At the dawn of the First Galactic Republic a King and a Jedi Knight must each make a personal sacrifice.
"His Highness has requested you personally for this special duty." The hushed aside from the royal equerry was intriguing, suggesting a matter of great import. And it seemed to Jedi Knight Azu Kye that such matters, when raised aloud, were compelled to resonate along the stony perimeters of the Grand Audience Room, whose very walls imbued a thousand years of worthy history. The gleaming-white walls were inset with great scenic windows, while thick fluted pillars supported an impressively high ceiling. The polished floor literally snapped to the footsteps of the two men as they advanced toward the King of Coruscant, resident in his famed palace. An exalted, shimmering crown of a palace, capstone to a white marble mountain, visible from space and increasingly relevant to worlds far flung.
Requested personally. Perhaps to a younger Jedi such rarefied flattery would have induced self-serving pride. Azu negated such vanity. He was not yet a Master but it had often been said that he was wise beyond his thirty years. Yet, as any man would be, he was curious as to the nature of this royal summons, and the nature of the sovereign upon the throne.
The King was not seated at that ornate throne of encrusted jewels but was hunched over a large verbena table on which rested scrolls of his office. Around him hovered a formally-attired retinue of trusted royal aides. However, the King was clearly cut from nobler material. When alerted to the summoned he looked up, gracefully straightened his tall, slim frame and a golden-threaded raiment yielded like a weightless fall of sunshine.
A formal introduction was relayed in the finest equerry manner. "Welcome Azu Kye," said King Domican when the protocol was over, "Grand Master Zodic speaks very highly of you. He tells me you are a formidable Jedi Knight; that you have never failed an assignment." The royal greeting was warm but no hand was proffered.
"I am but a humble server of The Force, your Highness -- and at your service." Azu half-bowed, though held his gaze on the royal visage. He noted the King's soft porcelain skin, blemish-free, somewhat boyish, though the bony structure was manly: the jaw strong, the nose noble, the cheekbones sturdy -- chiselled features rendered in the statuary bust that the Jedi had just observed in the lower palace, the last of a long parade of Corusuntian monarchs set in alcoves along a great vaulted hall. Would he truly be the last of the line? The unmoving crown of hair on that mineral bust was as white as the palace floor, yet in life the King's soft wavy locks, lightly scented, were brown, the same hue as the robe that Azu wore. When the King spoke there was a thoughtfulness behind keen eyes of blue-grey.
"Truly. But I am curious. You do not to say, 'Servant of the Force'. Is not your calling a pious discipline, a life-long duty to a faith." The high-born King seemed to ponder his own mind. "But of course, servant implies a lack of free-will, of subjugation. Jedi act symbiotically with The Force. Is that not so?"
As he spoke, the King led his visitor away from his aides and across the lee of an array of giant oval windows, orange rays of late morning light drenching them in warmth and casting elongated shadows. Outside, the summers day was clear and bright: a rich azure matted around the snow-capped peaks of faraway mountains.
Azu, not as tall as the King, rose to the philosophical challenge, "We believe that the Life Force has a will, but that will does not control our innate beings, nor supplant personal growth, but rather enlightens our search for greater truth."
"And have you discovered this truth?"
"I believe that in a rich and vibrant Universe there are many truths your Highness, just as there are many forms of love, but they can co-exist harmoniously."
"And so absolutism has no place in the Jedi mindset. You are willing to question the order of things, and to adapt to change."
The Jedi Knight could see that he, as a young representative of a relatively new Order was being tested, and with the future prospects of the Galaxy in mind. "Well your Highness," said Azu respectfully, "as the esteemed Zodic often says, 'blind faith is not worth seeing.'"
The King laughed, a most pleasing chortle, dispersing in the air his warmth of spirit. In this philosophical exchange, with a spirited sovereign, a man of equal age though greatly differing background, Azu was impressed. It was not always so.
He had encountered many sovereigns, regents and presidents, human and alien, youthful and aged, throughout his missions and discovered that civility was often an affectation, an easy veil for private agenda, or worse, ignoble motive. King Domican disdained the dark art of machination. Clearly, he was strong willed, and accustomed to privilege. There was conditioning, for a score-and-ten lifetime had engendered the magisterial airs and graces commensurable with his bespoke, flowing finery. Nonetheless, beneath the veneer of charming nobility, Azu detected a firm commitment to the common good. Yet, there was an emotional undercurrent of a more private nature. A concern. The Jedi waited for it to be voiced.
"Change is at hand," said the King. "Democracy is spreading through the Galaxy, faster than cosmic light. Hyperspace has opened gateways to bold new worlds and possibilities. And to unite these worlds it beholdens us to forge a Grand Republic. I must relinquish my nobility and my Kingdom, for as you know Coruscant will be the centre of the new Republic."
"The Kingdom of Coruscant will cease to be," reiterated its dominion as he waved a hand over the ancient land of his forebears, "but while it does exist it has need of your services. My son, young Prince Troy, has taken a keen interest in the new space-way. I am permitting a good-will trip to the planet Maurivar. Naturally the Royal guard will accompany but I would appreciate your added protection. The guile of anti-Republicans cannot be underestimated."
Having come to the fore, Domican's concern subtly altered the kingly face. Furrows appeared on his brow, the smile eased away, and his cautious footsteps seemed to temper the audacity of the vast marble room -- a scale which surpassed even the main interior of the newly-completed Jedi Temple.
Azu saw the diplomatic benefits: a symbolic gesture towards the Galactic Constitution, involving the next generation. "And will the visit be a public affair?"
"A parade will be announced in due course. My advisors feel that in these open times, the children of Maurivar would create a special welcoming. We must unite with all our former enemies if we are to grow into a true Republic of Worlds. All rests upon the success of the treaty."
The King stopped, turned to the Jedi Knight, his face half-shadowed, the mien amended, as if a thousand years of royal heritage were being set aside. He spoke as one man to another. "But I am a father as well as a King. Sadly I must remain here on Coruscant." The King paused, a telling pause. "I know that you will safeguard my son as you would your own."
Azu Kye bowed the gentlest of bows. Knowing eyes met knowing eyes, and thus a deep understanding of a father's love for his son was conveyed and re-conveyed.
It was a truth beyond words.
The sumptuous suite afforded a fabulous view from the summit of the palace, the downward curving walls merging imperceptibly with the ancient mountain. The rays of the midday sun filled the room, warming the faces of the two visitors.
"This will be a new experience for both of us," said Azu, seated upon a purple velveteen chair, elbows rested on ornate arm rests, fingers entwined as if in magisterial deliberation.
Serna, standing, sensed the merest shadow to the Jedi's words, "You are unsure?" Her emotive attunement was more than feminine intuition.
"I have faith in the treaty."
"That is not what I meant?"
Azu rose from his seat, approached the panoramic window. He peered into the nacreous clouds that huddled over the sharp peaks of a distant massif: a backdrop of poetic grandeur. In the near distance, little glassy passenger-pods swept to and fro like bubbles of refracted light while a technologically expanding city nestled in the valley far below. "I would have preferred a less open visit. Maurivar has a long history of insurgence. The King shares my concern."
"Concern for his Son, you mean." The young Jedi woman brushed her forehead, tidying a strand of her long auburn hair.
"The Jedi Council is monitoring any disturbances in The Force, and we too must be mindful and vigilant." The more experienced Jedi sounded pensive, his eyes drawn to the distant temple of his Order. "These are testing times, and not only for the Republic. Our Council is newly formed, and there is much opposition to the expanding Jedi role in Republic affairs. The Jedi are on trial as well as this fledgling democracy."
?And what about us?? Serna was compelled to speak more personally, but there was a hesitance in her soft voice, as if doing so breached a taboo.
"We..." Azu searched for the appropriate word, his masculine brow tensing, his eyes of blue focusing on the pretty female, "We are anomalies. Our special relationship is, on this occasion, useful to the Council, but we must accept that emotional attachment is undesirable. We must adapt. We must separate."
"Separate!" The word sounded so final.
"After this mission," continued Azu, "I will take my first Padawan and you will doubtless have your assignments."
The awkward silence persisted for some minutes, as if neither Jedi dared to speak more on the delicate matter. Their bond was strong, yet its very strength undermined a major Jedi tenet, more so for Jedi of standing, with examples to set -- to live by.
Azu's serious face humoured at the recall of a memory.
"What is it?" asked Serna, her cobalt eyes alighting like a child denied a gossip.
"You have certainly entered onto the very summit of Galactic affairs, Serna. My first assignment was a petty spice-miners dispute on Kessel."
"And did you provide mediation?" The gentle tease was a playful challenge to a famously unvanquished negotiator.
"After three months of stalemate we convinced both parties to sign a new agreement, though they are probably still haggling over the profits, and feeling equally aggrieved."
"This will be different Azu. The Republic will profit -- in immeasurable terms."
"I see your political teachings have not been in vain, Serna."
"There is more to Jedi training than surmounting the physical trials. You have taught me that. Or am I flattering my elder brother."
"Probably. But I have always been vulnerable to your charming ways."
"As I have to your wisdom."
Azu and Serna Kye smiled. Their smiles sanctifying the bond of brother and sister. A familial love that would be forsaken in service to the Jedi Order; and yet would remain cherished by the loyal siblings.
It was a truth beyond words.