Sleeping With the Enemy
This story is set immediately after Refugee. As you can see, this Riina is a little different from the Riina of Reunion, but just for the purposes of the story, pretend you haven't read the latter book. I hope you enjoy this take on a rather interesting, and potentially pivotal, character.
Anakin Solo. Hear the way I spit his last name. Jeedai! Infidel! One of those who have proved to be the most troublesome, the most determined to rob the glorious Yuuzhan Vong of the inheritance that Lord Shimrra saw for us in his vision. One of the many who would condemn us to a slow and ignominious death in the cold void between the galaxies. And yet as I acknowledge my hatred of him, I know I harbour other feelings that conflict. I hate him for what he is, but not for who he is. I can't. Tahiri won't let me. And here lies the paradox of my predicament.
The truth is that I owe my existence to the Jeedai. I rely on one of them for my sustenance, and my continuing survival is dependent on the compassion of them all towards the body that I cohabit. To them that body is Tahiri Veila. When they look at her, they see the familiar person they've known for years and the sign of the Jeedai - the lightsaber - worn on her belt. They see her as a native from Tatooine, a Jeedai candidate, as Anakin Solo's love. The Solos see her as one of their own, and because of this connection they try to comfort and protect her.
But to me this body is Riina Kwaad, and I too see things that are familiar -- my memories of my creche-mother and my appellation day, of a childhood growing up on a worldship, and the sign of my domain worn on my forehead. Born into the warrior caste, I was taken away from my people before I could learn all their ways, and yet I have still come to understand the necessity of pain. For a long time I have wanted to make this body into a suitable home, but Anakin stopped me, forcing me into a dark corner of Tahiri's mind and overwhelming me with a power I couldn't understand and therefore could not fight.
But those of us born from the works of Yun Yuuzhan are not defeated easily, and living in this strange infidel body has taught me to adapt. I've learned to endure all sorts of alien experiences -- unsettling emotions that have left me shuddering with revulsion and confusion -- and these have made me strong. For a long time I have hoped to cleanse the shame I feel at the unnatural smoothness of my skin and Tahiri's pitiful efforts to scar it. No longer do I have to hide from the tendrils of Anakin Solo's consciousness as he explores and caresses Tahiri's mind. No longer must I withstand the rising tide of desire that frightened me with its intensity.
I didn't try to understand the connection between Tahiri and Anakin Solo, but I will admit this: that the hiss I utter when pronouncing his name has as much to do with my efforts to speak this ugly infidel language as it does with my feelings about him. Could I learn to comprehend Tahiri's feelings? I don't know. I'll never know. As I said, I hate what he is, or was, and yet not only do I exist thanks to him, but I acknowledge him as a warrior to whom I would have been proud to fall in battle.
Such is my dilemma, or perhaps I should say such was my dilemma. Until recently I was prepared to stay in my hiding place content in the knowledge that my people were prevailing, and knowing that, if Tahiri died like Anakin, her sacrifice would also be my sacrifice to my gods. I would have willingly given up my hope of fully inhabiting this body, for I am confident that Tahiri would have died a warrior's death. In a sense I couldn't lose. Defeated mentally by Anakin Solo, and then slain by the glorious Yuuzhan Vong, I would have had a double death with double the pain at the hands of great warriors.
Now, however, the situation has changed, and I hear reports of victories against my people. I can no longer remain passive, but I'm filled with indecision over what I should do.
Perhaps you're beginning to understand my confused feelings and loyalties. I owe Anakin Solo both my life and my temporary "death." It's true he banished me so that Tahiri could reclaim control of her mind, but he also made it possible for me to come into being in the first place. If he hadn't challenged the Peace Brigade, he wouldn't have set into motion the chain of events that led to Tahiri being captured and shaped. And if Mezhan Kwaad had attempted to shape one of the other Jeedai, it's possible she would have chosen one without Tahiri's stamina and endurance -- one who might have died, which in turn would have spelt my death. A shameful death -- inappropriate for a warrior.
And there's more. If Anakin Solo hadn't rescued Tahiri from Mezhan Kwaad when he did, then it's likely she would have been handed to another Shaper, for Mezhan Kwaad was to be tried for her heresy. What if that new Shaper had chosen to delete me from Tahiri's brain? It's highly probable they would have, especially as Domain Kwaad was in disgrace. Whichever way I look at it, I have to admit that I owe Anakin Solo a certain debt. The question is whether I consider that debt negated by him banishing me or not. Once I would have said yes, but living with Tahiri for so long now, I find the answer as hard to spear as a crawl-fish in the belly of a vangaak. Am I growing complacent? Am I losing my identity? But there again, what is my identity? Who is Riina Kwaad?
A warrior? Yes, definitely. And as a warrior I should be fighting Tahiri for ownership of this body. But I have another role that as yet I can only define in the words of Mezhan Kwaad, for my own understanding of them is vague hearing them as I do through the filter of Tahiri's memory. She told Tahiri that she was to "become a tissue connecting the Yuuzhan Vong and the Jeedai, nurturing both" and that she was the "path to peace." In other words, Tahiri would become these things because of me. So I am a warrior and yet also, by implication, a peacemaker -- a strange dichotomy if ever there was one. It's as if Tahiri's body has become a battleground in miniature between those who will fight until the end and those who wish for an end to fighting, and between Yuuzhan Vong ideology and that of the Jeedai. I think Anakin Solo saw this in his vision, or at least he saw a possible end to it -- Tahiri and myself, as the last of our respective kinds, fighting each other. Sometimes I think that's what I want. Riina the warrior would want it. But, of course, as I said, I'm not just a warrior. Whatever Mezhan Kwaad's words mean, and whatever Anakin Solo's vision means, there is one thing about which I am sure -- Tahiri's destiny and mine are connected. Maybe they are two aspects of the one. Time alone will tell.
Don't think that I like this uncertainty, because I don't. The warrior aspect of me likes things cut and dried -- literally sometimes. Yes, don't be too surprised that I have a sense of humour. In some ways we are poles apart, but in others we are not so different. Our need for family, for instance -- for roots. Our need to feel we belong somewhere. If you'd been wandering the endless reaches of space for centuries unable to feel the soft dirt beneath your toes, unable to see the sun rising and feel its warmth caress your skin and fill you with its life-giving energy, you'd understand just how great our need is. And of course my need for these things is being fulfilled. Through Tahiri I have felt the solid trunks of the trees on Kashyyyk and the stringent salt waters of Mon Calamari. I feel the strength that comes from her connection to the other Jeedai and to Anakin Solo's family. I sense also that Tahiri's need for family, like mine, is fueled by loss, for both of us were separated from our birth families.
For every plus, however, there seems to be a minus. Her need for family is something I understand; her need for Anakin Solo is not. And yet here, too, I see a paradox, for even though the strength of their attachment frightened me, I reveled in the kinship. If mathematical rules apply, will the pluses and minuses negate each other, or will they hold their positions at each end of the number line, in perfect balance? For the moment, the answer to that is hidden in the mist that shields the future.
There are many other things that confuse me, things for which I keep finding answers and then complications to those answers. If only I could claim this body, then maybe I could sort these things out, but I only seem able to wrestle Tahiri away for short periods before she fights her way back. I do feel her weakening though -- the strain of constant battle allied with her intense grief is taking its toll. But there again what glory is there in defeating somebody at low ebb? I would almost prefer to be vanquished rather than win under those circumstances. At times I can honestly say I curse Mezhan Kwaad for creating me, restoring me -- sometimes I'm not sure exactly what she did -- and putting me in this ridiculous situation. Her grandiose notions about peace are all very well, but they are also the thoughts of a heretic.
But if Mezhan Kwaad is a heretic, then am I one too?
I want to believe I'm not. I want to believe that it was me that killed her back on Yavin Four, and that I struck her down because of her claim that there were no gods. That was a heresy worthy of death.
I can still see that scene clearly -- the humid air with its faint scent of pool weed, Mezhan Kwaad's eyes widening as the glowing purple blade rises like an amphistaff to strike. But the weapon itself is heretical. Its carapace is a blasphemy even though its heart is living. If I struck her down for heresy, I used heresy as my aid. And the question I keep asking myself is -- was Anakin Solo also a heretic for creating such a weapon. And if he was, did I also kill him? Not hand to hand, you understand. I mean, by default -- by stopping Tahiri from fighting beside him in his final battle; by quelling her instinct to disobey his order to go with the Jeedai healer. Maybe I simply encouraged her frustration with him for continually giving her tasks that kept them apart.
I wish I knew the answers, because then I would know better who I am. As it is I find it hard to differentiate between Tahiri and myself. Tahiri acts, but I also act, and I can't help this unnerving feeling that not only do we act in unison for different reasons, but that this duality has a purpose.
Too often I feel the waves of desolation as she grieves for Anakin Solo, and the echoes of remembered passion as she dreams about him. At times, too, I catch glimpses of a strange creature with soft white fur and long ears murmuring about togetherness and strength -- and I know these ideas are linked in Tahiri's mind with images of herself and Anakin Solo. But that self is no longer just Tahiri, and it has been that way for a while. I think even Anakin Solo accepted that, for in pushing me away, he simultaneously acknowledged my presence.
What all this means for me, I don't know, although I can say that when Tahiri connects with aspects of me, she becomes stronger. She proved this when she used some of my abilities to defeat the tall Jeedai on Yuuzhan'tar. But then when the other Solo tried to help her connect with her Yuuzhan Vong aspect, he failed. He needs to understand that Tahiri won't do it willingly, unless she sees an imminent reason to do so. On Yuuzhan'tar she knew she had to save her friends, but on Mon Calamari she was too lost in memories of Anakin Solo -- I know, because I felt the dagger of her hatred. There are times when I think that she would be willing to cut me out, even though she knows that would mean death to us both. But that doesn't make me fear her -- far from it. Instead I rejoice in her ferocity.
So where does this leave me? At the moment -- while her body sleeps thanks to the Kurtzen's ministrations -- stronger, but still nowhere near gaining control. Tahiri is fighting, and I know she may continue to fight. As a warrior this excites me, but then I remember Mezhan Kwaad and her purpose for me, and somehow this memory becomes jumbled with Tahiri's memories and the image of the white creature. Togetherness, strength, a tissue connecting the Yuuzhan Vong with the Jeedai. Tahiri fights, and yet she is also thinking about these things. Both Tahiri and I seem to have been touched by destiny's mantle. I wait to see if it will become a cloak or a shroud?
Disclaimer: All content is made up, and no profit or lucre is expected, solicited, advocated or paid. This is all just for fun. Any comments, please e-mail the author or WOOKIEEhut directly. Flames will be ignored. Characters and situations are based on those which are the property of LucasFilms Ltd., Bantam Publishing, Random House, and their respective original owners and developers. The rest is this story's author's own fault. This story may not be posted anywhere without the author's knowledge, consent, and permission. This web page is presented by Wookieehut.com.