Aiden waited anxiously in his quarters. Night seemed to fall in slow motion, each minute that passed seeming more like an hour. He wondered just what he would find out once he reached the rendezvous. He hoped that all was well and soon he would be speaking with Na’sha. A soft knock sounded at the door, breaking into his thoughts. He walked over and opened it.
Dak stepped inside. He watched as Aiden closed the door and pressed lock on the wall panel.
“So, are you going to tell me anything, Aiden? Not only am I curious, I am crazy with worry about Na’sha, besides, I am not sure how much more of this Shorcuk can take. He is growling a lot more than usual. He thinks he is failing to carry out his part in the life debt he has with her.”
Aiden watched as Dak spoke, he could see the worry in his eyes and he knew he had to share something. “Dak, I do not know much and I won’t until I go to the rendezvous. All I can tell you now is that Na’sha is safe. She is with someone I trust. Unfortunately, the Council believes her to be a Sith spy.”
Dak jerked his head sharply in Aiden’s direction. “Na’sha, a spy? You are joking right?”
“I wish I were joking.” Aiden sat down in the nearest chair and recounted his audience with the Council.
“Have they lost their minds? Surely they know that they should gather more evidence before they condemn her!”
“I agree that they shouldn’t be so quick to judge, but at the moment, I am glad they are not researching the matter further.” Aiden paused, seeming to weigh his words carefully before speaking.” I will not discuss things in depth here, where walls may have ears, but I will say this; there are things that the Jedi need not find out about me, about my family; it would not bode well for my career as a Jedi. There are also things about the Sith that the Jedi are not prepared to learn of, things that are not my place to share.”
Dak looked at Aiden. “Had I not come to know you during the time we have spent together, that last statement might have worried me, but I trust you. I know how much you love the Jedi and I know how much you love Na’sha.”
Aiden nodded. “I do, Dak. I love them both and therein lies the problem.”
Dak sighed. “Just don’t keep the rest of the crew in the dark for too long, okay?”
“You will know something as soon as I return. The council wants you and Shorcuk gone in the morning. Instead, be ready go in an hour. I don’t want them changing their minds. They could decide to hold you for questioning, try to get information from you, concerning the Sith and we both know that you don’t have any.”
“Shorcuk and I will be ready. The last thing we want is to stay here, when Na’sha may have need of us.” Dak walked back toward the doorway. “Knock on my door when you have all the information, we will be waiting.”
As Dak disappeared into the hallway, Aiden sprang into action. He checked the corridor, listening for the sound of approaching footsteps. Hearing only silence, he slipped out and headed for the nearest exit.
The night was warm and breezy as Aiden moved with hast toward the outer garden. He breathed a sigh of relief. The garden was empty. His gait was swift as he moved closer to the outer wall. Knowing that two enclave guardians would be posted outside, he stopped to listen for any conversation between the two. The young Jedi were locked in a heated discussion on force techniques. Aiden took the opportunity and leapt gracefully over the wall and into the darkness.
The Tainted Grove was just as it’s name suggested. The air felt different, stale; the atmosphere more subdued, as if the life of this small stand of trees and grasses was slowly being snuffed out. Aiden could feel the dark,confused thoughts of the grove’s occupants and unconsciously touched the lightsaber dangling at his hip. He knew the disturbance of the grove came from the few padawans, who had become confused on their path and had chosen to remove themselves from Jedi society. He kept close to the shadows as he moved; trying to be silent but swift as he headed for the spot outlined by Master Syndraa.
The tree towered over the grove, once lively and inspiring; now gnarled and dead, as dark as the thoughts that surrounded it. The tree’s shadow stretched creepily across the grove in the moonlight, as Aiden moved closer. He reached the large trunk and ran his hands over the rough bark, searching for the secret notch he knew was there. Finding it, he pushed on the bark. The section of the trunk moved slightly inward and made a popping sound as it released. Aiden pulled gently, the small square of tree coming out into his hand. He carefully reached into the hole, retrieving a small holo communicator.
He glanced around cautiously before making the call. A tiny blue figure appeared above the comm, shimmering in the darkness.
“About time you called, Aiden. I was beginning to worry.”
Aiden couldn’t suppress a small smile at the sight of the Sith Lord. Regardless of belief or faction, he loved his family. He gazed intently at the holo.
“Hello brother. Sorry, but we have to make this quick.”
“Indeed, little brother, we wouldn’t want your Jedi Council to catch you having a conversation with a big, bad Sith.” He let out a hearty laugh.
“Ah, Saragus, you haven’t changed a bit.” Aiden shook his head slightly at his brother’s teasing. “Enough banter, brother, how is Na’sha?”
“She is fine, Aiden, calm yourself. You really don’t take the Jedi’s “no attachment” rule very seriously, do you? Saragus chuckled. “There is hope for you yet, my boy.”
“Put her on, let me see her.” Aiden fidgeted, anxious to see his cyar’ika for himself.
“She doesn’t even know we are speaking. I didn’t want to get her hopes up in case you were delayed.” Saragus paused. “Should I ready your quarters? You are coming aren’t you?”
Aiden clinched his fist in frustration. “Not right away. I don’t want to cause suspicion. There are more here, as you well know, who stand be hurt by my actions should I be discovered. I am sending Na’sha’s crew, but they will have to be careful; I don’t want them followed.”
“A wise move, little brother. I will keep her safe and entertained until their arrival.”
Aiden cringed at the way his brother said “entertained”. Unhealthy thoughts flitted through his mind for a brief moment before being swatted away. Saragus was a wealthy and handsome man who frequently swept women off their feet with his charm. Aiden just hoped Na’sha wouldn’t be one of them.
Saragus laughed. “I can sense your distress from here. No worries. She is safe with me. I would never take something you want. I am your flesh and blood. Your happiness is my happiness.” Saragus seemed thoughtful. “Though, should you change your mind about her…”
“She is mine, Saragus. I let her go once, I won’t make that mistake again.” Aiden felt an ache in the pit of his stomach at the thought of losing her. He regained his composure quickly. “What was Fionnuala doing in the shrine? Why do you have Na’sha?”
Saragus weighed his words carefully. “I had Nuala follow her. I need her help, truly, we all need her help. I haven’t discussed it with her yet, but it is of the utmost importance that she agree. I need you as well, brother.”
“I don’t know how long before I can get away, but I will come.”
Saragus bowed. “I will make arrangements for my guests.” He seemed to stare at Aiden through the holo. “And Aiden, if the Jedi become aware of Syndraa, tell her my house is open to her and the boy.”
Aiden nodded. “I will tell her. He looked into the surrounding darkness. “Now I must go. Be safe brother, and take care of Na’sha.”
“I will, Aiden. Be careful, and hurry home.”
Aiden shut off the communicator and placed it gently back in the hollowed out tree trunk. He pushed the compartment back into place and slipped into the darkness of the grove. He paused to look up at the glistening moon. His brother’s need must be great to recruit outside help. Aiden couldn’t be certain, but he would bet credits that it had to do with the mission his love was already neck deep in. He whispered into the night, “oh Na’sha, what have you gotten us into?”