Brider and Satele sat in the Grand Master’s quarters, Satele nursing a cup of tea as Brider, sitting behind her, deftly knitted her hair into its thin braids at the base of her neck. The Barsen’thor wore her own hair habitually in one plait only, stretching from behind her horns down to around her hips, but the motion was one she was more than familiar with, and she and her friend had wanted to share some time together; they had both been so busy trying to hold off the worst effects of the war on the fellow Jedi they had a duty to, let alone all of the Republic, and a few quiet hours on Tython before a Council meeting were to be highly prized and made the best of.
“I had a dream this morning,” said Satele, breaking their companionable silence. Brider picked up one of several small metal rings from the low table beside her, sliding it onto the base of Satele’s braid to secure it, then began work on the next braid. “It could have been a vision.” She flexed her fingers around her tea mug. “I hope that it wasn’t,” she admitted.
Satele wouldn’t have brought it up if she hadn’t wanted to tell her about it. “What happened in this dream?” asked Brider, shifting her kneeling position (as she worked her way around Satele’s head, the optimal angle from which to attend to her hair changed).
Satele took a sip of tea. “The Chancellor and Supreme Commander were standing at a strategy table,” she said. “They talked about cutting their losses… S.I.S. Director Trant came in.”
Brider wanted to interrupt, to reassure the Grand Master that this was just a bad dream, a perfectly normal psychological reaction to living in stressful times and every life on the line (that every mother in the Republic was worried about their child), but she had more than enough self-control to ensure that the wish never even approached being a possible course of action. She remained silent, listening patiently.
“Trant said that he didn’t want to leave a good man behind… Commander Malcolm…”
Brider could tell from the slight shift in her shoulders that Satele had closed her eyes.
“...said that if he’d learned anything from what he’d lost in the last War, it was that sometimes personal feelings towards personnel need to be set aside when it comes to decisions, for the sake of the greater victory.”
Brider finished with the second of four braids; decided to press, gently. “You could call him.”
Satele sighed. “I could call her.”
None of the Jedi were quite sure what to make of Chancellor Saresh. The Barsen’thor doing her duty to Taris being treated as a political favour was inappropriate at best, and deeply concerning at worst. On the other hand, her determination and dedication were admirable. Further complicating the equation was the fact that as a strong female Twi’lek, Saresh was the Republic’s strength of diversity in action, and many of her aggressive actions that gave Jedi pause were logical responses to working in a cutthroat business as a member of a sexualised minority. Brider was at least certain that if she had something she wanted to discuss with the Order, she would make the first move to contact them. She knew that Satele knew, as well, so simply continued doing her hair.
She took another drink of tea. “Sometimes I’m not sure I have more ‘Jedi wisdom’ left to give,” she admitted. Her shoulders had moved forward a fraction, Brider noted. “Do you have some this morning, Master Surriss?”
Brider paused in braiding her hair to gently run a hand over her greying skull. “My friend,” she said, “it seems like your ailment is ‘caring about your child’. I know you have a fraught history with this, but it is natural, and on its own is not dangerous.”
Satele bowed her head, and Brider released her hair entirely, shifting her position so that she was alongside her, rather than behind her.
“What must you think of us older Jedi?” asked Satele. “Your Master succumbed to a Sith plague. Your mentor, Syo Bakarn, was the First Son of the Emperor. And now, your rare morning on Tython is taken up by the Grand Master talking about having broken the Code – and never a word of complaint from you.”
Brider placed a tattooed hand over her hearts, her chest stinging at the self-flagellation in Satele’s words. That much she did recognise from Yuon Parr and Syo Bakarn. “Satele,” she said, “listen to me. Master Yuon fought a Sith plague. Syo resisted no less than the Sith Emperor. And you are a sentient being, the daughter of an exile, who was told the entire war effort depended upon you, when you were the age of most Padawans.”
“You were told the same.”
By that, Satele meant that she had relied on Brider in the same way that the Masters in Satele’s day had relied upon her. It was not fair for a young Jedi to have such weight on them. It was also fairer than that weight being unborne would be. Brider, for her part, had always felt left behind by Jedi her own age, with their pursuits and interests so different from her own. Her heart had always lain in scholarship and in healing, where many Jedi drifted somewhere between their first Padawan’s Knighthood and the onset of frailty. She swept back Satele’s hair again to continue her work. “Can you imagine,” she said, “if, instead of Qyzen, my first traveling companion had been Felix?”
Satele let out a soft exhale that shaped itself into, though not a laugh, an indication of the hint of one. “Point taken,” she said. “Thank you.”
“I am Jedi,” said Brider, and finished the third braid. She moved onto the fourth, at the side of Satele’s face. Past the bead halfway down was her friend’s face. It was faintly wrinkled, and shadows lay under her eyes. She exhaled soundlessly through her nose, and finished her handiwork, sliding on the last slim ring of dark metal. “To assist is a privilege.”
Satele raised her head, and Brider stood, stretching her legs, the metal in her own hair catching the light. She reached out her hand. Satele Shan, Grand Master of the Jedi Order, looked up at the young paragon of Light, not yet wearied, and took the hand she offered her.