For clarification, if you see what appears to be a quote in bold
, it's Wielder's thoughts while the unitalicized words are Obi's.
"Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me.
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain't comin' back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can't take the sky from me.
Leave the men where they lay
They'll never see another day
Lost my soul, lost my dream
You can't take the sky from me.
I feel the black reaching out
I hear its song without a doubt
I still hear and I still see
That you can't take the sky from me.
Lost my love, lost my land
Lost the last place I could stand
There's no place I can be
Since I've found Serenity.
And you can't take the sky from me."
-The Ballad of Serenity by Sonny Rhodes
He waited patiently as the prisoners were read their rights...probably for at least the third time, and booked before he began to press her about her mood. Since they'd laid down all their previous issues months before, communication had been much easier. Since she'd spent a whole night bleeding by his bed...too worried about him to retire to her own in the Halls of Healing...since he'd nearly lost her...he'd decided for the last time that his Master was right. The Council did not know everything. The Order was not perfect.
He found questioning the Order and its decisions easier and easier. But not as easily as she did, and when he did question the powers that be, he was certainly more subtle about it. Wielder, as usual, lacked any sort of subtlety. Even now, in one of the interview chambers...on the other side...the all knowing side of one way glass...she was seething.
"Ready to talk about this yet?" he asked, leaning against the door once it closed. Once they were safe. "All reports I have read have stated that the raid went successful. Minimal loss of life...and limb. Prisoners for the most part are cooperative...including officers. A rarity we should be glad for." He paused, watching as her ears flicked at his words but always returned to a pinned position. "So why are you upset, Wild One?" he wondered aloud, pushing himself off of the closed blast door and approaching her with a casual nature only a lover would. He felt her fur bristle against the hand on her cheek but relax immediately. Yes, she'd grown too fond of his touch to deny a chance to feel it even when she was angry. "Please, tell me so I can help you."
A sarcastic laugh, but a sad one. She continued staring into the room beyond. The young pirate Alsatian was no longer accompanied by Clone Troopers. Kenobi had seen to that after the way some of the new and lower ranking mean had "conducted" the interview. The brown and black head, now covered with the heavy stains of bruises and blood, was still held high, shepherd nose pointing up towards the stars. As if he were still there. As if nothing could take them from him.
"Help him, Obi." She said it softly, quietly, but flatly. "Help him. Kid never killed anyone. Gave me quite a scrap of a fight, fired at me, but the blaster was set to stun. Even when he faced being caught by the Dogs of the Republic during wartime, he valued my life over his freedom."
Kenobi looked into the other land, "Halfzy" was muttering something to himself, occasionally smirking, and then shaking his head. Boy was Corellian, and he wasn't stupid. He had to know there were others in the room beyond, unseen. He wouldn't break unless they broke his back. Even Kenobi had to admit, he admired the young man even though he didn't know more of him than tales of gentleman piracy and some strange and uniquely Corellian code of honor. Corellian...for a Corellian to choose captivity over his own freedom for the life of another...he had to be made of some stern stuff indeed.
Still, common sense had to reign. "Wielder, this is not the first time you have brought well-meaning smugglers and thieves with honor in on charges against the Republic. Search yourself for the answer...why are you so upset about this one boy?"
Moments where she was a woman and nothing more, nothing less were rare. Pressed so flush against him that she had molded her body to his, she dug her fingers into his tunics, his tabbard, and the thick ring of white fur around his neck. "Because, Obi, I'm so tired of knowing what's right and doing what's wrong just because I'm told to. This is a mistake. If that boy goes into jail, we'll all be wasting a helluva lot of good. Save him, Obi, they'll listen to you..."
Months prior, he would have continued questioning her. He would have told her to cast aside her feelings and allow things to go their natural way. Jail was not a death sentence. He'd be out one day, and maybe he'd have learned his lesson. But, just as she'd changed, just as she had begun to accept his gentle dominance in some way, he'd grown to understand there was a certain amount of cowardice covered up by arrogance in his previous opinions.
"I will try, my dear, I will try," he repeated it again and again as he held her close and rocked her back and forth. Normally, he'd have instantly challenged her, but he too had been there when Dominique J. Halfmoon had exited the ship. He knew when he saw a basically innocent man in binders. He would do what he could to help Wielder free the young man, but he'd also use the situation to save another...
It had been a month ago when he'd taken Anakin with him to sit in on one of the Hopeful Tournaments. Though he'd made sure that his "Chosen One" was, for the most part, treated as any other Padawan would have been, Anakin Skywalker had thankfully avoided having to do this. In Kenobi's mind, there was nothing "Jedi" about the tournament. It was a last ditch effort for the desperate. Those who had reached the age of losing their lives as Jedi had their final chance to save them. Pitting Padawan against Padawan in a ceremony based completely on the skills of the fight, high ranking Jedi Knights, Masters, and Councilmen would watch to see who stood and who would fall.
"Barbaric" he thought to himself. "Barbaric..." Still, this was something Anakin would have to come to some sort of terms with if he was to be a career Jedi and a Master at that. Ahsoka no longer had to fear the Tournaments, but there would hopefully come a day when Skywalker would raise another knight. If so, he'd have to deal with the Tournaments...
The young jackal had always had a taste for a good fight. It was one of the things Obi-Wan had tried to tame in him. But Even Anakin winced painfully as children fought other children. Kenobi could practically feel the stiffness of Anakin's spine, each twitch of his large ears, and each time he readjusted his position uncomfortably. The older Jedi took in deeper, more meditative breaths to hide his disdain. The smell of crackling electricity filled the area, and more of the scent entered the air each time lightsaber collided with lightsaber. Obi-Wan was only glad that he had selected two seats far enough away from the fighting grounds to detect even the slightest hint of burned flesh. Sabers would be set to stun, but they would be on the higher settings for that. The Tournaments were meant to test a Hopeful as much as possible. Pain was a test...
The first round was over. The victor decided. No Master would stand immediately to claim his or her next prodigy. No, that would be silently and modestly decided after. For now, even the winning child had to feel as though they might have lost anyway.
"This is bullshit," snarled Anakin, not even bothering to apologize after. His azure gaze locked onto the cold floor on which a tired and beaten preteen lay as MediCorps technicians administered aid. "Why would you bring me to this, Master? Is this your idea of a cruel joke?" Anger rose with each word.
"No, not mine. The Order's. But not mine." He closed his eyes and regained his composure. The loser of the first round had to be carried out in the arms of a higher ranking Medical Jedi. He would live, but he would be stripped of the only home he'd ever known soon enough. Obi-Wan knew that feeling all too well. "Like it or not, Anakin, this is part of the Order. And a part you will have to in some way contend with at some point."
Unspoken argument danced in the air as the next two contestants were led into the arena. A large Cathar and a small canine-like female...almost looking like a jackal. Hardly a fair fight, but fairness was not considered. A last ditch effort. Nothing was fair about it. Rules were stated flatly, and the fight began with unceremonious declaration.
The first thing both Jedi noticed was that the young female wielded a rare dueling or curved-hilt saber. Smart choice. She was small, she would need the added dexterity for her overhand attacks. The second thing they noticed was that while she was agile and talented...her actions nearly mirroring a younger Ahsoka's...she made no use of the power of that blade. Her offense was less than half-hearted. Her evasion and defense was beyond powerful.
"She's amazing!" Anakin gasped. "It's like watching Snips with one hand tied behind her back..."
Kenobi pulled at his beard uncomfortably. Though he agreed with Anakin, he knew enough to know the outcome to be inevitable. "True enough. But she has both hands at the ready with no handicap whatsoever to hinder her attack. She will not last long..."
Before the truth of the statement could fully fall upon Skywalker's trembling ears, the Cathar's well honed rage erupted. A Force push sent the young aardwolf flying against the wall. Both of them felt the crunch of her diaphragm with her. Then the cat-like goliath of a Hopeful stood over her, saber close enough to cast green light onto the shaky pulse of her beige throat.
"Solah." She gave it with no fight. "Solah." The second time she said it, she was crying and burying her fingers into her upper arms. The young Cathar male attempted to bend down, dropping his saber to the ground...but one of the Jedi handlers moved forward to usher him away before he could show her any kindness, any regret for winning. The attending Master of ceremony told her without any kindness to clear the arena.
Anakin's hands were balled into fists and were shaking atop his knees. "Make. Them. Stop." His head shot towards his Master's. Several Jedi in front of them turned slightly to listen. "This is bullshit, and you know it. What is going to happen to her?"
"Expulsion or retraining." The voice came from behind them, and it was familiar. The Devil stated it with disgust. "Too gentle to be a Jedi." Quinlan Vos chewed on what appeared to be a toothpick.
"Too gentle to be a Jedi?!" Skywalker hissed in disbelief. "What does the Order expect these days?! We're supposed to be peaceful and yet we are forced into battle? Forced to kill and then told not to enjoy it? And this creature is too gentle?!"
"Yup." Quinlan spared no one, and Kenobi knew it and cast a warning glance at his old childhood friend. "She'd break in a Coruscant second, kid. It's best this way."
"With all due respect, Master Vos...that's bull---..."
"You have used that particular word quite enough, Anni." The cultured voice was low and deep, and the jackal recognized it as a sage warning. A few deep inhalations and, Kenobi continued, "Much as I absolutely hate to admit it, Quin is right..."
"Never tell me that a soul is too gentle again, Master." Anakin looked right at him, eyes both wide with disappointment and rage. "I was a slave. I was born a slave. I know what strength lies in the weak, and I will protect it physically and verbally. I can't stand this. If we allow this to happen without doing something, we're no better than the traders who put my mother and me into binders."
"Anakin, this has gone on for generations of Jedi, and you are asking me to stop this? Be reasonable..."
"No...I'm asking you to save one girl. Just one. Be the example I know you can be. If I walked out there, no one would bat an eye...it'd just be Skywalker the Rebel doing his typical thing. But you...they would notice."
Quinlan laughed. "The boy has a point, Obi. They'd definitely notice it...not that it would do any..."
The Tasie Devil, for once, shut his mouth. The proud but somehow unassuming figure of the Negotiator moved down the auditorium steps and onto the cold floor of the arena. Two Junior Jedi were trying to sternly but gently get the tiny aardwolf pup to move, but it was obvious she was in a state of utter loss, nearly unresponsive.
"Stand back, I'll handle this," he ordered calmly, motioning with a jerk of his eyes to the side for them to return to their posts.
A slight bow from both. "You know we can't do that, Master Kenobi...you are not officiator of these Tournaments. We cannot take orders from you..."
"Move or I will make you move. It is your choice." His gaze was unflinching and predatory, and their eyes averted almost immediately. Both younger Jedi took several shaky steps backwards before Kenobi was comfortable enough to take off his cloak, blanket the child with it, and lift her up. "It's alright, little one," he nearly cooed. "All done for now. You did your best, now dry your eyes." Her sniffling stopped almost instantly, and he began to walk without any ceremony towards the exit of the large training dome.
"She will leave of her own free will and strength or she will leave in the arms of Medical Staff, Master Kenobi." He knew the voice, and he knew upon hearing it why these games of all of them he'd ever seen...even his own at the tender age of 13, were the worst. The striped hyena continued under a sneer, "it is our way."
Kenobi would not give him the kindness of meeting his gaze. "No, Aalto, mercy is our way, and it is time we remembered it. Do as the Order will allow you for the rest of this day, but this child and her destiny are mine for now...unless you are fool enough to stop me."
He did not have to motion for Anakin to follow him, the jackal growling audibly at the large male hyena as he passed him. He was, however, slightly surprised when he heard Vos' voice close behind, mocking Aalto about losing a "dick measuring contest with someone half his height".
"And to think you argued with Qui-Gon all the time about bringing home defenseless animals..."
"Shut up, Quin," Obi-Wan scoffed, trying to hide a smile. He gently laid his bundle of cloak and Hopeful on the bench in one of the locker rooms not far from the dome. "Alright, little one, you're right as rain, time to come around a bit."
His hood was even too big for her, only the lights bouncing off the shine of her fuchsia eyes proving she was somewhere inside and conscious. "Why did you pick me? I lost." The voice seemed tinier than the creature it came from.
"You lost a battle you shouldn't have had to fight in the first place, youngling," he offered truly and gently, slowly pulling the hood off of her head. A shock of light pink hair greeted the three men and ears larger than even Anakin's had been when first they'd met on Tattooine. "Are you alright?"
"Yes, Master." She was a spry little thing, already smiling, brushy tail slapping against the bench. Obi-Wan's heart sank...she thought she was his Learner now.
"Now, now, wait a minute..." the blue eyes fluttered from her to Quinlan's. Should have known he'd get not a bit of comfort there, but he detected even a hint of sadness from the typically rough and tumble rogue of a Jedi. "I am not your Master, youngling..."
"Leeza," she corrected, lower jaw already trembling with the threat of sobs. "Leeza Roimada."
'Mando' he thought instantly upon hearing her voice and name. A few pink tattoos were visible on her face and her tail. From the Old Lines...lines of warriors. Only that could explain such unnatural markings on a child He shook his head and grabbed her chin carefully. "I cannot train you, youngling. My position in the war does not allow for me to take on another Learner just yet. But I can offer you some sort of chance, if you're willing to wait for it. If not, I'll gladly go with you to a Consular and help you start the process of finding a new life..."
"Another chance...another chance." She wasn't nearly as happy as she had been when she'd thought he was her Master, but trust still laced her words, and her eyes were open and intelligent instead of angry and dejected.
"Good," he sighed. "It will feel like purgatory for a while, youngling, but I think I know of someone who can help you if she can be convinced to do so. Until she comes back, I have something you must do for me in the mean time. Understand?"
An enthusiastic nod, ears pricked forward.
"If I am going to vouch for your presence in this Temple and do my best to secure your future, I need to give you a way to, in some way, begin to prove yourself to your future Master. Now, how are you with plants?..."
"It's a simple case of 'you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours', Wielder," he chuckled, trotting to keep up with her frustrated gait. "Can't you see that?"
"I don't want no damn Learner, Obi," she spat quietly, doing her best not to attract unwanted attention in the halls. "I ain't got time for no friggin' pup that I gotta act as wet nurse for. What the hell were you thinkin' when you concocted this shit?" The wolf practically punched the keypad next to the lift. At least she was going through the motions, he thought.
"I was thinking..." he said through a toothy grin that hid his own frustration. Some other Jedi tried to get onto the lift with them before he gave them a cold glare and hit the "close door" button inside the car. "...that I was given a chance by a reluctant Master not so long ago and that that kindness should be paid forward." Wielder gawked as the final sliver of golden light from the halls disappeared. It wasn't like Obi-Wan to be rude to others...and certainly not to be pushy. Once alone he was gentler but more austere. "You try so hard to save one that is not of your kind. I am asking you to save one of your own at the same time, especially if you are asking me for my help."
He'd never seen her ears pinned back further. She was angry, and it was cute. Quickly so that she couldn't put up much if any of a fight, he took a chance and pinned her against the side of the elevator car and nuzzled into her neck, feeling her pulse beneath his cold, wet nose. "Ahhhh, there it is."
Wielder squirmed and struggled but made no effort to do anything that would hurt him. "What the hell are you talkin' about now?"
A careful nip and her pulse went higher. "Your heart. I knew if I searched long enough, I'd find it. Though a rare sighting this may be..."
"Smart. Ass." It was a cocky whisper. "You're feedin' me your wiles, Obi-Wan, and I'm not fallin' for it."
"Let's be honest, you "fell for it" long ago," the collie mix chuckled, knowing he'd won the next move in their game. Perhaps not the whole of the game itself just yet...but the next part. "And, to be fair, I fell for yours as well or I wouldn't be willing to bother bartering for the life of a common pirate."
"...and an uncommonly good man."
"So we hope." He pushed himself away from her, hating the distance, before their stop. It was time for him to set his plan into motion completely. His wolf was following along like a good dog, but he'd have to be quick with his "trap" if he was going to be successful. Though she certainly had a heart, he'd have to strike while the iron was hot to prove it.
The youngster was nothing if not dependable. When the door to Wielder's room telescoped open, Leeza was already there, carefully tending to the the myriad of plants Wielder kept in her room. The weeping blue leaves of the plant in front of her were particularly picky, and she had to inject the water and food mixture into the root system of the plant with a syringe. Her tiny hands held the blossoms and leaves up carefully so that she could find a proper place to insert the long needle. Paying such attention that she didn't even notice them.
"What in the hell..." Wielder's fur was bristling as she began to stride forward, but Kenobi caught her.
"Temper, temper. Is that any way to thank someone who has been tending to your various stationary friends whilst you've been gone?" He was being a smartass again, and she pinned her ears at him and looked at him from under deeply furrowed eyebrows. "Did you honestly think I'd have time to water your daisies for you while you were away?"
"Sooooo you gave some kid the combination to my room?" The white of her muzzle rippled across the top of the sharp snout. At least she was doing the child the courtesy of whispering.
"Nooooo, I gave this kid the combination to your room." He leaned down with quiet authority and whispered into her ear. "Be nice and maybe I'll forgive your pirate friend for calling me a...what was it again...? Oh, yes, I remember, 'haughty little stuck up pretty boy"." A second for the words to sink in and for her expression to soften. "Good girl." He'd have nipped the white rim of her ear if a child had not been present, but, instead, he cast his attention fully to the current matter at hand. "Leeza Roimada, meet Knight Wielder Cloudbreaker."
Jolted from the attention she paid her chores and to her newly arrived company, Leeza carefully finished feeding the starling orchids and all but ran to Master Kenobi, tail wagging submissively and large pink eyes overflowing with admiration.
Ugh, she has a crush on you, you know that, right?
So do you and I put up with it.
Look at her goddamn feet, Obi, they're practically bigger than she is. She's a catastrophe waitin' to happen.
I seem to remember a time where you could barely walk because your feet were too large for your legs to keep up.
She ain't gonna make it.
You thought many times that I was going to die, and yet you stayed with me, Patron Jedi of Lost Causes.
Don't push this...
I already am.
To say the meeting was awkward was a vicious understatement. Wielder crossed her arms and looked down at the child with what could be called cold disinterest. Poor little Leeza's height shrank by the second under the wolf's scrutiny. A gentle push from Obi...both a physical and mental nudge, and Wielder rolled her eyes, groaned, and attempted seemingly polite conversation.
"You been takin' care of these this whole time?"
"For about a month, yeah," the young girl replied, rubbing her hand through her shortish pink hair. "Master Kenobi told me you needed the help while you were gone on missions, and...well...not like I had anything better to do...and I like plants..."
"So why not join the AgriCorps and be done with it, kid?" She asked it flatly, almost cruelly. Obi-Wan's ears lifted in disbelief. "You like plants, they work with plants. Seems like a match made in heaven to me."
The girl was unphased. She'd been told she was a disappointment before. This was little different. "I can help people as a Jedi."
The rebuttal was semi-constructive. "And you could help people as a member of the AgriCorps. You could terraform other planets that would starve without your hands to feed them. You could grow medicinal crops, make serums and tinctures to cure the masses. Really, people like that are more help to others than most damn Jedi are." It was true. Obi-Wan couldn't deny it.
"I want to protect others...not just help them." It had to be the loudest the preteen's voice had ever been. Her sharp featured face lifted to meet the wolf's golden gaze. "Even if you sent me to the Corps, I'd find a way to wave a pitchfork at bullies...like you."
Kenobi made an audible gasp, and yet he knew that if the young cub stood a chance of proving herself, this was the only way. Wielder smirked and chuckled. "That so? Put your credits where your mouth is, kid. Get your saber, and meet me in training room #21 in the Tower of First Knowledge wing. Don't keep me waiting." She turned, purposefully ran into Obi-Wan with a steeled shoulder, and left.
"That...that is who you want to be my Master?!" the aardwolf barked in exasperation. "She acts more like a common thug than a Jedi!"
Taking in a deep breath and massaging his shoulder a bit, he bent down and placed a hand on her head. "Looks can be deceiving and so can actions, Hopeful. Answer me truthfully, if she was so hard and so cruel, could these fragile plants still be alive?" He motioned with a flick of his gaze to the fragile lifeforms around them.
"Well then, trust in me and trust in the Force. Go get your saber. I'll meet you there. I promise you won't face Wielder alone."
He remembered later a conversation he'd had with Vos after he'd mentioned to the child he had an idea about getting her a proper Master. Quinlan knew the plan before he mentioned it, and he thought it to be completely and utterly stupid.
"That's like expecting a dewback to nuzzle a steak, Obi," the rougher Jedi mumbled, leaning against a tree in the Room of A Thousand Fountains. "I know she means well, and she might be gentle enough with you when no one's looking, but you're a fully grown man. That little derbit of a Hopeful will break the second your wolf snaps at her."
"Do you measure everything by obvious features, Quin?" he asked, pulling his mind back from his meditation and casting a glance over his shoulder. "If so, then as a dog should I not fear the fangs of a wolf as well?"
"Different, dumbass. Don't make me say what some of us know. Her actions towards you are on a completely different level than the ones she shows others. You're the only one who can touch her. Everyone else risks drawing back a nub if they try to grab a hold of that woman literally or figuratively. And you...you're gonna give her a bundle of joy to raise! Gods, you're dumber than I give you credit for."
Fangs gleamed as he snarled and spoke. "And you say this all as her friend? Sounds more like some of the rumors and gossip that the less educated in this Order allow to fall from their lips. How dare you?..."
"You weren't there when Okari started officially training her, Kenobi," snapped Vos. "Dai and I were. Moonfield was hard as shit on that kid. First training session, Wielder had a broken nose, a bruised rib, and more blood on the outside than the inside. And she was older than that little ball of fluff is now. Wielder could take it though. Iron sharpens iron. Wolf trains wolf. There's a reason no one has pushed her to take on a Learner. It's because they know what Okari put her through, what Okari trained her to be, and no one deserves to go through that again."
Though he was angry, he listened, as was his nature, and considered it all. The fact was it was true. But there were many truths to consider.
"You don't know her like I do..."
"And no one else ever will..."
"That's wrong. She's better than Okari. You don't see it..."
"I hope for that kid's sake and hers that you're right."
"Stand. Up." It was painful to watch and to hear, and yet he stood his ground, separated from the wall by only a few inches. Anakin stood beside him, barely contained, shaking and more ready to leap forward than even Obi-Wan. "Stand up now or never again, kid. Stand up and fight."
Finally he could take no more and screamed out, "For gods' sakes, Wielder, she's only a child! Stand down!"
A primal snarl as a warning. "You want me to train her, then we do this my way. I wanna know if she's even worth me lifting up a saber for much less training." Her muzzle turned back towards the young woman in the center of the room who, with shaky determination, began to stand again. "Tell me again why you don't want to be a goddamned farmer."
"I. Want. To. Protect. Others." Wielder had made her say it over and over as they had sparred. Each time, Leeza had lost, lost pitifully and quickly. But each time, she stood back up and repeated it. They had been sequestered in the training room for more than three hours now. Wielder was losing patience.
"Really?" she laughed cruelly and began to pace, gesticulating with sarcastic movements. "How the hell are you gonna do that when you won't even protect yourself? When you're too damn weak to mount an offensive when it's just you who depends on your blade? This is goddamn ridiculous!"
The pup stood at ready, but her ears fell forward in shame. Part of it was true, at least. Anakin tried to move forward, but Obi-Wan pushed his hand against the younger man's chest. Even Anakin would regret tangling with Wielder right now. It was best to let the wolf make her point, cruel as it seemed. Obi-Wan believed there was reason behind it, and that the pup still had hope.
"Fuck this. Want to protect someone, eh? We'll see about that." Pulling out her communicator, she called to the holding cells. "Striker? Bring Halfmoon to my location, room 21, and do it now. No questions. If anyone has a goddamn problem with it, tell 'em to ring the Negotiator and ask him about it." Without properly ending the conversation, she cut the communicator off, knowing her Clone would do as she asked. Then, she turned to Obi-Wan, her expression severe. "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours, right? Right. Well, I KNOW the worth of the lost cause I brought to this Temple, let's see what yours is."
"Wielder, what in the blazes?..."
"Leeza, you want to protect someone, I'm gonna give you a chance...the one they didn't give you in the tournament. I'm having a prisoner of war brought up here right now so that you can look into a face much like the ones you'd have to look into as a Jedi Knight. He's never killed anyone, and yet some Republic politician could sign his death warrant any day...or could be persuaded by us to save him."
In confusion, the girl watched her and began arguing. "I don't understand! What do you want me to do? What can I do?!"
More of a bark than words came in response. "WHAT CAN ANY OF US DO BUT FIGHT?! You think the rank of Jedi Knight would give you more purchase to protect someone than being a farmer would?! You got another thing comin'..."
Striker shuffled the slightly taller man in, refusing to acknowledge Kenobi or Skywalker. "Here, sir." He knew better than to manhandle Halfmoon. Cloudbreaker was his leader, and he knew what had happened to his Brothers who had been dumb enough to lay a mean claw on him. "Permission to leave?"
"Denied. Put him in the middle of the room, make him kneel but with as little force as necessary. If he resists, light up his world."
"Fuck you," the Alsatian growled from a swollen muzzle. "Make me kneel yourself, sadistic..."
"I promise you you'd rather him do it, Halfmoon." She'd remembered their talk from earlier, and she did him the kindness of showing him some respect. "Unless you want me to sever the tendons at the backs of your knees, let him do his job. Hopefully, you'll see my point soon."
The raptor had uttered an apology under his breath as he placed DJ in the center of the room, not far from the shaking almost-teenager who seemed to be the focus of all the action before and during his entry into the room. He was not Force Sensitive, but he knew tension when he felt it. Once kneeling on the surprisingly soft tatami mats of the room, he looked at the confused child as though to settle her nerves though he'd never met her.
"Future Knight Leeza Roimada," she began, mocking the girl with her own dream, igniting her lightsaber once more, setting it to spar instead of kill. "Consider this your first Trial. You say you wish to protect others, then this is your first chance. If I lay a saber burn on Halfmoon, that little bug I put in the ear of that Republic politician is removed and his pretty little head goes on the chopping block. If I don't touch a pretty little brown hair on his head, I fight for him as though his life were my own. Understand?"
A tired but noble nod.
Lying...you're lying!...He partially didn't believe it as he said it to her through the Bond they'd formed years ago.
You started this. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. Their fates are bound to one another. You'd better hope she was worth saving, because I know he was. And it began.
Kenobi and Skywalker watched the flurry before them. It was a more desperate replay of Roimada's Tournament. She kept a close circle around Halfmoon who did his best to stand only to feel the binders around his wrists and the one around his neck shock him to the point of yelping.
"Stop hurting him!" The youngling screamed as she blocked each hard swing. "He doesn't deserve it!"
"You stop it then!" The wolf leaped back for a moment, not even panting as she watched the pup fall to her knees and gasp for air. "You have all you need in your paw. Fight me instead of hoping I'll just give up and go away. This will not end until you end it."
"I don't want to hurt ANYONE!"
An angry growl from across the room, Wielder dropped her saber and used Force Speed to rocket herself into the kneeling form of the child, sending her flying into one of the padded walls yards away.
"Your inaction hurts more innocents than raising your blade to kill would, fool. Remember this always, pup, no matter if you are Jedi, Farmer, Slave, or Whore...all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Silence for a beat and then a chuckle and statement from an unexpected source. "Couldn't agree more, Trouble." He had more fight in him than she'd reckoned on earlier. Though bound and in pain and with no real reserves to pull from, he'd managed to get to his feet and kick her legs out from under her before any of the other key players could act. "Get the hell outta here, kid!"
Before Striker could issue another corrective shock to the prisoner, Wielder commanded him to stand down. DJ's temporary victory was barely a relief, and it was almost as though she'd never fallen to the mat in the first place. The Alsatian mix felt his body go limp and weightless as she manipulated matter and energy around him to lift him up and toss him several feet away. "No need, Striker, I am afraid that Halfmoon's fate is sealed. No point in beating a dead tuskcat. I'll take him back to the brig myself..." Slowly, she began walking towards her former friend. Sorry, Halfzy, I hate to use you to prove a point...
She had never expected it, and certainly not with such force. The air around her crackled with energy, and she found herself sprawling through it, hitting the wall opposite her previous position. Several decorative screens from Dantooine lay in ruins beneath her, lighting fixtures above her swung as though in a storm, and Obi-Wan and Anakin, though she could tell their faces were painted with surprise and awe were looking not at her but at the center of the room. Had the kid really just executed that sort of Force Push?
Leeza's left hand wiped blood from her nose. Wielder seemed to remember a similar incident in her own training years ago. She stood over the much larger canine, placing her hands on his temples to check his state of consciousness. Green eyes opened wide and alert before softening as they looked at her.
"Let it go, kid," he coughed, smiling. "You did your best, and none of what happens to my flea ridden ass is your fault. Let them take me back to the brig..."
"No," Leeza answered, doing her best to help him into a kneeling position once more. "She's right, even if she is a crazy bitch. If I want to be a Jedi, I can't let them just take you." Once her new friend was righted, she crouched down in front of him, assuming a stance in a form way too advanced for her to even know but not before making a show of turning her saber's setting from stun to kill. "If he goes, I go, Master. A good man will not fall while I can still stand."
Wielder rose up on the heels of her hands and watched for several minutes. Though the kid had to be tired, she did not move, and even Halfmoon seemed to be shocked into inaction. Once her thoughts came back to her, she picked several shards of wooden screen out of her arms and began to stand, fuchsia eyes following her carefully from across the room.
As she lifted a large paw to take a step forward, she heard a surprisingly intimidating growl and saw a line of pink mane stand up along the pup's neck. She was serious.
"Solah." It was a word she almost never gave up, certainly not to a youngling. The wolf made a fist out of her right hand, placed it into the open palm of her left, and bowed deeply. "You win. Had this been real, his life would have been bought with your actions." Wielder cast a quick glance to Obi-Wan, giving him a knowing smile. "And, in some way, it still has."
As she moved forward, smiling in a way that looked almost proud, she turned to her astounded friend and lover, and finally relented. "Fine, I'll take her. Could use someone to water my plants anyway. You suck at it."
"All of that, to prove your own point, really?" he snarled, still more than upset with her. "She's only a child!"
"No, she's not. She proved that today, and hopefully she proved something else to your stubborn ass. Both of their lives are mine, Obi-Wan Kenobi, for now. I'd like to give Halfmoon back his, but I need you to do it for me. Do we understand? Deal?"
The intelligent blue eyes darted from her face to the faces of the "odd couple" across the room. The pup had shut her saber off but still stood stiffly in front of a man she'd just met. Ready to go for the kill if anyone dared move forward to hurt an unarmed man who'd, in just several minutes, shown her he'd be willing to defend her with what little force and resolve he had left.
Fine, fine, a pirate and a good man...that I can stick my neck out for.
"Of course," he replied. "A deal is a deal, and an innocent man is an innocent man. Wouldn't want to waste "a lot of good" now would we?" He had to smile at her in the end. She'd been rough, but she'd done what the Tournament could not do, she'd given the young girl a very real reason to raise her saber. Now, he mused, if other Masters could have seen her actions, Leeza would be hard pressed NOT to find a willing teacher amongst the highest ranks of the Jedi. "Striker, please escort Mr. Halfmoon back to his holding cell and see that he gets whatever he needs. If anyone touches him in a way I would not approve of, I will strip that person of his or her rank immediately, and that person shall not have a way to earn an honest credit for the rest of his or her life in a civilized system. Understood?"
The clone relaxed his military baring and looked from Kenobi to Cloudbreaker, who nodded with a smile. Shrugging and walking forward, he encountered much more hostility from the little ball of fluff in front of the pirate than he had from the Jedi. There she stood, growling, all tooth and claw, battered and bruised, and still willing to go a round. Striker knew little of Jedi training, but he had to smile when he thought about how she'd be a good match for his Jedi commander.
"Relax, Shiny," he chuckled in his Mando accent, instantly making the young girl slightly more comfortable with that reminder of her home system. "I wouldn't dream of hurting your boyfriend there. Don't care to be picking myself up off my arse like Commander Cloudbreaker just did."
"Let him do his job, Padawan," Wielder commanded, approaching them with a limp she'd more than earned. "Mr. Halfmoon is better protected now than any other man or woman in this Temple."
"Yeah at the expense of a kid," DJ quipped shortly, green eyes burning a hole through Wielder. "That was truly disgusting. I've seen a lot of shit, Master Jedi, but that was the among the worst piles of it..."
"I don't ask that you understand any of this, Halfmoon," she cautioned coolly, and Obi-Wan found her unspoken warning too calm for his taste. "But I do ask that you respect it and that you respect her. She ain't no kid. She fought because she thought she was saving your life...and, in some way, she probably has. You might not think much of "pretty boy" over there in the corner, but he'll fight tooth and nail for you now just like she did. Now get your ass off your shoulders. We'll have our little heart to heart at a later date where you can tell me all the things 'bout me that I don't know."
Before he could offer a proper counter-attack, Striker had pushed him almost softly on the shoulder to get him walking forward. As he walked stiffly, still in pain from his "interrogation" earlier, he felt a tug on his scorched shirt, and looked down.
"I'll be okay," she said, smiling at him, the blood on her pink nose already turning dark and dull. "But you have to be too. Master Kenobi won't let anyone hurt you."
"Fine, fine, kid," he muttered under a slight smile. "But don't make my mistake again. Set that flashlight of yours from stun to kill when dealing with that crazy gray one."
"I know you don't mean that," she said, smiling shyly. "I can tell. And...I think she feels bad...for everything...think I felt it when her butt hit the ground..."
"Well ain't that a comfort?" He'd said it sarcastically but with a lilt of comfort for the large ears of the child as he was pushed out of the room.
Once the Clone and the pirate were out of the room, Wielder approached the much shorter female and bent down in front of her. "I owe you an apology."
"For what, Master?"
"For not seeing...just seeing what Obi-Wan and Anakin did in you." She turned around and looked to Anakin and her mate. "And I guess I need to apologize to them for not trustin' their judgment. Oughtta know better by now."
"It's okay so long as you give me a chance to prove myself. That's all I've ever wanted."
"I'll do more than that," Wielder replied, reaching up and holding the tiny face. The youngling felt the cooling healing talents of a Sentinel flowing through her from the Knight. "I promise you that will be the first and last time you are tested in that fashion. If I can't find a better way to train you to be strong, then I'm not worthy of being your Master. Okay?"
Obi-Wan was more than relieved as he watched Wielder wipe the blood off of her Padawan's nose. Anakin had been right. There was certainly a lot of strength in being so "weak". He'd seen it that day in both the form of Leeza Roimada and DJ Halfmoon.
This sketch was a month or so old, but it needed to be finished up because it's a pretty integral part in both DJ
's character's story and Leeza's. The size difference between them is a bit off here, even with the perspective and the positions, but I still liked it, and decided to put a color job on it.
Done with Blick studio pencils on tinted paper.
Characters belong to their respective owners.