Rating: PG-13, violence
Summary: Pre-TPM. Obi-Wan is kidnapped by an old nemesis of Qui-Gons and Qui-Gon must rescue him Obi-Wan is around 20 years old.
Feedback: Please, to Siobhancl2@aol.com
Disclaimer: I don't own anything or anyone. All the characters and their universe belong to George Lucas. I am just playing here for a little bit.
Notes: Everything in // // is Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan talking through their bond
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn stood by the shuttle waiting on his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi. They were supposed to have left over twenty minutes ago. He checked his chronometer again and glanced back down the corridor.
//Obi-Wan? We need to go. Where are you?//
The apprentice picked his up his pace weaving a path through the crush of people working their way along the crowded boulevard. The brush of his Master’s touch pressed on his mind, curious as to his whereabouts. Master Yoda had given them another assignment and they were to be leaving today. The one day that Obi-Wan had needed just an extra hour in the morning he had actually slept in. Not even his Master had awakened him when he had gotten up, which was unusual. It was Qui-Gon’s birthday and the student had a special gift on hold at the local jeweler. He was supposed to have picked it up over half an hour ago but had fallen behind his schedule.
//Master, I am in the third quadrant, section 3 near Gant’s Grill. I have a package to pick up, it’s important. I am sorry, I’m hurrying.//
Qui-Gon’s exasperation could be felt through the connection, an impatient sigh stretching between the two.
//Padawan, that’s near hangar bay 357C. Go there when you are through and I will pick you up, all right?//
//Yes Master// The old fashioned wood sign verifying his destination could just be seen over the heads of the crowd and Obi-Wan darted through an opening in the press of people around him intent on speeding up his errand. Just as he reached the adjacent walkway he was grabbed forcefully from behind, jerked off his feet and dragged backwards into the nearest alley. The speed of the attack caught him off guard but his attempts to free himself were blocked as more hands took hold of him to restrain him. In an effort to break himself free he gathered the force around him as his head was snapped back hard by a pair of strong hands.
“Now! Hurry up, he’s a Jedi for crying out loud.”, the words an angry hiss near his ear as he felt the prick of a needle at his neck.
//Master!// The word barely escaped thrown into the bond with a rush of fear before the world went dark and Obi-Wan slumped into the arms of his captors.
Qui-Gon had just cleared the hangar doors of the temple and pointed the nose of the small craft in the direction of the quadrant that he was to meet Obi-Wan in when he heard the cry of his student as it flooded their bond and then went silent. The push of panic and fear that followed it caused the Jedi Master to loose momentary control of the shuttle dipping into the lane below his before regaining altitude.
//Obi-Wan?!?!// No answer. He could feel the young man was near but was either incapable of responding or somehow shielded. Flipping the switch for the comm unit he contacted his friend Mace Windu, a Jedi Master who also lived at the Temple and informed him that something had happened to Obi-Wan. He gave him the apprentices’ last known coordinates and told the Jedi to make Master Yoda aware of the situation, that they would be delayed in their departure and perhaps another team should be sent in their place. Word spread quickly through the Temple grounds and a search party was dispatched, with Mace taking the lead heading the small group out to help find Obi-Wan.
Within moments Qui-Gon was beginning his descent into the hangar bay where he was to have met Obi-Wan. A small heavily armed shuttle blasted out of the bay doors below him, almost colliding with the Jedi’s craft in its' haste before shooting out of the planet's atmosphere. A tremor of unease ran through the Master as he righted his shuttle and kicked on the retrothrusters landing the vehicle in the now vacant hangar. Reaching out to his student again, the older Jedi found that the link was almost imperceptible and growing fainter by the seconds. His thoughts connected faster than he could process, and before he realized what he was doing he was out of the craft grabbing the first security guard and demanding to know where the shuttle that had almost collided with him was headed.
“I need to know their destination.”
“We’re checking sir. They didn’t leave one. They exited the system without authorization; their ship had no I.D. We aren't even sure where they came from.” The security tech tapped away furiously at the terminal in front of him; the database calling up information that proved useless. “The tracking satellites show they jumped into hyperspace as soon as they left the gravity well. There was no exit vector posted. I am sorry sir, they are just gone.”
Dismissing the guard Qui-Gon whipped out his comlink. “Mace, I believe Obi-Wan was kidnapped. The shuttle he was on left planetside just moments ago. I can’t feel him.”
“I know, you better get down here Qui-Gon. We’re in front of Gant’s, we’ll wait for you.” The link clicked off as the Jedi Master left the hangar at a dead run.
Dread dogged his footsteps and fear caused him to rush haphazardly through the throngs moving on the walkways and down the corridors that connected the upper levels of Coruscant.
Mace Windu stood near an alley beside Gant’s Grill talking with a few locals. Several students and a couple of the other Master’s who had joined in the search party were all filtering back slowly towards the small knot of Jedi. Mace turned as Qui-Gon breathlessly joined him.
“What? What did you find?”
Wordlessly his friend turned over the young Jedi's lightsaber, its' familiar silver casing was scratched and still wet from where it had fallen into a puddle, abandoned in the struggle. “Those boys over there found it down this alley. They said they saw four men drag a young Jedi back that way.” Dark eyes carefully searched the emotions crossing the others face. Qui-Gon took the weapon turning it over staring at it as though able to divine where his Padawan had disappeared to and why. Moments passed before a strong hand pressed down on his shoulder bringing him back to the present.
“I was short with him Mace. The last thing I did was reprimand him for being late.”
“He’s just missing Qui-Gon. He’s not dead, you would know. Come on we’ll find him.” The hand slipped around his shoulder and redirected him back towards the Temple. “Someone saw something, he’s going to turn up somewhere.”
“He’s not on planet.” The words were strained and whispered.
“Yeah,” The friend cast his eyes to the lanes of traffic over their heads as if searching the skies for some sign of the lost Padawan. “I know.”
The Council had convened an emergency meeting to discuss the apparent abduction of Obi-Wan Kenobi when the search team had returned without him. Most of the members were immediately available and had chosen to converse in private before speaking with the Jedi Master. Qui-Gon paced restlessly outside the doors of the gathering room, hands clenched in fists at his sides he crossed the small waiting area in four long strides turning back on his path and repeating the procedure mindlessly. His thoughts were focused on his apprentice, missing and unreachable. He couldn’t collect his emotions that rushed and pulsed through the force around him in chaotic swirls, condemning, admonishing, questioning everything he'd done this morning, second guessing every move, every word. Turning in on himself and running through every known enemy they had, he was still no closer to an answer when the doors swooshed open and Mace gestured him in. Fierce haunted eyes pinned his friend asking for the impossible as Windu looked down and shook his head. Squaring his shoulders and gathering his robe around him in a futile attempt to calm his emotions he swept past the other and entered the rotunda. Bowing respectfully to Yoda the diminutive Master who held the floor he silently waited to be acknowledged.
“Your Padawan is missing.” It was a statement not a question.
“Yes Master Yoda, this morning he was abducted from the third quadrant while running errands.”
“Understand this we do. Unsure of how to proceed we are. Not known who is behind such an act, unusual this is.”
“Master Yoda with your permission I would like to take a leave of absence and go after him.”
“Know where he is do you?”
“No Master but….” The words had sounded foolish even as they formed on his lips, “But I cannot stay here.”
“And where would you go? It is a big galaxy, where would you begin?” The soft voice of Ki Adi Mundi held the wisdom that the Jedi Master did not want to hear. His Padawan had been taken, the one thing in life that meant the most to him was lost, lost in a way that he could not even explain. He could not simply sit by and wait; he would not.
He opened his hands palm out in supplication asking by gesture that they understand, “I cannot stay here, not while he is out there somewhere.” The desperation and frustration he had worked so hard to conceal whispered through his words as his voice fell off, knowing that he was helpless and damning the circumstances that had put him in this situation.
“Through no fault of your own your Padawan is lost. Understand this do you?” Asked the small Master seated in front of him. Qui-Gon simply nodded his acknowledgement. “Accept it you do not.”, Master Yoda sighed feeling the guilt and pain of the Jedi Knight fill the room. “Find him we will. Help him you cannot if calm you are not. Meditate we would suggest. Perhaps the Force will give you insight.”
Swallowing hard Qui-Gon bowed low and turned to leave. He knew Master Yoda was correct but he doubted he would be able to meditate under the given circumstances. As he passed by the door Mace Windu stood and bowed to the others falling in silently beside him as he walked down the corridor.
"You don’t have to come Mace."
"I know. Let's go to the garden." The long time friend crossed over to another path pulling the tense Jedi with him.
The garden was empty this time of night. It had been earlier this morning, a lifetime ago, that Obi-Wan had gone missing. Qui-Gon had lost all track of time during the searching and discussing. Wasted time his thoughts interjected accusing him, compounding his growing frustration. The two men knelt by the small stream back away from prying eyes and curious onlookers. The moons were full casting soft light across the matting of moss beneath them. It truly would have been peaceful if only it was Obi-Wan kneeling beside him, the thought struck Qui-Gon swirling his emotions out of control.
Steepling his fingers in the familiar posture the Jedi Knight released the full intensity of his emotions into the force. The impact on the force was like a blast wave, the epicenter of which knelt calmly beside Mace. Jarred from his own newly begun meditations the loss, fear, hurt, desperation and intense anger rang out in circles radiating into the surrounding night consumed in the infiniteness of the force around them, surprising him with their intensity. He knew Qui-Gon had been shielding his emotions or at least attempting to, but he had not realized the depth of the loss his friend felt, the love that ached inside of him. A deep sigh emanated from the body beside his as the Jedi Master released the last of the hurt into the healing energy of the force.
The Force. He knew it so well. His constant companion for years, it surged and flowed around him now calming his weary mind with a sea of warmth, energy and light, consuming his rage and desperation as the emotions blasted ripples outwards away from him, cleansing him.
The past and the future merged, spiderwebs of possibilities connecting all thoughts and courses together as he gave himself over to the energy that bound the universe. The future became the present and was sealed into the past as moments were lost slipping in the path of time to become minutes, stretching into hours as he calmed himself. The turmoil and chaos lulled into an ebb and tide of emotions all with possibilities all with varying outcomes all tossed to the sea of the force and the mercy of an unknown future. And with calm repose he accepted them all, in all of their implications and let them wash over him, through him and past him flowing back out to be caught up again in the tireless energy of the Force.
He did not notice when Mace quietly left.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Nothing would work, not even his memory. Obi-Wan lay motionless, trying to wake inside of a body that would not cooperate, even touching the force was impossible. Consciousness teased at the edges of his awareness, voices faded in and out. A deep humming thrummed beneath him through the floor and the thought struck him oddly that he was not at home.
"Slowly", a feminine voice cautioned, someone he didn’t recognize floated into view, as his eyes finally focused on the face above his.
"Chesbak, bring some of that water, he's waking up." She looked beyond Obi-Wan gesturing to someone across the room.
"Where..are..?" the words were thick and slurred, coming slowly through a mind that was just remembering it knew how to form words.
"Sshh, no talking, you've been drugged. Nasty stuff too. You need to give yourself a moment it will wear off quickly now that you're awake." She tipped his head up as a small trickle of water flowed into his mouth from the cup she held dampening parched lips. She was Twilek, clothed only in a simple robe. A robe that matched the one he was wearing.
Moving into a sitting position with some help from those around him the young Jedi noted that everyone was clothed the same. The roughly woven garment that gathered in excessive folds in his lap had replaced his tunic and robe. A heaviness around his neck restricting his movements drew his attention as he fingered a thick leather collar locked into place, a small loop dangled on the left side where a leash could be threaded through.
Panic hit him momentarily before he banished the emotion.
"Where are we?" The question returned even as he realized that the thrumming beneath them was the sound of a ship in hyperdrive and they were in a cargo bay.
"You don’t know what happened to you?" A boy younger than he moved closer and settled next to the Twilek.
Frowning with confusion and clouded memory the young Jedi simply shook his head.
"We are on a slave ship. You're a slave."
"No I'm a …….." Eyes widened with remembrance as he choked the words back. "I remember. I was attacked not far from my home, they dragged me into an alley and then….."
"Sounds familiar." The young man was talking, but Obi-Wan no longer listening was focused on the force, attempting to locate the one person who could help him.
//Master, where are you?// He slipped deeper into the force seeking the aura that was so familiar to him. "I am only a breath away Obi-Wan.", the words rang through his thoughts and grounded him as he concentrated on the signature that his Master has impressed upon his soul, love written into his own signature through the force and for a split second he found Qui-Gon. His Master was there in the force searching for him.
//Obi-Wan! Where are you?//
The younger Jedi's focus was shattered as an energy pike slammed down between his shoulder blades sending him sprawling to the hard metal deck, gasping to catch his breath. Before he could regain his thoughts a boot connected sharply with his ribs forestalling any grasp he had on breathing.
"Stop!" a gruff harsh voice barked, echoing through the bay. His attacker was thrown roughly against the nearest wall and held in place by the muscular forearm of another man. Obi-Wan struggled to sit up as the slaves around him shrank back from the two men against the wall. His attacker was being threatened by a man half his height but who equaled the other in presence and mass. He was clearly in charge as he brought his blaster up and placed it with lethal slowness gently against the guards' temple.
"You don’t damage the merchandise, do you understand me Jarik?", he hissed dangerously, tapping the barrel of the gun against the man's head to emphasize his words. When his threat did not elicit a response he forced his arm harder against the others windpipe, "Do you? I'll put a bolt in you if you ever touch one of them again." When the guard nodded he threw him back into the middle of the room. "Salik, take him outside and go over the rules with him again." Obi-Wan turned in the direction the statement had been thrown, noticing for the first time the eight guards behind him.
"Name's Kalmuth." The same gruff voice brought his attention back to the man who now squatted in front of him about ten feet away. He was a middle aged medium sized human, dark hair only recently beginning to grey, framed a face that probably at one time had been handsome but age and lifestyle had leant a hardness to his features. Eyes that were as dark as his hair stared unwaveringly at Obi-Wan. He waved his blaster up and pointed it directly at the young Jedi. "I run this slave ship. Now I don’t know what you did but you really pissed someone off, son. I've been asked to dispose of you. But I am willing to give you a fair shot at getting away, once you're off this ship and sold to someone else that is. Do you understand?"
Obi-Wan simply nodded.
"You see Sssrrii over there? He's the one on the far left." A humanoid guard moved forward hypnotically, his motions reminding the apprentice of a reptile the effect was only further increased by the covering of scales on his body and a small angular head. "Well Sssrrii is here just for you. He's force sensitive. But he hates Jedi. Seeing as that is what you are we figured the best way to keep control of you is to have someone nearby that hated your kind and would be able to tell us when you were trying to pull something stupid. Sssrrii's Roorkarian." he continued in explanation, "They have a problem with force users. People like you set up a resonance in the force which the Roorkarians can detect because the ripples you create reverberate in their inner ears giving them quite a headache."
Kalmuth looked from Obi-Wan to Sssrrii, malevolent hooded eyes regarded the Jedi dispassionately. "Problem is I won't tolerate anything from you. You try something even once, try contacting anyone, pulling any Jedi stunts and I will put a bolt in your head. I was told to make you disappear, how was left entirely up to me. I'd just as soon sell you than kill you though. You're in good shape and you'll fetch a high price. But I suppose that depends entirely on you." The man's eyes narrowed as he considered the Jedi before him sensing the young man's defiance. "You're going to be trouble aren't you, son? Fine." The Captain snapped his fingers and two guards moved forward taking hold of Obi-Wan, restricting his movements. The slave trader pulled a syringe from his pocket tipping it needle up he tapped out the air bubbles and pushed up the apprentices right sleeve. “This is saliva from the rock dragon that lives on Corlais. Actually doesn’t do anything to a normal person except sting a little, make you sick. But to a force sensitive it’s a whole lot more annoying than that. See, from what I’ve been told, and maybe this will make sense to you but I don’t understand it, it blocks the midichlorians in your cells from communicating with the force. Sort of puts them to sleep for a bit, or something to that effect.”
Obi-Wan swallowed hard locking gazes with the slaver his eyes wide with horror as fear swept through him causing him to tense against the guards holding him. To be cut off from the force was unimaginable.
“I can see you do understand what that means.”
Struggling against his captors Obi-Wan watched helplessly as Kalmuth pressed the needle against his skin. And in that instant the apprentice let go and reached out to the force. Feeling it wrap him in light he sought out his Master’s signature and pulled it to him holding it tightly in his mind willing the memory to sear itself on his heart, without that touch, that contact, that love he would be lost. He knew when Sssrrii stepped in his direction, knew they were aware of his attempts to reach the force and even as he felt the prick of the needle his desperate grasp on the living energy slipped, slowly beginning to fade. And in the next moment he knew what it was like to live without the all encompassing touch of the force.
“No.” the word hissed between clenched teeth as the last of the living energy was denied him and all access was shut down. He slumped forward as the guards released him, bile rising in his throat threatening to overwhelm him with the sick sense of fear twisting in his gut.
Slowly he pushed himself back up gazing into the eyes of his captor, eyes that easily read the confusion and brokenness in the young man before him. “Don’t worry, they say it wears off in time. But by then I expect you’ll be off my ship and in someone else's care.”
"Where are you taking us?"
A smile twisted the slavers face, "Okay, fair enough. Ever heard of Latraides? Didn’t think so," he continued when the young Jedi shook his head, "But don’t worry by the time they are through with you, you wont be able to forget it. See slavery is a big deal on the outer rim worlds and Latraides is the slaving capitol in the sector. A young man like you is a rare commodity." Standing to his feet he starred down at the young Jedi, the harshness falling away from his eyes momentarily as he quietly commented before turning, "I hope you didn’t leave anyone behind, son. You won't see them again."
Exiting the bay he motioned towards the force sensitive guard. "Watch him Sssrrii, let me know the minute he pulls anything. Not that I expect him to though.", he commented looking back at the Jedi. With that he left taking all but two of the remaining guards with him.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
He had felt him, for a split second he had felt his Padawan through the force. The contact brought him reeling out of his meditations. Wherever he was Obi-Wan was alive and searching for him. The thought washed through him with relief even as it renewed his sense of purpose. His apprentice was out there somewhere and he was not about to let him down, he had to do something.
The sun was barely touching the top spires of Coruscant by the time the Jedi Master had returned to his quarters intent on packing a few things before leaving when the door to the small apartment was forced in. Mace Windu filled the doorway breathing hard.
"What the hell are you doing Jinn? I've been looking for you everywhere."
"I'm going after him Mace, I felt him when I was meditating. I think I can find him again." Qui-Gon moved to push past his friend even as the other more forcefully blocked his path. "Mace.." the growled out word was cut off in the next breath as his friend took a hold of his tunic and jerked the Jedi Master back in front of him.
"I know where he is Qui-Gon!"
The words had the desired effect as Qui-Gon froze, not daring to breathe, running the phrase back through a stunned, stress worn mind.
"Where? How?" His grip on the council member was intense as desire spurred him into action. He shoved Mace out the door before him urging him with his motion to take him to his Padawan.
"He's not here. You were right they took him off-planet. Ever hear of Latraides? Yeah me neither. It's a small planet out in the Outer Rim."
"That will take at least a week to get there. We have to go."
Mace strong-armed the determined Jedi back into the house forcing him down into a chair. Choosing his words carefully and slowly he filled his friend in on the information he had uncovered regarding his missing Padawan. "Qui-Gon, he was sold to a slave trader. Slavery is big on Latraides. A young healthy man like Obi-Wan will fetch a high price." The words sunk in hard stealing the breath from the Master as he leaned back into the cushions absorbing the information.
"No. No, not Obi-Wan. We have to go, we can make it there before the trader. We have ships that are faster." His long time friend broke his gaze looking out the window behind him gathering his thoughts. For what? For something worse the fear stabbed through Qui-Gon.
"What Mace? What else? He asked softly afraid of what the answer would be.
"Do you remember Trellik?"
Memory flashed a face with the name.
"Yes. He's alive and he caught up with you." Mace continued as he read the shock the memory etched on Qui-Gon's face.
"I stopped his uprising on Pleneth when I had just become a Knight. You and I went on that one together. He was setting himself up in a position to overtake their government. He had made a deal with the Hutts to trade the people and resources of Pleneth for monetary gain and his own moon in the Krayst system. He almost did it too. We found out about him after we had been sent there to help negotiate the peace talks. The talks were staged; they were meant to gather all the officials in one place at one time. Trellik had rigged the meeting place with laser mines. The building would have imploded and no one would have survived……."
"Yes, except for the fact that you found out about it my friend and stopped him." Mace continued. "I got the delegates out and you chased Trellik to the roof top."
"When his ship took off I threw my lightsaber into the exhaust port. But it crashed into that canyon just beyond the city and exploded. I thought he was dead, there was nothing left of his ship."
"We both thought he was dead, but he's not. And now he's after you. He's kidnapped Obi-Wan to get back at you. He wants to make you pay for all you cost him."
"How do you know all this?" Qui-Gon focused on the man kneeling in front of him, placing his hands on Maces shoulders to steady himself.
"I received an anonymous tip about an hour ago. I've been looking for you ever since. I recorded the message when it came in. It's in my room. There's more though Qui-Gon," Mace held up a hand forestalling the questions pleading in the others eyes, "The dictatorship on Latraides is tricky. A monarch, who has shown no interest in joining the Senate, rules it. We can't cause a diplomatic incident by rescuing Obi-Wan. Master Yoda already put in a call to the Prince of Latraides, he wont extradite or even turn Obi-Wan over to you. In Latraides all slaves are property of the open market, no matter who they are or where they came from. The government takes part of all the money made off the sale of the slaves on Latraides. The institution is condoned and even managed by the ruling minority there. The only concession he would make was to stall the upcoming slave auctions for a few days until you arrive planet side. You are more than welcome to come and bid but you can't just go in there and take him with you. Once on Latraides he falls under their jurisdiction and slaves have no rights there."
"Does the Council know?" Qui-Gon gripped his friend hard.
"No. Just Master Yoda."
"Then we go there first. I need money, lots of money." Seeing the confusion in the others eyes he continued, "I intend buy Obi-Wan back."
* * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * *** * *
Obi-Wan pressed his back against the cool steel wall of the hangar bay. Pulling his knees up to his chest he rested his head on his arms sinking into himself. He had never known such empty loneliness in his life. Without the constant communication with the force resonating in his being he felt small and vulnerable.
Even the calming techniques so familiar would not work now that he could not touch the force and the fear and emptiness spiraled out of control for the first time in his life sucking him down into an endless void that he was incapable of escaping.
The other occupants in the bay gave him a wide berth sensing his need to be alone and eager to escape the piercing eyes of the reptilian guard left to watch over the young Jedi.
//Master.// the heart-wrenching sob went unanswered echoing back from the confines his mind had become. He was sure had he eaten anything in the last twenty-four hours it would have come back up on him now. He felt sick, nauseous, probably just the annoying side effects of the poison in his system that Kalmuth had warned him of. Repeatedly he attempted to center himself, to access the force and time after time he was blocked. Finally at the end of his strength he simply gave up and let the void of emotions swallow him.
//…as close to you as your next breath……// the words floated into his conscious whispered in the voice so familiar to him. Not daring to look up or acknowledge them in anyway that could be sensed by the guard standing next to him, he stilled himself and waited quietly looking inward to the source of the comfort he so desperately needed.
And in that moment of absolute silence at the point where he had given in he saw his Master’s signature etched in brilliant lines of love scrawled on his soul, imprinted on his heart and sealed in his mind. There could be only one explanation for it as he was still cut off from the force; somehow he had managed to capture Qui-Gon's signature, his gift of love to his Padawan, and impress it deeply into his own being before the force was ripped from him.
Again the ghost of the words echoed in his mind //..you will never be alone Obi-Wan. You never were….//
Tears caught on the edges of his eyes, spilling down his cheeks as he blinked to clear his vision. He would be all right, no matter what, he carried the love and promise of his Master deep within him and nothing could remove it or would ever be able to, not even separation from the force. No matter how far apart they were he carried his Master’s signature within his heart. Grabbing hold of the love and acceptance from the only man he had cared for as a father, the young Jedi calmed his breathing and steadied his fears raising his head to look around the room for the first time since awakening on board the ship.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Council had been more than willing to back up the Jedi in his attempt to purchase his Padawan. A courier had been sent to fetch a sum large enough to bank with at the auction and more had been placed on reserve if it became necessary to bid higher. The information from Mace Windu's anonymous tipster had been played for all the council members to hear. The informant claimed to have seen Obi-Wan's abduction and had recognized one of his attackers as a man on Trellik's payroll. When he realized they had abducted a Jedi he had taken the assailant to a local bar and proceeded to get him drunk, dragging the information out of the intoxicated employee, hoping the Jedi would be interested enough to pay him for his trouble. The man had told him everything explaining that Trellik had indeed masterminded the entire kidnapping. It was Trellik's intent to destroy the Jedi slowly by removing everything he loved. The informant had also pinpointed the final destination of the slave ship Obi-Wan had been sold to as Latraides. The information was unverifiable but the only lead they had so far on the whereabouts of the missing apprentice. The council concerned about the validity of the threat, at first questioned Qui-Gon's intentions of going after his Padawan on his own, but in the end permission had been granted and the opposing arguments, though duly noted, were set aside.
Qui-Gon quickly left the Council chambers and headed down the corridor towards the small hangar attached to the temple grounds, his entire being focused on retrieving his apprentice. The sound of running footsteps pounding down the hallway behind him alerted him to the approach of Mace as he attempted to catch up with his long strides.
"I am going alone Mace."
"Like hell you are."
Stopping so abruptly that his friend had to reverse his forward motion the Jedi Master rounded on the other, his words terse and quiet with unspoken threat, brokering no argument. "He's a slave right now. Do you have any idea how he is probably feeling? The last thing he needs is for me to come looking for him dragging an audience along to watch as he's displayed and sold to the highest bidder. I'll be damned if you think I am going to subject him to any further disgrace." Placing a large hand on his friend's chest, the Jedi Master pushed him gently back. "No, you are not coming. This is between Obi-Wan and I. I can handle it alone."
"And what if he's not there? You need me Qui-Gon. You're wrong about this and I am not letting you go by yourself."
"Let me do this Mace. Don’t force my hand." The warning in his eyes was fiercely matched by the mental push the Jedi Master gave the councilman.
Knowing too well he was fighting a loosing battle, he raised his hands in defeat taking a step back to give the angry Jedi room. "Well at least let me accompany you to the hangar.”
Qui-Gon nodded and motioned for Mace to join him.
"Do you think the Council gave you enough money?"
"I hope so. If he is still alive and in good shape I believe the bidding will go high."
"Oh wait, here take this. I made you a copy before the meeting adjourned." Mace pressed a small disk into Qui-Gons' hand. "It's the anonymous call from the person who gave us the tip on Obi-Wan and Trellik. Maybe it'll come in handy. You might be able to pick up something that we missed."
Qui-Gon nodded, gripping Maces forearm tightly in thanks. They stood there for a moment next to the shuttlecraft, the Jedi Master at a loss for words, trying to express the thoughts tearing through his mind.
"I know. Go find him. But if you aren't back in two weeks I am coming after you. And try not to damage this ship on the way will you?"
"Thank you my friend."
* * * * * * ** * * * * * *
For the most part the slaves were left to their own. A contingent of four guards was rotated every few hours except Sssrrii who kept a constant vigil on the young Jedi. The cargo bay had only one entrance into the interior of the ship and it was guarded at all times.
Time dragged on, folding into itself as the hours merged into days uncountable except for the dimming of the lights to indicate sleep cycles. None of the other slaves made any attempt to even press their guards or test their holding cell. After spending the first day exploring the cavernous bay Obi-Wan realized why and gave up also. There would be no escaping from the hold, it was a square room made of transdurasteel, impregnable. His best chance lie in waiting until they made planetside and were transferred to the slave broker there.
He gathered most of his information from the Twilek female he met the first day he had woken up. Shrala had been born a slave and separated from her family at an early age. Well accustomed to the trade and sale procedures of a slaves life she filled the young Jedi in on all the details of what would happen to them when they reached Latraides. According to her, they would be offloaded to a waiting Hutt, by the name of Salbula. He was the slave broker on Latraides that Kalmuth regularly dealt with. Shrala had been sold on this particular planet twice already. Salbula had a habit of culling the slaves, picking which ones he wanted to keep and which he would sell. From there the slaves he chose not to keep would be transferred into holding pens until the auction had begun. Salbula took good care of his merchandise, they were well fed and left alone until the day came for them to be sold. But she warned Obi-Wan that Kalmuth would be back soon for him. The Jedi was not marked and Salbula was careful to only sell registered marked slaves.
When he questioned her about it, Shrala pushed up her left sleeve and showed him a series of numbers and letters burned into her wrist. She explained that slaves did not have names they had designations and Kalmuth would see to it that Obi-Wan had a designation even if he had to forge it.
True to her words later that evening Kalmuth entered the hangar, a medic trailing behind him.
Sssrrii separated Obi-Wan from the other slaves, backing him into a corner with the blunt edge of his energy pike. The medic wheeled a small table in front of the Jedi and began programming the machinery on top of it, the digital marker dials in the center heating up until the metal glowed dully.
"Come on Son, don’t give us any trouble and this will all be over soon." Kalmuth motioned him forward.
When the apprentice didn’t move the reptilian guard shoved the pike into his back, a low voltage shock of pain dropping him to his knees. The Captain hauled him roughly over to the medic who quickly strapped his left wrist down and engaged the small machine. The smell of burning flesh filled his nostrils as the pain wrapped his entire awareness sweeping through him as his slave designation was seared into the soft skin. Unable to reach the force to damp down the agony, a scream tore from the Jedi's throat echoing through the metal room. When they finally released the restraints he dropped to the floor, his breaths coming in forced gasps as he held the injured arm carefully to him tremors of shock beginning to shake his body as the adrenaline of fear wore off.
After the slaver had left the bay Shrala moved back over to the small form crumpled on the decking, gently touching his shoulder. When he didn’t respond she sat down in front of him and pulled the young man into her arms rocking him softly until his sobs subsided.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“I overheard the guards saying we reach Latraides tomorrow.” The young man named Chesback that Obi-Wan had met his first day leaned in towards him conspiratorially, speaking quietly so only he could hear as they waited in line for their days food allotment.
“Really? Now that is good news.” Obi-Wan glanced at him out of the corner of his eye, his eyebrows arched in humor at the young man bouncing at his side. “Why are we whispering?”
“Your personal bodyguard is watching and he gives me the creeps that's why.”
Obi-Wan laughed sneaking a sideways look at the guard who had shadowed his every move. “It’s all an act, trust me.” He elbowed the youth teasingly.
“So tell me something, are you really a Jedi?”
“Yes I really am.” Rethinking his answer he continued softly, “Sort of.”
“But you just cant do anything Jedi-like right now because of the drugs in your system?”
Before Obi-Wan could answer the youth stumbled forward out of line, Shrala’s hand impacting with the back of his head.
“What’s the matter with you?” she hissed harshly reprimanding the youth.
“Sorry”, mumbling as he retook his place in line rubbing the sore spot with one hand, giving the Twilek a wide berth.
“It’s alright really. And no I cant do anything Jedi-like. The drugs are blocking my access to the Force right now.” He pushed at the barriers in his mind trying again to reach the energy he knew flowed all around them expecting as he had for the past few days to find no response. This time however the walls that held him captive gave way, bending slightly under his touch before flexing back into place. It seemed Kalmuth had been correct, the drugs were beginning to wear off.
Sssrrii took a step towards him, backing off when Obi-Wan looked innocently in his direction. By tomorrow when they left the ship he figured he would have at least a small grasp on the force, he would need every edge he could get if he were to escape. Reaching back inside of himself again he touched the warmth of his Master’s signature briefly gaining strength from it's reassurances before re-joining the conversation swirling around him.
His new companions had kept his spirits up through the long trip to the slaving world, sharing their small staked out piece of the bay when all the other slaves had shunned him. Gathering their food for the evening they headed back to the far corner only to be confronted by Jarik, the tall guard who first assaulted Obi-Wan when he had woken up on the slave ship.
“Hey, come on over here a minute”, leered the warden waving his pistol at Shrala motioning her over.
“Ignore them, they can't touch us. Come on.” She pushed Chesbak in front of her and stepped around the man, Obi-Wan following her lead.
“I said get over here.” The food tray the Twilek had been carrying clattered to the floor as the guard grabbed her wrist and yanked her towards him. Handing Chesbak his tray, Obi-Wan pushed the young man towards the corner they shared placing himself between the youth and the slavers' employee.
Without the aid of the Force the young Jedi should have been no match for the tall well-built sentry. But hand to hand combat had been drilled into every student from an early age; and the knowledge flooded back through the apprentices mind as he found his center and braced his feet.
“Let her go.”
The guard lessened his grip on the Twilek pushing against him and brought his gaze around to the Jedi. “I hope you’re not talking to me.” He jerked Shrala tight against him holding her wrists in one hand as he pulled her head back with the other, forcing her to stare into his eyes, laughing at her attempts as she struggled to break his grip. The feisty Twilek, having none of it gathered her courage and spit savagely into his face. Shocked by the aggression the guard backhanded her, knocking her to the decking. Cautiously she brought her hand to her face, tasting blood in her mouth she traced the split lip with shaky fingers. A red welt already forming on her cheek from the force of the impact.
Harsh laughter echoed from the far side of the bay. “Leave her alone Jarik or Kalmuth will have your hide. You deserved that one, you know we aren't supposed to touch the slaves.”
Obi-Wan stepped between the guard and his friend, hands up in a placating gesture, locking eyes with the slaver he bent slowly to help her stand only to be shoved aside by the enraged man. Using the momentum of the push the young Jedi rolled onto his shoulder and came to his feet in a defensive crouch. Swinging around he kicked the guard in the stomach forcing the air from his abdomen gaining them precious seconds. He reached down jerking Shrala to her feet, shoving her towards Chesbak.
“We don’t want any trouble.” Backing experimentally away from Jarik he motioned his friends to keep behind him as he tried to diffuse the situation.
With a roar of anger the guard gained his feet and charged the smaller man. Shifting into a balanced position the Jedi stood his ground and at the last minute stepped into the mans' advance, shoving his palm hard into the others throat, snapping his chin up and dropping him flat onto the decking. Seeing their fellow guardsman out matched by the small Jedi the others moved forward. Obi-Wan looked desperately at Sssrrii who simply turned and strode away. The four guards backed the young man against a wall closing their circle and trapping the Jedi in their midst. Trying to watch them all at once Obi-Wan struck out at the nearest guard on his right. His foot connected with the mans’ knee in a sickening crunch as the bones shattered beneath the force of his kick.
Using the moment of diversion, Jarik stepped up behind the Jedi and slammed his fists down between the young mans shoulder blades forcing him to his knees. Sweeping his left leg out the apprentice succeeded in tripping the large guard and tried to regain his footing. A sharp stinging slice like the cut of a vibroblade crossed his lower back stealing his breath and causing him to stumble back to the decking. One of the guards produced a whip handing it over to Jarik, who smiled wickedly down at the Jedi trying to catch his breath, his chest heaving in ragged gasps from the pain and exertion.
“That’s not a good idea, Jarik. If Kalmuth finds….”
“Sith take Kalmuth. I’ve had it with this one.”
The whip sliced down again razoring through the robe, cutting through skin and muscle. Crimson stripes stained the cloth as the leather touched him again and again. Without the Force he couldn’t stop the pain, he couldn’t press his enemies back and he couldn’t heal the injuries his body was sustaining. His back was on fire, his vision blurred and darkened, a ringing echoed oddly in his ears. When the shot rang out he couldn’t be sure if he hadn't just imagined it. A spray of red splattered the wall in front of him, raining down around him on the already stained robe he wore.
Someone was approaching, swearing in several different languages. The guards around him scurried away from the fury heading their direction. Kalmuth’s face floated into view, a soft curse on his lips as he grabbed Obi-Wan’s chin and tilted his face up looking into the young man’s eyes.
“Hell.” Removing a knife from his boot he cut the robe off of the Jedi’s back exposing the lacerations for a better look. The young man inhaled sharply as the slaver peeled away the cloth from his torn skin.
“Son of a…..” The Captain rounded on the remaining guards. He kicked the corpse of the dead sentry towards them, “Get this out of here and bring me a medic. You are all on suspension if I don’t kill you first. Sssrrii call Team 2 and have them replace this sorry lot before I change my mind.” He yelled at his men, glaring at them as they removed the dead guard out the door.
Returning his attention to the wounded Jedi, he placed a hand under his arm and helped him gingerly into a sitting position. “Now son, you tell me what happened.” Glazed eyes dilated with pain stared at him as the young man gathered his thoughts trying to steady his mind through the fire radiating from his back. Finally composing himself Obi-Wan nodded and recounted the fight through labored breathing as he fought the ache in his body that he couldn’t control.
As the medic entered the bay, Kalmuth pulled the young man forward letting the weight of the slave fall on his shoulder to allow the technician easier access to the injuries on his back. Glaring at the trader the doctors' frustration was silenced by a sharp motion of the Captain's hand cutting off his accusations. Biting his words he simply instructed, "I need him laying down."
"Bring me a mat and another robe. Now!" the Captain turned on the reptilian guard standing by, snapping his fingers and motioning him out the door. "Come on", hauling Obi-Wan slowly to his feet the slaver walked him over to the small area that Shrala and Chesbak occupied. The gentleness of the trader surprised the young Jedi as he was eased down onto the waiting mat, a gasp of pain escaping his lips as he was released onto the floor. The medic quickly covered the wounds with gauze, pulling a needle from his pack he injected the young man with a dose of sedatives and painkillers and stood up motioning Kalmuth to join him.
"I thought you had better control of your men."
"Spare me. How bad?"
"Well, not good. He wont fetch you a very high price damaged liked that."
"Will he be presentable by tomorrow."
"He'll be able to walk. But I can't guarantee that Salbula won't notice."
Nodding absently the Captain kneeled back next to the trio of slaves. He placed a hand on the Jedi's shoulder noting the tear tracks on the young face mercifully at peace for the moment in a drug induced sleep.
"Take care of him." He glanced at the Twilek before quickly turning and leaving the bay.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * **
Reaching over to the console Qui-Gon flipped the switch, shutting off the recording drinking in the ensuing silence. He had listened to the taped informants' conversation until it had become ingrained in his memory, every inflection, every insinuation and had still found no new information. Hours before he had caught up on the reports he needed to submit to the Council and had placed calls to the Latraides government informing them of his arrival. The starlines outside the ships' canopy sped by shifting through the visible spectrum streaming behind his shuttle as he made his way to the outer rim world.
Everything was off, tipped out of control, skewed by the absence of his Padawan. The hours had long ago taken to dragging by slowly marking off the time before his reversion to realspace would bring him into the designated system. Glancing at the hyperdrive controls he noted he was still a few days away from the outer rim.
Deciding to meditate he stiffly vacated the pilots chair, stretching tense stress tightened muscles and walked into the sleeping compartment in the rear of the craft. Perhaps he would be able to reach Obi-Wan if he could just concentrate, it was a feat he had never been able to duplicate since the first day he had lost the young Jedi. With a flip he unrolled his meditation mat kneeling onto the woven fabric. A small white box tumbled down his lap jarred from its' keeping place in one of his tunics inside pockets.
The gold seal caught the light from the muted glowlamp over the bed sparking brilliantly in the dim lighting, triggering his memory. His mind flashed back on the day he had lost Obi-Wan.
He had met Mace on the walkway where his Padawan had last been seen, mindless grief allowing him to be led back to the temple by his friend. As they had turned to go, an old hunchbacked man wearing a stained apron had stopped them. His wispy white hair framing a face skewed by glasses that made his eyes seem three times too large for his head. He had grabbed the Jedi Master's hand dropping the small box into his upturned palm, muttering about kid's these days having no sense of time, and spun on his heels.
When Qui-Gon had questioned him, he merely waved a hand over his head in dismissal and without looking back said that he would put it on account for the boy, disappearing into the endless crowds in their hurried paths across the walkways of Coruscant.
Fingering the box almost reverently he considered slipping it back inside the pocket. There was no doubt in the Jedi Master's mind that he would never be able to open the box with out his apprentice at his side. Whatever it contained it had been important to Obi-Wan and although he had a good idea what the gift was for he could not stand the thought of opening the small treasure in the absence of his Padawan. He placed the box in the stand beside the bed and knelt to meditate, loosing his thoughts to the force before they could overwhelm him.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Images shimmered in the distance, melting into deceptive pools on the horizon. The midday heat hit Obi-Wan like a physical blow as he stepped off the slave ship on Latraides. The slaves filed past a canopy rippling brightly in the slight hot breeze.
Kalmuth stood next to a floating sled in the slight shade that the canopy afforded, bartering with a large Hutt who would motion from time to time for a certain slave to be brought before him as the line of captives filed slowly by.
Sssrrii walked attentively beside the Jedi, glancing at him surreptitiously. Obi-Wan had discovered this morning that his grasp on the force was slowly returning, like a forgotten memory after a long sleep. When he had awakened and movement had returned the pain in his back he had instinctively, reflexively, reached out to the force and this time it had answered him back immediately though weakly, flooding him with strength and blocking the pain. His revelation had been rewarded with a sharp shock of electricity to his calf and a hissed warning about trying anything further.
As the young Jedi passed the raised dais, the Hutt called out to his guards and Obi-Wan was forced out of line. The large eyes of the slave lord fastened greedily on the strong body of the apprentice, chuckles of pleasure rippling through the sluglike being. Kalmuth stepped into Obi-Wan's path barring his progress with a forearm.
"Not this one Salbula."
Surprise caused the Hutt's eyes to dilate as he raised himself up full height questioning the challenge. Sssrrii moved next to the Captain exchanging a quick glance weighted with meaning. Picking up on the unspoken transaction the slaver nodded imperceptibly, pushing the Jedi slightly behind the reptilian guard.
"I have special orders regarding this one. We're supposed to loose him in the system."
The Hutt spoke at length in his guttural native language animating his words with small arms and hands too diminutive for his bulk.
"Yes," an agreeable laugh brought a smile to the slavers face, "I am sure you could loose him somewhere just fine, but I have my orders and this one goes on the block."
A short rumbled question caused the trader to glance nervously at the young Jedi before replying. "Trellik." The answer produced a slow thoughtful rumble from the Hutt lord as he considered the implications of the situation. With a wave of his hand Obi-Wan was dismissed. The young Jedi bowed respectfully and backed away from the repulsor sled. Kalmuth's hand on his arm stopped the guard from following him; their job here was done.
"Good luck son," he whispered under his breath watching as the young man disappeared into the cavernous building that housed the holding pens. Motioning with his head he walked back to his ship accompanied by the Roorkarian.
* * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The air was dry, filled with dustdevils that swirled through the market place and danced on the steps of the great courthouse of Latraides. Qui-Gon moved amongst the crush of humanity filling the streets looking for food for their evening meals. A group of men caught his attention on the edge of the plaza. The wealthy men of the city and the offworlders who had come to buy slaves had gathered for the auction. He headed towards the arena, battling the anger and revulsion that he felt seething inside of him. He prayed the information the Council had gathered was correct. If Mace’s informant had fed them incorrect data, there was no where else for him to look. If Obi-Wan were not here there would be no way of tracing whom Trellik had sold him to. The dignitaries of Latraides had been no help. Slaves had no names here, only a series of numbers and a fetching price separated them from all the others. They could not be certain that Obi-Wan had even been brought here and Qui-Gon was not allowed to look in the holding pens where the slaves waited their turns on the block. It was against Latraidian law to view slaves in advance of their sale; it was felt that it gave a buyer an unfair advantage.
A small tremor ran through the force tugging at him, faltering his step. His pace picked up as he felt the faint touch again of a force sensitive being. The brush was awkward and weak but somehow familiar. Hope overwhelmed him as he eased his way into the back of the crowd of onlookers. By the time he reached the edge of the gathering surrounding the slave block, bidding had already begun on a young Twilek woman. She wasn’t unattractive and the bidding was fast and furious. A Rybat was next. Qui-Gon concentrated on the small group of lifeforms waiting their turn to be displayed, fought over, bought. Most of the slaves radiated with fear but there was a small concentration of acceptance towards the back of the group.
//Obi-Wan?// The Jedi Master couldn’t see who it was coming from but he sent out a tendril of the force attempting to locate the mind of the one slave that seemed to be the source of the emotion and the tremor in the force he had felt moments before. Holding his breath for what seemed an eternity he finally felt an answering response come hesitantly back. Yes it was his Padawan he was sure but the touch was so slight, hesitant, broken.
//Yes Padawn. I am here. Hang on.// A flash of shame seared the connection before the emotion was damped down.
Anger met the hurt halfway through the bond mingling into a compassion that the Jedi Master had never experienced. If the Council had not warned him against simply taking Obi-Wan by force he would have cut a path out of the crowd before him and freed the young Jedi immediately. Instead Qui-Gon leaned back against the stall behind him, biding his time patiently waiting out the proceedings while keeping up a flow of encouragement to the young man unfortunate enough to be hurt by his past.
//When I get you out of here Padawan, I promise…..//
//Master please just free me. Please.// The weariness of his student weighed on him taxing his resolve.
Halfway through the bidding the auctioneer pointed to the back of the group motioning the wranglers to bring him someone specific. Momentary panic hit Qui-Gon from the mind he was focused on, then calm resolve flooded the link he had established.
//It’s alright young one I am right here.//
The young man was forced onto the block. He kept his eyes down; focused on the ground before his feet but the Jedi Master could sense that his tentative awareness on the force was flung outward searching the crowd, reaching for his Master. His hands clenched tightly into fists were bound with leather strips in front of him which were fastened to a chain that encircled his waist. The auctioneer grabbed the leash attached to the tight collar around the man's throat and gave a hard jerk bringing the young man stumbling to the front of the block. He gained his feet slowly, moving awkwardly in a way that suggested he might have hidden injuries. Qui-Gon started at the rough treatment and began to make his way to the front of the crowd. At a signal the guard stepped forward and ripped the rough cloth robe from around Obi-Wan's shoulders, it fell in gathers catching on the chain that encircled his waist. Clenching his teeth the young man slowly straightened, squaring his shoulders and focused on a point behind the crowd well above the onlooker's heads.
The site of his Padawan alive made Qui-Gon falter momentarily. It had seemed like such a long since he had seen his student, he hadn’t realized how much he missed him. The young Jedi's eyes were deep blue green, hard flints of frozen seawater set in a handsome face. His fierce steady gaze betrayed none of the emotions sweeping through the lithe body. Even as Qui-Gon watched the apprentice gained more of a grasp on the force as though just waking up to it. Increasing it all about him, he was wrapping himself in aura of calm force reserve, as he gathered the living energy to him calming him, steadying him. Definitely not your ordinary typical slave, the price to redeem his student would be a high one. The Council had given him plenty of credits and a promise to back up even more if the small fortune he had was not enough.
Bidding began in earnest and the auctioneer had invited two of the higher bidders to come up for a closer look, which they readily agreed to. The young man swallowed hard, half closing his eyes he endured their probing and prodding never letting his gaze waver from that point above their heads. Most of the slaves had a beaten, cowed look to them, but Obi-Wan had not given in even though Qui-Gon could tell that someone had tried very hard to break him.
"50,000 dakataries." The sound of his Masters voice cut through the bidding and brought the young Jedi’s eyes down to lock fiercely with Qui-Gons. He sent the student a silent message of hope.
The young mans eyes faltered, desperation shadowing them momentarily as the thought struck his mind. Relief, weariness and shame chased each other through their bond, skittering down the Jedi Masters spine in uneasy tremors through the force.
Qui-Gon stepped to the front of the mass of people who had gathered around the block attracting the attention of those bidding against him. A large portly man who reeked of wealth and the abuse of power answered the auctioneer's call for a higher bid, throwing a challenging sneer at the Jedi Master. Again the bid went up; the auctioneer turned to Qui-Gon who simply nodded in response to the inflated price. Would he care to look over the goods more closely? A shake of his head and Qui-Gon upped his bid again hoping to forestall any further bidding. Too rich for their pockets, the remaining bidders shaking their heads in defeat, melted back into the crowd surrounding the two men. At this the large wealthy man pushed his way into the Jedi's personal space.
"I have no intentions of letting this one go." The words were a growl, meant to be a threat and there was an evil glint in the man's eyes that promised ill for whoever opposed him and his wishes.
"Nor do I." The Jedi Master politely responded with a slight bow. "However do I believe there are better than this one coming up. A wise man would pass on one so full of stubbornness as this youth." Qui-Gon moved his hand slightly as though merely emphasizing his thought, "He would bring you nothing but trouble."
"I be would wise to pass on this one", the portly man intoned, “He will bring me nothing but trouble.”
The auctioneer called for last bids, when none were forthcoming he closed the sale and awarded it to Qui-Gon. The Jedi Master watched closely as the guards roughly removed the young man from the block and brought him to stand before Qui-Gon and the Closer. The auction Closer quickly signed the ownership papers over to the Jedi Master exchanging the life of the slave for 100,000 daktaries.
"Remove the binds and the collar." Qui-Gon demanded as he signed the paperwork. When no one moved he glared at the Closer and more forcefully repeated himself.
"Do it." The small man barked at the guards.
With the paperwork finished and his binds removed the Closer motioned the young man to follow his new owner. He stood before the Jedi Knight weary, vulnerable, lifting thankful blue-green eyes that Qui-Gon thought he would never have the chance to gaze into again. The older Jedi removed the oversized poncho he was wearing and draped it carefully around the shoulders of the young man. He knew Obi-Wan had injuries beyond the ones he could see, that the young man was simply hiding and he didn’t want to add to them. The cloth, which had hung below the tall Jedi's knees, fell to just above the ankles of the smaller man. Those eyes that had held his throughout the auction refastened on him causing his heart to lurch; a lifeline to sanity.
"You might want to keep this." The Closer held out the collar and leash Obi-Wan had worn only moments before.
"We won't be needing it." Nodding at the stupefied auction worker he placed his hand on the young mans back and motioned for him to walk. At the simple touch his student winced slightly, closing his eyes and drawing in a quick breath. Definitely an injury they would have to take a look at later, the Jedi lightened his touch and walked away from the auction block next to his apprentice. Once out of sight of the plaza Qui-Gon pulled the young man against him, helping to support his weight, needing the physical touch of his Padawan, he lead them silently home.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The apartment Qui-Gon was staying in was on the edge of the city, removed from the hustle of everyday life nestled close to the fortifying wall that ran around the palace of Latraides. It was a quiet private neighborhood. The Prince of Latraides, who had gladly received the Jedi representative upon his arrival, had loaned the accommodations to him.
By the time they reached the entrance to the building their pace had slowed considerably and the young man was favoring a limp, a slight he was trying ineffectively to hide. At the base of the small winding staircase that lead to the apartment Obi-Wan stopped, sighing in resignation and exhaustion.
“Padawan?" Qui-Gon asked softly following the others gaze to the top of the stairs. "Let me help you young one, it will be easier on us both. We need to get you inside and clean you up a bit, I think you have injuries that need tending." Tired eyes turned on him and the apprentice merely nodded. He shifted his arm gently around the young mans waist supporting most of his weight and helped him navigate the stairs to their room. Exhaustion caused Obi-Wan to stumble half way up. Gently the older Jedi stopped his student, leaning around him he picked the compact body up in his arms and carried him the rest of the way.
Once inside he deposited the smaller man into an over stuffed chair and moved to adjust the lighting in the room to a low warm glow.
"Obi-Wan I need you to tell me where you hurt." He pressed the Padawan for information. The young man glanced down and began idly rubbing the rough tattoo on his left wrist a hieroglyph of numbers and letters that marked his slave identification.
When he looked up at the other, the Jedi Master was watching him carefully. Qui-Gon knelt in front of the hurting apprentice gently taking his face in his hands. "Obi-Wan I am so sorry. If only I had known that Trellik was on Coruscant, none of this would have ever happened.” He gingerly took the scarred wrist in his hand, softly rubbing a large thumb over the offensive indentations.
“No Master it is not your fault, how could you have known?” The whisper was soft. His voice caught as his eyes wandered down to the markings on his wrist that the Jedi Master was soothingly stroking. "You came looking for me, I knew you would. How did you find me?" his hand reached out and steadied on the older Jedi's shoulder. The trust and belief echoing in the words grounded Qui-Gon bringing him back to the task at hand.
"Yes, I did. And I would have never stopped. I am only sorry I was so late. Mace received an anonymous tip from someone who saw your abduction and took note that you were a Jedi we don’t who it was." He took the young mans hands in his own and pulled him gently up. "Lets get you cleaned up. We can talk more later when you've rested."
“Do you want to know what saved me Master?" the question barely a whisper stilled the older Jedi. "It was your signature that kept me going, the one you imprinted on me. Whenever I felt lost or without hope I went back to it and found you. It was you that saved me.” Blue green eyes misted over as his voice roughened and lowered even more. The Jedi Master pulled the smaller man towards him holding him tenderly against him for the span of a heartbeat.
Stepping back from the student Qui-Gon forced a small smile. "Well Padawan let's take a look at your injuries", he sighed resigning himself to the task at hand. He proceeded to help his Apprentice out of the poncho moving slowly as the young man stiffened when the rough fabric brushed against his shoulders. Gentle hands found the twisted ankle and the deep partially healed scars that marred his back. There were lacerations on his wrists from where the bindings had cut into the soft skin and an angry red welt was beginning to bruise around his neck where the collar had fit him too tightly. Bruising on his shoulders and rib cage revealed further abuses.
"Come here Obi-Wan." The Master moved over to the bed and removed the pillows indicating that the young man should lie down. “Your wounds need tending to on your back or they will become even more infected. I am afraid this wont be pleasant."
"I have been through worse."
"Was it a whip?"
"Yes. One of the guards was trying to have his way with a female slave. I tried to stop him. They aren't supposed to beat us, no one wants damaged merchandise, but I guess he was new. He paid for beating me with his life."
"Obi-Wan, I am s….."
"No please," the words silencing the Jedi Master's apology, "You found me and you freed me. What came before is the past, now we move on. I don’t blame you Master. It will be all right now that we are together again."
Qui-Gon nodded as Obi-Wan lowered himself onto the bed gingerly, wincing slightly as he released the tension in his body and sank into the soft folds of the blankets beneath him. Qui-Gon moved quietly through the small apartment collecting the items he would need to tend to the wounds of the young man. Returning to the bedside he deposited them on the small stand next to the bed and brought out a vibroblade.
"Are you ready Obi-Wan?" When there was no response he sat gently down on the bed beside the still form. The young Jedi lay on his stomach with his face turned to the wall. Qui-Gon leaned over the boy's body to find him fast asleep, exhaustion having taken its toll.
"Young one, what did they do to you?" The Jedi Master touched the bared shoulder pressing peace and calm into the exhausted mind and pushing the youth further into sleep so he could work on his back without waking him. Shifting his weight he took Obi-Wan's left wrist in his hand and turned it over, exposing the soft tattoo marred flesh. Making up his mind he moved to the other side of the bed and took the damaged hand back in his own. Wrapping both of his larger hands around the offending tattoo he closed his eyes and concentrated on pouring the force into the grip he had on the lost Jedi apprentice. The force slid between his fingers wrapping both his hands and Obi-Wan's wrist in a bright warm light. Seconds later the glow faded and Qui-Gon carefully removed his fingers to see perfect skin beneath his touch; using the force he had erased any trace of the offending mark. Smiling sadly at the still sleeping body next to him he began to clean the whip cuts that streaked his students back.
The task was messy and Qui-Gon was at once glad he had put the student into a deep force sleep. A few of the slashes were already infected and had to be cut open, washed and redressed. Were he awake the young man would have been in pain and he had already suffered so much. The Jedi Master finished taping down the bandages and covered the sleeping body with a soft light sheet. He dropped into an adjacent chair letting his eyes roam over the form of his student, a sight he had missed the last few weeks, the enormity of the emotion sweeping over him anew. The body had been cared for and would heal quickly but the soul, the soul was scarred and the heart had been damaged, that would take time. Time and caring; all of which Qui-Gon readily had for the young man. The force had brought his Padawan back into his life; he wasn’t going to waste that opportunity ever again. Obi-Wan had been lost by no account of own, had survived who knew what atrocities and yet had endured trusting fully that his Master would find him. The depth of his faith in the man awed Qui-Gon and he swore silently to them both that he would live up to such a deep commitment. With those thoughts and arguments swirling in his mind the older Jedi fell asleep.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Softness. That was the first sensation to intrude on his sleep. He was somewhere soft, safe, and warm. Light filtered through his closed eyelids but his eyes wouldn't cooperate and open. Disorientation followed next and a sharp slicing stab of fear jolted him completely awake causing his eyes to fly open only to lock onto the blue ones staring calmly back at him. The Jedi Master sat in a chair across from the bed he was lying on watching him with a slight smile.
Panic. //I am a slave.//
"No." the word was soft and his eyes refocused on the older man as memory returned slowly. "How do you feel this morning, young one?"
Obi-Wan wasn’t sure, his brow furrowed as he thought, eliciting a light laugh from the Jedi Master.
"It was an easy question my Padawan."
The young man stared at Qui-Gon for a minute gathering his thoughts, "Safe. But I ache all over."
"Yes I would imagine you do. Some of the cuts on your back were infected I am afraid and you have a lot of bruising."
"What of…." Again the young man touched his left wrist absently only this time his fingers traced perfect skin around his wrist, unmarred, healed. "Master? You did this?" he held up the wrist flexing the muscular hand in astonishment.
"Yes." The smile dancing in the older mans eyes could no longer be contained. He moved over to sit next to the apprentice on the bed smiling openly down into the upturned face. "So I take it you approve?"
"Yes Master, very much so. Thank you, I wasn’t sure my tunic would hide it", teased the Padawan, returning to some semblance of the youth that Qui-Gon was so fond of.
"We will leave for Coruscant this morning after our meal. The quicker we are away from here the better I believe. I brought your clothes and this." He handed Obi-Wan his lightsaber the metal gleaming dully in the morning sunlight. Surprise animated Obi-Wan's face as he accepted the weapon. "Now, wash up. I am going to go see to our departure and I will be back shortly. Take care that you answer the door for no one. You are not completely safe until we get you off this planet do you understand?"
"Yes Master, thank you."
"It is good to have you back Obi-Wan." His answer was a brilliant smile as the young man moved stiffly out of the bed and made his way into the bathroom.
* * * * * * * * * ***
Qui-Gon quickly set up their departure with the hangar personnel and gave his regards to the Prince before returning to the apartment.
When he got back he found the bedroom and bathroom both empty. Except for the steam just evaporating off of the mirror and the smell of shampoo, Qui-Gon would have never know that the small room had been used. He found the young man in the kitchen, cooking the mid-morning meal, wearing the woven poncho that the Jedi Master had brought him home in the evening before. The apprentice turned casually towards the door as Qui-Gon entered.
"I hope you're hungry," he smiled over his shoulder, "there was plenty of food stocked up here."
"It smells good. But Obi-Wan I brought your clothes. Couldn’t you find them? They'll fit you much better than…." Qui-Gon let his eyes fall on the man before him. Suddenly self-conscious Obi-Wan brushed his hands against the rough cloth trying to smooth out the wrinkles and remove a stain on the lower edge.
"Here." The older Jedi walked back into the main room and opened a wardrobe on the wall, recessed and ornately inlaid Obi-Wan had mistaken it for a piece of artwork. Returning to the kitchen he held out the clothing and took the spoon from the young man, stepping up to stir the pot. Moving out of the way into a corner of the kitchen Obi-Wan stripped out of the poncho and began fingering the soft fabric easing the clothing on over tired muscles. Qui-Gon watched guardedly as he dressed checking for injuries that may have been missed the night before. He quickly assessed the smaller mans condition, the younger jedi's size and musculature had always been very useful in combat; it had given him a quick, fast edge in battle, an advantage over his enemies, convinced his charge was on the mend he relaxed slightly. Unaware of the scrutiny Obi-Wan dressed slowly careful of his bandages and looked back up to his Master.
"Much better." Turning the burner off and setting the pan aside he walked up to the smaller man and fingered the soft slightly damp hair. "There is only one more thing we need to take care of before we return."
Qui-Gon sat on the bed, the young man seated at his feet between his legs head tilted back into the Jedi Master's strong hands as he carefully combed and cut his Padawan's hair. Complete trust flooded the bond as the older Jedi ran his fingers through Obi-Wan's hair pulling up wayward strands and trimming them off. Qui-Gon gathered the long stray strands of hair that had once been so neatly braided in his large fingers and began re-braiding them weaving them into the familiar style that would set this one apart as his Padawan. When he had finished he ran his fingers through the short spiky hair, clean and soft. A small contented sigh came from the young man at his feet.
"That feels good."
Setting the scissors aside Qui-Gon placed his hands on Obi-Wans shoulders and gave him a gentle push. "All through Padawan, turn around and let me see." Obediently without hesitation the young apprentice turned in front of him kneeling before him for approval. He held a mirror up for the other to see as Obi-Wan fingered the braid reverently, a small smile breaking out on his face.
"My young Jedi it is time we left."
"Yes Master." Obi-Wan stood and walked back into the kitchen a light bounce in his step.
A few minutes later as Qui-Gon was cleaning up the bedroom, he felt a tug on his mind through the force.
Rushing to the kitchen he skidded to a stop in the doorway. "What is it Obi-Wan?", he asked worriedly glancing around the small room.
The young Jedi stood before a fully set table smiling, "Nothing Master, our meal is ready. Are you alright?" He questioned with a light laugh. Qui-Gon leaned against the door frame eyebrows raised in mock exasperation. //So I see. And yes I am fine young one.//
The meal was consumed quickly in companionable silence and preparations to leave were hastily made. Qui-Gon entered the living area with Obi-Wan's robe draped over his arm. Gratefully taking it the young man slipped it over his head. His Master reached around him and pulled up the hood bringing it down around the apprentice's face.
"I don’t want any trouble from anyone while we leave. Stay close and speak to no one on our way. The hangar is not far. Once we board you will be safe."
The streets were just beginning to fill as the stores lining the walkways opened for another day. Qui-Gon reached out and pulled the apprentice to his side possessively keeping the young man closely in his sights as they quickly walked the short distance. They had just rounded the last corner before entering the hangar when a shadow dislocated itself from the overhang to their right and stepped in front of them a blaster swinging lazily up to sight on the Jedi Master.
"You found him I see and here I was really hoping you wouldn’t." The raspy hoarse voice held an edge of contempt mirrored in the scarred face leering at them. "I heard Rali got drunk and told some poor soul who thought he'd do your kind a favor and pass on the information. Oh yeah, their both dead by the way."
"Trellik." A statement, nothing more.
The man standing before them was hideously scarred. It looked to Obi-Wan as if he had been trapped in a fire. A patch covered the area of his right eye, and the red welt he could see at the edges of the cloth indicated that the eye was no longer there. His hands were marred, the skin stretched tightly across them running up under the sleeves of his black leather jacket and he favored his left leg as he stood before them.
Not much of a threat for two Jedi set on leaving thought Obi-Wan until he heard the scrape of footfalls behind them. Spinning around to face their flank the apprentice counted five men stepping into the street in back of them all with blasters drawn. The young Jedi pressed close behind Qui-Gon moving slowly until his shoulders braced the broad back behind him. He felt his Master step back against him as he sensed several more men invade the space in front the older Jedi.
"I suppose you thought I was dead. Well unfortunately I'm not and for that I have you to thank." Trellik paced casually in front of the Jedi Knight his tone conversational belying no trace of the anger that Obi-Wan could feel radiating from the twisted soul. "I was thrown from that ship in the explosion but it didn’t save me from being soaked by the coolant fluid that erupted from the engines. It caught fire when the back up drives exploded. I spent months in a bacta tank for all the good that did and by the time I got back to Pleneth my operations had been dismantled. My home was sold and my family exiled from the planet. I never found them, they were killed on an outpost just before I joined them." The pacing stopped as he turned on his heel stepping close into the Jedi's personal space momentarily before backing up behind the circle of blasters pointed at the two men.
"Imagine my surprise when I found out that not only were you still alive, but you were a Jedi Knight!" The mocking derision elicited small grunts of laughter from the hired mercenaries. "And then I heard you had an apprentice so I decided it was time you knew what it felt like to loose someone you cared about." He holstered his blaster a sneer of contempt chilling his words as they hissed into the alley, "I guess I'll just have to settle for killing the both of you now instead." A wave of his hand tightened the circle of men around the two Jedi.
Stretching out to the force Obi-Wan could the feel the minute tremors in the muscles of the mercenaries seconds before the laser bolts filled the space in front of him. An arc of blue light met and caught the energy sending it shrieking back at the assailants, splashing into the walls behind their heads and kicking up shards of the walkway at their feet. One bolt found its' target, the man slumping to the ground as the force of the blast tore through his back. Splitting up, the remaining men sought cover as they kept up the incessant fire hoping to get through a crack in the blue laser wall the lightsaber was creating.
Qui-Gon held his own against the men in front of him, conscious of his Padawan pressed up against him from behind while trying to keep track of the presence of his enemy who watched the fight from the shadows. The green blade of his lightsaber blurred with the speed and force of his defense. Sweeping down he caught a blast with the tip of the saber meant to incapacitate him and sent it flying back into the face of the aggressor. A swift arc up and he deflected two more redirecting them into the building on his left.
With the Jedi preoccupied by his men, Trellik began shifting towards the young apprentice intent on killing the student and ending the conflict.
“No!” with a roar of outrage the Jedi Master caught a glimpse of the man moving through the shadows on his right the barrel of his blaster sighting in on Obi-Wan who was unaware of the danger, caught up in his own battle. Qui-Gon stepped back into his apprentices’ stance buckling the young man’s knees. Whipping his head over his right shoulder he grabbed his Padawan with his left hand controlling the young mans fall as the bolt struck the paracrete throwing chips of stone into the air.
//ENOUGH!// Bringing his own lightsaber up in an over handed arc he caught the next blast aimed at the downed apprentice and sent it back on its trajectory burning a hole through the man before him. The echoes of his mental push faded into the ensuing silence.
Trellik dropped to his knees a look of shock twisting his marred face before he fell, dead. The mercenaries seeing their employer struck down drew quickly back into the shadows and fled in an attempt to escape the angry Jedi, still standing over his stunned apprentice.
Obi-Wan carefully gained his feet taking advantage of the hand extended down towards him. Breathing hard he lifted his line of sight trying to see into Qui-Gon’s eyes. He could feel the last tinges of battle rage sweep out into the force and bleed away as the Jedi Master pulled his emotions back under control.
“Master? Are you alright?” The tension in the shoulder beneath his hand increased as he tentatively touched the taller man letting his gaze sweep the small corridor around them for any signs of danger.
Qui-Gon met the questioning glance and nodded slipping his arm around the young Jedi and deactivating his weapon, replacing it on his belt. He pulled the apprentice in front of him and directed him the last few yards into the hangar daring anyone who crossed their path to stop them.
Once inside the craft Obi-Wan set about seeing to the short preflight prep stealing glances at the man seated silently next to him. When the planet was finally receding swiftly in the viewscreen Qui-Gon turned sideways in the pilots chair, arched eyebrows questioning the younger man. The teachers’ emotions were fully shielded from the Padawan gazing steadily back at him as he pressed at their bond.
//Master?// Confusion swirled into the tension weighing heavy through the link, the moments stretched into silence.
"He meant to take you from me Obi-Wan."
"Yes.", The glare in the eyes of the other lent caution to the apprentices response.
"He wasn’t going to stop until he had destroyed you and hurt me the only way he knew how. I had to finish it. I had to stop him."
Unbelting the restraining harness Obi-Wan closed the space between them in two steps. Qui-Gon's gaze riveted on a section of paneling behind the young Jedi and did not waver or even acknowledge the Padawan's proximity, absorbed in dark thoughts. The strong hands of his apprentice diverted his attention as they slid roughly against his jaw line tipping his head back to search the blue-green eyes inches from his own.
Obi-Wan felt a slight tremor run through the other as he gently reassured, "Yes Master. But he didn’t destroy me. You did stop him. I am right here and he will never try again." The conviction in the quiet statement silenced the raging emotions threatening to sweep out of control. And with that final push the damn he had established in their bond broke open flooding the link with all the pent up anguish of the last few days. The Padawan quietly absorbed the shock of the feelings flowing from his Master and sent comfort back to the emptiness left in their wake.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Obi-Wan stepped out of the refresher unit glancing around the small sleep room. Qui-Gon lay on the bed eyes closed. The young man leaned in the doorway watching his Master rest, letting his eyes linger on the scene before him. Contentment washed through him increasing his sense of weariness.
"Obi-Wan.", the soft call stopping his thoughts. Qui-Gon rolled up on his side facing the young man. "You need your rest too." The older Jedi indicated the sleep couch on the opposite wall.
"Yes Master." a small smile played at the corners of Obi-Wan's mouth. The Jedi Master waited patiently as his Padawan gingerly shifted into a comfortable position in his bed. The young Jedi turned to face Qui-Gon gazing at him intently for several minutes. Content to wait him out the older man lay quietly. A soft push touched against his mental shields as the young man probed his mind. Instead of reinforcing the barriers he let them fall and invited his apprentice in. Obi-Wan's mental touch was gentle, more of a light caress than the questioning probe he had expected, exploring the others thoughts and memories of the past weeks tracing emotions through his teachers mind, seeking assurances and finding them answered. Finally content the feather light touch receded inviting the same response from the Master. Qui-Gon accepted surprised at the young mans willingness to be vulnerable after so much exposure. He could sense Obi-Wan relax at his touch and with a sigh his student offered up the chaos of conflicting emotions and pain that the memories of the recent past brought roiling to the front of his thoughts. The Jedi Master pressed through the turmoil in the young man, replacing it with a sense of peace. Safe in the thoughts of the other both men fell asleep.
A cry brought the Jedi Master fully awake. He crossed the distance between them in four large steps. The young man was drenched in sweat and struggling within himself caught in the grip of a nightmare.
"Obi-Wan." He shook the apprentice carefully. No response.
"Please, no." the words were pained and rough with emotion.
//Obi-Wan?// With a gasp the Padawan shot up into a sitting position. Eyes darting frantically surveying surroundings that were temporarily unfamiliar the young man swallowed hard trying to catch his breath. Qui-Gon knelt beside him, reaching above his bed he turned on the small glowlamp casting soft warm shadows on the walls of the small room.
"Padawan, are you all right?" Qui-Gon touched the shaking body waiting until the tremors ceased and his student was relaxed before he asked again, "Are you all right? What were you dreaming?"
"Yes," the answer was the ghost of a breath. "It was the same dream, the same one I have had every night. I am lost and no one comes to find me. Then I am sold and imprisoned and I cant breathe and they…I couldn’t feel the Force…." His voice trailed off.
"I know. It's alright. You will never be lost or sold again, do you understand that Padawan?" Qui-Gon looked intently into the eyes searching his own for truth. "Never."
Obi-Wan nodded looking around the room familiarizing himself with new the surroundings before refocusing on his Master still watching him closely. Pulling the covers back around himself he lay back down. It had been a long day and he knew his teacher was exhausted, he didn’t want to be the source of his Master's unease. The past few weeks had tested the Jedi Knights resolve almost as much as his own and the older man was still slightly on edge, just a little more than overprotective of the younger Jedi.
"It was only a dream. I will be fine Master, please you can rest now", he whispered, the comforted now becoming the comforter.
With a reluctant nod Qui-Gon stood and returned to his bunk. Within moments the older Jedi was fast asleep. But sleep eluded the apprentice. Thoughts chased each other through his mind refusing to give into his body's need for rest. With a sigh he readjusted his position and contented himself with the sense of peace that filtered through their bond from the sleeping Jedi Master. If only he had never left that morning without Qui-Gon, his Master had been insistent that they leave on time, if he had simply gone with his teacher when asked none of this would have happened regardless of Trellik’s intentions. It seemed like an eternity ago that he had woken in up in his own bed. Memories of his home turned over in his mind as a thought tugged at his consciousness trying to surface a long forgotten memory. There was something he had forgotten, yet important, something that had to do with his Master. When recollection finally hit him, he paled with remembrance.
"What Obi-Wan?" The jolt of panic slamming into the student had run through their unshielded bond and woken Qui-Gon.
"Master I am sorry I didn’t mean to wake you.” Obi-Wan cringed realizing his thoughts and emotions had woken the sleeping Jedi. “It’s nothing really, it actually had to do with your birthday, that I'm afraid I missed. That's why I had left early that morning when I encountered Trellik's men. I was retrieving your gift. I am sure it is gone by now. They probably thought I wasn’t coming and sold it, it was priceless and it was so hard to…."
Qui-Gon rolled over and sat up. "Padawn, is it this?" He leaned over and opened a drawer in the stand next to his bed. He retrieved a small elegantly wrapped box, the seal revealing it had been purchased at Cleigel's Gems and Precious Metals Shop. With a flip of his wrist he tossed the container across the aisle to his students and lay back on the bed smiling at the surprise on Obi-Wan's face.
"Yes Master, but how?" Fingering it only for moments before he passed it back to the other.
"I ran into Mr. Cleigel when we were out looking for you. He knew you were my student and asked me to pass it on to you when I saw you next. He said they would put in on account for you."
"Well it's for your birthday Master. Please open it.", the suspense was eating at the student as he watched his teacher turn the small box over in his hands. Carefully Qui-Gon removed the seal and outer wrapping. Prying open the clasp on the satin box inside he lifted the lid and caught his breath.
//Well?// Obi-Wan's eyes were locked on his teachers watching every emotion that passed over the others face. The older Jedi was sure that his student was holding his breath as he tipped the box and dropped the gem into the palm of his hand.
It was a perfect sphere. Gold fire flecks deep inside the clear stone pulsed with a dull glow highlighting the center of the crystal. Purple iridescent striations coursed through the outer edges of the sphere oscillating slowly in the low lighting.
"It is a Ryliss Gem, Master." The whisper of the young Jedi filled the bedchamber. "Do you remember our first night on Ryliss when you pointed out that rare violet colored crystal that fell during the evening’s storm? Well later that night after you had fallen asleep I went back out into the forest and tracked the path of the fragment to see if there was perhaps anything left of it when it impacted. I found this. Actually it was rather ugly but I took it to Cleigel's and he cut and polished it for me. He says it is one of the purest Ryliss Gems he has ever seen."
When Qui-Gon still did not respond, Obi-Wan pressed worriedly, "Master, do you like it?"
"Oh, Obi-Wan. It is beautiful.", his soft comment revealing his amazement of the gift. The brightness in Qui-Gons eyes spilled down over his cheeks surprising the young Jedi. Carefully the Jedi Master replaced the gem in its’ satin box on the nightstand and faced his student, "My Obi-Wan, having you back is the best gift I could have ever asked for young one." A smile that mirrored his own lit the blue-green eyes fastened on him. "And yes, the gem is perfect too. Thank you so much Padawan."
"Happy Birthday Master."