us all against each other again. Jova tried, and Suli tried. Mawat was just the one who nearly succeeded. He nearly ruined it all. Suddenly people who were willing to lay down blasters were clawing at each other’s throats. So, I offered the only solution I thought might work: To request aid from the Temple. It worked.”

“It did.”

Jinn stepped forward once the silence began to stretch. “Is the Council satisfied with this report?”

“We are,” the Master of the Order said carefully. “We are almost done, Master Jinn. Was there something you would like to bring to our attention?”

“I would like to officially repudiate, Kenobi.”

In the Force, Obi-Wan could feel how startled the members of the High Council were. Whatever they had expected from Master Jinn, this was not it. Obi-Wan swallowed painfully and braced himself. He’d known it was coming. Jinn hadn’t hidden his anger on their way in.

Without waiting, Jinn began the ceremony. “You have so disappointed me, my heart cannot take it. I-”

“Master Jinn!” Master Gallia jumped from her seat. “Repudiation requires the consent of the Council! We have not given it!”

Jinn ground his teeth at the female’s interruption and scowled fiercely at the Master of the Order. “When will the Council give it?”

Master Dapatian cleared his throat and leaned forward. “We will revisit the issue of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s status as a member of the Jedi Temple and as your Padawan at a later date. Once we have had a chance to consider the issue at length.”

“When?” Jinn bit out. “Neither I nor the boy can linger indefinitely while more important matters occupy the attention of the High Council. When will you decide?”

“At the end of the Festival of Wishes,” Master Dapatian sighed, “Surely you can wait seven days, Master Jinn?”

“Surely,” the surly Master Jedi growled, and left the chambers with a swish of his robes when they were dismissed.

Obi-Wan was left at loose ends in front of the Council chambers under the harsh disapproving expressions of the passing Jedi. The Padawan manning the door wouldn’t look at him, and the Knight-Administrator at the desk was frowning at him. He didn’t really know what to do. Following Jinn seemed like the worst choice, he’d seen fit to mention that all of Obi-Wan’s things had been sent back to the Quartermaster months ago.

Perhaps he could have mentioned it to the masters of the High Council, but he hadn’t thought of it until his former teacher was already striding away. And Obi-Wan had the sinking suspicion that mentioning it now, would only be seen as trying to make trouble for Master Jinn. So, he had to rough it. It wouldn’t be that bad, not in the Temple.

With the Young, Obi-Wan had sometimes needed to sleep outside, and they’d never had the kind of supplies he’d enjoyed on his previous missions with Master Jinn. Here in the Temple, he wouldn’t even go hungry.

With nowhere else to go, Obi-Wan decided that a comfortable spot to store his things and curl up for a nap before dinner would make him feel much better. Or at least more capable of ignoring the ache in his chest.

Bant found him in the Stewjoni garden, an out of the way nook where no one would think to go looking for him. She looked both ways before cautiously joining him in the thinner air. A pit opened up in his stomach because Bant didn’t look great. Her smile stiff and tight across her lips.

“Brrr.” She chafed her arms, “I don’t understand how you can enjoy this place! Thin air, cold temperature, and low humidity. It’s awful.”

“It’s the low humidity you hate the most, isn’t it?”

“Please, even Mon Calamari aren’t fond of water when it comes in the form of snow!”

Obi-Wan felt an uncomfortable smile crease the corners of his eyes as he teased his friend, reaching forward to wrap her in a hug. It hurt. Like stretching scar tissue hurt, but it wouldn’t stop him.

His friend refusing a hug would, though. Bant stood stiff and unyielding in his arms. Not quite sure what was wrong, he let go. “What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?! Everything’s wrong!” She spun out of his arms to pace. “First you fought with Chun and got shipped out early! Then you were on Bandomeer and I find out you’re missing, presumed to have run away; after that you suddenly have a Master? And in the five months after taking his braid, I don’t see you once! Not once, Obi-Wan! The next thing I hear, you’ve left the Order! You gave up being a Jedi! You gave up the Master you worked so hard to get! How could you be so stupid?”

“Bant,” Obi-Wan frowned, “you don’t know all the details to that-”

“I know the most important thing.” Bant stepped right into his personal space and stared him down. “You willingly gave up your chance to be a Jedi Knight, and I don’t understand how. I would give anything for the personal attention of a Master. I thought you would as well. No, I know you would. Or at least I thought I did.”

Obi-Wan reached for his friend as she stepped away to palm the door open. He knew if he could just explain, she would understand. Bant wanted to be a healer. She couldn’t be mad at him for trying to stop a war. “Bant-”

“I’m glad you’re safe, Obi-Wan,” she said without looking back, “but I’m trying to get a Master, and I don’t want anyone to think I’d do like you did. So, it’s best if we stay apart for now.”

She hesitated at the door, but Obi-Wan was so shocked that he couldn’t speak past the lump in his throat, and with a sigh, she left without saying another thing.

He’d been alone before while on watch over a dozen different camps of the Young, but never had he felt so lonely. He was surrounded by his own people, returned to the home he grew up in, and it had never felt less welcoming.

Obi-Wan fell asleep between the roots of the great Stewjoni oak, wondering why the Force had brought him back to the Temple when it hurt so much. He didn’t feel it when the first tears fell, or when the dry cold air made him start to shiver. The ache in his chest was too all encompassing. He didn’t notice much of anything until warm hands were shaking him awake in the morning and worried brown eyes were peering down in concern, but for now the pain inside was worse than the pain outside.

It was Quinlan Vos kneeling beside Obi-Wan underneath the Stewjoni oak in the morning, and his warm brown eyes might have looked like pity, but the Force around him only resonated with the warmth of his love. “Hey, Obi-Wan, what’re you doing here?”

Obi-Wan groaned as he sat up, stiff from sleeping on the ground and from the chill of the room. “Don’t tell me you think I shouldn’t have come back either?”

“What? No, Obi,” Quin blinked and frowned. “Who said that?”

“Bant. Though, maybe not in so many words.”

“Ignore her,” the older boy said. “It’s her twelfth year. I don’t know anyone in the creche who was pleasant to be around if they made it this long without finding a Master. Yourself included.”

Obi-Wan didn’t want to be reminded. “She was right though, I’m back where I began. No Master and a reputation more dangerous than a lit saber. Think they’ll send me to the AgriCorps again? Or just kick me out at the end of the week?”

Quin sat back on his heels. “What are you talking about, Obi? I thought you wanted to come home?”

“I did,” Obi-Wan said. “I wanted to come home, but Master Jinn all but repudiated me in the Council chambers yesterday. Started the ritual before Master Gallia cut him off; our bond is already gone, the spot aches more than anything, and the Council said they would make a decision on the last day of Wishes, but without a Master to speak for me, surely, it’s just a formality. I left the Order. Now they’ll make it permanent.”

Quin snorted to Obi-Wan’s shock and gently leveraged the younger teen to his feet. “Are you sure about that, Obi?”

“What do you mean? I disobeyed my Master and decided to take part in a war instead of getting on the ship with him. I left the Order.”

“My Master is a Shadow,” Quin told Obi-Wan, it wasn’t new information. He’d heard masters in the creche agree that it was the only good place for a troublemaker like Quinlan. “And shockingly, he’s told me more than once that the oaths a Jedi makes as a Knight have absolutely nothing to do with obedience. Sure, we’re supposed to follow the masters of the High Council and especially our teaching masters because they’re supposed to have our best interests in mind, the best intentions for the galaxy, and the best understanding of the Force–but Obi-Wan, sometimes they’re wrong.”

Obi-Wan blinked up at his friend. It wasn’t as though the idea of masters being wrong was a new concept. After all, that was how his relationship with Master Jinn started. The man had made assumption after assumption after assumption about his behavior and his destiny. Perhaps Obi-Wan should have been prepared to be repudiated because Qui-Gon Jinn was never fully pleased with him and he had never fully thawed to his apprentice.

“I know they can be wrong, Quin.”

“Do you?” His friend watched him skeptically. “Tell me why you stayed on Melida/Daan. Not the reason you’re going to tell everyone else when they finally get around to asking; but the real reason that Obi-Wan Kenobi, the boy who never broke a rule without owning up to it, stayed behind without his Master.”

“The Force wanted me to.”

“Hmm, try again. Because while I’m sure that’s the truth, it’s not the whole truth.”

Obi-Wan bit his lip and turned away from his friend. “It resonated in the Force. The pain of the planet. A hundred generations of war among a people who hated without reason; it echoed in the air and the ground and the plants and the people. I listened to Cerasi as she told me her plan, a generation of children from both groups who would fight their parents, but not each other, and I could feel it resonate with the Force. This could work, it said. This could be the end. They just needed some help. I didn’t know if I could be that help, but when Master Jinn refused to even consider it, I knew that if we left the war would go on until the planet itself was dead. This was the one chance, and I took it.”

Quin’s smile reached all the way up to his eyes as he wrapped his arms around the younger boy. “And it worked Obi-Wan. I know it hurts now, and it hurts to think about, and I’m sure you’ve got wounds that no one can see because they’re on your heart, not your skin, but tuck this next to them: you did it. You were right. Peace came to a planet people had given up on. So, don’t give up on yourself.”

“I came with wishing paper,” Quinlan said as he led Obi-Wan toward the doors. “Thought you could use the fresh start, but you need so much more than that. Starting with a shower and some food.” He frowned and wrapped an arm around the younger boy’s middle. “You’ve lost weight.”

“Everyone was on short rations,” Obi-Wan said absently as he grabbed his bag. “Wait! Wait! What if someone sees you with me?”

“I already have a Master, Obi-Wan,” Quinlan replied dryly. “And he’ll be more pleased that I helped a friend, than concerned with what the rest of the Temple thinks. Besides, I’m the Padawan of a Jedi Shadow. I already have a rather awful reputation in the Temple.”

“Where are we going?”

“To my room. You can take a shower and borrow some clothes while I go down to the refectory to grab some food.” Quin peered at Obi-Wan with a wrinkle between his eyes. “But maybe not anything heavy?”

Obi-Wan flushed. For all Quin’s ability to tell a lie with a straight face, he was also absurdly perceptive. Maybe too perceptive. “Tea?”

Quin grinned as he pulled the returned Jedi along by the arm. “I can do tea.”

He didn’t even think when he heard the door open later. Obi-Wan was already turning into the living space complaining about the clothes Quinlan had left out for him to wear.

“Don’t you own anything with sleeves, Quin?” Obi-Wan huffed. “I feel practically naked.”

The quiet chuckle he was met with wasn’t from Quin though. “I haven’t asked the Crechemasters, but I’m certain Quin made a habit of streaking as a child.”

A flush rose to his cheeks and Obi-Wan tried to huddle within the clothes, but even though they were two sizes too big, there wasn’t enough of them to hide. “Master Tholme, um, hello. Quin just left for some food.”

Scars were a fact of life on Melida/Daan, but now he felt like each and every visible mark had a spotlight on it, and he didn’t know how to pretend that it didn’t bother him.

Tholme kept his small smile as he hung his robes on the hooks by the door. “It’s perfectly fine, Padawan Kenobi.”

Obi-Wan couldn’t help the flinch, and he avoided the Master’s eyes even as he saw Tholme frown.

“I’m glad Quin found you; he was quite upset when we returned earlier in the year and we’d found out you’d stayed on Melida/Daan. What happened that you have to borrow Quin’s stuff? He throw mud at you?” The Master rolled his eyes, presumably at the antics of his missing Padawan. “Didn’t feel like walking back to your own apartments?”

Obi-Wan was frozen under Master Tholme’s attention and didn’t know how to answer past the lump in his throat. It was ridiculous. He’d faced off and killed people in more stressful situations than this, but he still couldn’t get the words out. Tholme was starting to frown and Obi-Wan was starting to panic.

Thank the Force for Quin.

“The soup had hoi-broth, but Kellaka behind the counter said that the Korun stew was mild. And I think it has bantha meat in it,” Quin said as he walked through the doors. “But I also got a Naboo chilled fruit salad. If you think the stew’s too heavy, then I can eat it and you can have the salad.” Hilariously, Quin got all the way into the living space of the apartments before he noticed his Master was standing in front of him. Obi-Wan had to wonder about his friend’s situational-awareness sometimes. “Oh, hey, Master. Obi’s gonna stay with us for a couple of days.”

Tholme raised a brow, “Oh, he is, is he?”

Obi-Wan hurried to interrupt, “Quin, I can’t just stay-”

Quinlan just raised his voice. “Yeah, that asshole Jinn apparently cleared out his room and changed the passcode before Obi came back. So, he doesn’t have anywhere to stay.”

Obi-Wan was so utterly embarrassed he could feel the flush across his cheeks. “Quin!”

Quin looked as defiant as ever even as Obi-Wan tried to mitigate the disaster. He didn’t want to come between his best friend and his Master.

Tholme just nodded slowly and accepted it without any more questions than to ask, “Well, will you need a sleeping pad?”

A grin broke out across Quin’s face as he settled his tray on the low table in the dining room. “Nah, I’ve got the one from our last trip. We’ll be fine.”

“I assume this means that you won’t be going to the lineage dinner this evening.”

“Aw, sugar.” Quin scowled, “Bultar was going to be there. I was gonna wipe the floor with her stuffy attitude.”

“You don’t have to stay with me,” Obi-Wan hurried to reassure his friend. “If you have plans, I’ll be fine.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Obi-Wan.” Quin turned his frown on his friend. “Bultar’s bad attitude isn’t going anywhere, and neither am I.” Turning to his Master he asked, “You’ll tell the lineage?”

“Of course,” Tholme answered. “Though expect to get badgered by Shaak Ti. I’m not sure anything but showing up will convince her you haven’t bailed on dinner to finish another overdue assignment.”

“That was once!”

“More like four times,” Tholme said dryly. “Don’t worry, I’ll try to be convincing.”

*****

The Festival of Wishes was the last holiday of the Jedhan calendar and was a celebration of self and family. A reminder after the sorrow and misery of the Festival of Memory, their remembrance of the dead, that life came after death. It was appropriate to grieve and miss those who had returned to the Force, but such feelings could not hold back life.

So, Jedi young and old wrote wishes, hopes, and dreams that they sent to the stars and the Force in hopes of things going better in the future.

This year, Tyvokka was hosting the lineage dinner and his low dining table was packed with more people than he’d thought could fit. His Padawan-brother T’un, who he worked with closely on the Council of First Knowledge had joined, his own branch of the lineage down to a single Padawan and Grandpadawan, out on an extended mission in the outer rim. The rest of what had once been a large extended-lineage older than Yoda’s had died back to a handful of members, but it was full of warmth and welcome.

And there was hope for a resurgence. Both of Tyvokka’s living padawans had padawans. Plo’s Bultar was young but steady on her feet and would be a credit to the Searchers, just as Plo was. And Tholme was a strong Jedi in his own right, a Shadow to be proud of, raising up Quinlan in a way that would let the mischievous youth be a credit to the Order instead of a detriment.

A mischievous youth that wasn’t at the lineage dinner.

“Tholme,” Tyvokka said, leaning towards his former Padawan to be heard at the hectic table, “where is Quin? I’d hoped to have another game of coones with him tonight.”

“Perhaps next time, Master,” Tholme said with a distracted smile. “Quin had something more … urgent on his mind.”

Shaak Ti joined the conversation with a laugh. “Not another late assignment, I hope?”

Tholme shook his head, “Not this time.”

Tyvokka was growing concerned as Tholme remained both distracted and hesitant. “What could keep him away during the festival if not his coursework?”

His former Padawan hesitated, before finally offering, “We opened our home to his friend Obi-Wan.”

Plo raised a brow ridge, “Jinn’s Padawan?”

“Former Padawan.” Bultar flushed under the attention of the masters. “I don’t really know what happened, but Jinn’s been watching Siri Tachi and giving her pointers on saber skill. I didn’t hear it, but Pa Fai told me that she’d been in the salle when Master Drallig made some sort of statement about Kenobi–as in Jinn already had a student–and Jinn replied that not even the Force itself could make him take Kenobi as his student again. That he—being Kenobi—should have stayed on Melida/Daan where he was wanted. I don’t know anyone, except maybe Quin, who’s willing to be seen with the boy, right now.”

Tyvokka stared. They were all staring. “What in Force’s sake happened?!”

Tholme cleared his throat and shifted forward. “According to Quin, who was told by Obi-Wan himself, Master Jinn and his Padawan apparently had a fight almost a year ago. They had been sent to Melida/Daan to rescue Master Tahl—she’d been seriously wounded—and when Obi-Wan wanted to help end the civil war, Jinn said that if he stayed then Obi-Wan would no longer his student and thus no longer a Jedi.”

“Are you karking with us?” Shaak rasped.

Tholme just shook his head.

Plo braced himself against the table. “Jinn left his Padawan in a warzone? Just left him. Brought Tahl back to the Temple and didn’t go back for the child? Didn’t grab him by the scruff and haul him off the karking planet!? What in hel was he thinking?!”

“I don’t even think that’s the worst part,” Tholme admitted.

T’un shifted uncomfortably. “What could be worse than breaking such an oath?”

“I questioned Quin what he knew about the beginning of the Jinn-Kenobi pairing.” Tholme played with the wine in his tumbler, swirling it around and around as he spoke. “Jinn’s first mission with Kenobi is supposed to have been Bandomeer, but the two weren’t bonded as Master and Padawan until after they came back. I don’t know what actually happened, but Quin said that at one point Obi-Wan was in a blast collar.” Tholme shot his Master a helpless look. “What are the odds that Obi-Wan offered something unspeakable so that Jinn would take him as Padawan? There is so much about that mission that just doesn’t add up.”

Tyvokka exhaled a long breath. “You think Obi-Wan offered to use the collar so that Master Jinn would survive, and that Jinn felt compelled instead of called by the Force to take Obi-Wan as his apprentice?” At Tholme’s silent nod, a tense mood descended on the table, and Tyvokka couldn’t just leave it at that. “That is utterly unacceptable.”

Tyvokka grabbed his council datapad from a side table just within reach and queued up the search system he was looking for. As the Caretaker of First Knowledge, the only permanent seat on the Council of First Knowledge, Tyvokka had the power and access to find out what else the High Council knew but hadn’t seen fit to share. After all, one of his responsibilities was the education of initiates. He had access to the database of younglings, and therefore, the record of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

“Master Tyvokka” —there was a mischievous tone in Plo’s voice, even as his anti-oxy mask hid the majority of his face— “are you using your position to sate your curiosity?”

“It’s more than curiosity,” T’un said as he leaned in to observe the datapad, the only other at the table with the clearance to do so. “Something in this situation isn’t right. If Tholme is correct, then Kenobi was sent to Bandomeer fairly close to his thirteenth birthday, and it doesn’t sound like he wanted to go. Which doesn’t make much sense. There are systems in place so that younglings looking for a teacher have options. There are thousands of Jedi qualified to teach a student. How many younglings turn thirteen every year? Perhaps a couple hundred? The Corps are a wonderful resource, and we need to invest more in them, but they should never be considered a last resort. Why didn’t the Crechemaster approach the Council of First Knowledge? Why was Obi-Wan sent out before his birthday? Why was it alone, and to Bandomeer of all places?”

“They were in the middle of a territory dispute, were they not?” Shaak frowned and tapped her nail against the table as she searched her memory. “I briefly remember something about a Hutt-aligned group versus one hired by locals? Regardless, certainly not a safe place for a child, any child.”

“There are no records. Not with the Council of First Knowledge. Nothing in this file suggests that anyone even attempted to find him a teacher,” Tyvokka finally announced to the lineage sitting on tender hooks. “It doesn’t look like the records contain a Corps questionnaire, or even a note about the situation with Jinn. This isn’t Jinn’s first Padawan, not even the first Padawan that he ended up repudiating. With that kind of track record, the Council would have wanted to meet with Jinn and Kenobi.” Tyvokka stared at the empty records and grumbled a little. “Would have put them both in mind healing.”

T’un stole the datapad and skimmed through the available records. “There’s not so much as a notice that the Council was informed Jinn took a Padawan.”

“How? Jinn would need documentation eventually, wouldn’t he?” Plo frowned, “At least as proof to give the Healers for a medical release?”

T’un snarled. “That blasted troll is going to get my hairy foot up his ass!”

“Yoda,” Tholme sighed. At the confused faces of his lineage, he elaborated. “Quin has told me some concerning information about the situation with Obi-Wan, as he knew it. Yoda paid special attention to him. Teaching him to handle a truly remarkable gift for visions, but also to suppress them and to learn to work in the Living Force.

“Qui-Gon Jinn is a notable Master of the Living Force who is known for not putting much credence in visions, no matter who has them. Qui-Gon Jinn, the man who came so close to falling when his second student forsook the Jedi path. Qui-Gon Jinn, who is Yoda’s closest Grandpadawan. The student of Yan Dooku, who was himself, the last student of Yoda.”

“Is that an abuse of power?” Shaak eventually asked, picking up a bit of meat to nibble as she thought.

“No,” Tyvokka finally settled on. “Unethical or questionable, yes. But as Grandmaster, Yoda has a lot of social power and actual authority. Should he have done it, or done it in this way, without any of the supporting or required documentation? No. But he does have the authority to do it.”

“Regardless, this situation is highly irregular,” T’un interjected. “Even what has been discussed here is worth an investigation. I want this fixed, and I want to know how it happened to begin with. I will not have another child of the Temple left in such a position as Obi-Wan.”

Tholme nodded slowly, picking his dinner dish back up. “Quin will be pleased his friend’s situation is being taken so seriously.”

Tyvokka frowned at his Padawan. “Quin might be foolish, but he is not a fool. He is more perceptive than many give him credit for.”

“It’s the psychometry, right?” Bultar asked. “His is super strong. I don’t know many people who would be able to handle that like Quin does.”

5th day of the 9th Republic Standard Month, 957 ARR

Tyvokka’s first move in trying to unravel what exactly happened to Obi-Wan Kenobi was to talk to the Knight-Administrator that liaised between the Council of First Knowledge and the creche. The Council was one of the smallest in the Order, surprisingly so considering all the responsibilities that it had. So, there were a number of auxiliary staff that assisted in their mandate. Most of these were Shadows, but the second largest number of staff under the Council of First Knowledge were the crechemasters.

And to assist the creche in raising the next generation of Jedi, there was a Knight-Administrator. One of their duties was to help those initiates who were aging out find homes in the Corps. It was an in-depth process that could require as much as a year to complete, often leaving the files of these initiates full of notes and test results as the process was completed. More than enough information for their next teacher to get them started off on the right path.

But as had been clear last night at the lineage dinner, none of that was available in Obi-Wan Kenobi’s file.

“So, I’m thinking you want me to reschedule the meeting with Knight Hsola.” Tyvokka’s assistant, a female of some mixed heritage, arched a blue brow as she followed in the wake of her boss.

“That would be correct,” Tyvokka said as he passed from the Shadow halls into the main corridors of the Temple. “Or you could go. I’ve seen the way you eye him, Radka. A date is far easier to get if you talk to the other person.”

His assistant huffed. “I’m a wonderful Jedi, Master Tyvokka. I’m certain I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“So humble, Knight Svoboda.” Tyvokka smirked as he turned to the female. “I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s something I need to see through. I can feel it in the Force. So, rearrange the meeting with Hsola, or go yourself, but I need to know what Aart Galbraith is going to say when I confront him over how much he hasn’t done.”

Radka raised an eyebrow, but did make a note on her datapad and asked dryly, “Should I arrange for new sheets for your padawan room?”

It wasn’t something Tyvokka was aiming for, but he knew himself well enough that the sheets wouldn’t go wrong, even if it was only for a night or two. There was a mission headed for Tholme and Vos in a few days. Might make it hard for Kenobi to crash at their place.

“It wouldn’t be useless,” Tyvokka admitted.

The Wookie walked into the office of the Knight-Administrator for the creche and was greeted by the young Tholothian practically falling out of his chair.

Quickly righting his headgear, the Knight offered his superior a broad grin. “Master Tyvokka! It’s a pleasure to see you. How can I help?”

“Knight Galbraith” —Tyvokka valiantly ignored how much he reminded the Wookie of a puppy. Perhaps one that could figure out his feet yet— “Obi-Wan Kenobi’s case has recently come to my attention.”

“Yes,” The Knight said, head seeming to stay attached despite how fast he nodded. “Such an awful thing. Letting that boy back in the Temple.”

Tyvokka twitched. “Why would you say such a thing?”

Knight Galbraith stared at the older Master with wide eyes, startled perhaps that there was another opinion to consider. “Kenobi abandoned his Master.”

Tyvokka frowned. “Kenobi is a youngling. For all that we consider padawans capable of making adult decisions in certain circumstances, the fact of the matter is that there are very few planets where a thirteen- or fourteen-year-old is considered old enough to make decisions concerning their own fate.”

Knight Galbraith sputtered.

The Caretaker of the Council of First Knowledge continued, “I would go so far as to say that Master Jinn abandoned his student first by leaving him in a warzone.”

“Master Tahl was in danger of losing her life!” Galbraith argued. “He had to prioritize her injuries!”

It was the argument Jinn had offered when he’d first returned to the Temple without his student. It was insufficient then and it was insufficient now.

“Then why did he leave his student in one of the worst war zones in the galaxy for the better part of a Republic year? Why did it require a command from the High Council for the Master to retrieve his student?”

The Knight-Administrator frowned and settled back into his chair without an easy rebuttal. “What, then, can I do for you, Master Tyvokka?”

Tyvokka settled back into the guest chair, planning to be there for a while. “I need your case file on Kenobi.”

Galbraith shrugged and queued up the pad to pass over. “I don’t know what you’re hoping to find. I didn’t have a lot of interaction with him.”

Tyvokka stared down at what was indeed a very slim file, and then up at the administrator. “Where are his aptitude tests? The questionnaire results? The notes from the meetings you must have had?”

The Knight blinked at the Master with wide eyes and gave a quiet, “What?”

Tyvokka scowled and it was a fearsome thing. The Knight scooted back in his seat, “Obi-Wan Kenobi, Force any of the twelve-year-olds, should have been preparing for the next stage of his life, not stressing out over it! The entire twelfth year you should have been meeting with the initiates who are aging out. You should be talking to their crechemasters, their teachers, facilitating meetings with knights and masters who are interested in taking a new Padawan. You should be talking to them about what they want with their future if they can’t have a Master. You should be proctoring the questionnaire concerning their aptitudes!”

Tyvokka threw the slim file at his subordinate. “Where is it? Where is any of that for Kenobi?”

Galbraith flinched and then shrugged. “Master Yoda said that he had it in hand. That I didn’t have to worry about Kenobi.”

The Wookie scowled. “Who do you work for?”

He flinched. “The Grandmaster-”

Tyvokka stood with a roar, “Who do you work for?!”

“You!” Aart Galbraith shrieked. “I work for you!”

“Then do your Force-damned job! There is absolutely no good reason in the entire known galaxy to just not do your job, you fool!”

“But I -”

“Obi-Wan Kenobi ended up on Bandomeer!” Tyvokka snarled. “In the middle of a union dispute involving slaves and Hutts! You didn’t even arrange an adult! He ended up in a karking slave collar!”

“Master Jinn was -”

“Three different Jedi who have worked with Jinn in the past five years have recommended grounding him for mind healing! He was not safe. He was not an appropriate choice for a student. And you should have known it!” Tyvokka loomed over the cowering administrator. “You should have a complete list of masters and knights that the Council has deemed unsuitable to be a teaching Master! Where is it?!”

“I don’t know!” The Knight squealed. “I don’t know!”

For a moment, all the Wookie wanted to do was raise his fist and make sure that Knight Aart Galbraith never forgot that his duty wasn’t optional. No matter how much the Wookie looked like a cuddly plush toy in his old age, he had survived centuries as a Shadow before taking his rest as a Temple-bound councilor. He had just as much of a dark edge as any of his Shadows.

Except the Knight-Administrator that cowered in his seat wasn’t somebody grimy and slimy from the criminal underground. He was just a fool, likely knighted before he was ready, and not entirely sure what he was doing on any given day. He was a fool, but he wasn’t a criminal. And he didn’t deserve to be yelled at. Tyvokka sat with a huff and rubbed a hand through his fur.

“I apologize, Aart. Even if I was upset with you, this wasn’t the appropriate way to handle it.”

“I – I understand,” the Knight stuttered, slowly and carefully climbing back into his seat from where he’d fallen on the ground.

Tyvokka sighed. “Who suggested the AgriCorps on Bandomeer? We don’t send initiates to outposts.”

Aart flinched again before quietly imparting, “Master Yoda.”

“Of course.” Tyvokka closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Of course, it was.”

It was hard to contain his fury at that green-skinned troll. He’d already vented his anger on the Knight-Administrator inappropriately once. Honestly, Tyvokka didn’t even blame him so much. Yoda was a compelling and powerful personality. The reputation and legend that followed him wherever he went only made the effect that much stronger. Perhaps ninety-nine times out of a hundred, Yoda’s ‘suggestions’ did do good.

It was that one time in a hundred that was so painful. In this case it was untenable. A youngling had been hurt because of the Grandmaster’s interference.

Carefully, so as not to let his fury bubble over again, Tyvokka said, “There are reasons that we have certain procedures. It isn’t just so we can swim in the formwork backlog. So, I’m going to ask a couple of questions, and I would like you to answer me as honestly as you can.”

“Alright,” Knight Galbraith agreed tentatively.

Tyvokka took a deep breath. Certain that he wasn’t going to like the answers. “How many of the twelve-year-olds have full files?”

Aart winced. “None of them.”

Tyvokka held back the sigh. “Do you at least have files for all of them?”

Galbraith nodded. “I keep copies of their disciplinary records at least.”

It might have seemed like a good idea to Knight Galbraith, but Tyvokka wasn’t impressed. creche disciplinary records couldn’t do much except establish a pattern of behavior, maybe. Tyvokka certainly didn’t think that the number of times Shaak Ti had gnawed on her Crechemaster was indicative of the kind of Jedi she was. His Grandpadawan Quinlan Vos, maybe. Force knew that boy was some kind of wild thing.

“Are you willing to start over?” Tyvokka asked very seriously. He couldn’t let the administrator continue as he had, but the Caretaker of the Council of First Knowledge knew the importance of second chances. He was willing to offer it if Knight Galbraith was willing to take it. “To begin again in this position, following all the procedures and policies? Or would you like to receive a different assignment from the Council?”

Then again, sometimes a clean break was best. He gave the Knight-Administrator the time to think about it and seek direction from the Force.

“I think it would be better for everyone if it were someone new here,” Aart admitted finally. Slumping back in his seat, the male looked like the very picture of dejection.

Tyvokka had thought so as well, but he had been willing to let the male make that choice for himself. “I will speak with Master Dapatian and Master T’un. We’ll arrange for someone else to take over but expect it to take at least a week.”

“Of course, Master Tyvokka.” Aart hesitated, but before Tyvokka could leave the office, he offered, “Thank you, Master.”

Tyvokka just sighed and replied, “Force be with you, Knight Galbraith.”

Regardless of the mess he’d left Radka to clean up in the Knight-Administrator’s office, Tyvokka still needed to find a reliable source of information on the situation with Obi-Wan Kenobi because the more he learned about what the youngling had gone through, the more he wanted to strangle some people. So, next on Tyvokka’s list was to speak with Master Arraan, the current Master of the Creche. He should be the next best person, to give an analysis on whether the youngling was truly irredeemable.

Settling down to tea in a meditation room a bit out the way was far more pleasant than the meeting the Wookie had just left.

More pleasant until Crechemaster Arraan opened their tea with, “I may not be the best person to talk to about Obi-Wan Kenobi concerning any sort of recent issue.”

Tyvokka settled down on the cushion and considered adding more sugar to his cup. “Why not?”

Arraan sipped. “The creche is down to minimal staff again. We have volunteers among the knights and padawans, but we need more full-time staff. We don’t have the numbers to give everyone the attention and care they deserve. Master Heraka died in her sleep a couple of years ago, and the High Council promised they would assist. But other than Yoda joining occasionally, or a Master or Knight taking over a class – we don’t have enough people.

“I had to take over as Master of the Creche, and one of our student-teachers took over the Clan I was nurturing. Abeka is good, compassionate, wants to give the younglings the best possible future; but ze isn’t always as patient when they stumble or as willing to adapt to their needs when ze doesn’t understand them.”

“Perhaps too young to be a Clan leader, then,” Tyvokka said idly.

“Ze was the oldest of our students,” Master Arraan said with a shrug. “We didn’t have any other options.”

Tyvokka thought for a moment on the list of Shadows in forced retirement or under temple restriction because of their health. He considered how, when he was a young Knight, the smiles of younglings had done wonders to salve the wounds of his heart. And he wondered where the original breakdown in communication happened. Because the state of the creche didn’t have to continue like this. When did the Temple start to think that the High Council ran everything? That they needed to be involved in all the day-to-day running of the Temple?

There was a reason the High Council was called the High Council. There were hundreds of much smaller councils operating underneath them to ensure that the Temple continued to run as smoothly as possible.

He set the thought aside, “Tell me about how Obi-Wan came to the Temple.”

“He was a rescue; I know that much.” Arraan hummed as he flipped through his personal notes. “Coruscant born. Found on one of the lower levels, with no family and a predisposition to Force use the Government gave him over to the Temple. He was so small, barely five months old. Much younger than when we normally get younglings. Though, perhaps not the youngest we’ve had to handle.”

“I didn’t see anything in his records concerning species testing or allergens. Is it locked? Will I need a healer’s permission? Or”—Tyvokka huffed with a quiet laugh— “paperwork? I could find T’un to sign it.”

“No need.” Arraan smirked. “Child Services sent along all of his files. Clearly labels as Human Coruscant-Variant. Why?”

Tyvokka considered what to tell the Crechemaster before finally just admitting his hunch. “I have a suspicion that Obi-Wan isn’t as human as he appears. There are many species that can interbreed with humans and can create genotypes with surprising results.”

Arraan raised a skeptical brow and sipped at his tea. “Care to share?”

“Much of this impression is secondhand, from my Padawan and Grandpadawan, who have had a great deal more contact with the youngling than I have.” The Wookie nibbled on a pastry. “I think Kenobi is mentally more developed but emotionally less than he ‘should’ be.”

Arraan considered the information before giving a small nod. “That could explain some things.”

The Master sighed. “Tell me more about this feud with Brock Chun.”

“That is a whole ‘nother issue.” Leaving his tea on the low table, Arraan considered the view of the garden of a Thousand Fountains. Tyvokka often found himself mesmerized by the clear water and the sound of gurgling. Artificial as it was, it was still breathtakingly beautiful.

For all that Tyvokka loved the Temple as his home, he missed the opportunity to see worlds where the natural beauty wasn’t artificially constructed and constrained.

“When Obi-Wan smiles, he invites you to smile with him,” Arraan said suddenly. “His Force presence spreads out in a way that I’ve only really seen in the Clans of the Kel Dor.”

Plo Koon was a former Padawan of Tyvokka, so he knew something of what the Crechemaster was saying. “His emotions reach out? Intentionally?”

“No, we tested him for empathy and telepathy. Rare though those gifts are in humans. It’s not intentional. We trained him to contain it. To learn to cage his Force presence within his own skin. It was the socially acceptable and expected thing.” Arraan sighed, “I still regret it. Because when Obi-Wan was happy, it spread out through his presence and radiated. No one was allowed to be gloomy when Obi-Wan was happy. Genuinely happy.”

“Sounds like he’s seeking a clan,” Tyvokka said after a moment of silence. “Like what members of the Kel Dor do with telepathy. A social sharing.”

“It’s a point in favor of your idea that Obi-Wan isn’t fully human.”

Humans had a surprising capacity to bond and empathize even outside of Force-given gifts, but no – something like what Arraan was describing was not a gift a human would have used.

“Why the fights, then?” Tyvokka finally asked as his tea went cold.

“Because Brock Chun can’t feel it.”

And that sent ice down the Wookie’s spine.

“Brock has habitually gone after Obi-Wan, as though he can’t help it. He has poor impulse control, a bad temper, and a habit of manipulating people of all ages for his own ends.” Arraan sipped a bit at his tea. “He’s just not great on the follow through.”

“Very much an immediate thinker?” Tyvokka questioned.

“Yes,” Arraan agreed.

“That sounds-”

“I know what it sounds like,” Arraan said, deflating a bit to press his elbows into the table. “It’s the first time I’ve seen it, though Herakas said she dealt with several in the hundred and fifty years she was Master of the Creche.”

“Is there a procedure in place?”

“No,” Arraan said to Tyvokka’s surprise. “Each time, the High Council regards such children as unique cases. Which I wouldn’t mind so much, except that they use aberrant language. Which isn’t-” Arraan bit off whatever he was going to say but Tyvokka understood.

“It singles these children out as wrong, which doesn’t assist in their creating bonds or learning to be a productive member of society.”

“No, it does not.”

“Perhaps I could talk to Healer Che. She has substantial experience dealing with both physical and mental problems; she might have ideas on how to handle Brock.”

Arraan nodded as his comm beeped with an incoming message, and he swallowed back the last of the tea. “I’m surprised I made it this long without some planet-shaking catastrophe. Is there anything else?”

“Just one more question. Can you tell me how involved Master Yoda has been in Obi-Wan Kenobi’s life so far?”

Arraan settled back down, appearing a little startled at the question. “Oh, very involved. Much more so than even the other younglings with visions.”

Tyvokka gave a bit of a huff in surprise. “Kenobi has visions?”

Arraan nodded, “Very strong ones too. He has one of the purest talents for divination that I’ve seen in a long time. Perhaps not as most would reckon it, true. He does not often get visuals or even facts, but if Obi-Wan warns someone something will happen, it does. There is no middle ground.”

“So, Yoda was introduced to Obi-Wan because of his gift for foresight.” Tyvokka hummed. That would require some thought.

“Yes. Over the years it appeared that Yoda came to care very much for the boy. He would often take him to the gardens or encourage him to ground himself in dirt after a wave of visions. Many, myself included, thought that he would take Obi-Wan as a student himself. But time passed and he never made the commitment.”

Tyvokka offered the Crechemaster a stiff smile. “Thank you, Master Arraan. This has been most illuminating.”

“I have been happy to help, Master Tyvokka,” Arraan said with a bow before leaving the old Wookie to his thoughts.

Tyvokka sat in the meditation chamber and considered what he had learned for a long time. Long enough for the service droid to arrive with a second tea set. Arraan had not appeared to make the connection, but Tyvokka had. Yoda encouraged Obi-Wan to ground himself in the Living Force—Qui-Gon Jinn’s specialty—after a vision. Even years before they would meet, Yoda was grooming Obi-Wan to be Qui-Gon’s student. So much so that no one even bothered to ask the youngling if he wanted to go to the AgriCorps instead of another of the Corps.

The Wookie stared out at the garden of a Thousand Fountains and released his fury into the Force one inch at a time. He wanted to roast Yoda alive for his actions. Under no circumstances was a child an appropriate method of healing. Connection to another person could be a very useful way of softening scars and bridging wounds, but not when the power was so imbalanced as it was between Master and Padawan. Tyvokka could almost be certain that this mess was not maliciously meant. Yoda was old enough that ideas like power imbalance weren’t unknown, but the idea that it was an obligation of the adults in a youngling’s life to guide them to a better place for themselves and not towards the path their Master wanted – that was something else. So Tyvokka would wait before calling the old troll on the rug; he still had one last person to question.

6th day of the 9th Republic Standard Month, 957 ARR

Obi-Wan returned to the Stewjoni Garden. It was only two days before the Feast of Wishes and the culmination of the festival and he was still without a home. Master Tholme might have tolerated him staying in their apartment while he and Quin were temple bound, but the Master and Padawan pair had been sent on a short mission. Obi-Wan wouldn’t dare stay in their home without them there.

He was considering the hopelessness of his situation when he saw the veritable wall of silver-colored fur headed his way very deliberately.

“Master,” Obi-Wan said with a dry throat as he bowed from his seat. “Do you need me to leave?”

“No,” The elder Wookie said, peering down at him very strangely. “I was looking for you.”

“Me?” Obi-Wan startled. “Why?”

“My name is Master Tyvokka,” the Wookie said as he knelt beside the boy. “And one of my responsibilities includes making sure that initiates are well educated and well treated. To my great shame, you fell through the cracks. So, I would like very much to have a conversation with you, Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

“Alright,” he said quietly, still not sure what was about to happen.

After a moment or two, the Master spoke.

“Did you know that you are the first person to get the Melida and the Daan to sit at peace talks? Oh, there might have been a few in the first couple of years of war. But in all the many hundreds of years, you were the one that was successful. Melida/Daan is at peace because of you.”

“They’re going to rename the planet,” was all Obi-Wan could think of to say. “I told them it should be Mebrahedan Oa. The Mournful Rise.”

“What do you think they’ll name it?”

Obi-Wan sighed and straightened. “The majority seemed to like Yega, after the snake god in their mythology who bites its own tail.”

“A symbol of eternity?”

Obi-Wan made a vaguely disagreeing sound. “They see it more as the cycle of life, nothing comes from a void. Just like there is no end to the snake that bites its own tail.”

The garden was silent before the Wookie asked, “How did you bring the Melida and the Daan to peace talks? How did you get them to agree to give up their weapons?”

“I didn’t.” Obi-Wan shook his head. Too many people wanted to know what he had done to change Melida/Daan when the truth was that they had been ready for change. “The Young were made up of the children of both parties. Few enough that they were special to their parents and dedicated enough that when their parents drew weapons they didn’t run. Cerasi was the one everyone listened to. It was her death that almost broke everything apart again. Everyone loved Cerasi.”

Master Tyvokka paused before offering, “Want to try Mandalore next?”

Obi-Wan snorted. “There’s nothing wrong with Mandalore.”

“They’ve destroyed their own planet,” Master Tyvokka argued. “Mandalore was once a beautiful place, and now it’s just a rocky barren desert. Many would see that as the fault of the people.”

“I don’t know much, but I know that there’s a hell of a lot more going on than a society that’s decided they’re just going to destroy their planet.” Obi-Wan had to stop and think because he really didn’t know much about Mandalore. But the Force told him what was real. “No. My guess is—someone that isn’t on Mandalore is going to gain a lot on the galactic stage if the civil war continues.”

That felt right, and a shiver went down his spine at the absolute certainty that the galaxy would be a much darker place without the Mand’alor.

The older Master hummed. “Any ideas who?”

“No,” Obi-Wan rubbed at his chest where the shiver had settled. “Just a feeling.”

Master Tyvokka seemed to consider his words for a minute before asking, “And how did Master Jinn respond to your feelings?”

Obi-Wan froze. He wasn’t sure how to answer, wasn’t certain what type of answer the Wookie wanted. Master Tyvokka wasn’t a member of the High Council, but that didn’t mean that he hadn’t been sent by them to question him.

Warmth and reassurance nudged him from the Force.

“This isn’t a test, Obi-Wan Kenobi,” the Master said. “There is no right or wrong answer here. I would just like you to answer as you know.”

Obi-Wan took a deep breath in and released his anxiety into the force – even if it was shaky. “I think Master Jinn thought my feelings were from indigestion. ‘Dreams pass in time’ was what he said. Or ‘Ground yourself in the Living Force, in the here and now’. I wouldn’t dare suppose why he would say such things, but it was clear he meant them.”

“I’ve been looking into your time with Master Jinn and how the two of you got along,” Master Tyvokka admitted. “Would you mind telling me how you met?”

“He came to the temple – I don’t remember what for, but Master Yoda made him stay and attend the Initiate Saber duels. I was dueling Brock Chun and he said some things that hurt. They were mean and they weren’t true.”

“Master Arraan had much to say about your feud with Initiate Chun, but I would like to hear just about your interaction with Master Jinn.”

“I won, but lost my temper,” Obi-Wan admitted. “After the duel, Master Jinn was waiting. He said that it would have been better if I accepted my future with the Corps. My temper was irrational and my aggressive saber form was a sign I would surely fall to the Dark eventually.”

“Jinn is an ornery son-of-a-bantha and stubborn too. I can’t imagine him changing his mind. What happened?”

Obi-Wan shrugged. “I was sent to Bandomeer to join the AgriCorps. I hadn’t even turned thirteen yet. Xanatos duCrion kidnapped me and put me to work as a slave with a blast collar around my neck. I offered to use it so that Master Jinn could fulfill his mission. There were bombs in the mines. Every minute Xanatos got away or Master Jinn was stuck was a minute another person was in danger.” Obi-Wan took a deep breath. “Master Jinn said that my unselfish offer to detonate the blast collar was truly worthy of a Jedi and once we were free and the bombs were all safely dealt with—and Xanatos had gotten away—he asked me to be his Padawan learner and I said yes.”

After a moment, Tyvokka finally found the words to say, “Then why did you stay on Melida/Daan?”

Obi-Wan rubbed at his chest, still feeling the hook that had grabbed his heart and yanked it back to the planet. “It would have been worse if I hadn’t. I could feel it. There were no other options. Peace had to come to Melida/Daan. And the Force was going to use me to do it.”

7th day of the 9th Republic Standard month, 957 ARR

Obi-Wan was roused from his meditation, successful or not, by the furious presence of Master Jinn invading the small peaceful oasis he had found for himself. It was the last day of the Festival of Wishes, and the High Council had promised to have a verdict, but there had been no news. It sent Obi-Wan’s nerves into overdrive, and with Quinlan—who was only acting out of love even when it drove the younger boy crazy—running late on his mission, there was no one to keep him distracted.

“I’ve been looking for you for over an hour!” Jinn grumped as he stomped up the small hill to the roots of the oak Obi-Wan had nested himself within. “If we don’t hurry, we’ll be late.”

“You heard from the Council?” Obi-Wan asked as he stiffly got to his feet.

“Of course, I heard from them!” Jinn grabbed Obi-Wan by his arm and began dragging him through the Temple. It didn’t really hurt, but the older man’s stride had Obi-Wan jogging to catch up. “I’ve been comming them twice a day! Hurry up.”

Fortunately, because there was no time to change, Obi-Wan had washed and changed into fresh clothes before arriving at the garden. Quin had commed before the first watch that morning, leaving a message flush with vulgarities and a single polite-ish statement: ‘use the damn apartment.’ There might have been more vulgarities and a few aspirations on his intelligence, but Obi-Wan was a bit more concerned by the blaster fire in the background.

There wasn’t much of a wait once they reached the doors to the chamber of the High Council. It appeared that the Knight-Administer at had been watching for them, because once Master Jinn told the Padawan at the door that they had arrived, the doors opened.

“They’re ready for you, Master Jinn,” the Padawan said, scooting just a little farther away as Obi-Wan slipped through the doors.

The pessimist in Obi-Wan wanted to snort. His life choices weren’t contagious, but the disapproval of the Temple could be. What would the greater galaxy think to know that even Jedi could be irrational?

Master Poof scowled at something, or rather someone, who had slipped in behind them as the doors closed. “Master Tyvokka, this is a closed Council session. You cannot be here.”

Master Tyvokka moved so that he stood against one of the pillars toward the outside of the Council chamber, between the High Council and where Obi-Wan stood with Master Jinn. Just the right angle to see everyone in the room. “I was under the impression that this was a hearing for Jedi Learner Kenobi. Is that true?”

“It is.” Master Corobh sighed, the Ithorian settling back into his seat.

Master Tyvokka settled his hands in the sleeves of his robes and gave a shrug. “Then, as the Caretaker of First Knowledge, whose occupation is the treatment and education of those Jedi not yet knighted, I found myself deeply interested in how this hearing turns out.”

Master Dapatian frowned. “It is a closed session, Master Tyvokka.”

Here, the Wookie frowned, and Obi-Wan kind of wondered how many people within the Temple had the opportunity to see someone respectfully call the High Council on their decisions. For the first time, Obi-Wan really considered what Quin had told him about masters being wrong.

“There is no such thing as closed hearings. A hearing is to be public so that all Jedi might learn from the issue at stake.” Master Tyvokka raised a skeptical brow at the ‘highest authority in the Temple’. “Are you attempting to manipulate our laws?”

“No, Master Tyvokka.” The sigh through Master Dapatian’s oxymask sounded a bit odd. “Simply trying to shelter former-Padawan Kenobi from the austerity of the temple’s approbation.”

Obi-Wan thought it was a bit late for any sheltering. He’d been ostracized and turned away from everyone. The Padawan at the door had simply been the most recent. Everyone except Quin, that is. The frowns and stares of the Temple community followed him no matter where he went. There were very few who had reserved their [approbation] simply because the High Council had yet to make a ruling on the subject.

At least if the hearing were public, then everyone could come and see and know what the High Council’s verdict was.

Finally, Master Dapatian turned his attention from the Wookie. “Master Jinn, former-Padawan Kenobi, thank you for appearing before the High Council.” Jinn bowed, and without many options, Obi-Wan mimicked him. There was no reason to appear rude. “We have considered the situation but would like to hear more before we deliver our verdict. Former-Padawan Kenobi, step forward.”

Startled and more afraid than he wanted to admit, Obi-Wan had to clear his throat twice before his voice could be heard. “Yes, masters?”

“Like to know we would,” Master Yoda began, “why return to the Temple you have?”

Obi-Wan blinked and stuffed his hands into the voluminous sleeves even his child-sized robes had. “This is my home. I only stayed on Melida/Daan to see peace on the planet. I never intended to stay. When it was done, and the peace treaty was ratified, I had no reason to stay. Master Jinn said that he had been ordered to bring me back to the Temple, so I left with him.”

“If the Temple is your home,” Master Adi Gallia asked gently, “then why did you leave the Order?”

In the creche, younglings were taught that Jedi were Jedi because they followed the will of the Force. And if that was the case, then Obi-Wan was pretty sure that there was a sound argument that sometimes being a good Jedi meant not being a Jedi at all. But considering the situation he found himself in, Obi-Wan figured the High Council would not agree. “I believed that the Force was urging me to stay, that I had a duty to see peace on the planet. Master Jinn informed me that, if I was staying on Melida/Daan, then I would no longer be a Jedi.”

Yoda leaned forward in his seat. “Believe you had a Force vision you did? Tell your Master, did you?”

Obi-Wan frowned and wondered exactly what kind of goal the Grandmaster was aiming at. “No. I didn’t. I tried to broach the topic to Master Jinn that we should help. He informed me that there was no place for peace in the hearts of such a fallen people.”

Jinn stepped forward, every appearance of a humble Jedi except that his eyes and tone were flat. Obi-Wan figured that his former Master had already decided that the outcome of this hearing did not matter to him. “I stand by what I said. The planet was a riot of darkness, and they had already severely injured one Jedi Master. There was no reason to think that they would listen to us, let alone a youngling who hadn’t even been a Padawan a year.”

“So, in your wisdom, you decided to leave your Padawan.” Master Gallia’s tone was mild, but her expression was a bit incredulous. “Why didn’t you drag him behind you onto the shuttle if the situation was so precarious?”

The Master of the Order cleared his throat. “Master Jinn is not the one whose actions are under investigation here.”

“Know I would like to,” Master Yoda asked, “why go to your Master with your vision you did not?”

Obi-Wan stared at the Grandmaster flatly and wondered again what the elder wanted. He couldn’t believe it was for his well-being. “I’m not actually an idiot. On four other occasions I informed Master Jinn that I had received a vision or had a strong feeling, and his response was always the same. ‘Dreams pass in time, Padawan. Ground yourself in the present with the Living force. Do not allow your anxieties to lead you astray.” There was some shifting among the masters, and a few scowled at his aggressive behavior. Obi-Wan was a bit past caring. “I’m old enough to understand the difference between anxiety and a Force-given vision.”

Master Corobh asked before anyone else could, “How frequently did your visions come true?”

Obi-Wan wondered if the High Council honestly cared. “They don’t really work that way. I don’t know the bomb is coming, I just feel that the ground isn’t safe. The Force didn’t tell me how to stop the war, only that the war needed to end or something worse would happen.”

“Justification, then,” The Master of the Order offered with the slightest snide tone, “that you would have done well to listen to your Master. The truth of visions cannot be discerned until after the incident comes to pass.”

Obi-Wan watched out of the corner of his eye as Master Tyvokka moved closer to the arranged Council, a frown on his face. He didn’t actually care what the Master of the Order said, especially because several of the other masters were obviously frowning at him. And Obi-Wan figured that he was on his way out the door anyways; he wasn’t going to let a Master who’d likely never even felt the certainty of the Force that an event would happen try to change his mind that what he’d done—fought in a war, learned to love and hate and fear on an entirely different level than ever before; brought peace to a planet hundreds of generations deep in war—was wrong. It just wasn’t going to happen.

Master Sifo-Dyes, an older Master of no mean Force talent, shifted in his seat. “Master Dapatian, if the Force gives a warning, it does not do to disregard it.”

The Kel Dor practically snarled, “Visions are-”

“Not the issue of this discussion,” Master Gallia interrupted. “Obi-Wan Kenobi, having once left the Order, how can we trust you to stay the path?”

“This is Bantha shit,” Master Tyvokka snarled, interrupting the hearing and striding to the center of the room.

“Master Tyvokka!” Master Poof flushed furiously. “We let you stay, but this is entirely out of line!”

“This entire farce is out of line!” The Wookie waved an enormous hand. “The High Council of the Jedi Temple does not have the authority to do this!”

There was startled silence in the council chambers as the reverberation of the glass slowed to a stop, all eyes on the Caretaker of First Knowledge.

“Nowhere in the Temple charter does the High Council have the authority to banish an Initiate or Padawan. Not even a Knight or Master. That power belongs to the Council of Reconciliation, and only after that person has been deemed irredeemable. And all affairs concerning Jedi learners are the responsibility of the Council of First Knowledge.” Tyvokka scowled at the masters arranged in their seats before him. “Which is concerning because the first time I heard about Obi-Wan’s situation was from my former-Padawan, Tholme. Who heard about the situation from his Padawan.”

Master Nu straightened in her seat. “Master Tyvokka, while you are technically correct. The High Council does have authority over every aspect of the Temple, including the banishment and reconciliation of masters and knights, and the punishment of Padawan learners.”

“But you do not have the wisdom to reign over all aspects. It was decided during the Reformation that the High Council needed to be concerned most with the direction the collective would take – not the day-to-day drudgery of life. Except we no longer direct ourselves but instead are directed by the Senate. So, what is this body supposed to be doing? Besides prying into matters that do not belong to them?”

“Interesting argument this is,” Yoda interrupted, giving Tyvokka a disappointed face, but the Wookie was not impressed. He hadn’t been impressed with Yoda in over three hundred years. He wasn’t going to start in the middle of one of the male’s most ridiculous screw ups in recent history. “But another time would be best, perhaps? The issue at hand, Obi-Wan’s future is. Qui-Gon Jinn, Master of this Padawan learner, will you forgive this child and teach him once more?”

“No.”

The word echoed in Obi-Wan’s head for a minute as the reality of his situation sank down on the former-Padawan. He would never be a Jedi now. He’d thought that the situation had been going in that direction but expecting it and hearing it were two different things.

It had been a risk when the shuttle had left Melida/Daan and he’d still been on the surface, but he’d known to his bones that the Young needed help, and if Qui-Gon Jinn would not help, then he had to. Or the situation would become much, much worse. It didn’t help the ache in his heart. His dream had been to be a Jedi Knight and now that would never happen.

Obi-Wan startled at the pressure of a hand on his shoulder, and he looked up into the compassionate eyes of Master Tyvokka as the Wookie knelt on one knee. “Obi-Wan Kenobi, would you be my Padawan learner?”

Outcries and denial burst from the masters of the High Council.

“Tyvokka, that is enough!” Master Poof stood with a furious bellow. “The High Council has given its decree! If Qui-Gon Jinn will not take the boy back, then he will not be a Jedi!”

Tyvokka sniffed. “No matter how often you sing, it will never be bird song. Qui-Gon Jinn is a broken, wretched man and unworthy of the title Jedi. So absorbed in his own betrayal and grief that he’s inches from falling. I would not have allowed Obi-Wan to continue as this man’s Padawan, and in the future, I will not allow him to take another student without evidence that he received treatment from mind healers. It is not healthy to continue this way.”

Qui-Gon Jinn stared at Tyvokka, a furious pressure building in the Force around him. “No one can tell a Jedi Master who or who not they may take as Padawan!”

“Which is exactly what started this entire mess, isn’t it?” Tyvokka snarled. “Obi-Wan had to offer to die for you before you would accept him as your Padawan learner. Isn’t that right? Only now, you are too much a broken and bitter man to meet that courage and honor.” He turned back to the High Council. “You cannot stop me from taking Obi-Wan Kenobi as my Padawan learner. If you have serious concerns about my ability to educate a youngling, you’ll need to petition the Council of First Knowledge.” Master Tyvokka’s grin was sharp enough to cut rankor hide. “And, given the information that I have learned about the situation surrounding both his acceptance as a Padawan to Qui-Gon Jinn and this incident returning from Melida/Daan, I will be organizing a very thorough investigation.”

“I haven’t said yes.” Obi-Wan stepped away from Master Tyvokka’s hand no matter how much he ached to take the opportunity to stay.

Tyvokka raised a brow and nodded slowly and knelt before him. Obi-Wan had to carefully count his breaths. Jedi masters did not kneel to forsaken padawans. “I would very much like to take you as my student, Obi-Wan Kenobi. I believe you have a great future here as a Jedi. But what are your concerns?”

“I left the order,” Obi-Wan said, his voice barely higher than a whisper. It took all his courage to lift his head and admit his failings. “I betrayed my Master, left the Order, and now am to be banished by the High Council. I don’t- Why would-” He took a deep breath to calm both his heart and his mind. “What could I possibly offer you, Master Tyvokka?”

The Wookie hummed. “Teaching should never be about what you can offer me. Nor should it be a quid-pro-quo, where you offer me something for teaching you. I believe that teaching is a gift. I believe that you are a bright spark and powerful force for the Light in this world and that by teaching you I can help build a better tomorrow for the Order and the galaxy.

“There will be days when you think I’m a sadist and that I’m making you perform the third kata of the Hawkbat form for the millionth time just to see how long it takes you to quit. And perhaps some days I will. Because it is the position of the teacher to push their student farther than they ever thought they could go. And there will be days when I think that you are an annoying brat without any manners, and you leave your shoes in the hall to see me trip and break a bone. But I will trust that you wouldn’t purposefully hurt me, and you will trust me that when you collapse at the end of completing the Hawkbat form for the trillionth time, I will help you home. This is what a true Master-Padawan bond should be.”

Obi-Wan blinked back moisture from his eyes, wiping with the edge of his sleeve, and took a minute to rally his nerves in the quiet of the council chamber. “If Master Jinn is so hurt by my betrayal, aren’t I just as hurt because he left me?”

The uproar was nearly instant. Master Poof and Master Nu actually ended up out of their seats in their outburst, and Obi-Wan could just faintly hear Master Yoda squawking about dignity and the peace of the Force somewhere in the background. Master Jinn was red-faced and approaching rapidly. Out of the corner of his eye, Obi-Wan could see a shocked looking Senior Padawan duck into the room and immediately duck back out.

Master Tyvokka stood to his feet in a move quick enough to startle Obi-Wan and proceeded to actually roar. It reverberated through people and things alike. The windows shook, and Master Yoda’s hover chair slid back several inches.

“Enough!” The Master of the Council of First Knowledge scowled at the masters arranged before them. “Qui-Gon Jinn made an oath to protect and teach Obi-Wan when he took the boy as his apprentice. That includes protecting him from the youngling’s own bad decisions! Moreover, the Temple made a promise to protect, guide, and teach Obi-Wan when he was given into our care as an infant. There is a strict procedure for dealing with finding a Master for a youngling with promise; there is one for observing a Master-Padawan pair bonded under duress; and there is more required of the Temple when dealing with the members who leave it than silence. If Qui-Gon Jinn is allowed to feel betrayed that Obi-Wan put the fate of children at harm ahead of his Master’s wishes, then how much more is Obi-Wan allowed to feel betrayed that we knew where he was and never went looking?”

Large fingers with thick pads gently prodded Obi-Wan to look back at the Wookie. “Yes, Obi-Wan. You are in a questionable state of mind right now. I promise that, if you agree to be my student, then there will be far too many visits to the mind healers for either of us to be comfortable with and many meetings with observers from the Council of First Knowledge. And if it turns out that I am not good for you either, then we will find a spot for you, Obi-Wan. You will never have to worry about being banished from your home again.”

It sounded too good to be true. There was no way this could be as good as Master Tyvokka outlined, but … Quin was his friend, and the reckless idiot loved his lineage. He had promised Obi-Wan that if Qui-Gon Jinn still wasn’t allowing him into the apartments for the Festival tonight, then he could come eat with Quin’s lineage. And it was good to remember his friend in the overwhelming moment.

Because Quin was a hot mess of a Padawan. He forgot his homework, played around with his lightsaber, never used his manners, and was generally a pain in the ass to everyone who ever met him. And Quin never complained that Master Tholme’s lineage did more than tease him for it. They never hit him, never restricted his food, and never made meditation a punishment.

Which meant that Obi-Wan had pretty good odds of actually surviving to be a Jedi Knight as the student of Master Tyvokka.

“Okay.” Obi-Wan nodded once he’d caught his breath again, and his mind felt less like a contestant in the Banta Eve Classic. “I’ll be your student, Master Tyvokka.”

“Good, Obi-Wan.” Tyvokka leaned down and pressed a kiss to the youngling’s strawberry blond crown. “I’m so happy you decided to trust me, youngling.”

“Master Tyvokka, a word if you please,” Master Dapatian requested through gritted tusks as the meeting appeared to break up on its own.

“No, Poli.” Tyvokka shook his head. “I have a new Padawan to settle and a Festival dinner to help make. You can have nothing official to speak to me about, so if you wish to berate me like a child for standing in the way of your decision, then you can do it tomorrow.”

As Obi-Wan followed his new Master out of the Council chambers, he wondered at how it was Qui-Gon Jinn who was considered the enemy of the High Council when it had been Master Tyvokka who came in like a whirlwind and changed everything. He wondered if he would learn the difference as the Wookie’s student. It seemed that his new Master had more to teach than even he assumed.

*****

There was another Master in the rooms that Obi-Wan was led to. A Kel Dor was showing his human Padawan how to fold khingoi. There were bowls of ingredients on every surface that Obi-Wan could see. Even the sitting area had not been kept safe from the cooking storm.

“This is like one of those activities you disguise as play when it’s really a test,” the Padawan said, scowling at the dumpling.

“And what would be the lesson if it is, Bultar?” her Master asked, warm affection and amusement filling the force.

“Precision maybe?” The female looked dismayed as the folded dumpling came apart, again. “The application of just enough Force? This is hopeless!”

Tyvokka chuckled as he moved into the room, greeting both guests with warm affection and tender kisses to the crowns of their heads. “Would it make you feel better, Bultar, to know that Plo was a Knight grown before he figured out to fold these correctly?”

The girl huffed in exaggerated annoyance at the turned-up crinkles near the edge of her Master’s mask.

“I already set the oven to preheat, Master,” the other Master said as he waved his Padawan free of the dumplings.

“You are a gift, Plo.” The Wookie sighed in pleasure as he ushered Obi-Wan over the threshold. “Did you get the vegetable skewers thawing?”

“I came during the morning to pull them from the cold box. Who’s this?”

Obi-Wan ducked his head. It felt like everyone knew who he was; they certainly stared enough. Surely the other Jedi was just fulfilling social obligations.

“It’s good you asked.” Tyvokka pushed Obi-Wan into a seat next to the Kel Dor. “Master Plo Koon meet your lineage brother, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Play nice while Bultar helps me with the skewers.”

“Yes!” the other teenager whispered, shoving the dumpling ingredients over to Obi-Wan and hurriedly following her Grandmaster into the kitchen proper.

“I am pleased to meet you, brother.”

The boy who’d faced off against the most revered masters in the Order and called Qui-Gon Jinn out on his hypocrisy was a ball of timidity and uncertainty sitting at the dining table of his new teaching Master. This had not been in his plans for the day.

Exhausted Obi-Wan just ducked his head and mumbled a reply, not even certain it was in Basic. He focused himself on making dumplings. Stretching the dough that had shrunk, filling the well with meat paste or bean paste or fruit paste, before folding them back up and sealing it with a deft press and an application of the honey butter.

Dough was like skin, he’d learned on Melida/Daan; it needed something to hold it together.

“Ah, you know the trick,” Master Koon observed. “My Bultar doesn’t have the patience yet to figure it out. But it is a minor thing. And there are other ways she can help with festival feasts, especially with so many diverse diets.”

Obi-Wan paused as he registered the thought that these three other people might not be the only ones in this lineage. There could be many new people. The teen pressed his hands to the table to ignore their shake.

“There are many in the lineage then, Master Koon?”

“Plo, please Obi-Wan. We are family now. And not so many, there are larger lineages, but I doubt they are as loving as ours,” Plo said as he settled at a new spot at the table to prepare a different part of the feast.

It appeared that Obi-Wan had fallen into the one lineage that was as dissimilar to his previous as possible. These modestly sized rooms would be overflowing with people laughing and offering well-intentioned advice. As different as different could be.

“Obi!”

Quin came running through the front door and swinging around the corner to burst into the quiet dining area and glomp onto his best friend. “Obi-Wan!”

“Let him breathe, Quinlan,” Master Tholme said with a raised voice from the cloak rack. “It would be embarrassing if he survived the High Council only to die because of asphyxiation-by-affection.”

Obi-Wan snorted as Quin released him with a grumbled apology. Obi-Wan offered the bowl of dough and taught his friend the trick he’d learned. “It’s not so hard once you know it needs some help.”

“Where’d you learn this?” Quin asked with a laugh, filling his dumplings a little more than suggested. Greedy as always. “I can’t imagine Master Yoda’s lineage celebrating festival days.”

“No, you’re right about that.” Obi-Wan couldn’t remember celebrating a single festival with Master Jinn. But his sense of timing was a bit off. Since Jedi Festivals were celebrated on the Jedah calendar and not the Republic Standard, it was possible that there hadn’t been a festival between Bandomeer and Melida/Daan. But he didn’t think it likely. “I’m not sure Master Jinn could celebrate something without a diplomatic inducement.”

“It’s so odd,” a female Togruta said as she folded herself down to kneel next to Master Koon. “I’d have never considered Master Jinn a callous male, but…” She shrugged and offered Obi-Wan a wry smile. “Clearly what you went through proves us wrong.”

“Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, allow me to introduce you to Master Shaak Ti,” Plo Koon said with a smile that came through his voice.

“Also, of the lineage of Rael?” Obi-Wan asked after he gave a completely appropriate but seated bow.

“Yes,” She smiled. “I am actually the Grandpadawan of Master Tyvokka and Master T’un’s Padawan-sister Bahar Tata, who was also a Togruta.”

Obi-Wan gave a conservative smile. It was nice that this new lineage was so welcoming, but it was more than a bit odd too. “Do you have a Padawan?”

“Not yet,” Shaak responded. “I might, but I’ve seen the oldest of the creche several times and wasn’t particularly drawn to any of them.”

Obi-Wan bit back his thought.

“Share with the class, Obi-Wan,” Quin teased, and Obi-Wan thought it was a pity he couldn’t stab him on a festival night.

“I was just thinking that perhaps you would feel differently if you spoke to them. Instead of loitering in the background and giving all of the twelve-year-olds anxiety attacks.”

Tholme snorted and managed to choke on air to the humor of all watching.

“You have a keen mind, Padawan,” Master Tyvokka said as he reached to take the prepared dumplings.

“Very keen,” Master Ti admitted with a wry grin. “That’s exactly what I was doing.”

Obi-Wan shrugged. “I don’t know why. What do you see hiding behind the class, hoping that none of the initiates see you? When really they notice everyone.”

“That’s how Master Tholme found me.” Quin grinned and helped set the table with napkins and finger bowls.

“Quinlan Vos,” Master Tholme rasped, “I found you covered in muck and running away from your Crechemaster. I asked you why and you told me -”

“’Master Kaile is a son-of-a-Sith’,” Obi-Wan and Quin recited together. The younger boy rolled his eyes even as he reached forward and met his friend’s fist bump.

“He really wasn’t a pleasant person,” Obi-Wan admitted. “I was relieved when he finally ‘moved on’ before the creche clans ended up reorganized.”

Quin cackled. “I’m pretty sure we sent him to a mind healer.”

“You’re probably not wrong about that.” Tyvokka sighed as he carried in the main dishes. Dumplings and skewers of meat and vegetables, soft flat breads and sauces and spreads. “But for now, let’s eat!”

Later, enough so that Obi-Wan figured that it was closer to the sun rising than setting, the new Padawan of Master Tyvokka pulled from the pocket of his inner tunic the rumpled wish paper Quinlan had given him at the beginning of the week.

On it was his hope for one more chance to be a Jedi Knight. One more shot at the future Obi-Wan was still convinced was the Force’s plan for his life. It hadn’t even burned yet, and Obi-Wan was already embarking on the potential of that last chance. He poured all his hopes into the delicate paper as he lit it with a match. He would be the best Padawan he could be for Master Tyvokka. Perhaps not the best the male had ever had; Obi-Wan was rather certain he couldn’t compare to such masters as Master Koon and Master Tholme, but Obi-Wan thought there was hope that his best might be sufficient for Master Tyvokka.

Quinlan bumped his shoulder as they stood in the balcony of the garden. One small gathering of a lineage among the seas of Jedi participating in the opening ceremonies of the new Jedhan year.

“From ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Not this crude matter are we.”

“Force, Quin!” Bultar complained with a groan on the other side of the boy. “How morbid can you get on the Wishing Day? Geez.”

“That wasn’t a challenge, Quinlan Vos,” Tholme said dryly, delivering a light swat upside the Kiffar’s head when the Padawan opened his mouth with a glint in his eye.

“If we aren’t made of dirt or ashes,” Obi-Wan said softly, thinking aloud more than to his new lineage. “If we aren’t to consider ourselves bound by flesh and bone—then our souls are the stuff of starfire. Impossible to see the entirety of, fierce and hot beyond belief. Capable of anything.”

“Now that is a sentiment right for this festival,” Master Tyvokka said as he gave Obi-Wan a pat on his shoulder and let the ash of the fast-burning paper drift in the wind, carrying the wishes for the new year into the galaxy.

Chapter 2: Side effects & symptoms

7th day of the 9th Republic Standard Month, 957 ARR

Tyvokka’s first responsibility towards his new Padawan the day after the festival was to make sure that he was physically well. Once they jumped that hurdle, he could move on to convincing him that mind healers weren’t there to hurt him.

He still wasn’t sure where that ridiculous mentality came from. He didn’t tolerate any of the unhealthy drama that the Council of Reconciliation put up with from the Consular Jedi—intentionally missing appointments, being argumentative and obfuscating with their mind healer—it was no way to keep their knights and masters mission-ready. And Tyvokka would not let Obi-Wan make the same self-destructive choices he might have learned from his first Master.

“Good morning, Master Tyvokka.” The young Padawan behind the reception desk offered a smile. “How can I help you today?”

“My Padawan and I were hoping to see a Healer for an exam.” Tyvokka looked back at the pile of nerves masquerading as his Padawan. “He’s just come back from a war zone, and I’m quite concerned with his well-being.”

The female’s eyes got bigger and bigger before, with a stunned look, she whipped back to her scheduling software. “Healer Ha has an opening? I can set you up back in an exam room to wait?”

“That would be wonderful,” the older Wookie said. “The chairs in the front might be fine for young fools, but I find my back just can’t handle it so much anymore.”

With a little laugh, the Healer’s Padawan side-eyed the Wookie. “Are you sure you’re not the one who needs the appointment?”

“Ah.” Tyvokka smiled. “Perhaps not this time. Obi-Wan” — he gestured for the boy to join them — “we have an appointment.”

Their Healer greeted them at the exam room, apparently not busy enough to make them wait, and patted the biobed. “Hop on up. Then verify your name, date of birth, and the last four digits of your Republic Citizenship ID for me?”

Obi-Wan didn’t have a problem reciting the information, but it spurred a thought in Tyvokka’s mind. Turning to his Padawan, the Master asked, “Do you prefer the RSC dates? Or would you like to celebrate your birthday according to the Jedhan calendar?”

The youngling blinked. “That’s a thing?”

The Healer snorted. “Sure. All Republic documentation and paperwork has to use RSC dates, but for personal celebrations many Jedi prefer to celebrate on the Jedhan Calendar.” Ze leaned in to whisper, “It cuts the age of old Wookies like your Master into a number you can actually count to.”

Tyvokka huffed, “I heard that.”

The Healer grinned with a shrug. “I’m not sorry.”

“Can I think about it?” Obi-Wan shrugged. “There’s been a lot of changes, and just choosing—even if it is something simple—seems… ill advised.”

“Of course.” It was always good to reinforce smart behavior. Tyvokka didn’t want to push Obi-Wan too far, and if his suspicion was correct, then today would be stressful enough as is. “Though try to tell me before the week of, if you choose to celebrate on the Jedhan calendar.”

Obi-Wan offered the older Jedi a quirky little smirk and a mischievous, “Yes, Master.”

“Alright,” Healer Ha said as seating zirself on the stool beside the terminal, “what seems to be the problem?”

“Obi-Wan has just returned to the Temple from a war zone and has only recently agreed to be my Padawan.” He gave the young boy an affectionate look as the Healer froze momentarily upon realizing who had entered zir exam room. But Obi-Wan wasn’t watching, and Tyvokka ignored the stutter as the Healer once more settled on professionalism. “We want a full workup, exam and bloodwork. Everything from species to allergens. His file was thin when I retrieved it from the database.”

“Species?” The Healer offered a skeptical look. “Padawan Kenobi’s paperwork says that he’s human. Coruscanti-variant. Is there reason to believe anything differently?”

“I cannot find any corroborating documentation in his file,” the Wookie said after a moment. “He needs to be at his healthiest, and I need to provide for all his needs.”

Ha didn’t begrudge the Master his paranoia, which was better than Tyvokka thought he might get, and queued up the tests for blood work, including one for species analysis.

“This shouldn’t hurt. Do you have a phobia of needles?” Ze asked, moving forward with the hypo-syringe.

Obi-Wan frowned at the large container but shook his head. “I’ve seen more than a bit of my blood recently.”

“Well, while we wait for the med-droid to get back with the results, perhaps we can work on the physical examination. Point out where all that blood you’ve been seeing has come from.” Ze gave the Padawan a scrutinizing look, before abruptly asking, “Padawan Kenobi, if you could remove all of your outer layers for the examination?”

Obi-Wan would greatly prefer not to. Tyvokka could see it in the tremble of the young teen’s hands even as the child acquiesced and tugged his layers off. The boy wore three, sometimes four. The Quartermaster had supplied the Padawan with a proper number of outfits in the boy’s preferred style, and Tyvokka had found his new Padawan often wore a robe even in their own quarters.

“Obi-Wan, are you cold?” There were only so many reasons to wear all those layers.

Obi-Wan hesitated as he slid his outer tunics off. “No, Master.”

“Alright.” Tyvokka made a mental note to mention it to the mind healer.

With all the concealing fabric folded and set aside, Tyvokka reassessed the assumptions he had made about his Padawan, Melida/Daan, and the mind healer the youngling would be seeing. Fresh pink lines of new skin covered Obi-Wan’s torso. Pockmarks littered the skin of his arms and shoulders, but it was his back and chest that took Tyvokka’s breath away.

Obi-Wan had been whipped. The thick lines of fresh scar tissue laid a ragged crosshatch pattern on his back with several wrapping around onto his chest. It was horrifying.

“We’re going to need to do a sensitivity test and perhaps a mobility one.” The Healer said after taking a deep breath, startled and unprepared for the devastation that Obi-Wan’s body had been subjected to. Ha rolled over to a terminal attached to the wall, writing notes, and thinking out loud as ze went. “Perhaps a bioscan, just to make sure that there isn’t anything damaged under the skin.”

“I haven’t noticed any mobility issues,” Obi-Wan offered, trembling fingers fisted on his thighs and just the barest waver to his voice. “Most of this happened months ago by the Republic Standard Calendar.”

Ha gave Obi-Wan all zir attention. “What type of medical care did you receive when these occurred?”

Obi-Wan gestured to the pockmarks that dotted his skin like stars in the sky. “These were from shrapnel grenades, or land mines. They didn’t all happen at once.”

Ha nodded. “The burns around your wrist?”

“There was a hostage situation.” The young Padawan shrugged. “The original burns went all the way from the outside of my fingers up my arms. They’re actually the newest.”

They were remarkably well healed in that case.

“And the whip marks?” Tyvokka asked, keeping the rumble from his voice only by dint of long practice. It was damage he was not unfamiliar with from his Shadows, but those were adults. Sometimes older padawans. Never younglings just out of initiate whites.

He fidgeted a little, and Tyvokka noticed the barest flush to his cheeks. “I was a captive of the Daan for a few days. They thought whipping me would break the Young they had as prisoners.”

“It didn’t?” Tyvokka asked skeptically, wondering what other sorts of mental landmines his Padawan was hiding.

But this time Obi-Wan smirked. “A little hard when I was gone with the other children not a day later.”

Ha covered a startled laugh with a cough, and Tyvokka started reconsidering how he was going to handle Obi-Wan’s training. The teen had a mischievous twist to his lips, and Tyvokka wondered which of his Shadows would leave the least number of reckless habits in his student.

“This looks almost as good as Bacta,” the Healer said as ze palpated scars and tried to determine internal damage. “How were they healed?”

“Melida/Daan had an herbal remedy that might be related to Bacta. It’s the only reason anyone lived long enough to have kids. It healed slower than Bacta. What might take Bacta minutes or hours could take Shupasi many applications and days. But no one who had it ever caught infections. Just slow, painful healing.”

“How interesting.”

Master Che entered the room with a perfunctory knock, wheeling in a large piece of equipment behind her. “Hello.”

“Hello, Vokara,” the big Wookie greeted, a frown creasing his face. “Something wrong?”

“We shall see,” she hedged, “Padawan Kenobi, there were some anomalous results on your blood test. With your permission, Healer Ha will conduct a sonogram to quickly identify whether more tests are needed.”

“Okay.” Obi-Wan bit his lip. “What are you looking for?”

“Master Tyvokka asked for a species-identification blood test,” Master Che said, handing over a datapad, presumably with the results, to Healer Ha. “The results returned were… odd. If it’s an error, a sonogram of your torso will reveal it.”

Ha leaned forward to give a stage whisper to the Padawan. “We’re looking for some non-Human-standard organs.”

Obi-Wan’s brows arched. “Huh. What kind?”

Tyvokka turned to the Head of the Healing Halls as she settled beside him. “This never came up during his days in the creche?”

She shook her head. “He was never sick enough to warrant these types of tests. An experienced Crechemaster did a visual and Force examination when Obi-Wan arrived at the Temple; nothing he saw suggested the youngling was anything other than Human of some variation. And as a child, Obi-Wan was surprisingly resilient to the illnesses that younglings get.”

“There was no examination in the Healing Halls?”

“No.” She frowned. “And I’ll be looking into that. A species-check should be mandatory on all younglings. There are some Human-variations with lethal allergies or recessives. Not to mention…” The observers all stared at the scans. That was not Human-standard at all. “Something like this. So, not Human at all.”

Looking at the reflection of the scans, Obi-Wan burst out, “Are those extra hearts?”

Ha chuckled as ze directed the wand further down his torso, looking for and finding several other sets of organs. “Brachial hearts, two chambers to compensate for a high gravity environment. Congratulations, it’s a Stewjoni.”

“What does that mean? I mean, not Human I know but” — he shrugged — “I’ve never heard of the Stewjoni? Well, besides the garden on the twelfth floor.”

Tyvokka gave a small huff of agreement. “At least now I understand how you could handle it. Not enough oxygen, not enough moisture, too cold; the list goes on. It was a wonder for Human youngling to be comfortable there.”

Che smiled. “For right now, it means you have some health concerns but nothing that we can’t correct. Several of your organs are going to need help. You’ll need to increase your level of activity and change your diet. You’re dangerously underweight and probably need some nutritional supplements.”

Tyvokka leaned over to his student and offered a one-armed hug. “We’ll figure it out. But it’s a good thing that we checked because this is repairable damage now. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so easy in a decade.”

“When Obi-Wan collapsed from brachial heart failure?” Ha snorted. “No. Not an easy fix at all. But we’ll load you down with supplements and educational material on your new species, and you will be good to go.”

Obi-Wan gave his healer a dry look. “Pretty sure I’ve always been this species.”

Tyvokka turned to Vokara. “There’s something wrong in the creche. This is the latest in a long list of violations I’ve uncovered because of Obi-Wan. Something needs to be done.”

Che nodded. “Yes. It is ridiculous that no one has ever verified Obi-Wan’s species. I don’t know about the Stewjoni specifically, but many species are allergic to whole categories of foods. How can they justify endangering the life of a youngling because no one checked?”

He breathed out a sigh of relief. “Then I’ll have your support for an investigation?”

“Of course, but you need not do it alone.” She laid a gentle hand on his arm. “I’ll start my own investigation in the Healing Halls and pull some senior padawans to go through files. Anyone in the Temple who does not have a species test on file will get pulled. Who knows how many of our knights are operating under misconceptions so large they include not knowing their own species?”

12th day of the 9th Republic Standard Month, 957 ARR

Obi-Wan realized exactly how unconventional his apprenticeship would be when Master Tyvokka started a conversation about pronouns at breakfast a few days after his healer’s visit.

“Wookie, of course,” Master Tyvokka offered, “have binary gender with the associated performance spectrum. It sits close to the Human-standard spectrum of gender, sexual orientation, and performance. Odd, considering the general opinion of those ‘gender tasks’ are quite different.”

Obi-Wan figured he knew where this was going but was more than willing to stall. This wasn’t likely to be any more comfortable than the conversation they’d had in the Healing Halls about puberty. “How do you mean?”

“Well, even now mainstream opinion in Human-majority societies includes some disdain for child rearing. Or those activities that might be considered ‘domestic’. It’s a mentality that Coruscant has spread right along with sentient rights and freedoms as the hallmarks of the Republic.”

Obi-Wan narrowed his eyes, “But there are lots of species who don’t have binary genders. Or whose domestic relationships are not organized like Humans’. It’s silly that the Republic has tens of thousands of planets and thousands of species and it can’t get away from gender performance assumptions that aren’t even biological.”

“You’re right, but in a thousand years of existence the Republic has had only five Chancellors that were not at least near-Human,” Tyvokka pointed out. “Most of whom were only temporary placeholders during a power shift, and only one was confirmed permanently to the position.”

Obi-Wan played with his breakfast food as he considered the casual bigotry that the Republic perpetuated. “That’s awful.”

Master Tyvokka watched him with concern. “It is something that needs to always be a consideration. Species and gender expectations. Would you like to talk about what the Healers said?”

“Not particularly.” Obi-Wan huffed, shoving a goopy spoonful of eggs into his mouth and regretting it. He’d let them go cold, and they were gross now. He forced himself to swallow instead of spitting it out. Food was food. “I don’t really feel like anything has changed. Do I have to change anything?”

“Absolutely not,” his Master affirmed. “This is a matter of your personal business. I would like you to consider having something to tell people who find out—either that you aren’t human or male according to human concepts—but no one should ever force you to share that information.” He paused in cleaning the breakfast nook, and Obi-Wan startled when his Master kissed the top of his head. “Whatever the reason or the decision, I will always be available for you.”

Obi-Wan snorted. “Even in a meeting with the High Council?”

“Well,” — his Master smiled — “I will trust you to know when it’s alright to distract me and when you shouldn’t. If you choose to wait, then I will trust that you can take care of yourself. And if it is a situation where you need my attention anyway, I trust that the High Council would agree that my Padawan is my foremost responsibility.”

Obi-Wan’s insides squirmed, knowing that Master Jinn would never have made such an offer. Had, in fact, ignored or chastised him in front of politicians when Obi-Wan had requested his help while the other male was busy. The young Padawan wasn’t entirely sure how to handle the idea. Obi-Wan wasn’t sure he believed it.

“Alright, now that we’ve dealt with that” — Master Tyvokka pulled his personal datapad from a nearby drawer — “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Obi-Wan choked on his tea. “This is supposed to be less uncomfortable?”

His Master stared at him. “Is it honestly so surprising?”

“Maybe?” Obi-Wan bit his lip. “I never thought much more about it than that I felt called to be a Jedi Knight. You’re not asking me to not be a Knight, are you?”

“Of course not, Obi-Wan.” The big Wookie gently pet the Padawan on his shoulder. “But there are many ways you can serve the Order as a Knight.”

The teen smirked as he reached across to grab a few slices of fruit. “You mean beyond following the High Council’s orders?”

“You shouldn’t be surprised,” Master Tyvokka said, slightly exasperated. “I pointed out that they have less power than it seems at first. And you’ve already refused them once. If obedience were the only requirement, I’m not sure they would have taken you back, even if you had my support.”

“Why are you asking me this? Isn’t it a Master’s responsibility to point out the path and the Padawan’s duty to walk it?” That had certainly been the way of things with Master Jinn. Right up until Jinn had pointed to a path Obi-Wan couldn’t walk.

“It does no one any good for a Master to lead a Padawan in the wrong direction,” was his new Master’s response. “We each have a place in the Force’s tapestry. My place would not be your place, though they may look similar; nor should yours belong to me.”

The Padawan considered that. “How do you know the right path then?”

“You listen to the Force, as in everything.” He paused. “And you keep an open dialogue with your partner. Here, that is between you and me. I want to know if you get hurt on a mission, or just having fun. I want to know when your lessons are too easy and when they are too hard. And I especially want to know when you feel uncomfortable, or if you feel something through the Force. Do you understand, Obi-Wan?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Perhaps we should talk about the options,” the Master said, moving them to the couch. “Logically, we can start with what you know best. Qui-Gon Jinn is a Consular Jedi, and regardless of his inability to pull his head from his ass” — Obi-Wan stifled an uncomfortable giggle in his tea mug as Master Tyvokka smirked — “he is exceptionally good at his job. And you were shaping up to be a spectacular Consular as well. Especially given the change you could enact on Melida/Daan in just a few short months.”

Obi-Wan swallowed his tea and said seriously, “That wasn’t me. I didn’t really do anything. My friend Cerasi, she was the one who had enough heart to change everyone’s mind.”

“If you asked her, she’d probably say she couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Well, she’s dead.” The bitter words were out of his mouth before he could restrain himself, but Master Tyvokka didn’t say anything. Just waited until the sparking and brilliant pain that echoed in the Force diminished.

“Gone before she could see peace on her planet?” Tyvokka must have seen the small nod he gave because he continued gently, “But you followed through. You saw peace on her planet for her, and when you thought you couldn’t do it by yourself, you sought help. If you could ask your friend what she thought, I think she’d thank you for seeing it through.”

Obi-Wan didn’t say anything. He huddled into himself on the sofa. The warm tea in his hands wasn’t quite enough to shake the chill from his bones or the memories that painted his sight.

His Master could tell, and the big Wookie just shifted on the sofa—jostling enough to bring him back to the present. “Now, would you like to continue training to be a Consular Jedi?”

“What-” Obi-Wan cleared the rasp from his throat. “What else is there?”

“Hmm, you could join the administrative corps. They make sure that the Order, both inside and outside the Temple, runs as efficiently as possible. It’s a very admirable position. Though they see less use of a lightsaber than their comm unit.”

Obi-Wan shifted, trying not to show how boring that sounded. “Maybe not that one.”

Tyvokka’s eyes were full of laughter as he continued, “Would you like to be a Healer? Even as my Padawan, we could arrange biology courses and ask to have you shadow a Master in the Healing Halls.”

Obi-Wan could hear it suddenly: the snap of a trip wire, the rumble of sinking earth, the flash and pop of the dozens of different explosive devices the Melida and the Daan had littered their home world with. And the faces of the many wounded whom Obi-Wan had only helped by sitting with them as they waited to die.

“Healing could be good.”

Tyvokka nodded slowly, as though he knew where Obi-Wan’s head had gone. “Always useful even if you find you lack the aptitude to become a Master. What about Search?”

“I-” He had to stop and wonder what he actually knew about the Jedi who went on Search. He knew Master Koon, his new lineage brother, was one. A very prolific one. But he knew little else. “Maybe we could talk to someone about it?”

“Someone like Plo?” Master Tyvokka offered. “Or someone who isn’t Plo? He should be back in only a few days.”

Obi-Wan shrugged. “Plo is fine. I just don’t know much about those that go on search.”

“It’s a good idea then to talk to someone who does it,” Tyvokka gently praised, “but, Obi-Wan, sometimes your choice isn’t rational. Sometimes it is all you can do to hold on tighter or let go like you’ve been burned. Don’t ignore the prompting of the Force.”

“What else is there?”

“The Shadows, which we will talk about in a minute, and the Corps,” Master Tyvokka continued, “it includes AgriCorps, which deals in teaching people agriscience, assists in humanitarian aid and constantly battles to feed even larger trillions of people. ExploraCorps does economical transport, stellar cartography, and planetary exploration. Their Corps also includes Mechanical services, which have installations at almost every space station for economical ship repair.

“EduCorps handles the outside accreditation for most planetary educational institutions trying to meet the galactic standard. They also develop and distribute educational materials for free that compete with some of the most rigorous academies in the Galaxy. They fund dozens of different scientific and cultural studies through the Foundation for Continued Education. Many of the smaller archives are run by EduCorps members, and the Order has many scientists in the field, looking for forgotten history.”

Obi-Wan sat silently. Master Tyvokka knew a lot about the Corps. They did more than he had ever considered. Even if he was still certain that he was meant to be a Knight and he really didn’t want to be a farmer.

“Of course, this is a very clean and laid out explanation when life is very clunky and dirty.”

Obi-Wan frowned. “What do you mean?”

Tyvokka smiled. “EduCorps helps develop the educational plans for initiates. And relief aid sent by the Order often includes healers, mechanics, and farmers. Or Searchers will often work paired with a member of the ExploraCorps because sometimes the Force pulls them into the outer reaches of the galaxy. Places no one has been for many, many years. If ever.”

“I get it.” Obi-Wan nodded. Sometimes the boundaries between what was on paper and what happened in reality were different. Like trying to condense the situation with the Melida/Daan into something that could be said in a couple of minutes. “But, if everyone works together in the field, why aren’t there Corps members in the Temple?”

“There used to be, I know that much,” Master Tyvokka said. “But I can’t remember when it changed or why.”

Obi-Wan thought about the stink his Master had raised in the High Council Chambers and the missing tests in his file from the Healing Halls about his species, of all things. “Are you going to fix it, Master Tyvokka?”

The Master pulled him close for a hug. “I’m going to try.”

“I still think my future is as a Knight,” Obi-Wan blurted out rather unceremoniously. “And even if I could be a Knight and a member of the Corps, I think I want to hear about what you do. After all, a Padawan’s place is with their Master. Learning what their Master thinks they should, walking on the path their Master placed them on.” Obi-Wan shrugged. “I’d feel weird, having someone else be my teacher.”

Tyvokka sighed. “That may happen anyway. My duties as a member of the Council of First Knowledge keep me temple bound for the most-part. And it would be irresponsible of me to keep you in the temple with me. So, another Master will have to be your teacher on missions.

“Some will think poorly of you, no matter what happens. Simply because of the mess the High Council and Master Jinn have made of this situation. Don’t spare them a thought. Successful Jedi are those knights who have the flexibility and adaptability to thrive, no matter the circumstances. And I think you have the potential to be remarkably successful.”

Obi-Wan frowned, “I don’t like it. A Padawan’s place is with their Master, but I understand.”

Master Tyvokka grew noticeably quiet for a long moment, and Obi-Wan grew concerned that he’d said something wrong, but a furry hand came down on his head and gently ran claws through his hair.

“I am considering what that piece of banthashit means realistically,” his Master said blandly. “Master Arraan informed me you were well known in the creche for being strong in the Unifying Force. And I know that Qui-Gon Jinn has no patience for foresight.”

Obi-Wan wasn’t sure Master Tyvokka was correct. He knew Quin thought that Master Yoda had done something or said something to the other masters. Because the Grandmaster ‘thought padawans could work like bandages’, which was ridiculous. No one had groomed him for Qui-Gon Jinn; he had simply been the last Master to say ‘no’. And then ‘yes’. And then, apparently, ‘never’. There were lots of things Obi-Wan could look back on and hate Master Jinn for, but not dealing with Obi-Wan’s preferences wasn’t one of them. After all, the Padawan learned what the Master taught.

Tyvokka tugged a little at the strands in his hand. “Apprenticeships used to be different.”

“How?” Obi-Wan settled in closer to his Master.

“Well, apprentices used to be older, for one. And there used to be a mandatory fostering between lineages. To be a Knight there used to be actual requirements of things a Padawan had to experience,” Master Tyvokka said absentmindedly.

“What changed?”

“People’s ideas about what was safe,” Tyvokka said. “It was decided about 600 years ago, around the time I was a Padawan, that training children to be soldiers in more than theory wasn’t a good choice. Each generation should be kinder to the ones growing up, not meaner.”

“Huh.” Obi-Wan squirmed a little. He understood, maybe. There had been entire factories run by children on Melida/Daan. Many of the Young themselves had died or were crippled when they hadn’t even seen two decades. Many hadn’t even seen ten standard years before their death. Obi-Wan wouldn’t want anyone to go through that again. But some things couldn’t be learned in a textbook. “But we still learn to use lightsabers?”

“There was a trial. A clan of younglings grew up without light saber training,” Master Tyvokka said. “It wasn’t awful, but the Council found their ability was never quite as natural or instinctive as those who were not part of the trial. When the difference between life and death in the field is that of fractions of a second, the Council decided against restricting age on lightsaber training. So, lightsaber training stayed. But a new curriculum developed that increased the importance of conflict management skills for Jedi knights and it began a bias for the position of Consular Jedi that continues to this day. They emphasize non-violent methods and focus less time on things that are considered ‘violent’.”

“It’s unfortunate, but most of the Galaxy learns by violence,” Obi-Wan said, sitting up suddenly, wanting to look his Master in the eye. “The gangs on Bandomeer, the Melida and the Daan, space pirates, and I bet most of the people here on Coruscant would react faster to a drawn lightsaber than shouted words of peace!”

“The High Council of 600 years ago had decided that emphasizing a peaceful approach would help reinforce the philosophy that all life is precious.”

“If all life is precious, so is ours!” Obi-Wan was up and pacing around their living space. “How many Jedi have died because they tried to talk when no one else did? What Jedi need to learn is how much violence is enough.”

Tyvokka looked oddly at him. “And you know how much violence is enough?”

“Yes!” Obi-Wan snapped, but as the word rang out, he realized how ridiculous it was to even think about that. “No. But I want to. The Melida and the Daan fought for so long because they never learned when enough was enough. Master Tahl was hurt because she didn’t know that sometimes you fight to stop fighting, and that sometimes people aren’t listening until you hit them a couple of times.” He shrugged, not looking at his Master. “Words help when the fighting stops. But you have to get it to stop.”

“You are wise beyond your years, Padawan Kenobi,” Tyvokka finally said, reaching out to pull the student into a brief hug. “That is something I often hear when my Shadows must justify their choices before the High Council.”

Obi-Wan sighed, settling back down on his cushion. “What can you tell me about Shadows?”

“Shadows are a topic of disagreement in the Temple,” Master Tyvokka said, accepting the subject change. “Some members think they are unnecessary holdovers from the Sith Wars and that allowing the type of behaviors and missions that the Shadows undertake is a mistake. They want to believe that secrecy and underhand dealing are never necessary and that all problems can be solved by going to the main opponents and announcing that they were Jedi and have come to mediate for the law.”

Obi-Wan thought back to the first person he’d ever killed. He tried not to think about how much blood the other person had leaked. Or how panicked Obi-Wan was when his first cut didn’t go far enough.

How to kill people most-effectively wasn’t the type of stuff they taught in initiate classes.

“I don’t think all problems can be solved by talking it out,” Obi-Wan said. “Master Tahl tried that. The Young only worked because it was children facing off against their parents. More, I think, you can stop a lot of horrible things from ever happening if you’re willing to do something nasty first.”

“It’s an exceptionally fine line, knowing when something is morally repugnant and necessary. And knowing when that awful thing is too far to come back from, but I agree. Sometimes acting now means you don’t have to take action later. It’s why I spent so many years working as a Shadow and why I now sit on the Council of First Knowledge.”

“I’ve heard of the Council of First Knowledge, but what does it actually do?”

“The Council’s primary directive is to educate and nurture the Jedi Order,” Master Tyvokka rattled off. “We work closely with the EduCorps to understand how our younglings can be better taught so that they make better knights. We work with ExploraCorps to better understand the galaxy, the cultures in it, and how education can change perceptions. And finally, we are the head of the Jedi Shadows, whose mission is to safeguard the Republic by seeking signs of the Sith and eliminating them.”

Obi-Wan blinked up at his Master a little incredulously. “Is the Council of First Knowledge… more important than the High Council?”

Tyvokka burst out in roaring laughter. “I’m glad you think so, Padawan. The Council of First Knowledge certainly has more direct power than the High Council, but don’t let any of those stiff tunics catch you saying something like that. And for all that the Council does, we can do it because we work within the Order and there are many other important tasks being completed at the same time.”

Obi-Wan thought about it. “Nothing you’ve said has really changed my mind. Though I wouldn’t say no to special lessons with the healers. I just, I think I want to know more about the Shadows and how I can help you, Master Tyvokka. How I can find the place the Force has for me-”

The buzz of Master Tyvokka’s comm unit interrupted Obi-Wan. The Wookie sighed, “Tyvokka here.”

“Master Tyvokka, there’s been a delivery to the Temple. Master T’un has requested your presence in the Shadow’s receiving room.”

“Acknowledged.” The Master raised an inquisitive brow towards his student. “How about a practical demonstration then?”

Obi-Wan smiled. “Sounds good, Master.”

“Alright then, off to the receiving room we go. Don’t forget your cloak. It might be a little cold.”

Incidentally, there were quite a few places in the Temple—most of it actually—that were considered off-limits for initiates. More spaces became accessible as a Padawan, but much of it was still specific to the occupation of the Padawan and their Master.

The halls set aside for use by Jedi Shadows were restricted even from most masters. The nature of their work was secretive, and the lives they led blurred the line of what was appropriate for many in the Temple. Additionally, though Obi-Wan didn’t know it, the Shadows were often given missions that the Senate—perhaps even the High Council—would not have approved of. All for the betterment of the Galaxy, but perhaps not always in legal ways, or desired by the seething mass of darkness in the Senate. Tyvokka knew it was there. He just didn’t know what it was, not yet.

“Eventually, your biometrics will be added. So, I can send you on errands to do things like grab the paperwork I forgot.” The Master chuckled as he signed his new student in as an authorized guest. “But it’ll take a few days before I remember all the details. And odds are good that I’ll forget a few, anyway.”

“Shouldn’t I only receive authorization as needed? I am… young,” Obi-Wan pointed out.

“That is the policy for most of the Order. However, things will be a little different for you.”

“Because you sit on the Council of First Knowledge?”

“Yes, but also because other Shadows will handle much of your apprenticeship.” Tyvokka shot his Padawan a look from the corner of his eye, aware that it was not news that Obi-Wan wanted to hear.

Obi-Wan had bit back his verbal retort, but Tyvokka noticed his dismay in the Force and made a note of it. He didn’t know if the Padawan had developed some lazy habits on Melida/Daan or if Obi-Wan had always been more emotive in the Force. Tyvokka would not question Jinn about it, so he could only work with what Obi-Wan showed him.

Leading his Padawan through a vacuum sealed door, Tyvokka clarified, “This is how the best Shadows are taught. We foster them so that they learn different skills under different masters. You have already shown an amazing aptitude for dealing with the more dangerous side of being a Jedi. To keep you with me in the Temple would be a disadvantage to your development as a Knight.”

Obi-Wan bit his lip, “Okay.”

And even though it wasn’t the time or place for it, Tyvokka was proud of how much courage Obi-Wan was showing. Jinn had left scars, and Tyvokka knew that Obi-Wan wasn’t certain if he trusted him, but his student was stepping out in faith, and that was powerful.

Tyvokka smirked down at the youngling. He had an ace in his pocket that might make this situation much more palatable. “In fact, the Master who agreed to help with your training should come soon.”

Even as he spoke, Quinlan was sliding through the vacuum doors on the other side of the room and shouting, “Obi-Wan! This is going to be great!”

At his Padawan’s long-suffering expression, Tyvokka snorted. “Master Tholme and his Padawan have agreed to assist in your training. Which means-”

“We’ll be spending a lot of time together, Obi!”

Obi-Wan pried one arm loose, but then lost the other as Quinlan shifted. “Quin! Don’t you think we could be calm and peaceful? A little serenity never hurt anyone.”

“What, like, being dignified or something?”

“Yes. Dignity would be great.”

“Yeah, sounds boring.” Quinlan yawned for show. “I’ll stick to being enthusiastic.”

“And more predictable than Coruscanti weather?” Obi-Wan drawled.

“I can be unpredictable!” the older Padawan objected. “I am the best in the field!”

“He does have a surprisingly good poker face,” Tholme said, to which his apprentice stuck out his tongue and the Master sighed. “Not much maturity, however.”

“Perhaps they will rub off on each other.” The two masters froze and made uncomfortable expressions at the unintentional pun.

Obi-Wan slapped a hand over his friend’s mouth. “No. You’re not old enough to have those thoughts.” Quinlan scowled from behind the younger teen’s hand. “Fine. I’m not old enough. Period. I’ve got at least a year before I have to worry about that stuff.”

The furrow in Quin’s brow deepened and the older teen pried his friend’s fingers off his face. “You still haven’t-?”

“Ah, yes, Obi-” Master Tyvokka began.

“I’m not human,” the younger male shared bluntly. Far more bluntly than Tyvokka expected for a subject his Padawan didn’t enjoy talking about. “Master Tyvokka had some testing done. I’m actually Stewjoni, and they’re rare in the Order. We’re still waiting on some information from the Healers before making judgments on my… growth.”

“Okay.” Quinlan slung an arm around Obi-Wan and led his friend to the waiting seats. “Well, regardless, welcome to the Shadows, Obi!”

“Master,” Tholme said, drawing the Wookie’s attention, “what has happened?”

“Radka has the full briefing, but as far as I can tell, the Temple received some sort of package. Suspicious and malevolently intended.”

“Like a bomb?” Obi-Wan spoke up and offered a chagrined expression. “I’m shockingly skilled at disabling bombs. Mostly land mines. But a variety of others as well.” He hesitated and then sighed dramatically, turning his friend into furniture as he lounged against the older Padawan. “I can’t seem to stay away from things that explode.”

“Honestly, Obi,” Quin chuckled, “that’s probably not going to change around us.”

A Temple Guard entered beside Radka with a plasticrete box and placed it on the table where she indicated before quickly vacating the premises. Tyvokka worried Quinlan had been more truthful than he’d known when he’d joked about explosives.

“Ahmra Taz wanted to drop this off with Temple reception and be done with it, but given its contents, we convinced ze to stay and answer some questions,” Radka said as she hooked up the hover-vid recorder and prepared to take notes. “Also, Master, you’re a lying liar who lies.” She cast an amused eye at the padawan pile near the back of the room. “You did too, get a new Padawan.”

“Yes, Knight Svoboda,” Tyvokka drawled, “you’re a wonder among Jedi. I can’t imagine what I would do without you.”

“Starve,” Radka said. “Or forget where you put the datapad with the paperwork for some super-secret Shadow mission and completely destabilize the Temple. I accept tithes in chichi chocolate and Alderaani wine – purple, please.”

“What are you thanking her for this time?” T’un grumped as he entered the room with Master Cin Drallig.

“I have a new Padawan.” Tyvokka turned toward his student, now conversing with Quin at a whisper. “Obi-Wan, wave.” The Stewjoni turned wide eyes and a hesitant wave to the people he must not have noticed entering the room. “Let me introduce you to Master Cin Drallig of the Temple Guard and my lineage brother, Master T’un. Both are members of the Council of First Knowledge.”

Radka coughed purposefully from where she was leaning over the table, laying out some tools they might need.

“Also,” Tyvokka said dryly, “my most esteemed administrative assistant, Knight Radka Svoboda.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Obi-Wan said, a smile on his lips a little wider than the one in his eyes.

“What does ze do?” Master Drallig asked as he settled across the table from T’un.

“Mx Taz is the Captain of a mid-sized cargo vessel. Ze says that most of their goods are short haul trips along the Corellian belt carrying mostly legal goods. But ze reported that about a week ago they were approached by a middle-man looking to arrange for a ‘delicate item’ to get through Coruscant security.”

“Did it?” T’un asked. “Make it through security?”

“It did.” Radka fairly twitched. “I already have a report prepared about the holes in planetary security large enough to fit a moon through.”

“Doesn’t look big enough to be a moon,” Tholme joked from offside, ducking when Svoboda made to throw something at him.

“Younglings,” Tyvokka chided, “pay attention, please.”

“Yes, Master.”

“Yes, Master Tyvokka.”

Even after he turned, the Wookie could faintly see the two exchanging silent vulgar gestures from the corner of his eye.

“Has it been opened?” Drallig asked.

Radka ended her silent fight with Tholme to answer. “No. Mx Taz said that the seals were in place when the box arrived at ze’s slip.”

“What is it?” T’un scowled when she stared blankly back at the elder Master. “Don’t even try that with me, lass. I held your hair back when you had Spiloa Flu. What aren’t you telling us?”

Flatly, Radka replied, “Mx Taz brought the crate to the Temple because ze claimed it was haunted and that the last place ze wanted it was where it ‘wanted’ to go.”

Sometimes spite was a wonderful emotion. It certainly seemed to be to their advantage in this case. “What sort of evidence did Ser Taz give to imply that the crate contained something haunted?”

Hauntings were difficult things. Sometimes it was nothing. Stray gasses venting where the seals should have been tight. Or the settling of an old building. Sometimes, though, it really was a metaphysical event. The leftover spirit of a Sith or other darksider creating chaos or torment because it could. Or even just the Force imprint of an awful event, like the haunted fields of Trenedate on Mandalore.

Tyvokka reminded himself to ask his new Padawan what sorts of funeral rites were practiced on Melida/Daan. Perhaps the youngling already had experience dealing with restless spirits.

“Ahmra Taz claimed the ship suffered while the crate was on board. Ze suffered nightmares that put undue stress on zir heart. Zir first mate was driven mad by voices no one else could hear. And a member of zir crew tried to kill their nest mate.”

T’un nodded. “Well, that certainly sounds like a haunting.”

“What did Mx Taz feel like in the Force, Svoboda?” Drallig asked.

Radka hesitated, hands fluttering in front of her. “Burnt? As though ze was at the edge of zir rope and somehow found more length. Ze was tired and upset, grieved I think for the loss and almost resigned. Over-exposed.” She shrugged a little helplessly. “I apologize, but I’ve only had limited exposure to the dark side. I think whatever Mx Taz dealt with was beyond what I understand.”

“No one really understands the dark side, Radka. Don’t worry about that,” T’un said idly, humming as he considered the puzzle in front of him. “As for Mx Taz, ze was obviously still fighting if ze brought the item here instead of whatever drop off location was arranged.”

Tyvokka turned to Tholme. He knew where this might be going. “You don’t have any investigations currently, correct?”

“None, Master.”

“Then after we are done here, perhaps tomorrow so as not to alarm any watchers, take your Padawan and go see if you can obtain more information from Mx Taz.”

“Shall we take Obi-Wan as well?” Tholme asked.

Tyvokka thought to say no. There was every chance that whatever impression was left on the ship and crew would not be pleasant. Quinlan was a few years older than Obi-Wan and had already undertaken several missions that should not have been as dark as they were. The boy could handle himself. Obi-Wan, though…

The new Master of the Stewjoni youngling took a deep breath and tucked the instinctive response back between his teeth. Obi-Wan had just entered his fourteenth year, but he had already faced the horror and bloody visage of war and the depth of despicable action that sentient beings could lower themselves too. He was not the young Padawan of a Temple-bound Jedi. He was fully blooded himself, just like Quinlan. Depending on how much battle the Young had seen, Obi-Wan might be more experienced than Quinlan. Tyvokka would have to think about how to get that information without causing his Padawan a panic attack.

“Yes. It will do him well to be exposed to Jedi investigative techniques before I throw him at Judicial.”

“Ah, Grandmaster, that’s not nice!”

T’un chuckled as he selected a knife from the tools laid out. “Shall we see what this hides then?”

As T’un broke the seal along the edge of the box, Drallig cleared his throat and began to describe the item. “For the record, this appears to be a wigger wood box, approximately 23 cm by 23 cm, a perfect cube. There are no decorations on the box. I would say that the box is made of raw wood, but not roughhewn. The edges have been sanded, and the seal is perfectly set into the box.”

With the recording droids hovering so that all the projection screens could relay the sight in live time, everyone knew why T’un gasped. A wave of darkness leaked like heavy smoke from the inside of the box.

“Quickly, Radka, send for Madam Nu and the holocron kit.” Tyvokka maintained his attention on the darkness pooling on the table instead of the Knight sprinting out of the room. He spared a small thought for his Padawan, but Tyvokka had to trust that he could survive the next few minutes as they handled whatever came out of that box.

No one moved as the darkness solidified into a cloud of ill-intent. A disembodied voice cackled with glee and flung itself out into the room like a blaster bolt. Agony, fear, and hatred spread out its piercing needles for the Jedi’s soft spots. Tyvokka reached through the thin bond he already had with his student to shore up the boy’s shields in the face of this attack. But he did so carefully, just strong enough to withstand, but thin enough that Obi-Wan could still know and remember what this felt like.

To his surprise, Obi-Wan was not nearly as weak as he had feared. His student’s shields and mental fortifications had flaws and cracks, but not nearly so many as he had thought. They were built unlike anything he’d seen in a Temple-trained Jedi in his life. There was every chance that even without his help, Obi-Wan would have weathered the dark storm. Once more his student had given him much to mull over at a later date.

“I do not fear death nor the Fall. There is no darkness deep enough to separate me from the light I carry within!” Tyvokka said, stepping into the evil one’s attention, and there was a pulse in the force like a warm bath after a cold dunk in the sea. The Master pushed back against the encroaching power. “I need not the warmth of stars nor the guidance of a single sconce. I carry all that is good within me, and where I walk, I shed light and the dark flees before me!” The darkness pooled from its containment vessel hissed as Madam Nu stepped up to the table with a jar of Illmoriene Tears and Tyvokka pushed back. “I am light, and my words are truth! You cannot stand against me!”

A brilliant light burst through the force, blinding both the watchers and the oppressive presence, and giving Madam Nu enough time to deal with the cursed holocron, dumping it within the shining jar of light. Slowly, Tyvokka lowered his hands and the pulsing of the lightside slowed, and the overwhelming emanations from the dark stuttered to a stop.

“There are no safe places for one such as you here,” Tyvokka finished as a lid was affixed.

“This is why I work in administration!” Radka complained, leaning back against the wall. “I have never felt such darkness before. Is it one of the ancient ones? Surely such evil can only come from a Sith of some bygone era?”

Tyvokka turned his attention to his Padawan. He could feel through their bond, thicker now than it was before, that his student was still in one piece. Shaken, like a box turned upside down and uncertain the contents were in the right places. To his pleasure, in the back of the room Quin had shaken off his disorientation and wrapped an arm around Obi-Wan in comfort.

“That was intense,” the older boy said.

“It was indeed.” Tyvokka wrapped his arms around the boys and felt as the others of their lineage gathered close to share in their warmth. “I have not done such a work of the Force in many years.”

“It was powerful,” Tholme remarked absently, rubbing shoulders and arms of the tangled mess of padawans wrapped together. “I’ve done workings, but that was something straight out of legends, Master.”

“It certainly was,” T’un said, “Now, time to find out why it was required.”

Obi-Wan stayed with him for a moment, chafing his arms as Quinlan let go. “I’ve never – I’ve felt darkness, and hate, even directed but never used like that.”

“It’s the difference between the darkness that occurs in the force naturally, from the full spectrum of sentient emotions, and that darkness that is of the depths of the dark side,” Tholme explained as he took over gentling the youngling, so Tyvokka could examine the holocron. “The darkside of the Force is cultivated with hate, fear, and anger. It resonates because, first and foremost, the user hates themselves before they hate anyone else.”

“That’s awful,” Obi-Wan whispered, almost huddling into the arms Quinlan and Tholme had wrapped around him.

“It is indeed, Padawan,” Tyvokka said quietly. “But we cannot live in fear of the dark or hesitate in the face of the ones who wield it. We must learn how much force is just enough to turn back the tide, and perhaps to call back to the light those who have fallen.” And Obi-Wan stilled so completely that it immediately drew his attention. “Obi-Wan? What’s wrong?”

“Oh, you only contradicted just about everything the creche teaches about the darkside in two minutes,” Quinlan quipped.

“Quin!” Tholme warned.

“He’s not wrong.” Obi-Wan coughed, life flushing back into his body to Tyvokka’s relief. “You can come back from falling?”

“Aye, youngling,” Cin Drallig admitted, “but it is a long and difficult road. It often feels lonely and forsaken. Many who fall come back just enough to realize how dangerous they are to others and themselves, without being able to find the strength to go any further.”

“Why teach that falling is the end?” Obi-Wan insisted, getting heated over the topic.

“Because for hundreds of years Jedi have failed to come back from falling,” Cin Drallig said carefully, both eyes on the boy. “We know that in previous generations Jedi frequently fell and came back and fell again and came back again.” Cin shrugged. “But we don’t know how they managed it.”

“They probably didn’t have hundreds of other Jedi staring at them like their choices made them less than sentient,” Obi-Wan muttered, and if the words were a little more bitter than Tyvokka would like—even as he reached through the force to determine his student’s state—Obi-Wan was exhaling deeply and letting it go. Force knew, with the way the Temple had treated Obi-Wan, he had earned the right to some bitterness.

“Too true,” T’un said, his attention turned to observing Madam Nu. “Do we have a preliminary age, Madam Nu?”

Nu shook her head. Some part confused, and some part scared, if Tyvokka knew her well enough to guess. Though the head of the archives was also using that same simple calming technique Obi-Wan had. “It’s young. Everything from the style of the box to the text on the holocron suggests it is incredibly young. Of course, my specialty isn’t Sith languages or holocrons. I’m likely making a mistake somewhere. There’s no reason at all to jump to conclusions.”

Tyvokka rather figured that if she needed to hedge that much, it wasn’t likely to be much of a jump. “How young?”

“If I didn’t know any better, and I do, I would suggest that this holocron had been made within the last few years.” She settled her hands with her sleeves and stepped back from the holocron. “But that would be much too young.”

“Why?” Radka asked, popping up next to the woman, who startled a little too easily. “Oh, wait. You said years, didn’t you? Not centuries.”

“I am not an expert,” the woman retorted sharply. “We must call in an expert from EduCorps. I must have read one of those markings wrong. The Sith haven’t been around for an age; there’s no reason to believe this holocron is so new.”

Tyvokka shared a look with T’un. Madam Nu was a wonderfully organized, sober, and efficient woman who made an excellent head of archives. She was not terribly imaginative. “That would be concerning.”

“Thank you for your consul, Madam Nu,” T’un said to dismiss the woman. “I think you can agree that such an object is better protected within our vault than your archives?”

Nu hummed in agreement. “Honestly, by the time I’d cleanse it enough for even my vault, it’d have gotten its stain on everything.”

“Exactly,” T’un said as he led her out, “let us take care of it and we’ll make sure everything is nice and neatly taken care of. Besides, I think you could do with a delightful cup of tea, and maybe a bath?”

“Oh, that sounds wonderful, T’un.”

Tholme stepped up to his Master as the doors shut again. “What are we going to do?”

Madam Nu might have stuck her head in the sand, but a Shadow’s world was far more transient. There was every chance that the holocron was that young, and if it was, then there were Sith still out there or a darksider close enough to pass.

“Madam Nu was not wrong,” Tyvokka said carefully, aware of the young ears in the room. “A second, more expert opinion, is needed.”

“Who are you thinking?”

“Maa Tish,” Tyvokka said. “And perhaps in the meantime you might move the schedule up on talking to Mx Taz?”

“We’ll go now,” Tholme said, motioning the boys forward. “If it is the Sith, or a darkside cult organized enough to mimic them, Mx Taz could be in a great deal of trouble.”

“I thought so as well.” He brought his Padawan to stand before him and laid a soft kiss on the boy’s head. “I have only just met you, Obi-Wan Kenobi. I plan on getting to know you for many years into the future.” He frowned theatrically. “Do remember to come back.”

“Sure thing, Master,” Obi-Wan replied with a smirk.

*****

Planetary security kept records of all the berthing bays for registered ships. The records numbered in the millions. There were probably twice as many that weren’t registered, but that wasn’t a Jedi problem. Currently, their problems included talking to Mx Taz and zir crew, and hopefully getting there before ze either spooked and took off or were caught by the people who hired zir.

Following his temporary Master through an increasing warren of alleyways and pedestrian bridges, Obi-Wan asked, “Do you two do many investigations?”

“Tons,” Quin grinned back, “though most of the time we’re not actually ourselves.”

“We have more than a little experience traversing the parts of planets that are not clean or nice.” Obi-Wan could hear the humor in his brother-padawan’s voice. “Quin fits in well because he’s honestly one of the most unconventional Jedi I’ve ever known.”

Quin threw a wink back to his friend. “He means I’m awesome.”

Obi-Wan offered a dry look in response. “He means you’re obstinate, opinionated, and irreverent; with all the diplomacy of a rock.”

“Your friend knows you well, Quin.” Tholme snorted as he guided them down again into one of the last of the Twilight levels.

“I’d object,” Quin began, “but…”

“You can’t,” Obi-Wan finished for him, satisfied as the tooka who got the rat.

Slowing to let his Padawan lead the way, Tholme turned to Obi-Wan and asked, “How much experience do you have with investigations, Padawan Kenobi?”

“Obi-Wan is fine, Master Tholme,” Obi-Wan assured his lineage-brother. “And I have a little experience, but it’s more in the line of following behind Master Qui-Gon Jinn as he got into everything and ordered answers by virtue of being a Jedi. It rarely worked.” He got quiet as he thought about the last investigation he’d taken part in. “I’ve done some more conventional investigations, but the circumstances weren’t much better.”

“Melida/Daan?”

“Yes.”

“Alright,” the Master said mildly. “Then we’ll start at the beginning.” He side-eyed his student with a mischievous look. “Which would be what, Quin?”

Quin looked back at his Master with wide eyes. “What? The beginning of what?”

“The beginning of an investigation,” Tholme said dryly, and directed them down another narrow pedestrian walkway. “Since that is what I’m supposed to have taught you. And what we’re trying to teach Obi-Wan.”

“Right, investigations. First rule: It’s usually the spouse.”

Tholme spun, eyes narrowed at his Padawan. “Quinlan Vos!”

Quin ducked his head, chastised, and turned to his friend sheepishly. “The first rule of an investigation is to go in with an open mind. You can’t let stereotypes or socioeconomic or political status influence what the facts tell you. Jedi have a few more ways of obtaining that evidence, but it remains that you need to wait for the evidence to tell the story.”

“I understand.” Obi-Wan nodded. It wasn’t a new concept after all. “Like in mediation, you can’t let your own opinions influence the outcome.”

Tholme shot the boy a look full of speculation as they slowed on the final approach to the bay Mx Taz was registered at. “Correct.”

The Hiddle Coua was a ZH-25 Quester-class freighter, and it filled up the bay without a lot of space left over. In a testament to the pilot’s skill, they had maneuvered the ship into the bay with enough room to open the back hatch, which must have been difficult. All square corners and clean lines, massive amount of cargo space but not quick or maneuverable. Perfect for constant reliable cargo, not for getting something somewhere at the speed of light.

“Good,” Tholme said, moving toward the ship. “I was concerned we wouldn’t make it before Mx Taz took off again.”

The hair on the back of Obi-Wan’s neck was standing up and moving closer to the ship was like trying to move through molasses. His feet did not want to move. Obi-Wan grabbed for his padawan-brother as a pit opened in his stomach.

“Something isn’t right,” Obi-Wan said, pressing his palm against his chest. “You shouldn’t- We shouldn’t-”

Unable to articulate what the force was trying to tell him, Obi-Wan shot his friend a helpless look.

“Obi-Wan’s right,” Quin said with a frown, moving closer to them. “I think something horrible happened on that ship.”

Tholme frowned as he observed his students, “Does it feel like the object we saw earlier? Or something else?”

Obi-Wan thought back to the overwhelming malevolence of the holocron Mx Taz had dropped at the Temple. He just wasn’t sure. It wasn’t the same, but it also wasn’t dissimilar.

“It’s-” the boy shook his head roughly, struggling to find the right words. “I don’t know.”

“Quin?”

Quinlan Vos had the most powerful psychometry gift in the Order. Even among the Vos clan, overflowing with powerful force gifts, Quin’s had been strong enough to scare them into sending him to the Jedi. One part visual and one part empathic, Quin saw more than most would ever want to.

“I don’t know.” Quin frowned. “I could get closer and touch?”

“No.” Tholme looked around the mostly empty bay. “It might just be residue, but if it is that strong, then I don’t want you touching anything. Let’s see if we can find the Captain and zir crew. I don’t feel anyone on the ship.”

Tholme paced off toward a mechanic working on another ship several berths away. “Do you know-”

Obi-Wan turned to Quinlan with wide eyes. “There’s no one on the ship alive.”

Quin grimaced. “Worst case scenario. But remember, we shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions.”

Obi-Wan took in the almost sterile bay the Hiddle Coua was settled in. It was dirty with traffic and from the debris that came with living in one of the Twilight levels, but there was nothing from the ship.

There was no cargo waiting to be sorted to its ultimate destination. Nor were there any tools arranged on the maintenance shelf. Obi-Wan might have been fresh out of the Temple, but he didn’t know of a single crew that didn’t maintain their own ship at every opportunity. Space flight wasn’t so bad as it once was, but there was still a certain amount of unpredictability in the void between stars.

On a hunch, Obi-Wan walked over to the waste system just outside the bay doors. Queuing up the most recent transactions, he wasn’t surprised that the last transaction was from before Mx Taz’s ship was in the bay. There was no other evidence that anyone even got off the ship.

“Quin, what ship doesn’t dump waste when they can? Or do maintenance when they touch down?”

“A ship that didn’t think it had enough time,” Quin said, peering over Obi-Wan’s shoulder. “Right. So, Mx Taz didn’t intend on even staying long enough to do maintenance. Just drop the cargo and leave again.”

“Knight Svoboda said that Taz dropped the box off at the Temple close to light-level dawn,” Obi-Wan said. “So, what are they still doing here?”

“Nothing good.” Tholme had developed a wrinkle between his brows since he’d left them. “Jervs said that the Hiddle Coua didn’t make any plans to stay overnight. The crew left, and by his guess, were back on the ship within only a few hours.”

“Obi checked the logs,” Quin shared with his Master. “They didn’t dump their waste or call for maintenance. They weren’t intending to stay long enough.”

Obi-Wan took a deep breath because he wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer. “So why did they?”

“We’re going to have to find out,” Tholme said as they approached the back hatch, “but I think we can guess that any reason they’re still here and not frantically working on their ship is bad news. So, stay behind me at all times.”

Obi-Wan noticed when Tholme paused and grabbed a pair of gloves from his belt. His attention on the hatch lock. Which, now that Obi-Wan was looking, appeared odd. “What is that?”

“I’m not sure.” Tholme crouched down. “Do you have a light, Quin?”

“Yes, Master.”

What the light showed was odd. From the perspective of someone peering down at the hatch controls, the casing was undisturbed. But peering up from the bottom, or feeling along the edge of the bottom of the casing, and it was apparent that something had drilled through the casing.

“So, that’s a yes for forced entry,” Quin said. “Do you have gloves, Obi-Wan?”

“They were in the kit?” Obi-Wan said, sifting through his pockets to find where he’d stuffed the synthleather gloves the Quartermaster had issued him on the way out. “Will I need them?”

“This just became a crime scene,” Master Tholme said as he felt at the hatch’s seal, slowly pushing the door open and stiffening when he was met by a wave of death. “One murder at least, but it’s more likely the entire ship is dead.”

“Shouldn’t we be contacting Judicial?”

Quin just shook his head. “As Jedi Shadows, we have the authority to conduct investigations and process evidence if we have to. And in this case, the Order will probably take jurisdiction instead of Coruscant Judicial.”

“Is it because of the box?” Obi-Wan wasn’t sure, but he had the feeling that Quin was talking about something else.

“This isn’t the best area,” Quin pointed out. “And Judicial has a habit of ignoring or just- I don’t know, purposefully screwing up investigations in levels like this one.”

“That’s awful.”

“Quiet now, boys,” Master Tholme said, easing into the ship now that it had aired a bit. “We don’t know if the killer is still here.”

Obi-Wan figured that if the killer was still there, ze would probably already know the Jedi—or someone—had entered the ship. But he respected Master Tholme and Quin’s experience and being quiet was no struggle. He’d gotten quite good at it with the Young.

The open hatch had led to the cargo hold, where emergency lights flashed in the corners of the ceiling and along the floor. Whatever goods the Hiddle Coua had been handling were still stacked in towers against the walls. And each small space between them had to be checked for a dangerous presence or evidence of what happened.

The first body they found was cut down running away, sliced from shoulder to hip by a lightsaber. The slight gap between the pieces of the body was more disturbing than Obi-Wan expected. He was no stranger to missing parts on bodies both living and dead, but there was something different about this scene and it took Obi-Wan a moment of grotesque staring to realize what it was.

He was used to damage from landmines or blaster charges gone wrong. To his eye, there should have been blood. Given the positioning of the strike, he should have seen parts of organs and the refuse of death seeping out of the body where it lay. Instead, this was nearly clinical in its neatness. A single strike, no hesitation, and no small amount of skill when placed in context with the fact that the victim was running when ze was killed.

A picture was forming in Obi-Wan’s mind as they moved through what was clearly going to be a massacre. The second and third bodies only cemented the idea. In the galley, two bodies were slumped in chairs at the dining table. The preparation for a meal spread out on the tabletop. Their heads had rolled—it looked like—bounced off the close walls and rolled back near the respective bodies’ feet.

They’d both been beheaded with a single cut, and from the angle Obi-Wan—with his limited experience—figured that it was one move in the shape of something like a loop. An upstroke took the head of the crewmember on the left and a downstroke took the head of the crew member on the right. It would have been quick if nothing else.

Obi-Wan had several pieces of the picture even as they moved further toward the nose of the ship. The atmosphere got weighty with darkness and hate, but Obi-Wan’s mind was fixated on the killer. Turning over each piece of what he knew to see how it might fit together.

Fact one, the killer was trained with a lightsaber. Well trained, too. There were no jagged edges to the wounds, like there would have been if the killer were uncomfortable with the weapon. Starting and stopping a cut, hesitating, readjusting his grip, using too much force or not enough.

Obi-Wan was familiar with the massive number of mistakes it took to learn a new weapon.

Fact two, the killer was quiet or ze was fast. Or ze was both. The first victim was running away when killed, but regardless of the shape the being was in, Obi-Wan couldn’t arrive at any determination regarding how fast ze would have been. What he could be fairly certain of was that the two crew members in the galley had been surprised. Knives in hand for chopping, each with more than enough height and length of arm to have at least jabbed out.

Or tried to get away, but they didn’t. So, the killer had to get from the entrance to the galley to the dining table and kill two people before they could make any sort of defensive measures. That was simply not possible for most people. Not even those trained in fighting.

It suggested that the killer had some sort of special skill or capacity in moving unseen. Or in moving extremely fast. Like with the force.

And the third fact Obi-Wan knew was that the killer was capable of torture.

The last body the three Jedi found was Mx Taz’s. Ze was slumped in the pilot’s chair in the nose of the ship. Ze was missing zir eyes. Both appeared to have been plucked from zir skull with something that tore the skin from the bone of ze’s eye sockets. Mx Taz’s hands were splayed on the consul. They appeared to have been pinned in place by some sort of sharp and wide object. It pierced the bones of the wrist and created a sizable hole through skin and muscle. Each joint of ze’s fingers were dislocated, the flesh bruised and several of the bones were broken and poking through the flesh.

Here was the blood and the gore that had been missing at all the other scenes.

Tholme reached for his comm unit. “Temple Guard? This is Master Tholme. I am investigating a situation with a freight ship out of the Maris Street Hanger, berth 13 on the 61st level. We’re going to need crime scene investigators.”

Carefully so as not to disturb the scene, Quin aimed his flashlight up and into Mx Taz’s mouth. “The killer even took zir teeth. Why?”

“They would probably have been left if it was just torture,” Obi-Wan said. “Perhaps Mx Taz bit zir killer.”

“So what, ze bites zir attacker and the killer takes zir teeth?” Quin frowned. “That seems excessive.”

“If ze broke the skin, it would have the killer’s DNA on them.” Obi-Wan pointed out. “Togruta saliva is mildly corrosive, but even if Mx Taz didn’t break the skin, there was probably skin on zir teeth.” He swallowed. “Maybe the killer decided it was a two-for-one deal. Get rid of evidence that could be traced back, and torture Mx Taz for whatever information zir had.”

Obi-Wan shifted closer to his friend. “Have you ever seen anything like this?”

Quin shook his head. “I’ve seen some nasty stuff, but not like this. You?”

Obi-Wan bit his lip. “Maybe. Xanatos duCrion was a fallen Jedi. He carried a lightsaber and did some truly heinous things. I could believe he’d do something like this. If not, this… cleanly.”

“Evil?” Quin asked.

“Insane,” Obi-Wan said. “Just off his rocker and didn’t care what happened to the people he left in his wake.”

Tholme shifted back into the room. “The Temple Guard is sending crime scene techs, and they’ve respectfully asked that we get out of their way.”

 


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Eff_Dragonkiller

I read. I write. I attend meetings. I battle dragons.

3 Comments:

  1. *makes happy noises* Gotta love it when someone is willing to call manipulative buttheads on their BS. Tyvokka is just *chef’s kiss*. (okay, so I have a weak spot for Wookies. Sue me. He’s still awesome with a side of win)

  2. Kathleen Lallier

    Omg!!! This was amazing! Finally someone is actually looking out for the Padawan and making qui-gon get some therapy.

  3. This is so good. Tyvokka and the lineage are wonderful. I’m really enjoying this.
    Thank you for sharing

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