Title: A Mile in their Shoes

By: Cassia

Email: cassia_a@hotmail.com

Category: Story, Humor, Drama, Adventure, etc.

Rating:  PG

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

with amusement.


"Then why didn't the Council send female Jedi?" Obi-

Wan groused.


"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

*mighty* uncomfortable. 


"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

Qui-Gon offered. 


Obi-Wan rolled his eyes.  *That* was helpful. 


"All right, you're all ready," Mon Drane proclaimed

him done. 


"Good, it's time to be going," Qui-Gon glanced at the

chronometer on the wall.  "You know how to get there?"


Obi-Wan nodded. 


"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?"


"Have fun."


"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-

Wan pass. 


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

hands down. 


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

with you."


"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

longer alone.


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

stayed away."


"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. 


Danto bristled.


"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

a child." 


*"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

at this.


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

stiff thrashing. 


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

hurt him. 


"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

seriously annoyed.


"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

the hall.


"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,

also rising. 


"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. 

"Let's go."




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

his belt.


"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

look about. 


"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

your dress?"


"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

man's voice.


"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

Mareeja disappeared?"


"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

missed before.


"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

his feet.


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

the tangle. 


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

answered her.


"It's a communicator," Obi-Wan told her what she

already knew.


"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

quite funny."


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

eleven-year-olds, but,"


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

weapons drawn.


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?


Obi-Wan sighed.


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

asked mildly.


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

sentient being."


"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. 


Obi-Wan yawned.


"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. 

"You see-"


"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

satisfactory color. 


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

last-named him. 


"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

her chin. 


"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,

Galaxy Wanderer

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."




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