Star Wars: Inquisitor: Rise of the Red Blade
Jedi Padawan Iskat Akaris wanted nothing more than to please her master.
That, unfortunately, was a rare occurrence.
“Come look closer, Iskat. What do you feel?”
Jedi Master Sember Vey moved aside so that Iskat had a better view of the ancient text she’d just unwrapped from an old, soft eopie hide. On the other side of the counter, the Togruta shopkeeper fidgeted with long strands of beads around his neck; he couldn’t stop nervously glancing at Sember’s lightsaber where it hung on her belt.
Iskat’s long, red fingers reached for the—well, it wasn’t exactly a book. More like many old, brittle skins barely held together by gut string—but before she could touch it, Sember clicked her tongue. Iskat’s hands flew behind her back. Sember had never been an active and involved teacher, rarely utilizing lectures or lessons like the Jedi instructors back at the Temple. Instead of offering clear instruction, she expected Iskat to watch and learn. She often waited silently, hopeful that Iskat would figure out the next step herself; it was what she was doing now, her dark eyes focused and patient. The human woman was in her early forties, with golden skin and bluish-black hair that she kept immaculately braided, and she was waiting for Iskat to . . . what? Say something? Do something? Iskat had no idea.
Since Sember had chosen Iskat as a Padawan after the Jedi Tournament, they constantly traveled together like this, landing on backwater planets and busy trading moons to visit shopkeepers and collectors and archaeologists galore, negotiating the purchase of curiosities to be added to the Jedi Archives. Iskat had seen texts like this one, elaborate scrolls, ancient lightsabers crusted with barnacles or sand, even a rancor tooth covered in intricate carvings from a long-forgotten language. Sember was a sharp and stone-faced negotiator, and Iskat understood that her duty was to observe her master and gain the skills to recognize and acquire lost artifacts of Jedi history so that they might help further educate the next generation of scholars of the Force.
But, as usual, Iskat could not decipher her master’s silence.“Without touching it, what can you tell us, my Padawan?” Sember prodded, finally.
Iskat put her long, braided brown hair over her shoulder, focused on the object before her, and took a deep breath, opening her senses. “The text appears to be ancient, Master. I’m not familiar with the language. The pages are some kind of animal skin, almost translucent. The ink is dark red.” She leaned close, careful not to touch the skins, and inhaled. “The tang of iron. Blood? Mixed with some sort of mineral powder.”
“That is what you can see. Reach out through the Force. What do you feel?”
Iskat closed her eyes. “Darkness. Yearning,” she said wonderingly. “It . . . it wants to be read, touched. It wants to be known.”
She opened her eyes, bright blue against her crimson skin, and looked questioningly toward her master. They’d retrieved dozens of artifacts over the years, and Iskat had never felt anything like this.
Sember nodded once, the closest thing to praise she ever offered her apprentice.
“This is no Jedi artifact,” Sember said. “It is a Sith text.”
“Do you not want it, then?” the shopkeeper said, reaching to take it back.
“I didn’t say that.” With a gloved hand, Sember flipped the tanned hide back over the text, hiding it from view. “We will take it at the promised price. Rest assured it will be stored safely, so that it won’t fall into the wrong hands.”
Iskat was supposed to observe carefully as Sember haggled with the shopkeeper, but her attention was drawn to the text, now just a squarish lump under the hide. She’d never seen a Sith artifact before. No wonder Sember hadn’t let her touch it. She could still feel it, though, like a small child with arms reaching out, begging to be held.
“Your assistant. What is she?” the shopkeeper asked as they turned to leave.
Sember considered him. “She is a Jedi.”
“But what species? Never seen one like her. Red skin, but not a Zeltron or Devaronian . . .”
“I’m a Jedi,” Iskat said firmly.
“Okay, okay,” he wheedled. “Just curious.”
Despite the firmness of her response, Iskat was curious, too. No one in the Temple knew anything about her species, and according to Sember, her records didn’t indicate a birth planet. She had two hearts, long fingers, and unusually keen senses, but in all their travels and studies, she had never found any further information about her biology or history. This was not the first time someone had asked the awkward question she could not answer.
On the way back to their ship, Sember carried the text by its hide wrapping, dangling it from two fingers as if trying to minimize contact. They walked up the ramp of their T-6 shuttle, which Iskat had decided to call the Lyre after reading somewhere that ships needed names; Sember just called it T6-315. As Iskat fired up the engines, her master immediately stowed the bundle in the safe they used when transporting their valuable finds back to the Temple.
“Can you read it?” Iskat asked.
Sember was horrified by the thought. “I wouldn’t dare try. Do your best to forget this thing; close yourself away from it. The dark side is cloying, like yista bugs burrowing under your skin and slowly sickening you. The Jedi Council will decide what to do with it, but our duty is to keep it away from anyone who might seek to use it for harm. In your travels, if you find anything similar, you must obtain it with the same skill as any Jedi artifact and contain it as soon as possible. Don’t touch it, don’t read it. Acknowledge your curiosity, but let it pass. I wanted you to feel it in the Force so that you would be able to recognize something similar later, but any such contact should be brief. Some knowledge is not worth the cost.”
Iskat tucked that away for later and went about securing the rest of the cargo as Sember took the pilot’s seat. Even locked in the safe, she could feel the text reaching out with the blind probing of a plant mindlessly sending vines out to seek sunlight. Sember was entirely dedicated to hunting down artifacts and cataloging Jedi knowledge, and this was the first time she’d stood on the side of ignorance in all their time together.
They had acquired many treasures on this trip, and Iskat could tell her master was eager to begin the laborious job of analyzing and categorizing their finds, a task she relished and always undertook privately, leaving her Padawan to fend for herself. As Iskat understood it, some masters and their Padawans had lively relationships filled with laughter and kind words, but Sember Vey was an aloof and often neglectful master, alternating between an otherworldly serenity and an obsession with her work that made her forget anything else existed. Although Iskat would’ve liked a warmer connection, she understood that Sember had been given important duties beyond teaching her Padawan. It was up to Iskat to learn what she could by observing her master’s unique skills and taking advantage of any instruction offered. She was determined to become the best Jedi she could be, despite her master’s . . .
Well, her failings.
Iskat wasn’t even sure why Sember had chosen her. She felt no special connection between them and often worried that Sember didn’t seem to like her very much.“Why are you just standing there, Iskat? Buckle in and prepare for your meditations,” Sember said, as if just noticing that Iskat was there at all.
Iskat tried to calm her mind as the ship took off smoothly. Once they were in hyperspace, she sought her cushion and got comfortable, closing her eyes and centering herself. Her hand wrapped around an amulet Sember had given her, a small cabochon of blue stone that was supposed to help her focus. It was like wading into a stream of moving water, and time fell away as Iskat floated along. Meditation had been so difficult for her, at first, but Sember and the other Jedi Masters had agreed that her main goal as a Padawan should be learning to calm and control herself. After the incident with the column . . .
She wouldn’t dwell on that.
She was supposed to do the opposite.
There is no emotion, there is peace, she told herself.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.