The ever-present roar of the Temple dining hall could not drown out Garen's loud snort. "You're blowing it out your afterburner, Kenobi."
The other two Padawans just stared at the tall, brown-haired teenager in disgust. Garen Muln, a brash fourteen-year-old, was apprenticed to Master Clee Rhara and, as he liked to remind everyone, an all-around hot-shot pilot. Although he was considered even-tempered and well-mannered by most of the Jedi Order, his friends knew better. Occasionally, the excitement of what he was saying ran ahead of his good sense. And now was one of those times.
Kenobi glared at him, indignant and a little hurt. "Gar, I'm not lying. He's loud, really loud."
The snort of derision that followed did little to help Garen's cause.
Obi-Wan Kenobi just huffed in annoyance. Padawan to the legendary and sometimes stuffy Qui-Gon Jinn, he was not about to be outdone - either in volume or enthusiasm. He was tired from another death-defying mission. Finally allowed to relax after months away from the Temple, all he had wanted to do was be with his friends and talk. However, one of them, a pilot with far too much time on his hands, didn't believe him. "Garen, I'm telling the truth."
Wanting to hold her own against the two foolish and overly-rowdy boys and ever the peacemaker of the group, Bant Eerin pointed out the obvious. "Obi-Wan, perhaps you are mistaken. No one could be that loud. It's physically impossible."
Garen just gave another snort. "I don't know about that, Bant. My Master's pretty noisy herself."
The Mon Calamari Padawan crossed her flippers in protest. "Well then, I don't believe it."
Disgusted with both of them, Obi-Wan threw his hands up and shook his head. "I've measured it, you idiots. He's shaken things off the shelves, lots of things. And more than one person requested new quarters after living next to him. I'm telling you that he's louder than a Krayt dragon when he gets going."
Bant sighed as she tried to be reasonable while dealing with her dim-witted friends. She knew that she was right. She had studied the Drakonis Kraytia at some length in her last exobiology class and there was no way that Kenobi's Master, wonderful though Obi-Wan thought him to be, could do that. "One of those things would swallow Master Jinn whole. I can't believe that he would be louder than a huge beast ten times his size."
But Obi-Wan just turned his baby-blue/green eyes on her, giving her his patented oh-so-innocent look, and coyly blinked several times. A slight smile, with dimple, was added for effect. "Have I ever lied to you?"
Bant was immune to Obi-Wan's 'effects'. She'd been on the back-end of his stunts too often to fall for them again. "Sure, lots of times...." When he looked crestfallen, she relented, "Well, no."
Obi-Wan perked up at that but then Garen had an idea. This was not good. Garen's ideas got them into more trouble than Obi-Wan's 'effects' ever did.
"Okay, Kenobi, prove it then." It was clear that Garen was ready to push this to a new level and he flung out the challenge, knowing that Obi-Wan would not be able to resist.
"What, now?" The red-haired apprentice was aghast.
Garen pushed harder. He was beginning to enjoy this. The horror on Obi-Wan's face was worth whatever punishment they'd get, especially since Master Rhara was a lot more understanding than Kenobi's somber and strict Master. "Yes, now. He's asleep, isn't he? You've been complaining about how exhausting your last mission was. Master Jinn's pretty old. So if you're tired, he'll probably be unconscious." The tall Padawan's face broke into a sly grin. "So prove it."
Obi-Wan cringed at that. He did not need Master Qui-Gon mad at him, not after the last stunt they pulled. His knees were still sore from the punishment; scrubbing refresher tanks was not his idea of a good time. And his Master could be quite inventive when he was displeased. "I don't know, Garen. He'd be mad if I woke him up."
The other teen merely shrugged. "So don't wake him up. Come on, Obs. You're always talking about how Master Jinn's the best at everything. So he's loud but does he have what it takes to be the best? Let's find out. My Master against yours."
"Now, don't do anything stupid, you two." Bant was trying, and failing, to stem this silly rivalry. It could lead to no good - again.
But Garen would not back down. A cheeky grin on his face, he threw down the final dare. "Afraid, Kenobi?"
That did it. His best friend had crossed the line and Obi-Wan gave in. Throwing up his hands in annoyance, he growled. "All right, you're on! Bant has the deciding vote."
Padawan Eerin was many things but the girl wasn't stupid. This was a very bad idea. "Oh, no. You're not getting me involved in this. No."
But Garen knew just how to appeal to his long-time friend. "Bantling, you have to do this. Otherwise, Obi-Wan will never shut up about how great his Master is. Qui-Gon this and Master Jinn that. Please help me, my very close and dearest favorite confidant, the one true ally I have in this sea of idiots." He grinned at her, raising one eyebrow in a silent plea. "Come on, Eerin, you know you want to."
She sighed long and hard. Grunting, she shrugged. "Very well. But if we get into trouble over this, I'm going after both of you."
Muln's face lit up, mischief dancing in his eyes. "Great, let's go. Your place first, Obi-Wan, since it's closer. Lead the way." Grinning, he tossed out one last challenge, just to make sure Obi-Wan didn't back out. "Oh, and Obs... be sure that when you lose, you lose gracefully. No excuses."
"Garen, put it in your afterburner!"
The walk to the Jinn/Kenobi quarters was fairly short. But Obi-Wan was already having second thoughts. He realized now that he probably should not have said anything at all about his Master's...ummm... problem. It was deeply personal and he was fairly sure that Master Jinn would not be pleased to be the center of discussion - especially about the incredibly explosive clamor he made at night. Contrary to popular belief, his Master was not the silent, stoic Jedi everyone seemed to think he was. And he was very sensitive about it, although he hid the embarrassment well. It was just that he wouldn't get the problem fixed or straightened out or whatever it would take to silence the noisy, slumber-time 'difficulty'. The man was just too stubborn.
Reaching the door, he turned to the others. "Look, you two. I've agreed to this because I'm an idiot..."
Garen interrupted quickly, "And an excellent idiot you are, Obs my friend."
Obi-Wan sent a withering look towards Muln. Apparently, the brash pilot was enjoying the whole scenario far too much. "Gar, stoke it down a bit, will you?" Shaking his head, the teen continued, "You two have to promise not to wake my Master." As he folded his arms across his chest in a futile effort at intimidation, he tried to look the part of a forceful, in-control, commanding sort of Padawan. Unfortunately, these two had been his friends all of his life. It didn't work.
Garen began to snicker but Obi-Wan just glared at the pair. "Under no circumstances are you to make a sound, knock something over, laugh, snort," he looked hard at Bant, "giggle? or do anything else to disturb Master Jinn's rest. Do I make myself clear?"
The other Padawans were quick to agree. Bant's "Clear, Obi-Wan" and Garen's "Not to worry, Obs" did not soothe him much but it was the best he could hope for under the circumstances.
Nodding, he said, "All right. We can go in then. Keep in mind that I decide when to leave, not either of you."
"Come on, Obs. You're just stalling. Open the door already."
Garen tried to push forward but Obi-Wan dug in his heels. Putting one arm across the doorjamb in a lightning-quick move, Kenobi deliberately blocked the entrance.
Looking hard at his friend, he frowned, "I mean it, Muln. This..." He had wanted to make things absolutely crystal-clear but, at that moment, his voice cracked through several octaves. Embarrassed, he stopped and cleared his throat. "Gar, this is not the time for a frontal assault. This is not some mission where you can go in full throttle. Stealth and quiet, alright?"
Obi-Wan glared at his friends once more. "I'm going in first. If my Master is awake or wakes up during this really bad idea, let me do the talking."
Garen just rolled his eyes and gave an obvious shrug. "Sure, Obs, sure. Just go!"
With a heavy sigh and a pointed stare at his two friends, the Padawan turned and opened the door.
It was semi-dark inside, only a lone kitchen light sending a muted glow into the common room. Apparently, Master Jinn knew his Learner well - and trusted him enough to let him roam free within the Temple and not get into too much trouble. For the moment... But thankfully, in this moment, there was no sign of an awake and inquisitive Jedi Master. All was quiet within the Jinn/Kenobi quarters.
Off to one side, the door to Qui-Gon Jinn's room was half-ajar. The darkness beyond might be a sign that the Master was meditating or, more likely, asleep. Only time would tell. Motioning his friends to follow, Obi-Wan moved quietly to the opening and peered in. The sight that greeted him was encouraging.
Master Jinn was in bed. Head nestled into the pillow, eyes closed, long hair askew, with one arm flung across his chest as he lay on his back, he appeared to be deeply asleep. Obi-Wan just shook his head. It was always the same with that man. Covers kicked off and a datapad dropped and still glowing on the floor. Obi-Wan could see that the window beyond was unshuttered as usual, the sparkling lights of an always-busy planet flashing through the transparasteel. The random flashes of Coruscant's unending nightlife were soothing to the old Master and he often fell asleep gazing at the color and movement.
Obi-Wan backed up, drawing the door almost shut. It would not do for his friends to see his Master so vulnerable. He felt strangely protective and more than a little ashamed that he had brought them there at all.
Garen spoke up then with an exasperated "I don't hear a thing."
"Quiet! You'll wake him up, you idiot."
But Garen just shook his head and shrugged. He did lower his voice slightly, however. "Obs, I don't see what you are talking about. He's as quiet as a furball in hibernation. My Master's much louder that that." He snickered lightly, "You've lost the bet, my friend."
Bant shrugged, looking helplessly at the two boys. "Maybe he has to get started..."
"Pipe down, you two." Exasperated beyond belief, Obi-Wan's whisper was much louder than he intended. "I know I said that he could outsnore a Krayt Dragon and he can. But not right now, okay?"
With that, he sent a sharp look of frustrated warning straight at his two friends. Obi-Wan did not want this whole scenario blown sky-high. And he certainly did not want his Master to wake up and find these two arguing about his noise 'problem'.
The other boy just snorted. Grinning madly, his eyes sparkling with amusement, Garen waved his hands toward the Master's silent bedroom. The brash reply echoed loudly in the darkened space. "You are really impossible, you know."
"No, I'm not."
"Yes, you are," Garen shot back, chuckling. "You are always telling us that Master Jinn is the best at everything."
Kenobi's icy glare just made Garen's grin wider. "But you're wrong, Obs. And it's pretty obvious that you're wrong. So give it up and just admit it. He's not the best Master in the whole galaxy. He can't out-roar a Krayt Dragon like you boasted and frankly, I don't think he can outsnore my tiny, petite, small female of a Master at anytime, day or night."
"Yes, he can," Obi-Wan insisted.
"No, he can't." He laughed at his friend's disbelieving expression. "She's got great lungs, you know, especially when she's asleep and lets go. Obs, you really are just blowing it out your afterburner."
"No, I'm not. He is really, really loud."
Garen just rolled his eyes. Cupping one hand over his ear and leaning towards Master Jinn's room as if listening intently, he snickered, "Sure, Obi-Wan. I can hear him snoring loudly right now. Can't you?"
"Alright, alright, just keep it down, will you? Whatever you do, don't wake him up." Conceding defeat, Obi-Wan motioned towards the door. "Let's get out of here before he finds out and has my hide."
The trio began to retreat toward the front entrance. Garen sauntered slowly, his sassy wide grin telling its own tale of victory secured.
Bant scurried ahead, hoping to escape before the two boys changed their minds - they were not known for always choosing the wisest course of action and this could have been much worse. She thought it a very good idea to sneak away now rather than risk discovery. She knew better than to tempt the wrath of Qui-Gon Jinn.
And, trying to hurry them along, waving his arms in a vain attempt at herding his two friends out of the apartment before disaster could strike, an exasperated Obi-Wan brought up the rear.
They had just reached the outer door when suddenly, from the Master's room, the quiet was broken by a soft indescribable sound, a sort of snerk-wheeze-hiss.
All three teens froze. Looking back toward the half-opened door, Garen said, "That was it?"
Obi-Wan's whisper was sharp, "Gar, be quiet."
The sound began to repeat itself slowly but each time the snerk got louder and louder. Someone was breathing rather noisily in the next room and that someone was Master Qui-Gon Jinn.
Bant started to giggle but stopped at her friend's rather pointed glare. "He is pretty loud, Obi-Wan. Is that what you are talking about?"
The boy put up both hands as he tried to keep her quiet. "No, it gets worse. But we should go..."
Garen was suddenly very interested. Darting past Obi-Wan's frantic attempts at holding him back, he moved quickly to the Master's door and gestured for the others to join him. "Let's wait and hear just how loud he gets."
Sighing with defeat, Obi-Wan nodded. But as the three huddled around the open door, peering in at the still-sleeping Master, the sounds began to quiet once more.
Finally, after several moments of silence, Garen grew impatient. "Guess that's it then. Not bad, not bad but I know my Master can do better."
But, on the last word, the hoarse sounds within the darkened space abruptly increased. And it was getting noisier by the moment.
The chaotic cacophony began to repeat and expand, over and over again. Almost as if the Force itself were vibrating with the clamor. Shockwaves of strident audio-pressure drove through the space, ripples of sound and movement exploding outward into the atmosphere. And things began to move.
The scroll above the Master's bed fluttered upward and crashed back down, sharp shards of clattering sound in the darkness.
The wooden hop-thud could only be from the finely-carved felisbranch bowl dancing across the nightstand. And the crystalline tinkle of one clear glass of liquid shivering against the riverstone was a sharp counterpoint in the symphony of raucous sound booming through the space.
With a final roar, the chaotic snore of one sleeping Jedi Master reached epic proportions. The jittering bowl slid off the edge, crashing to the floor, bounced off the still-glowing datapad and spun drunkenly about before landing next to Bant's foot.
She yelped in surprise and then jumped back with a sharp squeak. Obi-Wan gestured wildly, the Padawan hustling his friends back out into the common room just as the sounds abruptly quieted.
Obi-Wan Kenobi had spoken the truth. Master Jinn's night-time snores were of Draconian proportions.
Wide-eyed, Garen shook his head in disbelief. "Obs, you weren't kidding."
The other boy shrugged. Pulling his friends towards the exit, he said, "Told you, I did. But don't mention it please. He's not really happy about anyone knowing."
Bant promised, "Not a word, Obi-Wan." She sent him a look of sympathy; he had to put up with that uproar every night. It was a wonder that he wasn't deaf. "You poor thing."
The pilot nodded in agreement. Shaking his head in disbelief for a moment, his devilish grin rapidly reappeared. "Not saying a thing. But, you know, my Master's pretty loud, too. Want to hear?"
The red-haired boy couldn't believe his ears, even though they were still ringing from the tumultuous sounds of the last few minutes. "That's not a good idea, Garen. You'll be in trouble if she finds out."
"Not to worry. Come on."
Obi-Wan rolled his eyes and gestured towards the now-quiet Master's room. "I'll be right there. Just want to check to make sure that we didn't wake him up."
Garen snorted at that. "With that noise, you think we could wake him up?" When Obi-Wan sent him an oh-so-pained look, he relented, "Okay, Obs. Fine. Meet you outside."
With that, Garen and Bant fled out the door. They both decided that they could use a little silence after that experience.
Obi-Wan breathed a sigh of relief when the door closed behind his friends. He really enjoyed their company but sometimes, sometimes, they got him into trouble. Hopefully, that was not the case here. He would soon find out.
Sighing once more, he turned and crept back into the Master's bedroom. All was quiet now. The Krayt Dragon had gone back into its lair.
Hesitating, Obi-Wan moved quietly to the bed. He wanted to make sure all was secure, that nothing had been broken. He gently placed the bowl back on the nightstand. Picking up the datapad which thankfully had not been damaged in the melee, he turned it off and put it beside the bowl.
His Master was sleeping peacefully once more. No loud snerk-wheeze-hiss. Just blessed silence.
Leaning down, he looked at the man who meant so much to him and smiled. His friends were impressed with the snoring ordeal; they would learn to believe him next time when he boasted about Master Jinn.
He started to pull the covers back over his Master when ...
"Was I loud enough?"
The question came out of nowhere. Obi-Wan let out a loud screech of absolute astonishment, and next thing he knew, he was across the room, hovering near the door, his shocked body gasping for air. In an absurd flash of awareness, he noted that the bowl was dancing again. He had obviously knocked it off-kilter in his haste to flee.
"What...?" His cracking voice had tried to flee along with his body but after several attempts, the Padawan managed to warble out a few syllables. His heart was still racing madly.
His Master was sitting up, the bedcovers draped elegantly over his lap. He looked cool, calm and collected - as if he were ready for afternoon tea. One would never know that just moments before he had been snoring loud enough to wake the Hutts on Nal Shadda.
Repeating his question in that patient, reasonable voice of his, Master Qui-Gon said, "Was I loud enough? You realize, Padawan, that next time you should give me some warning."
"What?" Obi-Wan's voice was still cracking through several octaves but his mind was finally settling into questions and answers.
Master Qui-Gon just smiled, a slow, sly kind of smile - the kind that spoke of mystery and secrets and having fun with the Padawans. "Warning. It takes a few moments of warm-up preparation in order to get out a really worthwhile Krayt Dragon roar."
"You knew??" The Learner finally got it. But he still could not believe it.
His Master just laughed. "Of course."
Obi-Wan sputtered a bit, still unable to reconcile this amused trickster with his staid and stern Master. "But...but you didn't say a word."
Qui-Gon shook his head, smiling at the astonishment fomenting in his Padawan's face. "What, and ruin it? Your friends seemed quite impressed."
When his Padawan continued to protest, Qui-Gon began to question his ruse. Perhaps his dry humor was not appreciated. After all, they hadn't been together that long and their relationship was still forming. He did hope that the boy would gain some semblance of the droll and absurd. It would do him good but maybe not so soon.... "Obi-Wan, would you have preferred if I had kept quiet?"
The boy's face blossomed into delight. He finally got the joke. "No, Master. It was perfect."
Nodding, Qui-Gon pointed to the door. "Better go catch up with your friends, Padawan. They'll be wondering and it would not do to have them catch on, now would it?"
Laughing, Obi-Wan's grin was unshakable and wholehearted. "No, Master, it wouldn't. Thanks, Master Qui-Gon. You're the best."
With that, Obi-Wan raced out into the common room. Moving to close his Master's door, to give him the privacy to enjoy a really good night's rest for the first time in months, he heard his Master talking softly into his comlink. The boy stopped for a moment as Master Qui-Gon's words became clear.
"Clee, it's Qui-Gon Jinn. Just wanted to let you know that our sometimes over-enthusiastic trio are on their way. Apparently, they're comparing masterly snoring." Laughing quietly at some comment from Master Rhara, he continued, "Try to make it a good show, would you?"
And, closing the door, Obi-Wan just smiled. He did have the best Master in the whole galaxy - no matter what anyone else said.
Original cover by Laura Kovalcin. HTML formatting copyright 2004 TheForce.Net LLC.