Join Date: May 2008
Current Game: KOTOR III
Chapter 6: A Thankless Deed
I had arranged to meet Atris after I spoke with Kavar. Although I didn’t get to him, my timetable had not really changed. Kalin was just going to have to put up with us for a while or return to her quarters. I just hoped that she liked sparing.
“You’re late.” Atris said, putting away the book she was reading.
“Why do you read those ancient books? A datapadd is much more convenient.”
She pulled out the book and waved it in front of me. “Doesn’t seem a bit hollow to you? There’s nothing to me like the texture of the paper and the creases of the spine to show how common or rare the knowledge is. This book is decades old, but has barely been looked at. I am learning things that few others know. You can’t get this from the network.”
Kalin saw the book had no title. “What are you reading?”
Atris turned her attention to Kalin. “It’s a journal written by Master Devon.” She looked to me. “Who’s this? ‘You taking on a Padawan already?”
I looked at her as if insulted, but only because of how ridiculous the assumption was. I looked at Kalin and then back to Atris. “No... This is Kalin. We knew each other from Dantooine.”
Atris bowed her head. “It’s nice to meet you, Kalin. Who ‘is’ your master? Why aren’t you with him?”
I answered. “An apprentice is not conjoined to her master Atris. Kalin’s under my supervision, though.”
She made a sound of annoyance. “Is she any good at sparing, or are you just baby-sitting?”
Kalin frowned, but kept her peace.
“Kalin’s with me as a friend. Treat her with proper respect.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Very well. Are we going to dual, or what?”
I turned my head. “Would Kalin like to take part in this, or just watch?”
She likely was not fond of going up against a full Jedi Knight, let alone two. “You’d... welcome me? I’m not that great with a lightsaber.”
I smiled at her. “It’s the only way to get better.”
Atris interrupted. “Wait. I wanted to spar with you, not to do a training session. If you two want to spar with each other, do it another time because I don’t want to go up against an amateur.”
That made Kalin frown again, but I got between them. “What if you two went up against me? It would be a good chance for both of you to use teamwork against me.”
“Not interested. She wouldn’t stand a chance against you and I don’t want to have to protect her.”
“Atris, this would be every bit as good for you as it would for us. The difference between guardians and the other Jedi is that they aren’t trained for self defense and attacking, but also for defending others. You are every bit as capable as a guardian when going against an opponent, but when you have to protect others or fulfill a specified goal, it becomes much more difficult.”
She sighed and stared at Kalin as if trying to study her capabilities before even seeing her perform. Then she reluctantly went along with it. “Very well.”
Kalin raised her hands and stepped back. “Never mind. I don’t want to be a burden. You just do what you want and I’ll just watch.”
Atris didn’t face her. “No, I’ll have you. Just don’t get in the way.”
“She’s not helpless, Atris. You should coordinate your efforts with Kalin and you’ll be able to do much more than if you just go about like a drunken gizka.”
She sighed deeply and looked as though I were forcing Kalin upon her. Although I was, it was for her best interests. Atris was good enough with a lightsaber, but she should have been prepared to throw herself in front of innocents to defend them when negotiations got violent. She was effective at self defense, but Jedi were often not the ones being targeted.
We all got training sabers, which were special lightsabers equipped with a blade that used minimal energy for generating a solid beam and only caused first-degree burns to skin. The greatest risk of injury came from being physically hit by the solid beam while the burns were only superficial.
Kalin naturally had a single hilt while Atris has chosen to follow the tradition of Councilors and took a single hilt as well. I had chosen to use twin lightsabers because they simply were the most flexible of all the lightsaber styles I knew of.
A single hilt often were meant to be used with two hands, so it was not realistic to use a hilt that was more than 15 centimeters long. I opted for two hilts (both of which were just long enough to fit both hands) because it also allowed for me to throw one and animate it with the Force without leaving myself open to blaster fire.
The saberstaff was a very difficult weapon to handle because it was almost as dangerous for the wielder as for an opponent. The hilt itself was also much more difficult to choose because you needed it to be small enough to conceal, but the shorter it was, the less leverage you could get. Theoretically, you could get it down to 15 cm and all you had was your wrist for leverage, but I found 35 cm was the ideal size. Still, I hated that opposite blade.
Another style was the standard/shoto combination. I found it awkward to use two different weapons, so I just opted for perfect balance in weight and blade length. There was little reason to just have a short blade when a longer one made no difference. It would have for a sword, but not a blade of energy.
Shien style was just a standard saber opposite of the way the hilt would normally be held. I found that on occasion, I could use this for my left hand to get the leverage I needed to block while my right gave me the flexibility of a standard saber. Often, I just don’t bother with it at all because of the limitations that came with it.
When the three of us were ready, we had to actually test the lightsabers to ensure beyond a doubt that they were safe. They were true lightsabers designed not to exceed a specified power limit, but there have been concerns that lethal sabers could be disguised as training variants. In order to ensure there could not be any mistakes or sabotage, both opponents must see the other’s saber pass a scanner without an alarm blaring. If the saber was safe, it was allowed through. If not... I never tried it.
Of course, there were no problems, but the last thing I wanted was a training accident. On the floor were several circles clearly marked that defined the boundaries for duels to take place. Most were about 15 meters wide, but there were much larger areas for multiple participants to fight in teams or pairs. I chose one of the larger circles and got to one edge, but when I turned around, I saw Atris talking to Kalin about how to team up against me.
That made me feel a little better to see Atris actually taking my advice and not just going through the motions. She was a solitary creature, much like Vrook, but if I were to encourage her to work with others, she might become a ‘team player’ among the Jedi... she needed to if she hoped to get on the Council.
When the two had come to a proposed attack plan, I was looking forward to how things came out. “Alright... no Force abilities. Just skill against skill alone. Is that alright with you?”
Atris shook her head. “Limited Force abilities... we would like to apply the Force with lightsabers alone. Nothing beyond that.”
“Alright. Whenever you’re ready.”
For the next hour, we sparred under various conditions and I even had Kalin with me going against Atris a few times. I was surprised how good the padawan of two years was with a lightsaber, but she was clearly no match for either me or Atris. At first, she seemed to enjoy the matches, but I noticed she was becoming increasingly aggressive and reckless.
I knew that our sparing was much like the situation with Vrook, so I called the match in a bit early. Atris was a bit disappointed, but she accepted my wishes and even offered to keep practicing against Kalin, but the whole point was to get her out of another ‘no-win’ situation. I said Kalin was still under my supervision and that ended it w/out making my intentions too apparent.
When Atris was gone, Kalin looked very agitated and I was careful not to set her off. “You’re very good with a lightsaber.”
“Well it’s not like I was of any help to either one of you. Atris would have done just as well not having to come to my rescue each time.”
“It was a team effort, Kalin. And this was just practice.”
“I could never hit either of you! Even when I was on your side, I didn’t hit Atris unless you opened her up for me. I was terrible!”
I put my hands on her shoulders, but she brushed them away. “I’ve been doing this for over a decade. I’ve been trained to do this. You have only been using a lightsaber for how long?”
She sighed in discomfort. “A year and a half.”
“Do you think that I was any better then than you are now? Do you know what I did to change that?”
“What?” She said, expecting a short and easy answer.
I had only the same kind she heard dozens of times before. It was not the answer that was difficult, but the demands that were required in which were difficult to accept. “I spared with Master Kavar. He is a far greater swordsman than I am now, but I kept practicing with him time and time again... knowing that I was going to lose.”
“I know... I’ve heard it a thousand times... you improve by pushing yourself. That’s what Master Vrook always said.” She complained.
“That’s part of it, yes. However, it can become very disheartening to lose and to fail time and time again. It it important that when something like this happens, you recognize it was because the challenge was too great. I saw how frustrated you became near the end of the matches and I didn’t want you to believe you were being judged in any way. I just hoped that it could take your mind off things for a while.”
She sighed and paused for a moment before responding. “Your friend didn’t seem to want me with her. At first, I was flattered that you would invite me to dual at your level, but I thought I could have at least held my own against a Jedi knight. I thought I might have been able to defeat you or Atris at least once.”
I smiled and shook my head. “I was much like that when I spared with Master Kavar. I did get a lucky hit now and again, but the majority of times, I didn’t even touch him. I accepted that he was a master and that even as I lost, I became a little better with each match. Eventually, I tried using two lightsabers and I realized that I was beating him one out of five times... as opposed to one in a hundred or so.” I placed my hands on her shoulders. “You will find that over the course of our lives, we will fail many more times than we succeed. The only time when you should be ashamed is if you could have done something to prevent it.”
She looked up to me as though I were the master she should have had. Although I have been supporting her for only the course of two days, I think that I came to understand her better than her current master ever has. “Master Vrook never made that distinction.”
“Well I’m not trying to attack Master Vrook. He is a great instructor, but there are certain students and masters who don’t work well with each other.”
She leaned her head forward as if ashamed. “So does that mean I was not up to my master’s expectations? I thought that was what he wanted in his padawans... he said that any other instructor would demand just as much from me.”
I nodded. “Learning to use the Force always demands extreme effort and self-discipline. That won’t change, but it doesn’t mean hard work translates directly to what you learn. It’s just as important to know how best to manage your time as it is to exert yourself.”
She sighed as if she’s heard that lecture before and was bored with having it repeated. After a moment, she shrugged her shoulders. “Alexandra, I appreciate what you’re doing, but I really don’t want you to get in trouble because of me.”
“It’s alright. We all need help now and again. I would just ask that when you see another in your position, remember today and be willing to help them and we all benefit.”
“Master Vrook says that all the time, but he never explains how that is so. How do you benefit from any of this... why do you go out of your way to help me? Aren’t you going to be put in a bad position? Master Vrook isn’t exactly the forgiving type.”
I knew she was right. Even though I did a good deed, Master Vrook likely have reprimanded me because I interfered with him and his padawan. Despite the end result being better for Kalin, I was going to be disciplined because of my part in all this. That was not exactly very encouraging, but I could at least sleep better knowing I did the right thing... even if no one else believed the same thing.
“Yes, I will likely be punished for this. However, I can live with a week of extra duties. At least I could do it knowing it spared you of whatever pressure was put on you by Master Vrook. I knew what I was getting myself into from the moment I heard you were his apprentice, but don’t worry about me. Master Vrook was once where I am, but through acts such as mine, he eventually became a Council member... that’s not something you can just be given... it must be earned. I was once where you are and I know someday, you’ll be looking over a young padawan who needs a little encouragement, knowing that you’re doing the right thing.”
She smiled very warmly at me. “Thanks, Alexandra. I’ll do that for you.”
I shook my head again. “Don’t do it for me, but for yourself. We, the Jedi, are interdependent, so by helping one, we become a better society. The more you believe that, the faster you will progress as a Force user. Dealing with conflicts are the way we grow and influence the Galaxy, so remember that conflict and chaos are a natural way of life. We follow the code by finding where there is conflict and bringing balance to the Force.”
She smiled nervously. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t understand. Can you explain it again?”
I pat her on the shoulder. “I’m afraid it’s not something that can be explained. You’ll understand once you’ve lived by it.”