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Gungan to the left

Small World (G)

By : ardavenport

Archived on: Monday, July 31, 2006

Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi travel to the World Mothers’ Temple to rescue a fugitive, or so they think.

Obi-Wan Kenobi took carefully measured steps between the marker rows. He breathed with each slow, meditative step, his arms folded into the sleeves of his brown robe, the hood covering his head. He walked the patterned, stone floor, one foot forward, then another, and another.

He followed the markers around another curve, step forward...step forward...turn...step forward...turn...and back. His robe brushed the floor, barely a whisper of sound, his deliberate steps even more quiet in the great hall. Behind him, his Master made no sound at all, though Obi-Wan could feel the tiny motion of air when he moved.

Another turn led to another long stretch of markers along a final, columned wall and disappeared around a corner. Obi-Wan lowered his gaze, back to the floor and the markers, and away from the anticipation of finishing and getting out of the labyrinth.

The Temple of the World Mothers was not an easy place to enter.

The labyrinth of knee-high markers wound around and around, a pattern of tightly packed rows, snaking through the room, along the walls, filling its center with winding, curling lanes. The markers marched on and on, elaborately carved, in grained stone with curling leaves and flowers, sinuous animals, dripping fungus and lichen, insects, fish, globs and many-limbed things that Obi-Wan did not recognize. At first glance, they all appeared to be the same, but subtle differences between them accumulated as the Jedi progressed through the labyrinth. None of them, not even the matched pairs they walked between, were quite the same.

The World Mothers' labyrinth was as arduous as any Jedi training. Behind him, Master Qui-Gon Jinn's concentration was perfect. Obi-Wan felt the Living Force strongly from his Master and he let his anticipation slide away. Feeling the Force around him, Obi-Wan smoothed his momentary distraction and proceeded at the same steady pace.

They neared the end of the wall and Obi-Wan cleared his mind, preparing himself to accept wherever the labyrinth would lead. He slowly turned the corner.

Obi-Wan's resolve wilted when he saw another great hall, even larger than the one he'd spent the last few hours traversing, filled with row after row of larger and even more elaborate markers.

He felt his Master's hooded presence looming behind him, almost touching. Obi-Wan resumed his pace, careful not to show any haste. He swallowed his disappointment in himself and in the obvious fact that this part of their mission would not be finished for many hours.

Their mission was merely to retrieve one being, apparently held at the Temple against his will, although in no imminent danger. Salit Yaz had been the chair of an interstellar charity that had directed and participated in the recovery of damaged ecologies on hundreds of worlds for many decades. The World Mothers had been a strong supporter of it along with many other groups and philanthropies. Something had gone wrong; funds had gone missing, promised work had not materialized. Members of the board of directors had been arrested. While Chair Yaz was not indicted, he was wanted by the Republic courts as a witness, and for possible prosecution.

It was a minor mission for Jedi, but one for which they were uniquely suited, given where Yaz was, Obi-Wan reflected. The labyrinth was a meditation. The World Mothers would not welcome anyone into their sacred realm who had not demonstrated their sincerity, one way or another.

The markers in this hall gradually got larger, each succeeding pair just a little bit bigger, a little bit more elaborate. They also gradually changed in color. The previous hall's markers had been entirely shaded in grays, from solid, flat neutrals, to swirling grains ranging from pale ash to near black. But the sum tone of all the markers had been a balanced gray, none of them too light or too dark.

Now subtle colors crept into the markers. Oranges and pinks and greens shaded the random patterns on the carved gray surfaces. The flat stones of the floor as well slowly shifted to subtle blues, yellows and purples mixed in with the grays, a separate pattern of color amidst the patterns of grays and the shapes of the stones. The colors built up slowly until there were some mineral splotches of nearly pure colors in the markers. They reached the end of the lane and Obi-Wan saw the first unmatched pair in the labyrinth.

The one on the inside of the curve was very like its neighbors, carved with little multi-legged lizards eating round globes of fruit many times bigger than they were. Its mate had a similar motif, but it was larger, coming up to Obi-Wan's chest, and it had a clear, inset window. Inside, deep purple spheres lazily drifted in all directions. Tiny, swimming lizards pursued them, some of them hanging on with their jaws. Swirls of blue and pink drifted by in the fluid.

Obi-Wan studied it as he passed. This was what the World Mothers were famous for. He was obviously meant to contemplate it as he entered their Temple.

At the next turn, the marker window was even larger, with very long and thin, silvery snakes coiling throughout orange branches while little red ticks hopped about. Each little World was so completely self contained that all they needed was the radiation from a star for sustenance.

This was the calling of the World Mothers. They planned, designed and lovingly built each one with religious devotion. They were so beautifully made that they could be set into orbit and still be well and living for thousands of years. Some of them had.

They slowly passed more and more varied Worlds inset in the markers of the labyrinth some more complex, others elegantly simple. Each one was not just a self-contained ecosystem, but also a priceless art object. The World Mothers' works were highly valued throughout the galaxy.

Obi-Wan had seen some large ones on Coruscant and they were captivating works that one could watch for hours without tiring. Aside from their beauty, Obi-Wan could feel them through the Force. Living, balanced, in motion, yet static. They amazed all his senses and he felt increasingly hyper-alert to them. Behind him, his Master's presence reflected their increasing awareness of everything around them. Obi-Wan contemplated each World as they progressed. The pattern of the floor and the markers matched and foreshadowed the Worlds as well as the path in the previous hall.

A grinding sound abruptly interrupted the silence, echoing off the vaulted ceiling above. A marker to Obi-Wan's right moved to block him and opened up a new path. He turned, still keeping the same slow pace. A single lane of markers led straight ahead for a hundred meters or so to an archway leading out of the labyrinth. Beyond that was an open room and hallway.

For a moment, Obi-Wan wondered if he was meant to simply exit now. But no, that didn't feel right at all. He breathed deeply, arms folded before him and slowly walked the last path. His Master followed. He didn't turn around until both of them had entered the new room. It was a round well-lit chamber, with sunny yellow marble walls, ivory columns and a polished orange floor. A doorway led to a long hallway opposite the labyrinth.

"Master..." Obi-Wan could feel life all around him, as if he were in the midst of a teeming jungle. Yet, the room they were in was plain and nearly empty and unadorned except for thin strips of delicate flower patterns on the edge of the floor.

"We are guests in their World, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon told him. "Always be aware of that, my Padawan."

"I shall." Obi-Wan nodded, taking off the hood of his robe. Qui-Gon did the same.

Qui-Gon closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.

"Master." Qui-Gon opened his eyes and looked to his apprentice. "You said you had been to a World Mothers' Temple before. Was it like this?"

"Yes," he answered. They both turned at the sound of a door slowly sliding closed behind them, closing off the great hall. "And no. Their labyrinths are always different, but they did not shorten it. I did not know they could."

"We are expected," Obi-Wan reminded him. Other petitioners at the Temple door were being turned away when they had arrived. The Jedi had been ushered in immediately by a robed acolyte and no one else had walked the gray, stone labyrinth with them.

"Yes. We are." Qui-Gon nodded to the hallway before them. "The doors we are meant to go through will be open to us. Do not disturb any of the others."

"Are there any traps in any of the others if we try them?" Obi-Wan asked, peering down the hall warily. It had been rumored that hidden trails and perils lay in wait for those who were discourteous enough to circumvent the usual contemplative entrance.

"I don't know," Qui-Gon answered simply. "I just think it would be rude if we walked in where we weren't invited."

They walked down the hall together at a normal pace, past golden-hued, wooden doors. The walls were pale, cool gray, the floor a faded blue with a random pattern of small, black diamond shapes along the edges. Dark, ridged baffles covering the high ceiling muffled the sound of their boot steps, killing any echo.

The corridor had many twists and turns, but always only one way forward, like the labyrinth. Left...right...right...left...left...left. Obi-Wan glanced at his Master, but he seemed unconcerned. Remembering his earlier lapse of patience in the labyrinth, Obi-Wan did not ask about their route. At seventeen, Obi-Wan knew he was approaching an age when he was expected to master the skills of a full Jedi Knight, beyond those of just a Padawan Learner.

The colors of the corridors slowly changed from gray and blue to pale orange and green. The pattern on the floor had evolved into red crescents. The doors they passed were now polished dark wood. Some had painted, multi-colored symbols on them, but most were plain.

Finally, one door in the middle of a long hallway was open. They entered a room with gray columns along it's beige walls. A wide, open window in the far wall led to a dark green, closed garden, lit from above with blue and yellow lights. Obi-Wan smelled the fresh scent of the greenery; it made the room feel larger than it was. There were several groups of tables and chairs as if the room were meant to accommodate a much larger group than the two of them. One table in the middle was covered with a cloth and set with a pot of tea and a tray of snacks.

"We will wait here," Qui-Gon said.

"Do you think it will be long?" Obi-Wan asked as he inspected the food on the tray, his thin, Padawan braid hanging down off his shoulder. There were small sweet cakes and biscuits, dried fruit and puffed, savory grains with flowery garnishes.

"No. Not if they shortened their own labyrinth for us. But even if they hadn't, they wouldn't make us wait long. The World Mothers are good hosts." Qui-Gon frowned down at the welcome platter. "The symbolism of the labyrinth is at the core of the World Mothers' theology. For them to deface it by shortening it...this does not bode well for this mission."

Qui-Gon lifted the teapot. Obi-Wan looked up swiftly. They both felt a warning through the Force. Qui-Gon held the teapot up and away from him.

There was no water or juice to choose from on the tray. Only tea.

The door to the waiting room closed, its dark, wood panel sliding shut behind the Jedi with a gentle swishing sound in the corridor outside.

For a time, nothing moved in the empty hallway. Plain and unmarked, the waiting room door looked exactly the same as all the others that lined the corridor. Then there was the sound of another door opening and closing. Two beings, both Osets with long hair covering their heads, faces and bodies, came from around a corner; one of them pulled the other by the arm. The door to the waiting room slid open again for them.

A thin, dark-haired male in a sleeveless white tunic and sandals emerged. He was pushed forward by a shorter female in a sleeveless white World Mother's gown, her fur graying in patches behind her ears. The multi-colored, painted and beaded border on her blue shoulder drape marked her as a Mother of some seniority.

The chairs by the tables were overturned, cups, utensils and biscuits scattered on the floor. The teapot had rolled away under another table, dribbling a long, green puddle behind it. The Jedi lay sprawled on the floor on either side of the center table, unconscious.

The World Mother seized the taller Oset by the tuft of his ear.

"Miggo, what did you do?!" she demanded in a booming voice.

"It's good, it's good!" Miggo insisted, his slitted eyes narrowing in panic. The Mother released him. "They're only asleep. Really!"

"This is good? GOOD?" she asked scornfully, waving her arm at the two Jedi lying unconscious in an otherwise peaceful garden-room. Cringing, he continued to try to placate her.

"It'll be fine. It was just something that would knock them out for awhile." He raised his hands to her in entreaty.

The Mother stared back at him. "They're GUESTS! This is NOT FINE!" she shouted.

He backed away from her threatening tone, his dark-haired arms upraised, placating. "No, it's all right. It was something really gentle. It won't even give them a hangover when they wake up."

The Mother continued to stare. "They came here responding to Yaz's message. They walked the labyrinth better than some Mothers I know. And you drugged them, " she told him in a much quieter voice, her shock settling in. "By what measure is this fine?"

"It's just for a little while." Miggo seemed to mistake the Mother's strained calm for acceptance. "We're just going to...take their clothes and...take their ship. They were going to take us off planet anyway; we're just saving them a little time."

The Mother raised a slender, three-fingered hand to the dark brown fur of her cheek, her expression sad now. "Yaz told you to do this, didn't he?"

"Yaz doesn't tell me what to do, Mother," Miggo responded defensively. " was his idea."

She shook her head. "I thought he was smarter than that." She glumly looked at the bodies on the pastel patterned floor. She wrinkled her nose at a faint aroma of tea and damp Jedi robe. "And they're not going to let you take their ship."

"It's fine." Miggo reassured as the Mother continued to shake her head. "They're all right, but they can't stop us. See?" He moved toward the larger Jedi.

"No!" The Mother leaped forward, grabbed him by an ear and jerked him back hard.

"Oooow," Miggo howled. "Why did you do that?" She let him go and he rubbed his pinched ear.

"Because I don't want him to cut your arms off!" She put herself between him and the two on the floor. "Jedi can do that you know. Faster than you can move."

"He's out, it's good," he insisted, but he also backed away a step from the prone Humans.

The Mother shook her head. "They're faking."

"I was watching them. They drank the tea," Miggo insisted. With a disappointed look, the Mother went to a chair and sat down.

"Then they were faking that, too. You can't poison a Jedi. They'll know." The Mother looked down at them. "This is just all kinds of bad," she moaned to the room in general. The larger Jedi was a pale-skinned Human male with long brown head hair and shorter chin hair. He had to be a full Jedi, if not a Master. The smaller one was a similar Human male, but his brown hair was cut short with a thin student's braid behind one, flat ear. They both wore plain, white tunics, Jedi drapes and brown belts and robes, and lightsabers.

Miggo scrutinized them carefully as well. "You can't tell they're faking. They don't look like they're faking." He clutched the material of his white tunic nervously.

"Jedi can control their body functions," she told him casually, as if this were something that were common knowledge. "You can't tell without a medical droid. And I don't have one on me."

"How do you know so much about Jedi?" He frowned back at her as if this new, possible complication was her fault.

The Mother shrugged. "We get them every now and then. Pilgrimage, sabbatical...I've never asked. They like the atmosphere here." She exhaled loudly through her nose, a noisy sigh. "They're about the easiest visitors we ever get. They're polite, mind all the rules, quiet, never complain." She shook her head at the disaster before her.

The door to the room slid open again. A tall being entered. He wore a shiny, maroon suit, excellently tailored; his step was sure, his motions fluid. He was a hairless humanoid with smooth, powdered features; a flat, ivory horn grew up from the bridge of his nose, extending closely over his head to a manicured point at the back of his skull. The door closed behind him. His sharp, blue eyes took in the scene in the garden room.

"Mother Jalin." He bowed to her. She scowled back. "I didn't know you were back."

"Looks like you don't know everything after all, Yaz." Her eyes burned with contempt for him, her ears back and stiff. She sat back away from him, her posture hostile.

He nodded to her, ignoring the implied insult, and then turned to Miggo. "We have to hurry; their ship is at the spaceport."

Miggo hesitated. "Mother thinks they're faking."

Yaz narrowed his eyes at the bodies on the floor. The younger one lay on his side, his face turned away. The older one was sprawled on his back, long hair spread out on the floor, his mouth slightly open. "You drugged the tea, right?"

"Yeah," the Oset answered with a worried shrug.

"They drank it?" Yaz asked as he took a step forward for a better look at the Jedi. He turned back to his co-conspirator.

Miggo nodded. "I saw them. Mother thinks they faked that, too."

Yaz looked uncertain for only a moment. He leaned over and whispered into his companion's perked up ear. He handed Miggo a tube from an inside pocket of his jacket.

"They can hear that, too, y'know," Mother Jalin commented. "Even with those little ears they got. They can use the Force for that. And the poison, even if they did drink it."

Yaz looked skeptical, but he still carefully scanned the unconscious men for the slightest twitch or quickened breath. "I thought the World Mothers didn't believe in the Force."

"No," she corrected leaning forward in her chair. "We don't *care* about the Force. That's very different."

Yaz dropped his exchange with her and he motioned Miggo forward. He hesitated again with a pleading look toward Jalin.

"I am your redeemer, Miggo. NOT your accomplice." She waved her hands at him as if to push him back. With a barely audible whimper, Miggo turned back to his task.

The two carefully crept up on the prone Jedi. Miggo held the tube with its needle tip up warily as he focused on the neck of the smaller Jedi. Yaz approached the larger one stealthily, like a trained fighter. They were each within a step of their targets when the lightsabers flashed and hummed. Getting their feet under them, the Jedi sprang up, flipped over the heads of their attackers, landing with their blades ready.

Miggo, paralyzed and wide-eyed, stared at the bright blue light only a few centimeters from his nose. Yaz's face registered his surprise for only a moment before he calmly stared down the length of the bearded Jedi's fiery green blade.

"Let me know how that new armless look works for you, Miggo," Mother Jalin said sarcastically.

The older Jedi opened his mouth to speak.

The door opened. A small, stately being in a dark blue, long-sleeved robe draped in red entered. A team of others of various species in belted yellow tunics and sandals followed. They carried long staffs and quickly moved to encircle the center of the room. The Jedi didn't move, keeping their lightsabers fixed on their would-be attackers.

The smaller being's red shoulder drape hung heavy with its multicolored decoration. The crown of her tall head was styled with blue and red ribbons woven through her black hair. She inclined her head toward Jalin who looked back with dread.

"Mother Jalin. You have failed your task as redeemer to Miggo."

Jalin's expression changed from dread to shock. The fur at the back of her head stood up. Tipping her chair over, she hastily got up and prostrated herself before the smaller newcomer. She nodded down at the Oset at her feet and then turned her cool gaze first at the younger, then at the older Jedi.

"Master Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn. Padawan Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi. I am Bluken, the Voice of the Mother's Council. We deeply regret this poor welcome to our World. And we beg you to let our own Hands take the offenders into our own custody." She gestured toward the others surrounding them.

Qui-Gon noted the guards without moving his head. They stood a respectful distance away, their attention fixed only on Yaz and Miggo. He nodded to his Padawan.

The bright lightsaber blades vanished with a hiss and the Jedi clipped them to their belts. Her expression polite, Voice Bluken nodded, though her eyes briefly lingered on the sabers. The World Mothers did not allow energy weapons in their Temples, but they also recognized the Jedi as another holy Order and as the symbol of their status, the Mothers had to allow the lightsabers. The yellow-clad guards quickly surrounded Miggo and Yaz and pinned them with their staffs. Miggo meekly complied, his ears down in despair. The Voice addressed Yaz.

"You betray us again, Salit Yaz." Qui-Gon sensed the contempt from the Voice and the Hands toward his would-be attacker like solid presence in the room.

"Our sanctuary is not to be used lightly." The Voice's tone was thick with outrage, and hatred as she took a step toward the prisoners. Yaz seemed to accept this pronouncement with some dignity.

"Sanctuary?" Qui-Gon asked, surprised. He turned to Yaz. "Did you claim sanctuary in this Temple?" Yaz hesitated before answering.

"Yes, I did," he answered, looking Qui-Gon in the eye. His blunt statement conveyed the appearance of honesty, but Qui-Gon sensed only deception from Yaz. This quick admission of guilt was simply the best option available at the time, at least until a better opportunity presented itself. Qui-Gon sensed only an admission of his actions, but no acknowledgment of guilt.

"That was not mentioned in your transmission," Qui-Gon stated. "Nor did it mention that there was another person with you." Miggo's head lifted, his expression stricken. There was an indictment from the Courts for Miggo, who had gone missing early in the investigation surrounding Yaz. He had been the former Chair's secretary and Yaz had denied any knowledge of his whereabouts.

Qui-Gon folded his arms before him. Obi-Wan moved to stand next to his Master, assuming the same posture.

"We cannot help you. The Republic recognizes the sanctuary of the World Mothers. You are under their protection. And their authority." The Voice gratefully nodded her approval toward the Jedi.

Yaz straightened. "I understand," he replied, but his bravery sounded theatrical to Qui-Gon's ears. He was simply waiting for another chance to sneak away.

"Mother Jalin," the Voice addressed the figure still at her feet. She rose, but kept her head and ears down, her hands pressed together before her. "You will accompany your offspring." She bowed deeply.

Qui-Gon noted the strong resemblance between the two Osets. The one un-alterable requirement of the World Mothers' Order was that all of its members have been a life-giver. This meant that the Order was overwhelmingly female, though some males were admitted with medical assistance. Clearly, Miggo was the son who had fulfilled Mother Jalin's qualification.

At a gesture from the Voice, the guards began to lead the prisoners away.

"I think," Qui-Gon spoke up, prompted by a twinge of foreboding from the Force. Obi-Wan looked at him curiously. "That it would be best if we discussed their disposition with the Council together. They are still wanted by the Courts, Miggo especially. And we do carry a warrant for Yaz." Qui-Gon had the official disk in his belt pouch, though now it was useless, given the new complication of the sanctuary.

The Voice's civil expression turned icy. "No, we don't think it would be." There was a long pause as Voice Bluken's gaze locked on Qui-Gon. He returned it, but then he nodded his head in assent. Bluken's eyes flicked away in satisfaction. The prisoners were led away by the guards, Mother Jalin following.

Two new mothers entered and Bluken gestured them forward. They were identical Human females, young with blond hair, tied back in single braids. Only a very simple line pattern adorned the edges of their pink shoulder drapes.

"These are Mothers Ari and Fel. They will escort you to temporary quarters and refreshment. The Mother's Council must convene to discuss this...incident. You will be called when there is a decision. You are free to contemplate our Temple at your own discretion, if you wish." The Jedi bowed their thanks to her and the Voice left them.

The two young Mothers gestured toward the door, ushering them out into the hallway. Ari led, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan walked together and Fel followed. They turned left, then left again. The walls changed from pale pastel to stone blocks. The sparse pattern on the floor grew more dense until they walked on a beautiful mosaic of many colors and shapes. They passed through an archway decorated with carved, twining plants and flowers and entered a stairwell. They went up a spiral staircase and climbed to a small, vaulted, open space with a fountain in it. A slowly turning World of yellow and orange twisting ribbons in thick blue liquid hung suspended over the bubbling water.

They went down a series of short halls with carved, wood panel walls...left, left, right, left, right, right, left. Sometimes they passed doors, sometimes they passed through decorative arches, sometimes they passed single or whole clusters of unique Worlds inset in the walls, or displayed on pedestals. Their guides were polite, but only answered their questions with as few words as possible.

When they descended another stairway and passed through a tall gate into a new corridor that curved to their right, Qui-Gon sensed a peak in his Padawan's impatience. Obi-Wan leaned closer to him.

"Do they wish us to be lost, Master?" Obi-Wan whispered.

"The labyrinth is essential here," he replied softly, smiling. "The twisted path is the only true route to enlightenment and peace, for it is the journey that matters, not the goal, my young Padawan." The corridor curved left.

"It is the straight path that leads to darkness for the World Mothers," Qui-Gon noted as they went around a curve so sharp that they were now heading back the way they'd just come. Obi-Wan looked up curiously. "Don't ever debate them on any philosophical points unless you have the whole day to devote to it. They will never get to their point quickly," Qui-Gon finished with a sigh. Obi-Wan answered this comment with grin.

Qui-Gon silently followed Ari with his Padawan, knowing that they would arrive when they arrived. It was always that way with the World Mothers. They passed by a dark green, peaceful garden that Qui-Gon was quite certain was the other side of the garden that he'd seen in the room where they had confronted Yaz and Miggo.

Thoughts of Salit Yaz especially troubled Qui-Gon. The open malice that he had sensed from the Voice of the World Mothers had been shockingly atypical for their Order. Anger, hatred and retribution were as dark to the World Mothers as they were to the Jedi. However, unlike the Jedi, the World Mothers believed that darkness was sometimes necessary, even required. As a guest in their World, he had no authority to stop it.

At last, Ari and Fel led them down a stairway into a hallway lined with doors. They stopped at one and it opened into a simple, austere room with sleeping pallets on either wall and a wide, low table between them laid with a simple meal and water. There was no tea. This room had narrow window slits, letting the light in from outside. Only the blue sun was still up; the day was nearly over. Left alone, Obi-Wan eyed the food suspiciously. Qui-Gon smiled, picked up a cracker and ate it.

"We do not have anything to fear from the World Mothers, Padawan." Enjoying the savory taste, he picked up another cracker.

Obi-Wan nodded. "No, Master. But...there is something to fear."

Qui-Gon frowned. "Yes. I sensed something from Bluken. Something ominous." Reminded of his earlier foreboding. he turned the second cracker over in his hand without looking at it.

"What will they do to Miggo and Yaz?" Obi-Wan asked.

Qui-Gon looked out the window slits. The blue light added an eerie glow to the overhead lights. "They have given Yaz sanctuary. He cannot be harmed. But he can be punished." He looked back at his apprentice. "And we cannot interfere," he warned Obi-Wan. "I do not know what Miggo's status is. But Yaz has clearly betrayed him as well as the World Mothers and they take that quite seriously."

Qui-Gon put the cracker back on the tray, removed his robe and laid it at the end of one of the pallets. Then he investigated the room's other door. It was a private refresher, which he used and then Obi-Wan had his turn. They then ate together. Obi-Wan asked about his previous visit to a World Mothers' Temple. He'd actually been to two of them. Obi-Wan listened intently, interrupting only a few times to ask questions. Words seemed inadequate to describe his experience, the harmony he felt from the World Mothers' reverence for life, but Obi-Wan's own connection with the Force let him understand without them. They could both feel the multiformity of life in the Temple around them. Qui-Gon's apprehension about their mission lessened as he spoke to his Padawan, the act of teaching relieving some of his anxiety.

They finished eating and Obi-Wan stood and suggested that they explore the Temple. But Qui- Gon shook his head. His unease had not left him and he had no desire to clutter it with new information. Obi-Wan seemed reluctant to leave him alone, but Qui-Gon sent him anyway. There was much to learn in the Mothers' World, and neither of them sensed any antipathy directed at them.

As soon as Obi-Wan was out the door, Ari and Fel were there to 'assist' him. Qui-Gon had no doubt that one of them would be following his pupil while the other kept watch on their room while he remained.

Qui-Gon sat on one pallet and closed his eyes. The feeling of life all around was quite literal in the World Mothers' Temple. They created the world they lived in, not just the self-contained bubbles they were known for. They did not just build art objects, but were also known for engineering life-support systems for space stations and barren asteroids. Like a huge, living enclosure, Qui-Gon sensed the Temple around him. However, there was some disquiet, something prickled at its center, disturbing the whole.

Qui-Gon lay down and settled into a trance-like half-sleep. He expected no danger; but their mission was not complete and his thoughts were troubled. His periodic, random dreams were filled with shifting colors of floating creatures and wispy strings of algae. The blue light from outside sank into twilight. A small, pale yellow light panel over the refresher door came on, dim at first, then growing slowly brighter as day passed into night.

Qui-Gon sensed Obi-Wan's nearness before he entered the room. Returning to wakefulness, he opened his eyes and breathed deeply. He felt only marginally rested. Obi-Wan entered; he looked agitated.

"Has the Council summoned us?"

His Padawan nodded. "Yes, Master." Qui-Gon rose, stretching his muscles in place as he did so. He felt a tension in the Force, somewhere deep in the Temple; it had been building for hours, disturbing his rest. He picked up his robe and stood, putting it on.

"Then we shall see what they have decided." They left the room.

They went a short way down the corridor outside and stopped. Ari opened a door that revealed a long, straight passage, with no doors and no turns in it. Like the labyrinth at the Temple entrance, their path to the World Mothers' Council had been cut short. Qui-Gon's tension increased as they traversed the direct path to the Council room. Obi-Wan glanced up at him.

"Did you enjoy your exploration of the Temple, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon asked as they followed Ari. Fel walked behind them.

"Yes, I did. They have a great hall with a World that takes up an entire wall. I spent a great deal of time studying it." He looked embarrassed. They passed through an elaborately carved archway into a stairwell. The World Mothers did not seem to use lifts very much.

"Did you see anything else?" Qui-Gon asked as the descended.

"Um, no. I was still studying the wall World when Ari told me about the Council's summons."

"Ah. A wonder indeed then." Qui-Gon smiled. If nothing else, this mission would help sharpen Obi-Wan's meditation skills. "I shall be sorry to miss it." They reached the bottom of the stairway. Ari and Fel led them down a wide, elegantly decorated corridor. Mothers of all ranks and colors of drapes clustered in groups along the sides. All eyes followed them. Both Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon straightened and folded their arms before them.

"We shall not be staying long then?" Obi-Wan asked curiously, but still keeping his eyes forward toward what was obviously the archway leading to the World Mothers' Council room.

"I do not believe we will wish to linger here," Qui-Gon answered softly, his eyes forward as well. The crowds grew thicker on either side of the corridor, but the way cleared for Ari and Fel, the Jedi following.

The council room was large, and round, and columned with a bowl of steps and seats in the middle. Carved and colored decorations adorned the walls all the way up to the high, arched ceiling. There were no Worlds inset in the walls here, only elaborate paintings, long embroidered drapes and curling, carved surfaces. Fel and Ari stopped. Qui-Gon sensed sudden tension in his Padawan as he grasped the discord in the room.

"Qui-Gon..." Obi-Wan whispered.

"Yes. There is something," Qui-Gon finished. "There is a disturbance in the Living Force here. It has been building for hours." Their escorts turned and bowed to the Jedi before stepping aside. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon descended the stairs down to the center of the well.

All around them sat the members of the World Mothers' Council. There were dozens of them of various species, dressed in all colors, their shoulder drapes bearing decorations of the highest ranks. Voice Bluken stood, posed on a pedestal, her slight figure regal. Dark blue and red, every fold and crease of her gown and drape positioned perfectly, her styled black hair and matching ribbons precise. The Jedi bowed deeply before her.

"The World Mothers' Council has made its decision, Master Jedi." She addressed Qui-Gon. "It was not an easy one." This last statement was thick with emotion. She lifted her hand. Miggo and Mother Jalin emerged from a side door behind the crowd above and descended the stairs. The Jedi stepped back and the two prostrated themselves before Bluken. Ears low and tense, Miggo looked terrified, Jalin only a little bit less so.

"You have reprieve, Miggo." Bluken pronounced. There was a murmur from the council around them. Qui-Gon sensed some disapproval, some pity, some sympathy, but nothing very intense. Miggo trembled and accepted the long list of punishment tasks he must complete to earn forgiveness. Near the end, Bluken's severe tone seemed to soften a bit. They hurriedly rose when she dismissed them. Jalin wiped at the wet fur on her cheeks as they fled up the stairs.

"You came to take Salit Yaz to the Republic to answer for his actions, Master Jedi." They took their place before Bluken again.

"Yaz's legal status is still undecided," Qui-Gon corrected, his voice loud and firm in the room. A wave of disapproval rose in the council's mutterings. Bluken's eyes flashed with anger.

"He petitioned for our sanctuary, Jedi."

"He did not tell us this in his transmission. He only asked for the Republic's assistance because he claimed he was being held against his will." A louder muttering filled the room, some voices distinct with rage as Qui-Gon confirmed what they already knew.

"Our sanctuary will not be abused by the likes of Yaz," Bluken declared to the room before returning her attention to the Jedi.

"The Council has agreed that you should remove Salit Yaz from our Temple. Take him back to whatever justice he may face." Bluken raised her arm toward the same side door that Miggo and Jalin had emerged from. A chill of horror went through Qui-Gon even before he saw what the yellow clad guards escorted into the room and down the stairs. The Jedi backed away from it.

It was a clear, upright capsule, almost three meters tall and supported by antigravs at its base. The liquid inside glowed faintly. Spongy, bright purple growths clustered at random places on the inner walls. Swarms of multi-colored dots flitted around thick, ropey veins that melted into every joint of Yaz's body. He skin looked paler than before, but still perfectly groomed. He was an excellent specimen. His eyes were wide and he twitched, but the veins only allowed him small motions in the center of the capsule.

Qui-Gon felt unwell. Obi-Wan looked the same, but Qui-Gon was glad to see his Padawan did not turn away. Members of the council did avert their eyes while others put their heads down in their hands, but the expressions of some others glowed with righteous vindication. The World Mothers' Council had put an unwilling being into one of their Worlds. They had twisted all of their reverence for life into a monstrous act of revenge and members of the Order clearly felt the weight of this terrible decision.

But amidst all the conflicting emotions, the one attitude that surprised Qui-Gon was from Yaz. The Jedi sensed that Yaz did not comprehend why this had happened to him, and why there were members on the council who hated him this much. A little swarm of dots lighted on Yaz's chest; he twitched and they sped away.

Qui-Gon felt relieved somehow, as if the discord in the Mothers' Temple had crested. It would pass. After a long time, it would. In a room filled with shock and fear, anger and revulsion, there was, at the center of it all, a being of impossible optimism. Qui-Gon sensed Yaz's feelings, exactly the same as they'd been a few hours ago when Yaz had been staring down at the tip of a lightsaber. He would wait out this difficulty until he found a way out of it. He accepted that people were angry with him, but he seemed incapable of acknowledging that anything he had done had caused it.

Qui-Gon supposed that with enough medical attention, the droids could free Yaz from the capsule, eventually, and if anyone wanted to. However, when weighing information that they might get from him against the convenience of not having to make a case against him, Qui-Gon was not sure that the prosecutors back on Coruscant would opt for Yaz's freedom. Qui-Gon could see that Yaz's World had been kept to a minimum size and that it would fit into their ship. The trip back to Coruscant was going to be horrific.

"Yaz destroyed decades of work with deceit and lies and greed. And he left others to take the blame. He was warned many times; we saw our works being abused years ago and petitioned for Yaz's removal, but he was cleverer than we. So much has fallen to corruption. And he was the source." Bluken's voice hardened with outrage. "Then when the Republic finally acted, he came here to beg our sanctuary, after everything he destroyed."

Bluken waved her hand at the World before them.

"Now he has it."

Original cover by ardavenport. HTML formatting copyright 2006 TheForce.Net LLC.

Fan Fiction Rating

Current Rating is 8.55 in 22 total ratings.

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Author: VaderLVR64  (signed)
Date posted: 7/31/2006 7:16:58 PM
VaderLVR64's Comments:

So glad to see this one in the Archives. It was a true pleasure to read! I loved how you developed the entire story line, and your characterization was amazing.

Author: Bloodraven
Date posted: 8/1/2006 2:52:10 PM
Bloodraven's Comments:

Wow I'm not very familiar with this 'Mother's Temple' but the concept of this tale was quite powerful thank you for sharing!

Author: Artemus
Date posted: 8/3/2006 11:48:31 AM
Artemus's Comments:

Truly enjoyed the story. Really liked the Mother Temple.

Author: Artemus
Date posted: 8/3/2006 11:49:08 AM
Artemus's Comments:

Truly enjoyed the story. Really liked the Mother Temple.

Author: Kadi-Ahn_Tanye
Date posted: 8/3/2006 12:09:40 PM
Kadi-Ahn_Tanye's Comments:

Altough this story was predictable for me, I enjoyed it very much. Keep writing, ardavenport!

Author: dianethx
Date posted: 10/25/2006 10:59:44 AM
dianethx's Comments:

Great job, ardavenport. The worldscape you have created was inventive and unusual and a pleasure to read.


Author: randomreader
Date posted: 3/27/2012 6:55:24 PM
randomreader's Comments:

That's creepy, but in a good, tingly, righteous kind of way.

Author: Raditia
Date posted: 7/9/2012 11:02:41 PM
Raditia's Comments:

Wow what a site!I now see why you issued a waninrg first LOL.But I bet he is still not happy with it We bloggers never areAlex recently posted..

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Archived: Monday, July 31, 2006

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