AUTHOR'S NOTE: The Skywalker Prophecy is an epic-scale story that ultimately will encompass AU versions of Episodes IV, V, and VI of the saga of Anakin Skywalker and his family.  As with this story's prequel, A Destiny Renewed, the AU retelling of ANH (also posted at this site), some of the broad plots arcs in Hope and Darkness will be familiar from ESB; others will be very different.  Like the movies, some characters play more pivotal roles at certain times, while others predominate in different sequences, and the story will contain considerable drama/angst and a good deal of romance/mush in addition to heavy doses of fun action sequences.  It is my sincere hope you will find this story as entertaining to read as it is for me to write. 

And so we continue with Episode V: Hope and Darkness.

Episode V: Hope and Darkness

PROLOGUE

Six months after the Republic's victory against great odds in the Battle of the Trade Spine, the Galactic Senate remains paralyzed by the Vyhrragian crisis in the Mid Rim.  Notwithstanding the failure of the New Justice movement to abide by the terms of the Accord signed by the parties at the summit on Malastare, the peace faction continues to insist upon negotiation with the Vyhrragians.  The defense faction, on the other hand, asserts that more than ever Argis must be confronted definitively with the Republic's overwhelming military superiority.  Now almost evenly numbered, the two blocs of Senators are mired in a stalemate over the proper course of action.  Even the Jedi Council's presentation to the Senate of indisputable proof of Sith involvement in Argis' campaign of piracy and conquest has had little effect on the legislators.  Amid this bitter controversy Supreme Chancellor Trellem struggles to maintain decorum and civility in the divided chamber. 

In recent weeks the Republic's Vyhrragian enemies have become increasingly bold.  Several violent and destructive operations have been staged deep inside the Republic's territory – devastating strikes against military installations and civilian targets on Core worlds.  Additional sabotage attacks have crippled key infrastructure points in the Core and Expansion Regions, weakening the Republic's ability to defend the Mid and Outer Rims from Argis' depredations.  Fed by the sensationalist reporting of the Holonet and hyperbolic propaganda from both sides, fear and panic have begun to rise among the general populace.  The confrontation with the New Justice movement is no longer simply an economic dispute in the outskirts of the Republic, but rather a deadly and horrifying conflict with direct effects on civilians in areas long believed safe from hostilities. 

The principal architects of the defense faction's political strategy – Senator Bail Millius of Alderaan, Senator Leia Skywalker Organa of Naboo, and Senator-at-Large Padmé Naberrie Skywalker – believe a change in the Republic's leadership is necessary.  Yet they dreadfully have concluded that only further military victories or terrorist activities by Argis, at the needless cost of thousands of innocent lives, will be sufficient to shift the balance of power in the Senate in their favor. 

With each passing week Argis' expansion of his military arsenal continues unabated and his sphere of influence becomes greater.  And in secret the evil Sith Lords prepare to execute the next stage of their diabolical plot for Galactic domination: the annihilation of the entire Skywalker bloodline. 

---

The dark sky of night outside the broad windows of the Jedi Council chamber seemed to seep through the transparisteel and drain the round room of its illumination.  Against the horizon the towering skylines of Coruscant sparkled from the millions of individual lights on buildings and air traffic.  Inside the room deep shadows and somber sentiments filled the space with apprehension and dread.  Yet the twelve gathered Jedi Masters were determined and undaunted. 

"Something terrible is about to happen," Anakin Skywalker said in a composed voice earned by two decades of constant mindfulness to emotional tranquility.  He pulled his hands off the armrests of his chair, ran his fingers through his short gray hair, and then crossed his arms over the front of his tan Jedi robes.  "Each day the disturbance in the Force becomes stronger."

"I sense it too," agreed Obi-Wan Kenobi.  The white-bearded chairman of the Council shared a solemn gaze with his former apprentice.  "I have little doubt that the Sith are once again on the move.  We must be prepared to meet them wherever they appear." 

"We all believe the Sith are in league with Argis," began Aayla Secura.  "And Argis seems intent on weakening the Republic.  All of his recent actions in the Core suggest a purpose no less significant than toppling the government."  The pair of lekku flowing down her back from the blue-skinned Twi'lek's head twitched as she spoke.  "If this is the case, then I believe the Order has an obligation to increase our presence at the Senate and other important facilities.  We must ensure the security of the civilian leadership."

Obi-Wan looked slowly around the circle of seated Masters.  "Comments on the proposal?" 

After a moment Barriss Offee leaned forward in her chair, adjusted her deep blue robes, and propped her elbows on her thighs.  "I concur with Aayla.  While we cannot be certain where the Sith will strike, certain targets would be more plainly suited to their ends than others.  And where these targets are vulnerable, we should strengthen them."  The golden-skinned near-human Mirialan woman clasped her hands between her knees.  "To fail to do so would leave these institutions pointlessly undefended." 

"This seems to me a sound idea," Anakin agreed.  "I believe, however, that the Sith will not strike at the obvious targets such as the Senate building itself.  The Sith rely upon cunning and manipulation.  Seeking to destroy the Senate, for example, seems too… well… mundane.  I expect something far more devious from them – something all the more bold for its subtlety." 

"That is true," Master Secura conceded with a tilt of her head.  "Nevertheless we also have seen that Argis' regular soldiers have undertaken operations that are remarkable in their audacity.  So while the Sith may be unlikely to strike the Senate, a team of assassins or saboteurs very well might." 

"Excellent point, Aayla," Obi-Wan nodded.  "An increased Jedi presence will be important regardless of what form of attack may come." 

"I will arrange immediately for the most talented available Padawans to assume such assignments," Master Offee offered.  "We should be able to have apprentices in place within a day." 

When the other Council members acceded to the proposal and the plan for its implementation, Obi-Wan waved his hand in her direction.  "Very well.  Barriss will organize our security teams and deploy them as soon as possible.  I will inform the Supreme Chancellor of our decision.  I am confident he will have no objection to it." 

Anakin failed to suppress his scoffing chuckle.  "Trellem is a coward.  His only objection will be that we did not assign enough Jedi for his own protection."

"Anakin…" said Obi-Wan pointedly. 

"My apologies," Anakin replied after a moment.  "This is not the place for my personal opinions about the Chancellor." 

"No need to apologize.  You may say whatever you wish here, Anakin, and it will not leave this chamber," Barriss laughed.  "But one day you will forget your location and make an ill-advised remark for all to hear."

"You are very wise, Barriss, and absolutely correct," Anakin winked.  If I ever do that, any embarrassment I might bring to myself or the Order would be the least of my problems compared to what Padmé would do…

Obi-Wan managed to conceal his mischievous grin by running a few fingers through his neatly trimmed moustache and beard.  "Is there any other business?"  None was raised.  "The meeting of the Council is adjourned." 

As the dozen Jedi Masters rose from their chairs and filed toward the single door to the chamber, Obi-Wan waved over Aayla to where he and Anakin were standing at the window behind his chair.  "After dinner Anakin and I intend to meditate further on the disturbance in the Force," he explained quietly.  "We would like you to join us." 

The middle-aged Twi'lek woman smiled.  "It would be my pleasure." 

"Very good," Anakin said firmly.  "This situation is most troubling indeed."

---

The holy man waited patiently on the terrace of a villa in the secluded Lake Country of Naboo.  Behind him the soft orange glow of the rising sun barely had begun to creep over the forested hills to illuminate the placid waters of the lake below.  The morning birds were singing and the pleasing scents of the red roses lining the balustrade wafted in the warm breeze.  It was the perfect setting for celebrating the eternal union of two young lovers. 

The kind, elderly man heard the taps of approaching shoes on the stones of the terrace.  Apparently the couple had not changed their minds from the previous day, when he had counseled them not to wed so impulsively.  As much as he disagreed with it, he nonetheless would honor their decision.  He would be the only witness to the ceremony.

The tall man and short woman walked hand-in-hand until they stopped two paces in front of him.  The groom wore the dress-whites uniform of a military officer, the bride an elegant yet unadorned white dress.  She did not have a veil, and yesterday they had insisted they wished to proceed even without rings. 

"Are you ready?" asked the holy man politely. 

"We are," the woman replied calmly.  The young couple turned to face each other. 

The rites of matrimony were brief, simple, and profound. 

"Congratulations," the holy man said.  "I wish you nothing but happiness in your new life together." 

"Thank you," the man nodded humbly without releasing his wife's hands.  "May the Force be with you." 

For a split-second the holy man looked at the couple quizzically.  He was certain neither was a Jedi, so he found it somewhat odd for the young man to speak those parting words.  Quickly he regained his composure and smiled.  "And also with you, friends."  Then he turned and paced away slowly, leaving the newlyweds alone. 

After their gentle, loving kiss ended, husband and wife continued to stand unmoving for a few minutes, facing each other with their hands clasped tenderly between them.  Finally he released his hold and turned to the side, wrapping an arm around her waist as they turned to look out over the lake and trees and hills and the light of dawn that bathed everything. 

"Thank you," he said quietly. 

"For what?" she asked curiously, covering his hand with hers. 

"For this.  I have never been so happy in my life as I am in this moment." 

"Oh," she whispered.  "You're welcome."  She paused to catch her breath, which had hitched in her throat at his emotional declaration.  "I have never been this happy either." 

"I'm glad."

The warbles of birds and buzzing of insects filled their ears while she collected herself to say what needed to be said.  "What did we just do?"

"We got married." 

"I know that, idiot," she laughed giddily as she elbowed him – not really very hard – in his ribs with her free arm.  "What was the rush?  We couldn't wait until we got back?  When we left we told everyone this was just a short vacation before your leave was up.  I didn't mean to I lie to them.  Did you?"

"No.  Of course not."

"You see my point?  So now…"  Her voice trailed off into the damp, rose-scented morning air. 

"Now we have to keep it a secret," he sighed.  He took a deep and solemn breath, then laughed heartily.  "You're right.  My mother is going to kill me." 

"Kill us, you mean."  At long last the smile returned to the young woman's face.  "And she's going to have to get through my mother to do it!  They'll have our heads for breaking our promise not to elope." 

"Yes.  Yes, they will."  He lovingly brushed a loose wisp of blonde hair away from her face before he leaned down and kissed her on the lips.  "We'll just have to make sure they don't find out, then, won't we?" 

She winked.  "I'm a politician.  I'm very good at evading difficult questions."

"And I think with my training I can withstand any interrogation you can," he chuckled. 

Sarré Bellion Skywalker grinned and pulled her husband's hand off her hip to hold it affectionately in both hands.  "Time for breakfast." 

Bryon Skywalker smiled broadly too.  "Good.  Because I'm very hungry."  With a little skip in his step he let his wife drag him back toward the villa.