I tried to clear my mind during the night, but I was like a youngling; full of excitement for her first off planet trip. I wanted to rest, but I couldn’t. Thoughts of what might await me kept working their way into my subconscious.
Close to dawn, there was a knock on my door. I opened it to find a package. It was long and sort of bulky. I stooped down to pick it up, glanced around at the empty hallway and quickly carried it into the room. I sat on the bed and opened it. Inside, there was a set of clothing very similar to the ones I had seen the initiates wearing in the courtyards, there was also a training saber. A small folded piece of parchment fell to the bed as I removed the package’s contents.
No armor can go with you. The council sees this as a way to gauge your abilities; a test to your character and resolve. A Jedi must be able to solve problems alone and face dangers without the protection that armor provides; A Jedi’s armor is the Force. Please accept these gifts as a token of our friendship. They have served me well in the past. May they serve you well, and may the Force be with you, always.
I couldn’t help but smile at her thoughtfulness. The more I learned about that woman, the easier it was becoming to leave Scrapper in her care. She was good and kind and he was going to be lucky to have her as a teacher.
I frowned at the clothing and saber. This was not my kind of attire. I had been in armor for as long as I could remember. The Mandalorians had taught me that a good set of armor and a good blaster could get you out of most any danger, now these Jedi expected me to go out into the unknown without either one. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I knew that Aiden was counting on me, but what did I want? Did I really want to learn this stuff or did I want to stay the way I am? The more I thought about it, the more uncertain I became. Aiden had said to me that the Mandalorians had taken me from my family, killed them and forced me to learn their ways. I knew in my heart that it was true, but they had raised me, had been good to me, regardless of how I had been obtained. I realized that even though I did most of the things a good Mando should, there were a few things that I felt differently about and I knew that my having the Force was a big difference. I wanted to explore this newly discovered talent. I knew that Aiden was right; I had been given a gift and I should learn how to make use of it, but the question remained , could I learn this and still be a Mandalorian or would it somehow change me into something I didn’t even recognize?
The sun was making a spectacular entrance into the sleepy planet, when I stepped out into the main courtyard in my new outfit. I had never felt more naked, more vulnerable and yet, in a way, it was quite freeing. To my surprise, I saw Master Syndraa and Scrapper walking out to meet me. I smiled as Scrapper reached for me and hugged me tightly. He looked up at me with a sleepy smile.
“You look pretty, Buir.”
“Thank you. You look quite handsome in your robes as well.”
I looked up at Master Syndraa. “Thank you for these clothes and for bringing Scrapper out here to see me off.”
She nodded her head slightly. “There is no need for thanks. You are one of us, Na’sha. Perhaps by seeing yourself dressed this way and by completing this mission for the Council, you will begin to see that for yourself.”
She sent Scrapper off to speak to some of the other padawans that had begun to wander out into the morning light. I stood with her and felt such a calming sensation at her closeness. I felt more of a connection to this woman than I had to any other being in a very long time. I was already seeing her as family, someone I could come to, that would listen and understand.
“I am afraid. I feel like I am losing myself.” I looked into her warm eyes, hoping she understood.
She nodded and reached for my hand. “You are not losing yourself. You are finding a part of yourself that has too long been hidden. Once you find this part and free it, then and only then will you be whole.” She smiled. “The Force does not take away from who you are, it adds to who you will become.”
I could only nod. She seemed to have a way of making things clear, a way of putting things into perspective. I started to believe that she may be right. I would always have the heart of a warrior, the teachings of survival and honor that my Mandalorian family had taught me, but now I would have a new skill, something to strengthen me as an individual, something to make me even more of a survivor.
“Thank you for your words, Master. You always know just what I need to hear.”
Master Syndraa laughed. “With you, it is not so difficult. Your needs and fears show in your eyes. I am glad I could be of help, child.”
I frowned. “I guess I need to work on hiding my feelings. I wasn’t aware I was so obvious.”
“It is part of your charm.”
“I just can’t help but wonder if I can do this. Even if I pass their test, I don’t know if I can live up to their expectations or if I can follow all of their rules. There are some things that I don’t agree with.”
Master Syndraa nodded her head and led me more away from the courtyard. “Let me walk you to your speeder.”
“Na’sha, there are some things that even I do not agree with. Unfortunately, I do not make the rules. As it is, the council cannot control your every thought or action. As Jedi, we can only do our best to uphold our beliefs and to obey the rules as best we can. Some Jedi are more independent in their ways, like Master Aiden and like I am sure you will become, but we are still Jedi.” Master Syndraa looked around before continuing. “Once, I felt the same as you do. I too, had a secret love.”
My eyes widened. “How did you…?”
“Relax, child. I do not believe that anyone else knows. I disagree with the council on the issue of love. I believe that love gives us something to fight for, a goal. It makes us stronger, not weaker. True, we do need to keep our emotions from clouding our judgment and causing us to lose focus, but I do not believe that we are whole, if we have not loved.”
I was too shocked at Master Syndraa’s words to even speak.
“Na’sha, do not let your emotions keep you from your tasks and do not let your love overcome your sense of duty when the stakes are high, but do not give up your love. You and Aiden are good for each other. You will both find a way. There is always a way.”
I nodded. I couldn’t believe what she had just said. I never would have thought she had such an independent streak. I gained even more respect for her in that moment, if that was at all possible.
“Now, go. Complete the task set out before you and come back to us victorious. May the Force be with you.”
With that she walked away. My head was spinning from all the thoughts running through it. I took a moment to clear my head. I knew I needed to focus on the task at hand. The rest could wait until I returned. She had given me hope where my feelings for Aiden were concerned and she had given me a new view on everything else. I consulted my map and mounted my speeder. I knew that this wasn’t going to be easy, but I now felt that it was worth the effort.
Here goes nothing!