It was hot. Not entirely unexpected but this was a heat that rippled the air and stung the eyes with the glare of twin suns.
He'd been on this world before and if the heat didn't remind him, if the slightest tremor of sand beneath his feet, a recognition from world to wizard, then all he had to do was look to the boy.
And he would remember.
So this was how it would be now. No more Coruscant. They had re-named it Imperial City, no more Temple or the sweet fellowship of his brothers and sisters, voices raised in the morning communion.
Those voices had been silenced.
He heard them on the wind, sweeping through the scrub brush. Heard them when the sand whipped through canyons, scouring the rock walls as his heart had been scoured for so many years. He heard them, and wept when he had first arrived.
Not understanding. Even after so much, after so many losses in a life full of giving things, giving to people, giving emotions away. Giving them away, always shunting his desires and needs aside for those of others.
And he had thought he understood. He had thought he had known so much and was ripe with answers, the fruit of a life of service.
Anakin had cut that tree, severed the roots and hewn the limbs then burnt the consecrated ground.
The sands burned with heat, scorching, withering heat.
Obi-wan Kenobi realized all that he had thought he had known, all he had counted as wisdom, all he had so quietly, so subtly prided himself upon...
He had refused to succumb to bitterness. The force was still the force. It sang through the deep rock of the desert world just as surely as it did in the Temple waterfalls. Each grain of sand was a rippling mosaic of its power and beauty, shifting, changing, never the same each morning as he stood and greeted the rising of the suns.
There was no balance. That had been folly.
The force was. It was not created by any one creature, or sustained or held or controlled. It was vast and pulsing on solar winds, in the fires of nebulas and danced in the heart of suns. Everywhere in everything.
They had shunned its greatest conduit: Love. Called it a weakness, called it foolishness. A thing to be scoured from mind and body until love was nothing more than the cold concept of compassion to all in perfect equality.
Small wonder they had fallen. The veriest grain of sand had more warmth and power than the Jedi Order.
But he was unlearning what he had been taught. The furnaces of Tatooine were burning away Obi-wan Kenobi. Day by day, he was refined by the fires until only the purity of his core remained. It aged him, turned his hair white, lined his face and settled in his bones with a quiet murmur, warming him when the night became bitterly cold.
No, he did not understand the force. It was too vast, too powerful, too much, too much, too...
Hands raised to the sky, Ben Kenobi stood greeting the suns. His face was uplifted, a smile of such love and joy changing his face so that not even his former apprentice would have recognized him.
He had freedom now. Freedom that he had never even dreamed of in his so-called glory days. The rules and creeds that had dictated all of his days, his waking, his rising, his every breath, all the chains that he had never realized had bound him, were gone.
And the force... It shone through him, pulsed in his every heartbeat, lived in the lines that scored his face and every age spot on his still-strong hands. It lived in the white wisps of his hair and blazed from the clear blue eyes.
Crazy, they called him. Crazy old Ben, the Wizard, the Hermit. He laughed at the names, laughed as he had never laughed before, and the farmers would gather their families and shake their heads at the crazed old man who lived alone out in the Dune Seas.
Crazy. He would smile, and keep walking. If anyone saw him help the furtive orphans or the wounded slave, saw him pet the abandoned cat or the starving dog, pick it up and put it in his cloak to take home and nurse to health, they only thought him touched.
Oh, he was touched and fey and wind-dazed...
At night the ocean of stars sang songs as they wheeled and coursed in burning arcs over the desert, and he learned their songs. Songs of secret seas that only they knew, deep in gloaming, far, far beyond where any being had sailed.
But he was never alone, never lonely as he had been for most of his life, longing for what was forever forbidden. The force had Ben Kenobi as it had never had the warrior or the negotiator or the monk. It held him and wrapped him in its infinite love as it had the baby, as it had the infant, as it had the wizened man.
And he finally understood that the wisest, in their towers and meditations, were the worst fools who lied to themselves and led others to destruction. Only in letting go of his life had he gained everything.
Crazy, they called him, but Ben was free.