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10.19.2012 , 11:57 AM |
Best Day Ever
for Colran Niral, Ruth's dad. 1300 words. No spoilers.
Colran was bruised, cramped, tired, agonizingly hungry, fifteen years old without a credit to his name, locked in jail on a strange moon, and elated.
He had enough command of Force techniques to hide well, and that had gotten him as far as Nar Shaddaa. Unfortunately he had always been trained to obtain the necessities of life through money (of which he now had none) or violence (which he didn't want to use). His first effort at stealing a meal had landed him straight in a snug little holding cell. At least nobody had broken anything of his on the way. The cell was great, because there wasn't a Sith in sight, and if he could serve whatever labor or punishment they handed out for theft he could get out after and go on to find the Jedi.
A pair of guards had been shuffling back and forth doing assorted errands; just now one was seated at a table between the rows of holding cells. A second guard came in carrying a dish with a small assortment of somewhat palatable-looking foods. "Here," he said, pushing it through the grate at Colran.
Colran's eyes widened. "Really?" He didn't wait for confirmation before he snatched it well back and started eating.
The guards exchanged looks. "Imperial?" said one.
"No kidding." The other guard examined Colran more closely. "No, better'n that. Look at him. The kid's Sith."
Colran swallowed hard. If they turned him in now... "My business is my own," he said, as steadily as he could. "I have a message to bring to the Jedi. I cannot return to Korriban until I have the reply."
"And I don't get paid enough to stop you," said the first guard. "Turning in a stray is as like to earn me a choking death as a reward anyway."
"Should we get word to the Jedi?" said the second guard.
"Yeah." The first guard eyed Colran's cleared plate. "We can't feed this kid for long."
A couple of hours later the guard shift had changed, but it was one of the original guards who escorted in a weird-looking alien, a female in plain green robes sporting fleshy-looking horns on either side of her head and a trio of thick headtails trailing behind and to either side. If Colran's nerve and will weren't already stretched so thin he would have made an effort to avoid staring.
"Hello, my friend," she said in a high flutelike voice. "I'm told you were looking for me. I am Master Zauvien of the Jedi Order."
Colran had only ever seen Jedi as ragged prisoners, at a distance, on the few occasions when one was getting dragged around Korriban for one purpose or another. Up close he couldn't tell much of anything except that she was a strange, strange alien with a quiet calm assurance to her.
"What's your name?" she prompted.
He lifted his chin proudly. "Colran Niral."
"Colran." Zauvien smiled, then turned to the guard. "Can Colran and I talk alone someplace?" The guard nodded and escorted them to a room with a couple of chairs and a couple of bright cold lights. Habit prompted Colran to mentally harden himself; nothing good happened in these rooms. Ever.
"Please, sit," Zauvien said. She was still smiling. Bad start. Colran was pretty sure Jedi weren't supposed to smile. Some of the especially sick Sith did, though. He knew that part for sure.
"You look tired. Have they been treating you well?"
Indirect. And smiling. Colran pushed his words through a thick layer of dread. "Yes, master. They've been very kind. Considering I got here for stealing things."
She went on. "You were seeking the Jedi."
"Yes. I...I just came from Korriban. I wanted, if you have a school or something, I can earn my way." To be turned back at this point would kill him. "I want to help. I can work. I can learn. I don't know what you people want, but I–"
"Peace, friend," she said. "You came all the way from Korriban to study with us?"
He would rather be staring at the floor or the wall or anything but her, but every detail of her expression and reactions could be critical. "Yes, master," he told her. He had gotten as far as working out that the world of the Sith wasn't one he wanted to operate in. The possibilities outside that were...well, there was only so long he could daydream before he had to go find out what the rest of the galaxy had come up with.
"That was very brave of you," she said.
"Running away isn't so special. What do I have to do to work for your people?"
"Well," she said, and her smile took on an almost impish quality, "first you ask. And then I take you to the local temple and see about getting approval to teach you myself."
"Would you do that?"
"Someone who has risked so much to learn is welcome with us. Always."
Of course. No smart master would turn down a resource. Well, maybe they could work together until he got his bearings. Maybe he could even manage whatever payment she expected out of it. Only one way to find out. "I'd like that, Master Zauvien."
She reached some understanding with the constable and escorted Colran back out to the dingy enclosed alleys of the neighborhood behind the freight spaceport Colran had come in through. "Have you been to Nar Shaddaa before?" Zauvien asked him as they walked.
"No." Truth be told, his life experience was limited to Dromund Kaas and Korriban.
"It's a very complex place. The Jedi can do a lot of good here. Of course, someday if it's appropriate you may go to train in Republic space instead. Tranquillity isn't an easy thing to find out here."
Colran kept his mouth shut. He watched. He listened.
She kept up running commentary about the Jedi and about their surroundings. Her voice was gentle and musical. She kept throwing questions at him and he kept answering in monosyllables. Enough so she couldn't get angry at him for failure to cooperate, not enough to give her anything she could hurt him with.
She stopped outside a building done out in a huge geometric mural. "Here's where the local Jedi live. Before we go in, do you have any questions for me?"
Usually a trap, that prompt. But she had been kind so far, and he was desperately curious by now. "I'm sorry to ask, master, but what are...what is your species?"
She smiled and touched one headtail. "I am Togruta. My people do not live in the Empire."
"I see. I, I didn't mean to be rude."
"No. Do not be afraid to ask questions. If you were trained on Korriban, I think there is a very, very great deal you can stand to learn."
He nodded. To have ready access to answers would be new. New and wonderful. He was starving for something more than the tired repetitive lines of the Sith.
Zauvien gave him a long thoughtful look, then reached out to cup his cheek. It took a profound effort of will for him to keep from flinching. "Don't be afraid," she said, her voice gentle and motherly. Motherly was another word for not having found the catch yet. "You made it. I know you don't trust me now, and you may not trust me for a long time." Mercifully, she let her hand drop. "But you're not among the Sith anymore. You're safe now. And it will be my honor to teach you what you've come so far to learn."
Maybe she meant it.
She led him inside into a warren of hallways, still talking as she went. "I'll see to it there's a bedroom prepped for you. For now I think I'll leave you to get acquainted with the pantry. Eat all you like, I'm going out to resupply tomorrow anyway." She brought him around the corner into a brightly lit kitchen with a huge refrigerator in one corner and a tall well-stocked snack shelf in another.
Master Zauvien presented it all with a sweeping gesture. "Welcome home, Colran."
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