It was the drumming that woke her.
the depths of hazy dreams Jaara awoke to the frantic pounding of
drums and cries of her people. Rubbing her eyes she sat up, shivering
as the cold air hit her hot skin. The scent of smoke and sweat was
all around her, and she shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts.
Why was her body so slow? Why did it feel as if one hundred blankets
weighed her down?
“Jaara, you have been spared.”
She knew that scratchy voice. It was Teema, the healer who killed more than she saved. With bleary eyes Jaara glanced around the hut. It was dark and smelled like earth. It was the hut that had recently been built for those who had contracted the Silvery Death....
“You were. It seems the gods have spared you this time. Your fever is broken.” Even in the dark Teema's large golden eyes gleamed. Studying her. Hating her.
“Are dead. Do you hear those drums?”
How could she not? Every time the drums beat she could feel it shake her bones. Jaara remained silent. She didn't think Teema needed a reply. The old woman grunted, her frail arms crossing across her chest.
beat because your parents have passed on only hours ago. Now you will
rule us. You must feel very blessed.”
Jaara wished she could cry. She wished she could run. She wished she could die and join her parents. How could she be the only one left? How could she run this village? She was only 17 moons old. Teema suddenly smiled, and her dry laugh filled the hut.
“You'll run us into the ground and I shall be able to finally tell people I was right all along. It is sad your parents died. They were good rulers. They knew the ways and traditions. You will only bring disappointment and ruin to us.”
thin bowed legs—one shorter than the other—Teema stood, stooping
so she didn't hit her head on the earthen roof.
“I will let the people know you have lived. And give you privacy with your family.”
Her family? Teem pulled back a ratted curtain and the firelight's glow illuminated two motionless forms wrapped in furs. Her family. Tears trailed down Jaara's cheeks and she laid her heavy body back on the ground, too tired, too dizzy to fight back. To look away. She wanted to die with them. And then...a warmth. Something warm was filling her from the inside out. She knew this feeling. It was the energy she felt when she was running the footpaths of the jungle, trusting it to find the way to the best fruit. The energy that moved in her when she danced and became one with music and motion.
Her tears eased, and her fear.
If she allowed this energy to flow through her, she would be well.
Everyone would be well. She stared at her covered parents. Their
energy was gone. But she was sure she could feel their love around
her. She would lead her people. She had to.
There were not any people to
lead. By the time the Silvery Sickness was finished, only she and
three others lived. Boro, her friend since childhood, Nivem, an
elderly man who had lived through the sickness twice, and a young man
who had run away into the wilds a week earlier. Teema was the last to
“Why do the horrible ones always stay alive the longest?” Grunted Boro as she angrily slapped the last blue stone on Teema's grave. No one had wanted to bury Teema, but it wouldn't have be right not to. Nivem sighed, resting his long knobby fingers on the pile of stones.
“Those who are the angriest have the most to live for. They cling to it—and it clings to them. Anger is a great strength.”
“So is love.” Jaara pointed
out quickly, and Nivem smiled. Boro rolled her eyes, clucking her
“Love isn't the answer to
everything Jaara.” Boro sighed. “What do we do now, O ruler?”
It was a good question with no answer. Not a good one anyway. As far as she knew the surrounding villages had also been nearly as decimated as their own. There was not much to be done. Their village was gone. After the rain months nature would claim what they had taken and all that would be left would be bumps of choke-vines where the huts had once stood. It was too dangerous to stay alone. Three people were not enough to defend themselves against the creatures much bigger than they were.
“We should go to the capitol.”
Nivem suggested this hesitantly. Both Boro and Jaara wrinkled their noses at the idea. The capitol was crowded and flooded with scents that would assault their sensitive noses. City people had adapted and their keen noses dulled. Boro began to argue with Nivem—she did love to argue—and Jaara slipped away to think.
She walked amongst the empty
huts and fire pits. All around were the piles of blue rocks to mark
as graves, to remind her of all she had lost. The jungle that was
once her playground surrounding
the village suddenly
looked scary and foreign to her. It was going to take away all
of her home and the lives that lived in it. Perhaps they could keep
it up. Perhaps they could band together with the remaining villagers
in other places and start a new one. Perhaps....Jaara's feet stopped
at the edge of the jungle, her toes just touching the rich black
earth that marked the beginning of the wilds.
Closing her large golden eyes she took a deep breath. The scent of forest, rain, and even the smell of decay from the other villages entered her senses. She let go of her control, let the energy flow through her. Perhaps if she concentrated it would point her in the direction they were meant to go. She frowned, pushing past the scent of death and took another sniff. There was an odd scent. One she had never smelled before. She couldn't even begin to place what it might be. But the energy in her was suddenly flowing forth towards the scent and Jaara's hearts began to quicken, her hands began to sweat. She was seeing and not seeing at the same time. She was connected to the energy, and the scent. And it was connecting to....something. To someone.
Suddenly she was soaring over the jungle, riding on the energy like a bird on a strong, high wind. The streets of the capitol entered her vision, the energy whipping her through narrow ally ways and dirty streets. Through people and aliens she had never seen before, stopping only when she spotted a robed figure.
But not a man. At least, not a man of her people. Not a man like any of the aliens that traded with them. He felt familiar, but she had never met him. He was speaking with a merchant, his face covered by a brown hood. And then he saw her. He turned and looked up sharply—right at her. Like she really was standing in the ally with him. His strange blue eyes bore into her, as if he knew her. And she knew him. Did she? She was scared.
He reached for her and she pulled away, afraid of what would happen. Her eyes snapped open and she found herself staring into the worried golden eyes of Boro.
“Jaara! What happened!? Are you alright?”
Boro's grip on her shoulders was tight, and she shook her once. Jaara grabbed her hands, her chest heaving as if she'd bodily run to the capitol.
“We...we need to go to the capitol.”
“Yes. Boro there's a man who can help us. I think...I think he can help us.”
“How do you know?” Boro was
always mistrustful, but Jaara could suddenly sense everything about
her. More so than ever. Boro was afraid. And angry. And she was angry
at her as well. But why? Her friends gave her another shake,
distracting her. And it was as if a curtain had
shut her away from Boro's feelings. Jaara shrugged helplessly.
“I just do. I smelled him. I saw him. Can't you smell him? Sense him?”
For a moment Jaara was sure her friend would storm away in a huff, but she didn't. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. Her grip on Jaara relaxed, her nostrils flaring for a moment.
“I see....” Suddenly Boro cried out, and jumped away as if she'd been burned, her normally slitted pupils dilated until they were nearly round. “What is he!?”
“He is our hope. We must go to the capitol. We will find him there.”
Boro did not disagree, but she didn't look happy about it. Nivem would not go.
“But you're the one who suggested it!” Cried Boro.
because I thought you would turn it down. I'm old, Jaara. My family
is gone and I have lived a good life. I will not make it to the
capitol alive if I go. When I die, I wish to be with my family.”
“At least come with us until the next village.”
“No. I will care for this village until I am unable to. But Jaara, you must go now. There is something greater out there for you. You have much to do.”
back tears Jaara knelt before the elder, taking his rough
greenish-blue hands into her own slender ones.
“How do you know Nivem?”
“Can't you sense it child?” Nivem squeezed her hands. “Can't you sense the energy changing around you?”
But I'm scared. I don't know why it wants me to do things.”
“It's alright to be afraid. But do not let it stop your feet from moving forward. Jaara, we are not stones on the floor. We must bend and move like the trees, and the energy that flows through us is like the wind. Follow it and you will go where you are meant to. Do you understand?”
“Yes. Well, a little.”
“You will learn in time. You are young. Now go. He is waiting for you.”
She decided no to ask him how he knew. Perhaps he was able to feel energy like she and Boro. But it was rare. She knew Boro felt it because as children they often played games to see who could find animals in holes the fastest. They always found the same animal at the same time, and both had admitted to following the energy they felt inside themselves. But no others in their village had ever felt such a thing. Or perhaps like Nivem, they didn't talk about it. But why? She would never know now.
There was very little to pack for their journey. A sling shot and daggers. What little food they could carry along with a pouch of water. A blanket for each of them and clacker rocks to start fires. Not much at all. Boro had traded out her hide skin dress for the flowing green pants the hunters wore, and she had bound her chest with strip of leather. It was a good idea. Jaara copied her friend, and after a tearful goodbye to Nivem they departed from their old life and stepped into the uncertain future.
Jaara forced herself to not look back at the village as she and Boro followed the narrow footpath that would lead them to the capitol three days away. Forced herself to not cry. To not feel she had failed as a leader. She had never really been given a chance to follow in her parents footsteps. To make them proud. To save people. She had failed in so many ways. But she would right this somehow. And that strange man in the capitol was the key.
Pressing a hand to her cheek she felt wetness. She glanced over to Boro and found her cheeks were slick with tears. She grabbed her friends hand, holding onto it tightly as she looked down at their bare feet.
“We're not stones on the ground.”
days they walked through the thick jungle, sleeping in trees at night
to avoid any large animals or the Felrin, the larger people that
lived in the jungles. Boro didn't speak much, and it left Jaara with
a lot of time to think. Sometimes, Jaara would catch Boro staring at
her almost angrily, and then the look would be gone. But why? She
wanted to ask, but her friend was stubborn and often didn't like
talking about her emotions. Especially if she was upset. Usually she
sulked for a day and by the time the sun set she came back as if
nothing was wrong. This Jaara was used to.
But this was different. Sometimes, if Jaara concentrated, she could sense deeper into her friend's mind. Usually it was worry if they would make it to the capitol alive, or fear that they might run out of food. And sometimes she felt the anger towards her. Anger for her not doing much to find a cure. It went deeper than that, but she couldn't pry any more without fear that Boro might realize what she was doing. Jaara wished she could fix it, talk about it, but doing so would only cause her friend to recede deeper into herself.
Towards evening the scent of the capitol reached them. Both covered their noses with cloths, and Jaara's eyes stung from the stench. The jungle had given way to cleared fields, and the city loomed high above large red walls made of clay. People jostled and clamored in and out of the city, filling the sky with their shouts, laughter, and babbling. She could smell every food, every uncleaned and cleaned body. Even the walls seemed to have their own putrid scent. They were jostled forth by a group of merchants all in a hurry to get inside. Panicked and light headed as she pinched her nose closed with one hand, she reached for Boro with her other. And came up empty.
Blinking in surprised she glanced around. Boro was nowhere to be seen. She called out her name to no avail, it was too loud to be heard. Trapped in a tide of people Jaara closed her eyes. Felt the energy in her swell. She needed air. Fresh air. The pressure around her suddenly eased, and Jaara opened her eyes. Everyone around her hand stepped back at least three feet, jostling each other, but not her. She could breath. She tried to peer over the crowd, where I was growing into a single file line as they drew nearer to the entrance of the wall. A hand grabbed her shoulder. Not hard or threatening, but still. Jaara stopped, and the crowed simply flowed past her. Except for the hooded man holding onto her shoulder. He would not be moved.
Slowly, she looked up into the face of a man she knew and didn't know. A strange creature with sad blue eyes and pale skin. The energy flowed from him to her and she saw glimpses of what he was. Strange harry creatures, aliens in armor of hard white material. And she saw sadness. And hope. And a name. She stared up into the eyes of the familiar man who was not familiar and her two hearts beat as one.
“You are Luke.”
“And you,” Said this strange man with a tired smile, “were really hard to find. I've been looking for you for months. I'm sure you have a lot of questions.”
For a moment Jaara thought about running away. But only for a moment. Something about this alien called Luke calmed her. Made her feel that all the questions she'd ever had about anything would be answered. She needed to be like a tree and bend in the face of a strong wind. She smiled up at him as a word from his memories rolled across her mind. It stuck out and felt important.
is a Jedi?”
Luke smiled back.
“That, young one, is a long story.”