I remember once, many years ago before Q’aleane and I left home to join the Jedi, our family went on a trip to Noab – the next province over – to celebrate the Lifting of the Veil. Normally, we’d spend the day at home, taking time out from our chores and games to watch Aber pass “through” the Veil, as is customary at midsummer. This year, though, several friends of the family were gathering at the summit of Mount Hulis to socialize and feast – an event, you could say. We took our speeder to the base of the mountain and spent most of the early hours hiking trails to the peak. When we got there, we ate and sang and told stories of older times while we waited for our star to make its journey.
I’ll never forget how special it felt to watch the Lifting from up there. I can’t imagine what it must look like to species who can see infrared… but the stars have life in them, and even in the Force, witnessing Aber adorn that heavenly cloud is a sight to behold. It’s always a beautiful occasion, but that day, it took my breath away, and I wept. My mother held me close, and we sat in relative silence for the next two hours or so, until the star and the Veil parted once again, and the moment passed.
Ashla, what’s making me think about this today? Well, I guess it’s because of how Q’aleane reacted to the whole thing. Though I could hardly speak I was so taken with the emotion of the moment, my sister simply sat there with my father holding her. She didn’t say anything – she barely moved. When it had ended, and the families were making their way back down the trails towards dinner and more revelry, I remember asking her what she thought of it. I couldn’t wait to hear what my sister thought of such an amazing experience. But she simply looked over at me and said:
“It was just like every year. It was fine, and I’m glad you enjoyed it too, sis.”
At the time, I think I just shrugged it off – it was Q’aleane after all, and that’s how she behaves. Everything is so focused and serious and logical to her. If I had eyes, I probably would’ve rolled them at her then. But it’s true – that’s just how my sister is. She enjoys things – she has emotions – she just keeps them to herself, and measures her reactions and behaviors accordingly. It’s no wonder my parents thought she’d make a terrific Jedi… though I’m not quite sure what they were thinking with me… (laughs)
My sister often jokes with me about being the older sister. But the truth is, she’s right. Q’aleane has always been my older sister. She’s my rock. I look up to her more than anyone else in the galaxy. She’s strong, she’s independent – clearly – she’s measured, she’s compassionate, and she shows me what it means to be a Jedi every day. She is the high standard against which I measure myself as a member of the Order. Maybe that’s why I always feel like I fail, but it is what it is. She gives me a goal to pursue.
At least… that’s what I thought before a few days ago.
Now… I’m not so sure.
I know that what Irsin and I did – our duel – caused Q’aleane no shortage of fear and stress, unnecessary though it may have been. But what I didn’t know at the time – what she revealed to me later on – was that she didn’t normally feel fear or stress. And it was that which caused her to have what I can only describe as a mental breakdown. Of course I can’t stop beating myself up over what I did, and what that did to her. But I also can’t help feeling a little… scared of Q’aleane after all of this. I had no idea that my sister didn’t normally feel emotions whatsoever… on the trail that day all those years ago, it wasn’t just that she looked at the Lifting through a lens of logic… she may have not been capable of having an emotional response to it at all… How have we gone so long being so close without this ever having come up before? This journey we’re on now, for Vergere, and now Bastila… what was it she said to me?
—Journal, play back previous entry, timestamp 01:30…
There’s more than one way to break with the Order. It need not be in a public fashion. I only say that, to achieve any sort of peace of mind, you need to decide, for yourself, what path you intend to take. The agony you’re experiencing now is because you are stretched between conflicting courses. You cannot continue to be a part of this simply because your sister is—you must choose it for yourself. You—
That’s good, thank you journal.
“You cannot continue to be a part of this simply because your sister is-you must choose it for yourself.”
Did she know what I didn’t about Q’aleane? Is this part of what Bastila was talking about? I attribute so much of my own motivations to what my sister thinks and believes, and yet – how wrong have I been about her since we were reunited a few months ago? Before, we were going to be great Jedi in service to the Alliance – now? Now we’re playing double agents to some bizarre quest given to us by a figure long dead. Before, we understood our place in the Force – but now… now my sister believes what I should consider heresy against my Jedi ideals.
I’m not sure what to think when it comes to Q’aleane. I want to help her however I can, but the truth is, I don’t know what I can do for her. I must seem so… alien to her in a way – maybe she’s always thought of me that way… so strange and different from her, despite how much we love and care for each other…
Maybe it’s time for me to start acting like an older sister. Maybe Q’aleane needs me to look out for her more than I ever knew. I’ll be watching out for her while we’re on Eriadu and Dathomir – hopefully she never has to feel the anguish she’s just experienced – and if I can help it, I’ll never do something like that to her again.
Which makes me feel even more guilty considering that I actually enjoyed the duel with Irsin. Irsin… where does he fit into all of this? Bastila was no help there, that’s for sure. But I can’t ignore the fact that he helped me. Again. He spoke to me in that way he does… straight-forward, honest – sometimes brutally so – and with a hint of understanding that is so compelling. I may have instructed him in our duel like it was nothing for me, but he knew what I needed more than I did. He played his Sith tricks well, and brought me far under Juyo’s intoxicating spell. I’d like to say that even without Q’aleane’s interference, I would’ve known enough to stop at that point… but I can’t say it for sure. That’s how good a job he did.
And you know what? I still haven’t properly thanked him for it. Now that we’re well away from Paquallis III, and things are starting to get back to normal – wait, what’s normal? (laughs) – Anyway, I think I’ll go see what he’s up to. If I’m lucky, maybe he’ll even be in the mood to talk.
(The holocron activates as Q’ayla passes into her room. She sits down on the edge of her bed, and just sits there for a moment before beginning to unclasp her boots. It isn’t until one of them is off, and she’s started on the second one, that she finally speaks)
Ashla, what just happened down there?
(She shakes her head slowly several times before finishing with the second boot. She sets them aside at the foot of her bed, and then begins disrobing and changing into her nightclothes)
That was… something, alright. I’m so drained for some reason – my nerves are on edge, I’m at the same time embarrassed and… Ashla I don’t even know what. Look at me, I’m trembling! (she holds her hands up and stares at them before letting them fall, then sitting back down and reclining on the bed)
But I’m also… happy. Heh, happy and nervous and awkward. But yes, happy all the same. Irsin talked to me. Like never before. I’ll admit, he was still able to keep his past a secret to me, but you know what? I don’t care about that anymore. Maybe he’ll tell me – maybe not. Doesn’t matter. The man he was is not the man he is now, and who he is now… that’s the Irsin I know. (She grins and wraps her arms about herself to keep from shaking away)
Ashla! I’m such a youngling right now – I don’t know what’s gotten into me…
(After several moments, though, her hands slide down her arms and she lets them fall to her sides, then lets out a deep, trembling sigh)
…Careful, Q’ayla. You’re getting too close to him. Remember what just happened to Alema, when she got close to someone? The Council made her choose – not that the choice was fair or unbiased. But it could be you next time, if you keep getting close to Irsin. Remember, you’re still a Jedi. And Irsin is Sith, isn’t he? That would be enough as it is, never mind anything else.
…Why do I always do this to myself? I was as happy, just then, as I’ve been in a long time – yet it didn’t take me long to knock myself back down. Did I not hear anything that Bastila said to me… that Irsin just said to me? I’m so used to putting on my Jedi ‘act’ for everyone, sometimes I think I’m starting to really believe it…
…and I always end up a mess, don’t I?
Ashla, I’m such a mess.
(sigh, then quietly) Good night, Irsin. Sleep well.
(She removes her visor, places it on the nightstand, then rolls to her side. Staring down at her sheets, she balls up a bit of the fabric and then holds it tenderly in one hand. After several moments, she sighs again, then lets go of the sheet, smoothes it out, and deactivates the holocron)