Outside, a sudden sandstorm, fiercely building in its intensity, brought darkness, even blighting the relentless glare of Tatooine's twin suns. Beyond the simple sandblasted abode, the swirling winds howled as though protesting the harshness of these environs that grew bleaker by the minute. Tucked safely inside his dwelling, Ben Kenobi sat tranquilly upon the threadbare Tatan mat in quiet meditation, feeling the Force flow through him, around him, satiating him with intimate warmth and comfort. The peacefulness he thrived on stood in stark contrast to the turmoil raging beyond these hewn walls. The brewing storm was nothing unforeseen by the relocated Jedi Master, living this self-imposed exile, this untimely diaspora. At least the chaos of the tempest was entertaining, distracting him from the monotony of this otherwise humdrum routine he had settled into.
He opened his eyes to the meager light of his dwelling. He sensed the immediate approach of his visitor who journeyed to him, compelled to reach out for his guidance, rousing him from the primacy of meditation. Furrowing his brow, Kenobi rose to his feet and visualized his hardy visitor foolishly braving the Dune Sea's elements this unusual day. Expectancy tugged at him, forcing him to smile while going to the door to receive his imminent guest. Opening the weathered door, the Jedi walked out just far enough, squinting. Shielding his watering eyes from the wildly whipped up sand, he made out a solitary figure trudging away from the abandoned landspeeder. With head down, the intrepid soul clutched the flapping outer garment, which flapped savagely, tightly to its body. Doggedly, the hardy visitor forded through the turbulent sands, trundling a path to the sandblasted shelter.
"What *are* you thinking?" Ben trenchantly called out over the ferocity of the shrieking wind. He waved in earnest. The harried traveler paid no attention, just kept coming. Was she in her right mind? "Beru!" Obi-Wan shouted, atypically sounding upset, not totally in control.
Finally in response, Beru Whitesun-Lars lifted her head a fraction higher. Adjusting the scarf that covered her face, she bridged the last leg of her journey quickly. Her facial expression indicated that she knew exactly what she was doing and how glad she was that she had arrived here safely. She was grateful when old Kenobi grasped her arm to help her the rest of the way to his door.
"Dear lady," he pronounced distinctly to be heard over the screeching gusts. "Are you mad?"
Conversationally, she replied, "Not since the last time I checked." The concerned Jedi smiled despite his acute misgivings. His smile widened as she continued, "I'm here because we must talk. I just couldn't put it off any longer." Now standing safely inside, Beru unwrapped the scarf from her head and shook the sand from it and her disheveled hair. "I made it, thankfully. That is all that really matters, now isn't it?"
Assisting the mild-tempered, yet determined wife of Owen Lars with her sand-encrusted mantle, Kenobi gently opined, "You chose an intriguing day to travel." He shook out her cloak and draped it carefully over one of the few chairs, of simple slab-stump design, he owned. Pointedly, he said, "When all is said and done, you're right, of course." With his eyes, he motioned for her to sit and he headed for the cookery nook. "Some caf, perhaps? Freshly brewed."
"I'd love some," she responded, having seated herself at the head of the rough-hewn dining table that was off to the center of the room. She whisked stray wisps of her plaited hair, entwined into a single bun, away from her face. Her smile blossomed in stages when he returned to hand her a steaming mug. "Thanks, Ben."
He sat down at her left, silently regarding her in curious contemplation. Briefly, he glimpsed the young wife he had entrusted one of the special twins, Anakin's ambiguous offspring, to years before. Her eyes never left his older face as she sipped. "Well, I see, overall, you aren't the worse for wear," he offered, watching with a good deal of amusement her flushed face when she swept her hand up against her right cheek.
"Plowing through a raging sandstorm is nothing compared to..." Her face failed to hide her uncertainty. "Seeing our Luke do the impossible before my eyes and Owen's critical ones," she stated with a firmness that prickled his ears. "It's, i-it's," she faltered. "More than a little overwhelming. I never dreamed I would actually live to see it, Ben."
"How is your husband?" Ben asked knowingly and sipped from his mug, acutely cognizant of the sensitive nature of her predicament.
"Anxious. His normal state with harvest approaching. He's the hardest working man I've ever known." Beru lowered her searching eyes as she stared into the depths of the generous mug. The thought that Ben brewed the blend to perfection, never making it too sweet, nor too bitter, heartened her. Ruminating at random, she found his candor and patience equally reassuring. "He's very hard on Luke."
Ben pulled on his bearded face. The aging Jedi took another slow sip from his mug, taking note that the raucous windstorm was abating. He dwelled on what had driven her to risk life and limb to make this trip. "How does Luke take him?" He scrutinized her assiduously.
"Not very well, sometimes, and Owen...Owen." She closed her eyes; their lids felt leaden. She wrestled with inner turmoil. Deep in her heart, she knew her husband meant well, but he clung to what he believed, as did she. Doing her best to calm, she breathed out heavily. Without words, Beru thanked the revered Master before her. Reluctantly, she forced herself to murmur, "No one understands, no one but you. You're the only one, and it's all so very hard sometimes."
"Yes, I know it is." Following a lull that went on longer than it had a right to, Ben inquired, "Would you have preferred that I had given Luke to someone else?"
Beru looked horrified and gasped, "No, never!" Luke was a remarkable boy of eleven, strong, healthy and resourceful. He was a natural optimist and his helpfulness to Owen with the farm and its demands was immeasurable. What Kenobi was really asking gnawed at her. "I can't imagine our lives without him. He means so much to both of us. It's just that...well...he...he..." Trailing off and looking off-course, Beru exhaled sharply, her breath ragged. "Lately, it's been happening so much more." Halting again, she stared dead ahead, transfixed. "He--"
"Did what had to be done, under the circumstances." Seeing the sting of worry sap the glow of her eyes as they bored into him, Ben comforted, "Unlike that first time when he prevented the filled pitcher of Bantha milk from falling, this time when he intervened, our precocious, well-meaning young one truly scared himself."
Subdued, as though she was reliving what had occurred one afternoon a week ago, Beru confided, "Along with Owen and me."
"But, saving an innocent, defenseless child's life was the favorable upshot. What every Jedi strives for." With a heavy heart, he remembered the heinous bill that had been signed which had stigmatized being Jedi, constituting it a crime. Tears begged to be shed; memories, long repressed, came to the fore. The Force demanded that Ben's sad eyes snap open, that he must move on, to live in the present, not wallow in the ignominious past. Ben whispered that he be granted a concession. The Force conceded, allowing him to reflect on his brining the infant baby boy to Tatooine, delivering Luke to the Lars' modest farmstead. With Beru, it had been maternal love at first sight long before Obi-Wan had duly explained the crisis. She had vowed that she would care for Luke, love him as though he were her own.
Obi-Wan had known she would, and she had, all these years. Nodding then, Ben said, "Despite his lack of formal training in the ways of the Force, it furls and twirls in young Luke. He's quite the remarkable youngling. Here's a simple truth: The Force consumes its consumer, dear Beru."
Her fears were quelled when he spoke like that and she replied in a hushed, voice, "So he cannot help himself. His using these miraculous gifts is who he is, his destiny."
"You needn't be overly concerned."
"But he does these things so openly for others to see, and they talk. Their talk could lead to his being discovered by those you warned me about who mean him harm." Ben had been candid about this, fully explaining that if things were different, Luke would have been reared by the Jedi to insure his being properly rooted in a foundation that cast foregleams of wondrous power and sobering responsibility. Luke was destined for greater things that would impact the known galaxy. It was nothing that Obi-Wan had told her; it was what she sensed deep in her guileless soul, regardless of her being the quaint, unassuming wife of a stolid moisture farmer. "What if they learn of his ability? Sense what he's capable of and come here for him?"
"The Force will safeguard him. Of that you can be assured. He'll go undetected by those who might be looking, and I will sense anyone long before their actual coming here." Yoda and he had discussed these matters at length. By their hands, the twins' existence would remain hidden. Although Obi-Wan knew this better than anyone, the pain and sudden real fear in Beru's eyes were clear; he felt her anguish and it harassed him. Dismissing or minimizing her distress was unthinkable, so gently he reassured, "I'll keep Luke safe; I promise. I'll stake my life on it."
She didn't realize that she was thinking out loud. "Owen punishes Luke for being who and what he is. Luke rushed to save Jisela's little one from dire harm. That careless Bantha would have crushed the life out of dear little Takra, and yet Owen berated Luke severely for rescuing her, having witnessed the uncanny ability he possesses. In Owen's mind, the mystical cancels out the good being accomplished." Beru smiled a world-weary smile. "Punishment won't stop Luke either, never. Not when a life hangs in the balance. He's as stubborn as Owen is."
"I'll have a talk with our selfless fledgling prot?g? then," Ben pledged, already hearing what the conversation would sound like. He smiled, seeing her affable nod, although he knew that the relief she was feeling at this moment was destined to be short-lived.
She raised her mug to her lips, taking a long sip. Finally, she set the mug down, deciding the time had inevitably come. What needed to be said could no longer be postponed. "After what happened, Owen demanded of Luke that he never see you again."
"I gathered as much," Obi-Wan replied, no hint of surprise marring the composure of his silken voice.
"I'm sorry, very sorry, Ben. We argued, but my Owen's adamant." Though she wanted to lower her eyes, her gaze never wavered from the Jedi Master's relaxed face. "He is a simple, honest man; he believes in himself and hard work. He wants Luke to be a farmer, not a crusader, driven to right the wrongs others are foolishly responsible for. He doesn't want him having anything more to do with you or the disgrace Anakin became in the name of the Force. He curses the Force, the bane, as he calls it, in which he has no faith, even calling it hokey, an imbecilic delusion. The Force is a myth, only good for fanciful stories told to babies at bedtime." She lowered her voice in sorrow. "He feels it is his duty to keep the grandson of his father's beloved murdered wife alive and safe...and grounded in reality--his reality--a farmer's backbreaking way of life."
"Nothing can alter Luke's destiny, not even a man who has the boy's best interests at heart," Obi-Wan empathetically counseled.
Beru continued, unable to meet his eyes that were full of understanding. "I know that," she responded with a patience that impressed the Jedi Master. "Luke will be whatever destiny has in store for him." She looked up then; her face was a wealth of mixed emotions. "Destiny, and the will of the Force," she said with conviction.
"How would this be, then?" Obi-Wan began, exercising powerful humility. "When I sense young Luke needs my guidance, I will be there for him, whenever or wherever he needs me. He need not come to me. I will seek him out, discreetly, of course." Owen Lars would have it partly his way, not all of it entirely his way. There was no denying that Lars was deeply concerned about Luke's future, but Obi-Wan Kenobi's concern eclipsed the hard-boiled farmer's by leaps and bounds.
"He cares for Luke. He really does, as though he was his own son. Sometimes, I think he believes Luke is his son." The look in Beru's eyes betrayed the distance she had suddenly imposed. "Cliegg lost Shmi; somehow, Owen blames himself for his father's loss, still, after all these pitiless years. Owen has sworn that no harm will ever come to Luke, not while he's alive."
Obi-Wan frowned, not in confusion, but in realization that Owen believed that he had let his half-brother, Anakin, down by not protecting his mother, Shmi, from the ruthless Tusken Raiders when they had carried her off. It was his shame and he blamed himself whenever he saw Shmi in Luke's guileless face.
"He has never forgiven himself for what happened," Beru ground out bitterly. "He was angry for a long, long time. Guilt devastated him, embittered him to the point of his wanting to shield Shmi's grandson from anything and everything that could threaten him. He owes Luke that."
"The only safety for Luke is his reliance on the Force, learning its ways, harkening to its distinctive call. Truly fulfilling his destiny, Beru, accepting the will of the Force, which is something no one can prevent." Obi-Wan allowed the passage of considerable silence before he spoke again. His smile, as always was genuine. "I will respect his wishes...as far as the Force allows me to." With gentle firmness, he counseled, "Yet, the time will come when Luke will seek me out for the expressed purpose of fulfilling his destiny. He must; his doing so is in his blood." With undisputed finality, Ben said, "I will steer him down that path as I must." A proud heritage made weighty words flow from his lips. "Doing so is in my blood."
Beru had to nod before rising to her feet, their discussion at an end. Without forethought, she reached for their empty mugs that were touching each other.
Persuasively, Obi-Wan curtailed her thoughtful act, relieving her of the mugs. "I'll take care of that," he said with such deference that it made Beru stare at him for several contemplative moments. "The storm has let up."
Thoughtfully, Beru glanced at the door, not quite knowing how long she had been with the Jedi Master, trying to resolve what seemed to have no resolution.
"Not that I'm rushing you, but if you plan to make it home before nightfall, you probably should start for home." The thought that she had not only ventured out alone against the raging elements, but the equally dangerous Tusken Raiders as well, had him marveling over her resourcefulness all over again. He would keep her safe for her journey home.
"You're not rushing me, Ben. You're absolutely right for saying so," she remarked, on her way to fetch her frayed cloak. While pulling it around herself, she struggled to keep the tears in her eyes from betraying just how emotional she had become; Luke was her life as well. She hated the idea of his going off, exposing himself to dangers she had no idea even existed. She retrieved her scarf and wrapped it securely around her head.
"Please come again, if you like," Obi-Wan extended, as they came to the door and he opened it. He thought it best not to see in advance if she would be paying him more visits in the future. He would leave that entirely up to her, a woman just like any other who cared more for her family than for herself. "You're always welcome."
Cordially, she said, "I know." She also knew that if Owen ever found out that she was seeing the daft hermit on a regular basis... Beru closed her smarting eyes and quoted her husband's pet phrase to herself. 'There'll be hell to pay.' Nevertheless, when she opened her eyes, she promised, "I'll remember that."
"And so, until then," Obi-Wan proposed and watched Beru take determined steps to the borrowed landspeeder.
Seating herself in it and getting comfortable, she hoped that the Jawas were giving Owen a tough time, haggling over droids so she would arrive home before him. If she got home first, she would not have to fabricate an explanation for the landspeeder's prolonged disappearance.
"I must confess," she allowed, sounding a touch embarrassed.
"Confess?" A touch of amusement accentuated his tone.
"At the first sign of a sandstorm as bad as that one earlier, I'll turn back around and speed for home." With that, she fired up her family's battered only means of transportation, gave Obi-Wan another 'thank you for putting up with me' smile and set off.
When she had become nothing more than a pinpoint speck against the melting horizon, he went back inside, shutting the door behind. He stood pensively for several moments before going to the old reliquary that he had acquired in the spaceport not long ago. Shaking off his momentary reverie, he lifted the lid to the depository of things which meant a lot to him. With a tender sigh, he brought out the lightsaber, the vexatious keepsake. As was all too familiar, a backwash of problematic memories was his ambiguous reward. His own eyes moistened with tears he never permitted himself to shed.
"Anakin, Anakin," the Master chanted in low tones in the room marked by deep, uneven shadows. Obi-Wan caressed the elegant weapon of his fallen, now debased apprentice, yearning for solace that eluded him whenever the thought that failure could strike twice disheartened him. "I will not," he said emphatically, the reprimand ringing in his ears. "I must not. I make that promise to you, dear Beru. The foster mother of the boy who will prove that his father was the one Qui-Gon believed him to be when he vowed he'd train him."
Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi ignited the lightsaber, wishing to stare at its intense glow, while envisioning all that had gone before. He smiled then once he had extinguished its blade. "Soon, Luke, soon," he uttered like a prayer, and knew that he heard Qui-Gon Jinn assure that it was only a matter of time. Placing the lightsaber back in the chest, Ben nodded and returned to meditating. Outside, the wind had abated to the extent that it susurrated as it wended its way through the vast wasteland which was tinged with crepuscular tones. With eyes still closed, Ben smiled, luxuriating in the variegation the Force lent to the precious montage that was their dedicated lives. "Sooner than they can possibly know," Obi-Wan forewarned with pride.
Original cover by obaona. HTML formatting copyright 2009 TheForce.Net LLC.