"Together, the two of you are stronger." Qui-Gon, The Fight For Truth
She didn't believe a word of it. Not really, anyway. Siri Tachi might only be six, and maybe she did live in the relatively sheltered confines of the cr?che, but even she could identify a load of Hutt droppings when it was dangled in front of her face.
It had been Master Yaddle's idea. Garek Tomkin needed to learn patience, she said. All the usual exercises and meditations had failed. He always grew bored after a time, then he turned restless. From there, it was a small step to becoming careless, and that was something a Jedi could ill afford to be. So Yaddle had arranged for him to assist the cr?che master of their clan. She'd said working with the children would teach Garek patience and it certainly wouldn't be boring. Meanwhile, the initiates would see more of the future that awaited them as padawans.
Well, it might have worked with proper supervision, although Siri doubted it. Garek just didn't seem to know the first thing about kids. The minute Master Teria had left him alone to settle them all into bed while she took a sick child to the healers, he'd gotten a look in his eyes a lot like the mynocks at the zoological gardens would get when you flashed a light in their faces. Several of the other children had asked for a story, but Garek hadn't known where any of the holocubes were kept. Obi-Wan had tried to tell him, but Garek insisted he knew a much better story than any of the ones from a book.
Siri didn't find it better at all. Okay, so maybe she liked it a little bit better than the story about Master Yaddle being trapped on the world of Koba for a century, and maybe it was more exciting than hearing about Master Yoda and the witches on Dathomir, but all those stories were at least reasonably true. This one wasn't. At least, she didn't think so.
Garek made them all sit in a circle around him and turned the lights down very low, so low she was hardly able to see the freckles on Obi-Wan's nose even though he was sitting right beside her. Then Garek started talking slightly above a whisper, making all of them lean in to hear as he told them about a Padawan named Lilat Minth who had decided to learn about the Dark Side. The guy had gathered up all the dark holocrons and even found a couple of actual books by the Sith in the archives. He had locked himself up in his sleeping chamber one night, determined to read them all.
"So much dark knowledge did Lilat encounter that, little by little, he fell deeper and deeper into darkness until all that was left of him was a shadow. The next morning, when his master broke open the lock, all they found where the holocrons, the books and Lilat's empty clothes."
Most of the other younglings gasped, their eyes wide. Even Obi-Wan seemed to be impressed. Which, Siri decided, only proved exactly how much dumber boys really were. People just didn't disappear like that. It wasn't possible.
Garek motioned the children to gather closer. "But shadows always linger, just outside the light. So they say that Lilat is still with us, hiding in the shadows. And when a padawan is bad, not just mischievous, but really wicked, he'll creep up to your bedside and swoop you up!"
At the word "swoop," Garek grabbed the closest child by the shoulders, leaving the boy shivering under his hands. Some of the smaller children ran away, screaming as they scurried behind the furniture. Siri just glared at him. It was mean, scaring little kids like that, even if they didn't have a gram of common sense.
"Sith spit," she mumbled, earning a shocked look from Obi-Wan. They weren't supposed to say things like that, ever, and she knew it. But she'd overheard the cr?che master using it one day when she'd burned herself on some boiling hot tea. Siri had liked the sound of it ever since. And she was generally careful where she used it. Garek had really made her very mad if she'd forgotten about that.
Garek grinned at her. "Calling on the Sith is especially wicked, you know. So if Siri disappears, we'll all know why."
The other children all looked at her, eyes wide. The ones sitting nearest to her even scooted away. Except Obi-Wan, of course. She didn't expect him to move away. He had learned how hard she could punch last month after he had left her team in saber practice to fight with Bruck's team. Ever since, he tried to not make her mad if he could help it.
Master Teria came back then, and asked why so many of the children were running up to cling to her. As soon as she heard the story Garek had been telling them, she said it was nonsense and sent him back to his master. She spoke soothingly to them all, and promised to leave a few lights on if they'd all get into bed. As soon as most of the children were sleeping, she turned the lamps back off again. And that's when things started to bother Siri.
She just couldn't fall asleep. It wasn't that she believed Garek. Not really. People didn't disappear, even into the Force. She knew that. She'd even read once where it was hard to solidify matter again after it was taken apart because of all those bonds between the atoms and stuff. Okay, maybe she really didn't fully understand it, but the writer sounded like he knew, and Madame Jocasta had said it was true. The Masters would never tell them something that wasn't real. She was sure of that.
But Jedi did disappear sometimes. Knights, padawans, and especially initiates could all vanish. Not really vanish, exactly. They left and no one ever saw them again. Tanith Zotum had done that just last month. She was thirteen and she just wasn't progressing at all in her studies and none of the masters had picked her. The clan had all come to breakfast one morning to learn her room was empty. Obi-Wan had said she'd been packed off to an agricultural project. That's what happens if you don't make Jedi. You get sent to be a farmer. He was scared of that happening to him one day. Siri had told him to stop being stupid but it had made her a little scared too.
Tanith wasn't the only one, though. There was a padawan named Jenaka who had left after he'd gotten mad and punched another padawan during a duel. Of course, everyone knew he was going. He was meaner even than Garek. Lamquil D'Nabi was nearly ready for the Trials when she had vanished, just after Master Yoda found out about that pilot she'd been visiting. No one had actually seen any of them leave, at least no one Siri knew. No one really knew for sure what happened.
Hadn't there even been some story about Master Yoda himself fighting a Dark Jedi in some swamp? The Knight had been turned into a tree or something, she thought. So if Dark Knights could become trees, could bad padawans become shadows?
No, that was stupid. There were no Shadow Siths, just big boys who liked scaring kids younger than they were. The masters would have told them if there was danger, to warn them if nothing else. They would have said "behave or the Shadow Sith might take you!"
Unless they wanted the Shadow Sith to do it, that was. Master Windu had told them there were always more children accepted into the temple than there were knights to train them. This was because you could measure a child's potential in the Force when they were infants, but you could only tell his or her dedication to becoming a knight once the child was older. Maybe the Shadow Sith helped to take care of all the extra children? Maybe the masters didn't mind him as long as he only took the really bad Jedi.
Not that it really mattered, Siri told herself. She was a good initiate. Well, mostly, anyway. She was top of her clan in lightsaber technique, although Obi-Wan, two years her senior, was better on the footwork. And she didn't mind helping out whenever she was asked to by Master Teria, as long as it didn't involve anything with dishes or laundry, because she didn't like either one all that much.
Now that she thought about it, she didn't always pay attention to the masters. And sometimes, when they told her to meditate, she actually just sat there quietly and imagined what it would be like to be a knight and have her own lightsaber, a real one that didn't come with just a training setting. She had made Master Yoda really annoyed last week when she'd Force lifted a training remote smack into Shantara's face, even though she hadn't really meant to hurt anyone. Well, mostly didn't. Master Yoda accepted her apology, but his mouth had stayed all puckered up and she could tell he was still pretty upset.
It was awfully dark in the cr?che with all the lights off. She kept a small lamp hidden under her pillow. Sometimes, when she was reading something really interesting and she didn't want to stop for naps, she'd pull the blankets over her head and slip it out to finish by its light. She tried that now thinking maybe it would make her feel a bit better, but a thought hit her. Her blankets were dark blue and fairly heavy. The light couldn't be seen from outside at all, which was why she'd picked the color. So, if there were a Shadow Sith, the light wouldn't do much good about keeping him away from her. He'd just pull the bottom sheet up from the mattress and bundle her off, covers and all. The blankets would even muffle the sound if she screamed. No one would come in time. Not even Master Yoda, whom she was fairly sure was still pretty mad at her.
A hand touched her leg, and Siri jumped out of the covers, the lamp raised above her head. She might not have a proper lightsaber, but she was pretty sure a light upside the head would hurt just about anyone. But it was only Obi-Wan, shivering in his nightclothes in the lamp's weak light.
"What do you want?" she demanded, thinking maybe he was going to ask for the light again to work on another of his model ships. Not that she would give it to him. He'd used the last one to power an engine and drove the tiny thing straight into the closest window. She wouldn't let him have another so easily.
He wasn't looking at the lamp though, but at her, and then over at the shadows near her bed. "It's really dark here," he said, shivering a bit more. "Is it okay if I sleep with you tonight?"
Siri thought about it. Master Teria really didn't mind much if the children bunked up together, as long as neither one was sick. So they wouldn't get into trouble for being bad. Yoda did always smile the most when Obi-Wan got the answers right, so she was pretty sure he was the master's favorite. Maybe Yoda was still mad at her, but he wouldn't let any old Sith bundle Obi-Wan off, that's for sure. And Obi-Wan didn't snore or hog the covers like some of the other kids did.
After a moment, she nodded and scooted over a bit. "Okay," she said. "But I get the pillow."
He didn't give her any fight over that, just crawled in beside her and stretched out as close to the lamp as he could. She pulled the covers back over them, in case Master Teria came back to check on them. This wasn't the right night to have her lamp confiscated.
"I'm not really scared," she insisted, pretending her shaking was only because his feet were cold and not because of the fright he'd given her when he'd grabbed her leg. "There's no such thing as a Shadow Sith."
Obi-Wan nodded even though he was still trembling, too. "He'd go after Garek anyway, if he was real. Scaring initiates is much worse than saying 'Sith spit.'"
He stumbled so hard trying to get those last two words out, Siri couldn't help laughing. Obi-Wan hated cursing ever since Yoda said it wasn't suitable in a Jedi. Once he'd even tried to get her to stop it. If he could say the words, then they must not be so bad after all. And having him say it, well, it made her feel a little better. Even the best younglings could act out of line sometimes, she guessed.
Thinking maybe she should be nicer if Obi-Wan was willing to act up a bit, Siri scooted the pillow closer to him so they could share it. "Go to sleep, Obi-Wan. I don't really think anything will try to get us. Not if we're together, anyway." And it was true, although she didn't exactly know how she knew that. Just one of those things she knew without being told, like she knew water would always be wet and the glowing heating coil in the cooking unit would hurt if she touched it. As long as the two of them were together, either she'd figure a way out of any danger or someone would come looking for Obi-Wan if they got into trouble. Nothing bad could really happen to them, then.
His eyes closed and after a while his breathing slowed down. She was pretty sure he was asleep, even without trying to use the Force to check. For a minute, she just watched the way his lids flickered back and forth and wonder what sorts of things Obi-Wan dreamed about when he got tired of meditating - if he ever did get tired, that was. Thinking like that made her feel a little dizzy, so she stopped it after a bit, and just snuggled down into the blankets. It was nice and warm with him there. And she supposed sometimes she might actually like being friendly to Obi-Wan, even if he was a boy.
Well, mostly liked it, anyway.
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