Dalna was in view. Browns, blues, and greens, with cloud cover over half the globe. It was a fairly ordinary-looking planet. On the surface, at least. It was the ordinariness that made Xiri nervous.
Master Char-Ryl-Roy and Jedi Enya Keen entered the cockpit to survey the terrain.
“If we’re close enough to bypass any interfering comms and buoys, perhaps we can announce ourselves,” Enya said.
“Very well,” Char-Ryl-Roy said.
“Is that a good idea?” Xiri asked. She thought of a line from the enormous book on diplomacy she’d been reading. Imagine, with true feeling, the hopes and fears of the other party. “I think it best that I open the conversation. They may feel uncomfortable speaking directly to a Jedi at first.”
“Well. It’s time we announce ourselves. Shall we, Xiri?” Char-Ryl-Roy asked, motioning toward the cockpit.
Xiri led the way and began landing procedures.
“We’re on an open, general frequency. Anyone in the Path of the Open Hand compound will hear it,” Char-Ryl-Roy said.
Xiri cleared her voice. “This is Princess Xiri A’lbaran of . . . Eiram and E’ronoh. I am accompanied by Jedi Master Char-Ryl-Roy and Jedi Enya Keen, here on a diplomatic mission to open a dialogue about a recent occurrence regarding our planets. We wish to hear your full perspective on the matter.”
She held her breath and waited. She whispered to Char-Ryl-Roy, “Do you think it was received?”
Char-Ryl-Roy nodded. “Nothing to do but wait.”
Minutes later, a voice came through.
“This is Elder Yulon Onning. Senior council member of the Path of the Open Hand, thanks be to the Mother. We have received your request. At this time, we do not see the usefulness of such a dialogue, as you call it.”
“It would be quite useful, I assure you,” Xiri said. “We have much to discuss—” She could hear her voice rising with irritation. She took a breath to pace herself. “We recognize the importance and the influence of the Path of the Open Hand in this galaxy. We wish to hear your wants and needs with respect to our great planets.”
“I see,” said Elder Onning. “And how would you propose to show your good faith in opening this conversation?”
Xiri muted the comm. “What is he talking about? I don’t understand this diplomacy speak!”
Master Roy rubbed his chin. “I believe he’s talking about gifts, Xiri. A token of faith.”
“Gifts? Tokens?” she whispered. She nearly said, I didn’t get to that part of the diplomacy book! She patted herself down, as if searching for a blaster without a holster. At her waist was her ever-present bane blade. Xiri never wore jewelry, or anything else of consequence.
Elder Onning spoke again. “We believe in gifts given freely. A tenet of how we see the Force, and a measure of our sense of selves within this universe.”
“Gifts given freely,” Xiri repeated. “And yet you request a gift to simply open up a conversation?” She’d spoken without thinking and saw the result in Enya’s wide eyes of alarm. Master Roy put a hand to his substantial forehead. Oops. Perhaps that was the wrong thing to say.
“If that is how you feel,” Elder Onning said, a clear chill in his voice.
Come on Xiri, she said to herself. Step up. Be a diplomat. Do something.
“I offer you a cherished personal item, my bane blade, carried with me since I was a youth,” Xiri said, trying not to rush her words. “They are priceless on E’ronoh, as they cannot be bought or sold. We never, ever part with them, not until death.” She caught her breath. “I offer you the bane blade of a princess of E’ronoh as a token that our discussion is offered with the best of intentions.”
“Princess Xiri,” Elder Onning replied. “I thoroughly appreciate your vision of our peaceful community. We are but a simple folk, not ones to accumulate shiny little trinkets for the sake of a teatime conversation.”
Xiri threw up her hands in frustration.
Enya reached forward to mute the comm. “He’s bluffing!” Enya said. “I think he’s salivating at the idea of receiving gifts. You can practically hear his hands making grabbing motions.”
“What about Teegee?” Xiri suggested.
At this, Enya jumped up and unsuccessfully suppressed a squeal. “Not Teegee! I only just got him together in one piece!”
Xiri looked over her shoulder and saw Enya exhale with relief and pat 4VO-TG, who was at her side. The droid also made a noise of relief that sounded slightly like a human passing gas.
What else did they have, Xiri wondered. They couldn’t give up their ship. The astromech wasn’t up for grabs. Her own precious bane blade was rejected outright.
“But I believe,” the Elder continued, “in a true show of an . . . open hand of friendship, there may be something aboard your ship that would prove how deep your good intentions truly are.”
“Here we go,” Char-Ryl-Roy whispered. “Let the bargaining begin.”
Xiri opened the comm. “Please do speak. We are all here to listen.”
“I believe you said there were two Jedi aboard,” Elder Onning said. “Given our differing views on the Force, the very presence of a Jedi is an affront to everything we believe in.”
Xiri watched Enya and even Char-Ryl-Roy stiffen at the remark. She didn’t know what to say to that. The Elder broke the silence, finally.
“As a show of faith, as you expressed so eloquently, we would accept a gift that was sincerely important to us, as well as those in your party.”
“Yes?” Xiri said.
“A lightsaber. The Jedi’s killing weapon. After all, it is the embodiment of how the Jedi use the Force. And the Path believes it ought not to be used. Giving us a personal lightsaber would be the ultimate show of respect to our people.”
The two Jedi couldn’t hide their astonishment. Xiri muted the comm once more, and Master Roy put his hand on his lightsaber.
“We cannot do such a thing. It has never been done,” Master Roy said. “It is a part of who we are. A lightsaber is a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands. It would be reckless to give it away.”
“I agree,” Xiri said. “Surely they can choose something else.” She turned the comm on again. “I am afraid a Jedi lightsaber cannot be gifted.”
“Then we do not believe you truly choose to talk to us in the spirit of diplomacy. We would see this as an affront to the Path, for it is clear that the people of Eiram, E’ronoh, and all Jedi look upon us with disdain. We have every right to see you as a threat, given your inability to offer a gift given freely. That is all.”
The transmission went dead.
Xiri muttered to herself. “I can’t believe we came here for nothing,” she said.
“Wait!” Enya interjected, standing up. Her dark eyes shone as she held out her lightsaber. “I . . . I’ll give them my kyber crystal.”
Char-Ryl-Roy faced Enya, holding her shoulders. “Enya. Do you know what you’re saying? Finding our kyber crystal is a sacred part of our training as a Jedi. It has chosen us. We cannot give it away like a mere jewel or gem of worth. This is non-negotiable.”
“I understand. But I have a feeling that what’s happening here is larger than me and my lightsaber, or even my kyber crystal. I’ll be okay, Master.” Enya smiled. “And who knows. I might get it back, if the talks go well. When they realize we truly are here in the spirit of peace. There are lives at stake. I think it’s worth it.”
Xiri put her hand on Enya’s shoulder. “Are you really sure?”
“I am,” Enya said, nodding.
“Okay then.” Xiri hailed the Path frequency again. “This is Xiri A’lbaran again. Elder Onning, though we cannot gift a Jedi lightsaber, we offer instead the personal kyber crystal belonging to Jedi Enya Keen to open our discussion together.”
They could practically hear the Path Elder smile with satisfaction. “That is satisfactory. Excellent. The Mother will very much appreciate your gift. We are transmitting coordinates to your ship. You may begin landing procedures. We will meet you on the landing pad of our compound shortly.”
There was a pall cast upon the party as they prepared to enter Dalna’s atmosphere. Enya sat behind the pilot’s seat from which Xiri steered the ship. She held her lightsaber in her lap and stayed quiet, as if communing with the crystal in their last moments together. Enya touched the grooves and switch, as well as the various pieces of metal that had come together to make a lightsaber that resembled no other.
“Thank you for doing this,” Xiri said. “I know what it must feel like to lose something so precious.” She held her bane blade out. “I gave this up once, too. But it found its way back to me, in the most unexpected way. Maybe it will be the same for you.”
Enya smiled sadly. “And yet, you offered it again, because you believed in this mission. Maybe I’ll get my kyber crystal back, maybe not. A good Jedi does not let their emotions overcome them. It does feel like a piece of me will be lost forever. But a Jedi is more than their lightsaber. As long as the Force is with me, I am still a Jedi. The Force is always with me.”
“I think I felt the same way about Phan-tu. And then I almost lost him.” She smiled. “I know, it’s not the same to compare such things—people and crystals. But I suppose you’re feeling like you’re losing a piece of yourself. Something irreplaceable.”
“Phan-tu is okay, isn’t he?” Enya asked, her face frowning with worry.
“I think so? But I can’t be sure.” Xiri knew he wasn’t quite okay, but she didn’t know how to fix it. She saw the rainy sky above Dalna in the viewport and watched the rivers, forests, and farmland speed by. “We’re nearly there.”
Enya carefully dismantled her lightsaber, removing the slightly glowing yellow crystal from the focusing mount. She held it in her hand and smiled.
“It warms to me.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Master Roy asked once more as their craft landed with a slight bump on the landing pad at the Path compound.
Enya’s eyes were shiny, but she was not crying. Her brown cheeks grew duskier for a moment. She stood, her hand gripped around the crystal.