“Leia, grab my hand, we’re almost to the top.”
The Princess’ teacher, trainer and bodyguard, Faeren, reached down to steady the young but nimble girl. “I can do it myself, Faeren.”
“Of course you can. However, last time…”
“Last time, I trusted you and you nearly dropped me.” The eleven year old Princess Organa declared brusquely, grinning up at her mentor, one eyebrow cocked.
“Ah, so this is your game? Well, let’s see what Bette packed for our lunch then.” Faeren backed away from the edge of the cliff the pair had been climbing, sat and rifled through the satchel that he slung from his back. “Corican apple tart, mmm; spiceloaf with Jinkin nuts; a wrapped baked krunk; and what’s this? Not Leia’s favorite; a hefty side of smoked trill. Mmm, doesn’t it smell delicious.”
He laid out the offering from the bundle on a cloth and poured himself a cup of sweet juice from a bronze colored vessel. “Princess, you’re missing a fine meal… Princess?”
Faeren rose to peer over the edge of the rocky outcropping that formed the bench beneath the peak of Mt. Altorr. “Princess! Where the doff did you go?”
A voice behind him spun him around causing him to nearly lose his balance. “This trill is so tasty. Bette knows me well. Unlike some others I could mention.” The Princess had sidled her way along the cliff-face and scampered up a clever path to the platform.
“There you are you naughty vinx.” Faeren was about to admonish her further but refrained knowing full well she would vex him with some additional escapade. He sat beside her and sipped at his cup. “How do like your new boots?” he asked instead.
“They serve me well; not too snug, but flexible enough to feel the rock. I thank you again for the gift.”
He smiled politely nodding his welcome. “They should last the season. You’re growing so quickly now; I’ll have to order a new pair by the end of the summer.”
Leia broke apart the krunk, and nibbled at the pale starchy insides. “Faeren, what do you know of the Force?”
His own mouth full of spiceloaf, Faeren set down his cup and lifted up a black obsidian stone, clearing his throat he said, “Ah, I wondered when you’d be asking that question.” He paused to swallow. “You see this stone? It is drawn to the alder by gravity, a force of the universe.” With that the teacher dropped the stone. Picking it up again he cracked it down, hard splitting it in two. “Gravity is one force. And you see there is another force, a force that holds things together.” He lifted a shard of the glass rock.
“Yes, I’ve learned all of this. Wendor’s lessons drone such things into my head. But Gravity and the binding forces are not The Force,” she said, emphasizing her last two words.
“Patience, please,” he told her.
She grumbled, taking an aggressive bite from the trill, and chewing it in a most unladylike fashion.
“The Force, as you say, is an energy of living things. All things alive contain some bit of The Force. Some of our stories tell us that there maybe beings who can control this force, this energy.”
“Control it, how?”
Faeren sipped from his cup, offering it to the Princess after a refill. “No one knows how it is controlled. Those in the myths never explained how they used it, how they connected to it. Somehow, they say, they just — felt it.”
“Living things. So, I have some Force inside me?”
“So the theory goes, yes.”
“And if I could connect to this Force, I could use it? How?”
Faeren began to repack the food parcels and replace them in the satchel. “As I said, it is not known.”
“Faeren, how would you think to use The Force?”
The mentor knew that he could not free himself from her inquisitiveness without some sort of answer. “If I were to use The Force, I would picture the other forces, gravity and the binding force, and push my own Force into those. I would envision my Force overcoming those other forces.”
“I think I understand,” Leia said, standing to brush off the crumbs of their meal.
“Well I’m glad you do. Shall we press to the top or return along the saddle path to the valley?”
Princess Leia gave him a smirk as if to say, “You need to ask?” She took the lead and the pair started up a crevice that led to the top of Mt. Altorr. “How much of The Force do we each get, do you think?” she continued during a technical section of the climb.
“Mind the climb there Leia!” he called as she accidentally loosed a stone that tumbled and struck him on the shoulder. He heard her say “oops,” and frowned at her when she looked down. “Again, and we can only guess from what little we know, they say that there are some, what the galaxy knew as Jedi, who were filled with The Force. They could move mountains, destroy cities and even use it to speak across great distances.”
Leia had reached the part where she needed to spider climb, pressing hands and feet to both sides of the crack to ascend. As she began she felt her boot shift as a part of the wall weakened and crumbled. Faeren, below, heard her cry just before the first of the large stones struck him causing him to slide and tumble the fifteen strides back to the ledge. The cracking of the rocks continued and boulders the size of barrels wheeled down to just miss the stricken fellow lying below. With a sickening remorse Leia watched as a ton sized stone, lower on the cliff, groan and tilt over, pinning the man’s legs; his screams echoing up the mountain.
Cautiously she crept down the side, careful not to loosen any more stony missiles. Reaching his side she began to sob, her head pressed to his chest. “I’m sorry Faeren. I didn’t know…” Tiny avalanches continued to trickle down the mountain to pelt her back with pebbles. “Can you hear me?” she cried holding his face between her tiny hands. When he didn’t respond she worked the pack that he wore out a ways to retrieve the bronze flask. She dribbled a few drops into his slackened mouth causing him to cough and wake.
“Princess! Are you all right?” he asked, ignoring his pain and trapped position.
“Oh, Faeren, I’m sorry! I, I kicked a rock and made you fall. I did this to you. I, I…” She collapsed back on his chest in tears.
“Leia, my dear. The mountain did this. Gravity did this. I did this. You, you did not.” He gestured with his head for another drink which she provided. He closed his eyes and seemed to drift into unconsciousness. She shook him lightly. He then muttered, “Only my legs are pinned. I think my foot maybe crushed too.” His breathing had steadied but his eyelids flickered; the strike to his head having its affect. “But, but I live. You must go quick to fetch help. The night comes and the welvens will find me in the dark.”
He slipped into silence then. Leia shook him more violently but he remained unconscious.
“Welvens!” she thought, “I cannot leave him to those creatures…” She stood to look for some way to pry the rock off of her teacher. She found a pine branch but her child strength was no match for the huge stone. “If I run I’ll trip and fall. If I leave him and travel slowly the welvens will get him.” She agonized over her decision. “Or, I can stay, build a fire and the Guards will send someone when we do not return.” This last, she thought, was clearly her best choice.
She gathered branches and twigs and pilfering Faeren’s pockets, found a tiny beam-lighter he used to light a pipe he sometimes smoked. She used this to start a fire and soon had a blaze burning. He awoke sometime during the next hour and she watered and fed him from their stores. Although he chastised her for staying he admitted that her plan held merit.
By the time the welvens arrived she’d built up a fair pile of wood to feed the fire. But she couldn’t guard the far side of the stone, and beneath it, a small gap allowed a fanged welven to wedge in and gnaw on Faerens good leg. He yelled out in terror and pain.
“What can I do?” the Princess cried. “I cannot keep both sides protected.”
As she went to frighten the far side welvens, she exposed the near side to attack despite the threatening flames. Back and forth she went in growing anger and frustration.
“This doffing rock!” She screamed to the stars. Faeren toggled in and out of consciousness, babbling about the forces of the universe. “The Force! Maybe Faeren has The Force within him and he doesn’t know it.” She knelt down during a lull in the welven’s attack and splashed the remains of their juice into his face. He awoke to stare at her in confusion. “Faeren! Faeren, maybe you have have The Force within you. Maybe you can move this rock. You said ‘picture your Force pushing away the others.’ Can you do that?”
He started to reply but lost his bout with exhaustion and fell back into a stupor. The welvens gathered behind her for another concerted attack.
“If you don’t have The Force within you. Maybe. Maybe I do…” Standing beside the rock, Leia imagined the force of gravity weighing down the boulder. She imagined this force as tendrils of energy, thin but many, pulling between the mountain and the rock. Then she pictured her Force, her own pulse of energy as a sharp wedge forcing itself beneath the stone, severing the threads of gravity. She imagined her wedge of The Force driving itself under the great boulder.
It shifted. She jumped back.
“Harder!” she yelled out, “push harder,” she told herself. She held out her hands, bunched up her shoulders and physically and mentally drove her envisioned wedge of The Force’s energy under the stone, first rolling it up, creaking and scraping, then pushing it over to tumble away in one final burst of incredible mental thrust.
“Ahh,” she cried as she collapsed next to Faeren who was shocked awake as the weight lifted from his legs, the pain returning in waves now that his blood flowed once again through pinched veins.
“What? Where? Where is the stone?” His voice wavered as he fought the overwhelming pain.
“I, I moved it. I moved it with The Force.” She spoke into his jacket, her head returned to his chest. The welvens had scattered at the rumble and crashing of the boulder as it rolled away down off the cliff.
“You, you moved it? With The Force?”
“Mmm, hmm,” she replied, spent from the effort.
At first he looked about for some other explanation. Finding none, and with faint memories returning, he believed her completely. With the returning pain and welcomed consciousness he spurred himself into motion. He dragged himself nearer the fire that still burned, tilting Leia up to sit cross-legged next to him. He slowly worked his injured leg up into a bent position, grimacing and grunting at the pain. His foot was indeed crushed and his knee would never bend right again. His other leg had escaped injury aside from a small welven bite. Probing his wounds he determined he would heal.
“Leia. Leia! Listen to me,” he said, his arm around the small girl. “What you did just now, with The Force. This must remain our secret. You must tell no one. Do you hear me?”
“Tell no one. Our secret. All right.” The Princess muttered softly, drifting into a dreamless slumber. She would wake in the early morning with barely a memory of the terrifying evening.
“Good girl. I’ll be alright. We’ll both be all right. Thanks to you. To you and The Force.”