Hello folks! Chapter 6 may take a bit--I have to do my taxes and write a long report by the end of the month, and that's going to eat up some time. In the meantime, I'm leaving Chapter 5 for you, because I can't stand waiting for the resolution of cliffhangers any more than you all can.
Thanks Hai Wan, and I'm glad all of you are enjoying it. When I started writing ch. 3, the bees weren't even a thought. I was musing about Elorri'ani's penchant for attracting wildlife, and I think hubby and I got into a discussion briefly about beesting anaphylactic shock (we're in the med field, yes, that's normal conversation for us.
), and all of the sudden I could picture poor Elorri'ani looking up, seeing a swarm of bees, and saying to himself, "Oh, sh--, not _again_!". That image plus the irony of something so small taking down something so powerful was too good to pass up.
Here you go!
Chapter 5: Talin Kayl
The darkness completely enveloped me. I drifted weightlessly through it, and saw a light far away. It seemed to beckon to me, warm and inviting. Far away I could hear faint voices through the silence. I couldn’t understand them. They sounded so strange, like murmurs of a river. One voice seemed to carry a little farther, and I strained to hear it.
“Jae, it’s me....”
it faded in and out. Confused, I moved towards it. Another voice joined the first, drawing me closer.
“Jae, come to us you must. Not ready are you to merge with the Light.”
I knew those voices, my mentors….
“That’s right, Jae, we’re your friends. We want you back with us. We need you here. Come back to us, please.”
Jolee! My friend, my master. I heard other noises intruding urgently and it irritated me.
“The life signs are still very unstable, but she responded positively to you both. Keep talking to her. It might be our only chance to save her.”
I wanted to hear my friends instead.
“Back to us now you must come. Care for you we do. Wish for you to be with us we do.”
Suddenly, a shimmering figure appeared before me. I had never seen him before, yet I felt like I always knew this man who obviously was a Jedi Knight. He was taller, but height was hard to tell in the murkiness. His hair was dark, but his eyes were a piercing blue that lit up his face. There was a strength in his countenance and form that showed even in his spirit self.
“I thought you might be a little lost in all the dark,” he said, gently. His caring spirit radiated out around him.
“The man still lives, doesn’t he? I didn’t feel him joining the light,” I said.
“He lives,” he answered simply.
The news released the burden that weighed on my soul. I felt free again. I asked, “Who are you?”
“I’m Talin Kayl. I’m here to help you find your way back. Take my hand, and I’ll lead you out now.” He warmly stretched out his hand, reaching for me in the shadows.
I looked longingly at the warm light, but knew in my heart that my destiny was not leading me there now. I put my hand in Talin’s. There was controlled power in his hand, yet he did not grip mine to coerce my compliance. He would respect my decision if I let go of his hand, but I held on. Together we walked back to the world we knew.
“Life signs are starting to stabilize, Master Vandar, Master Jolee. Now the kolto will be able to do its work.”
I saw Talin’s form start to fade.
“Don’t leave me!” I called to him, fearing that the darkness would overtake me.
Talin smiled. “I’ve been here the whole time. We’ll be near when you awake. Rest, now.”
Finally, I felt a blissful sleep come over me.
The noise was not loud, but brought me gradually out of sleep. The kolto was starting to drain from around me out of the tank. I sank down with it, too weak to stand.
Two 3MD droids came to assist. “Your strength will return as the effects of the kolto wear off. It should only be a few more days,” one of them said. I could hardly lift my arms to put on the fresh dry robe they brought, and one of the droids helped with the soft, tan clothing before they carried me over to a nearby bed.
One of the droids inspected my leg where I had been hit while the other droid reviewed some of the monitors on the bed. The extensive wound had completely filled in, and there was fresh skin entirely covering over the wound. Only the pink color of the new skin and the fine lines marking the edges of the injury gave any indication that anything amiss had ever occurred. I slowly moved my leg for 3MD as it requested, feeling the stiffness but no pain. I was amazed that such a simple action could be so exhausting. I laid my head back down on the pillow, my auburn hair still damp from the kolto.
“You did a nice job healing the wound,” I noted, my voice hardly more than a whisper from the weakness. “It doesn’t look like it will even have a scar.”
3MD commented, “Thank you. Your wound has not caused any permanent damage and your leg should recover full function shortly. It is important for you to rest now. You lost a great deal of blood when the damaged large artery re-opened and the wound started to bleed heavily. It will take a few days more for you to recover.”
It finished its examination and pulled a light blanket up over me. My eyes felt heavy, and I gave way to sleep once more.
After some unknown time had passed, I heard the 3MD droid speaking quietly. “She will recover fully, Master Bindo. She is awakening now, if you wish to visit briefly.”
Jolee peeked his head around the door, and seeing I was awake and waving for him to come in, smiled broadly and walked through the door. “You’re up! I didn’t want to disturb you if you were still sleeping.”
“I’ve been sleeping so much, I think I’ve slept half my life away. How long have I been here?” I asked him, trying to sit up a bit. Even that little effort was tiring, frustrating me somewhat.
“About 10 days. Lie back. I’ll pull a chair over so you don’t have to crane your neck up.” He brought over a chair and sat down. “How are you feeling?”
“Better than when I got out of that tank. I’m just very tired, and I still can’t get that awful taste of kolto out of my mouth,” I answered, making a face and swallowing against the dryness. My mouth was still parched, which didn’t help get rid of the taste, either.
Jolee grinned, “Yes, it is rather like having a mouth full of tach fuzz, isn’t it?”
I made a mental note to ask him later about his apparent personal experience with both kolto and tach fuzz.
His demeanor changed and became more serious. “Your injuries were a little more extensive than either of us thought when we were on the ship,” Jolee stated, the concern of the last week and a half crossing his face, though he tried to suppress the feelings quickly.
“The people on the ship—they’re all OK?” I inquired.
Jolee recounted the story to share the details he had learned. “Everyone is fine except for the would-be assassins and that one poor pilot. The Twi’lek recovered nicely; he was only slightly injured. The large family is fine—none of them were hurt at all. The pilot, Inali, came out of the kolto tank about 4 days ago and should be going home tomorrow. I didn’t know if he was even going to make it to Coruscant because of how bad his injuries were, but he has a strong spirit and so he pulled through. He’ll make a good Jedi, actually, if cranky old Vrook can be convinced to take in another older apprentice. He’s strong in the Force.”
I smiled at the thought of Jolee and Vrook verbally sparring over the possibility of taking on an adult apprentice.
He went on, “The two men who tried to seize the ship were merceneries hired to take out the smaller family. Apparently, that family was being transferred to Coruscant on the same charter as us so that they could testify against a particularly vicious Exchange boss on Telos. That boss is bad—practically eats children for breakfast, and with the family’s testimony, the Republic should be able to step in and do something about it finally. The authorities are still trying to figure out how these two assassins managed to slip by all security to board the transport. The man I took out was beyond hope.”
“That explains why the family was so nervous,” I said. “You know, the hunter I was fighting couldn’t kill the girl. He carried the blaster like a seasoned warrior but the good in him wouldn’t allow him to murder a child. I just couldn’t let him die.” I declared, rather emphatically.
“You won’t get any arguments from me on that—I understood what you did, even if some of the other Jedi here don’t necessarily agree—they think you risked yourself unnecessarily.” Seeing the incredulous look on my face, he held up his hand to forestall any arguments. “Never mind them, you did the right thing. I just wish I had the strength to keep you from all this, but if the pilot wasn’t conscious to help me bring in the transport, we would have crashed,” said Jolee, the regret spilling out.
“Jolee, you had to save the pilot and the ship. There was no other choice or we wouldn’t be here having a nice little chat. I didn’t think the injury was this bad, either,” I observed, patting his arm lightly to show I understood.
“The blaster bolt hit one of the large arteries in your leg, but you had healed it enough that it had stopped bleeding when I went over to see how you were. When you turned over to help heal the merc as well, you started bleeding again heavily. You lost a lot of blood before I realized what you had done,” he added, a bit apologetically.
For a moment, I thought his eyes glistened with tears. The sight of a fellow Jedi laying unconscious in a large pool of blood must have been very painful, even for someone who had seen as much of life and death as Jolee.
“There’s nothing to be sorry for, Jolee. You had to save the pilot and the rest of us on the ship. I had to save that man,” I stated, simply.
Jolee swallowed back the lump in his throat and changed the subject, saying, “Well, it’s a good thing you did save him. His name is Miron, by the way. He came out of the kolto about 3 days ago, and he’s here under guard. He was a hired gun for that Exchange boss—Miron’s Republic ex-military from the Mandalorian Wars. Once he realized what the Exchange wanted to do to the little girl and her family, he thought better of it. He’s decided to become a witness against this boss. He knows a lot about the Exchange on Telos that can seal the case for the Republic.”
“Miron’s a marked man whether he testifies or not—I’m glad he’s doing the right thing,” I responded.
“Protected he will be,” said Master Vandar, entering the room and walking over to my bedside, “Testify he will, and from the Exchange, hidden he will be.”
Jolee made a move to vacate his seat for him, and Vandar made a motion with his hand indicating Jolee should stay seated. Behind Master Vandar was the man I had seen in that terrible darkness--Talin Kayl. He was indeed tall, perhaps a good 8 inches above my own height, and I wasn’t a short woman. His dark brown hair was nearly black, and those same piercing blue eyes I had noticed in the nether world studied my own light blue ones. He wore the plain brown robes typical of many Jedi Knights, but it did not hide his muscular form. He stood with an air of confidence, almost superiority. I tried again to sit up to greet both my new visitors. My body betrayed me, and I could barely raise my head up, much less achieve a sitting position.
“You don’t need to get up for us. Your recovery will take longer if you don’t allow yourself time to heal.” Talin said. His voice was carefully controlled, neither too loud nor too soft, and there was an underlying power in his speech. However, I sensed a faint condescension in his manner, and a touch of displeasure about something, though I could not identify it.
“You were the one I met in the darkness. I appreciated your assistance,” I thanked him.
“I wasn't sure if you'd remember after all you've been through, but my name is Talin Kayl. It's a pleasure to meet you finally. I’m honored I was able to help,” he replied formally with a slight bow.
“Quiet you all must be,” Vandar commanded, holding his hand up to silence us all. He placed his hand upon my forehead. His green skin was well wrinkled and slightly rough, but his touch was gentle. He flexed his hand one time to adjust his fingers into a comfortable position on my head, closed his eyes, and began to concentrate. I felt a wave of warmth pass through me, and abruptly, some of my strength returned. He removed his hand, gave a small sigh, and with a little smile, opened his eyes again. “Better you feel, no?” he asked.
“Much better,” I replied, now able to push myself up to a semi-sitting position.
“Good. Here you must stay several more days. When recovered you are, before the Council you and Master Jolee must come.”
Jolee raised his eyebrows in question. Vandar turned to him, saying “Master Jolee, have you join us in meeting the Council wishes. To us come in one hour. Information you will give and receive then. Come, Jedi Talin, and leave Padawan Jae to rest now.” Vandar smiled at me once more, and then he turned and left.
“Hopefully, we will meet again soon under more pleasant circumstances, and certainly less risky,” Talin said smoothly, with a slight smile.
His faint tone of disapproval, though carefully masked, was unmistakable, almost as if he were chiding an apprentice for getting into trouble, and I viewed him curiously. His tone and attitude seemed at odds with the person that I met in that murky other-world. I sensed our next meeting would occur soon.
“Thank you again for your help,” I stated, not having the energy to take offense. Indeed, I was very thankful for his rescue.
“You are welcome,” he replied, leaving the room.
Jolee watched both of them leave. He sat back in his chair and pensively rubbed the beard on his chin. “Well, that was interesting,” he said, finally. I tilted my head a little in question, and nodded for him to continue.
“Talin reminds me a bit of Andor,” he mused.
“The same Andor you told me about whose arrogance caused him to get himself killed and yet alter the political course of an entire sector for centuries to come?” I asked.
“Will wonders never cease!” Jolee exclaimed with a grin, throwing his hands up in the air and waving them around as if he were rejoicing. “A young person who actually takes time to listen to her elders! You make me proud, Jae,” Jolee pretended to wipe tears of joy from his eyes.
Chuckling, I waved a hand, motioning for him to go on.
“Yes, that Andor. Talin has that same supreme sense of self-confidence that Andur had. If he’s not careful, it’ll be his downfall, too. Andor had a way of making you believe that he knew the right path without a shadow of a doubt. I remember one little story,” he said.
I shifted a bit in bed to make sure I had a comfortable position and settled down to listen. No one ever knew how long Jolee’s stories could be.
Jolee pretended to be offended. “I’m hurt! I said it would be a ‘little’ story,” he sniffed, holding up his finger and thumb close together to indicate it was indeed supposed to be very short.
He went on, “Andor and I were apprentices about the same time, and during our lightsaber construction class we both were assigned components and crystals for our lightsabers. Well, Andor dozed off briefly during the instructions—he’d been out a little too late the night before romancing his then-girlfriend Nomi. He woke up in the middle of the lecture, but he didn’t realized he’d missed anything. Well, he missed the most important part, which is how to set the central crystal properly so the blade extends out straight. I knew what steps he had missed while he was inspecting the inside of eyelids, and I tried to tell him how to place the crystal. Andor was true to his personality, though, and set the crystal according to how he felt it should be. Then, rather than having one of the masters double check it to make sure the blade wasn’t going to shoot out sideways and kill him, he decided to ignite it. Well, he got his first lesson on humility that day. Just as I was walking over to him to tell him to hold off on igniting his saber, I suddenly saw the blade come out at a diagonal. Actually, that was pretty good considering he'd missed three-quarters of the instructions. The edge of the blade hit the emitter, and it made the emitter overload. The entire lightsaber just about exploded in his hands. He tossed it away instinctively, and it fell under a window. The sparking set one of the curtains on fire, and suddenly all we could hear were the fire sirens. Then the sprinklers went off and water poured down all over us. Andor had a fantastic head of hair—thick, brown, and wavy, and he liked it arranged just so. However, that beautiful head of hair was no match for the fire suppression systems, and the next thing I saw was Andor running around in frustration in his soaked robes, with his hair just plastered to his head. It was an amazing sight, I’ll tell you.” Jolee chortled.
“It’s a wonder he didn’t get expelled from the order for his pride,” I noted.
“He probably would have, but the masters sensed his destiny swirling around him even then and knew he had to stay. However, he had to do some penance, and ended up cleaning all the apprentice dorms for the next 2 months. His pride calmed down, at least for a little while,” Jolee finished.
“Do you think Talin is in danger of following in his footsteps?” I asked, still amused at the idea of the proud Andor scrubbing floors.
“Like Andor, he has a great destiny,” Jolee declared. “I just hope it doesn’t involve falling into reactors and blowing up ships again.”
Jolee got up from his seat and put the chair away. “I suppose I should go see what the Council has for me now. I’ll come bore you with more history tomorrow.” He stood by the side of the bed and gave me a gentle fatherly squeeze on my shoulder. “I’m glad to see you’re doing better. I was worried for a bit there, and I’ve grown rather fond of you, you know.”
I briefly laid my hand on his to show the fondness was mutual and said, “What do you think the Council is going to say?”
“Hopefully nothing annoyingly effusive about how ‘great it was’ that I’ve ‘changed the course of history on Telos by saving the pilot and delivering the family safely.’ Sometimes they just go overboard when a simple thank you is more than sufficient,” he responded. “Now be a good Padawan and rest,” he gave a little wave as he left the room.
Feeling suddenly very tired, I laid down to sleep off the rest of the kolto effects. The image of the self-satisfied Talin Kayl crossed my thoughts briefly before I dozed off.