The Ashes and The Fire 2

I had never been more grateful for a hot bath in my entire life. There were muscles in my body I never knew existed and they are complaining loudly. The Emperor had not been joking when he said it would be strenuous, in fact the last three days have been hell. As well as keeping up with the office work, arguing with lord Vader and dealing with a fussy droid, I have been taken under the wing of a trainer in a martial art form I had never seen before. I mean, in the end the only really experience I have had with a fighting form was from Jyrki and I am not an expert. I met up with the trainer the Emperor had told me about at the balcony room shortly after I had finished work.

When I got to the room there was already another person there. Kneeling on the floor, his head bowed, facing towards the doors that led onto the balcony. He was a slight man with long silver hair tied back in a long tail. He was dressed in black and red and he did not move when I entered the room.

It seems to me that it is a common theme among people who teach these sorts of arts that speaking is not really involved and mostly the student learns by following and doing. I am not sure how I like this method but in the end when the Emperor sets you up with a master teacher it is probably best not to argue too much about it.

I stood and watched him for a few moments but he neither moved nor acknowledged my presence. I sat down next to him and imitated his position. It was surprisingly comfortable to sit like this, both knees on the floor, heel to haunch and hands resting on the hips with the elbows pointed outward. I tried to match his breathing but I couldn’t do it so instead I just concentrated on my own. In and out, slow and steady.

At first it was difficult to concentrate, I have never really been good at any form of meditation. I noticed how the floor bit into my knees. How holding my body still seemed to create havoc with my muscles. My thoughts would jumble and become chaotic instead of quiet and restful. It was almost as if the very act of being still created unrest and turmoil. I much preferred to move my body, letting the energy flow outward not try and calm it from with in. For what seemed forever I fought against myself, and became more and more agitated.

Jyrki had tried to teach me this inner stillness, finding your center he had called it, but I was a fidget and sitting still was almost impossible for me. The trick, he has said was to not focus to being still, to not concentrate and force the quiet to come but rather to allow the stillness to enter oneself and surrender to it. I never surrendered to anything in my life. I was not about to start with surrendering to myself.
I would storm off in frustration and annoyance and go work through some more of the vigorous moves he had taught me. I would feel better afterwards but not calm and usually after one of these frustrating sessions Jyrki could beat me easily, I always ended up flat on my ass.

The time ticked by slowly and as it did so I felt something shift. I was determined to stay the course and show this strange man that what ever it was that the Emperor had seen in me wasn’t false. Gradually, I felt myself let go of some sort of tension I had been holding. My breathing which had been forced, steadied and I began to feel order in the chaos. I closed my eyes and allowed time to pass. It was not easy but in difference to my attempts to center with Jyrki, this felt right, as though I were collecting energy, like a ball of light, in the very core of my being. I was lost within myself and did not hear the man at my side move. When he touched my shoulder I did not jump in fright as I usually would have, but simply looked up. Two hours had flown by and I had not even noticed.

Not one word passed between us. I did not even know his name, but I could feel his strength and power. I tried to touch him with the force but there was nothing to find. I could sense the Force around him but it was some how different from what I felt from Lord Vader and from the Emperor. This man did not use the Force but he was somehow surrounded by it. I didn’t understand this but I didn’t want to break the silence either. It was somehow refreshing. He began to move one extraordinarily simple motion which he repeated over and over. I began to mirror him. In silence we moved in tandem me trying to imitate his ease and grace repeating the same simple movement again and again. We did this for two hours straight. Not one word spoken. It was as strange as it was somehow comfortable. Like slipping back into a routine I had left behind but had never really forgotten.

Once, I guess, he felt I had the move down well enough to satisfy him, he stopped. My limbs were trembling and I was soaked with sweat while he did not even appear to be breathing hard. He was not a tall man and when we stood face to face I looked him straight in the eyes, which were a deep steel grey, matching his hair.

I did not know what to do. Speaking to him before he spoke to me first seemed wrong so I put my hands together and bowed. A move I had seen the students do in the training room to their teacher. It was the appropriate thing to do because he smiled and returned the bow.

“I accept you as my student.” He said in a surprisingly deep, gentle voice. “We will continue tomorrow, Merlyn Gabriel.” He bowed and then he left. I still had no idea who he was. I went to bed exhausted and woke up late enough that I had to rush to get into the office on time, not that anyone here seemed to care, especially with Lord Vader away at the moment.

When Lord Vader is away we communicate via holonet. I loath this technology, by the way. You stand on a designated platform and transmit your message. You appear on the other side where the transmission ends as a hologram, and vice versa. I usually give him his messages and agenda sometime around midday, my time, when I know what is what and have sifted through the crap. Sometimes he accepts transmission sometimes not. When he does we talk, when he doesn’t the comm officer will usually alert me when Lord Vader is ready to receive the transmissions, sometimes at the weirdest of hours. It doesn’t do much for regular sleep patterns. Most of the time our transmissions are short, to the point and sociable but sometimes they are not. Occasionally, we argue, and it gets loud. I am quite sure he could crush my trachea if he wanted to but I get the impression he rather enjoys fighting with me, or rather getting me wound up. This was one such day and while it was not a long transmission, it was a heated one. These arguments usually end with Lord Vader ending the transmission in the middle of one of my sentences. I know he does that deliberately and he knows it makes me furious but the fact that he hasn’t killed me yet also tells me this amuses him. He has a singular sense of humour. So my second evening of training with the mysterious man whose name I didn’t yet know began with me being really annoyed.

I know that when I am angry I send sparks all over the place. Jyrki used to tell me this all the time. He said it was like standing next to a faulty generator that couldn’t ground. Sparks all over the shop, was his favourite phrase.

I stomped into the place that had now become my training room once again to find my teacher meditating in that strange kneeling position. I stood there for a moment trying to unwind. It seemed to me that just being in this man’s presence was calming, as though around him was a void where all emotion seemed to sink. I took my place next to him and began to imitate his kneeling position, when I felt I had found it and bowed my head, closing my eyes to try and relax, I felt him move. He said nothing and I didn’t look at him. I tried not to jump when I felt his hands touch me. A small correction here and there with hands that, while gentle, had a steel like strength to them. He must have felt my own tension and with two fingers he began to put pressure on certain points on my back, it was as if a storm had been released and the emotion that flowed through me brought tears to my eyes. How had he done that with just a touch? I broke my concentration and looked up at him.

“The body stores everything.” He explained. “You must release these emotions and be empty as wind. A body full of emotional clutter wastes energy. You will not learn when you come to me full of passion and anger. These things you will need but not here.”

I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. I don’t know what he had done to me but I felt about ten kilos lighter than before.

“Now, again.” He said and I went back into the meditation position. Once again he made small corrections.

“Breath from here not here.” He said showing me. “Breathing is the key to all motion. Without the proper technique you will fail in your defense.”

I did as he asked and he continued correcting me until he felt I had it more or less the way he wanted. He sat next to me while I slowly found my center and watched as I made that transformation from agitated annoyed office assistant to calmer willing to listen student. When I felt ready I stood up and we began to work through the motion from the day before. This time he corrected my position and stance and added two new movements. For hours we went through these three motions until I understood that this was the beginning of a language and in order to speak it fluently the motions had to sing to each other. It was a lot like dance.
Each move had a name and a story behind it, as I went through each movement he spoke its name and told me its story. The flow of his voice matched the flow of the motion so that after a while I no longer knew where one began and the other ended.

This time we ended the session with a series of slow stretching movements and quiet meditation. “To reflect on that which you have learned.” He said. When we were done he allowed me a question.

There were so many things I wanted to know but the most important was also the one I was most nervous about asking.

“I should very much like to know your name.” I said after a long silence.

He nodded slowly. “Names hold great power. To know a thing’s name is to hold power over it.” He said. “Anonymity among my brethren is treasured but it is only fair that as my student you have a name by which to call me master.” He paused. “I have been given many names in my life, some no longer hold meaning and others are to remain secret. The one I give to you is old and singular, an honoured name among my kind. I am Taisto Kjestyll.” He bowed to me and I returned it with one of my own. There was so much formality surrounding everything this man was teaching me and under normal circumstances it would have annoyed me, yet, I found peace in his presence and strength in the formal manner he taught with. The Emperor had chosen this teacher with great care and not for the first time did I wonder what motive lay behind it.

“Master Taisto Kjestyll.” I said testing it out. “Thank you for this honour.”

He nodded. “We will continue tomorrow.” He said and he left.
The next day we continued in the same manner as before with three new moves being added to the ones I had already learned. Again, each new move came with its own name and story. I recited the names and stories of the moves I had already learned and paid great attention while the new ones were told to me. Unlike the teaching from Jyrki, this was far more involved and in depth. The time passed so quickly that I almost wished I didn’t have to work so that I could spend more time with this man and learn all he had to offer. The contrast of his quiet, calm ways to Lord Vader's chaos was stark. I wondered how I would ever find balance, or even if there was such a thing. I guessed I would find out as Lord Vader was due back on Coruscant tomorrow. Perhaps, we would continue our argument face to face. Those were always interesting. In the mean time I unwound in a hot bath too tired to read or even think. My muscles sore and aching, yet I did not mind. I finally felt I was learning something that was useful to me even if it did not really seem Force directed. I wondered then about how complicated my life had become. On Tatooine everything had seemed pretty simple, I did my job, I had my friends and my life and that was that. Here, life was chaos and ever changing there was no certainty at all. I would have been really worried about it if I had not been so damn tired.

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