"A Jedi Carol"
Standard Disclaimer: Most of these characters belong to George Lucas, and I promise to return them (mostly) intact when I'm done with them.
Author's Notes: Even though I've never really regarded this story as a legitimate part of my "timeline", I've always been bugged that parts of it contradicted some of the things I wrote in subsequent fanfics, and I figured that this would be the perfect time of year to revise and repost it. And yeah, I know they probably don't celebrate Christmas in the Star Wars universe - what can I say? Call it artistic license.
With apologies to Charles Dickens...
A glorious blanket of
snow covered the city of Theed on Christmas Eve. Last
minute shoppers hurried through the merrily lit streets, stopping to buying
hot roasted chestnuts from street vendors or to listen to groups of carolers.
Inside the Palace, Anakin Skywalker handed a glowing blue orb to his new wife, Queen Padmé Amidala.
"Where shall we hang this one, Sabé?" she called out. The handmaiden pointed to a spot high on the enormous Christmas tree. Straining to reach it, Padmé leaned precariously on the ladder.
"Allow me," Obi-Wan Kenobi said. He closed his eyes and concentrated. The glowing blue orb left Padmé's hand, floated over to the spot indicated by Sabé, and hooked its metal hanger over a branch.
"Marvelous!" exclaimed Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, clapping his hands with delight.
"Did you spike the eggnog yet, Anakin?" Obi-Wan asked. Anakin's laughter sounded forced.
"Not yet. Thanks for reminding me. I have to go get the rum." Padmé groaned.
"Oh Anakin, don't go out now! The tree will be done soon!"
"I'll be right back, I promise." He walked out of the room.
"Please excuse us," Padmé said to the others. She left the room and ran after Anakin, spotting him as he entered the main foyer. "Anakin!" She hurried to catch up with him and finally succeeded in grabbing his arm. At her touch, he stopped walking. When he turned to look at her, his eyes were cold.
"What is it, my wife?" She felt a chill go down her spine.
"Anakin, are you OK? I've been worried about you. You haven't been acting like yourself lately."
"How would you have me act, Padmé? How am I supposed to act after what happened to my mother? Tell me how to act, Padmé! Tell me!" The rage in his voice both astonished and frightened her. "You're the Queen," he sneered. "You know what behavior is appropriate on every occasion. How does your goddamn etiquette book say you're supposed to act on the first Christmas after your mother was tortured to death by the Hutts? HUH? TELL ME!" She was speechless. "I'm going out to buy a fucking bottle of rum. I'm coming back and I'm going to pour the whole bottle into that goddamn eggnog you insisted on having. Then I'm going to drink that goddamn eggnog until I fucking PASS OUT." He yanked his arm out of her hand and stormed out of the palace.
A bottle of rum tucked
under his arm, Anakin trudged through the city of Theed, his thoughts dwelling
not on the happy family scene that awaited him back at the Palace, but
rather on the mysterious man who had secretly been visiting him there lately.
Though Darth Sidious always kept his face carefully hidden in the cowl
of his black Sith robes, there was something oddly familiar about the man
that Anakin just couldn't pinpoint. He shook his head. That
wasn't important. The important part was the things the man was telling
him; things about the Jedi Council and their role in his mother's death.
At their last meeting, he had promised Anakin the opportunity to have his
revenge against the Jedi Council, if only he would become Sidious's apprentice
and learn from him the ways of the Dark Side. The more his thoughts
dwelt on his kind, gentle mother and the horrible way she had died, the
more he seriously considered Sidious's offer. He had no doubt that
Sidious could hold up his end of the bargain; Force power baked off the
man like heat off the dunes of Tatooine at high noon. I'll do
it, he finally decided as he walked through the Palace courtyard. My
mother will be avenged!
"I don't want vengeance, Ani." A female voice said out of the darkness. Startled, Anakin spun to locate the speaker, igniting his green-bladed lightsaber and clutching the bottle of rum.
"Who's there?" His eyes futilely searched the shadows.
"It's me, Ani."
"Who dares call me so?" he demanded. A woman surrounded by a shimmering aura stood before him.
"I do." she said.
"MOM!" he yelled, dropping the bottle of rum, which shattered on the flagstones of the courtyard. He deactivated his lightsaber and ran to her. She smiled.
"Oh Ani, it is good to see you again." He tried to embrace her, but his arms passed right through her insubstantial form.
"I've missed you so much!" Anakin sobbed.
"I know you have, Ani. But that is no excuse for the thing you plan to do."
"I will do it for you!" She shook her head.
"No, Anakin." she said firmly. "If you are to do this thing, at least be honest with yourself. You will not be doing it for me. You will be doing it for yourself and for your own desire for power. I sometimes think that in your heart you are a slave still, so great is your need to feel powerful and worthy." Anakin hung his head. "Do you remember the day you first met a Jedi Knight?"
"Of course, Mom, but - " As Anakin spoke, the Palace courtyard seemed to dissolve around them, and they stood again in the tiny Tatooine hovel they had shared as slaves so many years ago. "I don't believe it!" Anakin said. Seated at the table before him were Jar Jar Binks, Qui-Gon Jinn, Padmé, his mother and his nine year old self. He walked around the table and stood next to Qui-Gon Jinn. "Qui-Gon! Look at you! You're alive!"
"He cannot see or hear us, Anakin. None of them can."
"Look at you, Mom - you look so young! And look at me - I'm a kid again! And Padmé - she looks just as she did when I first met her."
"Of course she does, Ani. This IS the day you met her."
"But that's impossible!" She smiled.
"I never thought I would hear you, who is trained to use the Force, say that something is impossible! Now, pay attention. This is important."
"We have to help them, Mom!" Anakin's younger self was saying. "You said the biggest problem in the universe is that no one helps anyone!"
"That hasn't changed!" Adult Anakin said accusingly to the ghostly apparition of his mother. "The Jedi Council saw what was happening on Tatooine. They saw the war for territory between Gardulla the Hutt and Jabba the Hutt escalating and they did NOTHING! They watched as both sides destroyed property and killed innocents for fun and they did NOTHING! It was only when Mos Eisley spaceport closed down that they took action! They were unaffected by the suffering of innocents, but they quickly sent Knights to investigate once representatives from wealthy shipping magnates began pressuring them to get that spaceport open again!" Shmi sighed.
"That is often the way of things, Ani."
"But it shouldn't be that way!" She smiled at the wounded innocence in his voice. In some ways, he was still that nine year old boy, outraged to learn that life isn't always fair. "It is true, Anakin, that the biggest problem in the universe is that no one helps each other. Now you are a Jedi Knight and you have the opportunity to help others. Are you going to throw it away simply because the Jedi Council often acts in ways you don't like?"
"But they - "
"It does not matter what others do! They have their own paths to follow and each of them, like all of us, will have his own day of judgment to face in the end. What matters is what YOU choose to do! You cannot make the choice to turn to evil and then blame it on the actions of others! No matter what was done to you or to me, in the end you would be making a CHOICE to turn to evil! Do you understand that, Anakin?"
"But Lord Sidious says - "
"Whose words carry more weight with you, Anakin? His or mine? Think about that. As a Jedi Knight, you have such a wonderful opportunity to help others! If you choose to follow Sidious, you will not be helping ANYONE, Ani. You will only end up causing pain and suffering for millions of innocents! The things you will do in the name of vengeance will be far worse than anything the Jedi Council did by waiting so long to interfere on Tatooine." Anakin's head was spinning. How does she do it? How does she make Lord Sidious seem so wrong? Maybe he IS wrong... "Think on it, Anakin. And know that I love you and I will watch over you until the day you become One with the Force." She slowly faded away.
"MOM! Come back!" Anakin called, tears running down his cheeks. "Don't leave me!" he sobbed. "Don't leave me!"
"Your mother and I will
always be with you," a new voice said. Anakin whirled, harshly rubbing
the tears from his face. An apparition of an elderly bearded man
wearing the robes of a Jedi Knight and surrounded by a glowing blue
nimbus stood before him. There was something familiar about him...
"Who are you?" he asked. The man smiled.
"Surely age has not changed me so much," he said. That voice -
"Obi-Wan?" Anakin asked with disbelief. The man smiled.
"Yes, Anakin. Old age catches up with us all eventually, assuming we live long enough."
"But how - "
"The person you should be asking questions of tonight is yourself, Anakin. I know what you plan to do." Anakin looked at the ground. "Your friends are worried for you. They know that something troubles you, and it pains them. They love you, Anakin." Anakin felt his eyes fill with tears. "Come, Anakin," Obi-Wan said, and the courtyard dissolved around them. "You shall see for yourself." They stood in the Palace drawing room, where Padmé sat between Obi-Wan and Sabé on a sofa, the half-decorated Christmas tree behind them forgotten. Padmé was sobbing in Obi-Wan's arms as Sabé rubbed her back comfortingly.
"Padmé!" Anakin cried, rushing forward. "What's wrong? Why do you cry?"
"She cannot hear you, Anakin," the spectral Obi-Wan told him. "None of them can. We are here only to watch."
"Here, Your Majesty," Palpatine said briskly as he entered the room. "Drink this." His voice softened. "You'll feel better, I promise." Lacking a convenient place to sit, he knelt on the floor before her and handed her a snifter of brandy. With Obi-Wan's arm still around her, she clasped Palpatine's hand as Sabé rubbed her arm.
"Thank you so much, all of you. I don't know what I would do without you."
"It is nothing, Padmé." Sabé told her. "Anyone with eyes can see how it has been for you recently." Padmé shook her head slowly.
"I don't know what's happening to Anakin. Just when it seemed his grief was beginning to lessen, he began to change."
"There is no set timetable for grief, Padmé," Obi-Wan told her gently.
"No," Palpatine said distantly. "And there are some things from which we never fully recover."
"You don't understand," Padmé told them. "This isn't just another facet of grief. This is scary. It's like he's a different person sometimes. Cold. Angry. Distant. He frightens me." She bowed her head. "Especially now." Anakin felt as though his heart might explode, so great was his pain at seeing his beloved Padmé in such distress. The knowledge that he was the cause of it made it even worse. "I have not told him yet," Padmé continued in a quiet voice. "But I carry his child." Anakin's heart leapt in his chest. She's going to have my child! I'm going to be a father!
"This is cause for celebration, Padmé!" Sabé said, trying to lift the Queen's spirits. Padmé shook her head.
"I do not feel much like celebrating, Sabé. You have not seen the way Anakin's eyes change sometimes." She shivered. "I fear for my child, Sabé. I fear for myself." Anakin felt as though a knife were twisting in his chest. That his darling angel could fear him -
"I understand, Padmé." Obi-Wan quietly admitted. "I too have sensed a change in Anakin. Though I can still sense the Force in him, it is different somehow. Every day, I feel the bond he shares with me as my former Padawan fading more and more. He is withdrawing from me, and he is distancing himself from the other Jedi as well."
"Perhaps," Palpatine said carefully, "a Mind Healer should be consulted."
"You think my husband mad?"
"No!" he replied quickly. "No. I think perhaps the grief has affected his mind." Obi-Wan shook his head.
"I sense more to it than that." They sat in silence. Obi-Wan pulled Padmé close as she raised the brandy to her lips.
"No," Sabé said suddenly, taking the brandy snifter out of the Queen's hand and setting it on a nearby table. "Not in your condition." Padmé nodded silently as Sabé rubbed her arm. Palpatine, who was literally sitting at his Queen's feet, leaned his head against her legs. Anakin felt a rush of gratitude toward his friends for the loving support they were giving his wife. But I should be there too! She is hurting, and I should be there for her! Then his heart sank as he recalled that HE was the cause of her pain.
"I would never hurt
you, Padmé!" Anakin cried. "Never!" He looked
around, realizing that he was no longer in the Palace drawing room.
His vision was obscured by thick fog that swirled and eddied around him.
"What is this place?" he asked.
"It is your future that you see!" said a familiar voice in the fog.
"Master Yoda?" The Jedi Master appeared before him in the mists, looking older and sadder than Anakin remembered him. He was surrounded by the same sort of glowing blue nimbus that had surrounded the specter of the elderly Obi-Wan.
"Through the power of the Force I come to you from beyond my grave. Long have I waited for my rest, but first this one last task I must complete. Show you your future I must." The mists parted, and Anakin and the ethereal Yoda stood together in a dimly lit room. A body lay on a bed, a sheet pulled up to obscure its features. Next to the bed knelt a sobbing Obi-Wan Kenobi.
"I have failed you!" Obi-Wan cried. "I have done terrible things in the name of good! I did not want to fight you, Anakin! But I had to do it. It was either that, or BECOME you!"
"He killed me," Anakin said quietly. "That's my dead body on that bed. Right?"
"No. Pay attention you must."
"I did not want to throw you in that lava pit! But I had to escape, Anakin. I had to escape and save Padmé! I had to live to look after your children! But I couldn't... I couldn't save her..." The rest was unintelligible as he choked on his tears. He pulled the sheet away from the corpse's face, and Anakin gasped in horror. There lay his precious Padmé, looking pale and drawn. Her once lustrous hair was lank and dull, and dark purple circles sat under her eyes like horrible bruises.
"PADMÉ!" Anakin screamed in horror. He whirled to face Yoda. "Did I kill her? Please tell me that I didn't do this!" Yoda sighed.
"No, physically kill her you did not. Died of a broken heart did she, when you turned to the Dark Side and to evil."
"Don't be silly, Master Yoda. No one dies of a broken heart." Yoda regarded him sadly and shook his head. "Wait a minute," Anakin said, looking around. "This isn't Naboo! Where are we?"
"Naboo is no more, Anakin. Destroyed it Darth Sidious did."
"Oh my gods... Sabé? Palpatine?"
"Dead Palpatine is. Died protecting Padmé from Sidious he did. Sabé, she is dead too. Took her own life she did, after Sidious destroyed her. Played on her love for Palpatine did he. Seduced her to his bed, twisted her mind, and set her up to betray Padmé."
"I don't - "
"Pay attention you must. All will be made clear." The scene dissolved. Now they stood on the deck of a ship. Smoke partially obscured their view of a young woman shrouded in white. She was bent over an astromech droid. As an explosion rocked the ship, she looked up in alarm, adjusted something on the droid's face, whirled and fled down another corridor.
"Where are we? Who was that woman?" Anakin asked.
"Your daughter she is."
"My daughter? I have a daughter!" he exulted. Yoda gave him a stern look and he quickly contained his glee. The scene changed again. His daughter was huddled in a corner in a prison cell. A horrible, desiccated corpse of a man and a tall, ominous man in a horrible gargoyle-like mask watched as a torture droid practiced its programming on her. As her screams of agony rang off the walls of the confined space, Anakin felt as though he were being turned inside out. His daughter (his DAUGHTER!) was being tortured by these MONSTERS! It must stop! He lunged forward, igniting his lightsaber and watching as its green blade passed harmlessly through the torture droid.
"Have you not learned, Anakin? You are here as an observer only. Learn from the things you see you must." The scene dissolved again. They stood on the deck of a massive space station and watched as the desiccated corpse of a man gave the order that blew the peaceful blue-green world of Alderran out of the skies. The scene dissolved again. Now they watched as the ominous man in black used the Force to choke to death a succession of unfortunate people. The scene dissolved again. Now they were in some sort of exhaust shaft. The same ominous man in the black mask was dueling with a young blond man. Sparks flew as red and blue lightsaber blades collided. Fighting valiantly, the young man was forced onto the end of a long catwalk, where the man in black bore down on him and sliced his right hand from his body
"Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father," the man in black said to the young man.
"He told me enough!" The blond man yelled back. "He told me YOU killed him!"
"No," the man in black said. "I am your father!"
"Noooooo! That's not true! That's impossible!"
"Join me and together we will rule the galaxy as father and son!" The blond man released his grip on the catwalk and plummeted into the unseen depths of the exhaust shaft.
"Oh my gods, who is this terrible man?" Anakin asked.
"It is the future you see."
"Then we must find him now and stop him before he rises to power!" Yoda shook his head sadly.
"It is YOUR future you see, Anakin. That terrible man is you."
"NO!! I will never become that! NEVER!"
"Chosen, your path is. Show you what will happen if you follow it I do." The scene dissolved again. They were in a darkened room on another space station. A darkly shrouded form sat in a throne. Before him were the ominous man in black and the blond young man, now also in black. The blond man looked older, sadder, and weary. The shrouded man was haranguing the blond man (Anakin's SON!), trying to convince him that joining the Dark Side was the only path open to him.
"I know that man," Anakin said suddenly. "It's Darth Sidious!" He looked directly into the man's face and the blood drained from his face. "Oh my gods, he's Palpatine!"
"Ohhh, sure of that are you?" Yoda asked. Anakin shook his head, unsure of anything at this point. "Twins they were, but identical, not like your children. Taken by the Sith, this one was. The other, left to die after their mother and father were killed before his eyes!" As Anakin digested this information, Sidious, evidently displeased by something the blond man had said to him, began to torture the man with purple force lightening. Anakin was pained and horrified by the young man's screams; he was even more horrified that his future self stood by and did nothing as his son writhed in agony on the floor. Finally, his future self grabbed Sidious and hurled him down a thermal exhaust port to his death.
"I saved my son!" Anakin exulted. "I renounced the Dark Side!" But at what price? he thought.
"Yes, Anakin. But ask yourself this you must: Is it better to live a lifetime of evil and do the right thing in the end, or is it better never to turn to evil at all? The price for others you must think of now, Anakin. Yes, redeemed in the end you will be, and One with the Force you will eventually become, but ask yourself if the price that will be paid by those you love and millions of other innocent people is worth it you must."
Twenty-five Years Later...
A glorious blanket of snow
covered Coruscant on Christmas Eve. Last minute shoppers
hurried through the merrily lit streets, stopping to buying hot roasted
chestnuts from street vendors or to listen to groups of carolers.
Inside the Jedi Temple, the Jedi Council was assembled for a very special meeting. As always, Master Yoda sat in the in the center, Master Mace Windu on his right. On his left sat Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, and next to him was Master Anakin Skywalker. Before the assembled Council stood two young Jedi Knights, a young man and a young woman. The man was fair, with the blond hair and blue eyes of his father. The brown-eyed young woman stood straight and proud, her long chestnut hair in a thick braid reaching to her waist. In front of Luke and Leia Skywalker, another set of young people knelt. They also wore the robes of Jedi Knights.
"Tested your Padawans have been," Yoda said formally. It seemed that everyone in the room held their breath. "Confer upon them the rank of Jedi Knight the Council does!" Luke and Leia broke into wide smiles. Next, Yoda spoke to the two young people who still knelt respectfully at their teachers' feet. "Arise. Padawans you are no more." The young man and young woman stood. The young man was tall and regal, with bright sapphire eyes, a slightly beaked nose and thick, wavy auburn hair. The young woman was tall and slender, with long chestnut hair and dark brown eyes. "Anakin and Padmé, son and daughter of Palpatine and Sabé of Naboo, you may now claim the rank of full Jedi Knight as granted to you on this eve by the Jedi Council!" The newly made Jedi Knights embraced one another, then turned to embrace their teachers. Jedi Masters Skywalker and Kenobi approached them.
"The transport home leaves in ten minutes," Master Skywalker told them. "Do you want to send a message to your parents now, or do you want to surprise them with the news?"
"Oh, let's surprise them, I think." the young man said, in a voice so like his father's that it was uncanny.
"They will be so pleased!" his sister added. "It will be a wonderful Christmas gift!"
"For our mother, too!" Leia added. Master Skywalker caught her eye.
"And I suppose that disreputable smuggler you met on your last assignment will be joining us, daughter?" he asked.
"Yes, Father. Han has nowhere to go for the holidays, you know. Not everyone is as blessed as we."
"We truly are fortunate," Master Kenobi told them. "We have so much to be thankful for. This is a time of unprecedented prosperity and peace in the Republic."
"Thanks mostly to your father," Luke said to the younger set of twins.
"And yours," young Anakin replied.
As they walked onto the landing pad and boarded their transport, Master Skywalker thought back to another Christmas Eve twenty-five years earlier.
"It was a near thing," Master Skywalker told young Anakin, who gave him a puzzled look. "I was once faced with the choice to turn to the Dark Side of the Force and use my powers for evil and destruction. With help, I resisted that temptation and struck down the Sith Lord who sought to seize power and rule the Galaxy through fear and hatred." Young Padmé looked at him.
"The gods blessed you," she said.
"No," Master Skywalker replied, casting a look at Obi-Wan. "They blessed us all."
"May they continue to do so," Leia said quietly.
"Yes," young Anakin said. "May the gods bless us, every one."