The Jedi Library on Tython might not have been as large as its fathomless predecessor in the Temple on Coruscant but it was not, by any stretch of the imagination, "small". Within its confines was held the collective knowledge of the Jedi Order or at least what amount of that collective knowledge remained after the attack on Coruscant. Its high, tower-like shelves carried innumerable volumes of Jedi lore contained in holobooks, datasticks, or even (if you could secure the permission to examine them), ancient scrolls made of crumbling reams of paper. If one was patient, they could find the answer to any conceivable question that taxed their mind.
That said, having an intimate familiarity with the Library's layout and classification system made the process considerably easier, Zahira admitted to herself with a sly smile. It was a benefit of working as a junior archivist. One of the few, if she was honest with herself. True, the halls of a library did not hold the same excitement of the training grounds or the Forge but you had a direct line into the minds of the great Jedi Masters of the past: Nomi Sunrider, Zez-Kai Ell and Kavar, Odan Urr, Arren Kae. This alone made Zahira certain that all of the time she'd spent as one of the library's caretakers was worthwhile. Master Gnost-Dural was often fond of reminding her of this.
"Maintaining the Archives can seem like a daunting task." he would say to her. "But our work is what keeps this Order alive. Wisdom and knowledge is the very life blood of the Jedi; we must do everything we can to preserve it."
Up until now, Zahira had thought that the old Kel Dor master was being over-dramatic. The Force was the life blood of the Jedi, was it not? It was what both set the Jedi apart from "normal" individuals, while also paradoxically connecting them to everyone and everything as well. Now she understood what Master Dural truly meant. 'What good is the Force if you've no idea how to properly use it?' Zahira had never truly consider the question before. However, her relapse had brought it to the forefront. Indeed, what use were her gifts if she could not use them effectively?
"Of course," she admitted to herself as she made her way through the library's shelves. "A competent Jedi wouldn't even be asking themselves that question. Would they, Initiate
Talu-Song?" She spoke the word "initiate" as if its very existence before her name was abhorrent. Twelve years and a war and here she was still
trying to complete even the first part of her training. To gain control over abilities she had ever since she could barely talk.
She had just managed to hunt down a holobook entitled An Adept's Guide to Precognition
, which was one of an extensive series of "Adept Guides" (the most baffling of which was An Adept's Guide to Pressure Cooking
). Turning to make her way down from the top of the durasteel ladder upon which she was perched, Zahira was about halfway down when she heard a host of rising whispers coming from the other side of the shelf.
"Isn't it exciting?" one of them said with an almost conspiratorial air. A boy. "There hasn't been one in years."
"There wasn't any time," another replied, matter of fact. A girl. "The Sith saw to that. If you were ready, someone would take you. Remember when Master Kina took Ameen a few years ago? One day he was in class and the next, he was gone."
"But a selection tournament
Zahira let out a small gasp, stepping backwards as a rush of exhilaration shot through her body...and right off the ladder. As she fell backwards, all Zahira could manage to say was a meager "Oooooh!"
She tried to call out with the Force, reaching towards anything as she tumbled to the floor. A handful of the "Adept Guides" shot off their place on the shelf, nose diving after her. Zahira met the ground with a muffled crash, as if the library's floors were doing their best to keep the noise to a minimum. She felt a flash of pain blare through her and gave out a squeal of pain, closing her eyes as she winced and opening them just in time to see the rest of holobooks before they connected with her face.
There was the stamping of feet as the two conspirators from the other side of the shelf ran around to see what the sudden noise was. "Are you all right?", Zahira heard one of them say from underneath the pile of books.
"I'm all right." she said, popping her head out from the holobooks. She tried to best not to seem too flustered. Putting on an air of superiority, she spoke up. "But I was distracted by your talking. As junior archivist of this wing, I am going to have to ask you to keep your voices down, please."
By now, she had finally made eye contact with the pair. One was a short Zabrak boy with deep ebony skin and a sheepish smile. He seemed a bit younger than Zahira, although by how much she could not tell. The other was a Kiffar girl. Long raven hair fell past her shoulders, silhouetting a well sculpted face of fair complexion which was adorned with a qukuuf
tattoo line right across the girl's chin. Zahira recognized her as Nema Traylant, a classmate of hers who was said to be amongst the most promising of the Initiates. Her ivy green eyes looked down at Zahira with bemusement. She did not say anything. She only offered her hand down and helped Zahira to her feet.
"We're sorry, Archivist." the Zabrak spoke up. "We meant no harm."
Zahira nodded and began to dust herself off. "Of course not. Still, you need to be more mindful of where you are."
"This coming from the girl who just fell off a step ladder." Nema offered dryly as she took a closer look at the small mountain of books at Zahira's feet. The comment hung on the library's air, bringing an uncomfortable silence to the trio. It was Zahira who broke the silence.
"I don't mean to pry," she began cautiously. "But I couldn't help overhearing. You were talking about a selection tournament?"
The young boy's face lit up with shock, as if Zahira's question could not possibly be real. "You havn't heard? There's going to be a Padawan selection tournament next month. All the Masters and Knights returning from the war are going to be there to take on apprentices. Nema here is going to win the whole thing!"
Nema didn't deny it. "I'm going to to my best." she admitted. "That should be more than enough."
Zahira couldn't challenge the claim. Nema almost certainly had her choice of master going into the tournament. The added benefit of winning was probably little more than an afterthought. Zahira hadn't even thought that far. "Is there a place where I could sign up as well?" she asked.
?" the Zabrak declared, his voice full of confusion. "Aren't you in the EduCorps? I see you in here all the time."
The question numbed Zahira over. She could barely manage it but she offered back a weak "No."
"Be quiet, Genti." Nema shot at the boy. "She's in my class. Sign up form is posted in the training grounds."
"Oh." Zahira murmured. "Thank you." At this, she stooped down and began to place the books up on the bottom of the shelf. She could reorganize them later. She tucked her copy of An Adept's Guide to Precognition
under her arm and began to walk away. Nema's voice stopped her.
"Why did you leave class today?" she asked.
Of course, the simple answer would have been 'I had a bad dream". But Zahira thought it over for a moment. Why did she leave class? She answered truthfully, before walking away. "I don't know."
She did not look back. Walking through the library, she took a turn down into the ancient language section and found a nearby table. With a halfhearted motion, she dropped into a seat at it and placed her book down. She wanted to sink into the chair. To become it and fade out of sight. In one instant, her hopes had risen up and come crashing down. "Aren't you in the EduCorps?" She could hear the question echoing in her head.
It was true that Zahira was getting older. At twelve and a half, she was amongst the oldest of the initiates in the Temple, although there were a few older than her. She was right on the cusp of being passed over entirely for Jedi training and transferred to one of the Jedi Service Corps. Even though the Order had no real standing age restriction for Initiates, each student was only alloted a certain quota of time to become a Padawan. It was common practice for those who couldn't find a master to be assigned to one of the four branches of the Corps. The Educational Corps was the scholarly branch, comprised of those who had failed to become Jedi and instead worked for the Order as teachers, scribes, or archivists in the Library.
She could see it in her mind, her future. Weakly ambling through the Great Library, a small, pruned antique of a woman squinting at the young Padawans who asked her for directions to one section or another, stress lines having etched small canyons into her face. She still bore only her two facial tattoos, having never been given occasion to add anymore to commemorate any grand achievements. She would scowl bitterly at the young Jedi and in a cantankerous tone tell them that if they wanted to talk "there were much better places to gossip than in my library
It wasn't fair, was it? Didn't she have some of the highest grades out of all her class? Wasn't she one of the smartest? It wasn't arrogance if it was the truth, right?
She cracked open the book before her, hoping that she would be able to lose herself in it and possibly find a remedy to at least one of her problems. The introduction lay before her:
To say that precognition is one of the most complex, labyrinthine, and problematic of the Jedi arts would not even begin to fully articulate the sweeping difficulties that surround it. To see the future is not simply to peek at events yet to come. To see the future is to break away from our limits as sentient beings and to see, if ever briefly, the universe through the very eyes of the Force. It is an honor that some never achieve in their lifetime and yet, for some, it is an ever present reality of their daily lives. For ones such as these, it may be easy forget that each vision is a secret from the Force itself. It is a gift, a mark of trust. The only proper thing to do is to receive it gladly with no exception. To accept it and to honor that trust by not acting upon pride, greed, or other base emotions.
For that is the trap of precognition: to abuse the Force's trust. To place your desires over its and use that secret knowledge for personal gain. Only through humility can we fully grasp the larger meaning of our gift, to enact whatever truth the Force wishes to express to us as instruments of its will. The true seer's mind is supplicant. Above all else, it is willing to forgo its own desires in order to achieve whatever end the Force demands. What will be, will be. It cannot be helped.
-Jedi Master Jacor Loqu
Zahira sat in the silence until it seemed that she had sat for all her life. She did not know who this Master Loqu was; she did not know what life he had lead. All she knew was that he was right. She was certain of it. What use was it to bemoan the life the Force had given her so far? What use was it to rail and rage against the Heavens or to fret about thing yet to come? If the Force meant for something to happen, it would. If not, it wouldn't. It was her job to act, nothing more. And she knew full well what she was going to do next. What would follow after that? She would see for herself.
Zahira knocked on the dormitory door with some trepidation. She waited, unsure if anyone was even there. Finally, a voice answered from beyond the door.
The voice was not hostile or agitated but rather soft and curious. Zahira took a deep breath. "Hello? My name is Zahira Song. We met at the library earlier today. May I come in for a moment?"
She gave the door a small push and it swung inwards. Zahira stepped into the room, blinded by the setting sun that gleamed through a large window across the way.
"Nema Traylant?" she spoke, barely able to see her peer through the glinting sunlight. "I've come here to ask if you would help me train for the selection tournament."