Standing for Navaari as he was bound to An’jast’a was one of the proudest, most wonderful moments of my life. As the enclave elder pronounced them joined I thought my heart would burst and the tears that welled up in my eyes were tears of pure joy. The great hall was so full it felt as though it would burst, Navaari had many friends, as did An’jast’a, and everyone wanted to be there for them when they finally wed. The celebration which took place after promised to be the largest the enclave had ever known and I felt honoured to be a part of it but at the same time saddened that Thrawn was not here to share it with me.
During the feast I sat next to An’jast’a as was custom and she made certain I did not feel left out or lonely. She made sure that I was caught up on all the latest news and gossip that I had managed to somehow miss during the month I had been on Hjal. It was easy to avoid the gossip when Navaari was in charge of keeping me busy. Convinced that I was getting lax in my practice of tracking he had insisted on taking me out on long treks across the tundra to make sure my skills had not diminished any. I had been grateful for the distraction and happy to be under Navaari’s watchful guidance, learning from him was a treat. He had sensed my need to escape from Thrawn, from Ged and everything that had been happened. When I needed to talk he listened, when I wanted advice he gave it and when I needed a distraction he provided it in the form of hard work.
Once the feasting was done the great hall was cleared for the dancing. It was a huge thing and the Dantassi loved to party at every opportunity. I was convinced it had something to do with the endless amount of time they seemed to spend cooped up due to bad weather. Whatever the reason for the celebration it was usually an amazing event and normally I enjoyed it greatly but this time I found myself missing Thrawn more than ever. His presence failed and it made my heart ache. At some point late in the celebrations, once I managed to escape being swept into the dancing again, I slipped quietly out of the hall, picked up my warm clothes and went to the South Gate to sit out on the hanging bench that had been made for me by Kerrjan, one of Navaari’s closest friends. I had often come here when I wanted to be alone, when I had felt the walls of the enclave closing in on me or when Navaari and I had been fighting. It was Kerrjan’s clever solution to stop me from doing crazy things and to give him some peace and quite. Apparently, Navaari and I were very loud when we argued. I loved it here especially when it was such a beautiful night, still, cold with a crystal clear sky full of twinkling stars.
As I swung the bench back and forth with the tips of my feet I stared up at the sky I could not help but wonder where Thrawn was now and how his campaign was going. I had not heard from him in all the time I was here and now, after a month’s time, I wondered why I had been so angry at him and if he was still furious with me or if he had just decided I was no longer worth the hassle. I missed him greatly and I was deeply saddened that he had not come to see Navaari joined with An’jast’a. Bundled up in the warmth of my clothes, I was half dozing when I heard the outer door open. I let my senses talk to me and smiled, making room for Navaari to sit next to me.
“You should be celebrating.” I said as he tapped his pipe against the side of the chair to empty it.
“I could be saying the same for you.” He replied as he filled his pipe and lit it. “I just wanted to be sure you were not vanishing off into the night.”
I made a face, “You will never let me forget that will you?”
“Probably not.” He chuckled. “So what is on your mind that you had to be slipping away like a ghost?”
“Nothing really, I just needed some fresh air.” I said evasively.
Navaari smiled and took a deep draw on his pipe, making the tobacco glow. “You’ve been gone nearly two hours, that’s a lot of fresh air.” He said gently, “What is it?”
“He should be here for you!” I said crossly.
“He is busy fighting a war, Kycsi’i.” He said gently.
“I know but still….”
“I did not expect him to be here and neither should you. If you want to speak with him you should return to him and stop hiding here.”
I nodded, Navaari was right and we both knew it. “I was planning on returning to Nirauan in a day or so.” I said, “I thought it would be best if I was out of your hair when An’jast’a moved into your home.”
“You are never, as you are putting it, in my hair and it is your home as well, but An’jast’a will appreciate the gesture. She is a little worried about taking over your place in my life.”
I laughed, “She can’t do that.” I said, “We have different places in your heart and as long as I have a bed to sleep on when I come to see you I don’t care really. In fact I think she’ll do wonders for the place because while you may be the best tracker there is you know nothing about home décor.” I paused to look up at him to make sure he knew I meant what I said, “I am truly happy for you. It was about time.”
He smiled, “You are not the first to be telling me this little pup, but it is nice to hear it from you.”
For a long moment there was silence between us, comfortable and easy then I broke it by asking the one question Navaari had avoided answering the entire time I had been there.
“Why did your daughter not come to see you bound?” I didn’t think he would reply because before when I had tried to bring up the topic he had always shut me down as fast as he could. His daughter was a touchy subject at best but this time he surprised me.
“She disapproves.” He said simply, studying his pipe as though it had suddenly become a fascinating artifact.
I looked at him in surprise. “What? Why?”
“Under Chiss custom remarrying is seldom done. She feels I am dishonouring the spirit of my late wife, her mother. She did not wish to be a part of this. She is angry with me for what she feels is a breaking of trust.”
I sat back against the bench and let out an angry puff of air. “Well, that’s just dumb.”
He smiled at my reaction but the sadness in his eyes didn’t go away.
“What’s the real reason she didn’t come?” I pressed.
He shook his head and took a long draw from the pipe, the scent of the smoke permeated the air like a strange sweet perfume. “She wants nothing to do with her Dantassi life. She is ashamed of it. The Chiss view us as something to both fear, look down up on and ultimately ignore. We are a part of their past, their history they would rather forget. She has left her Dantassi past behind to become Chiss. Returning here reminds her of where she came from and she does not wish that.”
I frowned, “But you are her father.”
He nodded, “So I am but in the end sometimes the family you are born into is not the family you choose to be with.”
I leaned me head against his shoulder. “Well I think she’s stupid then.” I said tartly.
He chuckled a little and stroked my hair. “She has chosen her path just as you choose yours.”
“I don’t choose my path, Navaari, it chooses me. I just seem to go along for the ride.” I said with a large sigh.
“Psshht,” he answered back, letting me know he wasn’t buying my pat answer. “You choose everything you do, all in life is chosen.” He paused for a moment then said, “You need to go back to your mate, whether you are believing it or not he needs you, now more so than ever before.”
“I find that hard to believe.” I grumbled.
“Perhaps but it is the truth.” He said. “I would be happy forever if you chose to stay here and live as the Dantassi but your place is not here. I do not know what your future will bring but I do know that you and Nikätza’arth’pavjäska are two parts of a whole. When you are together you shine and when you are apart and fighting it is as though the sun has gone dark. You need to break from this stubbornness and return. He came to you when you needed him and now you must return that favour. He needs you, even if you do not believe this, even is he is not showing this. Do not let your pride and anger get the better of you. It will be something you regret for the rest of your life.”
I sighed. “Okay I get the message.”
He laughed and emptied his pipe. “Come back inside before An’jast’a has to come search for us, if she does it will not be a happy thing.”
We returned to the celebration and it went on for many more hours. I stayed until I could no longer keep my eyes open and An’jast’a shooed me to bed.
Two days later I took my leave of Navaari and the Dantassi once more and was on my way back to Nirauan with sand-jiggers in my belly at what sort of a reception I would find there. I needn’t have worried so much though because everyone on the base was so preoccupied with what Thrawn had done by winning his first major battle that my return was a very small thing in comparison with his finds.
It seemed strange to be back on Nirauan after such a long time away but my things were here, and for all intensive purposes it was home, or as close to a home as things got for me, if I didn’t count Hjal. I found myself at loose ends trying to acclimatise to both the planet’s time difference and climate. Time lag caught up with me after a while and I slept for nearly a day.
Once I felt more like a human being and less like a sun-doped jawa I began the process of catching up on all that I had missed during my time on Hjal. It was Voss Parck, thrilled to see me back safe and sound, who filled me in on all that had occurred in the time I had been away. As we sat in the quiet of the small private lounge which Thrawn reserved for private conversations, eating a light supper and drinking a very nice wine he told me how, once Thrawn had received the data from me, he had taken his fleet to Obroa-Skai and raided the great library’s archive computers. Not only had he been able to determine the location of Wayland, which did not surprise me, but he was also able to obtain a vast wealth of up to date information on the New Republic. There had been a skirmish over the planet when the New Republic’s assault force consisting mainly of frigates and three wings of X-wing fighters had shown up. Parck grinned as he recounted how Thrawn, using his keen knowledge of art had managed to bring about the attack force’s defeat. I just shook my head at his thought process. I had never known anyone else to use art as a tactical weapon before.
“After he was done there he went to Myrkr and then on to Wayland.” Parck said.
“Did he find it?” I asked, “Mount Tantis?”
“Oh yes.” Parck nodded, “He most certainly did, and we’ve been busy ever since.”
“Why is that?”
“He’s taken some of the technology he found there and he having it installed here, in one of the subbasements.”
I frowned. “He’s having cloning tanks installed here?”
Parck did not bother to hide his surprise. “You know about that?”
I shrugged. “I knew there was a cloning facility on Mount Tantis so what else could he have been after? Why is he growing clones here?”
Parck shrugged. “He did not say, I think he is trying to maybe experiment with the effects of the ysalamiri on clone growth but to be honest Merly, it’s all technology I can’t keep up with. Now the cloaking device… that’s another story.”
“Wait the what…ysalamiwhatsits?” I flapped my hand at him to back up a bit.
“Ysalamiri, some creature he found on Myrkr that repels the force.” Parck said looking at me with a frown, “He said you were the one who actually found them.”
I nodded, “Ah those things,” I said with a sigh. “I remember but I didn’t know their name.”
“He’s had them installed all over the Chimaera to keep his crazy Jedi master in line.”
“Crazy jedi master? What crazy jedi master?”
“Some really strange old man he found on Wayland, claims to be Jorus C’Boath but he’s actually a clone. He’s as mad as a sun crazed durni and as dangerous as a tusken raider. Seems he’s a jedi master and a pretty powerful one as well, anyway he’s on board the Chimaera helping Thrawn direct the flow of battles or some such nonsense.”
“Buggery sandrats I’ve been gone for just over a month and the whole galaxy has turned upside down.” I said wryly. “Well I guess that explains why he didn’t want me on board his flagship.”
“Yes,” Parck nodded. “He asked me to tell you to, and I quote, not even think about it.”
I laughed and sipped on my wine. “I have no desire to go near any crazy Jedi master, clone or not. Between the Emperor and Lord Vader I have had enough jedi-ness to last me a lifetime.” I said, “So what’s he doing now?”
“He’ll be arriving here in two days to take on supplies, sort some things out then he will continue what he has been doing.”
“And that is?”
“Showing the New Republic who is really in charge of the galaxy.”
I smiled. It was nice thought. I just hoped he knew what he was doing. “Two days?” I asked.
Parck nodded. “When I informed him you had arrived on the base he did tell me that I was to keep you here until he had a chance to speak with you.”
“He mentioned to me that you and this Admiral Larsen had a little misunderstanding?”
“Oh that, well I left his ship without permission and he was a little annoyed, when he tried to pull me in with a tractor beam I micro jumped out of range, yeah he’s a bit pissed but there’s more to it than that.”
This time it was Voss Parck’s turn to smile, “With you, Merly, there usually is.”
What could I say, he was absolutely right. I sipped my wine with a smile while he began to fill me in on the news of what had been happening on the base all the time I was gone. I was grateful for his kind chatter it kept me from thinking about Thrawn’s arrival and all that it would bring. The last time I was with him things hadn’t exactly been cheerful.