Meanwhile, back at the Enclave:
Aiden paced the floor of his chambers impatiently, the sound of his boots echoing in the otherwise silent room. He stopped every so often and wiped a hand over his tired eyes. Dak, who had been sitting quietly in the corner, turned to his friend.
“Would you stop pacing already? It isn’t going to do anything but make you sick and me dizzy. Someone will tell us something soon.”
Aiden stopped and cast a glance in Dak’s direction. “She didn’t come back. This isn’t good. She could be in danger, she …” Aiden, sighed and collapsed into the nearest chair. “She needed me and I let her down. I should have gone with her!”
Dak shook his head. “No, you haven’t let her down, Aiden. We both know that you couldn’t have gone with her. Besides, Na’sha is a big girl, she can handle herself. I am certain that when they know something, they will tell you. Maybe she is just running behind. When I contacted her, she was frustrated, but fine.”
“Then, why doesn’t she answer now? Wouldn’t she answer if she was alright?” Aiden shook his head in dismay. “How can you be so confident? Aren’t you the least bit worried?”
“You know that I adore her, of course I am worried! It is just that I know what she is capable of and so should you. “
“I do know what she is capable of Dak, but trouble seems to follow her relentlessly.” Aiden gave Dak a downtrodden look. “I don’t know what I would do without her, Dak.”
As Dak was about to speak, a knock sounded at the chamber door. Aiden stood anxiously and pressed a button on the wall panel. Syndraa was on the other side. She rushed in, the door sliding closed behind her.
She bowed before both men and then turned her attention to Aiden. “I don’t have much time, the council will call on you shortly, but before they do, I have some information to share.”
Aiden motioned for her to continue. Dak leaned forward in his chair, intrigued by the lovely Master’s behavior.
“She is safe. I received a holo call from the Stronghold.”
That sentence made no sense to Dak. He looked to Aiden quizzically. Aiden nodded slowly, relief flooding his features. He stepped forward and grasped Master Syndraa’s hand. “You have made me a very happy man, Master, thank you!”
Master Syndraa grimaced. “Don’t thank me yet. The council doesn’t know where she is, but they know what kind of person took her. They are not going to just let you go to her. You are going to have to be crafty, Aiden. They will have you watched, you know this.”
Aiden nodded slowly. “You are right, but she is safe and that is all that matters at the moment. I will figure something out.”
Syndraa squeezed Aiden’s shoulder as she walked back toward the doorway. “The large tree in the tainted grove is lovely this time of year.”
With those last words, Syndraa exited the room and disappeared down the corridor.
As the door slid shut, Dak stood to his feet. “The large tree in the tainted grove is lovely this time of year? What the Kark does that mean? What is going on Aiden? Where is Na’sha?”
Aiden pressed a finger against his lips. “Shhhh… Not here. I promise to tell you what is happening, but not till I have all of the details. I have to sneak out tonight, but I will tell you everything when I return.”
A few moments later, another knock sounded at the door. A droid stood on the other side.
“Master Vinolo, the council requests your presence in their chambers at your earliest convenience.”
Aiden nodded. “Tell them I am on my way.”
The droid’s feet clanked lightly against the floor as he ambled down the hallway and headed toward the council chambers. Aiden turned to Dak.
“I don’t think either one of us is going to like what the council has to say to me, but I must go. The more information I have, the better. I will return shortly, tell no one of Syndraa’s visit.”
He swept out of the room, leaving Dak stunned and confused in his wake.
The room was eerily quiet as Aiden stepped inside. The Council members sat in a semi-circle, watching intently as he approached. He bowed low and respectfully to each of them, as he attempted to slow the pounding of his heart. He couldn’t afford to let them know how much Na’sha meant to him or how worried he was.
The Masters all carried a look of grave concern on their wizened features. Aiden couldn’t help but wonder if they already knew of his secret feelings for the force sensitive Mandalorian girl. He hoped he had hidden it well. He also hoped that this audience was not the end of his Jedi career. He took a deep breath as he waited for them to speak.
It was Master Zhar Lestin who broke the silence. “Aiden, we have news that we wish to share with you, concerning the young Mandalorian girl.”
Aiden’s heart threatened to pound out of his chest. “Yes masters, please continue.”
“We sent Jedi Watchman, Master Re’arde, to observe her in her trial. He followed her to the area and watched her discover the way to the shrine.”
Aiden clinched his fist beneath his robe’s concealing sleeves. He should have known they would send a watchman. Watchman were highly trusted Jedi; spies for the council. No wonder they were so quick with their decision to send her to the trial. He breathed deeply before speaking. “Is my friend alright? What did he see, Master?”
“Master Re’arde stayed close to her, but out of sight, concealing his presence with the Force. At first it seemed promising. Once inside, however, there was a small avalanche. He saw her fall from the cliff that she had been attempting to scale. He was moderately injured himself, but after the dust and debris settled, he caught sight of your companion.” The Jedi Master paused and looked intently upon Aiden’s features.
Aiden remained silent, a small lump forming in his throat.
Master Lestin continued thoughtfully. “He observed a young woman standing near Na’sha. She carried a lightsaber and was garbed in black attire. She spoke to your companion briefly and was then seen carrying your injured friend away.”
“And who was this mysterious woman, Master?”
“That is something that we are not certain of, but Master Re’arde believes her to be a Sith.”
“A Sith? Is he certain?”
Master Lestin nodded. “He said he could feel the darkness within her. The worst part is that Na’sha spoke to the woman calmly, as if she were no threat. We believe that she may be friends with this woman.” Master Lestin looked to the other Masters before speaking. “From what Master Re’arde witnessed we believe it possible that Na’sha was a spy sent here by the Sith to infiltrate our ranks. We believe that she used and deceived you.”
“No, Masters! Na’sha is not a spy or a deceiver! Allow me to prove it to you, let me go and search for her.”
“No. You will not go after her. Her friends must leave immediately and you will not go with them.”
“But what about the artifacts? What about the mission? None of your accusations make any sense!”
“Aiden, we know that you believe Na’sha to be innocent and we sympathize, but for all we know, the mission could have simply been a ruse to gain your help and to allow them access to this enclave. Our decision is final.”
Aiden gritted his teeth. “Masters, with all due respect, if we suspect everyone and trust no one, what kind of Jedi will we become? She is neither a Sith nor a spy. I know this woman. She is an ally and my friend. She cares about people and wants to help others. You felt the force flowing through her. She needs us, needs our help with her mission and needs our disciplined training. If you would just let me bring her back, you would see for yourselves.”
“That is quite enough, Master Vinolo! We have watched you two interact with one another the last few days and what we see is unhealthy. As a Jedi, your mind must be clear; focused. This woman is a threat to your clarity and to your judgment. The subject is closed.”
Aiden bowed to the council and turned swiftly toward the exit. He needed to get out of that room before he exploded! He hurried down the corridor and out into the open air of the gardens. He let out a sigh of frustration. They didn’t understand, they would never understand!
He ran a hand over his eyes and breathed deeply. Feelings, emotions, should be held in check to a point. In battle, one’s mind must clear and focused on the task, not allowing personal feelings to intervene. That was something that he agreed with, but he would never agree that emotion and attachment of any kind was wrong or that they path to the darkside! Having someone to care for only makes your will stronger; gives you a reason to fight. True, the Jedi are all about helping others and about selflessness, but having a partner, sharing your heart, doesn’t make you a bad or selfish person, it doesn’t make you evil. It only makes you want to protect the galaxy more and make it a better place for the one you love. It gives you a reason to carry on. He closed his eyes and tried to calm his frustration. If he let his emotions get the better of him, he would only be proving the Council right. That was the last thing he wanted to do.
He gazed out over the garden wall, barely noticing the beauty of the evening. All he could think about was his little cyar’ika. He consoled himself with the fact that he knew where she was. He knew that if she was injured, she would be taken care of. He slowly constructed a plan in his mind. Tonight, he would go to the garden. There, he would get all the facts straight, set his mind at ease and by tomorrow night, Dak and Shorcuk would be on their way to join Na’sha at the Stronghold. He frowned. It made him feel better knowing that her crew would be able to see her, but how was he going to get to her? The Council would be watching his every move. He couldn’t risk them finding her location, for more than one reason, but he also knew that he had to go to her.
As he turned toward his chambers, his whispered plea carried on the evening breeze. “I will come for you cyar’ika, I promise.”