Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Janara Vosenn was the youngest daughter of one of Coruscant’s most prominent families, blessed with both her mother’s greatly admired beauty — an intimidating blend of gentle features and shadow-black waves of hair — and an abundance of wealth and opportunity. The Jedi who had first discovered her sensitivity to the Force had spent several hours over multiple visits to the Vosenn home convincing her parents that her place lay beyond the upper echelons of Coruscanti society, that her true potential would be found within the Order. Janara, for her part, had needed no such convincing. Even at the age of four she had found the concerns of her parents and older siblings trifling at best, and the realization that she could connect to the entire universe through the Force had only sealed this perception. The Jedi requirement to expunge all prior emotional attachments had come easily. Now, at the age of seven, she barely thought about the life she once had or the life she once could have.
Myell Orth had also been born on Coruscant, but from strikingly dissimilar origins — her father had been a low-level courier for an otherwise unremarkable gambling operation in the entertainment district, a man of great ambitions and poor choices whose gratitude to the Jedi had far outweighed the heartbreak of surrendering his only child. He had been killed a few months later in a robbery gone awry, and when the Jedi brought the perpetrators to justice a well-meaning padawan had let the youngling know the whole story, for which he was subsequently and harshly disciplined. Myell kept in a small pouch beneath her tunic a small, stone-carved figurine of The Treskerax, a heroic character from a series of bedtime stories familiar to all children within the core planets. The figurine was symbolic of a connection to one or both of her lost parents, but thus far no Jedi had demanded its confiscation — all seemed to feel in this instance that the security it gave the six year-old had to be outgrown, and the moment she decided to dispose of it of her own free will would be a milestone on her path to achieving mastery of the Force.
The two human younglings had become fast and inseparable friends, a testament to the Order’s ability to bring together those whose paths might not otherwise have crossed outside of deeply unfortunate circumstances. They walked through the Jedi Temple side by side, with Janara, as usual, doing most of the talking.
“Madame Jocasta says it’s a rare honor to be selected for this,” she said. “Master Klaos only takes a few younglings a year for his training. It means that he sees potential in us.”
“Potential for what?” Myell asked. “I don’t understand. What does Master Klaos teach?”
“I’m not sure,” Janara admitted. “The Jedi don’t seem to have a formal name for it. They just call it training with Master Klaos. But you know why he’s such a legend, don’t you?”
“What I heard was that he came back from the dead once.”
“I don’t mean that he was really really dead, Myell. I mean that the Jedi thought he was dead and then he came back.”
“He crashed on Hoth. Nobody could find a trace of him and they gave up searching. He was alone there for six months. They say that he lived entirely on tauntaun and wampa meat while he fixed his ship using only tools made from stone and ice.”
“You can eat tauntauns?” Myell asked.
“Sure you can eat tauntauns,” Janara said. “At least, I think so. I’ve never had one. But he must have. He was there for six months! And you know what else I heard?”
“Now he keeps his quarters cold. As in, all the time. And he has a special pen at the southern ice cap where he farms tauntauns and wampas so he can still eat them once in awhile.”
“He must have really liked being on Hoth,” Myell observed.
“I don’t think so. I think he doesn’t know how to stop being on Hoth.”
They arrived outside the door to the hangar, where they had been instructed to meet Master Klaos. Clone troopers and maintenance droids within were hard at work repairing damaged fighters and Jedi gunships. The Clone Wars were now entering their fourth year with little end in sight. Janara made it a point to keep informed when she was not studying, but it seemed that all reports had gradually become versions of the very same story: Republic claims victory, Separatists claim victory, back and forth, with only the names of the battlefield changing.
Waiting at the door already was Robrus Dahn, a quiet Iktotchi boy with pale orange skin and the merest hint of his horns yet to come. Robrus had had limited contact with Janara or Myell before now, but he had limited contact with most other younglings, usually by his own choice. Most knew that the Iktotchi possessed a modicum of ability to foresee the future, and this made them feel vulnerable and awkward around him. Occasionally other younglings would ask him for predictions on how they would fare at their next set of tests, as if it were some form of trick he was required to perform for their amusement. He would tell them what they wanted to hear regardless of what his senses seemed to be indicating, then hide in the Archives if the results were contrary.
“Isn’t he here yet?” Janara asked.
Robrus cleared his throat and pointed behind them. The two girls turned around. Less than a foot away from them stood a tall, thin man with close-cropped, white-blond hair, dressed in a gray cloak.
“How long were you behind us?” Janara asked.
“That’s not the correct question, youngling,” Klaos replied. He gave the three a thin, crooked smile. “But to answer it: I keep my quarters slightly warmer than most, farming wampa for livestock is not sanctioned by the Republic, and while one may eat tauntaun if one is desperate, you’ll find that the taste remains unacquired.”
“So…you were behind us all the way down the hall?” Myell asked.
“No,” Klaos said. “I’ve been behind you for the past four days. You too, Dahn.”
Janara felt a flush of indignance. She disliked being made to feel foolish, Jedi Master or not. “Are you having fun with us or did you do that to teach us something?” she demanded. The look on Klaos face turned dark and severe.
“Nothing I do is to have fun, child,” Klaos admonished her. “I followed you for four days to learn everything I could about you before you knew you’d be observed. I followed you for four days to learn how you interact with the world and people around you. And I followed you for four days to see if you’d ever notice me following you. Which you didn’t. And the question you should have asked, just now, is ‘Why didn’t we?'”
Janara lowered her eyes, chastened. Myell gave her hand a tiny, supportive squeeze.
“So here’s the first lesson,” Klaos said. “Pay attention to your surroundings. Now follow me. Our ship is waiting at the other end of the hangar and we’re late getting started as it is.”
“Master Klaos?” Robrus said. “What ship? Where are we going?”
“Don’t your kind see the future, Dahn?” Klaos asked.
“It doesn’t…” Robrus trailed off.
“It doesn’t what, Dahn? Speak up.”
“It doesn’t work like that, Master,” Robrus said. “Some of us see clear visions, some of us only have…shapes of what’s to come.”
“And your abilities don’t work as well the further you get from Iktotch, do they?”
“Yes,” Robrus said, surprised. “But if you know that…”
“Of course I know that. We got one of your kind sits on the High Council. That was a lesson for you, boy. Don’t start sentences you don’t intend to finish.”
“I see,” Robrus said, nodding gently. “Then may I ask something else?”
“Looks like I’ve gotten you started,” Klaos replied.
“Nobody has told us what we’re to learn from you.”
“No, they wouldn’t have. I tell them not to. It makes you younglings lose sleep beforehand, and I need you rested well.”
“Well?” Janara asked. “Do we get to know now, or once we’ve left the planet?”
“You’re a demanding one, Vosenn,” Klaos grumbled.
“And you’re still not answering the question,” she countered.
They marched in silence for another few minutes. Around them, the clones seemed unusually on edge, their tension rippling through the Force in waves. Janara wondered if it was wiser to stay behind and see if they were needed. She didn’t dare voice the opinion.
The ship they arrived was a light freighter with layers of dirt on it, as if the droids had been ordered to leave it alone on their cleaning rounds. Beneath the muck the word RECLUSE had been written in chipped and fading scarlet paint. Master Klaos opened the entry hatch and ushered the younglings aboard. Once the hatch was closed, he turned to them, arms folded across his chest.
“The four of us are going to planet 979-D. It’s an uninhabited world in the Outer Rim that was accidentally discovered by a Jedi scout ship a year ago, and nobody’s even had the chance to name the place because of this blasted war. And we’re going to spend three days exploring it.”
“Why?” Myell asked.
“You wanted to know what I teach?” Klaos said. “Survival, younglings. I teach survival. Now buckle up. I’m not the best pilot.”
END OF PART III