Title: A Mile in their Shoes
Category: Story, Humor, Drama, Adventure, etc.
Spoilers: None, I think.
Disclaimer: All recognizable Star Wars characters are the
exclusive property of George Lucas. All others belong to me.
I have no official permission to use these characters, but
I'm not being paid for it either, so that's okay.
Feedback: Yes Please!
Time Frame: 9 years before TMP. Obi-Wan is 16.
Things bracketed by *'s are *italic*.
Summary: When the young Queen-to-be of the Planet Radoon's life is
threatened, Obi-Wan must go undercover to protect her, but just how
far will the ruse have to go? And will it be enough?
-A Mile in their Shoes-
"You're not serious Master?" Obi-Wan pleaded. "Please tell me you're not serious about this."
"I am very serious about this Obi-Wan, it is the only way," Qui-Gon had no mercy on the 16-year-old. He pushed his Padawan down into a chair. "Mon Drane here has been good enough to offer us his services for the... makeover."
The multiple-armed Cestian smiled and tipped a little bow. He leaned Obi-Wan's chair back and picked up a jar filled with some kind of flesh-colored cream.
Obi-Wan groaned. "But Master, do you honestly expect me to be able to pass for, for a girl?"
"Oh, you'll pass quite nicely when I'm done with you," Mon Drane assured cheerfully. He ran one of his thumbs along Obi-Wan's smooth jaw-line as if assessing the apprentice. "You'll be very pretty," he concluded. That was not exactly what Obi-Wan wanted to hear.
"But Master, won't this be, deceiving people?" he asked hopefully. "Surely there is another way..." Obi-Wan was still looking for a way out of this as the supple-fingered Cestian started smearing the cold, greasy cream on his face.
"It's not being deceitful, it's playing a part. Obi-Wan, this is the Radoonian rite of passage for the Princess. No males are allowed to be present, but our job is to protect the Princess at all times. The threat against her will not be over until she sits on Radoon's throne," Qui-Gon explained patiently.
Obi-Wan grimaced. The three days until that happened
seemed much too far away for the apprentice at that moment.
Princess Mareeja was only a year older than Obi-Wan,
but a sad twist of events had left her with a planet to
rule after the terrible double-murder of her parents. The
killer or killers had never been caught, but Mareeja felt
sure that her Uncle, Warren Dejabold was behind the
murders, and would try for her too. However, the young
Princess had no proof, so she turned to the Jedi and the
Council sent Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan in response to the
Princess's plea for protection until the coronation
Obi-Wan was not sure he understood it entirely, but
somehow, after Mareeja was crowned Queen, the threat to her
was over, even though her parents had been killed while
they were king and queen. It hardly made sense, but it had
something to do with the fact that if she was killed, or
captured *before* the coronation, while Radoon had no
official ruler, then her Uncle could step into power as the
next of kin. On the other hand, if something happened to
her *after* she was the Queen, and she had no heir to take
the throne, then the law said that Radoon would hold
elections, to elect itself new monarchy. Warren Dejabold
was not well liked by the people; he would not stand a
chance in an open election, so Mareeja's death after the
coronation would do him no good. Of course, all that was
assuming that it was indeed Mareeja's uncle who was behind
this, they really did not *know* that for certain...
"If Princess Mareeja is so concerned about her safety,
then why does she refuse to let us be present this
evening?" he wondered aloud as Mon Drane layered powder
over the base he had applied to give Obi-Wan a smooth,
delicate complexion. Obi-Wan coughed as he accidentally
breathed some of the powder.
"Because the coming of age rite is a very sacred thing
for young girls here, and according to tradition no one but
girls, under seventeen who have not yet had the rite yet
themselves, may attend," Qui-Gon watched the proceedings
"Then why didn't the Council send female Jedi?" Obi-
"Ours is not to know, ours is-"
"To do, I know," Obi-Wan finished the oft-repeated
phrase for his Master. He wondered if Qui-Gon had learned
that at the Temple when he was an initiate, just like Obi-
Wan had. Then the apprentice wondered if it had ever
gotten on his Master's nerves quite as much as it did his.
"I just don't see why I have to do this," Obi-Wan
muttered to himself, not meaning for his Master to hear
him, but Qui-Gon did.
"Because we have a job to do and you're the only one
who can," Qui-Gon responded. "Look at me Padawan, I would
hardly be able to pass for under seventeen, and I do
believe that not even Mon Drane's fine skills could make me
look like a woman..." Qui-Gon ran his hand over his beard,
a wry little grin tugging at the corners of his mouth.
Obi-Wan nearly laughed in spite himself. The thought
of Qui-Gon trying to look like a woman was a hilarious one.
Even if the Master shaved his beard, there was no way to
coax that sharply angled, distinctively masculine face into
anything even remotely feminine.
Mon Drane glanced up, appraising Qui-Gon for a moment,
and then shook his head. "You are right good Jedi, I am an
artist, not a miracle worker. Hold still," he added the
last to Obi-Wan who had not been able to help laughing at
the way in which the make-up artist had assessed Qui-Gon's
chances of being able to pass for a female.
"You, on the other hand my young friend," the Cestian
added, returning to his work, "Are still young enough, and
the lines of your face soft enough to work with."
Obi-Wan gave in with an inward groan. If there was no
way out of this, then he was just going to have to make the
best of it.
"Look at it as an understanding exercise Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said.
"You know what they say about not being able to truly
appreciate someone else until you've walked a mile in their
shoes... or, heels as the case may be," the Jedi Master said
with the unmistakable hint of a smile playing across his face.
Obi-Wan grimaced. Somehow, that didn't help.
Obi-Wan looked in the mirror and saw an unfamiliar
girl staring out at him. *"Good grief, is that me?"* he
wondered, gently touching the sandy-blond hair that curled
alluringly on his shoulders and hung down his back to make
sure it wasn't simply a bad dream. The hairpiece was
nearly identical in color with his real hair so the effect
was very strange, to him at any rate. Three small braids
just above his ears on either side of his head held the
wavy locks out of his face and came together behind his
head, falling down his back with the loose hair. A large,
blue bow held the braids on the back of his head. He made
a face. Did he have to wear a *bow* in his hair? Well, it
could have been worse. Qui-Gon and Mon Drane had
considered dressing him in *pink*...
"Don't lick your lip like that," Mon Drane scolded.
"You'll ruin your lipstick."
*"Oh, now that would be a disaster,"* Obi-Wan thought
sarcastically, but tried to refrain from licking his lips.
It was not usually a habit of his, but the lipstick made
them feel unnatural and strange. Of course, the fake
eyelashes were even worse. They were heavy and it felt
like wearing weights on his eyelids. He was not accustomed
to *seeing* his eyelashes and the heavy black in his upper
and lower peripheral vision was distracting.
Long gold earrings dangled from his ears, bumping and
jostling against his jaw and neck when he turned his head.
"There, you look lovely," Mon Drane said
appreciatively, adjusting Obi-Wan's new bust-line. "Not
quite classically beautiful I'm afraid," the Cestian shook
his head. "Your features are a little too strong for that,
and, if you'll pardon my saying so, you're a little too
thick, but if this were a dance, I think you'd have more
than a few boys asking you for a turn around the floor,"
the artist said with a smile.
Obi-Wan was *very* glad this was not a dance.
Qui-Gon nodded his approval. "Obi-Wan, you look...
"Thanks," Obi-Wan mumbled, giving his dress an
unceremonious pull. The pantyhose he was wearing were
"Yes," Mon Drane agreed. "The blue complements his
eyes, does it not? Oh, don't forget the bag," the Cestian
added, gesturing to a little blue pouch on the chair. "No
proper young lady goes anywhere without her carry-bag."
Obi-Wan strode quickly over to the chair and picked up
the bag. Was it his imagination or was the Cestian having
a little too much fun with this situation?
"Oh, no!" Mon Drane groaned in horror as he watched
Obi-Wan walk. "My young friend, you walk all wrong! You
walk like, like a swordsman!"
*"No surprise there,"* Obi-Wan thought dryly.
"Young ladies do not stomp across the floor like that,
you must move more delicately, you must learn to glide
across the floor," Mon Drane instructed. "You walk like
that and you'll stick out like a sore thumb!" The Cestian
imitated the kind of walk he wanted Obi-Wan to copy.
Obi-Wan tried to follow suit, but ended up over-
exaggerating more than slightly.
Qui-Gon suddenly discovered that he needed to leave
the room for a moment.
*"Thanks,"* Obi-Wan thought, under no illusions about
the reason for his Master's quick departure. *"At least he
didn't laugh in my face..."*
Obi-Wan tried again, with more success this time.
"Very good," Mon Drane congratulated. "But what about
your voice?" he asked somewhat doubtfully.
Obi-Wan shrugged; that part was the least of his
worries. "It won't be a problem," he said, speaking softly
and using the Force to change the way the Cestian heard
him. "I just won't talk much."
Mon Drane raised the cranial ridges that took the
place of his eyebrows. "You talk like that and you won't
have to keep quiet. That's good. Your apprentice is a
very versatile young man Master Jinn," the Cestian told
Qui-Gon as the Jedi Master re-entered the room.
Qui-Gon just smiled and nodded, his composure once
more under control. "You won't be able to bring your
lightsaber," he informed Obi-Wan. "I've just found out
that there will be a weapons detector at the entrance and
we can hardly risk having you searched."
Obi-Wan felt naked without his lightsaber, especially
in this peculiar get-up, but he knew his Master was right,
they couldn't risk it. "But Master, what if there *is*
danger to the Princess?"
"Then you will just have to be resourceful Padawan,"
Qui-Gon said helpfully. "But the place will be surrounded
by guards on the outside and everyone entering is being
thoroughly checked, I will be on hand as well, so no
serious problem should arise, this is just a precaution."
Obi-Wan nodded, resisting to urge to push the hair
that curled across his forehead out of his face. All his
life he had had his hair cut short, first as an initiate,
and later as a Padawan with the addition of his
apprentice's braid, so the feeling of hair brushing against
his face, neck and shoulders was an unusual one. Qui-Gon
was probably right he decided. His biggest worry was going
to be avoiding discovery.
"Master, what if someone finds out who I really am?"
Obi-Wan asked, pulling on the thin, white gloves that Mon
Drane gave him.
If caught breaking the sacredness of this event, Obi-
Wan would face severe penalties by law; he might even be
imprisoned. "Don't let them find out," was all the advice
Obi-Wan rolled his eyes. *That* was helpful.
"All right, you're all ready," Mon Drane proclaimed
"Good, it's time to be going," Qui-Gon glanced at the
chronometer on the wall. "You know how to get there?"
"All right, I won't go with you because we don't want
to make anyone suspicious, but you know what to do."
"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan turned to leave.
"Oh, and Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said, making the apprentice
stop on his way out the door.
"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan's voice dripped sarcasm.
*Sure, this was going to be loads of fun...*
At the entrance to the palace, Obi-Wan gave the guards
who halted him the fake invitation that Qui-Gon had
procured for him.
"Lady Obijeena," the guard welcomed "her" after
okaying the invitation. They bowed politely and let Obi-
The apprentice followed the lushly decorated corridor
to the room where the ceremony was to be held. *Obijeena,
couldn't Qui-Gon have come up with something better than
The room, when he reached it, was huge and filled with
dozens, perhaps hundreds of young girls ranging from 13 to
16. Despite how he was dressed, Obi-Wan felt immediately
out of place. The Jedi quickly shoved aside his discomfort
and centered himself. All these people were a good thing.
In a throng like this, it was highly unlikely that anyone
would notice him.
Princess Mareeja sat on a jeweled chair in the center
of the room. She looked very beautiful. The slate-blue
silk dress she wore offset her copper hair in a lovely way.
When she moved, the dress glittered and flashed. Obi-
Wan realized that this was because the dress was encrusted
with jewels. Yet, despite her obvious wealth and status,
the future Queen's face was a kind one, and held no trace
of the kind of snobbery that one might expect from someone
of her position. Obi-Wan already knew from his and Qui-
Gon's previous dealings with her that Mareeja's disposition
matched her beauty. He couldn't understand how anyone
could want to hurt her.
The ceremony itself did not last very long and the
rest of the evening was more or less one large girl party.
The girls chatted about this, that and one million
other things. Some of them knew each other, some did not.
Obi-Wan didn't know how they could find so many things to
converse about. Talk ranged from the various merits of
they're boyfriends to their parents, to the latest music
and fashion. Having nothing useful to contribute to any of
those subjects, Obi-Wan stayed on the fringes and no one
paid him any mind. He could have found many quite
intelligent conversations had he tried, but he had no
interest in having anyone notice him more than they had to.
He was here to keep an eye on the Princess and that's all
he wanted to do.
The girls started playing group games. Some of them
looked quite interesting, but Obi-Wan felt far too out-of-
place to join any of them.
Princess Mareeja held her sides, aching from having
laughed so hard. She was enjoying herself thoroughly. It
was rare occasions like this when she could forget all her
responsibilities and concerns and be a normal girl. The
only stain on her happiness was the fact that her Mother
should have been Master of Ceremonies for her coming of
age. She missed her parents, but it was hard to grieve for
people you barely knew. Schooled off planet and attended
by a host of nursemaids and servants to take care of her
every need, she had very few memories of her parents being
involved in her life, but she felt no resentment over this.
It was simply the way things were. She had been well taken
care of, and even if the day that she would have to ascend
the throne had come much earlier than anyone expected, she
was ready. She had been trained her whole life to be
The music played on and the other girls were already
starting another game. Looking up, Mareeja saw that girl
again, the one in the blue dress. The Princess had noticed
that the girl did not participate in the games, she never
seemed to talk to anyone and every time Mareeja saw her,
she was alone. Mareeja felt sorry for the girl. She was
obviously very shy and the Princess felt a little indignant
that none of the other guests were making any attempt to
make her feel more welcome.
The room pulsed and moved to the rhythm of popular
Radoon music. Obi-Wan had lost sight of the Princess in
the crowd. He looked around and found her, heading
straight for him.
The girl looked over as Mareeja approached and the
Princess got a good look at her for the first time. Her
features were a trifle strong and Mareeja guessed that her
blue dress was intentionally as loose and flowing as it was
to hide a slightly stout figure, but she had a quiet
quality about her that made Mareeja wish that more people
would be willing to look past outward appearances.
"Hello," Mareeja greeted. The girl looked familiar
and the Princess was trying to remember where she had seen
her before. Perhaps at a state function?
Obi-Wan remembered just in time that he must curtsy,
not bow. "Your Highness," he replied, hoping this outfit
really made him look as different as it felt.
"Call me Mareeja, please," the Princess said
pleasantly. "And you are?"
"Obijeena if it please you," Obi-Wan addressed her
respectfully. *"Hope you like it better than I do..."*
"That's very pretty," Mareeja complimented. "Why
don't you join the game? It's lots of fun."
"I-" Obi-Wan hesitated. "I don't know how," he
evaded, but it was also the truth.
"That's okay, you'll learn quick. It's easy. Come
on, you can be my partner." Mareeja held out one pretty,
well manicured hand in invitation.
How could Obi-Wan refuse such a kind invitation? He
hesitantly took her hand, starting to offer some further
excuse, but she didn't give him the time. Clasping his
hand she pulled him into the game. The first few times he
stumbled and tripped up, but Mareeja was a good teacher and
he was a very quick learner. By the third time they played
"Obijeena" and Mareeja were beating all the other girls
Tired and hot after playing for well over an hour,
Mareeja excused herself from the fun to get a drink. "We
make a good team," she said to Obi-Wan with a smile as he
poured them both a drink of some cold, pink beverage.
Obi-Wan nodded, pushing his damp hair out of his face.
He was glad now that Mon Drane had insisted on adhering the
hairpiece to his skin rather than just placing it on. It
would take removers to get it off, but at least it would
not fall off at some inopportune moment.
Downing the drink thirstily he had to admit that he
was having much more fun this evening than he had
"Ow, my feet hurt," Mareeja kicked off her high-heeled
shoes. "I knew I shouldn't have worn these, but they
looked so nice with the dress." The Princess half hid
behind the refreshment table to conceal her bare feet. She
giggled softly. "Gee, do you think anyone will notice?"
Obi-Wan shrugged. "Who cares? No point in being
miserable for fashion's sake."
Mareeja grinned. She liked Obijeena, she thought like
Mareeja did. The Princess nudged the sparkly shoes under
the tablecloth with her foot. "I see you were smart enough
to wear something comfortable," she commented, glancing at
the flat-heeled blue shoes that just peaked out from
beneath the hem of Obi-Wan's dress. Obi-Wan would hardly
consider the tight, stiff shoes as comfortable, but he
remembered with a smile what had happened when Mon Drane
tried to put him in high-heels.
"Let's just say that I admire anyone who can wear
those torture devices with as much grace and poise as you
do," he said with a wry little smile.
Mareeja laughed. "You get used to it I guess, it's
one of those sacrifices we make to fashion. Still, I think
boys have it the easiest. They don't have to wear silly
things like that."
Obi-Wan had to agree with her.
"You know Obijeena, you seem very familiar to me.
Haven't we met somewhere before?" Mareeja asked
Obi-Wan's heart sped up a little. Of course Mareeja
had seen him before. He and Qui-Gon had been protecting
her for the past two days. Although he had had little
actual interaction with her personally, they had certainly
seen each other. "I don't think so your Highness," he
shook his head. "But I know what you mean, I feel as if
I've met you before as well." Obi-Wan felt a little guilty
about lying to her like that, but in a way it was true,
Mareeja hadn't met *Obijeena* before tonight.
"Where do you live?" Mareeja wanted to know.
"Far away," Obi-Wan said absently as if he didn't
really care to talk about it. He didn't. "I won't be here
in Roonda for long."
"Ah," Mareeja nodded sympathetically, thinking she
understood what he meant. "I understand. I was sent to
school off-planet as well. It kind of makes you feel like
a stranger in your own home, or, as if you have no home.
Do you know what I mean Obijeena?"
Obi-Wan did know what she meant, more than she could
understand. He had no permanent ties other than Qui-Gon
and the Jedi, he had no stationary place to call home.
"Yes, I do," he answered truthfully. "But I have found
that home is really a matter of where your heart is, not so
much a place, as a feeling..." he trailed off, realizing he
was saying much more than he had intended to say.
Mareeja smiled at him warmly. "You are so right.
It's funny, but somehow, I feel that you understand me
better than anyone else here. I'm glad to have met you
Obijeena. Will you come and visit me again, after tonight
I mean? I would take great pleasure in spending more time
"I'll try," Obi-Wan hedged slightly. "Unfortunately I
really won't be here long," he repeated.
"Well, we'll have to write then," Mareeja said, not so
easily put off.
Before Obi-Wan could reply a servant droid interrupted
them. "Forgive me your Highness, but Prime Minister Bosh
has requested your immediate presence in the stateroom,"
the silver droid informed them.
Mareeja sighed. "Business before pleasure, so it is
always. All right Three-Dee, I'm coming." She slid her
shoes back on. "I'm sorry Obijeena, you'll have to excuse
me for a few minutes. I'll be right back."
Obi-Wan nodded and the Princess left, followed by the
droid. Obi-Wan hesitated, wondering what he should do. It
mighty be risky to follow the Princess, but something in
him was just not comfortable with this turn of events.
What did the Prime Minister want with the Princess so
urgently that he would interrupt her party?
Sliding out of the room unnoticed he quietly followed
Mareeja. Once outside the great hall where the party was
being held, the droid left and two guards fell into step
behind the young, soon-to-be monarch as she made her way
quickly to the stateroom. Obi-Wan could read concern in
her. She too wondered what could be so important as to
warrant this intrusion on one of the most significant days
of her life. It could not be good.
The doors to the stateroom were opened for the
Princess and she passed through them, the guards following
her in. There was no one on guard outside the doors, so
Obi-Wan crept up to them, pressing his ear against their
deep mahogany panels. He could not hear anything through
the thick wooden doors so he stretched out with the Force
instead. Something felt very wrong to him somehow.
Mareeja entered the stateroom. The heavy wood doors
swung shut behind her and for some reason, the sound made
her jump, just a little. She looked around.
"Where is Prime Minister Bosh?" she asked the guards.
There did not seem to be anyone in the room.
"He was unable to make it your Highness," the guard on
her right said, calmly drawing his blaster and pointing it
at her chest.
Mareeja felt her heart jump up into her throat and
start hammering wildly. "Wh-what is the meaning of this?!"
she demanded, backing up. She tried to be angry and
commanding but her voice wavered, betraying the panic that
was sweeping through her.
The other guard caught her from behind, clapping his
hand over her mouth and wrapping his other arm about her
The first guard pressed his blaster against her
temple. "Don't make a sound your Highness, and you won't
get hurt," he half threatened, half promised.
Mareeja did not believe him. She was sure these men
intended to kill her just as her parents had been killed.
She began struggling fiercely, trying to break away from
them. The man with the blaster struck her a violent blow
behind her ear with the barrel of his weapon and the
Princess sagged in her captor's arms, dazed.
Lights danced across her vision and a loud buzzing
filled her ears. The last thing she remembered was seeing
Obijeena burst through the doors. *"No, Obijeena! They'll
kill you too! Get out of here!"* she thought desperately
for a moment before another blow rendered the young lady
Outside, Obi-Wan had felt Mareeja's sudden surge of
terror. Pushing against the door he had found it locked.
The Force took care of that in a matter of moments. He
burst into the room just as one of the "guards" clubbed the
Princess, knocking her out cold. The traitorous guard held
his weapon to Mareeja's head, daring Obi-Wan to try
something. "Better not make any sudden moves or loud
sounds," he warned. "Or her Highness dies."
Obi-Wan hesitated, quickly running through his
options. If he could somehow distracted them for a moment,
just enough to get that blaster away from Mareeja's head,
then he knew he stood a pretty fair chance. There were
only two of them.
A large picture of the previous King and Queen,
hanging on the wall behind the two men and the unconscious
Princess, caught the apprentice's attention.
"What do you want? What's going on? What have you
done to the Princess?" Obi-Wan bought time, playing his
persona and allowing his voice to quaver as if he were
afraid. Through the Force he gave the wire the picture
hung on a nudge, sliding it off the hook...
The picture fell with a thud, causing the two traitors
to, predictably, look over their shoulders and see what
caused the noise.
Obi-Wan sprang into action. Snatching the blaster
away from the first guard he ducked an ill thought of
swing, causing the Princess' two assailants to collide with
one another. Things were going well until suddenly, a
blaster bolt came out of nowhere, scorching the floor by
his feet as he jumped aside, only just in time. He
realized too late that they were no longer alone in the
room. Somewhere near a dozen men had materialized,
seemingly out of nowhere.
Obi-Wan stopped. Without his lightsaber, he could not
hope to fight that many men at such close range and still
keep both he and the unconscious Princess safe and alive.
"That's it, be a good girl," one of the men said,
stepping out of the shadows. The leader snapped his
fingers and one of his men took Obi-Wan's arms, binding his
wrists together tightly behind his back.
"Seems we've got a real spitfire here," the leader
said in mock appreciation, running the back of his hand
under Obi-Wan's jaw, tipping the young Jedi's head up
slightly. There was a leer in the man's dark grey eyes
that Obi-Wan had never had directed at *him* before. For a
moment, he felt very glad that he was not really a girl.
The Padawan met the leader's gaze with a defiant glare.
The leader seemed momentarily taken aback by the
strength with which Obi-Wan met his look. "You've got a
lot of spirit young lady," he said. "It's too bad you had
to see this, now we've got to either kill you or take you."
He seemed to consider that for a moment. "We'll take her
for now," he said, directing the statement to his men. "If
we leave bodies laying around they'll catch on sooner that
something's up. Besides, the Boss wouldn't be happy. We
can always kill her later, if she becomes too much
trouble," he directed a meaningful glare in Obi-Wan's
A gag was slipped over Obi-Wan's mouth and a blaster
jabbed in his back. "I'm only going to warn you once
girl," the leader threatened. "Don't try anything unless
you want to shorten what may already be a very brief life.
We don't *need* you," the man made himself clear.
Obi-Wan got the message quite plainly, but he read
more out of it than the man had intended. *They didn't
need him, but that meant they *did* need the Princess.
Why? If they simply wanted her out of the way, why not
kill her?* It raised more questions than it answered
unfortunately, but Obi-Wan would take anything he could
One of the men moved a statue in a trophy case, which
stood against the wall, and the large display cabinet swung
forward, revealing a hidden door.
*That's how they got in here,* Obi-Wan realized. No
doubt this passage would take them all the way out of the
Palace without anyone seeing them. A brief shudder of
realization ran up the apprentice's spine. His captors
made no attempt to keep him from seeing what they were
doing, yet this hidden entrance was, no doubt, a carefully
guarded secret. That meant they had no intention of ever
letting him go alive. The thought was not exactly a
surprise, and it hardly frightened him, but it did deepen
his determination that he was going to have to find a way
to get the Princess out of this, the sooner, the better.
Obi-Wan wondered how long it would be before anyone
even noticed Mareeja was missing. If the girls back at the
party asked, they would likely be told she was called away
on business, as that was what everyone had been told, but
it would probably be a long time before they even noticed
she was gone. They would doubtless keep partying and wait
for her to return. Everyone else meanwhile, would think
the Princess was still in her party, which no one dared to
interrupt. It could be hours until her absence was
discovered. It was a perfect plan, Obi-Wan realized with a
touch of despair. They would be long gone before anyone
even knew they were missing.
*"Master,"* Obi-Wan called out to Qui-Gon silently as
the men pushed him through the secret door. His link with
Qui-Gon was his only hope of alerting anyone to their
situation. *"Master, we're in trouble..."*
Qui-Gon stood, motionless, but watchful in one of the
outer halls of the Palace. The Princess' party had been
going on for hours. The faint touch of a grin tugged at
his lips as he wondered what kind of time his Padawan was
having in there.
Something in the Jedi Master was uneasy. His body was
calm, but his mind was on the alert. He had told Obi-Wan
that he did not fear danger this evening, but now he
wondered if he had been wrong. Everything *seemed* quiet
enough, but he could not rest easy.
All at once he heard Obi-Wan's voice call to him,
unmistakable, clear, and urgent. *"Master, we're in
trouble. You've got to come at once, help us Master!"*
Qui-Gon refused to allow his stomach to tighten into
the knot that it wanted to, forcing himself to be calm
instead. *"Where are you Obi-Wan? What's happened?"* he
called back, searching the Force for his Padawan's
presence, his legs already carrying him towards the
Stateroom as he traced Obi-Wan's signal.
*"Where are you Obi-Wan? What's happened?"* Obi-Wan
was relieved to hear Qui-Gon answer him. Before he could
reply the men prodding him along the narrow, dimly lit
passage stopped suddenly.
"This is as far as you need to see girly," one of the
abductors said roughly. Wrapping an arm around Obi-Wan's
waist, another man pressed a folded cloth over the
apprentice's nose and mouth.
Obi-Wan felt the material press against his face,
smelt the distinctive smell of the drug it was soaked with,
felt the chemicals sting his throat and lungs as they
forced him to breath it.
*"NO!"* Obi-Wan's mind screamed as his vision blurred
and his knees went weak. Further along in his training,
Obi-Wan would have known how to center, how to hold his breath
and use the Force to conserve the oxygen that his body had and
therefore stave off the effects of the drug for a long time, but
the young apprentice was not yet so skilled.
Obi-Wan battled the unconsciousness that was slowly creeping over him
with all his strength, but it was a losing fight. Attempting
to hold his breath, Obi-Wan struggled fiercely with the men
holding him, but the drug was already in his system,
slowing his responses and rendering his attempts
The kidnappers just laughed and held him still while
the drug took effect.
Too late, Obi-Wan realized that by struggling he was
hastening the effects of the already potent drug. As icy
unconsciousness claimed him, the Padawan calmed his mind
enough to send one last image to Qui-Gon. Whether the
Master received it or not, he did not know because the
whirling blackness before his eyes pulled him under and he
slumped senseless in the kidnapper's arms.
The tension in Qui-Gon's stomach solidified into an
icy jab of fear. Something had alarmed Obi-Wan.
*"NO!"* he heard a note of panic in his apprentice's
mental voice but the cry was not directed at Qui-Gon.
*"Obi-Wan!"* the Master struggled to make contact
again. *"Obi-Wan! Where are you?!"* This time, there was
no answer. A strange, half-confused image of a fish-like
creature flashed through his mind for an instant. A moment
later, he lost hold of his Padawan's presence.
*"Obi-Wan!"* he fairly shouted. *"Obi-Wan!"* but he
received no answer and found only emptiness. His pace
slowed to a walk, no longer sure of where he was heading
now that his tie with Obi-Wan had been broken.
He found himself standing before the tall, heavy doors
of the stateroom. The door stood slightly ajar and probing
it led Qui-Gon to believe that someone had very recently
used the Force to open it, probably Obi-Wan. What was he
doing here, so far from the party? Qui-Gon knew that Obi-
Wan would not have left the Princess, and the Padawan had
said "*We're* in trouble, help *us*."
With a sigh, the Jedi Master realized that whatever
had happened to Obi-Wan, happened to the Princess as well.
He scanned the room, but saw no trace of anyone present,
although he discovered a blaster burn on the floor when he
nudged aside a throw rug with his foot. Obi-Wan and
Mareeja had definitely been here, but where were they now?
He didn't know.
Going back out into the hall and pressing a wall
button Qui-Gon summoned Palace Security.
Obi-Wan awoke with a killer headache. His hands were
bound behind his back and he was lying on a very hard, very
cold surface. His eyelids felt heavy and his lips stuck
together like glue, but as his mind slowly surfaced back
into reality he realized that was because he was still
wearing fake eyelashes and lipstick. Opening his reluctant
eyes with an effort, he found that he was lying on his side
on the floor of a large room. Also bound, but awake,
Mareeja sat on the floor nearby with her back against the
wall. The Princess' jaw was set and there was a defiant
glint in her eye, but Obi-Wan could tell that just under
the surface she was very frightened. On the other side of
the room, between the prisoners and the door, about five or
six armed men were involved in a game of chance, dividing
their attention between the cards they played and the
alcohol they drank.
Obi-Wan lifted his head, assessing his situation. His
long hair tumbled in his face and his dress was tangled up
around his ankles, but apparently, no one had discovered
his identity. He tried to decide how he could best use
that to his advantage. They would almost definitely
underestimate him, but only once. He was going to have to
plan whatever he did carefully. It was likely that he
would only get one shot.
"Obijeena!" Mareeja whispered when she saw Obi-Wan
moving. The relief in her voice told how glad she was,
both that her friend was all right and that she was no
Obi-Wan sat up and attempted to still his pounding
head. Scooting over he leaned against the wall next to
her. "Are you all right your Highness?" he asked, and then
coughed to cover the fact that he had forgotten to change
his voice. Hemming and hawing he pretended to be clearing
the effects of having been drugged out of his throat. "I
mean, are you all right?" he asked again, in his female
voice this time. For right now, it was better to have
*everyone* go on thinking that he was a girl. He would
have to tell the Princess the truth later, when he knew how
he was going to get them out of this.
Mareeja nodded. "I've got a pounding headache, but
otherwise, I'm okay. Are you all right?"
Obi-Wan nodded, leaning his head against the wall.
"I'm fine, but I understand what you mean about the
"I'm sorry you got mixed up in this Obijeena," Mareeja
apologized sadly. "Now we'll both die. You should have
"What, and let you have all the fun?" Obi-Wan
attempted to cheer her up a little.
Mareeja actually smiled. "Well, at least I won't have
to worry about attending any more boring affairs of state,"
she said softly.
Obi-Wan realized that the Princess was certain they
were both going to be killed. "You may have to yet," he
encouraged. "The future is not set in stone. They haven't
killed us yet, even thought they could have, let's wait and
see what happens."
"Do you really think we could get out of here?"
Mareeja asked doubtfully. "I don't even know where we are
or what's outside this room."
"Neither do I," Obi-Wan admitted. "But I'd rather die
trying, than just give up. If we look closely enough, a
way will present itself."
Mareeja nodded slowly, feeling a little bit of hope
again. "I guess you're right."
"Stop that whispering over there!" one of their guards
shouted from the other side of the room. The man rose to
his feet. "They look like they're up to something," he
said suspiciously to his companions. "Move further apart
you two, no talking," he commanded, crossing the room to
stand before the captives. "I said move," he gave Obi-Wan
a hard shove with his boot-clad foot, kicking the
apprentice none too gently in the ribs when the 'girls' did
not move fast enough to suit him. Grabbing the two
prisoners by the shoulders he attempted to shove them
"Keep your hands off us!" Mareeja demanded
imperiously, without thinking.
"Oh," the man smiled unpleasantly. "Yes, your
Highness, whatever you say your Highness," he mocked. He
half knelt, half crouched beside the Princess. "Keep my
hands off, you mean, not touch like this?" he said, sliding
one of Mareeja's dress straps off her shoulder.
"Leave me alone!" Mareeja demanded angrily, trying to
scoot away from him.
Obi-Wan felt her ripple of panic when the man did not
back off, but trapped her against the wall. The man smiled
cruelly and reached for her other dress strap.
Rolling over quickly, Obi-Wan put himself between
Mareeja and the slightly inebriated guard. "Don't touch
her," he said with quiet force, trying to make his words
carry into the man's mind. But the Radoonian's brain,
although fuzzy with liquor, was too well ordered for Obi-
Wan to command.
The guard slapped Obi-Wan across the face with the
back of his hand. "You know girl, you make yourself more
trouble than you're worth," he threatened, grabbing Obi-
Wan's shoulders and pinning him forcefully against the
wall. "Maybe I should teach you a lesson," he said,
leaning uncomfortably close to the Padawan.
*"Yuck!"* was all Obi-Wan could think or feel for a
moment as the man tried to kiss him. The Padawan pulled
his head away with a defiant twist. This was soooo stupid.
The man jerked him sideways, pushing Obi-Wan to the
floor. A flush that Obi-Wan did not have time to control
made his face hot with embarrassment. He could get this
goon off him any time he chose, but did not yet wish to
reveal his true strength to them. He was thinking of a
trickier way to do it when Mareeja started kicking the man
in the side. In the easily vacillating mood the guard was
in, Obi-Wan knew it was only a matter of moments before his
anger, and his attention swung back towards the Princess.
Obi-Wan did not want that to happen. He would rather get
himself in trouble with them than let them hurt Mareeja.
Bringing his knees up sharply into his assailant's
groin he pulled himself free of the man's arms, rolling
away and sitting up. It was a maneuver that took nothing
out of the ordinary, but he knew it was also likely to make
the fellow furious as heck. He was right.
"Why you little..!" the man growled in rage as he
pulled himself up off the floor. Stalking over to Obi-Wan,
he grabbed him by the hair, backhanding him again and
shaking him violently.
Obi-Wan was once again glad that Mon Drane had
insisted on *gluing* the wig to him.
The door slid open and the leader entered. "Danto,
what's going on?" he asked calmly, but with a tone that
warned against being trifled with. He quickly took in the
Princess' rumpled attire and the lipstick that smudged the
guard's mouth and cheek.
Danto scowled, but did not release Obi-Wan's hair.
"This brat's making trouble again sir," he responded,
giving Obi-Wan a contemptuous shake.
"Are you sure *you* weren't making trouble Danto?" the
leader asked quietly.
"He tried to attack us!" Mareeja put in indignantly.
"I don't know who you are or what you want, but when you're
caught, you'll pay for this! You can tell my Uncle he'll
never pull this off!" she raged, as much frightened as
The leader just smiled infuriatingly. "I wouldn't
talk about paying your Highness. Payment is expensive, and
the toll heavy. As for your dear Uncle, well, we've gotten
away with it before, now haven't we?"
Princess Mareeja bit her lip at the callus way in
which the man talked about her parents' murder.
"Murderers!" she spat, tears in her periwinkle eyes.
"Filthy, bloody murderers!"
The leader looked singularly unconcerned with the
Princess' opinion of them. "Leave her Highness alone
Danto," he instructed, directing his attention towards the
guard once more. "That goes for all of you," he informed
the rest of his men present.
"What about her?" Danto asked, giving Obi-Wan a shake
when he saw that his boss was about to leave.
"Oh yes, our little spitfire eh?" the leader grinned.
"I don't care what you do with her. If she makes trouble,
punish her, but go easy. Remember," he mocked, "She's just
*"Thanks,"* Obi-Wan thought dryly as the leader left.
*"I'm going to have to find a way out of this and fast."*
"A child huh?" Danto jeered. "Don't look like it to
me, but maybe he's got something there, huh guys?"
Obi-Wan did not like the way the other guards laughed
Danto pulled Obi-Wan over to the table the guards had
previously been playing cards upon. Sitting down in a
chair he gave a jerk on Obi-Wan's arm, suddenly pulling the
boy down across his lap. The other guards helped hold
'her' there. Pulling off his belt Danto gave Obi-Wan a
When he finally stopped, they dumped Obi-Wan back in
the corner. Thankfully, this turn of events seemed to have
been enough amusement for them and even Danto forgot his
more sinister intentions of earlier. The guards returned
to their card games, leaving their captives, at least for
the moment, in peace.
Obi-Wan tried to cool his burning face, but without
much success. Danto had embarrassed him far more than he
"Are you okay?" Mareeja asked with genuine sympathy.
Obi-Wan nodded, not quite able to meet her eyes.
"Are you sure?" she prodded, still being sensitive,
but unwilling to let her friend hide things from her.
"I'm fine," Obi-Wan had to resist mumbling. "It
didn't really hurt," he fibbed a little. "It's just..."
"Embarrassing," Mareeja finished for him, giving him
an understanding look.
Obi-Wan nodded. He felt so foolish. He was a Jedi
apprentice, what in the world was he doing here, dressed
like this, having these things happen to him? It was so
frustrating to know that he had the ability to best
everyone in that room and yet have to subject himself to
their whims that way.
"I can't stand being so helpless," he really hadn't
meant to say it out loud, but Mareeja did not hold it
against him, even if she took it differently than he meant
"I know, I feel the same way, or, I did. You gave me
hope a little bit ago Obijeena, don't let go of it
yourself. They want to embarrass you, they want you to
feel helpless, don't let them. Don't let them win," the
Princess encouraged sincerely.
Obi-Wan smiled. He was not giving up hope, he had
merely been feeling a little sorry for himself, but
Mareeja's words were meant kindly, so he took them that
way. Looking at her, he remembered why he was here,
dressed like this, letting these things happen to him. He
was doing it to protect her, to do whatever he could to see
the Princess safely returned to her home and her throne.
He would give his life for that if he had to, not only
because he was a Jedi and it was his duty, but because in
this short time, Mareeja had become more than just his
assignment, she had become his friend.
Obi-Wan thought hard. There were pieces here; he just
had to put them together. He shifted to his knees, finding
sitting to be most uncomfortable right now. Slowly, an
idea started coming together. It was a desperate gamble,
but he was betting that they did not have much time.
"Mareeja," he whispered, dropping his voice even lower
than before. "I have an idea. It's pretty risky, but it
might work. What do you say?"
"I say anything is worth a try. Tell me your plan."
"Excuse me," Mareeja interrupted the guard's game.
"Excuse me, I have to use the restroom."
"Me too," Obi-Wan, by her side, chimed in.
"Yeah, yeah," the guards groaned at the interruption.
"One at a time. Come on your Highness, you first."
"No, I can't wait!" Obi-Wan protested.
"Okay then, you first," the guards were becoming
"I can't wait either!" Mareeja put on her best
complaining tone. Both of them started talking at once and
the combined whine was truly nerve grating.
"All right, all right!" the guards gave in. "Estrad,
Danto, Michal, Gordo, take them both."
Obi-Wan and Mareeja exchanged a secret smile of
satisfaction as the guards escorted them out the door. The
guards were a little more careless than they should have
been, and they let the prisoners get ahead of them a little
Obi-Wan gave Mareeja the barest of nods.
Mareeja suddenly stumbled and fell. Clutching her
ankle as if in great pain she started howling. Just loud
enough to disconcert their guards, but not enough so to
bring anyone else around to investigate the noise.
For an instant, all their attention was on Mareeja.
It was all Obi-Wan needed.
A few quick moves and he had all the guards' blasters
out of their holsters before they knew what was happening.
Dodging a swing he quickly set them all to stun and tossed
two to Mareeja. He hoped she could figure out how to use
them. About a minute and a half later, all four guards lay
senseless on the floor.
Mareeja was breathing hard; this was quite a bit more
adventure than she was used to. "You're good at this
Obijeena! However did you get their blasters so fast?" she
asked in admiration as they slid quickly and quietly down
"Um, I've had some training," he answered truthfully.
"I'll tell you about it later."
They came to a place where the passage joined a larger
"Which way do we go?" Mareeja asked uncertainly.
Obi-Wan hesitated in thought.
"Hey, you!" a voice shouted from up the hall on their
right. Several men rounded the corner, spotting them.
"Well, I guess that takes care of that question!" Obi-
Wan said, grabbing Mareeja's hand and sprinting down the
hall to the left. Fortunately for them, the building they
were being held in was a small one and when they burst out
through the door at the end of the hall they found
themselves outside. An electric fence surrounded the yard.
The men behind them had nearly caught up and now, about
seven more men were coming at a run from far end of the
yard. They didn't have much time.
Dodging blaster bolts from a distance, they scrambled
towards the fence. Obi-Wan decided he would have to
levitate them over it. How he was going to do that while
being shot at he did not know. As they neared the fence he
paused for a moment to return fire. When he turned back,
his blood ran cold. Mareeja obviously did not realize that
the fence was an electric one. She reached up to get a
hold, preparing to climb over it.
"No! Mareeja, don't!" Obi-Wan screamed, but it was
too late. With an upward jump, Mareeja caught hold of the
metal links, pushing the pointy toes of her high-heeled
shoes into the large mesh.
Obi-Wan cringed in horrible anticipation, his legs
pumping to bring him to her side and... nothing happened.
The fence was not turned on. Obi-Wan did not stop to
ponder the reason for this oversight, but grabbed hold and
made his own way over it double quick.
Once on the other side, they found that they were very
literally in the middle of nowhere. Wherever their
abductors had taken them, it was deep in the Radoon jungle.
Pushing his way through the brush and vines, Obi-Wan led
Mareeja in a direction he hoped would eventually get them
somewhere. At least for right now, it got them away from
their former prison.
The pair ran through the trees for a good long time
until they realized they were not being followed. Mareeja
slowed to a trot, unable to run anymore.
"Obijeena, they're not following us anymore," she
gasped as she flopped down to sit on a rock. "Either we
lost them, or they figure we'll die on our own in the
middle of this wilderness."
Obi-Wan wiped his brow. She was right. They were no
longer being followed, now they just had to find a way out
of this jungle before it proved to be a more dangerous
enemy than the assassins.
Obi-Wan sat down too. The escape bothered him just a
bit. It had almost been too easy. They had better be
watchful. A banging sound made him look over at the
Mareeja had taken her shoes off and was hammering at
the high, pointy heels with a rock. "I can't possibly go
any further in these," she explained. "But I don't know if
it's safe to walk through these woods barefoot." Obi-Wan
helped her and soon they had both heels off. The curve of
the shoe was a little awkward without the heels to justify
it, but it was easier than walking on spike-heels across
the soft, uneven terrain.
After they had rested a while, Mareeja stood wearily.
"Well, I guess we better get moving. Which way do we go?"
"Let's head west. We can aim towards the sun that way
to make sure we don't go round in circles," Obi-Wan said,
"Yes," Mareeja agreed dryly. "At all cost let's do
avoid that. But it's hard to see the sun in some places."
"We'll just have to work around that," Obi-Wan sighed.
Qui-Gon was in the stateroom again. Security had been
all over the room and found nothing save the blast mark
that he had already discovered, and yet, somehow Qui-Gon
felt sure that this place held some further clue for him,
if only he was still enough to find it. He checked the
walls, the floor, the ceiling... nothing. Everything
turned up just as void of clues as it had the last time
he'd searched, and the time before that. Yet this was the
last definite place that there was any record of the
Princess heading, at least if the droid could be believed.
More than that, he felt sure that this is where Obi-Wan's
signal had been leading him until it was terminated. How,
or why it was terminated he did not allow himself to think
about. The boy was alive somewhere, he knew that. And if
Obi-Wan was alive, it was a good bet the Princess was too,
but there was no guarantee how long they were going to
*stay* that way.
*Why where they alive at all?* He wondered. If it
were indeed the same person or persons who had murdered the
last rulers, why was the Princess not already dead?
So many questions, so few answers.
Qui-Gon leaned wearily against a tall, glass-plated
display case. He had barely slept since Princess Mareeja
and his Padawan had disappeared two days ago. Suddenly he
felt something, like a trace, or a faint memory, only one
that was not his. Obi-Wan had been here. He had stood
right in that very spot and he had felt... not afraid, but
leery. Qui-Gon latched on to that and tried to probe it
deeper, but that was all it was, a lingering memory in the
Force, like an odor. Proof that someone had been there,
but no clue to what happened after.
So close and yet so far.
His comlink beeped. "Jinn here," he answered, thumbing
the comlink on.
"This Mon Drane Master Jinn," the voice on the other
end identified herself. "Sorry to bother you, but I still
have your Padawan's clothes here."
Qui-Gon remonstrated himself for having forgotten to
retrieve them before now.
"Don't you want me to do removal job? Or has Obi-Wan
decided that he likes his new look that much?" the Cestian
asked, the smile evident in his voice.
Qui-Gon felt someone approach and looked up as the
Prime Minister entered the room. "I'm sorry Mon Drane, I
can't talk now. I'll see you later to take care of
things." Qui-Gon turned the comlink off, replacing it on
"Master Jinn," Prime Minister Bosh greeted. "I hope I
am not disturbing you? Who were you talking to?"
"Just, a friend," Qui-Gon replied, giving a nodded bow
to the diplomat.
"Ah, well, I see I find you here again. Have you
found anything that our teams have missed?" Bosh wanted to
"No," Qui-Gon shook his head. "Not yet, yet I am
certain the Princess was here, and that whatever attack
took place to capture her, took place in this room. It is
how she was taken out of the Palace without being detected
after this point that puzzles me," he admitted.
"Indeed," the Prime Minister stroked his double chin.
"Do you suppose the kidnappers had inside help? That some
of our staff was in on it and provided them with a safe
passage in and out?" he queried.
"I think it is a definite possibility," Qui-Gon
"What about the Princess' notion, that her Uncle was
behind her parent's death? Do you think he is behind this
as well?" Bosh asked cautiously, knowing he was treading on
dangerous ground. Warren Dejabold was a powerful, if not
well liked, man.
"I do not know," Qui-Gon shook his head. "Just as
with so many things, the answer to that question has not
yet made itself apparent. I have not yet been able to
speak to Mr. Dejabold yet, his staff inform me he is away."
"Convenient," Prime Minister Bosh snorted. "Excuse
me," he apologized. "It is not my place to speak that way.
I am merely concerned for Princess Mareeja."
Qui-Gon just inclined his head. They were all a
little stressed. Still, it was no secret that Warren
Dejabold held no love for either his late sister and
brother-in-law or his niece. He stood to gain the most
from this. Even if Mareeja did was not killed, but showed
up any later than coronation day, the day after tomorrow,
it would still be disastrous, and there was still a chance
that she could lose the rulership to her conniving Uncle.
Yet why was he not here? Surely it would have looked less
suspicious for him to be present to deny accusations while
all this was occurring. One more thing that didn't make
sense, Qui-Gon added it to the quickly lengthening list
that had become his day.
Mareeja could not go anymore. Obi-Wan was pretty
tired too. Walking in these shoes was terrible. How he
longed for his boots and normal Jedi robes. At least it
gave him an appreciation for what the Princess was going
through. He looked at her. Somewhere during the day's
trek she had fallen and ended up in a rather icky mud hole.
Her skin and jewel-encrusted gown were both covered in
partially dried mud and slime. Her hair clung to her face,
plastered down by sweat and dirt.
Next to her, Obi-Wan looked pretty good. His hair was
mussed, but the wig held its shape better than normal hair
did, and his dress had made it through this adventure in a
far better state of repair. All this however, did very
little to brighten Obi-Wan's day. They had walked for
hours, but come no closer to any visible end to this
jungle. He had no idea what day this was or how much time
had passed since they were abducted. And other than keep
walking, he had no idea what they were going to do.
"Just a little further?" he urged Mareeja.
"I'll try," she offered bravely, limping on again.
For being royalty, she really was taking this all quite
Up ahead, they both became aware of the delicious
sound of water. Heading for it, they were very happy to
find a deep, wide stream cutting through the unyielding
jungle. Kicking off their shoes they let the cool water
sooth their aching feet and splashed it on their faces.
After he drank his fill, Obi-Wan looked at the sky. It was
a good hour before dusk would set in, but he knew Mareeja
was exhausted and could not keep his pace. They could
probably stay here for the night. "Why don't we camp
here?" he suggested, and the Princess was hardly about to
Obi-Wan went to gather some dry wood to make a fire
with. They had no food, but they could at least have a
little warmth. You would think it would be easy to find
wood in the middle of a forest, but not so. Most of the
wood that was not still attached to the trees were too
decomposed and rotted to be useful, but he managed to
gather a small pile.
Heading back he placed the wood on the ground and got
to work starting a fire. Then he looked around and
wondered where Mareeja was.
"Mareeja? Princess Mareeja?" he called, starting to
"I'll be up in a minute," she called from down by the
"Okay." He got back to the fire. He was trying to
figure out how he was going to tell Mareeja what he knew he
must tell her. He did not want to keep his true identity
from her anymore, but he was afraid it was going to be
difficult to tell her the truth. He was afraid that she
would think he had lied to her, and that everything he had
said to her was a lie, but he knew he had to do it. He
liked her too much to go on living a lie with her. After a
few minutes he had a cheery little blaze going. Sitting
back he was just beginning to wonder if he should go see if
Mareeja was all right when he felt her coming up the hill.
He looked up, and then wished he hadn't.
Mareeja had obviously just taken a bath in the stream
to wash away the mud from her body and hair. She must have
washed her dress too, only separately...
"Uh, Mareeja," Obi-Wan looked away, his face once more
flushing and his ears turning read. "What did you do with
"It was a mess, I've got it hanging out to dry. I
don't think it'll ever be the same again though, not even
dear Mrs. Brism can fix this one I'm afraid," she laughed
softly, totally unaware of Obi-Wan's embarrassment at her
state of undress.
"The water's really nice, you should take a bath.
I'll hold your things for you. Yours aren't dirty like
mine were," Mareeja offered kindly.
Obi-Wan coughed violently into his hand. "Uh, no, not
really, no. I'd rather not."
"Whatever," Mareeja shrugged. She settled down with
her back against a tree. "It's funny," she said wistfully.
"For a few moments I almost wish that I could stay here,
free like this, and never have to return to the Palace or
any of that responsibility. Sounds horrible of me I
guess," she said sadly.
"No," Obi-Wan shook his head, looking her in the eyes
and nowhere else. "It's not horrible. We all want to
escape sometimes. What we have to remember is that while
duty calls us, it also fulfils us. An easy life is not
always a fulfilling one."
Mareeja laughed. "Well, if that's the rule than I
guess we both should be pretty happy with our lives right
now." She leaned her head back, looking up at the sky,
just barely visible through the canopy of trees above them.
"What are we going to do Obijeena?" she asked with a sigh.
"We're going to make it," Obi-Wan said with
conviction. "And," he added, hastily rising. "I'm going
to go get some more firewood." He was gone for a very long
time, but it had little to do with the availability of
firewood this time. When he came back he was relieved to
find the Princess fully clothed once more.
Night came and the stars rose in the hidden sky. The
fire burned low as they lay down to sleep, huddled together
for warmth, and, on Mareeja's part, for security. Obi-Wan
felt Mareeja at last relax in sleep. He blew out his
breath and it made her hair ripple gently. There was no
way he could tell her now. She would be mortally
embarrassed. Yet someday she would find out. What was he
going to do?
He didn't know. Right now, he was going to sleep.
Qui-Gon sat with a straight back and composed look,
which was more than several of the other diplomats could
manage at this time of the evening and with such a long
meeting presented in such a dry manner.
The Jedi Master sat at a long table in one of the
numerous meeting rooms of the Palace, listening to the
officials do their business. The only really important
business that had been done was to declare Warren Dejabold
as Regent in Mareeja's absence. After that, a good deal of
the meeting, had, of course, had to do largely with the
missing Princess, the efforts being made to find her and
what course of action would be necessary if she were not
recovered in time for the coronation. During all that
discussion, Qui-Gon had kept a keen eye on the new Regent,
who had returned from his trip sometime that afternoon. If
he was involved in his niece's kidnapping, he gave no
indication, no hint of nervousness or other emotion that
Qui-Gon could discern. Indeed, he watched the whole
proceeding in a calm, detached manner.
Qui-Gon could sense no direct evil in him, just a
great deal of distance. That did not necessarily mean
anything however. The meeting had dragged on now to other
subjects that concerned Qui-Gon little, or not at all, and
he allowed his eyes to wonder across the shelves of
trophies, knick-knacks and oddities that adorned the
shelves and mantles of wall he sat facing. His gaze
drifted, not settling on anything in particular, but if you
had asked him, he could have recounted every detail of the
wall to you with perfect accuracy.
Something he had seen grabbed his attention and he
back up to find it again. There, sitting on a mantle
piece, was a chronometer. There was nothing very unusual
about that, but the clock's case was shaped like a strange,
fish-like creature that Qui-Gon had never seen before, and
yet, he had seen it before... That last image he had seen
after he lost Obi-Wan's presence, he had discounted it as
nonsense, but that was exactly what it looked like, only
without the chronometer in the middle...
Qui-Gon waited with barely contained impatience until
the meeting was at last over and the diplomats were
dismissed. Making his way to the mantle, he studied the
"Do you like that clock?" Warren Dejabold asked
casually, standing behind Qui-Gon.
"It's unusual," Qui-Gon said neutrally. "What kind of
creature is that?"
"It's a Ferviot, a mythical beast from our folklore.
It is also the symbol of my house," Regent Dejabold
"I thought the royal symbol was that of the Three Suns
of Unity," Qui-Gon said, referring to the trio of circles
that made up the crests that he had so often seen Mareeja
"It is," Dejabold corrected. "That is the emblem of
the *royal* house and only the direct descendants may wear
it. The Ferviot is for those of us who were not fortunate
enough to be born a woman," the Regent's voice dripped with
Qui-Gon knew that, by tradition, the throne of Radoon
was always passed down to the first-born daughter. "I
see," was all he said. He continued to consider the clock,
wondering what all this meant. Obi-Wan had sent him that
picture, before this he had written it off as a confused
garble that had occurred when their connection was severed,
but now he knew better. It must mean something, but what?
Had Obi-Wan been trying to tell him that whoever took them
was working for Mareeja's uncle? That they wore his crest?
"You know Master Jinn," Dejabold interrupted his
thoughts. "I'm a little surprised at you. I thought for
sure you'd be all over me as soon as the meeting was over."
"What do you mean?" Qui-Gon asked.
Dejabold laughed a short, hard laugh. "I know what
everyone says about me. They all think I'm responsible for
this, I can see it in their eyes, hear it in the whispers
that they're too cowardly to say to my face. Haven't they
convinced you yet that I did away with my sister and her
husband and now my niece?" There was a bitter tone in the
"No one convinces me of anything that I do not have
proof to support, your Excellency," Qui-Gon said calmly.
"But since you brought it up, where were you when Princess
"Ah, now we get down to it eh?" Dejabold grinned
coldly. "Very well, if you must know, I was at a favorite
haunt of mine in Balanay. I don't expect you to know where
that is Master Jinn, but it is a small town very far from
here where I go to drink, gamble, and do all those things
that the diplomats pretend find so shocking and deplorable.
It is where I go when I want to try to forget that I will
soon be taking orders from a child straight out of coventry
school." It was all said very calmly, but he radiated
bitterness. "Yes, I have witnesses to prove it and no, you
will find no evidence that links me to any of this. But
will that stop people's tongues from wagging? No. I am
assumed guilty of everything that happens just because I
have the misfortune of being the former Queen's older
brother. Is there anything else I should say to you Master
Qui-Gon shook his head. Mr. Dejabold certainly had an
interesting manner about him. It was no wonder he was not
extremely popular. But was he a murderer? Qui-Gon tried
to probe deeper with his senses, but they returned nothing
useful to him, yet. "Not at this time your Excellency," he
declined. "I will contact you if the need arises."
"Do that," Warren turned on his heel and strode away.
Qui-Gon watched him go.
"Strange man," Prime Minister Bosh commented. Qui-Gon
had felt him approach some time ago and was not surprised
when he spoke. "Do you think he is telling the truth?"
"I do not know what to think yet," Qui-Gon put off
answering. "But just because he is strange does not
necessarily make him a criminal."
"I suppose not, but if he did not engineer this, then
"Who indeed," Qui-Gon mused. The Regent was still the
likeliest candidate, especially because of what he now knew
about the Ferviot.
Bosh rubbed his eyes and yawned. "Well, it's getting
late. That was a difficult meeting to sit through, I must
admire your composure through it all. It would have been
tedious for a younger man though, it's a good thing you
didn't bring your apprentice. Say, where is the boy? I
don't think I've seen him in a while."
"A Jedi's duty does not always place one in the public
eye," Qui-Gon answered evasively. As of yet, he had not
told anyone about Obi-Wan's disguise, or that he had
disappeared with the Princess. Given the uncertainty of
the situation, he felt it wise until he knew a little more.
"Where are you going?" Bosh asked as Qui-Gon moved
"To look for the answer to a question," Qui-Gon
answered without stopping.
"Where?" Bosh pressed his short legs working hard to
keep up with the Jedi Master's long strides.
"The stateroom," Qui-Gon answered simply. He wanted
to see if he could capture that essence he had found there
before, that vague trace of his apprentice that he had come
across, perhaps it could tell him something that he had
"Again?" Bosh asked, but Qui-Gon had outdistanced him
and if he heard, did not bother to answer.
Halfway there, the incessant buzzing of his comlink
made Qui-Gon pause. "Jinn here," he responded, almost
automatically. "Master Jinn," the voice on the other end
was unfamiliar, but it sounded like that of a young girl.
"Master Jinn, you don't know me, but I am Wendi, Mon
Drane's daughter," the girl's voice quavered, but she
hesitated. "I don't know what's going on, but someone
attacked my father this morning, shortly after he called
you. They beat him badly. The doctor's say he'll be all
right. He's unconscious now, but before he went into the
healing sleep, he kept saying your name over and over. I
don't know why, but I thought you should know."
Qui-Gon's brows furrowed darkly. "Thank you Wendi,
I'm sorry about your father, I will come right away."
"No, no need to hurry," Wendi contradicted him. "The
healing sleep of a Cestian can be very long. I would be
surprised if he were to wake before the end of the week.
It is our way."
"Well, then I wish him a speedy recovery," Qui-Gon
bade farewell and turned the communicator off. His
thoughts swirled around him as he continued on his intended
course. What did this turn of events mean? Why would
anyone beat Mon Drane, and why did the make-up artist call
out *his* name? Did someone suspect something? What?
Reaching the stateroom he pushed through the doors,
his mind still trying to mull over this new puzzle piece.
He headed for the place by the trophy case where he had
felt Obi-Wan's lingering presence before, but stopped
before he got there. On the second shelf of the trophy
case, gleaming dully, was another image off a Ferviot, only
this one was cast in copper and there was engraving on the
base. It looked just like the one Qui-Gon had in his mind.
Opening the case, Qui-Gon lifted it to get a closer
look. Suddenly, the trophy case swung forward, revealing a
secret passageway beyond.
*Of course! This explained a lot.* Qui-Gon peered
down the dark, hidden hallway, probing it intently for any
sign of life. So completely was he focused on it that he
did not sense the person who entered the room behind him.
A heavy trophy slammed down towards the back of the
Jedi Master's skull...
Rosy dawn spread across the leafy, green, tangle of
the forest. Obi-Wan woke first. Rising and stretching he
rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. He was still a little
tired. Sleeping on the ground may not have been very
comfortable, but it was hardly the first time that he had
done so. However, his sleep had been necessarily light, so
that he could keep a mental eye on things even as he slept,
ready to be awake in an instant if anything threatening
came near them. But the night had passed smoothly and now
it was time to move on again.
"Your Highness," he shook Mareeja gently by the
shoulder. "Mareeja, wake up."
Mareeja moaned and groggily pulled herself awake,
sitting up and running a hand through her tousled hair.
"Oohh," she groaned, rubbing her back as she sat up.
"That was definitely *not* the most restful night I have
ever spent. Well, where to from here?" She had become
used to looking to Obi-Wan for direction.
"Onward I guess," Obi-Wan said thoughtfully, rising to
Mareeja rose and rubbed her stomach. "I'm hungry."
Obi-Wan chewed his lower lip thoughtfully. "Nothing
we can do about that yet I'm afraid," he shook his head.
"Maybe we'll find something along the way," he said
hopefully for her sake.
Mareeja shuddered. "I wouldn't feel safe eating
anything that just *grew* in these woods. There could be
all sorts of poisonous things."
"Some are, some aren't," Obi-Wan half-agreed with her.
"The key is knowing the difference."
"Do you know the difference?" Mareeja asked, pushing
her way through a tangle-bush. The wide leaves smacked
against her as she passed, dampening her dress with the
heavy dew that coated everything, glistening fairy-like in
the early morning light.
Obi-Wan just nodded. "Mostly," he qualified.
"You're awfully smart," Mareeja complemented. "How
did you learn all these things you know?"
"What things, particularly?" Obi-Wan asked, stalling.
"Oh, you know, how to tell what's poisonous or not,
how to fight and move like you did back at that - that
place, those things," Mareeja said.
Obi-Wan was engaged in fighting his way through a
particularly nasty plant-snarl and took a few moments to
consider his answer. He would not lie to her. He would
have to tell her the...
"Mareeja, look at this," he said, stopping suddenly
and kneeling to investigate something on the other side of
Mareeja slid through the opening he had created and
tried to see what Obi-Wan was talking about.
The young Jedi held a small, cylindrical, black object
in his hand, turning it over and examining it curiously.
"What is it? What did you find?" the Princess asked,
kneeling down by him for a closer look. Upon closer
inspection, she realized what it was even before Obi-Wan
"It's a communicator," Obi-Wan told her what she
"Why, how do you think it got here?" she asked in
Obi-Wan shook his head, mystified. Her guess was as
good as his. "I don't know, maybe somebody dropped it, or
lost it out here."
"Do you think it still works?" Mareeja asked
"It looks pretty new," Obi-Wan assessed. Indeed it
could hardly have been there for very long at all. "Only
one way to find out!" he switched the comlink on. There
were no controls to direct to whom the signal went, so it
must have been one of a set of comlinks that were either
tied only to each other, or else operated in some manner
that Obi-Wan was not familiar with.
"Hello?" Obi-Wan spoke into the top of the comlink.
"Hello, can anyone hear me?"
The pair waited for several, breathless moments and
the silence seemed deafening. Then the communicator
crackled and the wonderfully welcome sound of a voice from
the other end broke the silence.
"Hello? Royal Security Officer 309 here. Who is
this? Identify yourself," the voice responded. Obi-Wan
guessed it was a man's voice.
Mareeja nearly jumped for joy. *Royal Security!* By
some happy chance the signal for the comlink they had found
was apparently tied to her own Security Patrol's signal.
In her happy eagerness, the Princess snagged the comlink
out of Obi-Wan's hand.
"This is Princess Mareeja," she declared. "My friend
and I found one of your comlinks in the woods. You will
come and get us up immediately," she ordered.
"Your Highness! Everyone has been searching for you
for days your Highness! Thank the powers you're all right!
We'll be there at once!" the man replied in shock. "Leave
the comlink on and we'll trace its signal."
"Very well," Mareeja replied. "Oh, and one more
thing," she said quickly, her lips pursing tightly, her
face darkening. "Call the Palace Security. Have my Uncle
Warren Dejabold placed under arrest immediately, for
conspiracy, kidnapping, murder and attempted murder, do you
"Yes, your Majesty," the guard replied soberly. "I
will do as you command. Over and out." The comlink fell
silent once more.
Mareeja sat down on the stunted, scraggly, dew covered
grass. She was very glad to be so near to the end of this
ordeal, but she was also intensely angry with her uncle.
*He would pay...*
Obi-Wan watched her quietly. He could tell the
Princess was caught somewhere between being happy and being
"It won't help," he said softly.
"What won't?" Mareeja asked in surprise, not
"Being angry," Obi-Wan replied. He did not intend to
preach at her about it, but he really, truly liked Mareeja
so he offered his opinion. For normal people, anger was
not perhaps as dangerous as it was for Jedi, but it never
did anyone any good.
"Why shouldn't I be angry?" Mareeja asked, a little
indignantly, chagrined that her emotions had been so easily
readable to her companion. "Aren't you angry Obijeena? He
had us kidnapped, he had my parent's killed, probably would
have had *us* killed if we hadn't escaped. So why
shouldn't I be angry?"
"Because it doesn't help anything," Obi-Wan said,
gently, but bluntly. "No, I'm not angry," he answered her
question. "Because it would do nothing to improve the
situation. What does it accomplish? The law will punish
your uncle; your anger hurts no one but yourself."
Mareeja looked away.
Obi-Wan felt a little sorry. He hadn't meant what
he'd said as an insult. "It's a natural response," he
hurried to add, not wishing to sound like he was in any way
condemning her for the way she felt. "I'm not saying it
isn't," he said earnestly. "I'm just saying that not all
responses that seem natural to us should we let ourselves
express." Obi-Wan thought he might have twisted the
grammar in that last sentence around a wee bit, but that
was probably because he was referring to a lesson that
Master Yoda had taught him as a child. Sometimes when
referencing Yoda's lessons he half-slid into the wise old
Jedi Master's peculiar speech patterns. Qui-Gon never
corrected Obi-Wan for this, but sometimes the corners of
the distinguished Master's mouth would twitch after a
particularly backward sentence and Obi-Wan got the feeling
that he had just inadvertently been a source of great
The apprentice shook his head. "I didn't mean to
offend you Princess," he added softly.
Mareeja stared at the trees on her right. Trying to
decide if she was upset with her friend or not. After
everything they had been through together, here they were,
about to be saved and *now* they were quarreling? It was
stupid. Mareeja sighed. She supposed it was her anger's
fault that she felt this way now. Well, she wasn't going
to let something like that spoil the situation.
"You didn't," Mareeja turned back towards Obi-Wan.
"I'm sorry I behaved so, it wasn't very grown up of me, was
it?" she shook her head. "But let's not think about it
anymore. We're finally on our way out of this whole mess
and I just want to be happy!" She grinned and Obi-Wan
returned her smile. "Wasn't it wonderfully lucky that we
found that comlink?" she bubbled happily. "I mean, what
are the chances?" A sudden cloud passed briefly over her
face. "You don't think any of my Uncle's men could have
heard the conversation do you?" she asked hesitantly,
suddenly wishing she had not been quite so quick to declare
her title and presence to the world.
"I don't know, I don't *think* so," Obi-Wan said
thoughtfully. "It's usually pretty hard to eavesdrop on
tied comlinks, that's why they do them that way for
Security forces," he reassured, but kept himself on guard
"Oh, good," Mareeja sighed in relief. "So tied
comlinks work only with each other?"
Obi-Wan nodded. "Or within their own set. There can
be hundreds all tied together, but they'll operate only on
their own, coded signal. Sometimes they are even
programmed to recognize voice patterns so that only
specially designated people can use them."
"I see," Mareeja nodded, only half interested. "I
guess we're fortunate that this wasn't one of those. We
have droids like that at the Palace though, who'll only
take commands from the person or persons they're programmed
to serve. All the officials' droids are programmed that
way," she mused. "It was really funny, because one time
when I was a little girl, oh, about ten or eleven probably,
I was home on break from school and I found a book on droid
programming. For some reason it fascinated me immensely at
that time, so I read the whole thing. When I was done I
was sure I could do everything it talked about, so I got
one of the servant boys to help me and we snuck around and
altered almost all the personal, voice-recognition droids
so that instead of obeying when they heard their master's
voices," Mareeja started to grin a little in spite of
herself, seeing now what a terrible nuisance she must have
been. "They would respond with rather rude, personal
comments that we programmed into them ourselves. It was
Obi-Wan cocked an eyebrow and smiled wryly. He bet it
had been funny, he also bet that people were probably
pretty annoyed. Everyone at the Temple sure had been when
*he* was ten and he had... well, Obi-Wan flushed just
remembering it. He probably should never have let the good
natured, but disasteredly prank-war between he and his
friends and some of the other Initiates go that far. Obi-
Wan still remembered standing in the dark, realizing that
their bungled joke had just left, not only the entire
Temple, but also half of Coruscant without power.
"Kenobi," a Master's voice said, using that tone that made
you just know you were in trouble. "You will come with me
Obi-Wan shook his head to dispel the memory. It was
funny in hindsight, but he had certainly found nothing
humorous about it at the time. He had taken the blame for
everything, even the parts he did not do, to keep his
friends out of trouble. Looking back, he realized he had
not fooled the Masters, they knew the truth, but if he
insisted on claiming responsibility for it, they would let
him see how that went. It was the only time he could
recall the Masters ever actually punishing him in a sterner
fashion then just assigning him extra exercises and duties,
although they had done that too.
"What happened?" Obi-Wan asked, curious despite
"Well," Mareeja said, blushing a little herself. "My
parents weren't very pleased. I can laugh about it *now*,"
"But it wasn't very funny then," Obi-Wan finished for
her, knowing precisely what she meant.
"Exactly," Mareeja nodded, her eyes glinting. "I see
we perhaps have some common experiences in our histories?"
she asked with a knowing smile.
Obi-Wan just grinned sheepishly and nodded. "You
could say that." *At least you didn't black out half a
"Of course," Mareeja had a distant look in her eye,
remembering. "It was almost worth it really, to hear those
droids go. Prime Minister Bosh was soooo angry! He's a
very proud man, but he's woefully over-weight and when he
tried to talk to it his droid kept saying the things we
programmed it to say, which all had to do with his
chunkiness. It wasn't very nice I'm afraid, and the jokes
probably weren't that funny since they were thought up by
Obi-Wan had stopped listening to her story several
sentences ago. A thought had struck him, and it was not
one he liked. "Wait a moment, are the droids at the Palace
*still* programmed for voice-recognition only?" he asked
Mareeja shrugged, unperturbed by Obi-Wan's
uncharacteristic interruption. "Many of them, why? You
don't want to try playing the same joke when we get back do
you?" she teased. "I'm afraid it wouldn't exactly be
Obi-Wan shook his head, dead serious now. "Mareeja,
are Prime Minister Bosh's droids still programmed that
"Yes," Mareeja shrugged, still not sure what her
friend was getting at. "Like I said, the officials are
very picky. They won't keep droids unless they're
programmed like that..." Mareeja's voice trailed off,
thinking about what she had just said.
"Mareeja," Obi-Wan said, urgency creeping into his
voice. "That means that if one of Prime Minister Bosh's
droids came to you with a message, you would know it was
only from him, *could* only be from him."
Mareeja nodded mutely, a tingling sensation creeping
up her arms, giving her goosebumps.
"Think Mareeja, this is important," Obi-Wan said
earnestly. "Was that Bosh's droid who came for you at the
Mareeja nodded again, slowly. "Y-yes, it was. I'm
certain of it. I'd know Three-Dee anywhere. Obijeena,"
she said, her eyes narrowing in terrible suspicion. "Do
you realize that that means that it actually *was* Prime
Minister Bosh who sent it, and not the traitorous guards
like we thought?!"
Obi-Wan nodded solemnly. That was exactly what he had
realized. "I think we've been barking up the entirely
wrong tree Mareeja."
"My Uncle isn't behind this after all!" Mareeja cried,
jumping to her feet, the truth of her Prime Minister's
betrayal rushing in on her. "Bosh is the one! He
masterminded this, letting me think it was my Uncle! He is
the one responsible for my parents' death!" Mareeja
clenched her fists, so wrought up she was nearly shouting.
At that moment, the Royal Security officers arrived.
"Captain!" Mareeja said urgently. "We must get back
to Radoon at once! Prime Minister Bosh is a murderous
traitor and must be apprehended immediately!"
"Mareeja!" Obi-Wan called out, springing to his feet,
but he was too late to stop her declaration.
"Really your Highness?" the Captain asked, but
something in his eyes made Mareeja uneasy. "Isn't that a
shame," he said, coolly drawing his blaster on her.
Mareeja stumbled back a step in shock as the other
officers drew their weapons as well. "What is the meaning
of this?" she demanded. "How dare you draw your weapons on
"They work for Bosh Mareeja," Obi-Wan's voice came
from behind her. "This whole thing has been one huge,
elaborate scheme," the young Jedi said as all the pieces
finally fit together. "The Prime Minister planned it from
the first. That's why he kidnapped you instead of killing
you and had his men drop all those little hints to make us
think it was your Uncle. That's why the fence was off and
we got away so easy, they *let* us escape. They've been
watching us this whole time. They even planted that
communicator." That's what had felt wrong about it, Obi-
Wan realized. While the ground was covered in dew, the
communicator was dry because it had been purposely left
there for them to find not twenty minutes before they came
across it. "They *wanted* you to come rushing back and
have your Uncle locked away, because then, when Bosh did
get rid of you, Mr. Dejabold was out of the way and as the
next highest-ranking Official, Bosh could step in and take
over," Obi-Wan and Mareeja backed slowly away as Obi-Wan
talked. "Only now that we know, they're going to have to
just kill us and work something else out."
"You're pretty smart girlie," the Captain grinned.
Several of the traitorous Security Officers cut around
behind the Princess and the Jedi, halting their retreat and
taking them by the arms.
Obi-Wan was inclined to struggle, but with all these
blasters pointed at them he decided he had better wait for
a slightly better looking opportunity.
"You've got it all figured out. But you don't have
all the surprises, I know something about you too, young
*lady*," he grinned, stressing the word. "You're no girl
at all, *Obi-Wan Kenobi*. You're that blasted Jedi Jinn's
Padawan, and you are both going to die." He pointed his
blaster directly at Obi-Wan's head.
"What?!" Mareeja nearly shouted. This was all a
little too much for her to grasp so quickly. Her Uncle was
not a traitor, the Prime Minister was, Obijeena was really
a boy, and a Jedi Padawan and they were going to be killed.
Sure, she could deal with this, no problem.
Obi-Wan slammed his head back into the face of the man
who was holding his arms behind him. Making the man let go
his hold he jumped to the side, missing the blast that was
intended for him and knocking Mareeja's captor sprawling
all in one move. "Run Mareeja, run!" he urged, grabbing
her hand and tugging her once more into the trees with him
as blaster shots and security officers followed them.
*"Well *this* is familiar!"* Mareeja thought
sarcastically. Only this time, the people chasing them
weren't going to simply let them get away. This time, they
really wanted to kill them.
Obi-Wan tugged her behind a tree with him, scanning
quickly for the best route through the tangled forest.
Mareeja looked at him. She could see it now, why she had
thought him familiar at first. It *was* the young Jedi
that she had seen so often at Master Jinn's side. "I don't
believe this," she shook her head. "You're a *boy?* All
this time, and you're a *boy?!*" She was felt so
embarrassed she thought she would die. All those things
she said and did, she had done in front of a man!
Obi-Wan rolled his eyes at her sense of timing. "I'm
sorry about this your Highness, really, but is it
imperative that we discuss it right now?" he asked as a
hail of blaster bolts drove them out of cover of the tree,
putting them on the run again.
Mareeja guessed not, so she fell silent.
Pushing and scrambling their way through a tangle the
pair reached the other side, only to find themselves
staring straight down the barrels of half-a-dozen blasters.
"Game over, kids," the Captain said coldly. "You
Moving so fast that his motions blurred, Qui-Gon
whirled around and grabbed the attacker's wrist before the
blow could land.
He found himself staring into the startled and enraged
face of the Prime Minister.
"Well Mr. Bosh," he said calmly, pushing the short,
fat man up against the trophy case. "I have found
something in here after all. And I think perhaps you can
explain it to me."
With only a moment to act, Obi-Wan pulled Mareeja
protectively behind him, prepared to take the shot first.
Only the shot never came.
"Halt! You are all under arrest!" a voice shouted,
causing the traitorous Security Officers to look up. They
found themselves surrounded by a company of soldiers, their
The traitors, clearly out-numbered, laid down their
arms without a fight.
Obi-Wan saw his Master step out of the trees. Beside
Qui-Gon was a General with gold-braid on his Uniform. "Your
Highness, are you all right?" the General asked in concern.
Mareeja nodded wordlessly. Speech seemed a trifle
beyond her at this time.
"How did you find us, Master?" Obi-Wan asked, both
surprised and happy to see Qui-Gon there. He had gotten so
used to having to disguise his voice that he forgot that he
didn't need to now.
Qui-Gon almost smiled at the sight and the sound of
his apprentice. He had forgotten how good the makeover had
done its job and it was odd to hear a young lady call him
"Prime Minister Bosh planned his trap craftily. A
little too craftily for his own good. Everything was so
well planned that he became over confident and took risks
he should not have," Qui-Gon replied.
"Once Bosh's treachery was discovered, he spilled the
whole thing like the coward he is," the General added.
"From there, and with Master Jinn's help, we were able to
locate you. Thank the powers that we made it in time."
"Thank you General," Mareeja said, still slightly
shaken and shell-shocked from everything that had happened.
"And thank you Master Jinn." She said nothing to Obi-Wan.
She didn't even look at him. Obi-Wan's heart felt heavy.
He had been afraid of this. Afraid that because their
friendship started out based on a deception it could not
last once the truth was revealed.
"Now you know what happened with us, but what about
you? We expected to find you two still in their clutches,
not here in the middle of the forest!" the General
Qui-Gon glanced at Obi-Wan. The General had expected
them to still be there. Qui-Gon had not.
"We would have missed you if Master Jinn hadn't
insisted that we turn aside here," the kindly older man
"I don't feel well General and I'd rather not talk
about it," Mareeja put a hand to her head, the long ordeal
finally taking its toll on her. "I'm sure Obij- Obi-Wan
here can fill you in on everything." Was that ice in her
voice when she said it?
The General turned to the young Jedi expectantly and
Obi-Wan obediently filled in the details for the Radoonian
and his Master. When he finished, he looked around for
Mareeja, but found her gone; already whisked away back to
the palace. He wanted to talk to her, but supposed it
would have to wait.
Qui-Gon placed his hand gently on his apprentice's
shoulder, knowing what he was thinking. "Come, it's time
to go back."
Not very far distant there was a clearing where the
army had parked the small fleet of swoops that they had
used to reach the area so quickly. There were only enough
swoops for the soldiers and Qui-Gon who had ridden out so
the General had sent for a transport to come to take the
prisoners and Obi-Wan back.
As they arrived in the clearing, one of the soldiers
approached Qui-Gon. He was a trifle timid, but seemed to
be bolstering himself up to ask something. "Master Jinn,"
he said with forced braveness. "As you know, it will take
a good fifteen minutes for the transport to arrive. I
would hate to see the lady stranded here that long after
everything she's been through sir and I, that is, I was
wondering if I might have your permission to give her a
ride back to Radoon with the rest of us sir," he asked
For a moment, Qui-Gon tried to figure out what on
earth the young man was talking about. *What* young lady?
The Princess had already been ushered back to the
Capital... then a smile spread across the tall Jedi's face.
*Oh, *that* young lady...*
The dashing young soldier had obviously not grasped
the truth of Obi-Wan's situation. He was under the
impression that 'she' was what she appeared to be and that
Qui-Gon was either her father or her guardian.
Qui-Gon raised his eyebrow.
"There's plenty of room and I'll fly carefully Sir, I
promise," the young man said earnestly.
Qui-Gon glanced at his Padawan with a funny little
smile that Obi-Wan did not like.
Obi-Wan glared at his Master. *"Don't you dare,"* his
look spoke louder than words. Despite Obi-Wan's many
adventures and long ordeal; he still looked quite pretty
with his flushed cheeks and a soft halo of loose hairs
framing his face. Qui-Gon did not blame the young man for
wanting to give 'her' a ride.
*"Well Obi-Wan, I have encountered a lot of things
since taking you as Padawan, but I never expected to be
asked for permission to give you a ride home..."* the look
on Obi-Wan's face made Qui-Gon want to laugh so badly.
"How can I refuse such a polite and generous offer?"
Qui-Gon said with an amused smile. "Certainly, you have my
"Master!" Obi-Wan started to protest.
"Do you want to get back, or stay here for another
quarter of an hour waiting for the transport?" Qui-Gon
Obi-Wan sighed and rolled his eyes as the happy young
soldier pulled him off towards his swoop. He supposed he
could tell the man the mistake that was being made, but
that would be awkward and embarrassing, so he decided to
suffer through and focus on getting back as soon as
That was how Obi-Wan found himself flying back to
Radoon seated on the back of a swoop with his arms wrapped
around the waist of the young man at the controls. The
soldier intentionally went too fast and made a lot of dips
and fancy maneuvers that were entirely uncalled for.
Obi-Wan wasn't sure whether the young man was trying
to impress him, make him hold on tighter or knock him off.
It was a wind-blown and not-too-happy looking Padawan
who met Qui-Gon back in Radoon.
"That man," Obi-Wan said dryly, "Does not know how to
Qui-Gon smoothed Obi-Wan's wig, combing it down with
his fingers. "Oh, I'm sure he's a better pilot than you
Obi-Wan batted Qui-Gon's hand away from his hair. He
was not amused. "I just want to go back to our rooms, get
out of this dress and take a long, hot shower."
"We will, but we must take care of some details here
first. It shouldn't take long."
It took much longer than anticipated and it was well
past midnight by the time the pair finally found themselves
making their way back to their rooms.
"I'm glad it didn't take long," Obi-Wan muttered, half
under his breath. If one more man tried to flirt with him,
that unfortunate fellow was going to end up flat on his
back so fast he'd think the sky was falling.
"Master," he asked as they took the lift up to their
floor. "Do girls actually *like* having men drool all over
them that way?"
Qui-Gon raised an eyebrow. "Never having been one, I
could not say. However, I would suppose it depended on the
woman. Some perhaps find it flattering, but I'm sure there
are a great many who find it just as annoying as you did."
"I am never going to act that way," Obi-Wan shook his
head. "It makes a person feel more like a thing, than a
"Then it seems you have learned something important
from all this after all," Qui-Gon commented.
The clock on the wall was registering some absurdly
late hour of the night as their door swished open for them.
"Better get changed and get some sleep," Qui-Gon
advised. "Tomorrow is the coronation and Radoonian's are
known for their ornate and lengthy ceremonies. Now that
all is safe and well, they will doubtless wish to make it a
day to remember."
"Well this has certainly been one to forget," Obi-Wan
The young Jedi left to change, but reappeared several
moments later, tugging in frustration at the zipper on the
back of his dress. He was not accustomed to having to
reach at that angle. He was also not accustomed to having
such long hair and did not know what a volatile combination
hair and zippers could be. The wig became helplessly
tangled in the teeth of the zipper and the apprentice
couldn't get the ornery clasp to budge.
*"I *hate* long hair,"* Obi-Wan thought, tugging at
the recalcitrant fastener. *"I don't know how Qui-Gon
stands it. I am *never* going to wear my hair this long,"*
he resolved to himself.
Qui-Gon saw his apprentice's distress and shook his
head with a smile. "Mon Drane's injuries were much less
serious than a first thought. I hear he is already out of
his healing sleep. We will have to see him first thing in
the morning, *before* the coronation, to have you put back
to normal," the Jedi Master said, surveying the mess that
Obi-Wan had made of the zipper. "Not a moment too soon
either it seems."
Patiently untangling the sandy locks, Qui-Gon pulled
the fastener free, unzipping Obi-Wan's bodice all the way
down his back.
At that moment, the door opened. "Pardon my intrusion
at this late hour Master Jinn, but-" Warren Dejabold
stopped short, taking in the situation.
Qui-Gon straightened up immediately, realizing what
this looked like.
Obi-Wan unconsciously hugged the front of the loosened
bodice to him in a distinctly girlish manner. He was very
apt at picking things up and did not realize how many
feminine gestures and mannerisms he had incorporated in his
attempt to make his act believable.
"It seems I have chosen an inopportune moment to drop
in," Warren apologized with a knowing smile. "I did not
mean to interrupt anything..."
"No," Qui-Gon shook his head quickly. "You're not. I
can explain," he was trying to figure out how to say this
wasn't what it looked like. He wanted to explain that this
was his Padawan, but Mr. Dejabold had never met Obi-Wan and
if the Radoonian still thought it was a girl he was seeing,
that would sound worse.
Warren winked at the Jedi Master and waved his hand,
dismissing whatever Qui-Gon was going to say. "No need, no
need," he assured. "I simply had no idea the Jedi partook
of such... amusements. I am sorry for intruding and only
stopped by to say thank you for clearing my name. I did
not like you when we first met, because I was sure you were
against me, but I was wrong." An idea seemed to strike
him. "I'll have a bottle of Champagne sent up for you," he
said with a suggestive smile.
Obi-Wan had watched this whole exchange with growing
amusement. After all the embarrassing, uncomfortable
things he had been through within the last 48 hours, it was
nice to see Qui-Gon starting to flush and fluster for a
"That won't be necessary," Qui-Gon declined quickly,
his angled face starting to color slightly despite himself.
"Oh, but that's such a sweet offer!" Obi-Wan gushed in
his most feminine voice, batting his eyelashes at Warren.
"That's so thoughtful of you! Isn't it Qui darling?" he
asked innocently, leaning up close to the big Jedi. Laying
his right hand lightly on Qui-Gon's arm and continuing to
hold the dress up with his left he smiled sweetly.
Qui-Gon nearly choked and he turned a very
Obi-Wan knew he was going to be doing extra exercises
and scrubbing Temple floors for weeks for this, but he
didn't care. The look on Qui-Gon's face right now was
worth the trouble he was going to get in for it.
"I'll have it sent right up young lady. Better lock
the door this time Jinn," Warren said, exiting with a smile
and shutting the door behind him.
"What in the name of the Force was *that* all about?"
Qui-Gon rounded on Obi-Wan with very little of his usual
calm, although still very remarkably restrained.
"What?" Obi-Wan asked innocently. "I just said it was
thoughtful of him and it was thoughtful of him."
"But you deceived him," Qui-Gon pointed out.
"It wasn't deception Master," Obi-Wan said with an
entirely too self-satisfied smile. "It was playing a
part," the Padawan echoed Qui-Gon's own words to him before
this whole escapade started.
Qui-Gon frowned in deep exasperation. The big Jedi
seemed caught somewhere between cuffing his apprentice and
laughing at the absurdity of the situation but in the end
he just shrugged. "We'll talk about it tomorrow Kenobi."
Obi-Wan always knew he was in trouble when Qui-Gon
"For now," Qui-Gon waved his hand wearily. "Just...
Just get out of that dress!"
Obi-Wan paused in the doorway to his room when Qui-Gon
said this. Looking back over his shoulder he grinned
ingratiatingly. "Why Qui, I didn't know you cared..." he
said in the most syrupy voice he could muster and then beat
a hasty retreat into his room, slamming the door shut
behind him and narrowly avoiding the none-too-gentle swat
that Qui-Gon had aimed at the Padawan's backside.
The big Jedi tried the handle, but Obi-Wan had taken
the precaution of turning the lock. Qui-Gon could hear the
muffled sound of Obi-Wan's mirth coming from the other
side. "Get some sleep Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon called through the
closed door. "And *DON'T EVER* call me that again!"
But Obi-Wan was sprawled across his bed in a nearly
suffocating fit of laughter and did not answer.
The Coronation went splendidly and it was indeed an
auspicious affair. It actually turned out to be a three-
day procedure filled with feasting and merriment. On the
morning of the last day, Mareeja was installed as Radoon's
Queen for the rest of her natural life, unless she chose to
relinquish, or the people voted to remover her, neither of
which looked likely to happen.
However Obi-Wan's enjoyment of the whole affair was
slightly tainted because he was still troubled about the
way in which the princess and he had parted several days
The afternoon after the ceremonies were officially
over, Obi-Wan sought Mareeja out. He found her on the
terrace, looking out over the palace gardens.
"Your Highness?" he said quietly, coming up behind
Mareeja started slightly, not having heard his
approach. She turned.
"So," he smiled gently. "You are Queen now. Does it
feel different? You don't look different."
"It's strange really," Mareeja shook her head. "In
some ways I feel no different at all, and in others, I feel
as if I'll never be the same again." She turned her face
away from him and Obi-Wan's heart ached.
"Your Highness," he sighed. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry
that I had to deceive you, I'm sorry that I broke the
sacredness of your party, I only did it in an effort to
protect you, and I didn't end up doing a very good job of
that," Obi-Wan looked dejectedly at the floor. "I wanted
to tell you a hundred times, but, but I was afraid it would
change everything between us," Obi-Wan reached out and
gently turned her head back towards him with his hand on
"You are a kind and enjoyable person Mareeja and I
treasure your friendship. The things I said to you were
not lies; I meant every word of them. As Obijeena, I came
to love you like a sister, and I only wonder, can you like
Obi-Wan too?" Obi-Wan inquired earnestly, his pale blue
eyes searching her intense periwinkle ones.
Mareeja smiled and took his hand in hers. "Of course
I can Obi-Wan. I was angry at first, but the past few days
have given me time to think and I realized that I probably
would not have survived that ordeal without you, so your
disguise and attendance at the party are justified. But
more than that," she squeezed his hand. "I treasure our
friendship too. I feel that I know your heart Obi-Wan
Kenobi, and that you know mine. That is not a feeling I am
able to share with very many people. Let us always be
friends Obi-Wan. Promise you will write to me, after you
and your Master leave."
"I promise, if you will write to me," Obi-Wan agreed
with a smile.
"But where would I send the letters?" Mareeja laughed.
"To: Obi-Wan Kenobi,
c/o Adventure & Danger Unlimited?" she shook her head.
Obi-Wan laughed too. "Send your letters to the Jedi
Temple on Coruscant. I can always pick them up there, or
they can forward them."
Obi-Wan heard Qui-Gon calling him. "Here Master, on
the terrace," he answered.
Qui-Gon smiled when he saw Obi-Wan and Mareeja
together, looking so happy. He was glad that they had
worked everything out. Then his face straightened again as
he recalled what he had come here to say. "We have to
leave Obi-Wan, gather your things."
"So soon?" Obi-Wan looked a little surprised. He
would have thought they would have had a day or two's
layaway at least.
"Yes, I have been summoned by the Council," Qui-Gon
informed the apprentice, his tone a trifle short.
"By the Council?" Obi-Wan looked even more surprised.
"Why? Is something wrong?"
"Yes, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said with a look in his eyes
that made the Padawan very suddenly want to sink into the
earth. "Something is. I have been summoned by the Council
to answer some rumors that have been brought to them.
Something about my having underage girls in my quarters at
midnight," he said pointedly.
Obi-Wan's eyes got very large. He had never thought
that something like that would ever get back to the Jedi
"Oh," he said quietly. Months. He was going to be
scrubbing floors for months. Or worse.
"Yes, *Oh*," Qui-Gon said with folded arms. "I think
the trip back will be a good time for you to contemplate
actions, and the consequences they can cause."
Obi-Wan studied his boots. *Uh, oh...* he was in for
it now. Then he felt Mareeja nudge him gently in the ribs.
Glancing up to catch her eye he found it sparkling with
amusement. *"We'll laugh about this one day,"* her eyes
seemed to say.
"Why Master Jinn..." Mareeja started to tease, easily
figuring out the cause for *that* rumor. Then the look in
Qui-Gon's eyes made her think the better what she was going
to say. "I would love to hear how you explain it to them,"
she finished mildly instead.
Qui-Gon just smiled and bowed his farewell, but as
they walked away, Obi-Wan heard him mutter under his
breath. "So would I. So would I."