Category: Story, adventure, drama, H/C, um... the usual.
Spoilers: Minor ones for the JA books
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!
Archive: Early Years, Jedi Apprentice and anyone I've given permission to for previous stories. Others please ask.
Time Frame: 12 years before TMP. Somewhere between JA 10 and JA 11. Obi-Wan is 13.
Summary: When the Jedi arrive to negotiate between a group of settler/farmers and their grabby landowners, Obi-Wan is disappointed to be left behind. He is about to learn that no task is unimportant, and assignments do not always turn out the way you think they will.
Things bracketed by *'s are *italic*.
~~~I am dedicating this story to my friend Kim B. without whom my stories would be listed on about three sites and who is long overdue for a story dedication after everything she has done on my behalf. Thanks so much Kim! Sorry I don't say it near as much as I should.~~~
"But Master, I don't see why I have to stay here with the other children. I am *not* a child!" Obi-Wan Kenobi argued, on the verge of being petulant.
"You are thirteen years old Obi-Wan, and on this planet, that classes you as a child. Besides which, age aside, you are acting like one now," Obi-Wan's master, Qui-Gon Jinn said in no uncertain terms.
Stung by the rebuke, Obi-Wan lowered his head. "What good am I to you here?" he said in a softer, almost sad voice. "What have I done wrong?"
Qui-Gon sighed. In another few months, Obi-Wan would be fourteen and they would have been together as Master and Padawan for a year. Obi-Wan was a good student, but sometimes he showed that he still had so much yet to learn.
"Padawan, I'm not punishing you by making you stay here. All the Remrafar children fourteen and under always stay here in the colony while the elders go across planet to pay the LandOwners tribute," Qui-Gon pointed out.
Obi-Wan knew that. But it certainly *felt* like a punishment to be kept from the center of events.
The planet Nedrag was a mostly desolate wasteland, except for the one valley that the Remrafar farmers had settled in centuries ago. There, the geothermal conditions created an ideal growing condition. The original Remrafar had leased the right to farm there from the corporation who owned the supposedly worthless rock for a tiny gratuity.
Then, last year, rare and precious Ionite was discovered to dwell in large pockets beneath Nedrag's cracked surface.
Instantly the Remrafar's tribute was quadrupled to impossible proportions. Nedrag's owners wanted the little colony of farmers gone so that they could use the heated valley for their new mining bases, but the original contract gave the Remrafar unconditional tenancy unless they should fail to meet their tribute payments. When the small colony refused the LandOwner's offers to buy them out, the LandOwners had turned to other methods.
The Remrafar saw no reason why they should be forced out of their homes and tensions grew taught. The LandOwners agreed to a meeting to discuss a compromise and the Jedi were called upon to moderate.
After waiting for several days with no word, the owners sent a message that they would convene tomorrow evening and every Remrafar over fourteen had better be there.
"I'm almost fourteen, can't I come with? I'll be useless here," Obi-Wan unwisely continued to protest.
"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon sighed. "How do you know where you will or won't be useful? Can you see the future so clearly? Not everything that seems important at one time is vital, and not everything that seems unimportant is of no consequence. Sometimes big events swing on little hinges. But, since you are concerned about being bored, you may do an extra chapter of astrophysics and two of physiomitry, I will see that they are loaded into your pad and test you when I return."
Obi-Wan stifled a groan. He had brought that upon himself and he knew it. He opened his mouth to say something, but Qui-Gon smiled placidly and pointed out that he could always add some bionetics to the mix and Obi-Wan wisely fell silent.
Qui-Gon could see in Obi-Wan's eyes that the boy was not happy and not convinced, but knew better than to argue further. The Master really did not intend this to be a punishment of any kind for his Padawan; it was only if Obi-Wan turned it into such.
"Try to relax a little Obi-Wan, you deserve some time off," Qui-Gon said, pondering the eagerness of youth that wanted to be at the center of everything and tried to remember if he'd ever been that way. Of course he had.
"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan said unenthusiastically. He could think of about a dozen other places that he would rather take time off. Stuck on a farm with a bunch of babies and loads of homework. Sure. This was going to be really fun.
The older Remrafar farmers spent much of the morning listening to weather reports while they prepared for their journey. It was about two weeks away from harvest time and it was not unusual for heavy frosts to sweep across the valley at this time of the season. The only way to predict the severe freezes was the automated weather droid that orbited Nedrag and broadcast continual automatic reports on the weather. Of course, the Remrafar were the only ones who ever listened to it.
Had a freeze been coming that night, the farmers would have no choice but to stay, meeting or no meeting, but the weather drone reported clear, mild weather ahead and so the preparations continued.
The children helped their parents and elder siblings prepare and despite his feelings about being left behind, Obi-Wan attempted to make himself as useful as possible.
"Why don't the LandOwners come here to negotiate?" the Padawan asked a girl with red braids and a freckled face who was roughly the same age as him.
Jemima stopped making sandwiches long enough to shake her head. "They never do," she said. "They never come here. We always have to go across planet to meet with them on their ship."
Obi-Wan handed her another loaf of Bialy and continued sealing the sandwiches in fresh-safe. A boy of about seven piled the growing heap of food into a portable refrigeration unit.
"It's dumb really," Jemima brushed a stray strand of hair out of her eyes. The girl's thick hair was forever straying out of the braided pigtails she placed it in and wisping down to frame her face.
"It's a dangerous trip for us, so dangerous that we dare not even attempt to make it after nightfall, even with navigational equipment." Jemima gave the Bialy a particularly vicious slice.
"I don't see why we should have to leave our homes over some stupid ore," she muttered under her breath. "It's just not fair."
Obi-Wan was coming to realize just how firm was the Remrafar's love of their home and their land, such as it was. When they had first arrived, he had asked Qui-Gon why the people did not just take the money that had been offered them and move somewhere else? Did they really want to live on this desolate rock? Qui-Gon had told him that this "rock" was their home and if he wanted a better answer to that question then he should keep his eyes open and look around him. The Padawan was beginning to understand.
"Hand me that please," another girl with dark hair who was slightly younger than Jemima and also engaged in food preparation asked Obi-Wan, motioning to the esiannoyam sauce jar that Jemima was using.
Obi-Wan reached for a bottle, but as he turned to pass it to her ended up running smack into a bigger boy who was passing by the table. The jar fell and broke, splattering them both with creamy white esiannoyam.
The other boy made a disgusted face. "Oh be careful can't you?!" he snapped, roughly shoving Obi-Wan out of his way and ignoring the apprentice's apology.
"Lighten up Remi!" Jemima called after him. "It was an accident."
Remi ignored his cousin and stalked away without looking back.
"Gotta excuse him," Jemima told Obi-Wan with a shrug. "He's usually not such a jerk. See, he's the only fourteen-year-old in the colony and he feels he should be allowed to go with, but papa and Uncle Miguel say he must stay here to protect the place or something," Jemima snorted.
"I don't know what they're so up about, *I* could protect us just fine, and I sure wouldn't be such a moron about it," she said. "Why does he care so much about going to that boring old meeting anyway?"
Obi-Wan kept his mouth shut and concentrated on the food.
The colony was small, consisting of twelve close families. Some were related, some not, but they all acted like they were one big family and as generation after generation grew up and intermarried, they became more and more so in point of fact. In such a small community it was not unconceivable that Remi was the only 14-year-old on the planet. Of the children who were left behind there were three thirteen-year-olds including Jemima and Obi-Wan and a girl named Delia, four eleven-year-olds, two ten-year-olds, one nine-year-old, a pair of eight-year-old twins, a seven-year-old, six five-year-olds, three two-year-olds, one one-year-old and an infant.
Of the twenty-five children, only the older four were really capable of being in charge.
Obi-Wan observed that the children were a lighthearted, but extremely hard-working bunch who each handled their tasks capably, according to their age and level of responsibility.
Jemima and the others laughed and joked as they carried out their chores and only Remi remained sullen. For some inexplicable reason the slightly older boy seemed to have decided to vent his frustration in Obi-Wan's direction. Remi made it a point to never pass the apprentice without giving him a shove, as if the other boy were in his way, even when there was plenty of room to go around.
Jemima threw dirty looks at her cousin and made chopping motions with her hand when she thought Obi-Wan was not looking, telling him to cut the attitude, but the older boy ignored her.
Highly irritated, Obi-Wan nevertheless kept his composure and acted as if he did not notice the Remrafar's rudeness. Still stinging from having his Master tell him that he was acting like a child, the Padawan determined to hide his own disappointment at being left behind and not let himself be goaded by Remi's hostility.
It worked, for a while.
Shortly before the elders of the community were supposed to depart, Miguel Takara, who had not failed to notice his son's behavior, sent Remi to feed the animals in the barns and see that the thermostats were adjusted correctly. The air seemed to have acquired a faint bite and it felt like it would be a chilly afternoon.
"But that's the girls' job!" Remi protested.
His father's dark eyes flashed. "Yes, but they have been busy doing their jobs to help us while you have been pouting. Do I have to tell you again?"
"No sir," Remi hung his head, upset at having made his father angry with him but still violently unhappy.
"I'll help," Obi-Wan offered, wishing to make peace with Remi if he could.
"I don't need your help," Remi refused curtly, but his father had other ideas.
"I think that's a very nice offer Obi-Wan, Remi would be glad to have your assistance," Miguel said, looking pointedly at his son.
Remi grunted and shrugged. "All right, c'mon," he said to Obi-Wan, obviously bristling with irritation.
Obi-Wan sighed as he followed him out. This was going to be harder than he thought.
Miguel Takara turned and found Qui-Gon Jinn standing behind him, watching the boys leave. Both men had noticed the animosity between their respective charges.
"Do you disapprove Master Jinn?" the Remrafar inquired, realizing he may just have put the Jedi's padawan in a rather undesirable position.
Qui-Gon shook his head. "Obi-Wan can look out for himself."
"From what I've heard of you Jedi, I would agree. I simply hope that Remi does not push him too far and end up with more than he can handle," Miguel sighed. "Of course, after the way he's been acting he almost deserves it."
"Obi-Wan is a Jedi, he will try to avoid conflict with your son and would never intentionally harm him," Qui-Gon assured.
"I don't doubt that," Miguel smiled somewhat wryly. "But he is also thirteen."
Qui-Gon nodded slowly, it was a valid point.
Remi stomped across the field to the barns, not waiting for Obi-Wan who followed like an unwanted appendage.
Inside the barn, Remi thrust the long handle of a three-tined farm instrument into the Jedi's hands.
"Fork that feed into those bins," he growled, gesturing from a pile of lavender hay to the large, rotating feed bin that would distribute the feed to all the animals in proportion.
Biting back his irritation, Obi-Wan took the fork and did as he had been instructed. Remi left to inspect the thermostats.
Obi-Wan filled the bin. As the lavender mass filled the bin, he wondered how it was supposed to move with a load like this...
"That's too full idiot!" Remi snapped, coming up suddenly and shoving Obi-Wan so hard that the apprentice, caught off-guard, actually tumbled sideways into the haystack.
"Should have known better than to let you do it," Remi muttered, removing several fork-fulls of feed. "What's a Jedi boy like you know about farming anyway?"
Picking himself up, Obi-Wan brushed the stray strands of hay from his clothes. That was it. Remi had no right to act like this!
"Look," Obi-Wan tried to be calm. It was difficult. "I know you're disappointed that you can't go with the others, I am too, but that's no reason to act like a..." Obi-Wan struggled to find a more diplomatic word than the one he had in mind.
"Jerk?" Remi supplied, turning around with fire in his eyes. "Go on, say it. You fancy Jedi think we're a bunch of backwater clods just like the LandOwners do! I heard what you said to that other Jedi: "Why don't they just take the money and go? Do they really want to live on this desolate rock?" Like we're the stupidest people in the galaxy or something!" Remi was almost shouting.
With a shock, Obi-Wan realized that this wasn't just about Remi not being allowed to go. The Padawan realized how his words must have sounded to the young Remrafar. It wasn't what he had meant, but from Remi's point of view it certainly sounded bad.
"Remi, I'm sorry, that's not what I meant-" Obi-Wan tried to explain, but the other boy wasn't listening.
"Well I'll have you know that this is our HOME! We have always lived here and we WILL always live here and I don't care who I have to fight to see to that!" Remi's short temper flared and his frustration at everything that had been happening to them over the past few months exploded.
Obi-Wan ducked only just in time to miss the sweeping arch of Remi's fist, which had been aimed at his face.
"I know that," Obi-Wan backed up, his hands palm-out in a non-threatening gesture. Invoking a fight with Remi was the last thing he wanted to do. Well... maybe not exactly the *last...*
"Master Qui-Gon and I came here to help your people, not-"
"Well what if we don't need your help you stuck up, arrogant little prig!" Remi spat, lunging for Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan sidestepped and the other boy ended up lunging into the hay.
Enraged, Remi grabbed the end of the floor-mat that Obi-Wan was standing on and yanked it hard.
Thrown off balance, Obi-Wan stumbled and also fell into the hay.
Pouncing on him, Remi slammed his fist into Obi-Wan's face, splitting the younger boy's lip.
Obi-Wan tasted blood and saw red. All right, if Remi wanted a fight, he had one. Catching the other boy's wrists before he could strike again, Obi-Wan grappled his opponent and they rolled over and over in the hay, struggling for the upper position.
It would have been very easy for Obi-Wan to totally flatten Remi, he had the training and the ability, but the Padawan refused to use the Force to aid him. Remi was not a pirate or terrorist, was not trying to kill or capture Obi-Wan or someone he was supposed to protect, Remi was just a boy who was taking his anger out on the first available target. Using his full Jedi ability against the Remi would end the fight quickly, but he could also risk injuring other boy badly. Besides, the young, reckless, irritated part of Obi-Wan wanted to prove that he didn't have to be a Jedi to hold his own against Remi.
The two teenagers rolled over and over, pummeling each other with their fists as each struggled to gain a position or hold which would end the fight.
Remi was easily a head taller that Obi-Wan, despite their nearness in age and farm work had made him strong and brawny, yet Obi-Wan was a trained fighter and his reflexes, even without Force-use were extremely quick.
The light, wispy hay went everywhere, churning in the air like a light purple blizzard.
Eventually, Obi-Wan ended up on top, twisting Remi's arm behind his back and pinning him down.
Qui-Gon and Miguel chose that moment to enter the barn. "Padawan?"
Obi-Wan's head jerked up at the sound of the familiar voice. Oh Force, this looked bad.
Scrambling to his feet, the apprentice attempted to straighten his tunic while he desperately tried to come up with an explanation for this. Failing to find one, the youngster hung his head, a damnable flush creeping up his cheeks. He would not be surprised if Qui-Gon were really angry with him.
Remi was slower to leave the obscurity of the haystack until a rather commanding word from his father brought him out.
Rumpled, bloody and covered in wisping lavender strands the boys were quite a sight.
"I'm sorry Master," Obi-Wan apologized unprompted, daring a brief upward glance at Qui-Gon's stern face before nailing his eyes back on the floor.
"I'm sure you are, do you want to explain how this happened?" the Jedi Master inquired calmly.
Obi-Wan sucked his bleeding lip.
Remi threw him a dirty look, obviously expecting to be blamed for everything, which, in reality, he deserved.
"I failed to keep my temper and control my anger, I am sorry Master, it will not happen again," the young Jedi said instead, focusing on his own failings rather than Remi's provocation.
Qui-Gon was pleased with the answer. He knew full well that Remi had pushed his Padawan into it, but Obi-Wan's willingness to take responsibility was encouraging.
Remi blinked several times and cast a half-suspicious, half-startled look at Obi-Wan.
"He may have responded, but I do not think that he is responsible for this altercation, am I correct Remi?" Miguel inquired. "Who threw the first punch?"
"I did," Remi mumbled.
Qui-Gon and Miguel conferred for a moment.
"We were coming to tell you that we were preparing to leave. While the final preparations are made you two can clean up this mess," Miguel said, looking around at the hay-coated barn. "We will speak more of this later Remi," he warned and Remi nodded quietly, he expected as much.
Obi-Wan looked to his Master, but Qui-Gon said nothing.
The two boys did not say another word to one another, but cleaned up the barn quickly and silently, staying as far away from each other as possible.
Once done with that they retired to the house to clean themselves up and finished just in time to see the adult party off.
While the family were saying their good-byes and giving last minute admonishments to their children to be good and listen to Jemima, Remi, Obi-Wan and Delia who had been left in charge, the two Jedi stood a little distance apart.
Obi-Wan had washed the blood from his face, but his lip still had a nasty little split in it and the bruise on his left cheekbone was darkening to purple. To the young Jedi's embarrassment, Qui-Gon tipped his head up and to the side slightly, checking his injuries.
The Padawan pulled back a little. "I'm all right." He averted his eyes again. Qui-Gon had yet to address what had happened and he sincerely hoped that the elder Jedi was not going to make him wait until he got back a full day from now.
"Master," he asked hesitantly. "Are you angry with me?"
Qui-Gon actually gave a small, almost-smile and shook his head. "No, Obi-Wan, I am not. Remi was asking for a fight all morning and you accepted responsibility for your actions without blame casting. In my mind it is a forgotten incident."
Obi-Wan felt relief trickle through him like melting snow. "Thank you Master. Um, Master? Are you sure I can't go?"
Qui-Gon gave Obi-Wan a look that told him he had really better not press his luck and Obi-Wan sighed his acceptance. He hadn't expected Qui-Gon to change his mind, but it had been worth a try.
Qui-Gon always marveled at how Obi-Wan could seem so mature one moment and the next show that he still had so much to learn. Children.
"Remember what I told you, big events-"
"Swing on little hinges, I know," Obi-Wan finished for the Master with a resigned sigh.
"That's right," Qui-Gon nodded. "Why don't you meditate on that while I'm gone and tell me what you learn when I come back?"
"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan nodded.
Then it was time for the adults to leave. The young group watched them dwindle into a speck in the distance and then disappear before returning to the house. It had been agreed that all the children would stay in Miguel Takara's large farmhouse while the adults were away.
Chores were completed and then the children turned to games and music to amuse themselves. At first, Remi, sporting two black eyes, refused to join in, but Jemima and the others coaxed and teased him until even he lightened up a little.
Obi-Wan still wished he could have gone with, but he supposed this was not as bad as he had thought it would be.
As dusk settled over the little colony, snow began to fall. The younger children watched it with delight, but the older ones looked concerned.
"It's not supposed to snow," Remi said softly. "The weather drone didn't say anything about snow."
Delia switched on the weather receiver, but only static answered them. The four teenagers exchanged puzzled and somewhat unsettled looks.
As dusk faded to darkness the temperature dropped sharply, covering the windowpanes in frost and settling a dead cold over the canyon. The snow stopped. It was too cold to snow.
The youngsters in the farmhouse watched with growing trepidation as the thermometer plunged steeply.
"Oh rocks," Jemima whispered, looking fearfully from her companions to the dropping temperature reading. "It's below freezing."
Below and dropping.
"This can't be right, something is very wrong here," Obi-Wan pulled the comlink off his belt and attempted to contact Qui-Gon, but without success. All he got was static. There was no reason he should not be able to get through, unless...
"Our transmissions are being jammed," he said quietly, returning the comlink to his belt.
"But - why?" Delia asked, her dark eyes confused and afraid.
"Geez! Don't you get it?!" Remi ran his hand through his shoulder-length brown hair. "We've been set up! The LandOwners must have known this freeze was coming. They jammed our communications and somehow sent phony weather reports until after all the adults left. They know that there's no way for the others to get back after nightfall and they know that without our crops we'll never be able to stay here. They've won," the boy said bitterly.
Obi-Wan nodded slowly, but agreed with the first part of Remi's speech only. The other boy had pretty accurately pegged the same thing that he had been thinking. The Jedi however, refused to admit defeat so easily.
"There has to be something we can do," Obi-Wan shook his head. "What would you normally do, faced with a freeze like this?"
"Roll out the thermal-protective covers over the fields to keep the cold out," Jemima supplied, looking nearly as hopeless as her cousin. "But there's hundreds of acres of fields out there, it takes every single person we've got to do it and we have to start the afternoon before. There's no way we can do it alone."
"We have to try, what choice do we have?" Obi-Wan asked.
"Right," Remi snorted. "The four of us, and a bunch of babies."
"I'm not a baby!" Danni, one of the eleven-year-olds protested hotly.
"We can at least save something!" Obi-Wan reasoned.
"Not much," Remi shook his head, unconvinced.
"Look, Remi, I know you don't like me, so fine, don't like me, I don't care, but don't let that get in the way us working together when it comes to something important like this. This is your home," Obi-Wan looked at the young, serious faces that were now looking at him, looking to him. "You said you wanted to fight for it, fight for it now!"
Remi set his jaw, determination kindling in his eyes. "All right, we'll do it. Jemima, Delia, Danni, Tali, Namb, Rand, Mari, Bana, Noel and Obi-Wan, we'll go try to do something for those fields," Remi selected everyone above nine and older. "Jash, Ana, you two stay here and watch the littler ones," he instructed the remaining, eight-year-old twins.
"We've got one more problem," Jemima pointed out, glancing at the frosted windows. "The adults took their thermal-wear with them, we'll just have to layer up to keep warm."
Ten minutes later, looking like fat snowmen and wearing almost every item of warm clothing that they owned, the little group prepared to face the elements. As Delia and Jemima helped the younger ones with their outer-coats Obi-Wan gave a few last minute instructions.
"Everyone stay in pairs, keep your scarves in place and watch your partners. It's well into the minus degrees out there; exposed flesh can become frostbitten in minutes. We all want to save the crops, but lives are more important, if you can't go on, head back to the house, okay?" Everyone nodded.
They paired up older with younger and moved out to brave the elements. The frozen ground crunched beneath their feet and the frosty air burned their lungs.
Inside the house, Obi-Wan had been hot in his layered clothing but after barely five minutes outside the bitter cold had seeped through the clothing and chilled him. They were all chattering by the time they reached the first field.
The thermal-protective covers were wide enough to cover five rows at a time. Rolled up at the ends of the rows, they needed to be extended and secured down, all the while being careful not to break the stalks of the plants they were seeking to protect.
The covers were bulky, slick with fallen snow and difficult to manage. The darkness of the night and the children's thick gloves did not help the endeavor much.
Yet despite it all the eleven determined souls worked as hard and as fast as they could, covering row after row as the already arctic temperatures continued to drop even further. Slowly, cover by cover, they saved one field and moved to the next.
Little Noel, Obi-Wan's partner and the youngest of the group was the first to succumb to the cold. The child tried bravely, but Obi-Wan could see when she had reached her limit.
"Time to go in Noel," he said gently, despite her protests.
Thirty minutes later, Rand and Bana were next. The ones that had to go in took it upon themselves to make hot drinks to bring out to those still working.
Time seemed to have frozen like everything else as the youngsters toiled beneath the painfully crisp, starry sky.
Obi-Wan's foot punched through a layer of ice he had not seen under the snow, plunging his foot down into the icy water below and splashing water down his boot. Trying to shake the water out, Obi-Wan felt the icy liquid burn his leg like fire for a few moments before it receded away to a dull, freezing ache.
Mari, Tali, Namb and Danni reached their limits one by one until only the four teenagers were left, struggling with the frozen covers in the inky blackness.
They were now so far out into the fields that they did not allow the other children to continue bringing them drinks. Like automaton with a single mind they moved onward slowly.
Jemima fumbled with the release control on the cover, her frozen, glove-encumbered fingers thwarting her efforts. Obi-Wan readjusted the light on his hat and helped her tug it free. Jemima was shivering badly and stumbled repeatedly as she and Obi-Wan worked the cover down the row as carefully as they could.
Clumsy, frozen feet slid on the icy ground and Jemima fell with a small muffled cry. Obi-Wan quickly cut through the rows between them and made his way to hers side. "Are you okay?" he asked as he helped her up.
Jemima nodded, but winced when she put weight on her right ankle. "Just twisted my leg a bit," she brushed it off, although Obi-Wan could tell she was in pain.
"Jemima, maybe you should-" Obi-Wan started, but never got to finish.
"NO!" the girl responded vigorously, through chattering teeth. "I am going to see this through, I'm not going to let them steal MY home!"
When they reached the halfway point, their spirits got a momentary lift. Remi, working with Delia nearby, took a moment to gently tap Obi-Wan's shoulder. "Obi-Wan?"
"Hm?" Obi-Wan looked up quickly, his hands still tugging the cover forward.
"I-I'm sorry I was such a bantha brain, okay? You're all right and I had no right to talk to you like I did," Remi apologized, his swollen eyes sincere.
Obi-Wan smiled and gave the other boy's gloved hand a squeeze. "I know, I had a few mistaken impressions myself," he admitted.
The severe cold now seemed like a tangible enemy to the four weary teens. It sapped their strength, made moving hard and breathing painful and turned every movement into an act of sheer will.
Remi's bruised eyes responded badly to the cold and swelled until he could barely see out of them. Jemima's twisted ankle worsened until every step was agony and she limped painfully down the rows. But neither of them would give up.
When they were three quarters done Remi's urgent voice brought Jemima and Obi-Wan's heads up abruptly. From the tone of his voice, something was very wrong.
Remi showed up, almost dragging Delia after him.
"What's wrong?" Obi-Wan inquired immediately.
"Crazy girl!" Remi thrust out Delia's bare and obviously frostbitten hands for them to see. His voice was more concerned than anything else. "She took off her gloves!"
"I-I couldn't work the latches anymore with those gloves on, I'm sorry!" Delia sobbed, alarmed, in pain and feeling as if they were all angry with her.
"Shh, shh, it's okay," Jemima comforted, tucking the other girl's hands under her armpits.
"Nobody's mad at you Delia," Obi-Wan assured. Worried yes, mad, no. "You've got to get in quickly or that could turn serious though," he added. "But it's not safe for her to walk back alone."
"I'll walk her back," Jemima offered, but she took one step and nearly crumpled in pain. Her ankle was getting unbearable.
Remi hurriedly slipped an arm under his cousin to support her.
"Remi, why don't you take them both back," Obi-Wan said, his voice crystallizing in the frigid air.
Remi nodded. "Okay, I'll be back."
Obi-Wan shook his head. "No, stay. Your eyes are looking really bad, I'm afraid if they swell too much it could damage your eyesight. These crops aren't worth that kind of risk."
"What about you?" Remi asked suspiciously.
"We're almost done, I'll finish as much as I can and join you," Obi-Wan shrugged.
"Uh, uh," Remi shook his head. "We all go back together or not at all, I'm not leaving you out here in this frozen hell to struggle for *my* home all alone! What if something happens to you?"
"Remi," Obi-Wan grew slightly impatient; they were wasting precious time. "You have got to go back, Jemima and Delia have got to get inside and they need you to get there. I'm a Jedi, I know my endurance when I can't go anymore, I'll come back. You would do the same if you could, would you deny me the same right?"
Remi looked unconvinced, but gave in when he saw that Obi-Wan was not going to change his mind.
"All right, but be careful."
"You be careful," Obi-Wan called after them before setting back to work.
The young Jedi's mind blurred and one moment became very like another as he repeated the same steps, over and over again. The biting cold penetrated his body like needles and the stiffness it created in his joints made him feel older than Master Yoda.
The Padawan tried to create his own warmth through the Force and for a while it had worked to a certain extent. However, as he continued to push himself hour after hour even that became beyond his ability.
The teenagers had worked through most of the night and now Obi-Wan worked on alone as the frozen canyon slowly moved towards morning. The young Jedi felt ready to drop, but he was so close to the end now that he just couldn't give up.
*"Just one more field, just one more field..."* he repeated to himself over and over.
With a final tug and fastener clip, Obi-Wan secured the last cover and straightened his aching back to survey the night's work.
The first grey light of morning was etching its way up the sky and the watery rays glinted dully off the undulating fields of silver thermal-protective covers. The fields stretched off as far as the eye could see and Obi-Wan realized he was miles away from the farmhouse.
Looking at it from here it seemed an impossible feet for a handful of children to have accomplished; yet, somehow, they had done it. No doubt the frost had claimed some of the crop, but hopefully they had saved enough.
A leaden weariness hung over Obi-Wan's body and he told himself he it was from lack of sleep and hard work. It was over now, he could go back. Wearily putting one frozen foot in front of the other he started the long trudge back to the farmhouse.
As he walked, the bitter cold that had been assailing him seemed to vanish. Obi-Wan thought that the morning must be warming things up, but in reality he had gone completely numb.
Despite what he had told Remi, Obi-Wan had overestimated how much his body could handle, or at least, he had not counted this hour-long walk into his considerations.
Numb, frozen legs stumbled, at first once, then more and more frequently until Obi-Wan began to realize that something was wrong. Yet there was nothing he could do, his strength was expended and his body shutting down without his permission.
Falling again to his knees, Obi-Wan slid into a sitting position and leaned back against one of the covered rows. He was so tired... so tired. If he could just rest a little, then he would be able to return to the farmhouse. Rest...
A small part of Obi-Wan's mind screamed for him to get up, running wildly over everything he had ever learned about hypothermia. *"You're freezing to death, you can't stop! You're freezing!"*
But Obi-Wan was helpless to respond to that thought, his body refused to move again and his thoughts clouded hazily. A pleasant, warm feeling began to spread over the young Jedi as his eyes closed and his body at last succumbed to the deadly grip of the freezing cold.
"Remi?" Jemima laid her hand on his shoulder. They were the only two still awake; the others had finally drifted into an exhausted sleep an hour ago.
Remi however had remained glued to the frost-crusted window, watching, waiting...
The boy shook himself and turned away from the window. "It's been hours, he's been out there too long," Remi murmured, beginning to pull on his previously discarded wraps and coat.
"Where are you going?" Jemima asked as Remi pulled on his boots and headed for the door. She thought she had a pretty good idea.
"To find Obi-Wan, he may be a Jedi, but he doesn't know what a deep freeze is like on Nedrag. It's time for him to be in whether he thinks so or not," he said, grabbing a hot mug of jocca and a heated blanket as an afterthought.
"I'll come with you!" Jemima said, limping towards her coat on the makeshift crutches they had fashioned for her.
Remi just looked at her and the girl sighed, knowing the foolishness of her suggestion.
"I have to go on foot Jemi, the speeders won't start because of the cold. You take care of the ones here, I'll be back soon," Remi said gently, and with that, he left.
"Obi-Wan! OBI-WAN KENOBI WAKE UP!" a voice seemed to be calling from a great distance, demanding the young Jedi's attention, dragging him from the comfortable warmth of his unconsciousness and back into the blazing, biting cold of reality.
"Come on! Sith take it Obi-Wan I am not going to let you die on me, do you hear?!" Remi was shaking the other boy desperately. The fear that it was already too late clutched at his heart.
After a long walk, Remi had found Obi-Wan slumped over in the snow, covered in frost and barely breathing.
The apprentice did not respond. Remi's concern mounted. Obi-Wan was too big for him to carry back to the house... Remembering what he had brought with, Remi wrapped the heated blanket around Obi-Wan's frosted body and put the mug to his lips, forcing him to drink the hot jocca.
Obi-Wan cringed as the hot liquid seemed to burn down his throat, the warmth and the sensation serving to jerk him closer to reality.
Remi held his breath.
Slowly, painfully, Obi-Wan's eyes fluttered open and Remi felt a wave of relief wash over him. The young Jedi's eyes were glazed and distant, but he was *alive.*
His elation quickly turning to irritation, Remi gave Obi-Wan a stiff shake. "Don't you scare me like that! Gol! I think you took a good five years off my life! I thought you were supposed to be able to take care of yourself!" The rebuke came more from concern than true irritation however.
"Guess I... miscalculated something," Obi-Wan rasped, with a slight smile, his voice hoarse with cold. "Thanks."
"Yeah, well..." Remi shrugged. "How do you feel? Are you okay now?"
Obi-Wan groaned slightly. The heat of the blanket was not enough to fully warm him, just enough to remove the edge that numbed him to the pain of his frostbitten limbs. "Honestly? Miserable, like I've been sleeping on a Andulian nail-bed under a mountain of snow."
Remi laughed. "Can you walk?" he asked, rising to his feet and extending his hand.
Obi-Wan was not at all sure, but said he could anyway. Staggering to his feet, he managed to regain enough control of his body to force it to move, but the going was slow. Again the damaging cold assailed the young Jedi, leadening his limbs and filling him with deadly weariness.
Remi, who knew the effects of the hypothermia, tried to keep Obi-Wan talking to keep his mind cognitive and alert as they slowly made their way back towards warmth and shelter.
The transport dropped down the canyon wall, going much faster than was prudent given the age of the transport and the large number of its occupants.
The Remrafars had learned of the freeze too late to turn back. The gloating LandOwners said it was hard luck, but they'd be glad to buy all that dead land off them for enough so that the Remrafars could keep their families from starvation.
Devastated, the angry farmers agreed to accept the terms, but, at Qui-Gon's urging, declined sign any deeds or agreements until they had gone back and surveyed the damage themselves. It was the worst night of the Remrafars' lives and as soon as it was light enough to travel, they were zipping back towards their home to see what was left. They did not expect much.
As they dropped down into the valley the snow and ice they saw made their hearts sink. The lake was frozen solid, attesting to the severity of the freeze.
"They'll not be a twig left alive now," Miguel whispered grimly, with the tone of a man who is watching his world fall apart in front of him.
Qui-Gon said nothing, what was there to say? But he touched Miguel's shoulder in a reassuring gesture. There was always hope somewhere, one just had to have faith and wait for it to appear.
As they topped the hill, they expected to see frost covered fields of dead, blackening vegetation. Instead, they were greeted with the merry glint of the morning sun reflecting off acres of metallic, thermal-protective covering.
A collective murmur ran through the transport.
"What? How did they...? It's impossible..." Miguel stammered in surprise, unable to finish his sentences because of sheer shock. The others were reacting much the same.
Only Qui-Gon did not look overly surprised. Instead he smiled as if he understood. *"Good job Padawan,"* he thought. He did not know how Obi-Wan and the other children had pulled this off, but he was glad that his faith in his apprentice had once again been justified.
Miguel saw the look on Qui-Gon's face and shook his head, mystified. "Master Jinn? How is this possible?"
Qui-Gon's smile gained a glint of amusement as he answered. "I do not know, but it has been my experience not to question miracles, but accept them. I am sure your children will have quite a story to tell us when we arrive."
Before the arriving party could even cross the farmhouse yard the door burst open and dozens of little head's tumbled out to greet them, the younger of which flung themselves bodily into their parents' waiting embrace.
Qui-Gon did not see Obi-Wan, but expected that his Padawan was waiting for them inside.
There was a loud buzz as everyone talked at once, questions, answers and exclamations of welcome all getting mixed up together in a happy din that few could have untangled. Then Delia and Jemima appeared with bandaged hands and crutches respectively. Their parent's were all over them in an instant, worried and wanting to know what happened.
The moment Qui-Gon saw the looks on their faces, he knew something was wrong. A cold chill that had nothing to do with the weather gripped his insides, making him tighten imperceptibly.
"We're fine Daddy, really we are," Jemima assured for the zillionth time. She provided a brief explanation only, quickly bringing them up the present and her most pressing concern.
"Remi went out to look for him over two hours ago, and neither of them have come back. You've got to go find them!" but she needn't have said it. Qui-Gon, Miguel and half a dozen others were already on their way. The speeders still refused to start and the transport was too large to maneuver the way, so they took off on foot at a quick pace.
They were all going fast, but Qui-Gon unintentionally outdistanced the others. His mind was on only one thing, finding his Padawan and finding him unharmed. Through their developing bond Qui-Gon got the impression that the boy was in trouble, but when the tried to probe further, all he felt was cold; fierce, biting cold. Obi-Wan's presence was growing dimmer.
Qui-Gon's head swiveled back and forth, scanning the horizon for any sight of the boys. They could be anywhere out here and time was short. A strange, sick feeling twisted in his heart as the unbidden thought came to him that he had not said goodbye to Obi-Wan when they left yesterday. He hadn't said goodbye...
*"Stop it!"* the Jedi commanded himself. He would consider no option but that of finding Obi-Wan alive and well. Yet the Force whispered to him that he had better hurry.
Obi-Wan stumbled every few steps now. Remi tried to support him, but the cold was sapping his own limited strength and his eyes were so swollen he could only see lights and shadows through the small slits that he could force open. If they veered off the path because he could not see it, they would get lost in the open meadows beyond and neither of them would survive.
"Obi-Wan, you've gotta help me, c'mon," Remi rasped, his own voice beginning to go hoarse. "I can't see Obi and if we leave the path we're dead."
Obi-Wan thought he had no strength left, but Remi needed him and he could not let his friend down. Putting in all the energy he could muster, Obi-Wan acted as eyes to see where they were going, while Remi acted as support to help the frozen young Jedi keep his nearly lifeless legs moving.
Somewhere deep inside, both boys knew that neither of them had enough left inside to make it back to the house.
Out in front of the others by several meters, the Jedi Master was the first to see the two boys in the distance. Struggling along, they leaned on each other for support, although as he drew closer, Qui-Gon saw that Remi was doing most of the supporting.
He covered the last distance between them at a dead run.
"Stay with me Obi-Wan, stay with me!" Remi pleaded when Obi-Wan finally stumbled and did not rise.
"Go... on," Obi-Wan slurred. "Faster witho... me..."
"No way, now come on!" Remi refused to leave the other boy to die.
Forcing himself to his feet for one last effort, Obi-Wan thought his frozen brain must be hallucinating because he could have sworn he saw his Master running towards them...
"Remi? I thin... I'm seeing things," he murmured.
"Well I wish, I-I could," Remi chattered, his own voice beginning to slur and stick as the cold ate away at him.
If it were a mirage, then it was a very concerned one, calling out to them as it approached.
"Master?" Obi-Wan croaked, his voice a whisper. Then he passed out.
Qui-Gon was there to catch him as he fell. Lifting the boy quickly into his strong arms, he poured strength and warmth into the Padawan's body to stop the shutdown that was occurring.
Obi-Wan's body felt like ice in his arms and the bit of skin that Qui-Gon could see through the boy's face-wraps was an alarming color.
A look at Remi told that he was only a little better. Extremely worried about his Padawan, Qui-Gon still took the time and energy to put his hand briefly on Remi's eyes, willing his body to halt the dangerous swelling. What both boys really needed right now however, was to get in out of the cold.
Miguel and the others arrived and took Remi into their care. The teen insisted he could walk, but accepted the guidance and extra wraps they gave him.
Wrapping his outer cloak around Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon hurried back with them towards the house.
When Obi-Wan awoke his limbs were on fire. His legs and face burned especially savage but inside he was still as cold as ice. The young Jedi had to resist the urge to moan.
A gentle hand on his forehead eased the pain and melted some of the ice inside him. Obi-Wan opened his eyes to see Qui-Gon standing over him.
"Master!" he tried to sit up, but Qui-Gon held him down gently.
"Relax Obi-Wan, you need to heal. We were afraid for you, you were nearly frozen to death when you were found," the Master said, sitting down on the bed beside his apprentice.
Obi-Wan grimaced, his brain still trying to catch up with the rest of him. "Then why do I feel so hot?" he murmured.
"Your face, legs and hands sustained severe frostbite, but they have been tended. I have made sure that there will be a bacta tank aboard the cruiser that is coming to pick us up, there will be no lasting damage," Qui-Gon assured.
As Obi-Wan's foggy mind cleared a little, he realized he was laying in one of the bedrooms in Miguel Takara's house. "How long have I..."
"About three hours," Qui-Gon said.
"Remi will be fine, his eyes are better already and neither he, nor Jemima and Delia sustained any lasting damage either," the Jedi Master once more anticipated his Padawan's question.
"Good," Obi-Wan murmured, leaning back on his pillow wearily. His head throbbed dully. "And the Remrafars? Will they be able to stay in their homes?"
Qui-Gon nodded. "Yes, it was quite a remarkable thing you and the others accomplished," the Jedi spoke softly, aware of his Padawan's headache.
"Frost damage to the crop was minimal and a bountiful harvest is anticipated. You did a good job Padawan."
"Everyone worked very hard," Obi-Wan shrugged it off. "It never could have been done if we didn't work together."
Qui-Gon ran his hand over Obi-Wan's hair. "Indeed, I am glad to see that there was no lasting hard feelings between you and Remi," he observed with a wry smile.
Obi-Wan almost laughed. He supposed they had started of on rather bad foot, but it all worked out in the end.
"I guess you could say that," Obi-Wan agreed, then his green-blue eyes turned sober. "I don't know if I would have made it until you arrived if he hadn't come after me." It was embarrassing for the young Jedi to admit, but he knew it was true.
"For that, I owe him my thanks. I am afraid that no amount of saved crops is worth your life to me Padawan," Qui-Gon said sincerely.
"I know," Obi-Wan grimaced. "That's just what I told everyone else, and then look at me... pretty stupid I guess."
Qui-Gon shook his head fondly. "Perhaps a little, but it was born out of your sheer desire to do right and help those who needed you. At any rate, all is well now."
Not-so-quiet whispering from outside the bedroom door drew their attention. Qui-Gon smiled and raised his voice so that those outside the door could hear him as well. "Well Obi-Wan, there is a certain group of young people who have been very impatiently wanting to see you. If you feel well enough I will let them in, before they break down the door."
Obi-Wan nodded, then seemed to think of something. "Master? I'm afraid I didn't get my assignments done."
Qui-Gon raised his eyebrow. "Given the circumstances Padawan, I think we can let it go this time," he said somewhat wryly.
Obi-Wan grinned. "Oh, but Master? I have learned something. I have learned a lot about the importance of little hinges."
Qui-Gon smiled and tousled Obi-Wan's hair.