Punishment for my sins.
That was how he thought of it, at any rate. He smiled faintly and threw back his brown hood, squinting upward to glance at the twin suns of Tatooine. By their positions he could tell it was as he had suspected; he had been meditating for more than seven hours.
It concerned him, sometimes, how easily he could lose track of time. In the beginning, every day was simply spent waiting. Waiting for a young child on a moisture farm to grow up and face his destiny, waiting for his life to end. He wanted to act; he didn't want to be forced to dwell on himself by the silence and the peace of his surroundings. But as time had passed, the days became less important and less wrought with memory, until there was nothing but a dreary passing of life. The days went by and he did nothing to help his kin, because he knew he should not - could not.
He rose to his feet, putting a hand on a nearby rock that was heated by the suns and hedged against the canyon wall. Then he slowly got up, limbs aching, leaning his weight on the boulder.
His hair, shorter than it had been for years - he had hacked it off when it got too long - was dusted liberally with gray and white. His beard was the same. His face was weathered, not really old but his haunted blue eyes often gave that impression.
The crazy hermit.
He didn't mind being called that. He knew he acted oddly, at times, because of the death of the other Jedi. He felt them often in the beginning. With those who fought back, their screams gave off waves in the Force; the soft sighs of acceptance made by serene Jedi were felt as mere ripples. But that, too, passed as more and more Jedi were slaughtered by the Emperor's pet killer, Darth Vader, less and less students reached Knighthood. Anyone who carried the title, and honor, of being a Jedi was considered to be a criminal, and of the worst kind.
None of that lessened his pain, or his grief, now submerged into hard-won peace. At first he had raged, his cries cloaked in the silence of the desert, knowing that his words would be swallowed by Tatooine's endless, merciless deserts, and his actions lost in the passage of time. He had screamed and cried, loosing the pain he felt within and transferring his hatred at his former apprentice into hatred for his former Master. But after time had passed, he had settled on despising himself.
For he had ultimately been responsible for his actions. For taking a nine year old boy as his Padawan, and for failing to see the rising darkness in that same boy. He had been confident of his abilities as a teacher, feeling that Qui-Gon had taught him well and that he, in turn, would teach Anakin well. It was all his arrogance, and that arrogance had instigated horrific consequences.
As the years passed he grew to accept it all, as part of a gentle mellowing that crept up on him in the stillness of the quiet landscape. The hate faded. He did not forget - he would not forget. But the darkness that had flourished within him had quietly left under the force of acceptance. He looked to the future now, and waited not with frustration, but in the way of a Jedi: calmly and patiently. It was all he could do - he could not help his brethren, and no matter how that pained him, his duty was here. And was that forced inaction - brought to him by the Force itself - not his punishment?
The hermit closed his eyes, but the sunlight that breached his eyelids did not allow him the peace that darkness often gave. Strange, that the utter solitude of darkness would give him such a feeling. But perhaps the fact of it was that the darkness hid those things from him that he did not want to see, did not want to dwell on.
Every time he looked at the fiery visage of the twin suns, he was reminded of that day when in his anger, he had confronted Anakin about his lies. He had been livid in the beginning, his anger fueled by his hurt over Anakin's actions - but that rage, suppressed and controlled, had faded at the stunned realization of what he was doing, that his own actions were no better than Anakin's if he fought when he had anger in himself. With that realization swiftly came sorrow, and he had fought, then, only to protect himself. His anger had come because of his arrogance, his pride - his very refusal to believe that events were actually occurring. He didn't cry because he could not cry for the sheer agony of losing the person he loved as a son, but his soul was in pain nevertheless.
It hadn't ended well, at any rate. Anakin had been remolded into Vader; the light burned away in the molten fire. Perhaps if he had not come after Anakin in anger . . . but speculation was pointless. A possibility of what could have been did nothing for him now.
Nor would it help a boy named Luke.
He pulled his robe tighter against the heat, as if trying to shield himself. He slowly moved to return to his little home. It was small, but so were his needs. His clothing was worn and gave little protection. Water was scarce and valuable, as always on a desert world. He had little wealth. He walked forward, his boots making faint scuffing sounds on the dusty canyon floor. Life was hard here and living alone was harder. But he didn't need comfort - and he didn't want it. It was the waiting, the seemingly pointless existence that was the worst - but that was fitting, because this was the penalty for his arrogance, the flaw in himself that had led to the downfall of Anakin, and in turn the Jedi. It was fitting. It was right.
This was punishment. A punishment for his sins.
Original cover art by Cosmic. HTML formatting copyright 2003 TheForce.Net LLC.