In Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Obi-Wan Kenobi implores his master, Qui-Gon Jinn, to temper his request that a young Anakin Skywalker be trained as a Jedi. “Don’t defy the Council, master. Not again,” he says. “I will do what I must, Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon replies. It’s an exchange that offers great insight into their relationship — one of both friction and respect. Indeed, Qui-Gon would later acknowledge that his student is much wiser than he.
Claudia Gray’s upcoming Star Wars: Master & Apprentice, arriving April 16 in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook, will delve further into the dynamic between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, which has gone relatively unexplored until now. In the exclusive excerpt below, the Jedi Council summons Qui-Gon following a difficult mission and makes a surprising offer…
As ever, after a mission, Qui-Gon had been summoned to the Jedi Council’s chambers for his report. It was nighttime—later than the Council usually met, at least for ordinary business—and the darkness around them was illuminated by the cyclone of Coruscanti traffic and ships’ lights. Yet here, within this room, a sense of serenity prevailed. Qui-Gon relished the contrast.
Master Billaba leaned forward, studying her datapad with a frown on her face. “It worries me, this misunderstanding between you and your Padawan. This isn’t the first time you’ve reported such difficulties.”
Qui-Gon bowed his head slightly. “It worries me as well. Obi-Wan is strong in the Force, and eager to do his duty. The failure must be mine. Fundamentally, I fear, we are a mismatch. I’ve been unable to adapt my teaching methods to his needs, despite my best efforts.”
Yoda cocked his head. “Adapt he must as well. Cooperation is learned not through individual effort. Only together can you progress.”
Agreeing to that proposition—sensible though it was—would mean shifting some of the blame onto Obi-Wan, which Qui-Gon preferred not to do. He simply remained quiet. The Jedi Council had a habit of assuming that silence equaled agreement; Qui-Gon had found this habit useful, from time to time.
Regardless, he expected the Council to eventually ask him if he wanted them to reassign Obi-Wan’s training to another Master. He’d known before this meeting began that they might even ask the question tonight, but he still wasn’t sure what he would say. The suspense seemed worse than he would’ve anticipated, maybe because he didn’t know what he wanted to answer . . .
. . . or because the silence in the room had lasted a suspiciously long period of time.
Qui-Gon focused his attention back on the Masters surrounding him. They were exchanging glances in what seemed to be anticipation. He straightened. “Have you another mission for us?” Maybe they intended to test him and Obi-Wan one more time before any decision about reassignment would be made.
“Yes, another task for you we have.” Yoda’s ears lowered, a sign of deep intent. “Consider it carefully, you must.”
Mace Windu drew himself upright and folded his hands together in a formal gesture of respect. “You may not have heard that Master Dapatian intends to retire from the Council, effective next month.”
Qui-Gon glanced at Poli Dapatian, a Master of great renown . . . so much so that Qui-Gon had failed to note, in recent years, how aged he had become. “That is our loss.”
“We hope it will also be our gain,” Mace replied. “Qui-Gon Jinn, we hereby offer you a seat on the Jedi Council.”
Had he misheard? No, he hadn’t. Qui-Gon slowly gazed around the circle, taking in the expressions of each Council member in turn. Some of them looked amused, others pleased. A few of them, Yoda included, appeared more rueful than not. But they were serious.
“I admit—you’ve surprised me,” Qui-Gon finally said.
“I imagine so,” Mace said drily. “A few years ago, we would’ve been astonished to learn we would ever consider this. But in the time since, we’ve all changed. We’ve grown. Which means the possibilities have changed as well.”
Qui-Gon took a moment to collect himself. Without any warning, one of the turning points of his life had arrived. Everything he said and did in the next days would be of great consequence. “You’ve argued with my methods often as not, or perhaps you’d say I’ve argued with yours.”
“Truth, this is,” Yoda said.
Depa Billaba gave Yoda a look Qui-Gon couldn’t interpret. “It’s also true that the Jedi Council needs more perspectives.”
Is the Council actually making sense? Qui-Gon hoped none of them had picked up on that thought.
Mace nodded. “Yes, Qui-Gon, we’ve disagreed often. Butted heads, even. But you’ve always acted with respect for the Council’s authority, without compromising your inner convictions. This shows a great gift for—”
“Diplomacy?” Qui-Gon asked.
Mace replied, “I was going to say balance.”
It was a delicate line to walk, one Qui-Gon had stumbled over on many occasions. But those occasions had become rarer as the years went on. He’d learned how to handle the Council well enough. Now, it seemed, the Council had become ready to hear him in return.
Qui-Gon had never imagined sitting on the Jedi Council itself, at least not since he was a youngling. Dooku had chuckled once, early in Qui-Gon’s training, when they spoke of the Council. “You have your own mind, my Padawan,” he’d said. “The Council doesn’t always respond well to that.” Given how many times Qui-Gon had clashed with the Council—from his earliest days as a Jedi Knight up to six weeks ago—he’d always assumed that he would never ascend to the heights of the Order.
But now it could happen. Would happen. He’d be able to weigh in on the Council’s decisions, and perhaps create some of the change he wanted to see. It was the greatest opportunity of his life.
“You honor me,” Qui-Gon said. “I ask for some time to meditate upon this before I accept.” Of course he would take the seat on the Council. But in doing so, he wanted to more fully reflect upon how this would change him, and the breadth of the important role he would assume.
“Very wise,” said Depa. “Most of those asked to join the Council do the same, myself included. If someone didn’t—well, I’d think maybe he didn’t know what he was getting into.”
Laughter went around the room. Amusement bubbled within Poli Dapatian’s respirator mask. Depa Billaba’s grin was infectious, and Qui-Gon realized he was smiling back at her. Although the Council had never been hostile to him, this was the first time Qui-Gon had felt a deeper camaraderie—the friendliness of equals. Already Teth and the Hutts seemed like a problem from years ago. The future shone so boldly that it threatened to eclipse the present.
Steady, he told himself. Even an invitation to the Jedi Council mustn’t go to your head.
“Consider carefully, you must,” said Yoda, the only member of the Council who remained gravely serious. “No hasty answer should you give.”
“Of course,” Qui-Gon said. Hadn’t he just indicated that he intended to do exactly that?
Before he could think more on it, Mace said, “In some ways, this invitation comes at an opportune time. This change could, potentially, resolve other problems.”
Only then did it hit Qui-Gon: If he took a seat on the Council, then Obi-Wan would be transferred to another Master.
It wasn’t forbidden for a Jedi on the Council to train a Padawan learner; one of Qui-Gon’s crèche-mates had become the Padawan of Master Dapatian, back in the day. Exceptions had been made during times of crisis as well, when everyone needed to take on extra duties. But such exceptions were rare. Serving on the Council required a great deal of time, concentration, and commitment. Balancing that commitment with the equally sacred task of training a Padawan—well, it would be a difficult situation, one potentially unfair to both Master and student. Only those who had served on the Council for a long time, and had adjusted to its demands, contemplated such a step.
“I see what you mean,” Qui-Gon said. “Perhaps it would be for the best. But I must think upon it.”
“Of course,” Depa said warmly. Yoda nodded, clutching his gimer stick and saying nothing.
Mace Windu rose from his chair to put his hand on Qui-Gon’s shoulder. “We will of course keep this invitation private unless and until you choose to join us. At this point, the only person outside this room who knows of it is Chancellor Kaj herself. But if you need to discuss it with Padawan Kenobi, or any other friends, you may feel free to do so, as long as they will promise to be discreet.”
Qui-Gon walked out of the Council Chamber into the Temple in a strange state of mind. He couldn’t call it a daze, because this was in some ways the exact opposite. Every detail of his surroundings struck him with fresh vividness, whether it was the colorful patterns of inlaid marble beneath his feet or the scarlet trim on a young Jedi Knight’s gown. It was as though the invitation to join the Council had given him new eyes. A new way of seeing the world, one that he would no doubt spend the rest of his life learning to comprehend.
The Council, he said to himself. By the Force, the Council.
Perhaps another Jedi might have given way to elation, or even the temptation of pride. Qui-Gon Jinn was made of sterner stuff. Besides, he couldn’t bring himself to feel entirely happy when he considered the question of Obi-Wan.
He’d already come to believe that they were mismatched as teacher and student. The main reason Qui-Gon hadn’t asked for a transfer before was that he knew Obi-Wan would be hurt by it, and would blame himself. The Council’s invitation would allow the transfer to be impersonal, merely practical. Obi-Wan could then be reassigned to a teacher who would serve him better.
Why, then, did the idea fill Qui-Gon with such a profound sense of loss?
Star Wars: Master & Apprentice is available for pre-order now.
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