On her 100th birthday, a woman who has lived to know the Jedi receives an exceptional gift.
She dreamed of nothing but the flames.
It was hardly surprising, since the fires had played many roles in her long life, but it always seemed strange that the memories were preserved with such clarity. There were many things that she could no longer remember after a century of life, such as where she put her readerchip, or what the third cousin of her granddaughter's husband does for a living.
On the other hand, after a century of life, she sometimes felt that she remembered far too much. After all, most people these days remembered the Republic as something of their infancy or a failed endeavor that was abolished before their parents had even met.
Noela Senoe, n?e Noela Asenath Ovorp, erstwhile Senator of the equally erstwhile Alderaan, was one of the few remaining who remembered a time when it seemed that the Republic would never fall. Those bedtime tales of the peaceful times before Palpatine were no fantasies to her. They almost seemed as if they were nothing more than the hazy dream of an addle-brained old woman, but the pain was too real for them to be figments of her imagination.
When her granddaughters told their children of knights in shining armor and made the last of her progeny giggle at the well-meaning but ill-fated heroes of days gone by, she remembered her own ill-fated hero and the fact that his 'shining armor' had been humble, homespun brown robes.
Perhaps this was why all of the heroes in those stories had crooked noses, a gently mischievous smile and a penchant for looking after ?pathetic lifeforms.?
She remembered flames too well when she thought of him. She remembered the bonfires at the first Fete Week that they had celebrated, in the days when they were still awkward teenagers, unable to bare their souls to anyone except for each other. She remembered the flames on their emergency lamps the year that they had been trapped without electricity on a malfunctioning airbus. She vividly remembered the time his hair caught fire during the wedding rehearsal.
The flames, however, were her fiercest enemies just as much as they were her oldest friends. The same kind of flames that had warmed them during Fete Week had also consumed a cherished friend?s body on a distant world called Naboo. She had seen the flames convulse in the hallowed halls of the Jedi Temple only thirteen years later and she had still been watching when they ruptured the roof and clawed angrily at the unforgiving sky. She knew by word of mouth that the hope of the Jedi had been burned away by the magma of Mustafar.
Most of all, she remembered that the fires had not always been an external force. She knew what it was to have fear consume you from the inside out and what the scorching power of anger felt like.
When she awoke today, however, there was a different kind of heat. It felt like the warmth of a kindled hope-fire, a caress of warmth rather than an inferno?s blast.
She could not remember why, but she knew that that sort of peace had come to her before.
?I made dustcrepes, Marme,? her youngest granddaughter called with unnecessary cheer as she left the kitchen. ?I know how much you like those for your birthday.?
Her birthday. Of course she would remember the stars and forget everything immediately important to her.
?I hope you have a hundred of them,? she teased sleepily.
?No,? Mere, the one named for her sister and the first daughter who had died in her arms, apologized, ?but we have a hundred milligrams of your heart medicine.?
?You?re no fun,? Marme Noela groused. ?There?s nothing wrong with my heart.?
?I know, Marme,? Mere sighed, ?but your doctors are worried about you.?
?Hmmph,? she grunted. ?My heart?s too big and there?s nothing wrong with that, I think. Do you disagree??
?No, Marme,? Mere said quietly, ?we don?t mind it at all.?
Nevertheless, because Maron would fuss and Mere would feel guilty if she didn?t obey the doctor?s orders, she swallowed the medicine. She joked that she only kept herself in good health to spite either her family or the will of the Force. Probably both.
She heard Mere?s sigh and knew the girl was hardly amused by the fact that her grandmother still ran her life as if she had the Alderaanian delegation?s full complement of aides at her disposal. Mere keyed up the information nonetheless.
?The Office of the Chief of State has just announced that a delegation from Carida will be coming for peace talks,? Mere announced. ?Admiral Ackbar and Leia Organa Solo are expected to leave in the future for a mission to Vortex??
Instead of invigorating her, the recitation was a soporific that kept her from thinking too hard about what had preceded the peace talks. They were like a soothing lullaby, so she could still feel involved in things beyond the confines of the apartment.
This was her safe place, the one location that she could completely disassociate from the stout-hearted men in her life. They had never come here and had never owned her memories of the place. No knight in homespun armor had raided the refrigeration unit and no handsome husband had curled around her in the bed. The only things that belonged here were the thoughts of what she had done with life after her Liam had gone on to immortality.
The others had argued against her decision to move. After all, the house in Antibes had been Marme?s residence for as long as any of them could remember. It seemed sacrilege to let it fall into enemy hands. She had, however, been unable to stay there any longer. She had to return to a place she could relate to, but not be overwhelmed by it.
Once in a while, it succeeded. They had forgiven her because she had decided to leave Alderaan the last time two weeks before Tarkin and his Death Star arrived.
Marme had left the family home behind, but they had at least gotten to keep Marme. Most Alderaanians had not been that fortunate.
She had not realized that the sudden silence meant something until Mere?s voice seemed stark and unnatural against it. Her tone was high and shrill, as if she could not quite free the words from her throat, but was trying with all her might.
?What is it?? she asked, suddenly and terribly aware of the myriad possibilities of what could alarm her Mere.
?Marme,? Mere whispered, as if it was the only word that was familiar enough to her to come out of her mouth.
Impatient, Noela reached out and snatched the datapad away, frowning at the last item of news.
Jedi Academy opens today under the direction of Master Luke Skywalker, the last of the Force-sensitive beings to be trained by a Jedi Knight. Located on Yavin IV, the eclectic student population numbers at?
The datapad fell from her hands, but it wouldn?t have mattered anyway. The tears blurring her eyes would have kept her from reading another word.
?It?s not going to be a bedtime tale any more,? Mere voiced the thought that had stretched itself out across her mind.
?No, it?s not,? Noela said in equal tones. ?Never again.?
?Grandfather would have been so happy,? the girl continued. ?You both worked so hard to keep Father safe.?
There was no need to ask her to explain herself--?Father? had been given the gifts of the Jedi. The only thing that kept him from suffering the same fate as those in the Temple was Anakin Skywalker?s vague loyalty to the ideals of the man who had brought him to Coruscant. The question of how long that would last had always been a matter of uncertainty that had left her breathless some times and in hysterics at others. The Purges had not ended with Order 66, so every triumphant newsfeed on the fall of another traitorous Jedi had reminded her that it might not end before they came for her son.
?Yes,? she said hoarsely.
Other words struggled to come to her, but none seemed adequate or appropriate. None seemed to explain what it meant to the Galaxy that their protectors had returned. Too few were alive to realize that this was not just a matter of what great warriors the Jedi would make.
It meant that the Force that they had begged to be with them for so many years had never truly abandoned them.
Her hand, lined with age and trembling with relief, covered her eyes for a moment, but then dropped into her lap. There was no shame to be had in these tears because they were well earned.
Without asking why, Mere simply wrapped her arms around the woman who had hoped for the bedtime tale?s happy ending for the space of generations.
This was a place that she had come to in order to escape the memories. Not for the first time, she wished she had heard this news in the house that remembered the sound of Jedi robes rustling in the breeze off the bay or the hum of lightsabers in the courtyard. She wanted the home that had memorized the sound of Obi-Wan?s laughter and Qui-Gon?s affection for Emarli.
She had received so much with a few lines of newsfeed and it seemed so selfish to need more, but it was a part of her that would always be missing.
?Would you take down a letter?? Noela asked as they finally pulled apart.
?Of course,? Mere said gently. ?To whom shall I address it, Marme??
?Luke Skywalker,? she said without hesitation.
It was fortunate that she had let the more persuasive of her emotions out before even considering what to do next, since this would require a steady mind.
?Dear Master Skywalker,? she began.
I never thought I would call anyone by that name again.
?You will meet few who can say that they remember the Jedi who came before you,? she continued, ?but I knew Obi-Wan Kenobi long before you were his student and he and his Master taught me many things about the Force that I believe they would have passed on to you.?
There were so many things she wanted to give him from her Qui-Gon, so much that she needed to express, but the first statement was one that surprised even her.
?Attachment,? she pronounced, ?is not a dirty word.?