"And so the days of the Samurai had ended. Nations, like men, it is sometimes said, have their own destiny. As for the American Captain, no one knows what became of him. Some say that he died of his wounds. Others, that he returned to his own country. But I like to think he may have at last found some small measure of peace, that we all seek, and few of us ever find."
-ending narration given by Simon Graham in The Last Samurai
"Should I wake him?" Obi-Wan whispered as he nuzzled into his mate's long brown hair, inhaling the scent of both her and the cool, crisp air that came in from the open window of her kitchen. "Or should I allow you and myself a few minutes' peace?" He chuckled and nipped at her neck, delighted when she pressed her cheek defensively against his gentle muzzle.
"I wouldn't play with temptation, if I were you," Wielder warned. "He's getting to that age. Don't want him bein' mad at you all day. Believe me on that one." The wolf turned from the business of preparing an early breakfast and threw her arms around the handsome collie mix's neck. "'Sides...something tells me you're not gonna have a choice anyway..."
Before the quizzical look could fully form on Obi-Wan's face, he let out a warbled yelp and turned around to find a wolfdog puppling with his toothy mouth full of his fluffy tail. "How in the heavens did you get out of your crib?!" he exclaimed in the high pitched voice of a thoughtful parent who didn't want to smear the large smile from his son's face. A slight tug on his tail and a playful growl were the only answers he received before he bent down and reached with a quick motion towards the energetic ball of wolf and collie fur. "C'mere, you little demon!" Obi-Wan playfully growled as his son bounding away from him, laughing, only to be caught by the sure and careful grip of his father. "Seems your mother is right...you are indeed getting tothat age," he muttered as he tossed the rough and tumble pile of giggles and fur and growls carefully in his arms. "I'm sure that I was never this much trouble when I was approaching the age of two, though..."
Smiling that criminal's grin she was so capable of, Wielder laid a motherly lick across her son's muzzle and then nuzzled into the scruff along Obi-Wan's lower jaw. "Don't listen to him, Janus," the wolf cooed in sweet tones. "That habit you have of ripping off all of your clothes and running bare as you were born through the Academy during Master Okari's class, I seem to remember Master Qui-Gon regaling all of us of how your father used to do the same thing when he was in the creche..."
A polite but firm cough silenced her though the handsome smile and flicker of challenge in the gray blue eyes did tempt her to go further. Still, the child in Kenobi's arms who was very visibly confused and interested at the same time certainly did not need to have more reasons than he already did to continue his good-natured trouble-making during his time in the makeshift Temple. And so, as a good mother wolf is want to do, Wielder held her tongue for the moment, knowing that the darker hours of twilight would bring her the chance to aggravate her lover further with old memories of how he was very capable of showing that he had a wild streak in him.
"I hope my arrival isn't the only reason you're up so early," the polite Jedi Master said, acknowledging with a flare of each fine nostril the scent of a homemade breakfast. "You shouldn't have gone through the trouble..."
"Oh stop it!" Wielder barked, shaking a spoon at him. "It's not everyday we get a visit from you. I think YOUR son barely slept at all."
"Yes," Wielder replied cooly. "Yours. He's yours when he acts up." Obi-Wan watched as a snarl of disdain rippled across his son's chubby muzzle, showing off tiny but sharp new teeth, before returning to the typical smile when Wielder leaned in to nip at the side of his face gingerly. "In all seriousness, he's been doing nothin' but running around with your picture and yelling "Daddy" at the top of his screeching little lungs."
It warmed his heart. Almost two years of fatherhood underneath his belt, and the actions of the tiny lad in his arms still caused a giddy smile to play across his face. "And to think I'd thought about just letting you sleep!" he exclaimed with a happy lilt in his voice as he nuzzled into the pup's downy fur. "You have my deepest apologies, little Janus." The pup simply cocked his head and licked his father's nose excitedly. "Now, how would you like to go with your Daddy to the market? Your Mum's been nice enough to make us a little bit of breakfast, I think you and I should supply dinner, what do you think?"
"Now, Obi, you just got here...you should sleep..." Wielder's rebuttal was touched but genuine.
"Wanna go wiff Daddy!" came the triumphant call to arms of the young pup. Wielder's stern gaze rose from the large blue gray eyes of her puppling to the same blue gray eyes of her husband before it softened with the brightening of her smile.
"Okay, but breakfast first, and then your adventure." That much, all could agree on.
Fatherhood had revived his sense of adventure. The environment of Mirari was naturally cool most of the year. Lush forests of evergreens broken up by vast strips of tundra and taiga decorated the surroundings. Completely different from Tatooine. He took all of it in with all of his senses as he padded through the fragile lichens of the open plain just outside of the forest that hid his second home.
crunch! crunch! crunch! His ears swiveled around and caught the sound of his tiny son hopping from pawprint to pawprint on all fours...the only way such a small pup was able to follow literally in his father's pawprints. He paused and so did the pup, looking up at him with eyes squinting into the pallid yellow light of a cool Autumn day, and Obi-Wan froze the memory in his mind forever.
"Daddy?...where?..." asked the young wolfdog in broken sentences. 'Where are we going?' was what Obi-Wan was able to discern from what young Janus said and by the puzzled way he looked around himself. Though the boy was obviously enjoying his outing with his father, he knew that the market was in the other direction.
Though he'd grown much in the past few months, he still weighed little more than a ball of rolling seed fluff to his father as he scooped him up and began to carry him with long strides across the hilly terrain. "Your mother would probably have issue with what I'm about to do, young one. But I think you're old enough and brave enough for a first "real" adventure, don't you?"
A triumphant victory howl followed.
"Glad you agree. Besides, I believe your mother deserves a surprise. Can't let her always have the upper hand there, can we?"
Tundra gave way to sparse bushes and then needle thin trees. Then bursts of healthy reds, oranges, yellows, and greens as the forest deepened around them. Janus looked about wildly, taking in everything he saw with wonder. His keen wolf nose caught the smell of some of his kin before his eyes saw them. Though he'd never met them, his blood called to theirs, and he greeted them with enthusiastic but submissive yips.
All of them were female and much smaller in height and frame than his mother. Reds, as they were called, tended to be smaller than most of the other Free People. Their large ears flattened to the sides of their faces when they saw who their visitors were, and a few of them came forward to properly greet them.
"Master Kenobi!" said the eldest of them, bowing and then meeting his gaze once more. "It's been a long time since last we saw you." Janus heard his father chuckle and twisted his ears from the sound of Obi-Wan's breaths to the new voice in front of him. "Oh my! Is this Wielder's cub?!"
"Partly," Obi-Wan replied as Janus squirmed forward and instantly began touching the female's face with inquisitive paws. The boy never seemed to meet a stranger. "I was wondering if you would mind me bringing such a young one amongst the herd. It's been a while since I've seen Ivan, and I'd love for Janus to meet him."
The russet pelted wolfess looked from father to son and smiled. "As always, I appreciate your show of respect and manners, Master Kenobi. But Ivan is your Mount. He is yours to call whenever you please. If you're asking for my opinion, I think your boy's as ready as any pup has ever been to ride a stag."
As they strode deeper into the strange intermingling of tent, stable, and tree, the smells became deeper, musky yet somehow clean. It was all Obi-Wan could do to keep hold of his child as they neared the opening thicket where he knew part of his surprise would be.
A true gasp came from the pup's throat when he saw the great beasts grazing on the tender shoots that rose from dense leaf litter. Upon their entrance onto the field, each majestic head rose, and eyes of any and every color looked forward. All were still, save for one whose large hooves made the empty but commanding thock of each forward step he took.
"Don't be afraid," Obi-Wan whispered, though he expected that the quivering heartbeat he felt through his hand around the pup's chest was from anticipation, not fear. Reaching into his pocket to pull out a handful of oats and grain, he continued, "Fear shows a lack of trust, and this is an old friend."
Finally, you bring me your young fawn. It was a thought deep enough to be heard, and Janus felt the Force around him tremble with distinct intent. The creature bumped his father's outstretched hand with a friendly nod of his great head and began to lick the grain from his gloved palm.
"Yes," Obi-Wan both spoke and thought. Waves of calm trust and friendship fed into the spirit of life surrounding them. "I thought he might be old enough to not be afraid of seeing such a large animal now. No offense meant, Old Friend, but a pup is a pup..."
And a Rider is a Rider. The great stag took two steps forward, and his cobalt eyes focused on Janus's sky blue gaze. A tense moment of deciding the measure of the one in front of each other passed, and the young pup leaned forward and placed his hand atop the strange crystal-like "eye" on the creature's forehead.
Obi-Wan felt the instant understanding between the two...pup and wild beast. Curl Horns were semi-sentient...if such a thing can be said, and their culture had evolved alongside those of Coyotes, Red, and Timber Wolves. Those canines with a "talent" for communication with the beasts were called Riders and formed lifelong bonds with their Mounts. No training beyond learning of each other's needs and requests was done. And so, Ivan was still very much a wild beast with a will of his own, and Janus was very much a young cub, a creature of emotion and infinite fragility. For a moment, Obi-Wan considered bringing him here to be a bad idea...
And a Rider you have! A strong buck indeed, Rider! Already his thoughts are well-spoken to me. Ivan's large head lifted and his pink nose, soft as velvet, quivered as he sniffed and tickled the child's face.
'So he is certainly a Force Sensitive', thought the father in a pensive moment. Both a blessing and a curse. But, for the moment, the child squealed with glee and refused to stop petting the great beast in front of him. "Thank you for the compliments, Ivan. I was wondering, would you mind terribly if we rode into town to gather some supplies. Nothing too much. It's been a while since I've been able to enjoy a decent gallop across the plains."
A sound akin to laughter came from Ivan's maw, and every other Curl Horn in the thicket listened intently to the large male's booming voice. So my Rider wishes to be free and wishes to test the mettle of his Firstborn. So be it. With that, Ivan turned to his side and looked over his firm and strong topline.
Carefully, Obi-wan sat Janus atop the stag's well furred neck before he grabbed a hold of one of the huge spiral horns and used it to help him atop the tall animal. As soon as the reins were in Obi-Wan's hands, Ivan pawed excitedly at the rich earth and began to stride forward.
"One more thing," Obi-Wan whispered into one of the large ears atop his mount's head. "On the way back, I'd like for you to attempt to contact one of your friends, if you care to spend the day with the likes of an odd family such as mine."
As you wish, Old Friend, let me know when, and I'll send up the Call.
Janus would forever remember that first charge, the thunder of hooves beneath him, the security of the simple but steadfast grip he had on Ivan's cape, the blur of colors racing past them as though the mountain ranges moved while they remained still...and, lastly, the loud beat of his father's heart in time with hoofbeats, wild and young and unafraid and free...
If Wielder could have been mad at Obi-Wan for taking a less than two year old pup for a ride on the back of a Curl Horn, he took that ability from her the minute he arrived, windblown, handsome, and with a happy, howling, and panting cub bouncing on the neck of his stag.
Still, she made the attempt to at least cross her eyes and tap her large wolf toes on the flagstone pathway that lead to her door. "Well don't you look your age?" she chided, arching a judgmental eyebrow at Obi-Wan who only laughed in return. "Didn't think to ask the mother of your kid whether or not she'd be comfortable with you galloping across the countryside before you left, eh?"
His ears flopped forward in apology, but his crystal blue eyes were glinting with a scheme and she knew it. "Well..." he looked from her to his pup whose face shared a similar knowledge. "Would it make it at least...well...half right...if I asked her to come along this time?"
"Obi, it's all fine and good for your pup to ride Ivan, but you know I'm not his Rider..."
As scripted by the scheming father and son, Ivan let loose a great bellow that seemed to shake the trees to their very roots. The sound of mountains crumbling seemed to follow after Ivan's voice faded into echoes, and the brilliant white light of midday danced across a coat of black and gray and white. Another stag, larger than even Ivan's greatness stood before them, his demeanor one of quiet confidence and his eyes of the deepest violet.
She raced towards him and threw her hands up into the lockes of mane around his ears and horns. "Duskheart," she whispered, "it's been such a long time..."
It's understandable, Rider. The large head inclined with the great curve of his neck and hugged her to him. The freedom of the ride is not best for the raising of a tiny buck. But now, he has proven himself worthy to Ride. Come take your freedom back with me.
The mischivous sparkle in her eye made Obi-Wan's heart skip a beat. In an effortless jerk of a horn and leap of a leg, she was atop the beast no other Rider could ever hope to ride. Though Duskheart was completely obedient to her, defiance seemed to echo in each strike of his hoof as she sidled her mount up to theirs. The look in her eyes as she grinned at him was smouldering and made him swallow hard.
"Pup," she stated flatly, "I'm sure you enjoyed your little trail ride with Daddy, but do you want to really feel the wind in your fur?"
"Mommy, Moooooommy!" Janus let himself fall with complete faith into the arms of his mother. "That's my boy," Wielder said proudly, ruffling the boy's bangs before looking back up at the love of her life. "Come on, Son, we'll show Daddy and Ivan what it's like to chase the wind."
And so two mounts, two talented riders, and one piece of precious cargo raced through the well-worn paths like a river through a dry canyon. Trees were narrowly avoided, stones used as launching pads to richochet back and forth from, and what seemed to be vast gorges were leaped, and Janus felt nothing of fear but everything of living in the moment, everything of freedom, everything his parents had been denied their whole lives and everything they ever wanted to give him.
The race was concluded with no real winner, for Ivan, being Duskheart's son, had surely inherited his father's fleet hooves just as Janus had inherited one of Obi-Wan's lopped ears. A simple picnic of freshly backed bread, pastries, juice, and cheese was served to the Riders and their cub while two small sacks of special sweet feed were given to the Mounts. No one was in a hurry to finish their meal, not even Janus who took the chance to not only shift from his father's lap to his mother's but also to lay against the sides of each stag, listening intently to the huge hearts that beat within their chests. Midday quickly became the waning hours of sunlight as Autumn was the beginning of the Dark Times.
"You know you should have rested this morning, right?" the wolf sighed dreamily as she lied in the arms of her mate, running her fingers through his windblown hair. "All you do on Tatooine is worry and train and think. I want you to be able to rest here..."
"Are you kidding me?" Kenobi asked in disbelief. "There is nothing more rejuvenating than coming here. Why would I waste the daylight sleeping when I could be doing all of this?" He rose over her slightly and leaned in close, whispering against her cheek. "I promise to get some sleep tonight after we go back home. Though I think you'll be a deciding factor in how many hours I spend simply dreaming." His breath lingered in her hair, hot compared to the cool of the Fall earth and the grasses around them.
"Be careful with that sort of talk," Wielder intoned playfully, tossing her hair about in the grass around them. "Last time you got this romantic after being separated for so long, you left me with that furry little derbit we call a kid."
With a cavalier grin, he situated himself even higher above her and left devastatingly soft and quick kisses on her lips. "That's alright from my point of view. I wouldn't mind a daughter..."
Just as Wielder's cheeks began to turn as red as the glow of the dying sun over the mountain peaks, Janus, who had been sleeping contentedly, fat on cheese, and bread, and too many pastries, had awakened with the only though in mind being of how much he could possibly aggravate his parents.
Obi-Wan coughed as his son scrambled up his cloak and onto his back, roughly hugging the befuddled father about the neck. Wielder laughed until the pup leaped onto her stomach and began mercilessly trying to tickle her.
And so, Obi-Wan's day ended in a heap of laughter, drifting blades of grass, and tired sighs. His child between him and the woman who he'd loved, in some way, all his life. Their faithful stags formed a circle around them, dozing soundly in the last warm rays of day. He thought of how none of this, by the Code he was raised, should be his. But it was, and he could hold on tightly to all of it. Though day sank slowly away from his grasp, Obi-Wan Kenobi pulled at his cloak, stretching it over himself, his son, and his mate, and put off the ride back home for a few more precious minutes.
I love that line from The Last Samurai, and it's that bittersweet kind of sentiment that I felt for what few Jedi must have made it through the Purges. And it particularly describes how I always felt for poor Obi-Wan and later, Luke Skywalker. We all know that in the canon, poor Obi gets little real peace, but that's what fan fiction is for, right?
So here he is with his son who I decided, with help from mah buddeh DJ, is around 18 months to two years old at this point. He's awful poofed up because he's nothing but maremma/collie/wolf undercoat and he's out in the cold with his Daddy, so he looks much more like a pomeranian than he does a wolfdog, but he's fucking cute, so that's all that matters. I so want to write more about Curl Horns and Coyotes and Woofs because I'm a dork like that. EXPECT MOAR.
Done with Derwent Coloursoft and Studio penciils, micron inks, and white gel pen on mixed media paper.