An Ancient Lesson  Part 1

By Healer Leona

**************

The two boys fought furiously, their lightsabers sizzling as they clashed. From their controlled breath and the sweat on their brows it was obvious they had been battling for some time now.

At first glance one would have assumed it an unfair match. One boy, a human had short brown hair. The traditional Padawan braid swung around him as he moved. He had a thin face with a long distinguished nose. Slender and very tall he towered over the other boy by nearly half a meter.

His opponent was short but more muscularly built. Though humanoid he had the palest of yellow skin; his head topped with shocking white hair.

They fought in the center of an arena surrounded by an assortment of onlookers. On one side others, dressed in identical training tunics, stood watching as the boys battled heedless of their audience. Across the way chairs were occupied by the more prominent visitors.

The smaller of the two parried and swung his white blade as he began to set himself up for a quick change of direction. His lightsaber held high he feinted a chopping movement as he twirled in a circle. Switching his grip the boy angled down and as he turned to face the other he swung up with all his might. His blow was instantly met with the glowing green blade of his opponent.

"Ooomph!" Erin Del grunted at the sudden block. He'd thought that this move would have finally brought about the end to this lesson as it had the last time he used it.

"Good counter Qui-Gon", the Jedi instructor said from the sidelines. "One must always be prepared for the unexpected." This he directed at the other Padawan Learners that watched.

Encouraged by the praise the larger boy pressed on. This time he would get it right. This time he would prove to his peers the wisdom of his Master in choosing him as an apprentice. He allowed himself a quick glance to the area where his Master watched.

For several short minutes he gained ground as he used the Force to read the moves of Erin's before he made them. Tapping into the Living Force of his adversary he could clearly see the outcome of this contest. If only his body didn't betray him.

Though only sixteen Qui-Gon Jinn had long ago attained his full height of six foot four. The only problem was he hadn't yet been able to settle into his long frame. Many times he felt as though he were still an awkward toddler just learning to walk. It seemed the taller he grew the less control he had over his own body.
Feeling a rare surge of confidence he thrust and swung at Erin placing him on the defensive this time. Deciding to use Erin's own failed move against him Qui-Gon readied himself to whirl around in the same manner he had seen Erin do. Gathering the Force he accelerated his motion. With the extra boost his body spun around faster then his legs, causing his overly large feet to become tangled. Unable to stop as he swung up with his lightsaber his forward motion carried him off his feet, high into the air flying at the other boy.

"Hey!" was all Erin could manage to say as Qui-Gon landed on top of him sending them both to the floor in a heap.

Qui-Gon watched as his lightsaber flew out of his hand, disengaged and went skittering across the floor finally coming to rest at the feet of their Jedi instructor.

********

"Do you mind?" Erin asked, his tone edged with irritation. From the other young people that watched quiet laughter and snickers could be heard.

"Sorry." Qui-Gon apologized rolling off the boy and onto his back.

Involuntarily he craned his neck to see his Master's reaction to this fiasco.

Yoda had already turned away, engrossed in conversation with the slim, non-descript man that had accompanied him into the arena.

Expelling a heavy sigh, Qui-Gon closed his eyes letting his head fall back. It struck the floor with a distinct *crack*. He relished the pain that exploded in his head, grateful to have something else to think about than yet another embarrassment.

For perhaps the third time that day he felt totally inadequate as an apprentice. Though he tired to banished the negative thoughts, knowing they could lead to the dark side, he was nevertheless overcome with fear.

Fear that he would never be able to master control over his gangly body. Fear that the ever patient Jedi Master Yoda would lose hope and have to finally admit that not even he could train such an inept student. Fear that what he wanted more than anything else in the world, to be a Jedi Knight, would never come to pass.

"Qui-Gon, are you injured?" Master Derek Nor interrupted his brooding thoughts.

"No Master Nor", he replied forcing himself to a sitting position. "Only my dignity." he added under his breath.

"Well enough for today." Master Nor said handing him back his lightsaber. "We will meet again tomorrow at ten hour", he told his class.

"Yes Master." came the unified response as the other Padawans filed out of the room.
A tall dark-skinned youth walked over to the still seated Qui-Gon.

"Come on Qui. That wasn't really so bad. You would have had him if it wasn’t for that little uh.. miss-step. He was totally surprised." The boy offered his hand pulling Qui-Gon to his feet.

"Thanks Mace", he was glad for the positive words.

Mace Windu was his closest friend. They had known each other since small boys in the temple and had literally grown up together. Both boys had open, inquisitive minds and became fast friends. They were practically inseparable up until the time they had been chosen as Padawan Learners.

"Why is it I always manage to make a fool of myself when the most people possible are around to see it?" Qui-Gon bemoaned as he straightened his tunic and disentangled his braid from around his ear.

"Just lucky I guess?" Mace laughed out loud.

Qui-Gon chuckled at his friend. He knew Mace wouldn't allow him to wallow in self-pity. Only he had the knack to erase the self-doubts that constantly plagued the taller boy by seeing the humor in most circumstances and making him laugh at himself.

Through their training bond Qui-Gon felt the approach of his master before he heard the *click*, *click*, *click* of his walking stick.

"Harder must you work to push your fears aside", Yoda stated gruffly.

Qui-Gon respectively hunkered down, cutting his height to a third as he spoke with his diminutive Master.

"Yes, Master. I didn't mean to let my mind wander to the dark side," he said dejectedly. "It's just so frustrating to be such a disappointment to you."

"Hmmph, disappointment you are not Padawan. Patience must you have. Grow into your body with time you will." The small green Master patted his apprentice's arm comfortingly.

"Yes, Master. Qui-Gon answered obviously relieved.

"Now go you must to classes, but know that late meal must you make." Yoda turned heading back to the adults that still lingered in the arena. "A guest we shall have for dinner", he added slowly hobbling away.

A mental picture was flashed into Qui-Gon's mind. Yoda tied and trussed like an Aldarian piglet lying on an elaborately decorated table. A purple jeba fruit protruding from his mouth.

He shot a shocked look at Mace who was trying desperately to maintain a neutral face. "See that I did, Padawan Windu", Yoda suddenly called calmly over his shoulder. "Amusing you are not."

At that the boy's demeanor reversed. Mace' eyes widened in fearful embarrassment and Qui-Gon was the one to smile at his discomfort.

"Come on, Mace." The taller said grabbing his friend's arm. "Next class is Political Science."

Mace brightened at this. It was his favorite class though Qui-Gon was at a loss to why. He saw it merely as a necessity, knowing the importance of all the many classes they took as fledgling Jedi.

Mace acted as though it were the most interesting topic in the galaxy and more often then not would monopolize most of the instructor's time and energies with endless questions and comments.

"Great!" he exclaimed, "let's go."

Walking to the door Qui-Gon spared a quick look across the room where Master Yoda and Master Nor where in discussion with the unknown acquaintance of his master.
A tingle in the Force projected the impression that he was the topic of conversation. This was confirmed when the stranger gestured and glanced in his direction.

"So, do you really think I surprised Erin with that move?" he asked his friend as they left together. He pushed the growing trepidation out of his mind. Tonight was soon enough to find out what this was all about.

"Yeah! You even surprised me." Mace answered with a glint in his eye.
"Even I didn't know you could fly!"

******

The rest of his day passed blissfully uneventful with barely a thought paid to the unfortunate incident in the training arena. Of course that was largely due to the fact that as a Jedi Apprentice his days were filled with countless hours of classes, lessons and training and that was in addition to any missions he accompanied his Master on.
Aspiring to be a Jedi Knight was no small matter. There were those in the galaxy that assumed all it took was a high midi-chlorian count and to be Force sensitive to make you a Jedi, but Qui-Gon knew different.
Each and every Jedi Knight and subsequent Master had only achieved that title after long years of arduous training. Each had earned their status through unwavering commitment and personal sacrifice.

Qui-Gon was aware it was not an easy life for any of the initiates. His own difficulties were of no greater consequence then anyone else's. It was just that, of course, they were his own.

As he stood outside the door to the living quarters he shared with Master Yoda he could sense even before entering that the apartment was empty. Since a change of mealtime was not specified he could assume that late meal would be expected at the usual hour. This meant he had plenty of time for preparation.

Before entering his room he paused in the doorway. Closing his eyes he reached out to the Force and was immediately rewarded with the warm glow of the many living things that occupied his room.

There was a sleep couch against one wall. One that he had long ago out grown yet never seemed to have the time to replace. A desk was next to it covered with a score of projects in various stages of completion. The rest of his room was filled with an incredible amount of growing plants and a number of creatures he was caring for.

Upon opening his eyes he quickly scanned the room making sure there had been no unwanted escapes. The half dozen animals were all in their enclosures. Most of these were rescued after being injured or orphaned in some way. These were allowed to stay until healed or old enough to be returned to their natural environments.

There was one though that would probably been considered more of a pet. This one had been discovered when he was only five years old.

He remembered it had been during a class trip to Zigra Cun, a small, unspoiled moon void of any inhabitants other than the indigenous wildlife.

This was his first excursion away from Coruscant and he was astonished by the amount of fauna and foliage. It was a drastic contrast to the cold metal world he called home.
Sitting on the muddy banks of a great swamp he had felt an unusual vibration in the Force. Placing his hands on the cool surface of the mud he was amazed to feel an incredible signature of the Living Force.

Oblivious to all else, he began to dig through the mud, scooping handfuls out of the way.
It was only the demanding voice of one of the Jedi chaperones that brought him back to reality.
"Qui-Gon Jinn, what are you doing?" she asked.

Looking up he was surprised to see not only Master Mina Crioux standing before him but gathered around her legs were the rest of the young initiates.

"Yes, Qui-Gon", a very young Mace Windu repeated in a mocking voice, "what are you doing?"

This caused an eruption of giggles among the children.

"Mace." Master Crioux said disapprovingly, looking down at him with a frown. Her tone was enough to silence all the children and she turned her attention back to the boy in the mud.

"Look what I found!" the muck covered lad stated with elation.

Pulling his hands out of the rather deep hole he held them out for all to see. There in his small, cupped hands lay a large, fat worm. Its gray-segmented body squirmed slowly in his palms.

"That's very nice Qui-Gon, but we mustn't disturb the wildlife." she lectured.

"But you've got to feel it!" he implored with wide eyes. Qui-Gon rose to his feet, his shoes sinking into the mud with each step as he walked to the group.

Without giving her the chance to refuse he poured the contents of his hands into hers.
Master Crioux could feel instantly the draw this primitive creature had on the boy. Qui-Gon Jinn was already showing a strong sensitivity to the Living Force and this small creature radiated such an incredible amount of the Living Force it would have been impossible to resist.

"Do you feel it?" he asked expectantly.

"Yes, it's quite pleasant." the Jedi Master answered. Through her hands she could sense warm waves of contentment and pleasure from the worm that wiggled in her hands.

Qui-Gon smiled at this memory. That was over ten standard years ago and his small pet had eased many a trying time over those years. Whenever he was overcome with feelings of loneliness, fear or other dark emotions he would retreat to this room and simply hold the worm. He would bask in the strong of glow of its Living Force.
It felt aglow with the raw pleasure of its life and this was always enough to combat the negative emotions of a small boy.

As he left the room he stopped by the large Grendel Fern next to the door. With his hands he gently brushed through its delicate leaves. In response long tendrils unfurled from the stem falling over the pot it was planted in. The room became filled with its pleasant scent. It would certainly cover any musky smell that might emanate from his room.

************

After showering he began his work in the kitchen area. Cooking had been a duty learned out of desperation. He had quickly learned as a Padawan that his Master preferred his meals in the solitude of his living quarters. That meant they prepared their own meals. Now that would have been fine had it not been for the fact the Dagoban Master cooked only one dish. A thick pasty gruel that though it provided all the nutrients needed it left something to be desired on the palate.

At first Qui-Gon simply ate what was put in front of him. After a number of months he began adding different things to enhance its flavor. He experimented with an assortment of spices, fruits and other ingredients. Some with favorable results and others that caused him to become intimately familiar with the refresher.

One particular spice he had discovered off world while on a mission with his Master.
At first the shop's proprietor was not only reluctant to sell him anything, assuming Qui-Gon was merely an annoying adolescent, he would not even speak with him. Finally after proving to the man he had the necessary credits to pay, the man warmed up to him.

"Comes from a far away galaxy this spice does." the man said pulling a dust-covered canister from a high shelf.

Qui-Gon had meant to dismiss this offering, obviously the man was having trouble getting rid of the product, until he smelled the sweet, orange spice.

After questioning the owner as to the safety of the spice he bought the small container.
That same night he added it to the gruel. Eating late meal by himself since Master Yoda had Council matters to attend to, he had woken three days later in the infirmary.

Confused and disorientated he opened his eyes and looked around. He knew where he was instantly, only the answer of how he got there eluded him.

"Back with us are you?" came the familiar voice of his Master.

"Master . . ." Qui-Gon croaked dryly. "What happened? Why am I here?"

"Eat things unknown to you, you must not." Yoda warned.

Understanding came quickly. It had been the spice.

"I was told it was a harmless spice" Qui-Gon defended. He was not a baby in the crèche, prone to putting everything in his mouth. He had questioned potential danger.

"Not for Jedi melange is." Master Yoda told him. "Lost in the Force you can become."
Yoda sent waves of assurance through their bond letting his apprentice know he was not angry. "Relieved I am to have not lost my Padawan."

That was one of many culinary lessons learned that year.

Befriending the Jedi Temple's cooking staff Qui-Gon became quite the chef over time.

Busy in the kitchen preparing their meal Qui-Gon reached out tentatively to the Force.

//Master?// he sent, working as he waited for the response that would come when his Master was available. Not wanting to overstep any cultural or religious taboos it was necessary to verify the menu with his Master.

//Yes, Padawan?// Master Yoda answered shortly.

//Are there any special requirements for our guest this evening?// Qui-Gon inquired. There was a short hesitation as he sensed his Master speaking with another.

//No special requirements does our guest need.// Yoda sent back and after a moment added //Something sweet after the meal perhaps.//

Qui-Gon smiled. It was not for himself that Master Yoda requested a dessert.

Undoubtedly it was for the mysterious guest. This piqued the young Jedi's curiosity. If this man was just a friend of his Master's there was no reason to feel concern. Though it was not customary practice for a non-Jedi to be allowed in the training arenas it certainly wasn't beyond reason that an exception could be made, especially for Master Yoda.

This person being here has nothing to do with me, he thought as a dozen possible
explanations swam through his mind. Time will tell, time will tell.

By the time he sensed the arrival of his Master, Qui-Gon had their meal done. He had just placed two steaming cups of tea in the common area as the door whooshed open.

"Thank you for the tour, my friend." the stranger said to Yoda following him into the room.

"Too many years has it been, Sin Tu since to the temple have you been." Yoda
responded.

"And yet, after a message from you I come at a moments notice." Sin Tu bowed amiably.

Qui-Gon listened to the exchange from the kitchen wondering why his Master may have sent for this man.

Patience he told himself, patience.

//Master// Qui-Gon sent through their bond. //Dinner is ready at your leisure.//

//Thank you, Padawan.//

"Ah ha!" the man exclaimed, lifting the cup and inhaling deeply. "Molta root tea! I haven't had this since we were last on Dagobah."

Yoda motioned his friend to a large cushion seated next to a low table.

"Sit we must, eat here we shall." Yoda stated.

Though his voice was not raised above normal, Yoda had also pitched it through the Force for his Padawan to hear.

Within seconds Qui-Gon came out of the kitchen with a large pot, bowls and utensils.

"So this is your apprentice." Sin Tu said with obvious enthusiasm.

Qui-Gon could sense the man's apparent interest in him and his heart sank at the remark. Suddenly all his concerns rose to the front of his mind. He raised mental shields in hopes of at least dampening his fears from his Master. It was virtually impossible to totally hide his thoughts from Master Yoda.

Outwardly he offered a friendly smile as he took the man in.

A human of average height. The man was darkly tanned; his face heavily lined giving the appearance of advanced age.

"And our cook as well." the man said.

"Yes, sir." Qui-Gon answered as he placed the food on the table before them.
"My Padawan Learner, Qui-Gon Jinn." Yoda introduced.

"Good evening, sir." the young man said politely.

"This is Master Sin Tu." Yoda continued.
Qui-Gon promptly dropped to one knee, his head bowed in the position of contrition.

"Forgive may lack of respect, Master." he asked.

"A Jedi he is not" Yoda said, "but well earned the title is."

Sin Tu stood holding out his hand to Qui-Gon.
Getting to his feet, Qui-Gon was slightly embarrassed, having no knowledge of this greeting. Acting on instinct he held out his own hand parallel to Sin Tu's.

Laughing, Sin Tu grasped the young Jedi's hand and shook it vigorously. "An old tradition" he said "but one I find comforting.

"Please help yourself." Qui-Gon gestured to the food. "It's Dantooine wortak stew."

"Very well then." Sin Tu reseated himself, proceeding to fill his bowl with stew.

"Oh, Force!" Qui-Gon suddenly spit out, rushing to the kitchen, "I almost forgot the
rolls.

He returned with a basket filled with warm, golden brown rolls.

"Impressive." Sin Tu noted taking a spoonful of stew. "Yoda I believe the reason you've taken on this apprentice is because of his cooking skills."

Qui-Gon kept his attention on his own bowl, stirring his stew mindlessly. What had he meant by that statement. Had his Master voiced some dissatisfaction in his Jedi training, his abilities? Sitting in awkward silence he ate though his appetite had left him.

As they finished their meal Sin Tu spoke up.

"I saw you at the training arena today. That was quite a display."

Qui-Gon's questioning eyes shifted to Yoda who sat back impassively. His silence felt like a rock on the Padawan's heart.

He could sense no malice from the man though his statement cut like a blade. Could he really be so insensitive as to not see the insult implied.

Qui-Gon lowered his head to hide his reddening face. He wanted to reach out to his Master for understanding, for comfort. He wanted to run to his bedroom and hide.
In the end "I lost my footing." was all he said.

Sin Tu was taken aback by the boy's reaction. It was his turn to look at Yoda with confusion.

"Meditate you must before bed." Yoda stated evenly to his Padawan, dismissing him.

Qui-Gon straightened. Seeking the Force he held his whirling emotions in check.


"There's a muja torte in the kitchen." he informed them as he collected the dirtied dishes.
"I bid you good night." Qui-Gon extended his hand first.

"Thank you for a fine meal." Sin Tu replied, "Until we meet again."

//Good night Master.//

//Good night, Padawan.//

After the boy left the room Sin Tu turned to Yoda. "You haven't spoke to the boy yet?"

"Another thing to worry about the boy needs not." Yoda answered.
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