The Book of Silence
"I'm here, Padawan, I'm here," Bant said as gentle hands shifted Liril from the boy's arms to her own. "Oh, Liril, I should have been here." Tears welled in her silvery eyes as tender arms wrapped around the young padawan resting against her shoulder.
"Not your fault," the padawan whispered softly, opening jewel green eyes. Liril nuzzled into Bant for comfort in those final moments. "S'okay, Master," she mumbled.
"No, no it's not. I should have been here," Bant began to sob clutching her padawan close as if that would keep the fragile spirit from dissipating.
"Saving others," the padawan's soft voice continued, "like always. Wouldn't…expect…anything…less."
"Shh, save your strength. We'll get help."
"No…take Baara deeper…be safe."
Bant looked to the boy that Liril had tried to protect. "I won't leave you," Bant cried to the girl but for all her tears and healing powers she could do nothing to save her padawan. Liril's soft exhale was felt and the light that was the girl faded into the cosmic and unending energies of the Force. Her wails of grief echoed through the damaged structure deafening her to the sound of silence that suddenly reigned throughout the ancient temple.
The Book of Facing the Light
The hand carved features of Anun Mon'Ari's world weary face stared into the sunlight on the bright but still smoke hazed afternoon. In the standard week that had passed since the siege of Coruscant had ended nearly as fast as it had begun, the transports and machines of the Republican army were removed. Traffic ran a little slower in places throughout the city planet but life flowed once more.
Within a day of the siege's end, the surviving senator's had reconvened and brought the Republican Army under control. Auditors were quickly making work of where the funds had come to support such an army. The military commanders claimed no knowledge of how they came to make war on galactic center. This was only one among so many questions that needed to be answered. Soon the army would be dismantled completely or a small part kept for security purposes but answerable to a Senate vote. That would come only after much debate in the senate.
Worlds all over the Republic were still scrambling to rebuild their diplomatic base and race them toward the city planet so that their interests would be properly invested.
Padmé Amidala Skywalker took temporary leave of her post as the senator from Naboo to offer her husband a fond farewell in the ancient Naboo funeral rites. With her grieved a galaxy for one of the heroes of the Battle of Coruscant.
Holonet Broadcasting had spread the news of the heroic actions of Skywalker, Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bali Tiro as well as that of the Senators Bail Organa and Padmé Amidala in putting an end to a would-be tyrant the likes the Republic had not seen in millennia.
Palpatine's misdeeds spread quickly throughout the newly freed Holonet. Tales of the false charges he had used to condemn anyone who stood in his way shook the Republic. Shock and horror reverberated how he had amassed a grand army solely under his control and the heroes out in the galaxy that had stood up to the invading navy that marched toward their worlds.
All the while, the smoke glided up and passed the golden visage of Anun Mon'Ari as he silently blessed the floating ashes from the many funeral pyres that burned. Not only from the lost senators and the city that had suffered around the crumbling ruins of the ancient Jedi temple, but of the Jedi lost.
In the days since the temple fell and the attack ceased, the survivors still climbed from the shrines and ancient hallways they had huddled in for safety.
Trembling hands sheltered eyes from the bright afternoon light as Jedi guided Na'tho's small clan of younglings into a new day and to witness what had become of their home. The little ones clung to those who had been their protectors and asked where the gentle Na'tho had gone. There were not enough words to explain that their teacher had died saving them.
Slowly the survivors made it from the hallowed sections deep within that still echoed with the ancient litanies of the ghosts that remained for even covered under a mountain of debris, the Bendu Temple was still strong.
In a large section that had once been a meditation chamber many levels down, now exposed to the day, Jedi gathered and organized the rescue effort. Warm sunlight reflected from the golden stone of the older temple and shined into the chamber.
Over a cleared path to the command center, two sets of heavy footsteps slowly made their way over the dusty area. Obi-Wan Kenobi stared out at the ruins that surrounded him and it made him hurt. Grasping his padawan's shoulder for support, the Jedi paused to look up at the recently revealed statue of Anun Mon'Ari.
"I dreamed of him," Bali said softly. "The night before the attack."
The older Jedi's pale face turned to his apprentice. Dark circles clung to the skin around his eyes, one of many effects of his injuries brought on by the dark lord. "What was he doing?" Obi-Wan asked softly his weight a little heavier on the youth.
"Looking into the sunlight." Bali then smiled weakly, his bright green gaze focusing on the older Jedi. "Master, you should rest. You should still be in bacta."
"I could not justify it when others were in more need."
"The medics refused my input. They wanted to put me in a tank. They may be known for tending to great politicians, but they should learn to take a Jedi's advice about another Jedi. You should have been sedated."
"I am grateful they did not." Obi-Wan reached out with his free hand, the tremble powerful in his fingers as he brushed through the youth's spiked hair. "Besides, I needed to get back to your instruction as soon as possible." Raising his feet over the rough path was difficult and he stumbled slightly but Bali caught him. "You still have not learned to obey orders, my very young padawan learner."
"The senators were aggressive negotiators, Master."
"Yes, I am certain," Obi-Wan replied knowingly. "But it was your place to make them concede. It is a poor excuse for coming back for me."
Bali grimaced. "I tried, Master, and Senator Amidala threatened to shoot me."
For the first time since nearly drowning two medics that tried to keep him in the bacta tank, the older Jedi smiled. "Get used to it, Padawan. I have a feeling you will have many years of enjoying the senator's particular personality quirks."
"I will watch over her and her children. But if they are anything like their mother—"
"You will have your work cut out for you."
The apprentice sighed heavily but the older Jedi knew it was little more than a youthful act. Bali would keep his promises.
Still tired and knowing days of rest were needed, there was a powerful tug in the Force and in his heart that demanded he return to the ruins of his home. The master reached out through the Force and was please to know Bali's wounds had been healed and were of little trouble to the padawan. Still, few Jedi ever suffer an intentional saber wound, he wondered if the psychological scar would be worse than any physical one.
"I am fine, Master. I had plenty of bandages and rest while I waited for you to demand your freedom from the bacta tank." The boy smiled. "I fixed Warbler while I waited. Meditated. Hoped. I am fine."
Obi-Wan paused to study the youth for a moment then nodded in agreement. Even though his mind was in turmoil, his shields a mess but managing to hold back the pain in the Force, he was functional enough to read that it was the truth in Bali's bright green eyes.
Inside the chamber, the master and padawan gratefully met with those who now organized the rescue and recovery effort.
Master Eeth Koth wearily greeted the two. The hours and stress had visibly worn the Zabrak down. "You surprise me. Not that I am ungrateful to your presence but Chancellor Organa made it sound as if you would be out of commission for a long time."
"Not quite," Obi-Wan said softly, unable to take his gaze from the devastation that surrounded them. Finally focusing on the lone councilor, he noted the deep lines in Koth's face that rivaled the tattoos that colored it. "I may not be up to digging through debris but I am here to help."
Koth smiled, then glanced at Bali. "You should check the lists," the Zabrak offered then waited until Obi-Wan motioned Bali to go and do so. His gaze grew intense on the ginger haired Jedi. "Who killed him?"
"I wounded him, but Anakin delivered the death blow."
Koth shook his head in disbelief. "If we had people to spare, I would send investigators. We know nothing of this Sith except that he fooled us all." The Zabrak looked up at the face of Anun Mon'Ari high above the chamber. "He was the master?"
"I am sure he is the one who I fought six years ago. The one who claimed to be the master. I do not believe he had taken another apprentice after Halla." Shaking his head sadly at the memory of the lost Jedi. "He spoke about Anakin but only wanted him dead."
"And you would not be turned," Koth said without prompting. His dark eyes studied the younger man but words were not needed to verify the statement. A torn look entered his dark eyes. "If we only had the man power, I would send someone to investigate, but those capable are—"
Koth smiled for the first time since the Jedi's arrival. He turned to study Bali's silent perusal of the lists. "Many are still not accounted for but there is much life still in the ruins. We will find them." He paused as if debating what to say next. "Mace is among the dead. Yoda is still missing. The others, dead injured or missing as well. I am the only councilor here."
Silently Obi-Wan nodded as he allowed his eyes to drift closed for a moment as he drew the Force close to help balance him. It would not do to collapse before a man who had worked nonstop since the attack on the Temple began.
The pain of everything that had happened bled into the stoic council member's voice. "Most who died were guaranteeing the life of others. We will not know about Jedi in the field for some time. The Abatu temple is calling out to everyone in the field to check in. There were many attacks on Jedi throughout the galaxy as well. We are shifting fieldwork to the Abatu to be administered from there for the time being. I have spoken with Chancellor Organa and he promises the Senate will make the necessary accommodations until…well, things can be taken care of here."
"Structural engineers have done a check of the remaining building. It appears stable, at least the inner temple, the second and part of the third generation. Once we clear the debris away we can begin again."
"It will take time."
"That is all we have."
A senior padawan raced up to the councillor delivering a message and Koth quickly excused himself.
Obi-Wan moved toward a nearby table and braced himself against it. Sinking to the edge, his gaze found the columns of smoke rising and studied the pyres that burned on the crushed city levels below for a time before turning to face his quiet apprentice. Bali's expression was pensive. "What is it, Padawan?" he asked knowing the news would not be good.
"Awar is missing. So is Master Yoda." The apprentice quickly joined his master allowing the older Jedi to find support on his shoulder. "Master Mace is dead."
A slight nod was Obi-Wan's only answer as he leaned on the padawan for support.
There was a long pause before the apprentice again spoke, "Bant is okay. She is working in the second infirmary." A beat. "Liril is dead."
Sighing, the older Jedi closed his bruised eyes briefly. All the more grateful to have Bali right there at his side. He gripped the youth's shoulder, affirming Bali's presence. "We should see what we can do to help."
"You need to rest, Master," Bali pressed.
"Broken bones mend. Frayed shields can be rebuilt with time, but broken hearts only fester without help. Right now I have to find Bant."
The Book of Digging Out
"Here! Over here!" a Krelian Jedi called out leading the search team to a collapsed hall. The heavy, nasal voice tore into the dream. Bright white lights splashed over the mountain of crushed stone and structure.
The large, black skinned Krelian reached out and gently manipulated the rubble, raising large stones into the air and levitating them toward other Jedi who could easily dispose of the debris.
The concerted effort quickly removed the heavier chunks of fallen structure allowing a more careful search to continue by hand. The small group of Jedi dug down until they found the dingy, gray material of a stained tunic.
Triumphant voices rang out as calls for medical supplies and equipment were made. Careful hands shifted the remaining rubble away revealing a small Jedi master and his young charge wrapped in a Force bubble that kept the collapsed walls from crushing them.
Yoda's weary, dust covered eyelids raised and he offered the rescuers a thin smile. With what remained of his strength, he offered the sleeping girl to the bright lights. "Take her," came his gravelly, but weak voice as he helped the quiet girl into comforting arms. The tiny Togruta was still in a deep trance. It was the only way the ancient master could protect her over the long wait for rescue.
Those same arms then reached for him, pulling the limp form from the wreckage of the temple. He opened his large eyes once more into the bright searchlights for a moment but the strain from protecting he and the initiate had been too much and they drifted closed again.
"Tell me," the little master said softly waiting until the Krelian to leaned close. "Ended how?"
The knight softly replied as he walked alongside the hover board the little master was carefully laid upon, "Master Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker killed Chancellor Palpatine who had ordered the destruction of the temple. Senator Organa called down the army."
Yoda nodded and offered up a small smile before drifting into an exhaustion driven sleep.
The Book of Reunions
"Bali!" a voice called out over the din of the infirmary.
The apprentice turned and burst into a grin at the sight of the red headed senior padawan, but remained obediently at his master's side.
"Go," Obi-Wan said gently nudging the youth forward.
Rushing through the crowded infirmary, Bali wrapped his long time friend in a warm hug. The chalky white dust of the temple billowed from Awar's covered clothing as he returned the wampa-sized hug. Great joy overcame Bali as he pushed his friend back and studied the other padawan's bruised face. "They said you were missing." How many more of their friends were still lost among the rubble?
Awar studied his friend for a moment. The days since the temple fall had aged their youthful faces beyond time and experience. "We were down in the Bendu. Stuck there until the way was cleared. My master and I led others from the language center to this big room in the old temple." He twisted back to stare at his master who was carefully treating a young padawan. "I was taking a crash course in the Mahitan language, my master and I were scheduled to go to Mahi in a few weeks on an extended mission. Everything just started tumbling down." Offering up a weak laugh, he continued, "There were so many of us, all huddling in this big round room. It was like a council chamber. We ran in and lights came on, like it welcomed us."
He tried to put on a brave face, but Bali knew his friend too well to see that the red haired youth was still quite upset. Every Jedi he had seen since returning to the temple had that same haunted eyes.
"Master Anya told stories to help the younger padawans through the wait. She told us about the Bendu and how the Force flowed through it. That it would stand against any attack as long as we believed." The padawan offered a smile as he looked to the gray haired woman sitting on the edge of cot speaking softly to one of the patients. Then his concerned look returned to Bali.
Brushing his hand over his dusty tunic, Awar then wiped it over Bali's clean cheek. "Where were you?"
At first Bali started to reach up and wipe the grime from his face but paused. For some reason, he suddenly felt embarrassed. He had not been at the temple during the attack; he had been on the edge of safety and almost to a ship that would have whisked him far from the destruction.
"I was at the senate when it began. Racing through the lower levels of Coruscant and destroying a diner, going back to the senate." His arms waved in display. "Sitting with master as he floated in bacta for the last few days. Constantly pestered by medics who knew nothing about lightsaber injuries. All the time wishing I was here helping."
"No, you did not want to be here," Awar teased. "You were out there doing something."
The Book of Grief
"We need more sterile bandages," Bant barked as if an admiral on the bridge of a ship as she expertly navigated the narrow walkway of the makeshift infirmary. Pausing only briefly to make a note on a data pad, a thoughtful look came over her face, then it twisted into frustration as he spun about startling the young knight behind her. "Where are those bacta tanks? They should have been here by now."
"Seven hours out," he quickly responded. "One hour less than the last time you asked. They will be here," he said firmly.
"Seven hours!" Bant half screamed then suddenly dropped to silence as several in the room jumped from her outburst. Nerves were desperately frayed and she was not helping with her tirades. They have had nearly a week to get in. How was she supposed to heal the multitude of injuries without bacta tanks? "We need them now."
The knight said plainly, "The healing arts centers are filled up all throughout Coruscant. They have to ship tanks in from all over the Republic. Everyone is hurting."
Bant closed her large eyes briefly then nodded, knowing it was the truth. "Yes, yes, forgive me."
The knight placed a tentative hand on the healer's shoulder as if afraid she would brush it off, or worse, bite him for the gesture. "You should take a break. You have been on your feet for hours and no one can keep up like you have. We are all hurting but we must tend to our own wounds before we can help others."
"No. We are short of healers, I am needed." She started to walk away but stopped and looked back at the young humanoid and tried to explain herself. "I cannot stop. I don't want to. I have to keep going." Ignoring any attempt at argument, she returned to her rounds focusing on those she could save. She walked about the second infirmary where the less gravely injured Jedi had been clustered. Most of the other healers were working in the more intensive care area and she was left to watch over so many with younger healers and padawans working along side her.
The room had been a cafeteria of so long ago but over the centuries it had been relegated to little more than a storage chamber. The old items had been shifted elsewhere and now it was filled with the injured of both body and soul who could not continue the good fight for the time being.
Pausing near one of the cots that a young padawan lay on, Bant knelt and adjusted the blanket over the girl. Large yellow eyes opened and met hers. Pressing a hand to the girl's forehead, the healer softly asked, "How are you feeling?"
"Better," came the small voice.
"What will happen to us now?" the padawan asked never allowing her gaze to waver.
"We will survive. Go on." At the girl's sad smile, Bant patted her shoulder and rose. "It will be all right," the healer said even if inside she was uncertain, a part of her not wanting to go on without Liril. What kind of master was she if she could loose a padawan? Had she been more diligent she could have protected Liril.
Fighting back the tears, she rose, not wanting the girl to see she was crying. Turning, she stopped at the sight of a quiet figure in the middle of the narrow aisle. Sad silvery eyes blinked at the image of her friend standing there. He looked as if he should be strapped to one of the cots and not just there waiting for her.
The collected healer completely broke down as she rushed into the warmth of Obi-Wan's arms. "She's gone. Liril. I couldn't do anything for her. I couldn't save her." The Mon Cal wept as Obi-Wan wrapped her in protective arms. She felt him shift slightly but could not bring herself to pull away.
She did not need to worry though.
"It will be all right," Obi-Wan crooned softly, holding his friend close as she buried her salmon colored face against the worn threads of his cloak.
"I couldn't save her." All the pent up emotions of the last few days overcame her as gripped desperately at the other Jedi's cloak. So much had happened, so much lost including her own padawan. Her thoughts had barely fallen to her friend during the days since the temple fall. While performing her duties as he healer she had heard the whispers and the rumors and even though Master Koth had worked hard to make sure everyone was well informed of what was happening, there were still plenty of stories about her friend. In her own selfish grief though, she had ignored all talk of him, feeling so alone among the ruins. Feeling no one would understand even though so many that surrounded her did know what she was going through.
"I know," Obi-Wan said softly, guilt heavy in his own words. "You did your best and you were with her in the end. That is all that matters."
"It's not enough," she cried out, tugging on the brown material a little harder.
"You were helping, like you always do," he echoed Liril's words.
Sorrowful silver eyes looked up at the ginger haired Jedi. Bant wanted so much to argue but the words were not there. Wrapping her arms around her friend's neck, she said, "Liril is gone. I lost my padawan. What do I do now?"
"Survive. Go on," was all Obi-Wan offered.
"Well, someone very smart once said it."
The Book of the Last Day
In the seven years since the temple fall, much had changed and yet, very little really had. The rubble of the great temple had been completely removed leaving only the ancient Bendu Temple that sat in the midst of a great crater that scarred the side of the city planet.
Once the debris of the fallen city levels had been cleaned up and repaired, a great valley had been created to cradle the temple allowing it to exist much as it had once many millennia ago.
In the recently anointed Mon'Ari Valley, where the golden figure of the ancient Jedi master watched over, new units had been built in the same style of the old temple, connected by simple passageways creating a new complex. The re-envisioned healing center, additional housing and meditative chambers swung out like great wings from the edges of the original structure. A short protective wall encircled the reborn Jedi center just like it once had when the ancient monks walked the grounds.
From within the walls built from the myriad of stone recovered from the fallen temple, a great garden filled with vegetation from many of the worlds within the Republic flourished. The Bendu was vastly smaller than the great temple so it could not house the variety of meditative gardens. So, like the monks before, the outdoor garden was one of great fondness for many Jedi who had taken on an honorary position of tending to the various examples of vegetation. Deep in the valley, they were protected from the noise and distractions of the surrounding city making it an excellent place to commune with the Force.
Under a wide canopy of an old yarel tree that had been transplanted from Naboo, Obi-Wan Kenobi knelt in silent meditation. Warm sunlight cascaded through the thick golden leaves of the tree, dancing lightly over the Jedi's still form. The golden light warmed chilled bones and fingers entwined to battle the constant tremble of exhaustion.
For Obi-Wan, this day was like most days, calm and filled with the simple joy of life. He relished his time in the garden, listening to the kaari birds that had taken up residence singing their beautiful songs.
Since Bali's knighting, just over a year ago, the quiet master had grown wearier with each passing day. The silver in his hair threatened to engulf the ginger strands and his need for rest to rebuild his waning strength took up so much of his day that the few hours he was functional, Obi-Wan tried to make the best of them.
Without a padawan to drive him throughout the day, he had begun to retreat, lacking a purpose. Luckily, for the constant and intense prodding by a certain well meaning but annoying healer, he accepted new challenges. Such as the required midmorning tea with Bant when she wasn't busy instructing her young padawan, Mian.
Each morning was usually rounded out with time spent researching and working in the re-established archives. It had taken time but the protected archives stationed around the galaxy were duplicated to create the master archive once more. Obi-Wan had found his time among the records calming.
In his time in the new temple archives, he had discovered tales of ancient Jedi that he never knew existed. With a great deal of prompting, he too submitted his story of the temple fall. It had been greatly expressed to him, that as the Jedi on the outside, his story was just as important as that of those who had survived the crumbling structure. After all, he was the Jedi who fought the Sith lord responsible for the destruction.
Obi-Wan had earned a notoriety that he wished not to possess. His actions against Palpatine were an act of desperation to save his home and family and to protect his padawan. Had anyone else been in his position, they too would have done the same.
Middle of the day was spent meditating and resting before facing a small class of younglings in calming their minds. It seemed important to step into the teaching void left by Master Yoda's death two years before. While it had been difficult, in time, he had earned the younglings trust and respect as just one of many Jedi teachers to cross their paths and not just a Sith killer. A name he feared would overshadow any other accomplishments.
Some days it was difficult to go about the temple without being stopped by excitable younglings happy to tell him some tale of newly gained knowledge. He found his time with the little ones gratifying. They reminded him of Bali, eager to learn the ways of the Force.
He had not seen his padawan in almost four months but they often spoke. The former apprentice often inquired of his master's experience in the field. Obi-Wan would offer advice but never told the young man how to handle a situation. That was for Bali to learn and decide for himself. He had a great faith in the young knight's abilities to deal with a situation.
The boy was dedicated and honorable, just like any good Jedi Knight. That was all the weary Jedi wanted from his padawan and he was proud.
Obi-Wan had wanted dearly to hold onto the youth a little longer but the Order needed him. Besides, Bali had proven himself a capable and effective Jedi. It was time to let go.
Deeply inhaling, the scents of various blooming flowers from all about the galaxy teased his senses. His thoughts drifted into the meditative dream, focusing on nothing in particular but basking in the warmth of many memories. He dreamed of those who had come and gone from his life. Dreamed of missions and exotic worlds he had visited.
Images of his favorite healer, but only outside the healing center, came to him. He smiled at the thought. Even as he dreamed, she was probably plotting some miserable lecture on the history of the dirt found in the garden.
He thought of his former master, wondering where in the galaxy the older man was. Wondering if he would ever return to the temple and see it as the ancient Bendu had once seen it. Not that it mattered much, there were many Jedi not ready to return to their changed spiritual center.
Mostly though, his weary thoughts surrounded Bali. As much as he had fought Yoda in the beginning, in the end he knew the little master was right, he needed the boy. He could not imagine a life that never included Bali.
There were so many happy memories of his time spent as Bali's teacher that he could not focus on any one in particular. Instead, his thoughts floated from a frightened, bloody-nosed little initiate he had first come across in an empty corridor to a beloved padawan who became a brave, confident young man.
It was a good dream.
• • •
In a brightly lit corner of a small café on the bucolic world of Oselem, Qui-Gon Jinn sat at a stone table. The salty air of the Criapin Sea—where the tiny village of Macaco overlooked—tingled the elder Jedi's nose. Reaching languidly across his notes spread over the marble surface he picked up a delicate white teacup holding it firmly at the sides. Drawing the steaming liquid that passed for tea close to his lips, he paused. Slowly, the elderly master placed the cup back on the stone surface.
Closing his eyes as if it would abate the tears that welled in the midnight blue depths. A trembling hand tried to cover the emotional display that he could not block. Beginning as a whimper but then shaking him to his very core as he started to tremble and sob, the elderly master could do nothing for the pain in his heart. It came with the sense that the Force had gained what he had lost.
• • •
In the elegant palace of the Duke of Palio, Bali Tiro walked briskly toward the conference hall where the negotiations were about to reconvene. He pulled and smoothed the edges of his lightly patterned cloak. As always, he wanted to look his best before facing skeptical dignitaries in a tense negotiation.
Bali wondered how many years it would take before he could be as calm and cool as his master was during mediation missions, if he ever managed to be so confident.
"Knight Tiro!" a voice called out and the young Jedi turned to face the reptilian housemaster skittering toward him. "The report you asked for," was the quick reply.
"Thank you, Conjor," Bali said with a slight bow before taking the data reader in hand. Wandering absently toward the conference room, he read over the information.
Although his dark brown spikes had long since grown out, the welcome sensation of warm fingers brushing through his hair made the young man stop. "Master," he teased twisting back to greet the familiar presence but the smile slipped from him at the sight of the empty corridor and the sudden end of the brief dream. "Master?"
The Book of Happy Endings
Striding into the darkened lounge, the Jedi master easily navigated the round chairs dotting the room until he arrived at the large window that stared out over the meditation garden. Cool light shined into the chamber from the darkened sky above illuminating his handsome features.
Bright green eyes raised to the ceiling of night, looking passed the running lights of spacecraft and focusing on the brightest star in the galaxy, the Kyros. It was twenty months, two weeks and three days since the last Festival of Light. The twin stars of the binary system aligned creating a light that not even the brightest day could diminish.
He had performed the morning ritual of the Festival of Light, meditation with his padawan. He had thought about all that had passed in the last twenty months and the years before. The afternoon had been spent wandering quietly about the temple, visiting with those who had returned for the holiday.
It was now evening and the Kyros was bright in the sky. The ancient Bendu Temple was beginning to show signs of the evening celebrations to come. Music washed out into the corridors. He would join the festivities, eventually. For now, he wanted to be alone.
Callused fingers brushed over his neatly trimmed beard, then through his wavy dark hair. Finally, the Jedi folded his arms across his chest in the same worn fashion as his master once had.
From the window he stood at, Master Bali Tiro stared down at the garden below where in meditation, his master's flame had flickered and gone out fourteen years earlier. Yet, in the years since, he had spent time under the old yarel seeking solace through the Force.
Bali had often thought of his master, more so in the years since taking on an apprentice of his own. Many nights he had found himself reading over his master's journal in hopes of finding the advice the Jedi was no longer able to give in person.
The transition from padawan to knight had been easy. His master had been there to offer advice when asked, but never too much to allow him to make his own decisions. There was great doubt stirred up in him after Obi-Wan's death. It was only when he went through his master's meager belongings did he realize his master was not truly gone. A small picture cube, a few trinkets from various markets throughout the galaxy, a lightsaber that he now wore on his own hip and a data pad. The very one his master had kept his journal on.
Reaching into his tunic, he pulled the small data pad from the folds of tan material. Studying the smooth, but dormant surface, he brushed a finger over it activating the interface.
When he was a padawan, sneaking a peek at the Jedi's journal had always felt like an invasion, but now it was different. He often felt pride and joy at the memories inspired by the daily entries. A little embarrassment too at some of his master's all to correct assessments of him, notes about his strengths and weaknesses, constant disobedience.
More than that, Bali found out that his brave, certain master who knew everything was unsure about training a padawan. It seemed in so many entries that he confessed to not knowing what he was doing; fears that he was messing up and uncertainty on how to handle those things young padawans must all face in their journey toward knighthood.
It helped to know that his teaching anxieties were no different than those Obi-Wan had felt in his training.
A soft chirp sounded from behind him and drew his attention. Turning, Bali smiled at the tiny green PodBot that hovered into the center of the room. "I suppose you have been sent to fetch me?"
The dented shape zipped up to the master and beeped wildly. As it circled the quiet Jedi, Warbler's black and gold antenna waving about anxiously.
"Yes, yes, I know, I should not have wandered off," the Jedi calmly answered as he motioned the little droid to lead the way back into the corridor. After another string of blips and chirps from Warbler, Bali added, "Yes, I know, she is quite persistent."
As he walked, Warbler stayed close to his shoulder keeping guard over its boy and making sure Bali did as he was supposed to. Bali smiled at the small figure but even a tenacious PodBot could not keep him on track. A small detour took him to the memorial chamber adjacent to the archives. Candles burned and Force sensitive crystals glowed as a few silent figures quietly milled about the circular room.
Most had lost someone close to them in the temple fall. Bali had lost friends and acquaintances as well but it was not the reason he came to the chamber this evening.
A great mural covered the gently curving wall depicting heroes of the destruction. Masters Windu and Na'tho stared out in quiet contemplation as if still watching over their charges. The faces and names of those who were lost on that fateful day lined wall.
Bali paused to acknowledge the sacrifices of so many, then turned to the far corner where a life sized statue stood. It was his master, standing there with a world-weary face watching over the visitors to the chamber. He was always amazed by the lifelike image the carver had created, but wishing they had found someplace else to put the image of his departed master.
While Bali had been attending to his first missions, legend had it the carver had spent many hours studying his master in meditation. Naturally so, Obi-Wan was irritated by the bothersome artist. He could still imagine his master's unhappy reactions to being watched so closely. The many frustrated conversations over hyperspace communications. As well as the many threats to toss the artist out the nearest window if he did not stop following him.
Master Ar'ba'Etel, the Jedi in charge of the temple fall memorial, had begged Bali on more than one occasion to talk to his master. The wise young knight only carried on such conversations with Obi-Wan from halfway across the galaxy where it was safest.
Folding his arms in a patented mimic of his master, an action he had done often during his apprenticeship, gave him the warmth and knowledge that the other Jedi was not absent from the world of the living. That somehow he was always close by.
"How did I know I would find you in here?" a gentle voice asked.
Bali turned with a smile to greet the young Jedi that had entered the chamber. "I do not know, Padawan. How did you know?" he lightly teased.
Leia Skywalker drew close to her master. "You are missing the celebrations," she spoke quietly so not to upset the other occupants of the room.
He studied the brown-eyed young woman with her hair tied back into tight, looped braids and smiled once more. "I was just thinking. Remembering the past."
Nodding in understanding, the apprentice stood in silence by her master for a time. Then her gaze shifted from the statue to Bali. With a tender grin, she said, "You look like him. Has anyone ever told you that?"
"Often, Padawan. Especially as I get older. It is only natural, I suppose as I have adopted many of his habits."
"I remember him, and you two are a lot alike," the apprentice replied.
"You were very young then."
"But I remember."
Bali reached out and nudged her shoulder inspiring a small giggle. "Yes, you remember everything."
"I have to keep you in line," the padawan teased. "I do not think Luke and I resemble each other and we are twins."
"You look like your mother."
With a guiding hand, he guided the girl back out of the chamber and into the corridor so they would not disturb anyone with their conversation.
The Order had to change certain policies to be able to bring more potential Jedi into the fold. The children of Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala were some of the first to benefit.
"I hear the senator is returning to Coruscant in the next few days, I suspect you would want to see her." It was hardly a guess, Leia was particularly fond of spending time with her mother on Coruscant.
After the birth of her children, Padmé had stepped down as the Naboo delegate. Since then, she had worked in a consulting capacity for the Senate as well as Chancellor Organa.
"Of course, Master. I always look forward to Mother's visits to Coruscant. I wish she could coordinate her visits with my time here, but you know her."
"All too well."
"Too bad Luke cannot be here."
"Yes, but he and Master Rohrak will be returning from Itheria in a few weeks. Possibly you two can get together before leave for the Orakhai Conference."
Leia turned to stare at the Jedi for a time, the worry heavy in her face. After a moment, she adjusted her gold patterned tunic slightly. "Do you think they can see the Kyros shining on Itheria?"
"Yes, they can. My master and I celebrated the Festival of Light on Itheria once."
Relief echoed over her soft features. "That is good. I would not want him to miss out."
As they walked, Bali glanced back over his shoulder and caught sight of the little PodBot hovering back by the memorial chamber entrance. "Come on, Warbler. We have things to do."
"Such as?" Leia skeptically inquired.
"Dipping Master Awar in Lobigarian berry juice."
"The stains are almost impossible to wash out, Master," the padawan said knowingly.
"Yes, they are," Bali said with a wicked grin. "He has it coming to him."