Of Temples and Prophecies
Anakin had only dreamed of being on a ship cruising at lightspeed. His stomach jerked a little bit as he felt the small craft pull out of hyperspace and start its descent to Coruscant. The planet was one gigantic metropolis. Virtually all of its landscape was filled with towers and spires. It was the central hub for the galaxy, a place where all species from all walks of life whether from the Core Worlds, the Outer Rim, or even some parts of Wild Space, would come to gather and debate the pressing issues that confronted the galaxy. Most denizens of Hutt Space and backwater worlds like Tattooine barely got to hear news from Coruscant much less actually set foot in the capital of the Galactic Republic. For a boy who had, up until a few days ago, been bound in perpetual slavery—the experience was much more than just a clash of cultures. It served to remind Anakin of the fruits of his newfound freedom and illuminate the new possibilities that confronted his life. He felt his heart beating frantically at the excitement. EH turned to face Qui-Gon Jinn.
"This is amazing. I've heard so much about this place…but to see it with my own eyes." Qui-Gon smiled at the young boy.
"We will have to stop to meet with the Chancellor first to bring him news from Alderaan…but after that we will take you before the Jedi Council." Anakin swallowed down hard.
"What are they like?"
"They are some of the wisest men and women in the galaxy. Powerful Jedi Knights sit on the Council."
"Are they all equally powerful? I mean how does it work?" Qui-Gon laughed at the boy's questions.
"You will know in time. The first thing an aspiring Jedi must learn is to be patient." He patted the boy on the back and moved back to the cockpit. Anakin smiled.
They landed at a docking bay and made their way out. Padmé walked out with her guards and handmaidens and was greeted by Chancellor Valorum.
"You're safe. You have no idea how worried we have been. We heard rumors of what was going on. Where is Senator Organa?"
"My brother decided to stay and fight the Federation. They started their invasion two weeks ago. I've heard nothing since we left Alderaani space."
"So it is true. This doesn't make any sense politically. The Federation is taking a lot of risks by pulling this stunt." Qui-Gon stepped forward bowing. "Master Jedi, it is always good to see you. Can you shed any light on these events?"
"The Federation is not doing this alone. We have strong reasons to believe that the Sith Lords are behind this invasion." Valorum's eyes widened.
"You can't be serious." Obi-Wan spoke up.
"We are Chancellor." He paused and then added, "I fought one of them face-to-face."
"If it's true, then the Council must be apprised of the situation."
"We are planning on doing that as soon as possible." The two Jedi bowed and left the presence of the Chancellor. Qui-Gon motioned Anakin to follow him to the other side of the platform where they proceeded to board another ship. Anakin saw the Queen and her entourage follow Valorum into the tall structure.
The Jedi Temple was large, with five spires gracing the rectangular structure filled with gardens, fountains, and spacious plazas. To say that Anakin was impressed would not have captured the feelings running through his mind. They walked past twelve gigantic statutes of legendary knights of the order as they entered the main building. Anakin saw various Jedi speaking with each other throughout the main hallway. Some had come with their families. He saw younger kids moving around the corridors playfully using the Force against each other. He couldn't help but smile at the scene before him.
They made it into an elevator which took them to the top of the tallest spire located at the center of the Temple. The three of them entered a large circular hall lined with chairs. All but one of these chairs was occupied by a different master. The smallest chair however that stood facing the two Jedi and the teenager was empty. Mace Windu, the second highest ranking Jedi Master stood up and greeted them.
"Welcome back. We heard you had some trouble along the way." Qui-Gon chuckled a bit.
"Yes, we ran into some old friends." Windu's face hardened a bit upon hearing this expression.
"So the Sith have returned?"
"I am afraid so." Qui-Gon paused for a moment. "Where is Master Yoda?"
"He's busy negotiating a settlement between several Wookie elders on Kashyyyk. They are delicate negotiations to say the least. I've already alerted him to your concerns regarding the Sith Lord your apprentice encountered on Tatooine." Obi-Wan looked at Windu straight in the eyes.
"He called himself Darth Maul. He explicitly claimed the mantle of the Sith Lords." Obi-Wan looked away. "I've never felt that kind of presence before." Master Dooku interrupted the conversation from across the room.
"I find it more disturbing that we could neither sense the invasion of Alderaan nor detect the resurgence of the Sith. Only one Dark Lord was ever able to pull that feat off. You know who he is." Dooku had been the first master to train Qui-Gon. After he had attained the rank of Jedi Knight Dooku urged Qui-Gon to seek further training under Shaak Ti. The two men had known each other for well over two decades.
"Every shred of evidence on the ground told us without a doubt that Plagueis didn't have an apprentice—he was the last Sith Lord." Dooku shook his head somewhat perplexed by the turn of events.
"Then he is playing us still from beyond the grave my old friend." Qui-Gon nodded in agreement. Mace Windu intervened.
"But where does this invasion fit into the plans of Darth Maul and his master?"
"We aren't sure yet. But I can tell you this much, their intentions weren't just about planetary occupation. They wanted to murder the Queen and her brother."
"We will deal with this problem. The Senate will almost certainly back a relief effort for Alderaan. With an army behind the two of you, you will have to confront Maul and discover the identity of his master." Obi-Wan bowed followed by Anakin, but Qui-Gon remained standing.
"Master Jinn, is there something else?"
"Yes." He looked at Anakin and motioned him to step forward. "I found this boy when we stopped for repairs at Tatooine." He took a deep breath choosing his words carefully. "He has a powerful force-signature." Dooku's eyes widened as he exchanged a glance with Windu.
"I felt the tremor, but I didn't realize it was linked to that boy."
"Who is the father?" asked Windu.
"He has no father." The room was hushed now as the Jedi Masters all paid attention to the unassuming teenager in their midst. "I believe he was conceived by the Force." Dooku rose and approached his old apprentice.
"You are certain of this Qui-Gon?"
"Yes I am. I have no reason to doubt the boy's sincerity." Dooku faced the boy.
"What is your name boy?"
"Anakin Skywalker." Something stirred in Anakin and before he realized what he was doing, he began to speak. "You are Dooku…Count of the Royal House of Serenno. You are also the one greatest swordsman the Jedi Order has ever produced. And you trained Master Qui-Gon."
"Impressive. For one who is untrained in the ways of the Force you're insights are quite refined…" Dooku walked away deep in thought. Windu asked Qui-Gon.
"How old is he?"
"I'm seventeen years old."
"Is it your desire to have him trained as a Jedi?"
"Yes, it is. I believe he might be the one we have been looking for over the centuries." Dooku raised his hand for silence as the words of the ancient prophecy stirred in his heart.
"In time of greatest despair, a child shall be born who will destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force." Windu listened to the familiar words and turned back to Qui-Gon.
"You believe it's the boy?"
"Yes." Anakin's heart almost dropped to his stomach. I am not just anyone. I am not a lowly slave. I am important, I matter. He couldn't believe his ears at the words passing through the Jedi Master's lips. Nevertheless, Anakin was quickly disabused of that notion by Windu's next comment.
"He is too old to begin the training."
"Mace, you and I both know that is simply a guideline in the Code. It's not a hard and fast rule. After all I was fourteen when Dooku took me on as an apprentice. Surely we have a certain amount of latitude to determine who is to be trained. The boy wasn't born in the Core Worlds…he escaped our detection. Should he be penalized now for events that he had no control over?"
"He has a valid point Windu." Mace turned away feeling a sense of discomfort.
"The boy and your padawan should wait outside for us to make a better decision. There is much to talk about here."
"Fair enough." Qui-Gon looked at Obi-Wan and Anakin. "You can go wait outside; Obi-Wan will accompany you." The two bowed and stepped outside. When the doors had shut behind them, Windu spoke up.
"I felt the same thing you did Qui-Gon."
"So why the hesitation then? You know what this boy is capable of…he can bring balance to the Force." The veteran Jedi Master closed his eyes for a moment and said what everyone else in the room was thinking. "Anakin Skywalker is the Chosen One." Whatever murmuring was going on in the room ceased immediately as soon as Qui-Gon uttered those words.
"That may be true. But we must still tread lightly Qui-Gon. He has rich stores of humility and kindness of that there is no doubt. But we know nothing about his emotions, his attachments…all of which have had seventeen years to fester and grow within him without supervision by any Jedi whatsoever. At least you…when you arrived here …you already had some instruction with the Force. Yoda had taken it upon himself to teach you some of the basics." Windu paused for a second as he stared at the large amount of ships flowing in and out of the metropolis. "This boy has none of that, not even the rudiments of training. It is risky to train such a person to wield the Force as the Jedi do." Dooku interjected himself.
"Forgive me Master Windu…but we have far larger problems to deal with. I propose a temporary solution. At the very least we should test the boy. There can be little harm in doing that." He looked at Qui-Gon who nodded his head in agreement. "We must concentrate our efforts on convincing the Senate to deal with the invasion of Alderaan." No one else said another word, but it was understood that this would be the course of action that would be taken. "We need to consult with the Republican Defense Council immediately to craft a response to Darth Maul and the Federation's aggression." Windu spoke up.
"Agreed." He pressed a button on his wristband. A voice came over it.
"Your orders Master Windu?"
"Please alert Minister Palpatine that his presence is required in the Council chambers. It is an emergency."
"Yes my lord."
"We will deal with Anakin later. Palpatine will be here in twenty minutes."
Anakin Skywalker's eyes were transfixed by the figures of two young Jedi sparring with their lightsabers, one blue the other green. He wanted to join them so badly, but knew he couldn't. The two chuckled as one tripped and fell to the ground.
"Come on get up Caleb." The one who looked slightly older was a woman. She smiled. Depa Billaba was trying to teach her youngling to fight. He was only twelve years old but he insisted on sparring with her.
"Master…this is too difficult."
"Well you're the one who asked to start lightsaber training right away. Now put up your blade and try again. This time use your instincts." The boy smirked a bit but then grew serious. He closed his eyes and ignited his saber. He opened his eyes and charged at his master. Their blade's clashed making a humming noise that sprang through the air almost like music. Anakin thought it was soothing. Obi-Wan could not help but notice how enraptured Anakin was by the scene playing out before them. He asked him.
"It's different isn't it?"
"Yes it is." They looked away from each other. Anakin could sense Obi-Wan's conflicting feelings about Qui-Gon wanting to train him. "Look, it's not my affair…but I don't want to cause any problems between you and Master Qui-Gon. That's not my intention at all." Obi-Wan was struck by Anakin's honesty. Obi-Wan sighed unsure if he wanted to delve into this conversation, but he felt jealousy. Anakin was getting so much attention. Worse still was the palpable fear that he might lose Qui-Gon as his master. It sent him reeling, but he had to broach the subject sooner or later.
"The problem isn't so much with you Anakin. I mean, we're all indebted to you for what you did back on Tatooine."
"What is it then?"
"I am afraid of losing my best friend…a man who has been more of a father to me than anyone else in my life."
"I know what you mean."
"How could you?"
"I don't have a father, and the only family I had was my mother. She was taken away from me too." He paused seeing Caleb Dume gaining the upper hand in the fight with his master as their blades clashed. "This place feels so much like home. The thought that I won't be able to be trained after what I've seen in the past few days…that scares me." Obi-Wan smiled.
"We aren't so different then it seems."
"No." Anakin looked at the two figures fighting. Caleb had succeeded in knocking his master's blade from her hands and had his blade aimed coolly at her neck.
"Excellent Caleb…you see? When you concentrate and remove all the world's distractions from you mind…you can do wonders." The young boy smiled. He was genuinely proud of himself. He extinguished his blade as Depa wrapped her arm around his back in a motherly way— the two chatting and laughing as they left the training area.
"I don't think you'll ever lose him Obi-Wan. No matter what happens with me. And quite frankly, you have nothing to fear from me. I am just an ex-slave and you are almost a Jedi Knight. There's no contest here." The last comment made Obi-Wan Kenobi smile. Perhaps the boy had a point. He saw Dooku and Qui-Gon's relationship and they hadn't been paired with each other for the last ten years. They still had a deep affection and respect for each other. Why should it be any different between him and Qui-Gon Jinn? The thoughts lingered as a man dressed in black fatigues with a flowing black cape walked through the hallway toward the inner hall of the Council. Obi-Wan lit up as he saw him. It was none other than Sheev Palpatine, the Galactic Republic's Minister of Defense.
"Minister Palpatine, it's a pleasure to see you again." Palpatine embraced Obi-Wan.
"And you as well Obi-Wan. Trouble in the Outer Rim Territories always brings out the best in us don't you think?" Palpatine paused, adding, "Especially when it's you against the Sith."
"Well…we dealt with them years ago. I am confident will get to the bottom of this mess and draw them out from whatever rock they are hiding under." Palpatine noticed Anakin. "Who are you?" Anakin got up sheepishly and bowed before shaking Palpatine's hand.
"My name's Anakin Skywalker. I was with Master Qui-Gon when they had some trouble on Tatooine."
"Another potential knight?" Obi-Wan answered.
"Possibly, you know how it is. It's up to the Council to decide who will be trained." Palpatine gave a friendly nod to Anakin as he grabbed Obi-Wan by the arm.
"Come Obi-Wan, let's talk for a bit. I have a few minutes before I speak to the Council." They moved close to the large set of doors that led to the main antechamber. "You seem troubled. I get the feeling that you don't like the boy much."
"What can I say? I feel some jealousy. Qui-Gon knows I fought with a Dark Lord…Force knows I did well. But all anyone can focus on is this boy; it's just hard for me to come to terms with the fact that my time as an apprentice is over…" Palpatine laughed slapping Obi-Wan on the back.
"Be mindful of your thoughts Obi-Wan." He tried to do his best impression of Yoda as he spoke responded to Kenobi. "Remember, young one…jealousy is a path to the Dark Side of the Force." Obi-Wan laughed together with Palpatine.
"You're right. You are right."
"Speaking about the Grand Master himself, is he in the council chambers?"
"Oh no, Master Windu is running the council right now. Yoda is off doing what he is does best…resolving diplomatic conflict among the Wookies."
"I expect nothing less from that Jedi. He may be pushing eight hundred years, but he's more active than any of us." Suddenly the doors opened and Palpatine excused himself and entered the antechamber approaching Masters Windu and Dooku. Qui-Gon stepped out and motioned for Anakin and Obi-Wan to follow him.
"So what's the news?"
"We are going to have to return with the Queen to Alderaan. She doesn't intend to do more than speak to a few trusted confidantes in the Senate before departing ahead of the Republican fleet that will help her free the planet from the grip of the Federation."
"And what of Darth Maul?"
"We've been tasked with identifying his master, which is not going to be easy." Qui-Gon spoke to Anakin.
"The Council wishes to test you before they decide whether or not you are to be trained. It's a positive sign, and the first step for you to become a Jedi." He paused. "However, that means that you will need to remain here on Corsucant." Anakin felt the thrill of possible adventure leave him.
"But I want to go with you!" Qui-Gon looked at him squarely with eyes that communicated profound love for the boy.
"Anakin…I believe that you will be a great Jedi Knight. And if the Force wills it, I hope to be able to train you when we return from this mission. But I also don't want anything to happen to you."
"I can help. I won't be a bother at all…"
"I know son. But confronting a Dark Lord of the Sith is something that only I and Obi-Wan can do. And we have to do that on our own." Anakin was going to say something more but Qui-Gon silenced him, "You must take a different path from me. Wait for us here at the Temple, be patient. Your time will come soon." He raised his hood. Obi-Wan followed suit. As they walked away, the two men could feel the ripples of intense desire and longing emanating from the boy. Qui-Gon turned around to face the boy one last time before they departed.
"May the Force be with you." And with that, they left to join the Queen in one of the Temple's docking bays.