The Jedi In the Desert
by Dominic Cuthbert
Category: Short Story
The weapon wielded by his apprentice had lain in its chest these long years, drawn almost in a moment of longing or reminiscence, but his hand had always faltered inches from the clasp.
His time here was waning. Surely as the desert winds left his skin coarse as stone and the cold nights froze him to the bone, he soon would be gone. So many had already passed. Not for the first time, Obi-Wan found himself thinking of Qui-Gon. He’d sensed glimpses of his former master on the fringes of the Force, seen some spectral apparition from the corner of his eye. Only to turn and find himself staring at a wall or out at the barren Dune Sea.
Yet Qui-Gon had been there, coalescing into something solid, something more like his former self. The man could frustrate him at times, acting as if he’d wanted the ire of the Council. But looking back on it, Obi-Wan knew there was still so much more he had to learn. What had he known? A padawan of barely twenty years, thrust into the role of master. Was that when he’d lost Anakin? Could Qui-Gon have been the one that kept the boy the right side of the light?
Obi-Wan tried not to think about it. He left the chest untouched and sat himself in the corner of his hut. More and more these last few months, he’d spend hours sat there feeling himself drifting into the Force. It seemed to call to him, welcome him home. Sometimes, if he closed his eyes, quieted his mind and focused, he could still hear his master’s voice. Beyond that, deeper still, there was an echo of old things, as if all that had ever been repeated again in time.
The old Jedi fell down through the layers of his subconscious. It was second nature to him now, no harder than falling asleep and reawakening in a dream. There were echoes everywhere, ripples that stretched from the birth of the universe and out towards its end. But Obi-Wan wasn’t that powerful. He doubted even Yoda could have travelled that deep into the Force without sundering his body from his mind.
At first it showed him things he hungered for. Fondly held memories that faded further with the passing of time. Curse it all, he was getting old. How had it happened? He wasn’t sure himself. One moment he’d been a general in the Clone Wars and then the next he was here on Tatooine. An old man alone with his thoughts.
A flicker in the Force. For a moment, the shape of Qui-Gon before he dissipated. He followed with his mind, seeing himself taken as a padawan by his former master. The old Jedi felt himself smiling. Perhaps he’d been too hard on Anakin during his training. Obi-Wan had been a reckless apprentice himself, struggling with his own inner turmoil and desperate to prove himself. Under anyone else’s tutelage, he too might have fallen, might have turned his back on the Order.
There was a moment, a time in his life, when he had considered doing just that. He recalled Satine now. The sharp lines of her face, the litheness of her limbs, and her hair, always immaculate. She was as beautiful here in the Force, as if sculptured from blue light
and fog, as he’d ever known her on Mandalore. He loved her. He could say it now without fear or consequence now that it was years too late. But Obi-Wan had chosen the Order. If only they’d run away, abandoned their responsibility, the galaxy be damned. No, that wasn’t Satine. She was a good leader, dedicated to her people and he knew he could never have really left his life as a Jedi. But with the Order long gone, what good did it do him denying his love for her? Sometimes he still imagined their lives together. Imagined children, even. In those moments, he understood Anakin better. Not completely – never completely – but it helped soften the blow when Obi-Wan thought of his apprentice.
The Force took form around him. The throne room on Mandalore looked much as he remembered it. And there he was on his knees. Strange to see from outside of himself. Wait. He knew what happened next, refused to witness it again.
“Let me go,” he tried to say though no sound came from his mouth.
Was the force that cruel to make him relive this moment again. No, the Force wasn’t cruel, wasn’t kind. It simply was and whatever it meant to show him served a purpose.
A dark red smudge loomed over everything. Obi-Wan didn’t need any definition to recognise Maul when he saw him. The ignition of his blade seemed distant. Satine’s scream pierced his mind and when Obi-Wan pulled himself free, he found that he was crying.
He cuffed the tears on his robe and searched his hut. It had been here somewhere. Living alone had aged his mind forty years in twenty and sometimes even the simplest things eluded him. It was only after searching through his hut twice over that he found it.
Maul’s lightsaber had been an ugly thing, twisted and misshapen, cold and dark as he had been. Why he kept the weapon, he couldn’t say. But when they’d met again the last time, Obi-Wan found that his pain and anger had changed. They hadn’t left him, but it was with pity he’d looked at his old adversary. And when he struck it wasn’t with hate but with resignation. Acceptance. In those moments, both of them had gleaned some deeper inner truth. As close to enlightenment as that broken shell of a Sith could come, but Obi-Wan still had some way yet to go.
In showing him Satine’s death again, the Force was giving him a message. Let go. A simple message, but perhaps the hardest lesson of all. Obi-Wan wasn’t ready to let go just yet. There were still things to do, still a boy to train. But he was close. So close that when he slipped into the Force he wondered whether he would ever come out, that when he slept would he ever wake.
Let go, Obi-Wan told himself. Yes, soon he’d have to do just that. He crossed his hut and approached the chest. His fingers worked the clasp and he propped the lid against the wall. There among the cloth bundles and relics of his old life was a lightsaber. The weapons weren’t living things, but they did remember. Obi-Wan thought of all the weapon had wrought, the lives it had taken, and wondered if there was anything except rage and hate left within it. Obi-Wan reached out, fingers hovering above the weapon for a moment before he picked it up and held it in his hand. There was hate there, a fierce rage the like of which he’d never felt before. Had his apprentice truly been so lost? Underneath that, though, was something else. The old Jedi ignited the blade and focussed. It had the distant whisper of
Padmé’s voice as if she was there in the hut and calling Anakin’s name. He thought he saw her face there in amongst the blue stream.
“Come,” said another voice behind him. “I’ve much to teach you.”
Obi-Wan turned and found Qui-Gon stood there, clearer then he’d ever seen him before. “Master,” he said. “I’m ready.”
Qui-Gon smiled. “Not yet, my apprentice. But soon you will be. Luke will need you.”
“The lightsaber.” Obi-Wan disengaged the weapon. “I will train the boy to use it.”
“Of course, it’s only right it passes to Luke. Just as it must pass to Rey.”
“Rey?” Obi-Wan asked, setting the lightsaber aside.
“I’ve seen much, Obi-Wan, and I’m getting ahead of myself.”