Title: The Knight (Chapter 1-11/??)
Summary: When things go different than George plans a beautiful new tale is born. One of high adventure, narrow escapes... and and the discovery of the power of true love.
Author's Note: This story picks up at the part in "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" just after Theed has been captured. Okay, I streched Amidala's age a little... but as for Obi-Wan... the only real indication of his age in TPM is the novelization... which we all know can't be counted on for anything. So in this story Obi is 20... and he is in my world. :)
Age: Obi-Wan is 20, Amidala is 15
Spoilers: "The Phantom Menace"
Rating: I think PG-13 just to be really safe... because I am not exactly sure where this is going. But as Lao Tzu says, "A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving."
Feedback: Please! I want to know everything and anything that you have say!
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, George Lucas and all of his associated companies do. I am making absolutely no money for this, just having fun practicing writing skills. :)
Queen Amidala of the Naboo's mind was racing. The Trade Federation had taken control of Theed, the capitol of the planet. Foreseeing this move she had quickly changed identities with Sabe, a handmaiden who served as a decoy queen when needed.
Amidala had washed away the characteristic face paint and donned the orange, hooded robes of a handmaiden. For as long as the situation called for, she would be Padme, handmaiden to her royal highness.
Sabe put on the dark colors of the queen's mourning gown and headdress, the ghostly white face paint adding to her woeful appearance. As Padme watched Sabe dress she marveled at her courage; so much courage to protect just one person.
Amidala considered herself brave, she would do anything for her people. But it is different, she realized, when you do something for a thousand people, and when you do something for one. She vaguely wondered if she would ever need to risk her life for just one person.
Her thoughts were interrupted by Captain Panaka entering their chambers. "Our time is up," he said. The Neimoidians had been kind enough to allow the queen and her handmaidens time to change. Not that they could try anything, they would be searched immediately.
Sabe turned to Padme.
"How do I look?" She was trying to hide her nervousness.
"Like the queen of the Naboo," Padme offered with a smile. Both wore a sad expression as they hugged each other.
"We are brave," Sabe whispered. She took a deep breath to compose herself.
"Amidala," Captain Panaka nodded at Sabe, and gave a worried glance to Padme.
Amidala and the handmaidens were searched by scanning droids then proceeded down the staircase, followed by their unarmed guards. Governor Sio Bibble began speaking with the Neimoidians.
"How will you explain this invasion to the senate?"
"The queen and I will sign a treaty that will legitimize our occupation here. I have assurances it will be ratified by the senate," Nute Gunray, the lead Neimoidian stated.
"I will not cooperate," Amidala drew herself up.
"Now, now your highness. In time, the suffering of your people will persuade you to see our point of view."
Amidala did not respond. She remained stoic as Nute addressed a droid.
"Yes, Sir," was the robotic reply.
"Process them," he said with more than a little glee.
"Captain," the commander droid addressed another. "Take them to Camp Four."
"Roger, roger," replied the other droid.
As Padme passed she could see the disdainful look on Nute's face. She tried to look humble.
The group proceeded down the next flight of stairs that led to the beautiful palace courtyard. The shadows cast by the lovely statues seemed foreboding.
As the group herded by battle droids continued through the courtyard no one noticed the three shadowy figures in the open hallway above. Suddenly, two blurrs of brown and white dropped down in a dance of green and blue color. After a second Padme recognized the two blurrs to be humans... attacking their droid escort!
The battle, if it could even be called one, was over within seconds. A funny looking creature clumsily let go of the edge of the hallway and fell to the ground. Now that he commotion had stopped Padme could see that their rescuers were two men: one was tall and appeared older than the trim one with him. He spoke.
"We should leave the streets, your highness."
As Sio Bibble directed Sabe to a safe place, Panaka ordered his troops to get the now dismembered droids' weapons. The clumsy creature said something almost indecipherable about being "bombad."
Once in an alley the tall man introduced himself.
"We're ambassadors for the supreme chancellor."
"Your negotiations seem to have failed, ambassador," Sio Bibble snorted.
"The negotiations never took place," the ambassador explained. "It's urgent that we make contact with the republic."
"They've knocked out all our communications," Panaka informed him. The ambassador appeared to be quickly thinking something out.
"Do you have transports?"
"In the main hangar. This way," Panaka directed.
The ambassador and Panaka trotted off, leading the way. The younger ambassador hung back to follow behind the group. Padme kept her eyes on the queen. Sabe was doing well, she had easily fooled the Neimoidians so easily. She tried to stay as close to the queen as possible, but it was proving exceedingly difficult with that clumsy creature between them. Padme finally got a good look at him. He was a Gungan, one of the other species of her homeworld. She wondered what a Gungan was doing with ambassadors; Gungans didn't even communicate with the Naboo, let alone the senate.
Suddenly the tall ambassador had his weapon drawn and was using it to deflect laser shots coming from around the corner. Her majesty's guards quickly unsheathed their captured blasters and moved forward to protect the queen.
Padme could barely hear above all the commotion. The younger ambassador stood behind her, laser-sword drawn, watching for hostiles approaching from the rear.
"They've undoubtedly alerted the entire invasion force to our presence!" Panaka yelled while disarming a droid with one, clear shot to the control panel.
"Then we haven't much time! We must reach the hangar!" The ambassador was graceful as he deflected the laser shots in front of the queen. From Padme's perspective, Sio Bibble was hiding his head behind the queen.
"It's only a little ways ahead! I say we run for it!" Panaka said. The ambassador nodded and they looked to the queen. 'It's your call,' Padme thought.
The queen took a deep breath as she quickly looked around her. There wasn't much of a choice. She nodded her approval and the large man leapt out, moving fast as lightning, covering their escape route. "Go!" he shouted.
Panaka led Sio Bibble and the queen to the safety of another alley while guards flanked the handmaidens.
Before the large ambassador had time to warn them, three destroyer droids rolled onto the scene. He leapt as one fired a deadly missile. It hit the wall behind them, exploding on impact.
The missile had been fired just as Padme had begun to cross the open area. She immediately dropped to her knees and tucked them into her chest, covering her ears at the sound of the explosion.
The younger ambassador immediately saw the danger the explosion would cause and raced forward to pull the handmaiden away from the threat. He reached her just in time and pulled her back as the rubble began to fall.
The handmaiden and young ambassador ended up as a heap on the opposite side of the rubble as the rest of the group.
"Padawan!" Padme heard the tall ambassador yell. She climbed off of what she realized was the young ambassador's chest and he helped her to her feet.
"We're allright!" he yelled back. He turned to Padme, who was attempting to dust herself off. "Are you injured?" he quietly inquired.
"No," she shook her head. The young man glanced about, apparently trying to find another way to reach the rest of the group. Almost as if on cue, another large section of the hit building fell, concluding for him that there was no other way over the now mountain high debris.
"Padawan, we cannot reach you! We must continue on our own!" The tall man shouted once more.
"Take the queen to Coruscant! we'll be allright!" The young man called back. Padme, suddenly comprehending the full scope of their situation, opened her mouth to protest when laser fire erupted from the other side of the alley.
The young man's weapon was once more in his hand as he moved to protect the handmaiden. As he deflected shots with graceful skill he asked, "Where can we go?"
Padme's mind was racing.
"The streets are crawling with droids! There's nowhere safe! We have to get out of the city!"
The young man suddenly moved forward, turning the droids' own shots into their fatal blows. He quickly glanced up and down the cross-street at the end of the alley. They were safe for the moment. He turned to the handmaiden.
"Which way's out?"
The young man and the handmaiden were crouching in the foliage of the palace's flowering gardens. They stayed low as a platoon of droids marched by. Padme looked to the Jedi.
"Follow me," she whispered. They crawled to the garden wall. The Jedi looked around, then somersaulted into the air to land on the wall. He cautiously looked around once more. Padme smiled inside. He reminded her of a cat.
He put out his hand. "Come on," he whispered. She grabbed a hold and he lifted her up. They dropped on to the other side and jogged down a forest-litter covered hill, their footsteps barely audible.
There was the sound of rushing water ahead. Padme looked to the Jedi.
"There'll be search parties for us. We must get as far away from the city as possible."
The Jedi nodded then pointed.
"Let's go north."
As they traveled along the outside edge of the city walls they could hear the thundering of tanks scouring the city streets. They came to a glade and could hear water again.
Suddenly, the young Jedi stopped. There was something else... a sound almost drowned out by the gushing river. It was the sound of someone yelling.
Padme was watching the Jedi curiously. "What is
"Someone is in danger," his eyes searched the distance. The breeze slowed for a moment and Padme drew back her hood. She heard it then, if only for a second. It was a human scream.
The two looked at each other realizing they had the same intention, then began down the rocky landscape towards the cries for help. In this thick part of the forest nothing really dried out, and the rocks were proving to be very slippery. She silently thanked herself for telling all of her handmaidens to wear practical shoes, not their usual elegant slippers, for they could not know what to expect.
They stopped at the edge of the clearing, hidden in the trees to survey the scene below.
Three Naboo soldiers were pinned down in a laser fight with a few battle droids and a destroyer droid. The battle was taking place on a large ledge which also served as a drop-off for a water fall. The blaster fire could barely be heard above the rage of the rushing water.
"I have to help them," the Jedi said. He gestured to a few boulders down the waterfall and down the stream a few yards. "Hide there, I'll come back for you." He shrugged off his robe.
Padme began her climb down as the Jedi stealthily crept forward, unignited lightsaber at the ready. She slithered behind the rocks and hugged her back to them as she looked to the battle above.
The Jedi came up from behind the droids, lightsaber ignighted now. It would have been the perfect move if a droid that had hung back in the trees hadn't fired. The Jedi spun to deflect the bolt at the droid, but the others had already been alerted to his presence. At least he was distracting them. All of them.
The blaster fire intensified and he had to back up, toward the drop off.
Padme watched from below, suddenly worried. She felt like she had to do something- anything to help!
The soldiers ran for better cover as the Jedi ducked and rolled, twisted and turned to avoid getting hit.
The Jedi had three of the droids down when suddenly he was thrown to the ground. The air was full of fire for a moment, rock splinters the next. The destroyer droid had fired one of its missiles.
Padme strained her eyes, trying to see what had happened. As the dust started to clear she could see that the Jedi was climbing to his feet, still trying to deflect droid fire.
Just as he got to his feet there was another explosion. This time it threw the young Jedi off balance.
Padme's breath caught in her throat as she watched the Jedi fall. He landed hard on a half submerged rock. He gripped to the side as the waist-high water threatened to pull him in. The side he had landed on hurt terribly.
The ground next to Padme suddenly exploded and she was thrown to the rocky riverbank. She managed to catch herself in time not to be seriously injured. The destroyer droid had spotted her.
The Jedi let go of the rock, letting the water take him downstream, towards the handmaiden. He was able to latch on to another boulder by the bank. Padme crawled over as another explosion sent rock flying.
"We have to get out of here! Come on!" the Jedi stuck out his hand. Padme didn't hesitate and leapt into the cold, rushing water, grabbing his arm.
"We'll let the river take us! We have to stay together! Whatever you do, don't let go of my hand!" She rapidly nodded; already trying to stay above water was becoming difficult.
She took a breath as the Jedi did and he let go of the rock, the force of the water throwing them downstream.
Panic took over as Padme struggled to reach the surface. As soon as she did she hardly had time to gulp even a little air and a mouthful of water before she was pulled under again. She thrashed wildly with her legs and free arm, her other still holding onto the Jedi with a death grip.
The water was so cold, and her body was being pushed and pulled in so many directions. She was already becoming weak from wrestling with the torrent. She felt trapped as her robes tugged and wrapped around her, amplifying her sense of being a doll thrown about by the water. Every once in a while she would be jerked by the Jedi's body being pulled away from her.
Her back hit something that gave slightly. It was sand. She tried to put her feet down but it was useless. She couldn't tell up from down
anymore. The sound of the roaring above water was just as disorienting as the muffled thunder below.
Her body jerked as the river tried to carry her downstream but her hand was latched to something suddenly immobile. She felt herself being slowly pulled against the current towards the Jedi. He had somehow managed to grip a rock.
She fought the water that was being forced down her throat and gasped for air. She reached out and grabbed rock, then able to help pull herself up.
The Jedi grabbed both of her arms now, hoisting her out of the water. She was dropped onto the sand of the riverbank, panting heavily. Wisps of hair that had become loose from her once neatly braided hair now stuck to her wet face.
She became aware of how weak she was and how heavy her robes felt as she rolled to her side to see the Jedi. He was laying on his back a few feet away, also trying to catch his breath. What she realized was blood mixing easily with water stained his tunic by his left shoulder and chest. She wanted to crawl over to him, to see how badly he was injured, but she did not yet have the strength.
He closed his eyes for a moment then turned his head to look at her. He could read the weary gratitude and worry in her soft brown eyes.
The warm sun never felt so good. After a few minutes she crawled over to the Jedi as he was beginning to sit up. Without needing to explain she pushed back back his tunic to examine his wound. A piece of rock had caught him. Nothing remained in the wound, thanks to the water, and it wasn't terribly deep. It was a flesh wound, major damage only to the muscle.
She reached inside her robe as the Jedi attempted to examine the injury himself. Just as she had worn conventional footwear, she had grabbed a small med pack that she hid in an inside pocket. It didn't contain much, just a few compressed gauze and bandages, along with an antibiotic pill to fight infection. She was grateful she had snagged it.
"Here," she pressed some gauze to the injury. "Hold that there." She unwound some of the sticky ended bandage and taped it in place.
"You better not try to use that arm, there's visible muscle damage."
"I noticed," the Jedi replied, wincing a bit at the pain that was
caused when he slightly moved his left arm.
The two got to their feet, their strength returning to an extent. Padme looked up river.
"They'll be looking for us,"
The Jedi squinted upriver in the sunlight.
"You'll need to take this," she handed him the antibiotic. He looked at it for a moment then pulled something out of a small canister in his belt.
"Here," he muttered as he walked down to the water. Padme looked at the pill he had just handed her.
"What is it?"
"It's so you can drink the water without getting sick. I know you're not going to like it, but we're going to have to drink all that we can before we continue."
She sighed as she trudged back over to the water. She popped the pill in her mouth and bent to scoop some water.
After they were done drinking she turned curiously to the Jedi, who was poking at his bandage.
"Who are you?" She asked.
The surprised Jedi hurried to answer. "Jedi apprentice to Master
"I knew that," she cut him off. "Who are you?" she asked with more
emphasis this time. "What's your name?"
The Jedi looked momentarily embarrassed. "I am Obi-Wan Kenobi."
She extended her hand. "I'm Padme Naberrie."
Obi-Wan showed the slightest bit of amusement as he shook her hand. "It's a pleasure." They both laughed. After all that had happened to them so far it seemed funny that they didn't even know each other's names.
"Well, Miss Padme Naberrie," Obi-Wan said, looking to the sun. "We best get going."
Padme and Obi-Wan tried to stay in the sun as they began into the woods again, drying their clothes. After a few hours, they came to a small glade of ferns. Padme sat down on a log.
"Let's make camp," she sighed.
Obi-Wan just nodded. Both were becoming exhausted from the day's
ordeal. As he wandered off to find some wood to try and start a fire with, Padme began clearing away the ferns in front of the log.
Obi-Wan returned and they were able to light a small fire.
It was becoming dark as they sat on the log and sleepily gazed into the fire.
"I'm hungry," Padme poked the fire with a stick. Obi-Wan looked at her squarely.
"Really hungry?" he asked somewhat playfully.
Padme didn't know how to answer. "Yes."
"Allright," he sighed as he pulled something out of a compartment on his belt. He handed her a small package of something gooey. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
"Why? What is it?" She asked suspiciously.
He shrugged. "Food."
After glaring at him for a moment she ripped open the top of the
package. She kept her eyes on the Jedi as she sniffed, then tentatively
tasted the contents.
"Hm. It's not so bad."
Obi-Wan kept his eyes on her. She gave him a defiant look as she tilted her head back and squeezed the rest of the contents into her mouth.
"Uck!" She squeezed her eyes shut as the foul taste suddenly
intensified. She forced herself to swallow the disgusting slop and tried not to gag.
Obi-Wan was clearly amused. "Ha hah," he snickered as he threw another stick into the fire. Padme coughed and wiped her mouth. Her eyes were watering as she turned to him.
"What was that?" she chocked out.
"Everything your body needs for a day," he shrugged.
"Ugh," she stared queasily into the fire, holding her stomach.
Obi-Wan smiled. "Try living off that stuff for a week." She turned to him, amazed.
"I got lost in the Borillian Swamps once. Actually, after about three days I started eating bugs of my own free will."
"I believe it," her voice was clearly disgusted. After a moment of
thought she asked, "You're not hungry?"
"Nope," he climbed off the log and stretched out on the ground. "I'm holding out until I start considering you a meal."
He was inexplicably hit by a pine cone.
Padme scooted off the log also. She rested her head back on it as they looked at the stars visible through the trees. After a peaceful silence she looked at her hands.
"So what's your story?"
He looked at her. "My story?"
"How does one become a Jedi?"
Obi-Wan looked into the fire.
"I was brought to the Jedi Temple when I was an infant. I became Master Qui-Gon's Padawan when I was 13."
"What do you mean, 'that's it'?"
"Well... it just sounds so boring."
"Having Qui-Gon as your Master is anything BUT boring."
"How is that?" she giggled.
Obi-Wan shrugged. "I don't know. As soon as you think you know him there's a whole other story to be discovered."
Padme smiled. They gazed quietly into the fire for a moment.
"I wonder if they're allright," he wondered out loud.
Padme didn't want to think of what it would be like if they weren't allright. The thought of all those close to her, Sabe, Panaka, even Sio Bibble dying needlessly for what they thought was the queen. She didn't know if she'd be able to live with herself. How would her people view her then? As the cowardice Amidala who ran and hid when her people needed her most. 'That is what I'm doing' she thought.
For the first time she wanted to tell the Jedi sitting across the fire that she was the queen. But she knew it would be useless in the least.
"Where do you think they are?" she ventured.
"Coruscant, hopefully. With Qui-Gon and the security forces that were with the queen when we were separated they undoubtedly reached the hangar."
"There's a blockade surrounding the planet," she said grimly.
"They made it through."
His certainty caught her off guard.
"How can you be so sure?"
"I would have felt it if they died."
They both stared gloomily into the fire, lost in thought. 'Geeze,'
Padme thought, 'what have I done?' Sabe had been with Amidala at every
conference, she knew what Amidala's plan was if the situation called for it. If they made it to the senate, she'd just have to trust Sabe.
"So," the Jedi interrupted her thoughts, clearing his throat. "What's your story? How is the life of a handmaiden?"
"I come from the same village as the queen. When she was elected, she chose me personally as a handmaiden," she lied. "I am happy to serve the queen. I was ready when she choose me, for my parents had known for some time."
Obi-Wan was a little confused. "Didn't you have a choice?"
"My parents were farmers, it was a great honor," she intertwined some of her real past.
"Maybe we're not that different," he quietly said. Like the handmaiden, he never really had the choice to be a Jedi or not. After having been raised in the Temple he knew nothing different. He would be lost if he tried to make his way in the galaxy after having been trained so specifically for one purpose. Just as Jedi could leave the Order at their leisure, so could a handmaiden, but for both leaving would mean becoming an outcast. If not in the eyes society, in their own hearts.
Of course the choice had to be present at all times; things just
weren't done in the old ways anymore. But in reality neither had a choice if they wanted self-respect.
Hearing Obi-Wan's honest words, Padme felt terrible. She was lying. She wasn't really like this Jedi at all. Yet she still felt some sort of bond between them, as mysterious as it felt.
Shyly Obi-Wan looked at Padme. "Do you ever get to see your parents?"
She looked at him, then slowly shook her head. After a few more seconds of silence she asked, "Do you?"
"No. I'm not even supposed to remember them." His voice was quiet. "But I do."
Padme gazed into the fire as another gloomy silence began. After
several minutes she heard a crack in the nearby brush. She and Obi-Wan
looked at each other.
As he slowly drew his lightsaber he whispered. "Are there any dangerous animals at night?"
Padme's mind raced, trying to remember the many lectures she had
attended on Naboo's wildlife. There had been a segment on the forest
wildlife of Theed.
"The tusk-cat. They feed at night." she could hear her voice quivering. She scooted over to Obi-Wan and they both peered over the log, intently searching the darkness. There was a slight rustling ahead to the right.
She grabbed his shoulder, careful of his injury. They crouched in the silence, their breath clouding in front of their faces. Obi-Wan's good arm held his lightsaber ready.
As the bushes rustled suddenly beside the log to the right Obi-Wan
ignited his lightsaber. The two jumped as the startled animal squealed and ran past. Padme saw what the creature was in the combined light of the fire and lightsaber. Her body relaxed and she closed her eyes and laughed as she sat back. Obi-Wan, however, was still tense, taking in short, quick breaths, body waiting to use the released adrenaline. He searched the darkness, keeping an eye on the direction the animal had disappeared in.
"Obi-Wan," her voice was colored with relief and amusement. "It was only a mott. They're harmless, they only eat plants."
He looked at her for a moment, his body calming down and his breathing slowing.
"Only plants," she repeated, smiling at the thought of the pig/cow-like creature they had just encountered.
"Only plants?" Obi-Wan smiled and sighed as he shook his head. He
switched off his blade. "Let's get some rest."
Padme was still laughing inside as she pulled her hood up and lay down to sleep.
Obi-Wan lay down and closed his eyes, lightsaber gripped by his good hand.
Padme awoke in the early grays of dawn. She sat up, feeling an ache in her neck from sleeping in an awkward position. The fire was now charred wood and ashes. She looked across to where Obi-Wan had slept.
He was gone.
She stood, looking about the woods and their camp. She could see no trace of him. She pulled back her hood to listen. Nothing, save the birds beginning to stir.
She decided it was best to wait before jumping to conclusions. She used a stick to turn over a log in the fire, exposing it's warm underbelly. She lay on top of it some dry leaves and blew lightly. After a few minutes of adding leaves and blowing she had a fire going.
She sighed as she poked at it and looked around. Not only was she
hungry again, but her thirst was making her terribly uncomfortable, her Jedi was gone, and the fate of her planet was in the hands of her handmaiden.
She jumped as water from out of nowhere doused the fire. Obi-Wan walked by and threw her a pouch full of water, which she barely caught in her lap.
"We're being followed."
"I was careless, we left a trail. Come on." He began to walk into the woods.
"Who could be following us? Droids wouldn't be able to make it this far into the woods-"
"It isn't droids. Probably hunters hired from among your queen's
people. Or worse, bounty hunters from off-planet."
"Did you see them?"
"They're camped over that ridge," he gestured to the right. Padme
looked in the direction he had pointed.
"Wha... you were there?"
"How'd you know?"
"I had a feeling."
"You 'had a feeling'? You mean you left me alone last night in the
woods for gods know how long to go exploring all the way over there because you 'had a feeling'?!" She yelled as she angrily pointed in the direction of the ridge.
"Keep your voice down," he snapped. "Stay off the dirt where you can. Don't break any branches or ferns. Don't leave a trail of any kind."
Amidala did not like it when people ordered her around. But she was not Amidala, as she was constantly reminding herself. She was Padme. So she bit her tongue, but couldn't help being angry that a Jedi left a queen completely defenseless in the forest at night, even though he had no idea that she was the queen.
As if reading her thoughts the Jedi said, "All you were doing was
sleeping. I considered leaving you with my lightsaber, but you seem to be able to handle yourself fairly well on your own."
She angrily matched his pace and fingered the leather pouch.
"Where did you get this?"
"There's a settlement a few miles ahead. Drink up, we're leaving it where I found it when we get there."
Padme was finding this Jedi to be exceedingly difficult.
After passing an hour in silence they reached a small, river front
"Stay out of the mud," Obi-Wan muttered as they approached. He climbed the stairs and swung open the door. Padme lingered on the porch for a moment.
It felt strange to be just walking into someone else's house so easily.
She slowly entered, feeling the eerie stillness that had settled on the homestead. Even the people who lived in the woods, who seemed so far away from politics, and the concerns of the galaxy, had been rounded up and taken to camps.
"Here," Obi-Wan reached out. Padme took off the now empty pouch from her shoulder and handed it to him. He took it in his left arm and hung it on it's peg by the door.
"You're using you arm," she observed with some surprise.
"All Jedi are schooled in Force healing. I've never been very good at it, but I did what I could."
She nodded slightly, her attention being drawn to the many things in the cabin that made it a "home." It was as if the people who had lived in it just disappeared in the middle of their lives.
She walked over to a cradle and looked at the small doll left in it.
"Why do we have to leave the water sacks?" she asked.
Obi-Wan was allready standing in the doorway. "If the trackers came here they'd notice they were gone. It would be a tell-tale sign of our passing."
She looked at the set places at the dinner table.
"Come on," Obi-Wan said softly. "Let's go."
Padme was very quiet as they continued through the woods. They stopped to rest in a clearing where the sun shone gaily through the pine boughs.
She looked at her tattered robes. She didn't know how much longer she could stand trekking around the planet. If only there was a way she could communicate with Sabe! She desperately wanted to know her handmaiden's progress. She absolutely hated feeling helpless... and she hated the Trade Federation for putting her and her planet in such a position. Even if the senate listened to Sabe's plea, it could take weeks for them to act. She'd have to take matters into her own hands.
She looked at the Jedi. He seemed concerned. She suddenly wondered why she was putting so much trust in him. For the time being he seemed to know what he was doing. But looking at him now, in thought, he seemed so young, so unsure. For the first time, it seemed, she realized that he was human, and probably just as scared and troubled as she was.
The golden sun tinted his hair red as he looked off into the distance, standing on the edge of a large cliff.
She moved to him.
The wind blew wisps of her hair as she looked around at the beautiful landscape stretching before them. The treetops below were every shade of green seeming to flow into one, stretching forever. She could make out the silver of water in the distance, at times sparkling in less wooded areas. It was so peaceful, so naturally perfect and detailed that she could stay there all day, and in the shifting light of time never tire of its beauty. It made her feel so small, and if only for a moment, everything felt right. Everything here had a place: the plants, animals, forces of nature. Everything in this world existed for a reason, and no place was small in the scheme of this land with it's own majestic rules. 'We all have a place, too.'
She looked at the Jedi again. He seemed lost. Whether they be Jedi and queen, warrior and war lord, peasant and noble woman, they were still just two people, no matter how it sometimes felt.
Without thought, she grabbed his hand. He turned his troubled eyes
toward her. She met them with the pure determination and perseverance that she now felt.
She squeezed his hand, "It's going to be allright."
His eyes reflected the sudden confusion that had rose within. He
continued to look at her for a moment, searching her eyes as if searching her soul, trying to understand her intricate self that was a web of emotions.
He gave a weak smile, then turned his gaze back to the lush life
stretching below them.
Holding his hand, and knowing that he didn't object, she felt even more at peace. She felt warm inside as she slowly rested her head on his shoulder. She felt so safe, so sure; she couldn't remember what it was like to feel out of place.
She wished the moment would never end.
Obi-Wan surveyed the cliff-face. It was a steep drop, they'd have to find another way to reach the forests below. Padme followed closely as as he made his way along the cliff-edge, constantly looking for a way down.
The wind was cold, and his hands were becoming numb, making it
difficult to grip tree roots when necessary.
He found his mind wandering. Somehow, feelings that had been only
slightly disturbing whispers had become clear. He knew his emotions were distracting him, but he couldn't push them aside, he did not want to.
He didn't need to look behind him; he could hear Padme's shoes scuffing against the dirt and rock as she followed. In a way the sounds were reassuring. Yet for some reason he was growing weary. He was getting a sinking feeling in his stomach. He attempted to calm his many different emotions and listen to what was wrong, but he could not grasp it.
As he focused more of his attention inward he lost precious seconds of reaction time and was not fast enough to avoid the blaster shot that hit his side. He instantly lost his footing.
"Obi-Wan!" Padme screamed in horror as she watched the Jedi slide and disappear over the cliff side. She froze as her body filled with adrenaline. She dropped to her knees as laser fire was directed towards her. She felt a wild panic as she realized that there was nowhere she could go to escape. She felt her body begin to shake as she looked at the cliff-face. She turned her gaze to the forest slightly above and could just make out approaching figures.
She looked to where Obi-Wan had fallen. With a sudden resolution half born out of impulse, she clung to a tree root as she swung her legs over the edge. With one final look towards her pursuers who had just begun to reach the cliff-edge, she let go.
She slid, rapidly gaining speed. The rocks bruised and scraped her as her body flew downward. She heard blaster fire erupting once more from above. She dug her boot toes into the rock and sand, desperately trying to slow her descent.
Her heart raced as her body suddenly lifted off the face some, sending her off the thickest part.
Before she had the chance to hit the side again, her arm jerked
painfully as her body stopped.
She closed her eyes as dust and rock flew into her face. After a few seconds she opened her eyes to look up.
Obi-Wan had caught her forearm and gripped an outcropping with his
other hand. She moved her hand to grasp his forearm, tightening their link. Their eyes were locked. Padme moved her other arm to grab his. She took a quick, deep breath and gritted her teeth as she pulled herself up. She grabbed his shoulders, knuckles white as she latched tightly to the fabric of his tunic.
He used both arms to half pull them onto the outcropping. As soon as she could, Padme pulled herself up, then turned to help Obi-Wan.
They sat, smudged faces turned toward each other. Padme felt tears
spilling onto her cheeks as her heart rapidly pounded.
She never realized how much emotion one's eyes could convey until she looked into Obi-Wan's that day.
Without an explanation to herself, without needing an explanation, she reached out to hold him. He squeezed his eyes shut as he hugged her back. He rested his head on hers as he recognized the warmth of tears running down his cheeks.
Padme hid her face in his shoulder, never wanting to let go. After a long while, she slowly pulled back.
They searched each other's faces for a moment. His eyes seemed to tell her that he was allright, so she didn't ask.
They could hear bits of muffled conversation going on above. After a few moments of intent listening in silence, Padme spotted their pursuers beginning to explore the cliff-side on the far left.
The Jedi was leaning his head against the outcropping wall.
She turned to him. "We have to go, they're looking for us."
She turned and began to crawl, the thick part of the cliff serving as cover from above.
Obi-Wan began to move. He moaned and winced, grabbing his side. Padme turned to him, worried. She stole a glance at their pursuers, who appeared to be arguing about something. She placed her hand on his arm.
He took a deep breath and used his elbows to pull himself. Padme kept crawling. They just needed to get a few yards away, to where the outcropping sloped and vegetation covered the hillside. They needed to get out of sight.
She slipped over the edge and grabbed Obi-Wan's shoulders as he
painfully rolled onto his back. She helped him over the side. He leaned
against a small, weathered pine.
She looked over the edge of the outcropping and across to their
attackers. Their argument was rapidly escalating. She could make out three men, all armed with blasters. Two began gesturing to each other
aggressively. The man uphill suddenly drew his blaster and shot the other. Fear rose as she watched the man fall like a rag doll, tumbling down the cliff-face. The third man, apparently angered by the second man's actions, rudely shoved him. The second man shoved back, and before he knew it, the third man had kicked his feet out from under him. The second man tumbled down the cliff-face a ways and miraculously caught onto the root of a long-gone tree. As the third man scrambled for a better view of the second man, Padme turned away. She had seen enough. They HAD to get out of there.
Shakily, she turned to to the Jedi who was watching her weakly. He was perspiring and still breathing faster than he normally would.
"Can you walk?" Her eyes were pleading. He reached out for support as he tried to stand. She grabbed his arm and he gritted his teeth and winced as he stood.
"Okay," she muttered under her breath as she put his arm around her shoulders. She glanced about quickly, hoping she had missed an easier way down. No. The only way they could make it was through the tall brush.
"Here we go," she whispered as they began their descent. The right side of her ribcage and her left shin hurt terribly but she recognized the pain as only bruised muscle and bone.
As they began to push their way through the bushes, she heard a single blaster shot. The third man had undoubtedly shot the second.
Seeing those men kill so easily without hesitation made her feel a
power she had never known. It was a primal fear that ran through her veins now. She knew that she was not running from some faceless village hunter, but a cold blooded bounty hunter who's first nature was obviously to kill. It was different. There were no rules now. No unwritten laws of society to protect them. This man, if he could be called one, played by his own ruthless rules.
Carrying on with an unknown ancient strength that had risen from the darkest shallows of human instinct, she bared the extra weight from Obi-Wan, and pushed tirelessly ahead. As they reached more level grounds she realized that they were entering the lush ocean of green they had seen from above.
Obi-Wan's step was becoming slower and Padme was bearing more of his weight than before. She slowed and stopped next to a large tree, helping him to the ground. He lay his head on the carpet of leaves and winced slightly at the pain of movement.
Padme felt his cheek. He was burning up. There was nothing she could do to help him. She grabbed his hand and he looked at her.
Both of their faces were strained with the pain of worry. He reached up to touch her cheek as she held back tears. She held his hand to her cheek as she leaned into his touch.
His eyes shone with love. "Padme. You have to keep going. I'll only slow you down. You must leave me."
The tears fell now. She began to cry. "No," she replied softly. "No, I'll never leave you." She spoke what was in her heart. Before he had a chance to argue, she began looking about for a sheltered place to hide. She spotted an area that was partially enclosed by brush. Tall fern-like plants grew everywhere, it would be easy to hide among them.
She turned back to him. "We can hide." She helped him to his feet and they stumbled over to her chosen area. Obi-Wan lay down on the leaves once more while Padme settled next to him. She prayed that the bounty hunter thought they were dead. If he was smart he'd find another way to the base of the cliff to look for their bodies. When he didn't find them, it was only a matter of time until he came to this grove.
Padme ran her fingers through Obi-Wan's short hair as he tried to sleep in the comfort of her arms. While he had been in a healing trance earlier, she had wrapped his side with strips of soft fabric from her white slip. He had only been able to lower his fever.
He looked up at Padme. Her eyes searched the dark forest, now crested silver by the ancient moon. She slowly shifted her gaze to his. They looked at each other for a moment.
"Padme," he began, but she looked away, not wanting to hear what she knew he was going to say.
"Padme," he repeated, his voice soft. "When the first rays of the sun are visible, you must leave."
Her defiant eyes continued to search the darkness, unseeing.
"Padme," his voice was a bit stronger this time, pleading for her to look at him.
A long moment later, blue met brown.
"I am dying." She saw the truth in his eyes, but she didn't want to believe him.
"You must live," he continued. "No matter what happens. Gods, Padme, life is a precious thing. Don't you waste it." Tears slid down her cheeks as his voice trembled. "Keep the sun to your left in the morning, your right after noon," he paused, looking into her sorrow filled eyes. He felt his own tears now, and he slightly shook his head. "I don't want to leave you Padme," he touched her cheek. "But you must carry on. You will survive."
It was the truth more than he knew. She had more than just her life to save, but the lives of thousands. However, at this moment, only one life was important to her. Now she knew what it was like, to feel the greatest power in the galaxy.
"I will come back for you," she'd never felt such resolve. "And no
matter what happens," she paused to fight back her sorrow some so that she could speak. "Part of you will always live in me. You'll never be alone."
Her sorrow seemed suddenly lifted as she was lost in the beautiful blue eyes of her rescuer, her savior, her knight.
Without thinking, she bent forward. Their lips met. For a few beautiful minutes, the rest of the world faded away, and all she felt was the warmth of love.
"Never alone," she repeated, her voice a whisper.
Padme drank thirstily from the cool, clear water of a stream. Daylight was beginning to penetrate the forest.
Obi-Wan had finally fallen asleep and she didn't dare wake him.
She had been lucky to find a stream. If it had taken a few minutes
longer, she would have turned back. The water felt so good. She wished she had some way to carry water back to Obi-Wan.
She cautiously made her way back, eyes dancing over everything. At any slight rustle she was prepared to run or hide, fearful of the man she had seen on the cliff- was it really just yesterday?
She peered over the ferns to where she had left Obi-Wan as she
approached. Not seeing him right away, she began to run, hoping she'd looked in the wrong place. Scuffed leaves marked where they had stayed the night before.
She unconsciously held her breath as she searched the forest in all directions, hoping to find him.
Hearing a metallic click, she slowly turned around to see the man from the cliff walk out from behind a bush pushing forward a stumbling Obi-Wan, blaster pressed against his temple.
"Hello there, Pretty," he said as he kneed the Jedi in the back,
causing him to fall to his knees.
Even in his weak state, Obi-Wan had put up a fight, as was visible by the dried blood on his right temple. He looked at Padme, his eyes telling her how sorry he was. Sorry that he could not protect her. Sorry that he could not help her. Sorry that he had failed her.
As she stepped forward, the bounty hunter twisted Obi-Wan's arm behind his back even more, using his blaster barrel to put pressure on the Jedi's head, showing that he was prepared to kill.
"I wouldn't move, if I were you." The man had sandy blond hair and a scar that ran by his left eye. His icy blue eyes shone in tormented delight.
Obi-Wan seemed to be able to see his face. "If you hurt her, I'll-"
The man quickly hit him on the side of the head with the butt of his blaster. The blow sent the young Jedi to the ground.
"You'll what?" he laughed.
Padme couldn't move. Her mind raced through her possibilities.
"I asked you a question, boy!" He kicked Obi-Wan on his injured side and the Padawan yelped in pain.
Hot anger suddenly rose in the handmaiden. She knew that by giving into this anger she would loose her ability to think logically and act on impulse. She didn't care. As the bounty hunter sneered and prepared for another vicious kick, Padme yelled.
"Don't!" her voice echoed in the eerie stillness that seemed to have settled on the forest.
The dark man stopped and cocked his head curiously at her. "Don't?" he looked at her for another long moment. "I'd shoot you now if I didn't have orders to do otherwise." His cold eyes shone with anger. "You, on the other hand," he roughly pulled Obi-Wan back onto his knees by his collar. He pointed his blaster at the weak and injured Jedi. "I can kill you whenever it pleases me."
He turned back to Padme. "Unfortunately, I have to take you back to the palace. Mr. Gunray has some questions for you on the whereabouts of the queen."
Her eyes were still glued to Obi-Wan. "Pathetic being" he muttered
under his breath as he holstered his blaster and pulled out an electro-jabber. "I've never bagged me a Jedi before."
Padme's eyes widened in horror as she realized that the sinister man before her planned on torturing the young Jedi to death.
"I'm going to enjoy this," he smiled wickedly as he released his hold on the Jedi and activated the electro-jabber, aiming for Obi-Wan's heart.
Padme was frozen in terror and her muscles tensed, ready to run, at the man or away from him she did not know. Obi-Wan was prepared to fight until the end. He gathered his strength as he prepared to elbow the bounty hunter wherever he could when a blaster shot sounded and the bounty hunter staggered forward. He looked at Padme, eyes wild with fear and surprise as he fell to the ground. Dead.
The handmaiden looked up to see captain Panaka standing across the
clearing, blaster raised. Obi-Wan was able to weakly turn around before
steadying himself by falling on his right leg.
After a small moment of shock, Panaka raced across the clearing to the weary handmaiden, two of his guards not far behind. One on them yelled something that became slurred into an incomprehensible moan in Obi-Wan's barely conscious mind.
Taking in her filthy and bruised appearance, Panaka put his hands on the handmaidens shoulders. "Are you all right?!" He touched her face and she slowly nodded, her mind slowed by the shock of what had just happened.
The queen and the tall Jedi appeared around the corner. Her majesty stopped at the edge of the clearing, taking in the scene.
"Padawan!" the older Jedi shouted as he raced to his shaking
In what seemed like a blur of bodies, motion, and shouts, the real
world came crashing down on Padme. She tried to look to Obi-Wan. Through the shifting bodies she could get a glimpse of him. His master was kneeling in front of him, but the young Jedi's attention was trying to focus on her. Before she knew it she was being pushed away by the many prodding hands, away from Obi-Wan. She tried to see him, but Panaka and the guards were in the way, asking her countless questions, none of which she was even paying attention to. The "queen" was suddenly before her and she came back to herself. The two looked at each other for a moment, then fell into a relieved hug.
Obi-Wan had been trying to look through the the sudden wave of people and noises that had invaded his mind to see Padme. "Padawan." He could hear his master's voice saying his name. "Padawan!" He slowly turned to Qui-Gon. He could read the concern in his master's face. His hand was on Obi-Wan's cheek, trying to bring the boy's apparently wandering mind back to him. Qui-Gon's intent stare searched his apprentice's face. "Obi-Wan?"
He locked eyes with his master for a moment, then fell to his side as he lost consciousness.
Sabe led Padme into the queen's suite of the royal Nubian starship. As soon as the door swished closed behind them, Padme turned to Sabe.
"What happened?" her face was intent.
Sabe sighed. "We made it to the senate," she looked at Padme, as if trying to decide what to tell her next.
"And?" the handmaiden stretched the word.
"And they didn't listen."
Padme let out an exasperated sigh and quickly turned around.
"They wanted to send a party to investigate our claims!"
The handmaiden spun around. "What?! Those pig-headed pompuses!"
"So I called for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Vallorum,"
Sabe's gaze was steady. Padme's frustrated face softened. "Senator
Palpatine has been nominated. He feels strongly that he will win."
Padme sat down on the couch, rapidly calculating their situation and choices. Recognizing what she was doing, Sabe sat down next to her and offered helpful information.
"The Jedi Master doesn't know," Padme looked up. "He was visiting his Jedi Temple while I was with the senate. I told the senate that I spoke on your behalf, and that perilous circumstances kept you from coming before them yourself. He still believes that I am the queen."
"As does the other," Padme's voice trailed off.
Sabe sympathetically put her hand on Padme's arm. "Look," she began. "You've been through a lot. Why don't you wash up? Panaka has assured me that we can remain here undetected for some time."
"Okay," Padme sighed. The idea of a warm bath sounded more than
Just as he stood there was a soft knock on the door. One of the other handmaidens answered it and Panaka peeked in.
"Just wanted to see if you were alright," he looked across the room to Padme.
She smiled reassuringly. "I'm fine." He began to pull his head back when Padme decided that she could no longer hold such a burning question inside of her.
"Wait," Panaka stuck his head back in. "How is Obi-Wan?"
Panaka looked slightly confused. "Who?"
"The Jedi that I was with," she didn't pay much attention to her
irritation at her head of security for not even knowing the name of the man who had saved her life.
"He's in the infirmary. Last I heard he was doing okay. I'm heading there now."
Panaka smiled then left.
The first sense of consciousness he had was slurred voices. Then the celling came into focus. He waited a moment for his eyes to adjust, then slowly turned his head in the direction of the voices. His side and head no longer throbbed and his body felt the peacefulness that only comes from drugs.
The two figures came into focus a few moments later. They were talking quietly across from him. He recognized one to be his master, the other to be one of the queen's guards.
When the darker man noticed the young Jedi peering at them he stopped talking. Qui-Gon looked at him curiously for a moment, then followed his gaze to his apprentice.
"Look who's awake," the guard chuckled. Qui-Gon moved to kneel by his padawan.
"How do you feel?"
"Relaxed," Obi-Wan found his voice quiet. Qui-Gon and the guard
laughed. He stepped forward.
"I'm Captain Panaka, head of her majesty's royal security." He put his hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder. "We are truly indebted to you. You have the thanks of her majesty and her entire military force."
Obi-Wan smiled and inclined his head in modest acceptance.
Panaka tipped his hat to Qui-Gon. "I better be going."
The Jedi Master nodded and Panaka left. Qui-Gon turned to his padawan.
"You did well Obi-Wan. I am proud of you."
A compliment from his master was worth all that he had been through, and Obi-Wan found that he was unsure as to how to respond.
Qui-Gon pulled the blanket up further. "Why don't you try to get some sleep?"
Obi-Wan nodded and relaxed into a comfortable position. As he closed his eyes Qui-Gon patted him on the shoulder then left the room, the lights dimming slightly behind him.
Padme buckled the belt of her handmaiden outfit. She looked to Sabe who was dressed as a queen going into battle. The other two handmaidens wore outfits and their hair almost identical to Padme's.
She would continue her charade, but didn't know for how much longer. Now it was time to put her plan for saving her planet into action.
"Panaka," the head of security turned to face her. "Make sure that Jar Jar and the Jedi are ready.
"Apparently she believes they have a formidable army," Qui-Gon looked a bit unsure.
"Still, she can't hope to defeat the Trade Federation," the padawan pulled on his boots.
"She may be young, buy she is wise beyond her years. We will have to trust her for now. Are you sure you're up for it?"
Obi-Wan nodded. He felt rested and his healing blaster wound no longer pained him, thanks to bacta ointment and painkiller. There was a soft knock on the door. The two Jedi looked at each other questioningly.
"Come in," Qui-Gon yelled.
A small boy stood hesitantly in the doorway.
"Ah, Anakin. Please, come in." The sandy-haired boy purposefully avoided eye-contact with Obi-Wan and went straight to Qui-Gon. The Jedi master couldn't help but chuckle at the boy's nervousness at being in a room with his apprentice. He patted the boy on the back reassuringly.
"Anakin Skywalker, meet Obi-Wan Kenobi."
Obi-Wan tried to hide his surprised expression and extended his hand. A shy grin spread across Anakin's face as he shook the young Jedi's hand.
"Anakin helped us when we really needed a friend," he chuckled as he affectionately ruffled the boy's hair. He knew he owed Obi-Wan a better explanation for the boy's presence on their mission, but that would have to come when Anakin wasn't in the room.
Panaka waltzed in, "Gentlemen," he nodded.
Anakin looked expectantly at Qui-Gon. He rose and the boy followed. Obi-Wan trailed behind his master.
The two Jedi and young boy met up with the rest of the group outside of the ship.
Padme watched as the young Jedi walked down the ramp behind his master. He appeared to have recovered well. When he stole a glance in her direction she looked down, pretending to be busy checking her gun.
As soon as the Jedi set foot on the litter-covered ground the team set off, following Jar Jar Binks. The procession walked quietly through the forest. Jar Jar appeared to be having a bit of trouble navigating seeing as Padme was sure they had passed the same spot twice, but she said nothing. Although he was clumsy, she felt that she could count on him when the situation called for it.
"Weesa here," their gungan escort announced as they arrived at the edge of a large lake. "Meesa goin' undawata' now, okiday?"
Amidala nodded her approval and Jar Jar waded into the water and disappeared. She let out a deep sigh. Everything was so uncertain. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Qui-Gon walking past, followed by his obedient padawan. She fingered her intricate sleeve, trying to pretend that she did not notice his presence. 'Why am I acting like this?'
Obi-Wan followed his master until they stopped a few meters away from the group. He waited patiently for his master to speak, gazing out at the waterline.
Qui-Gon took a deep breath. "I am proud of you, Obi-Wan." The young man shifted his gaze to his master's face. "You did well under strenuous circumstances. Your actions and your courage honor the Jedi way," he put his hand on his padawan's shoulder. Obi-Wan smiled.
"I acted as any Jedi would," his attempt to humble himself as was common made Qui-Gon laugh.
"You just can't take a compliment, can you?"
Surprised by his master's remark, Obi-Wan found himself laughing. A few moments later Qui-Gon let out a contented sigh and squeezed his Padawan's shoulder affectionately. "A Jedi to the bone," he said distantly, and a bit melancholy as he shook his head slightly. Watching Qui-Gon's distant gaze Obi-Wan's smile faded as he wondered what was going on inside the Jedi's mind. He let his mind play with what Qui-Gon might be remembering, or thinking of.
The sound of moving water pronounced Jar Jar's return. As he trudged up the bank he shook his head, letting out a goofy sound, "Theresa nobody dere. Da Gungan City is deserted. Some kindda' fight meesa thinks."
Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon had moved back to the group. "Do you think they've been taken to the camps?" the young apprentice offered.
Padme tried to remain unmoved by the sudden recognition of the cultured voice. Why was she so afraid that someone would notice how she felt about the young Jedi? The compromising of her two separate halves, Padme and Amidala was becoming exceedingly difficult. She would have to let the secret out soon, she couldn't live with her two conflicting characters much longer.
"More likely they were wiped out," Panaka grimly stated.
Jar Jar looked incredulous. "Meesa no 'tink so."
Noticing his pride Qui-Gon steeped forward. "Do you know where they are, Jar Jar?"
Jar Jar appeared a bit more comfortable by Qui-Gon's intervention.
"When in trouble, Gungans go to sacred place. Meesa show you!" The gungan became excited once more as he remembered the way. "Come on, meesa show you!"
Padme turned her back on the Jedi to follow behind Sabe.
The woods grew darker as the canopy grew. Invisible watchmen sounded guttural, primal horns to warn others of their arrival.
Obi-Wan found himself unconsciously looking in Padme's direction. He longed to speak with her, but now was not the time. Besides, her mind appeared to be focused on the matters at hand, and she had hardly spared him a glance since they found the rest of the rebels. Qui-Gon was just wrapping up the story of how they found Anakin while Obi-Wan struggled to listen and not let his mind wander.
His master silently noted his behavior. While Obi-Wan was in the infirmary, the handmaiden Padme had told of their experience. He had been proud to hear of his apprentice's mature actions, but as she had recounted
the tale there was something else there, something that she was trying to conceal. Although any ordinary man may have missed it, Qui-Gon saw it as a flickering shadow trying to disappear into the light. Not wanting to ponder it further, or perhaps not wanting to consider the painful possibility, Qui-Gon focused his mind to their surroundings.
The guards drew their guns as a deep crashing sound came from the right. Master and Padawan tensed, but did not go for their lightsabers. Two kaadu with gungan riders came through the brush, electropoles at the ready.
"Stoppa' dere!" one of them yelled as he approached.
"Uh," Jar Jar looked timid and unsure. "Heydey ho."
The mounted gungan squinted at him. "Whatsa yousen doin' here?"
"Weesa comin' to see da big Boss Nass," Jar Jar's smile was nervous.
The two gungan soldiers looked at each other. The queen spoke up. "It's very important. I'm sure Boss Nass would be very upset if he never had the opportunity to hear what we have to say, " Sabe kept her eyes glued on the soldier.
After a few moments of mental debate he growled, "Alright. Yousen comin' wit me."
Padme and Sabe exchanged a quick, happy glance before they followed the lead soldier while the other herded up the back of the group.
Soon they were in a marshy clearing with ruins of ancient Nubian temples making the place all the more mystical. Mist casually snaked around the fallen stone structures. Crowds of gungan men, women and children appeared out of the shadows.
"Your honor, Queen Amidala of da Naboo," one of the mounted soldiers spoke to a large gungan perched on a partially sunken sculptured head. The large gungan seemed both surprised and angered by the unannounced arrival of his visitors.
"Uh, hello der de big Boss Nass, Your Honor," Jar Jar nervously bumbled.
"Jar Jar Binks," Boss Nass' voice was deep and foreboding. "Who's dat usen others?"
Sabe stepped forward. "I am queen Amidala of the Naboo. I come before you in peace. "
Padme could see her fighting to look composed under his close, scrutinizing gaze.
"Ah. Naboo biggun," Boss Nass looked imperious. "Yousa bringin' da mackennicks. Yousa all bombad!"
Padme could see Sabe's mind racing; she looked very unsure as to how to respond to the imposing figure above. Right then Padme knew that only she could persuade this monarch. It was time to shed her mask.
"We have searched you out because we wish to form an alliance-"
"Your Honor," Padme interrupted, her voice carrying above Sabe's.
Boss Nass made an irritated clicking sound with his teeth. "Whosa dis?" he curled his lip and glared slightly at the small handmaiden who had stepped forward.
Padme felt her body temperature rise and time seemed to speed up as she hesitated a second longer before stating what finally had to be known. She said it quickly to get it over with, to discover her fate, her future, and to set the truth finally free.
"I am Queen Amidala."
Obi-Wan unconsciously caught his breath. He felt his body freeze in shock.
Padme ignored the sounds of surprise rising from behind her and hurried to explain.
"This is my decoy, my protection, my loyal body guard," she paused to take a breath, pushing back unbidden thoughts of how Obi-Wan might be feeling at this moment. "I'm sorry for my deception, but it was necessary to defend myself."
Obi-Wan's mind was slowly pulling himself back to the present. He could hear Padme speaking, but could not focus on what she was saying. He had been thrown so completely off-guard that he was now struggling to regain his footing. He managed to put on a mask of composure, and steeled himself to listen to what Padme was saying, but it was a lost cause.
Her mind now fully focused on the present, Amidala continued. "Although we do not always agree, Your Honor, our two societies have always lived in peace."
Boss Nass slowly nodded his head and grunted thoughtfully. Amidala's eyebrow's furrowed in concern. She tried to keep her raging emotions out of her voice, but the little that seeped through only helped to further convey the sad truth of their situation. "The Trade Federation has destroyed all that we have worked so hard to build. If we do not act quickly, all will be lost forever." Seeing the contempt he still held in his eyes, Amidala prepared to give in to humility.
"I ask you to help us-" she paused for a second as she got on her knees as she finished, "No; I beg you to help us. We are your humble servants."
How could this have happened? How could she not have told him with all that they'd been through? How could she lie to him so openly? What else had she lied about? His mind was racing with questions. His eyes slowly registered movement as Amidala went to her knees. He paid little attention until he felt Qui-Gon's hand on his arm. He quickly knelt, willingly bowing his head in humility.
"Our fate is in your hands."
"Hmmm..." Bos Nass' deep, thoughtful rumble matched his pensative expression.
Amidala watched him intently, desperately trying to gauge his reaction.
"Ha!" his face instantly morphed into an expression of complete happiness. "Ha ha!" he laughed again, clearly amused by some thought he had just created. Amidala didn't know if his sudden change of mood was good or bad.
"Yousen no tinkin', yousa greater dan da gungans?!"
She quickly shook her head.
"Meesa lika dis! Maybe weesa, bein' friends." He shook his head violently, saliva flying through the air.
Cheers of joy arose from both crowds. The two great societies of the planet had united, yet Obi-Wan hardly noticed the joy around him.
Obi-Wan kept out of sight of most everybody. He sat on a rock with his back against a tree, looking out at the sunlight that bathed the meadow before him. Yet he stayed out of it, just on the edge of the shadows cast by the trees that were their temporary cover.
He felt like he just needed to sit; he needed the peace and calm that nature could provide with its endless simple beauties. He sighed. 'This is ridiculous,' he thought. He felt as though he had over reacted earlier when he had found out the truth about Padme. 'No, not Padme. Amidala,' he corrected himself. 'Force, what am I doing here? All I have to do is talk to her. This is ridiculous. Just because she's really Amidala and not Padme doesn't change anything. And it's just a name. She's still the same person. Heck, what do I have to lose? I've only got one life to live, and this is it.'
He rose and walked determinedly toward Amidala who was busy studying a holo-map of the palace. He approached on the silent wings of hope.
"Amidala," the voice was so quiet the queen hardly heard it. She paused momentarily, finishing a last note on a data pad, then turned to face the owner of the voice.
When her eyes met Obi-Wan's he thought that he saw her quickly hide any surprise that she had.
"Amidala," he spoke so quietly. "I feel that I need to speak with you."
She opened her mouth to speak, but then looked down.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
She knew that she couldn't face those honest, emotion-filled eyes. She continued to look down as she struggled for words.
"Padme?" Obi-Wan prompted after a moment.
Hearing the name that she knew she was to him spoken with such sorrow and anguish her heart sank. She hated that he was in pain and hated even more that she had caused it. She was angry at herself and her words betrayed her emotions.
"I had other important matters to think about besides you, Obi-Wan," she said, more harshly than she intended, looking up. She struggled to meet his gaze for a few moments before she uneasily blinked away.
"Amidala, I-" Anakin suddenly accidentally bumped into the young Jedi, cutting him off.
"Sorry," he muttered then turned to the queen. "Miss, they're here now," he pointed out across the tree grove.
"Good, they made it," she looked off behind Obi-Wan and Anakin to see some of her guards jumping off a speeder.
She turned back to Obi-Wan. The two just looked at each other for a few long moments, reading the sorrow in each other's eyes, until the queen's security forces came running up. The first bumped into Obi-Wan from behind, pushing him into the queen, obviously mistaking the Jedi's humble robes for those of a peasant.. Amidala put her forearm in front of her and Obi-Wan's chest bumped up against her arm. They looked into each other's faces for a moment.
"Sorry, ma'am!" the young soldier quickly spat out.
Obi-Wan looked at him momentarily, then back at the queen. He took a step back and swallowed hard. He kept her gaze as he slowly backed away, his expression seeming even more sorrowful than before, for now it entertained a certain quality of incomprehension.
Just then another young soldier who wasn't watching where he was going stumbled into the unaware Jedi. Obi-Wan had to step out to stop himself from falling. His gaze now broken, he turned his back to the queen and began to walk away, sparing Amidala only a somewhat cold glance over his shoulder as Panaka began to speak to her.
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