Lady Obscura: Little More Than a Shadow

Chapter 24

So much of her life had been lived in space that hurtling through hyperspace was comforting in its feeling of normalcy. Athara was still fighting to come to terms with her realization that she was the daughter of Obi-wan Kenobi and Neva Adyé, so any hint of normalcy was an immense relief.

It all felt like a dream, really. She faintly recalled asking first the Jengals and then Vader about her parents when she was a child. The Jengals had truthfully known nothing, while Vader…she had never understood his reactions. He had always closed off completely, and eventually warned her off the subject, refusing to even acknowledge her questions after that. And below that, hidden almost well enough to escape detection, there had always been a tangled, confusing undercurrent of bitterness, guilt and—what bewildered her most—fear and even a hint of relief. Once her skills had developed enough to recognize and even notice those emotions she had been reluctantly intrigued despite the way she had forced herself to give up on learning the truth of her origins.

She understood, now…mostly, at least. He was bitter in his lingering anger at Kenobi and his inability to find his former mentor. The guilt, well, now that was easy to understand. Even as a girl Athara had understood to some extent why she felt guilt among those swirling emotions. But the fear and relief? They were two such different feelings that she had never understood the way they had been so intricately woven together when they escaped Vader’s formidable mental shields. She could only suppose now that they stemmed from fear that she might find out the truth, and relief that she had not. As if that didn’t make her bitter about it at all…

She also now understood the look on Kenobi’s face in that split second when his eyes met hers on the Death Star. He had recognized her. The shock that she was alive when he’d spent so many years thinking she was lost with her mother. She also understood why he’d felt so familiar. He was a part of her, and that part of her, no matter how unconsciously seated, had recognized him too. But if he had recognized her, why hadn’t he come to her? He was obviously capable; he’d been visiting and mentoring Luke since his death, especially on Dagobah. It was a question she still didn’t have an answer to.

But answers to many of the questions she’d ever had about her past and her origins were hidden somewhere in the old case that she and Luke had found hidden away in Kenobi—her father’s—workspace…it still felt weird to think of Kenobi as her father. They still hadn’t managed to power up many of the datapads and Luke had discovered, with no small amount of disappointment from both of them, that some of the chips weren’t compatible with the datapads they had in the hovel. But Athara still knew more than she had ever dared dream.

She knew her parents’ names.

It seemed such a small thing, but she had long ago resigned herself to believing that she would never know anything about them. More than that, she knew so much about her father already, just from the research she had done on Kenobi when she’d first gone on the run. She could also now understand the careful, even gentle way Qui-gon had spoken to her about his apprentice…and why he’d seemed so amused when he’d said she was rather like Obi-wan had been at her age; impulsive, stubborn, periodically sarcastic, resourceful. And it now made sense to her why Vader had insisted on the Death Star that they leave the search of the Millennium Falcon to the troopers; he had sensed Kenobi then, she knew that already, but he didn’t want her to sense him, or to confront him. That’s what he had been hiding that day. More than that, he’d been hiding her from him.

Her mother, though, was still essentially a mystery, and Athara’s absent curiosity had been fanned into a persistent need to know more. She had gleaned a little about her from Obi-wan’s journals and the possessions in the chest, now obviously hers given the way everything in the chest seemed to be related to Obi-wan’s wife.

It still wasn’t much, though. She had learned that Neva had come to adore Luke and had visited him regularly, eventually becoming close friends with Luke’s Aunt as well; close enough that Beru had been at her wedding to Obi-wan. It was probably why Luke had faint memories of her, even though he couldn’t yet have been much more than a baby himself. Athara found out that she was a skilled seamstress and had taken work from shops in Bestine that Kenobi had claimed was far below her level of skill. She was clever, stubborn, gentle and loved to laugh…and had loved Obi-wan dearly, enough to leave everything behind for him.

She also knew what her mother looked like, something she had given up hope of ever finding out. She found out that she looked like her mother, though she had inherited her father’s eyes and fairer colouring.

But of what little actual material she had to learn about her mother from, there was one bit of information that Athara kept returning to more than any other tidbit of information.

Naboo.

Between her training with Luke and helping him prepare for Han’s rescue, Athara had all but devoured Kenobi’s last journal, desperate to know more about Neva and to figure out why her mother had left Tatooine. She learned that her mother had suffered a blaster wound years earlier that had resulted in complications when she was carrying Athara. She had left Tatooine for a planet with better available medical facilities and had travelled to Naboo. No, she had returned to Naboo. That had stood out to Athara in Kenobi’s writings, that Neva was returning to that system. It said to Athara that Neva was likely Nabooian by birth, or had at least lived there long enough that Obi-wan felt inclined to use the word returned rather than travelled.

It was a planet she had never been to and now she suspected she knew why. Not that there had ever been much reason for the Dark Lord or his apprentice to venture there. Though, Athara did faintly remember an occasion when the Emperor intended to visit the small planet. Vader had outright refused to go, something that had shocked Athara at the time. It made a certain amount of sense now. At that point she had still very much been Vader’s shadow; too young yet to go on solo missions of her own. No matter how remote the chance might actually have been, there would have been a risk that Athara’s heritage and past would have come to light.

Some of the items in Neva’s chest too seemed to point to the conclusion that Athara’s mother was Nabooian, as after some thought Athara had begun to recognize the aesthetic that was distinctive to the planet. Athara herself had always liked things that came from that system, and had even had some Naboo-made artwork in her former Coruscanti residence. And not that she was an expert in such things by any means, but she could even see hints of Naboo fashion in the copper-green dress, though it was obviously a little out of date as compared to things that the Chommell sector’s Senator Naberrie had worn any time Athara had encountered her.

It was an intriguing and credible enough conclusion that Athara felt herself being drawn to Naboo, something that her feelings encouraged. And as the time for Han’s rescue drew closer, the less she could ignore her desire, her need, to travel to Naboo herself. She had decided that it would certainly give her something to distract herself while Luke was off saving Han with Leia and Chewie, because she wasn’t about to sit back idly while they jaunted off to Jabba’s Palace. It was also something Luke supported whole-heartedly.

Her Farmboy’s understanding and support as Athara battled through her revelations had been nothing short of incredible. But then of anyone, he was likely in a better position to understand the emotional turmoil the realizations had brought Athara, given that he was himself still dealing with the emotional upheaval from discovering the truth of his own paternity. They were able to face their pain and disbelief together, supporting each other through it. It brought them closer still. It was getting to the point where Athara could barely imagine her life without Luke in it. He had become such a fixture in her life—her rock, her anchor, her focus, her calm—and she was constantly striving to be the same for him.

So of course, one evening when she’d absently mentioned her desire to go to Naboo, he’d immediately encouraged her, even offering to go with her. He could feel just how drawn she was to the planet, and how the Force was pushing her to make the journey. It had been an offer she was sorely tempted to accept, but her feelings told her that it was a journey she needed to make alone. There was a lingering feeling that she needed to do this, that something important was waiting for her there. It was a feeling that inspired a mix of excitement and anxiety in her. She didn’t know what to make of the feeling, and was admittedly afraid to find out, given where her last few Force-driven epiphanies had led her and what her last few instances of foreboding feelings had heralded.

Besides, according to Leia’s most recent communication, the Alliance fleet was gathering near Sullust, with a general call for as many Alliance members to join it as possible. There was to be a critical Council Meeting followed by what sounded like the makings of a major offensive. If Reem’s data bursts were right, there was a second Death Star somewhere, and it sounded like the Alliance might know where it was; what other reason could there be for gathering the fleet in such force? The gathering was set to take place shortly after Han’s planned rescue. It wasn’t something Athara intended to miss, no matter the concerned and hesitant looks Luke kept shooting her whenever it came up. She was already sitting out from the rescue of her friend. There was no way she was going to be sitting out of an important confrontation with the Empire. And she could feel that it was going to be a pivotal encounter. Naboo was comparatively close to Sullust, especially when compared to Tatooine, and there was just enough time for her to do some investigating on Naboo before heading to Sullust.

That was why she sat alone, in a shadowed corner of her second Public Transport vessel on the final leg of her journey to Naboo. The first vessel had departed from Tatooine for Corellia, and from there she had caught a ship on to Naboo. While Luke was completing his final preparations for the mission to save Han, Athara was making a short exploratory visit to Naboo, testing the waters, so to speak, to see if searching for Neva on the Imperial Planet was more than a wild bantha chase. As she sat looking out the nearby viewport as the ship hurtled through hyperspace, she couldn’t help but think that the rescue should be under way, Leia and Chewie making their way into Jabba’s Palace even as Athara thought about it, while Luke should be about to leave Kenobi’s hovel. The memory of her obscure visions hung over her thoughts like a shadow, much as they had on Bespin; it was driving her to distraction, especially since she still couldn’t remember even a single detail from them, making it hard to dismiss her worry.

Hopefully everything went according to plan…

Saying goodbye to Luke had been far harder than she had anticipated. Normally, she was always the first one awake in the morning, her long ingrained routines following her no matter what planet she was on or whose company she was in. But the morning she had left she had opened her eyes to see her Farmboy already awake, his vibrant blue gaze quietly watching her. His fingers had still been still woven with hers, just as they had been when Athara had drifted off the night before.

“Afraid I was going to leave before you woke up?” she had teased quietly, her voice still a little slurred with sleep. A faint smile had come to his lips but she had seen from the fleeting shadow in his eyes that he had feared just that. And she had truthfully considered it for the briefest of moments; old habits die hard, and all.

“Maybe a little,” he’d said lightly but honestly back, his fingers tightening on hers, “but—” he had hesitated then, and something in his voice had Athara propping herself up on her elbow, looking at him with concern.

“What is it?” She’d prompted when he didn’t continue. He’d sighed, pulling her over to lie against him. Happily she had obliged, her cheek pillowed on his shoulder as his arm circled round her.

“I don’t know,” he finally continued, “it’s a feeling. Like something is going to happen while you’re on Naboo.” Athara had tensed in his embrace, causing his fingers to still where they had been absently tracing patterns against her shoulder. It was the same feeling she’d felt growing in the corner of her mind since she had resolved to go to Naboo in the first place.

“You sense it too,” she had whispered. He drew back a little, fixing his now worried gaze back on hers. She sighed. “I still need to do this, Luke,” she said quietly, sounding a lot more certain than she had felt at the time. Reluctantly he had nodded in agreement.

“I know,” he’d murmured, his fingers resuming their tracery, “but that doesn’t stop this—this elusive unease I have about you going.”

“Qui-gon said something to me once,” she’d told him then—just as he’d told her about Ben, she told him about her visits from Qui-gon not long after reuniting on Tatooine—hesitating for a moment to recall exactly how he’d said it, “he said not to get caught up in feelings about the future, to instead keep my concentration on the here and now.”

“That focusing on feelings about the future at the expense of the moment was unwise and even dangerous,” Luke finished. Athara drew back, surprised. He grinned cheekily. “I think I know where, or rather who, Ben learned that particular saying from.” It had drawn a chuckle from Athara, though he’d cut it off when he leaned down, laying a gentle kiss against her lips. “Just, maybe be a little mindful of these feelings? I can’t fight the sense that something bad is waiting on Naboo.” She carded his sandy-hued hair through her fingers.

“It might be no more than that I am going to find out something painful. It will be alright,” she had assured him, again sounding far more confident that she truly felt. It was obvious that he hadn’t quite bought it, but he nodded anyway.

“Just promise you’ll be careful,” he had pressed again later on when she was getting out of the speeder at the Public Transport ship’s docking bay. She had leaned back into the cockpit, stealing one last heated kiss before pulling away. His hand tightened on her fingers, though, not letting her pull away too quickly.

“I already promised I would. Of course I’ll be careful, Luke.” Apparently satisfied, his grip on her fingers had reluctantly loosened, though it was a moment before Athara was able to let go herself. As much as she hated to admit it, she was incredibly nervous about this trip, and had been wishing he were coming with her. But she pushed the wish aside. They both had their missions, and she was more than capable of taking care of herself. Forcing herself to let go of his hand, she had turned to head for the ship.

But she hesitated, turning back to look at him where he sat in the speeder, watching her go with an encouraging expression. He’d looked just as he had when she’d left him on Dagobah, his face genuine and open, his eyes bright despite the apprehension in them. Only this time he was bathed in sunlight rather than the gloom of the swamp, and the expression in his eyes had said so much more as he sat in the speeder than standing beside her X-wing.

“I love you, Farmboy. You know that, right?” She had blurted it out, suddenly self-conscious of how blunt she had been. He didn’t seem to notice her lack of finesse, though. His vivid blue eyes had only widened at first in surprise—she hadn’t declared her feeling so openly before—before a luminous smile broke out over his features. That she loved him had been obvious since she’d left him on Dagobah, and it was no secret that he had returned those feelings just as long, if not longer. But she’d never quite had the nerve to say it aloud, afraid of what actually saying it would mean. She could tell he’d been on the verge several times, but had always held back, always careful not to push her knowing full well that she wasn’t ready. She still wasn’t entirely sure she was ready but, in that moment, she needed him to hear what she felt.

“And I love you, Athara.” His word stuck with her, feeding the warm, fluttering feeling in her chest even as she sat wrapped in her cloak in the cool confines of the common room on the Transport ship. But it still wasn’t quite enough to banish the feeling of anxiety she and Luke had both felt. She couldn’t help but be reminded of the feeling Obi-wan had written of in his journal, when her mother had been about to take this same trip, a trip she hadn’t returned from. It didn’t help her apprehension. It was then that she felt a familiar presence near her.

Kenobi was the one who asked you to watch over me, wasn’t he? She projected the thought out through the Force toward Qui-gon, knowing he’d hear her. She could have sworn she heard him sigh.

Yes. He asked me to watch over you and your mother while you were apart from him.

Why didn’t you tell me?

It was for your protection, Athara. Vader cares for you and protected you, but for how long do you think you would have been safe had you known Obi-wan Kenobi was your father? She grudgingly had to agree with him, though she wasn’t happy about it. We both know you would have searched for him, wanting to learn more about him, wanting to know why you were under Vader’s protection and not your father’s. More than that, you would have stopped trusting Vader had you learned the truth; you still needed him, you still needed to be able to trust in him and you would not have been able to had you learned the truth while still under his care. Then the Emperor would have invariably discovered the truth. Even Vader wouldn’t have been able to protect you from the Emperor had he known just who your parents were. She knew he was right. But something still didn’t sit right with her.

Why didn’t you tell him? She knew he knew what she meant.

Neva meant everything to him. She helped him stay sane after the fall of the Jedi Order, after Anakin turned. She helped him from falling to the Dark Side himself out of despair. She helped him heal. I had never seen him so happy when he learned of your existence, Athara. Had he known you were still alive, but under Vader’s control? Athara let out a pained sigh. She knew what he was getting at.

He would have come after me, after Vader. Had she been able to see him, she imagined the older Jedi would have been nodding sympathetically. She could feel she was right though.

And put Luke in danger, put you in danger. With your identity a secret and with Vader’s protection you were safe as you could be, and so was Luke. That didn’t stop it from hurting, though. She could feel Qui-gon reaching out to her through the Force, brushing against her consciousness with the mental equivalent of a comforting hand on the shoulder.

He killed my mother, didn’t he. It wasn’t a question. Again, she could have sworn he sighed. She could feel the grief in him. She could feel that he had liked her mother.

Yes, Vader killed Neva—Athara was suddenly on the verge of crying, forcing back the tears that had sprung to her eyes and the sense of betrayal tightening around her heart—but Anakin spared you. She froze, her very breath halted in her chest. You asked once if there was still good in him and I said that there was.

I know this because he spared you.

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