Of course from the time I became Quinlan's Padawan, I was witness to much of the galaxy's ugly side. But whatever I saw, whatever I confronted, there was always my lightsaber between it and me. I wasn't a part of it, and I felt completely immune to it, almost magically so, the way too many Jedi do. At least during the first year or so. Most Initiates are like that, and many of us do grow out of it, but unlike them, I have been reminded how privileged I was to be able to think that way for a few years. To forget that I am a Twi'lek female, and what that means in the galaxy I live in.
I have always remembered, at least when I've had my memories, the first time I was brought face to face with that unescapable fact. I was nearly twelve, and well into puberty. A mission turned violent, and Quinlan and I found ourselves facing down several men with blasters, and when one of them got a close look at me, I saw him leer, and he growled out something obscene. Someone else might have reacted in anger. That I didn't, I fear, was less due to my training than simply to my innocence. Not naivity exactly; I had been warned that I would hear men say things like that. But when one is raised in an environment like the Jedi Temple, where the prejudices of the galaxy often don't at all reach, knowing that not everyone is as enlightened as you is one thing. No matter how prepared you may think you are, actually running into prejudice against yourself for the first time is quite another, especially when you're eleven years old and said prejudice has sexual overtones.
I was, at that point in time, unable to comprehend it. I was so shocked and confused there was no room for anger. I was also distracted, and it was only Quinlan's fighting skills that kept us both alive. He was as calm as ever, but I felt the anger, released not quite fast enough.
At first I thought he was angry at me. Because my first conclusion was that the man had just said it in the hopes of distracting me. Naturally I was upset at myself for letting it. But Quinlan knew the kind of men we were fighting better, he knew how they were likely to view me, and that was what angered him. I suppose any Master would get upset at seeing their not-quite-twelve-year-old Padawan looked at like that. It wasn't just the lust, but the utter lack of respect, seeing me as just a piece of meat, rather than a sentient being I am.
As an adult I've hardened to such attitudes. I've even learned to take advantage of them. If one cannot put an end to an ill thing, one might as well make use of the situation. Now I'm the one who distracts my opponents. I've let opponents underestimate me. I've even used my charms to my advantage in ways I am aware not everyone would approve of.
Yet there is a part of me that is grateful that Twi'lek females have a relatively short "shelf life" before they are considered undesirable, and thus it will not be too many years before this power of mine, a mixed blessing at best, will be diminished, if not completely gone. Perhaps if I live to be an old Master, I may finally be viewed as just like any other Jedi. But while that is a benefit to me, I know full well the cost it exacts on most Twi'lek females, when they are only valued for one thing.
That I should learn the plight of Twi'lek slaves, what would have been my life if Quinlan hadn't rescued me, was inevitable. But oddly enough, I did not learn that lesson while I was out in the galaxy. The lesson came to me at the Temple, a few months after my encounter with the first man, in the form of a fugitive Twi'lek mother and her young Force-sensitive daughter.
That Loss'anamersu, as she knew herself all her life, knew so little Galactic Standard when she arrived on the steps of the temple with Xiaan, who also spoke Twi'leki, Huttese, and Rodese far better than Standard, was perhaps indication enough of the type of life she had lived. She'd been born into slavery on Ryloth, and spent most of her life that way, until the realization that Xiaan was Force-sensitive and what that meant provoked what I still consider amoung of the greatest acts of bravery I have ever heard of a non-Jedi doing. She ran. Multiple times. How she got through with her daughter still with her and all her parts intact I never found out. It took her nearly five years to sucessfully get off Ryloth, and months more to get to Coruscant. She made it only two months before Xiaan would have been too old to become an Initiate.
When her account of her travels resulted in a prosecution of elite merchents in several outlying systems, she was moved into the Temple for her own safety, though of course she was kept separate from Xiaan, and though at first the question of what to do with her was raised, the Healers soon discovered she'd been exposed to so much corrupted ryll that she was dying, and the question was dropped. Like all Twi'lek Jedi, I had been taught my native language, for the advantages that speaking it can bring, so I was taken off active duty and assigned to tutor Xiaan. From that time comes both my friendship with her and with Kit, who ended up being assigned, in a similar manner to me, to her mother.
What had by then become to me something long forgotten after eight years spent being trained as a Jedi had been Xiaan's life up until only a month or so ago, then eventually a few months, then a year ago, but always still most of her life all through our tutoring sessions. Now she too sees it only as her distant past, but unlike me, she never forgot it, not even for those first years when she might have been encouraged to. Talkative and strong in memory, she made sure I never forgot either.
I eventually learned about it all from posing as a slave myself, but those memories do not linger; they fade into the rest of my life. I forced them to; they were too distracting. It was the timing of Xiaan, and of the trial, that caused their impact on me. I escorted her to the courtroom, kept her company before and after she testified. The year before that, I would have felt honored beyond measure to perform that duty, but at that point it didn't seem to matter. I was too overwhelmed by what I was hearing, what it meant to me.
At one point the lawyer for the defense attempted to weaken Loss'anamersu's position by accusing her of doing wrong by her daughter to turn her over to the Jedi. Xiaan reacted strongly to that. I didn't; I was long used to that kind of prejudice by then. Loss'anamersu gave a lengthy reply, in Twi'leki, being so determined to express herself exactly right, and trusting Kit to translate right more than she trusted herself to use the right words in Standard. The defense lawyer made a grave error when he tried to attack her from that angle. He only gave her the perfect opportunity to tell the world what she wanted to about what being in the Jedi Order meant for her daughter.
That Xiaan would be taught to view herself as a person, instead of a thing, with the sense of self-worth that entailed. That even though she might spend her life in service to the Republic, ultimately she would be owned by noone but herself. That she would be part of an Order which had done much to prevent the spread of slavery, and she too would aid in that. And then she pointed to me where I was watching with Xiaan, and indicated me as an example of what she hoped her daughter would become. For many years that was the proudest moment of my life.
Perhaps some might scold Xiaan for clinging to memories of her mother, even though the trial was the last time she saw her. But I do not. A woman such as Loss'anamersu deserves to be remembered by the daughter whom she risked so much for. I said so at the time, and to people I would never have dared contradict before that. Including Quinlan. He didn't say so at the time of course, but eventually I realized it made him proud of me.
Loss'anamersu asked to see her daughter just before she died. They agreed to it under the condition that Xiaan be put to sleep, a measure I still think was unnecessary, and I told Kit and Quinlan so when they ordered me to do a Force-suggestion on Xiaan. I had recently mastered the ability, and Force-suggestions are ideally done by someone the same species as the suggestee. They had expected that, it was why Kit had brought my Master, whom he knew I would obey, even if with open reluctance. Though I got the impression that here he saw my point, but he told me that there wasn't time to argue with the Council over it; Loss'anamersu had so little time left.
There he was right. I did tell Xiaan what was going on, but she never questioned the elders at the Temple; she even smiled as I did it. It was a wise thing to do, because when her mother saw the happiness on her sleeping face, she cried. They let her kneel there and look her fill, then she was gone. By the time her daughter woke an hour or so later, Loss'anamersu was dead.
She was buried as she had requested. It was in one of the gardens she was fond of. There was no coffin; she was left to decompose and enrich the garden's soil. There is no stone to mark the place; neither Xiaan nor I know where in the garden it is, but at the entrance of the garden a placard gives her name, her feat, and that she is buried there. Xiaan was finally permitted into the garden on her thirteenth nameday. I, still sorting out my memories, went with her, as did her Master. Together the three of us sat in the middle of the garden and meditated in prayer to Kakka lekki, in honor of Loss'anamersu. All my still confusing memories of her fell into place that day.
I ran off with an tiny Twi'lek girl myself, not too long ago. I now spend most of my days fighting Separatists, but when one slave merchant tried to take advantage of the disorder of a battle to smuggle a shipload of young slaves into the Mid Rim, unfortunately for him, the battle did not last so long that we couldn't chase him after it. But when we caught up, he did not come quietly. When the smoke cleared, almost all the slaves were dead too, but I saved one little girl, not even three years standard from what I could tell. She partly saved herself; she was very strong in the Force. She didn't even have a name attached to her, though I gave her one: Cerni'olanga, which means "child of the temple" in Twi'leki.
I took her back to the Temple, watched as they examined her, and with their approval, delivered her to the creche master myself. That is what is now the proudest moment of my life. Sometimes I think I feel too much pride over that particular deed, but the fact remains I will be proud of it until the day I pass into the Force.
Xiaan and I, and that little Twi'lek, we are the lucky ones of our race, and we must not forget it.