A padawan's telling of his role in the final days before the death of Luke Skywalker.
Bare moments after the starlines returned to normal, the comlink buzzed.
"Coruscant Control to unknown ship, please identify."
"This is the Wayfarer. Transmitting ID code now."
"Identification verified. What is your flight path?"
"Requesting flight path one-one-seven. Sending authorization code now."
"Authorization verified. You are cleared on a direct glide path to the Jedi Temple. Welcome to Coruscant."
As soon as the navicomputer was uploaded with the approved flight path, the Wayfarer's engines flared to life and the small ship parted the clouds.
I spun and leapt backwards, keeping the two remotes in front of me. With the tip of my lightsaber held low, I cautiously circled to my right, waiting for the attack I knew was soon to come. Suddenly one of the seekers dove to the floor as the other jetted upward, both firing. With a flick of my wrists, I deflected the shot from the lower remote and quickly brought my blade up to attempt the same with the second shot. I was only partially successful. I managed to alter the path of the shot, but instead of hitting me in the chest, the stun bolt drove into my right shoulder.
Remember what Master told me. Don't think. Feel the Force. Let it guide me.
As I repeated this mantra in my mind, a sense of calmness overcame me. I became aware of so much more. The currents of air in the ship's hold. The attitude jets of each remote as they fired to keep my tormenters balanced. The energy flowing along the blade of my lightsaber. Everything. The pain in my shoulder dissipated as I let loose of my conscious self and became one with my surroundings.
The two seekers quickly regrouped, and then separated again just as quickly. Moving in opposite circles, they attempted to trap me between them. To fight their advantage I attacked the closest seeker, hoping to disable it before its twin could adjust its shot at my suddenly unprotected back. As the target of my attack retreated upward, I quickly turned again and blocked two rapid shots from the second remote, sending one stun blot into the ceiling and the other into the first remote, which had retreated above me. With a satisfying clank, it fell dead to the metal floor and I advanced on the lone remaining target.
Then, at the edge of my awareness, I sensed another attack. A third remote activated and flew toward me, firing as it came. A hurried jump to the side removed me from its sights. Instinctively reaching out with the Force, I grabbed the new challenger and hurled it into its partner, ending my workout. As I extinguished my blade, the doors to the improvised practice area opened and my Master strode in.
"Well done, Calep. You responded well to that unexpected attack."
"Thank you, Master Anakin. I wasn't aware you were watching my exercises."
"What kind of teacher would I be if I didn't know what my student was up to?" he asked with that wry smile I'd become all too familiar with. "Actually I was coming to tell you that there's been a change in our flight plan, but I thought your exercise needed more difficulty so I activated our little friend there. I am impressed. You did not become so focused on the fight in front of you that you failed to perceive the new threat."
Though I was approaching my final years as a Padawan, I still found praise from my Master to be unsettling. It had been easier when I was first starting out and failed miserably at every test. Embarrassment is such an honest emotion, and one that comes quite naturally. Yet whenever Master Anakin praised my successes, it seemed to me that he watched me more intently, gauging my reaction to his words. It was this increased attention that always kept me off balance, because I was unsure how to respond. Would I appear too proud if I acknowledged his commendations, or would I appear falsely humble if I deflected his accolades? Unsure of what to do, I fell back to my failsafe. I changed the subject.
"I was hoping that the swift completion of our mission to Dantooine would allow us enough time to visit my family on Chandrila," I pointed out, disappointed that I would miss another opportunity to visit my parents.
"I know," Master Anakin answered. "However I have just received a transmission from my brother requesting our presence on Coruscant. Do you think we should refuse him?"
"No. Of course not, Master," I hastily replied, shocked that my Master had misunderstood my meaning.
"Very well then. Since you agree, we shall return to Coruscant as requested," Master Anakin said solemnly, though I could tell by the humor in his eyes that he had been joking and it was I who had misunderstood. However, my silent anger at myself for demonstrating yet another of my shortcomings was eased when my Master spoke again. "Perhaps we can make time to visit your family at the end of whatever mission awaits us, my young Padawan."
No matter how many times I've seen it, there's something about the Jedi Temple that fills me with a sense of awe. Maybe it's the way it dominates the skyline, dwarfing every other building as far as the eye can see. Or perhaps it's the knowledge that the decisions made here in the Jedi Council impact lives at the farthest borders of the New Republic. Whatever it is, I felt the usual tingles down my spine as our ship landed.
Upon completing our post flight check, Master Anakin and I made our way to the lifts.
"Master, aren't we to appear before the Council?" I asked when we passed the level of the Council Chamber.
"My brother's summons was not an order of the Council. It was a private request," Master Anakin said. "It must be pretty big for him to ask us back here."
After exiting the lift, Master Anakin and I walked down a dimly lit corridor and stopped in front of a large set of doors - doors to the private apartment of a senior member of the Jedi Council. Without announcing our presence, my Master folded his arms inside his Jedi robes and patiently awaited a response to our arrival.
"Master, shouldn't we let them know we have arrived?"
Smiling, my Master said to me, "My brother and sister have been aware of our arrival for quite some time now. The doors will open when it is time for us to enter."
Almost as if on cue, the massive doors split open. I felt foolish for not realizing the connection that brother and sister Jedi would have with one another. Jedi Masters at that.
Once inside I immediately recognized our host, Jedi Master Jacen Solo, conferring with his sister, Jedi Master Jaina Solo. Although twins, their appearances couldn't be more different. Master Jacen is tall with a noble bearing. He looks as if he was born to be a leader. Master Jaina is a head shorter than her brother, with a quiet, introspective air about her. One would never guess what a strong leader she is, until looking into her eyes. There is no mistaking the fierce determination of character that those eyes reveal.
"So, little brother," Master Jacen teased, "you arrived quicker than I had anticipated. Dantooine is quite far away. Have you made that ship of yours faster yet?"
"Not yet," my Master confessed. "Calep and I completed our mission ahead of schedule. When your transmission reached us we were en route to Chandrila to visit Calep's family."
"Was the dispute resolved so easily?" Master Jaina asked. "I would think an ancient property dispute between two powerful trading families should have been quite a challenge."
"Actually the two parties resolved the dispute themselves. They only needed someone they could both trust to arrange the meeting and take care of the details. This territory battle was a financial drain on both families and they were quite eager to settle it. The only mystery to be solved is why my brother has summoned me home early. Surely there is not some problem so large that he cannot resolve it himself."
As my Master finished his joke with his sister, another figure entered from the next room. The lightsaber hanging from his belt declared him to be a Jedi Knight. Tall, middle aged, with reddish brown hair, there was something about this new arrival that seemed familiar, yet elusive. I felt I should know him, although I had never met him before. Looking to my Master to see if he recognized this stranger, I received a shock. Master Anakin's eyes were wide open, and his mouth hung half open as he held his indrawn breath.
"Is it time then?" was all he asked.
Without moving a step, or betraying the slightest hint of emotion, the stranger simply replied, "Yes."
After a few seconds pause, which seemed more like minutes, Master Jacen ended the stunned silence. "We should step into the next room so we can be more comfortable. There we can discuss plans and make preparations for our journey."
"Master, if we are to leave on a journey, perhaps I should prepare the ship," I offered, confused as to what was happening.
"No, my friend, that is not necessary. This will not take long. Wait for me here."
With that decided, I took a nearby seat as the four Jedi excused themselves to the next room. However, as there was no door between the two rooms, I could easily overhear the conversation. Feeling as if I was intruding on a private matter, I rose from my seat, intending to wait in the hallway. It then occured to me that Master Anakin had not left me behind to exclude me from the conversation, but possibly to make this other Jedi more comfortable. Obviously he felt this stranger might not feel at ease relaying this information to anyone outside the Solo family. Relieved of my apprehension, I took my seat again and waited for their return. From the next room, the conversation continued.
"But why won't he come?" protested Master Jaina. "He promised he would return to Coruscant when the time came.
"No," the stranger replied, "my father only said he would consider it. But after the public memorials and state sponsored events surrounding your mother's passing, he decided that he wanted his passing to be a private matter. He sent me here to see that you three would be with him at the end."
"It doesn't have to be a formal state event," offered Master Jacen. "Every Jedi in the Temple desires to see him one last time. If he came, I could guarantee that no knowledge of his visit would pass the walls of the Jedi Temple."
"You know that's not possible brother," my Master interrupted. "Word would spread to other Jedi and they would flock to the Temple. Every Senator and Ambassador would know something important was occurring. We would be forced to admit what was happening. From there, events would rapidly go downhill."
"Yes. You're right," Master Jacen conceded. "I guess the only way to respect his wishes for privacy will be for us to go see him. We will deal with any hurt feelings by the other Jedi and those in the Senate later. Our fellow Jedi at least should understand."
With their decision made for them, the group prepared to leave. Master Anakin and the newcomer entered my waiting room last. Their easy conversation suggested they were renewing an old acquaintance. Confused about what had been discussed, I approached my Master.
"Will you be needing you ship, Master Anakin?"
"Yes, young Padawan. It appears we have family business awaiting us on Tatooine."
Eyeing the stranger, I asked, "All of you, Master?"
"Of course," my Master replied with a questioning look towards me. Then understanding my confusion, he smiled and laid his hand upon my shoulder. "I should have realized that you would not recognize our guest. He has been away from us for far too long. Calep Seth, meet my cousin, Obi-Wan Skywalker."
The mention of that name sent a shock of electricity through my body. Obi-Wan Skywalker. His adventures since becoming a Jedi Knight had already become almost legendary. He was the son of the founder of the New Order of Jedi, and namesake of a Jedi of an equally legendary stature. For the past five years almost nothing had been heard of him. Now, standing face to face with him, I was filled with a sense of awe I hadn't known since Master Anakin chose me to be his Padawan eight years ago.
Then like a dagger stabbing into my heart came the crashing realization of the situation that had brought this family together. The fragmented pieces of the overheard conversation fit together to frame the inevitable moment that the Jedi Order had hoped would never come. The death of Luke Skywalker. For a moment I felt as if my knees will fail from the shock of such a blow. My mind told me the impossibility of what I knew to be true. How could we go on without our great Jedi Master?
As I looked my Master in the eyes, I saw a great sadness there, but also an all-encompassing love. I knew that this would be a personal loss to him far exceeding any pain I was feeling. Borrowing from his strength, I regained my composure enough to speak.
"I shall prepare the ship for your journey, Master."
"Very well. My brother and sister are informing the Council of their journey, without explaining the reason why of course. Have the ship readied and moved into my brother's private hangar. We will meet you there shortly."
The hangar doors closed noiselessly soon after I shut down the engines. Each member of the Jedi Council has his own private hangar. Until the Jedi numbers are sufficient, Council members need quick access to their ships to deal with any possible emergency. Exiting the Paladin, I noticed Obi-Wan preparing his small, two-man ship.
"You won't be travelling with Master Anakin?"
"No, Calep. Soon I will have need of my own ship again, and I dislike leaving it behind. Also it will make your journey less crowded."
"Well yes. Aren't you Anakin's Padawan?" he asked with the same questioning look my Master adopted when was about to make a point.
"And doesn't a Padawan follow his Master, wherever that may be?"
"Then it's settled."
"But I had assumed this journey was just for your family."
With a smile, Obi-Wan answered, "The relationship between Master and Padawan is the closest thing to family there is. Since you are Anakin's pupil, I consider you part of my family."
Stunned at my inclusion into this, the greatest of families, I could only stutter a simple, "Thank you."
"Thanks are not necessary. It is simply the way things are."
After entering hyperspace, I set the Paladin's autopilot and retired to the small lounge. There I found Master Anakin already in conversation with his brother and sister. I prepared myself a small cup of tea and quietly took a seat in an unobtrusive corner.
"So," my Master asked, "what matters are before the Council?"
"Nothing too serious," answered Master Jacen. "We are sending representatives to deal with a possible civil war brewing on Malastare's smallest continent. It appears a tribal chief there is attempting to cause an insurrection against the elected government. She has only a small band of followers at the moment, but we were asked to intercede by the Senator from Malastare. The Senator wants to head off this uprising before it gains momentum."
"The Senator knows we won't take sides without the entire Senate's approval," my Master pointed out. "What does he want us to do?"
"My guess is he hopes to intimidate this tribal chief by showing he has the Jedi on his side, even though he doesn't."
"So it's to be a bluff then. If this chief doesn't back down, this show of power on the part of the elected government could generate sympathy towards the chief's cause."
"I agree. But the Council decided that these problems are more easily solved before actual bloodshed begins. Although we won't take sides, we also can't ignore the problem until it gets too complicated to deal with."
"And what about you, little brother?" Master Jaina interjected. "Are you never going to consider a seat on the Council?"
"I do consider it, but I feel my place is out here. Every Padawan needs a Master, and I find the work very rewarding."
"You can't train everyone, no matter how good you are at it. Speaking of that, how is your current apprentice coming along?"
Master Anakin smiled as he looked over to where I had seated myself. "Calep's training is proceeding very well. His lightsaber skills have always been excellent. I have been most impressed recently with his improved focus. Lately during his exercises I have been adding extra obstacles and he is handling them quite well. There is still some impatience on his part to learn more, but all of us have suffered that failing. It seems patience is the hardest lesson to learn."
For almost a minute, an awkward silence permeated throughout the ship. While no one spoke, we were all thinking the same thing. We were on our way to be with Master Luke Skywalker during his last days. While his passing was a part of life, part of the Force, his presence and insight would leave an emptiness that no single person could fill.
"I wish Obi-Wan had traveled with us," Master Jaina said, breaking the silence. "He should be with family now more than ever. This ship is large enough for all of us to have traveled together comfortably."
"He said to me that he likes to have his ship nearby, and that he will need it again soon," I ventured, glad to be able to add to the conversation.
Not realizing the implication of what I had just said, I was surprised by the looks of concern on the faces of the three Jedi Masters.
"Then he has already decided not to return to Coruscant with us. I thought as much," Master Jaina said.
"But why wouldn't he come?" I asked.
"Obi-Wan has spent the last five years living closely with his father, to learn all he could before he died. There are many Jedi who will look for somebody to fill the void Master Skywalker's death will leave, and his son is the logical choice," my Master explained. "So far, Obi-Wan has sought only to serve, not to lead. He hasn't even trained a Padawan of his own yet. Perhaps it would be best for him to spend some time away from the Jedi Temple after Uncle Luke's death to allow events to run their course."
"I agree. Obi-Wan must do what he feels is right," Master Jacen added, defending Obi-Wan's decision. "No matter how much we all will miss him."
I had never been to Tatooine before. Although I knew it to be a desert planet and had seen maps and holos of the planet, it was something else to see it with my own eyes. From space the planet blazed with reflected sunlight. Missing were the whites of the cloud layers and blues of the oceans. Life on such a planet must exist at levels barely above mere subsistence. It was truly a fiery furnace meant to burn away all excess.
Following the Wayfarer, I piloted the Paladin on its descent and landed in an area appropriately described as the Jundland Wastes. The only structure within sight was a small rounded hut, wisps of smoke rising from its chimney. The hazy grays and blacks of the smoke stood out in stark contrast to the lavenders and crimsons of the twin sunsets.
"How appropriate," Master Jaina stated from the base of the ship's ramp. "The Master has returned to the place where he began as a student. It would seem that life does run full circle."
"So this is where the great Obi-Wan Kenobi lived in exile," I thought to myself. It seems everyone in the galaxy has heard the story of Luke Skywalker leaving home one morning to look for a runaway droid and instead finding his destiny. I wondered how my life would be different if that single day had never been. I would certainly not be undergoing Jedi training, and perhaps would never have been born. The search for that lost droid had changed lives in every corner of the galaxy.
A hooded figure, leaning heavily on a cane, emerged from the entrance of the adobe hut. Following the other members of the party, I left the Paladin behind as Master Skywalker waved to us in greeting.
Entering the dwelling, we descended below the surface of the planet to the cooler living areas below. Contrary to the dwelling's seemingly small exterior, the underground rooms were quite spacious, though sparsely furnished.
"So," began Master Skywalker after we were seated, "how is the galaxy running itself?"
"As well as can be expected," answered Master Jacen. "The ranks of Jedi are increasing steadily. There is much less improvement in the Senate, but then there never is. Politicians seem to delight in their small squabbles."
"Well it's nice to know that some things are truly timeless."
An uneasy silence fell upon the room following this initial exchange. Small talk seemed out of place. After a brief pause, Master Skywalker spoke again.
"And who is this new face among us?"
"This is my apprentice, Calep Seth," Master Anakin said, introducing me to the man who had taught him.
"Another one, Anakin? Isn't there anyone else in that Jedi Temple capable of training new Jedi? I should think you would have settled down and begun a family long before now."
"I get enough enjoyment from being an uncle to Jacen's and Jaina's kids."
"That's funny, I used to think the same way about the three of you. I convinced myself that the galaxy could not get along without my being there to watch over it. Fortunately for me I met Mara, and she showed me that there were many things more important than just being a Jedi. Take my advice, find someone for yourself before it's too late."
"Speaking of late," interrupted Obi-Wan as he entered the room, "the suns have set, and our guests have had a long journey. There is nothing to say tonight that can't be said tomorrow."
"You're right, Ben. Unfortunately we do not have enough room for everyone."
"That's no problem. Calep and I live aboard ship anyway. We'll stay in the Paladin," offered Master Anakin.
"Then it's settled. However I wish someone to stay up with me for a few more hours. You know it's true that us old people don't require much sleep. The body knows it doesn't have much time left and wishes to make the most of it. Would you stay and visit with me, young Calep?"
"Of course, Master."
What else could I say?
"Is there anything I can get for you, Master Skywalker," I asked once we were alone.
"No, Calep. My needs are almost at an end. I wanted to talk to you alone because I sensed that you would not speak up while in the company of three Jedi Masters. You should not be so reticent. This is not a Jedi Council meeting. There is no protocol to conform to here. This is just a chance for us all to say our good-byes. We should speak as friends."
"As you wish" I said, feeling only slightly more at ease.
"Tell me about your Jedi training."
"Anything in particular?"
"No. I want to know if you are pleased with your training. Is it what you imagined? How long has it been since you visited your family? Just the generalities."
"Well, I am very pleased with my training. Master Anakin is a kind instructor. The dedication required is much greater than I imagined, but the rewards make it worthwhile. My progress has been much swifter lately. I can feel myself growing closer to a true understanding of the Force."
"Hmm. I presume Anakin has told you that this is a dangerous time for you. Once you begin to come into your power, the temptations to use it will grow."
"Oh yes. Master Anakin is very clear on that account. I admit that I sometimes wonder if all the lectures are necessary, but I trust his knowledge. Whenever we've been in a dangerous situation, it's his voice I hear in my mind urging me to be cautious."
"You'll find that that will never change. I can't count the number of times the voice of Yoda or Ben Kenobi spoke to me in a time of crisis," Master Skywalker said, closing his eyes as he became swept up in remembrances. He remained still for so long that I began to wonder if he'd fallen asleep. Finally, I dared to whisper.
"Oh, sorry about that," Master Skywalker apologized. "I was just savoring one particularly vivid memory. Why don't you tell me about your family?"
"I was born on Chandrila. My parents are both minor functionaries in the planetary government. If not for that, I might never have been identified as a Force sensitive."
"Do you have any brothers or sisters?"
"No, but I have many cousins to make up for that deficiency."
"I'm glad to hear that. Mara and I were adamant that Jedi potentials should remain close to their families. From what we've learned of the Jedi teachings in the days of the Old Republic, potential Jedi were separated from their families almost at birth. As a consequence, they developed few relationships outside the Jedi Order. This led to a sense of separation from the rest of the peoples of the galaxy, which aided in their downfall."
As soon as he mentioned her name, I wanted to ask Master Skywalker about his wife, Mara Jade, but I did not know how to broach the subject. It seemed too personal of a thing to ask. Little was known about her, though rumors persisted about her past. She'd died almost twelve years before. At the time I was a student in the Jedi Temple, and the gossip among the students was that her passing had been a dreadful loss to Master Skywalker and was one of the reasons he'd left the Jedi Council.
Hoping to direct the conversation to a lighter topic I asked, "I noticed you call your son Ben rather than Obi-Wan."
"Yes," Master Skywalker said with a smile. "I never heard the name Obi-Wan until I was about your age. The man I knew was just Ben Kenobi, who was referred to as 'that crazy old man' most of the time. I named my son Obi-Wan to honor him, but I guess I was always more comfortable with just plain Ben. I know my son prefers to be called Obi-Wan, but I am his father and I will call him what I wish."
"As we were preparing to leave Coruscant, I thought I was to remain behind. It wasn't until we were about to depart that your son told me that my position as Padawan to Master Anakin made me part of his family, and that I was to come along. I will always remember that he took the time to be kind to me despite the sadness I am sure he was feeling."
"That sounds like him. Ben is the pride of my elder days. It is easier for me to face what lies ahead knowing that he and his goodness will remain."
Hearing this, I was reminded of my last visit with my own parents. My mother made a big fuss over Master Anakin and me, insisting we both stay with them while we were on Chandrila. My father, in contrast, rarely spoke, and I often noticed him staring at me, although he quickly turned away when I caught his eye. It wasn't until our last night together that he took me aside to speak with me before I left. When I asked him why he had been so distant, he said that for a long time, he did not trust the Jedi Order. My mother had insisted that I was to be trained as a Jedi, but my father was hurt at having his only son taken away from him. No amount of family visits could make up for the loss of not being there to see his only son grow-up. However, seeing the man I had become under Master Anakin's tutelage, he realized how proud he was of my accomplishments. My father's words meant more to me than I could ever say.
"Well Calep, I have kept you up long enough. Thank you for staying to keep an old man company."
"The honor was all mine," I confessed without a hint of untruth.
"Then perhaps tomorrow night, you will honor me by speaking with me again. Good night," he said with a polite nod and a slight wave.
I retired to my cabin aboard ship, but I could not sleep for some time. As I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling of my small room, my mind replayed over and over again my conversation with the greatest Jedi I would ever know.
Almost an hour after the second sunrise, I arose from my slumber and hastily dressed. Reentering the hut, I found Obi-Wan working in the kitchen.
"Good morning, Calep. I'm glad to see you've decided to join us."
"I guess I overslept," I admitted with a yawn.
"I hope my father didn't keep you up all night telling old war stories."
"No, but I wish he had. History books only tell the dry facts. It's something quite different to hear those stories from someone who was actually there."
"Be careful what you wish for," Obi-Wan said with a pointed look. "My father loves to tell those old stories. He says that his old friends still feel alive as long as somebody remembers them."
"Well he did ask me to stay up with him again tonight. Now I know what to ask."
"Don't say I didn't warn you," Obi-Wan teased as he set a few unfamiliar items on the low table. I assumed they were food.
"Do you need any help preparing breakfast?" I offered as he searched for a larger pan.
"What's this? A Padawan who knows how to cook? No wonder Anakin chose you."
"Oh. I'm sorry, Calep. That's not how I meant that to sound," Obi-Wan apologized when he saw the hurt look on my face. "I certainly didn't mean to imply that you were unworthy of such a respected teacher. I was referring to an old family joke about Anakin. He may be a Jedi Master, but don't ever expect him to serve anything better than ship's rations at dinner."
"Actually Master Anakin always insists that we eat at a local establishment wherever we are. He says it gives us a closer connection to the locals, and that by eating with them, we gain an insight into their character."
"Is that what he says?" Obi-Wan asked with an amused look on his face. "Let me ask you this. Have you ever seen him cook a meal for himself that wasn't pre-packaged?"
"I've never thought about it, but no."
"I didn't think so. Jaina once said that Anakin is the only Jedi who would starve to death if he became stranded in the Royal Gardens of Naboo. If you've ever been there, you would realize just how hard that would be."
Despite my deep respect for Master Anakin, I couldn't help but smile at this new insight into his character. I know that many people think of the Jedi as being greater than the average citizen is. I wondered how this opinion would change if they knew that even Jedi Masters have their own inadequacies.
"So," began Obi-Wan after we had cleared away the breakfast dishes, "what do you have planned for today? I'd wager that Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin will be with Father all day."
"No plans. Usually I spend any free time working on my lightsaber skills. Master Anakin says I should spend more time in meditation, but I've found that physical exertion makes me more receptive to the Force."
"You will find that as you progress, you will not need to exhaust your body to open your mind."
"I certainly look forward to that," I joked, managing to elicit a quick laugh.
"Don't worry, you'll get there soon," Obi-Wan assured me. "The reason I asked about your plans is because I wanted to see you if you'd like to go to Mos Eisley with me. Six people are a lot to feed, and my kitchen is not very well stocked. Also I would like to get the Wayfarer out of the blowing sand and into a nice sheltered docking bay."
"I'd enjoy that. Thanks."
Following a short atmospheric hop, we descended into Mos Eisley. The city, for lack of a better word, was built in the shelter of a ridge of high bluffs to the west. Laid out in concentric circles, the docking bays for ships filled the outer rings, while the shops and markets occupied the center. In between were the homes of the residents of Mos Eisley.
"If you'll look to your right," directed Obi-Wan, "you'll see docking bay 94. That's where Han Solo blasted off one day with a fugitive Jedi Knight, a farm boy, and two droids. Father insisted that we keep my ship there. Nostalgia I guess. It's much larger than what I need, but I couldn't deny him this link to his past."
After we landed and completed engine shut down; I noticed a small landspeeder hidden near the docking bay exit.
"Is that yours?" I asked.
"That, my friend, is the best way to travel on Tatooine," Obi-Wan assured me. "It's small and fast and will get you where you want to go. Plus you can easily shelter it from the sandstorms. The best transport built isn't any good if its engines are clogged with sand."
Securing the docking bay against unwanted guests, Obi-Wan and I took our seats aboard the speeder and made our way to into Mos Eisley's congested traffic.
"So where are we going?" I shouted, hoping to be heard.
"We're heading for the central marketplace first," Obi-Wan answered, his voice barely audible over the high-pitched noises of ships entering and departing their docking bays. "There's not exactly a lot of places to go sight-seeing in Tatooine, but I know a few places that might interest you."
From my seat in the landspeeder, I was able to obtain my first views of the people of Tatooine. Born on the orderly, almost boring, world of Chandrila and raised on the sober, refined world of Coruscant, I couldn't help but be amazed at how the inhabitants of Tatooine struggled and persevered just to eke out a living. In my travels with Master Anakin, we had dealt mostly with bureaucrats, soldiers, and members of high-ranking families. Ordinary people rarely had cause to enlist the aid of a Jedi Knight. Consequently, I had never been exposed to such a bleak lifestyle.
Seeing their lives first hand, I was moved by the fierce determination embedded in the core of each and every one of them. It was almost as if the planet had chosen these people, alone in the galaxy, as having the mettle to survive its hardships. A dizzying array of species from every known corner of the galaxy, their quiet strength was the common link. In the daily struggle for life, no quarter was given, and none was asked.
After nearly an hour of bargaining and a visit to almost every vendor's shop, we finally began to make our way out of the city. Though small, the speeder's storage compartment was sufficient to store the spoils of Obi-Wan's hard bargaining.
"This should last us until the end of your visit," Obi-Wan proclaimed as we slowly made our way through heavy pedestrian traffic. Looking back to where our purchases were stored, I realized the supplies would not last more than two days. Travelling with Obi-Wan had momentarily distracted me from the true purpose of our visit, but the presence of only three small bags spoke volumes.
"So where are you taking me now?" I asked.
"Someplace that no one would go on a sight seeing trip. Unless one wanted to be robbed that is. It's a small cantina near the docking ports."
"What is there to see in a cantina that might interest two Jedi?"
"The past. I should warn you, close your robes so your lightsaber doesn't show. I know it's comforting to have it within easy reach, but there are those who might decide to start a fight with a Jedi hoping to make a name for themselves, and such people usually have friends close by. We won't be there long, so there's no sense in tempting trouble."
Minutes later Obi-Wan parked his speeder if front of a rather disreputable looking establishment, in an even more disreputable part of town. Unlike the central markets, few people here were residents of Tatooine. It wasn't hard to tell the difference between natives and off-worlders. Obi-Wan, with his tanned features, hardened hands, and face lined from squinting in the glare of twin suns, looked as if he had lived his entire life on Tatooine. I, on the other hand, had been on planet less than a full day, as my fair skin and smooth features could readily attest. Unlike the market place where I was easily identified as an off-worlder, here Obi-Wan would stand out from the crowd.
Entering the cantina, I was assaulted by the smells of over a dozen worlds. Immediately in front of us was the circular bar, with the tables and booths surrounding it. In the corner to my left was a raised platform, obviously meant for some sort of live entertainment, although it sat empty at the moment. Through the dim light and smoke, I could see the place was only half full. Following Obi-Wan's lead; I made my way to a small booth near the entrance.
"So what's so special about this place?" I asked after we seated ourselves.
"There's nothing special about this place. You can find places like this in any city on any planet. It's what happened in this place that brings us here. It was here that my father and Obi-Wan Kenobi met a certain Corellian smuggler and his Wookiee co-pilot."
"This is where they met? No wonder the history lessons leave this place out. This doesn't exactly fit in with the image of two of the New Republic's founding heroes."
"All heroes had a life before they became heroes," my companion reminded me with a wry smile. "Obi-Wan and my father were hiding from the Empire. Han Solo and Chewbacca were hiding from Jabba the Hutt. When you're on the run, your travel choices are limited. I brought you here to make a point about destiny. What would have happened if Han Solo and my father had never met? Why did Obi-Wan pick this place to hire a pilot? Was he guided by the Force, or was it blind chance? If they had never met, Han would have never met his future wife or joined the Rebellion. Was it pre-destined that Han and my father would cross paths, or could any pilot have filled Solo's place in history?"
"Those are difficult questions for a Padawan," I said. "Have you discovered any answers?"
"No. Perhaps we are meant to accept some things on faith. Personally I believe in destiny. If Han Solo wasn't destined to meet and join the Rebellion, there would be no Anakin Solo. How would your life be different if Anakin wasn't your teacher?"
"Fortunately for me I'll never know," I said, remembering that I'd had similar thoughts only the day before. "So what else about this meeting isn't covered in the histories?"
"According for my father, Kenobi spoke with several pilots before Chewbacca. Another factor that makes one question the role of destiny. I'm sure you know that Kenobi killed a bar patron who attacked my father. That's the sort of thing that always makes the history books."
"Yes, that is rather well known. Until then, nobody had seen a lightsaber used in decades."
"Historians focus too much on sensational tidbits like that," Obi-Wan declared, a hint of excitement beginning to creep into his voice. "What intrigues me most is something that occurred after my father and Kenobi left, but before Han made it to his ship. Apparently he was accosted by a Rodian named Greedo, who was in the employ of Jabba the Hutt. Han owed Jabba money, and you know that the Hutt's aren't very generous towards those who owe them. Greedo threatened to turn Han over to Jabba, but ended up dead. The question is, 'What really happened?' In one version of the story, Greedo fired on Han, and Han killed him in self-defense. However other stories claim that Solo killed Greedo outright. I guess it's one of those things we are meant to never know."
"And all this happened right here in this cantina?"
"As near as I can tell, you're sitting where Solo sat, and I'm sitting where Greedo sat."
"First Solo, now me, and only a few thousand people in between. It's too bad these walls can't tell us what actually happened here."
"Maybe someday the walls will be coaxed into giving up their story, but it won't be today. We should get going. It's almost midday and we have one more stop before home."
"So young Calep, what were you and Ben up to today?" Master Skywalker asked when we resumed our conversation from the night before.
"Just a visit to the marketplace in Mos Eisley. Obi-Wan also showed me a few places he thought I might be interested in seeing."
"And where was that?" he asked with an amused smile.
"First we stopped at the cantina where you met Master Anakin's father.
"I see, and where did you go after that?"
"After that we headed for home, with a brief stop at the old Lars residence. Your son wanted to show me where you grew up."
At the mere mention of his past home, I saw Master Skywalker shift uncomfortably in his chair. He cast his glance downward toward his hands, which were folded together in his lap. Quietly, and with a profound sense of sorrow, he finally spoke.
"Owen Lars, now there's a regret I've had to carry with me for most of my life."
"You mean the fact that you were away when the Imperial troops killed him and your Aunt Beru?"
"No. I mean that I never got the chance to tell Owen that I was sorry. Sorry for the silent accusations I always made when he wasn't around. Sorry for the times I hated him for not being my father. For several years I was so angry with him for not letting me leave and join the Academy. I always assumed he was just a stubborn old man who didn't want to lose a worker. It wasn't until years after his death that I learned why he took me in. That Ben Kenobi had asked him to raise me and to protect me from the Empire. That he kept me hidden from those who would kill me if it became known who I really was. That's one of the regrets of my youth. I understood too late the true motives of the people who risked their lives to raise me."
"I'm sure he knew that you really loved and respected him," I added, hoping to help assuage any remaining feelings of guilt Master Skywalker might have.
"I hope so, but I would give anything to have the chance just to tell him how I feel about him. It turns out that I didn't really know him. He and Aunt Beru protected me, and died rather than reveal where I had gone that day. I owe them both a debt that can never be repaid."
Seeing the years of sorrow expressed on the face of this great man, I hastily tried to change the subject.
"When Obi-Wan and I were in the cantina, he wondered how things would have turned out if you hadn't hired Han Solo as your pilot that day. We discussed whether your meeting was fate, or just chance."
"When it came to Han Solo, chance and fate were the same thing," Master Skywalker said, his eyes brightening at the mention of his old friend. "There was no risk too great, no gamble too high that he wouldn't risk it. He was my big brother and best friend all rolled into one. I have missed him terribly since he left us, and I look forward to seeing him again soon."
I was more than a little disconcerted to hear Master Skywalker say that he was looking forward to his own death. In my view, his passing was going to be an incredible loss. To him, it was the final aspect of his physical life. Uncomfortable with the direction our conversation had taken, I chose to return to something a little less serious.
"Is Master Anakin very much like his father?"
"Of the three of them, Anakin is the one who is the most a blend of Han and Leia. In appearance, Jacen is the very image of his father, but he has his mother's patience and ability to deal well with people. The necessary ingredients to become a leader. When I look at Jaina I see the face of my sister, but her actions are most like her father. You should fly with her some time. She may very well be the best star pilot in the galaxy. And though she may be slow to give her friendship, she is fiercely loyal once that friendship is given. Anakin is the child of his parent's common traits. It is from both of them that he inherits his sense of adventure, and his quiet, inner strength. Unfortunately that also comes with enough stubbornness for two people."
"I've never noticed that trait in Master Anakin," I said, surprised to learn of this new aspect of his personality.
"I'm not surprised," Master Skywalker answered. "He's worked very hard to overcome it. Stubbornness is not exactly a fitting trait for a Jedi, but have you ever wondered why he spends so much time trying to make his old ship faster? Han's ship, the Millennium Falcon, had the reputation as the fastest ship in the galaxy. When Anakin bought the Paladin, Jacen bet him that it would never be as fast as their father's ship was. I doubt Anakin will ever buy another ship until he wins that bet."
As our conversation carried on into the night, I noticed the light in Master Skywalker's eyes grow as we talked about his old friends. I listened enraptured as Master Skywalker told countless tales of his old friends. Lando Calrissian. Chewbacca. Wedge Antilles. I gained new insights to these heroes of the Rebel Alliance through the memories of a man who called each of them simply 'friend.' To him that was the only title that mattered, and to me was the greatest title he could bestow.
The only people excluded from these remembrances were Master Skywalker's father and wife. I merely assumed that these memories were too intense to share. Or that words could do little to convey their true importance. Despite my own curiosity, I respected Master Skywalker's wishes and did not broach the subject. For the remainder of our talk I sat in enraptured silence as the past was laid out before me.
I entered Obi-Wan's kitchen even later than I had the previous day. Breakfast had already been served and Obi-Wan was already putting away his cooking pans. Sensing my presence, Obi-Wan spoke with out turning around.
"I see father kept you up late last night."
"I didn't heed your warning about asking for old stories. I now feel like I know every one of Master Skywalker's friends."
"Well I hope they were everything you imagined them to be," Obi-Wan said with a smile, as he finished placing the last dish in its cupboard. "I saved you some breakfast if you're hungry."
"Starving actually. Thank you."
As Obi-Wan prepared a plate for me I stirred nervously in my chair, struggling to find a tactful way to ask a question I felt I had no right to ask. My sense of propriety was fighting a losing battle with my curiosity. Summoning my courage, I decided to just ask Obi-Wan the question that had been plaguing me in a respectful, yet forthright manner. But before I could find the words, Obi-Wan took the initiative.
"So what is it you're afraid to ask me?" Obi-Wan calmly asked as he brought my breakfast to the table where I had seated myself.
"Am I that transparent?" I ask with a guilty frown on my face.
"You had the look of someone who had a question he didn't know how to ask. Don't worry, I'm not the type to offend easily."
"When I was speaking with your father last night, he told me everything I ever wanted to know about his friends, but there were two people he never spoke of."
"Mother and grandfather," he said evenly, though I though I detected an edge to his voice.
"Yes," I said eagerly, glad that I could finally ask the question I'd been working towards. "I was wondering if he ever speaks of them anymore, or if their memories are too painful to recall."
"You must understand," Obi-Wan began as he took a seat at the table across from me, "that my conversations with father would be different from any conversation you would have. I knew my mother very well, and I saw how her death affected him. To him she was his wife; to me she was my mother. Our different perspectives don't exactly lend themselves to easy conversations. I would guess that your knowledge of your own mother doesn't extend to any in-depth knowledge of her life before you were born."
"No. I suppose all children only see their parents as parents. It would seem our knowledge of the people in our lives depends on our point of view."
"Exactly. Grandfather, however, is another matter. Father and I have had extensive talks about him. Mainly to see the mistakes he made that brought about his downfall. In the end though, Anakin Skywalker turned away from the Darkness to save his son's life. My father wanted me to know that deep within the man known as Darth Vader, the spark of goodness that was Anakin Skywalker never died. When it was most needed, it blazed forth and consumed the Darkness that had descended upon the galaxy."
"And in ending the Darkness, your grandfather paid the ultimate price."
"A sacrifice was necessary, and perhaps it was a blessing. Could you imagine him living on with the knowledge of the unspeakable crimes he committed as Darth Vader?"
"No," I answered after only a moment's thought. "It's just a shame that Master Skywalker had his father return to him only to lose him again just as quickly."
"Yes it was. However there is one more detail that at the time father only told his sister, Leia, and later revealed to the re-established Jedi Council. During the Alliance's victory celebration on Endor my father saw a vision of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Master Yoda, and my grandfather was with them. Soon my father will be reunited with them, and perhaps he will get the opportunity to know his father as he should have," Obi-Wan said hopefully. "Perhaps someday we all will."
As he said this, I sensed a feeling of longing in Obi-Wan. Then the reason occurred to me. Master Skywalker had at least had the opportunity to speak with his father before he died. Obi-Wan knew nothing of Anakin Skywalker except what he had been told. He connection with the man was almost nonexistent. Of Darth Vader there was volumes of information, but almost nothing was known about the man who had become Darth Vader.
"Should we go see what the rest of the family is up to?" Obi-Wan asked with a forced smile as he came out of his reverie.
"Let's," I eagerly agreed. "I'm surprised Master Skywalker is already seeing visitors. We had a late night."
"Actually I don't think he slept at all," Obi-Wan announced to my surprise. "When I went to check on him this morning he was already awake. Father insisted I help him outside so he could watch the suns rise. After we returned he asked me to move his bed into the living area so he could be more comfortable while he spoke. He has been there since Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin came in shortly after second sunrise."
As we entered the living area, I saw Master Skywalker was sitting up in his bed, a blanket covering his legs. His eyes no longer had their luster from the previous night, and his voice was hardly more than a coarse whisper. Stunned by the sudden transformation since our last meeting, I grabbed a chair and seated myself on Master Skywalker's left, between him and Master Anakin. Obi-Wan soberly seated himself directly across from me, between his father and Master Jaina.
"Now that we're all together, I think it's time I said my final good-byes," Master Skywalker began. "My journey will soon reach its end, and I wish to leave nothing unsaid."
"Ben, I know no words which can sufficiently convey my pride and love for you. I love you for the child you were and the man you have become. I leave you with only one request. I want you to keep this with you always in memory of me."
Saying this, Master Skywalker's hand came out from underneath the covers. In it, he held his lightsaber. He thumbed the activation switch and the emerald blade ignited.
"I constructed this lightsaber in this very dwelling to replace the one I lost at Cloud City. Throughout my life it has served me well, and it is my wish that it will serve you."
"Thank you, Father," Obi-Wan managed to say, his voice thick with emotion. "I will carry it with me always." Taking the lightsaber in hand, Obi-Wan extinguished the blade and hung his father's weapon alongside his own.
"And now for you, Jaina," Master Skywalker said. "I have spoken with you and your brothers these last days about my wishes for the Jedi Council. Now I will speak just as your uncle. Yours has been the voice of compassion and reason among the Council members. When others argued that our ranks needed to be filled quickly, you lead those who advised caution. We'll never know what disasters your wisdom averted. But of all your accomplishments, I am most proud of your efforts to ensure that all students maintain close ties with their families."
"Jacen, you have been the strong leader the Council has needed in its time of re-growth. I know this has been a difficult role, as it was one I tried to fill with much less success. I wish I could have been the leader for the Jedi that your mother was for the Republic. I commend you and urge you to continue the work to strengthen the Order."
"Anakin, you have been the most recognizable symbol of the Jedi. Whenever the Republic needed the Jedi's assistance, you led the way. Your tireless devotion to others and your years of service across the galaxy has earned you high regard. In my opinion you have also earned a break. I think it is time you let someone else carry the burden."
"Lastly we come to Calep, the newest member of our family. Through our short conversations, I have come to have a high opinion of you. You seek knowledge and understanding above all else, and you place the wishes of others before your own. I sense you will become a great Jedi, and in time a great leader as well."
"Now," Master Skywalker said as he shifted in his bed, "I ask you all to leave me for a while. I was unable to sleep last night and need a brief rest to regain my strength."
"Of course, Uncle," Master Jaina answered as we rose from our seats. "We will be nearby when you awaken."
"Don't worry," Master Skywalker said with a dry laugh. "I'm not going to die just yet. I have one task left before I go."
"Calep, it's time," Master Anakin called out as he approached. From my perch atop a lofty crag, I watched the suns begin to set over the Dune Sea. For the last several hours I had endured the heat of the twin suns while I contemplated the cruel twists of fate. I had been given the privilege of meeting one of the greatest men in history only to be there to watch him die.
"I don't know if I can go, Master," I responded, never taking my eyes off the faraway sunsets.
"It's unbearable. I have only just begun to know a man I have idolized since childhood. I can't just sit by and watch him die," I cried. "How can you sit there and watch it happen? It seems so cold."
"Death comes for the best of us as well as the worst. It is as natural as being born," my Master said calmly and rationally. "When my time comes I hope to have my loved ones near me. I hope you will be there."
"Of course. I'll always come whenever you call."
"Then why not for him? Master Anakin asked with a nod back toward the hut. "Is it because of the legendary status he has been earned? Don't you see the man who has lived most of his life burdened by that reputation?"
"The galaxy needs great men like him," I argued, although the words rang hollow in my ears as I said them.
"The galaxy always needs great men," Anakin explained as he sat beside me. It had been easy to argue my point while I did not have to look my Master in the eyes. As we sat face to face, I felt the strength of will that had formed his point of view. "When my uncle is gone, someone else will take his place. That is the way of things. I think rather that your motives are not so altruistic. What is unbearable to you is to lose so quickly what you have always sought."
"What do you mean? I haven't been seeking Master Skywalker."
"Not him personally, but you have always desired to make some connection to the great history of the Jedi. When Luke Skywalker dies, that last link will be broken. You should not always look to the past for answers. Soon enough you will have to stand on your own. Make your own decisions. Make your own mistakes. All the history lessons of all the worlds will not make your choices for you. In the end it will come down to you doing what you believe is right. Only then will you know what kind of man you really are."
Finished with his point, Master Anakin rose and stood over me. As I looked up I saw he had his hand extended towards me. Placing my hand in his and rising to my feet, we turned to look down towards the Skywalker home.
"We should go," Master Anakin stated. "This is one occasion where delay is not permitted."
Somewhat ashamed at my reluctance, yet fortified by my Master's strength, I followed Master Anakin down from the secluded promontory to return to Master Skywalker's home. I knew what was about to occur would not be easy for either of us, but I prayed that I would find the strength to bear witness to it. As we neared the entrance to the adobe hut I noticed a hooded figure awaiting our arrival.
"What kept you two?" Master Jaina asked us from just inside the doorway.
"Just a brief discussion about the lessons of history," Master Anakin answered, neglecting to mention the true topic of our conversation.
With a sense of trepidation I followed Master Anakin and Master Jaina down into the large living area where Master Skywalker's awaited. The two Jedi Master's seated themselves at the foot of the bed with their brother between them. Obi-Wan sat to his father's right, so I took the only remaining seat at Master Skywalker's left. I couldn't help but notice the look of serene calm on his face as we all took our places. Master Skywalker must have noticed my unease, because he leaned towards me, placed his hand on mine, and whispered, "Don't worry young one. It will be all right."
"Now I have reached the end of life's journey," Master Skywalker began, addressing us as a group. "Before I go, I have one last gift to impart to all of you. I ask you all to please join hands."
With a smile, Master Skywalker turned to his right and joined his hand with his son's. As they looked into each other's eyes, emotions were conveyed that words could not describe. Without taking his eyes off his father's wise face, Obi-Wan extended his right hand and placed it in Master Jaina's hand. One by one the ring was closed. Master Jaina joined hands with her brother, Master Jacen, who gave his hand to his brother, Master Anakin. I was so moved by this scene that I barely felt my Master's grasp as he placed his hand in mine. Turning my gaze from him, I looked to Master Skywalker and saw he had his left hand extended towards me. Reaching out, I took his hand in mine, closing the circle.
"I now wish to share with you the lessons I have learned during this life. I won't bore you with a dry recitation of the events of my life. Instead I will show you."
What followed was a glimpse into the memories of the man who restored the Jedi Order. The hardships of a young boy growing up on moisture farm. The feelings of loss as his friends grew up and went away. His resentment toward his uncle as he constantly delayed his nephew's wishes to join the Academy.
Next came the images of the young hero as he began his adult life. Meeting Obi-Wan Kenobi and leaving home to rescue a lost princess. The hidden guilt over the death of the only parents he knew. The excitement of life on the run from the Empire, and his first glimpses into the mystery that was the Force.
I was surprised at how hard Obi-Wan Kenobi's death struck Master Skywalker. He had only really known the old Jedi for a brief time, yet his loss shattered young Luke's life. At the moment of his death, the young farm boy from Tatooine knew hatred for the first time. Hatred for the monster who had murdered his friend and teacher.
To fill the void Kenobi had occupied, new friendships sprung up. Han Solo and his co-pilot Chewbacca ranked foremost, along with his feelings of devotion toward Leia Organa of Alderaan. Later there was the joyous, though brief, reunion with an old friend, Biggs Darklighter, as well as a meeting with another pilot who would fly with him through numerous battles, Wedge Antilles.
Life as a Rebel dominated the next phase of this astounding life. The celebration after the destruction of the Death Star was short lived. Princess Leia's group of rebels lived life on the run, constantly hounded by the Empire. On the ice planet Hoth, Obi-Wan Kenobi appeared before his former student, instructing him to journey to Dagobah to learn the ways of the Force from the aged Master Yoda.
From Master Yoda, young Luke Skywalker learned the discipline necessary to become a Jedi Knight. The respect he had for his diminutive teacher knew no bounds. The word impossible no longer existed. Yoda had taught him that anything was possible if one just believed.
Events soon tore Luke away from his retreat. From across the galaxy his friends' suffering cried out to him. In his foolhardy attempt to save them, Luke had lost so much. Lost his best friend. Lost his hand. Lost his innocence. In one heart-stopping moment the truth of his parentage was laid before him, and almost cost him his very soul. Luke Skywalker was now no longer an orphan raised by his loving aunt and uncle. He was instead the son of the most hated and feared man in the galaxy.
The following years went by in a frenzy of activity. Using his skills as a Jedi, Luke was able to rescue his friend Han from Jabba the Hutt. Master Yoda became one with the Force, and with his passing came the announcement that Princess Leia was his sister. During the final battle of the war Vader had threatened Luke's new sister and had pushed the young Jedi to the brink of embracing the Dark Side. At that crucial moment of decision it was his love for his sister and father, as well as the inner voices of his patient teachers that saved Luke from that fall. In the end, it was Anakin Skywalker who turned his back on the Darkness to save his only son from certain death at the hands of the Emperor.
From this victory came the battle to re-establish the Republic in fact as well as in name. To aid in this struggle the search for those with the potential to become Jedi Knights was begun. During this trying time Luke met a young smuggler's assistant, Mara Jade. The mere thought of her name opened the floodgate of emotions that Master Skywalker had sought to contain since her death. A hidden pain made all the more unbearable because of the sweet memories that were its foundation. From adversaries to wary friends to lovers, their relationship became the center of his world. Together they journeyed through life as husband and wife as well as Jedi. The burdens of leadership that Luke Skywalker had undertaken were passed on to others as his life's focus narrowed from matters of galactic importance to the love of one remarkable woman. A love that only grew with the birth of their only child. It seemed proper to name this child after the man who had started Luke on the path to his destiny.
Family life proceeded with contented bliss. In addition to raising their son and teaching him the ways of the Force, Luke and Mara both returned to service as leaders among their fellow Jedi. All was well for many years, until that fateful day when Mara developed an incurable illness. Her remaining years were a steady decline from the life of a vibrant, passionate woman, to the life of a woman who wasted away in her bed while her husband and son were forced to watch.
In the end her death had become a blessing. A release from the agony that her life had become. With her passing went Master Skywalker's involvement in galactic affairs. He took his leave of the Jedi Council, promising he would never return. Although he still wore his lightsaber as a symbol of the man he had once been, he would never use it again to defend the Republic from its enemies. Only the death of his sister stirred him from his seclusion, but the frenzy of news made over her passing and his return to Coruscant convinced him to never return. It was hard enough to lose the last link to his old life, but to have no old friends left to share his grief was the greatest tragedy.
"And now I must leave you," Master Skywalker spoke, his voice once again strong and full of energy. "Remember always to pass on what you have learned. I must go now to be rejoin those who have gone on before me. To be with my love again. To be with Mara."
As Master Skywalker spoke those last words I felt an overpowering disturbance in the Force. The only words to describe it would be strong, yet peaceful. Most disturbances in the Force foretell danger or evil. This was nothing like that. It almost seemed as if the Force itself opened up to safeguard the spirit of Master Skywalker. As I returned my gaze upon him, his image flickered, faded and was gone. The blankets and pillows of his bed fell back to their proper place, relieved of the burden of his body. As I looked around into the astonished eyes of the others, I saw that Obi-Wan now had his hand extended towards me. I firmly grasped his hand and the circle was closed once again. One thought echoed through my mind, I had no idea.
I don't know how long we stayed like that. By remaining linked together, we drew comfort from each other's presence. Some experiences can only be truly understood by the people you share them with. Together we relived every thought and sensation of the past few hours, gauging each other's impressions to ensure that nothing was missed. We might have continued this until morning if Obi-Wan had not interrupted.
"Look. There by the doorway."
Turning to see what had caught his eye, I beheld an image I shall never forget. There before us, surrounded by a blazing luminescence, was the image of Luke Skywalker. For a moment he just looked upon us and smiled, and then the image changed as he extended his arms from his side. Suddenly Master Skywalker was no longer alone. Standing beside him was Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. The three of them looked at each other with fondness and satisfaction. Here before us were the three beings responsible for preserving the legacy of the Jedi.
As the images of Obi-Wan and Yoda turned to face us, two more ghostly images entered the scene. The first was a woman dressed in a flowing white gown. She was followed by a tall figure dressed in Jedi robes similar to the ones worn by Obi-Wan Kenobi. Together the two of them approached Master Skywalker and the trio embraced.
"Mother," Master Jacen proclaimed, his voice thick with emotion.
"Grandfather," Master Anakin finished, identifying the man for whom he was named.
The five of us shed tears freely for the beauty of the scene before us. For Luke Skywalker it was a reunion with old friends whom he had lost long ago, and with a father he had only known for an instant. The light emanating from the group seemed to grow as they came together. Only Master Skywalker seemed troubled. While the others looked on us with what seemed to be approval, he looked around himself, as if something was missing.
Finally the image of one last person flickered into existence. Her presence lent a sense of completion to the scene, and erased the worries from Master Skywalker's face. The two of them embraced and shared a kiss that had waited for twelve years. After their passionate reunion was over, this new arrival looked upon us, but sought one face in particular.
"Hello, Mother," Obi-Wan stated simply. "It's good to see you again. I've missed you terribly."
The image of Mara Jade Skywalker offered no reply. Her only acknowledgement was to smile upon her only son before returning her gaze to her beloved husband.
For only a few precious moments more the scene before us continued before it gradually faded away. It was considerably longer before those of us witness to this sight were ready to leave our places. As I was about to stand, the comlink on my belt buzzed.
"Master, there is a transmission incoming to the Paladin."
"That would be the Jedi Council," Master Jacen answered. "I will speak with them."
With that, Master Jacen left to answer the call aboard the Paladin. From there he would be able to use the holographic projector to speak to the rest of the Council and inform them of what had occurred.
"I hope you will all stay here one more night," Obi-Wan offered as we awaited Master Jacen's return. "It's been a long day and I would appreciate your company for one more night. If you can be spared from the Council that is."
"Of course we'll stay," Master Jaina answered, sounding surprised that Obi-Wan even felt the need to ask. "After what we've witnessed, I don't exactly relish the idea of returning to the hustle and bustle of Coruscant life just yet. There's something about being away from it all that is quite appealing."
"Are you thinking of resigning from the Council and taking up the life of a vagabond, dear sister?" Master Anakin asked.
"I wouldn't call service to the Jedi Order the 'life of a vagabond' would you, dear brother. I just miss traveling between the stars and spending time getting to know the people of the galaxy. On Coruscant the only people I get to meet are diplomats and their aides."
"Hmm. Uncle Luke advises me to give up life among the stars, and you desire to return to such a life."
Any further discussion about this topic was interrupted by Master Jacen's return.
"Apparently Uncle Luke's passing has been felt by Jedi everywhere. The Council has been receiving transmissions from all over the galaxy sent by Jedi wanting to know what happened. The Council felt they knew the cause of the disturbance, but held off informing anyone until they received confirmation. I told them to pass the word along."
"Obi-Wan has asked us to stay one more night," Master Anakin informed his brother. "We will return to Coruscant tomorrow to give the Council a more detailed description of Uncle Luke's final hours."
"That sounds fine," Master Jacen agreed. "It's always good to start a new journey after a good night's sleep, although I doubt I'll sleep very well tonight. I've got too many new things to think about.
The space of a few hours found me once again at my lofty perch. This time looking at the stars instead of the twin sunsets. I had left under the excuse of making the ship ready for the coming journey, but in reality I just wanted to be alone with my thoughts. Master Jacen had stated it correctly. I had many new things to think about. I knew that eventually someone would come to see where I had gone and wasn't surprised when Obi-Wan approached and sat down beside me.
"Your father was a truly great man," I proclaimed, never taking my eyes off the heavens.
"Yes he is," Obi-Wan answered, clearly intending to speak of his father in the present tense. "I was surprised at how much I didn't know about him; how much he kept to himself."
"Then you can imagine how I feel. I never knew him at all. I just knew the legend. It's something quite different to have him share his life with us like he did. I just needed some time to sort through it all."
"I think we all will be doing that for some time," Obi-Wan said. "To truly know someone the way we now know my father is not to be underestimated. It's a shame we can't all know each other that way. Think of all the misunderstandings that would never happen."
"What about all the dark secrets people have that they wouldn't want brought to light?" I responded. "To be totally open with someone that way might do more harm than good."
"Unfortunately you're probably right," Obi-Wan admitted with a frown. "I wish it wasn't so, but we all have things that we need to keep just for ourselves. Father never shared his innermost secrets with anyone until now."
"Any innermost feelings you feel like sharing?" I asked jokingly.
"A few," Obi-Wan responded with a smile, "but I don't think I'm ready for that yet. I think I need a few more years under my belt to gain some perspective."
"Well whenever you're ready come find me. You Skywalkers are pretty interesting."
"Thanks Calep," Obi-Wan answered wryly. "I'll keep that in mind."
"So which one is yours?" Obi-Wan asked after I returned my gaze to the stars.
"I meant which star do you call home. I've never been to Chandrila. I don't know where it is. Can you point it out to me?" Obi-Wan asked with genuine interest.
"I'm not sure. I've never been to Tatooine before. If we were on Coruscant I could point it out to you, but everything looks different from the Outer Rim."
"You should always know where home is, Calep. Wherever you are, you should always remember where you come from."
Perhaps it was the slightly reproving tone, which I normally only heard from my Master, that made me pause to consider his words. In truth I was infinitely more familiar with Coruscant than I was with my true home, Chandrila. I decided then that my next visit to my home world wouldn't just be an opportunity to relax from the rigors of Jedi training, but would rather be spent learning about my own heritage.
"Do you consider Tatooine your home?" I asked, despite the fact that I knew that Obi-Wan would almost certainly have been born on Coruscant.
"Yes. Although I wasn't born here this has always been the place my father called home, so I consider it mine as well. Neither of my parents felt comfortable living on Coruscant. They always said it was too crowded and too busy to suit their tastes."
"I can understand why. Growing up here out here with all these wide-open spaces, Coruscant would be a shock."
"That's one thing Tatooine has plenty of - wide-open spaces," Obi-Wan said with a longing sigh. He paused to scan the horizon and then look up again to the stars before continuing. "Well, I'm going to turn in Calep, I just wanted to come out here to thank you."
"Th-Thank me?" I stuttered, surprised to hear him say that. "What for?"
"For helping me get through these past two days. You gave me the gift of your friendship when I needed it most."
With that, Obi-Wan rose to his feet and headed back indoors. He had only proceeded a few steps when I overheard him say, "You've also given me something to think about."
The next morning found us ready to take our leave of Tatooine. Master Jacen and Master Jaina had loaded what belongings they had brought with them back aboard the Paladin. We all stood at the base of the ramp, saying our good-byes to Obi-Wan.
"I expect to see you again soon, Obi-Wan," Master Jaina proclaimed with the familiar no nonsense look in her eyes.
"You will Jaina. Perhaps sooner than you think," Obi-Wan answered with a cryptic smile.
"Are you sure you wouldn't like us to stay here with you for a few more days?" Master Jacen offered.
"No, that won't be necessary. Life goes on, and you all should get back to your lives as well. Besides, the Council will be expecting you."
"Is there anything we can do for you before we leave?" Master Anakin asked last.
"Actually there is Anakin. I'd like to borrow your Padawan. I'll need some help closing up the house and taking care of other matters. I'll return him to you when I'm done," Obi-Wan promised, before flashing me a quick smile.
My Master's face was a bit more cryptic. As he considered the request, I was surprised at how strongly I desired to remain with Obi-Wan for a few days more. When Master Anakin looked at me, I let my preference show clearly upon my face.
"Of course you may borrow him," my Master agreed. "Where shall I meet you when you're done with him?"
"Wait for us on Coruscant. We should be there in a few days."
"Are you sure you're ready to return to Coruscant?" Master Jaina asked with concern. It had only been a few days since Obi-Wan had hinted that he would spend some time away from the Jedi Order after his father's death.
" I have to. That's where you keep all the students. I've decided it's time for me to take a Padawan of my own. It's time I moved on with my life as well."
It was plainly obvious that I wasn't the only one surprised by this announcement. We'd all assumed that Obi-Wan would spend some time away from the Jedi Order as he'd earlier hinted. I vainly wondered if his decision had had anything to do with the time we'd spent together.
"We'll see you and Calep in a few days then," Master Jacen said with a smile.
"A few days," Obi-Wan agreed as the three Jedi Masters turned to board the ship. "Have a good journey."
Such were the events surrounding Luke Skywalker's passing. It was less than a year later that I passed the trials and became a Jedi Knight. Soon after my change in status, Master Jaina vacated her seat on the Jedi Council to return to the adventure of travelling between the stars that she missed so much. With her on her journey went a young student, one as eager to learn as I had been when I was chosen. Master Anakin gave up the life of teaching that he loved so much and took her seat on the Council, eventually settling down and having a family of his own. It was not long before I once again crossed paths with Master Jaina, but that is another story.