Mace joined the Council once he'd returned Aayla to the hands of her waiting Master, knowing Quin had more questions he was going to demand answers for. In his mind, he was thinking about Obi-Wan and Anakin, how easily the boy had become a man who'd slid easily into the skin of Master to Anakin. How right and true in the Force their pairing was, for all that it seemed to contradict the foundation upon which the Order was built upon.
Master Tholme and Count Dooku were already waiting there. Nodding to them, he sat down in his chair, uneasily aware of the fact that Yoda's was empty, and waited for them to begin. The Council shifted uneasily – as he'd expected – upon hearing of the Master/Padawan bond that had formed between Anakin and Obi-Wan.
"Master Windu, how can such a thing be?" Depa asked into the silence.
"Easily for, not only did Master Yoda foretell this, but the Force prepared Obi-Wan for it."
"He was sent to Bandomeer for a reason," Piell reminded them. "How can you believe that he's changed from the rash boy into a man worthy of the Chosen One? There is no reason to believe that he could train him correctly for he lacks discipline."
"If there is one thing Obi-Wan has in abundance," Dooku dryly commented, "It is discipline. It is far different from that which we Jedi practice but it is there. I've watched him teach and train Anakin once they arrived at my home. The boy is calm and far more controlled than he was under Master Jinn's influence."
"I myself heard him teach and console the young Yaleri. She was one of those recently bereaved by the attack on Bandomeer. While his words were not what we would have chosen, they were full of wisdom and compassion. There is much he could teach us," Master Tholme offered.
"He's still not a Jedi," Piell maintained.
"By whose standards?" Mace asked, facing him. "Is a Jedi one who serves the Force? Or are they one who serves the traditions passed down through time?"
"Those traditions make one a Jedi," Eeth protested, shocked by the questions Mace posed. Of them all, he was the last one they thought would ever question their ways. The Korun had always seemed so steadfast, so loyal to their ways and the ways of the Code. To hear him ask such questions shook him to the core and made him wonder about the future of the Order if one so strong could falter.
Had the loss of Master Yoda been to much for the Order to take?
Were they doomed to fall into the Dark Side now?
"Not so," Ki-Adi commented, thinking over their history. "The Jedi started out as a philosophical order dedicated to learning about the Force and helping others with the gifts they had. At one time, marriage was not limited to those whose race needed to be perpetuated.
"Or those among us who are required to marry because of the traditions of their home planets, for example the Corellians. While true that such marriages were confined to those within the Order, the fact remains that marriage is not unknown to our Order Even during the time of the Mandelorian Wars, marriage was still common practice."
"So, what changed within the Order?" asked Depa, leaning forward. "If in the beginning such attachments were allowed, what happened to encourage our ban now?"
It was a valid question. One no one had a real answer for because such things had not been detailed in their own history. "Tradition against marriage already in place when Master Yoda to the order came. At least fifty years it was there. If asked to make a guess on when, between the Jedi Civil War and the Battle of Ruusan would I place the formations."
"I know that it is no easy thing to admit but the Sith have often come from the Jedi," Dooku quietly said, his words measured and calm as always. "In an effort to fully get rid of that which leads one down the dark path of destruction, the Jedi created the traditions and the Code we live by today. In their attempt to fix it, they overcompensated and created a deficit.
"While we are numerically larger in number than we ever have been, the ratio of young Jedi potentials to wise Masters is off. We cannot sustain the Jedi like this for we lose so many gifted souls because there are not enough Masters available to train them," he paused, thinking about something.
About his own experience of being a teacher and what being around both Anakin and Obi-Wan had done for him. What he had learned from watching them and living with them. What he taught them and in the teaching, had relearned what he always had known to be truth. "Perhaps, instead of bringing balance to the Force, the Chosen One is to bring that balance to the Jedi Order itself."
"But the prophecy," Adi protested.
"Can be wrong," Dooku remained calm, feeling that he might be onto something. Though the emotions of the Council had begun to rise in confusion and agitation, he knew that he was right. There was something more to this situation than any of them wanted to believe. "Take the Code for example. One of the most famous lines is; "There is no emotion, there is peace". It once read; "Emotion will not take my peace". Do you see the difference a mistranslation makes?"
Depa slowly nodded, "It is something to consider."
"This is ridiculous," Master Koth protested. "I have never heard of anything so against our time honored ways."
"Master Koth, what is an instinct?" He turned his attention to the Master, watching him carefully.
"I don't understand," he said, meeting his eyes evenly. Even as he did so, he was trying to figure out if there was something to the question that he wasn't able to see. Having been in several philosophical debates with Dooku, he knew how easy it was for the man to twist anything he said about.
"What's not to understand about answering a simple question regarding the definition of a word?"
His head shook, a smile quirking his lips for a moment. "None of your questions have ever been simple or easy, Count Dooku."
"And the reason for that?" After a pause, he answered his own query. Somehow knowing that no one would take the challenge of his question. "Because, for a Jedi, there can be no easy answer. For every act we make, it echoes, not only in the lives around us but it the Force itself."
Here, he paused, taking some time to calm his emotions because the next part was sure to start a battle of words and beliefs. A battle regarding the very fate of the Jedi Order and, indeed, the Galaxy itself. It was necessary, needed in fact, but he still had to take a moment to prepare himself for it.
A gentle touch reached out in comfort and he recognized his grandsons. Knowing that they were there, just within reach if he needed that strength, allowed him to press forward. "As you know, I left the Jedi Order for none of the teachings offered any comfort to me after I lost my son.
"Before you tell me that my reaction was emotional, let me remind you that we have all taught students – and they all become our children. One of the most grievous lies circling about the Galactic Republic is that the Jedi feel no emotion nor do we form any kind of attachment. You are all teachers, how many of you can honestly say without reserve, that you feel nothing for your students?" he asked, challenging them to deny his words.
There was silence.
"With the exception of the Dark Woman – whose actions and attitude push her beyond borderline dark as far as I am concerned – not a single one of us can say that. Even I fall victim to the hubris of emotional attachment, no truly affective servant of the Force can deny those bonds of affection. If we do, we unbalance ourselves.
"Many of the reactions to my words has shown that to be already the case. Many of us have been more loyal to the Code than we have to the Force. Thus, we have lost our deeper connection and have thus become lost to ourselves. While I agree that the Dark Side clouds much, by voluntarily divorcing ourselves from the Force, we have allowed it to happen.
"We are not connected as we should be," he finished and stepped back.
And waited for the outcry of the bomb he had dropped in their midst.
Mace stared at him, aghast. The many voices that rose to debate Dooku's words were mere white noise to him. All he could hear was the words Dooku spoke. The words of painful clarity and truthfulness. Not taking his eyes away from Dooku's almost understanding ones, he dived into the Force and listened to what it was telling him.
"Long have I tried to reach you but clung to my old ways, you have," Yoda said. The Force swirled around them comfortingly. And there he was, sitting on a log to the left. In his hands, his familiar stick rested.
"Where am I?" he asked, moving to kneel at the wizened Master's feet. "And why are you still…you?"
Yoda's eyes twinkled as a happy smile crossed his face. "To learn the truth is why I still am in this place of learning. Listen to Dooku's words you should," he advised.
"They are uncomfortable to hear, Master," he admitted.
"Should be," Yoda counseled. "If only hear things of ease we should, never learn we would. To stagnate we would – as under my leadership the Jedi has."
Mace protested, loyal to this Master. Loyal to the wisdom he knew Yoda possessed and had taught. "That's not truth. You have been a wise, able leader. No one could lead the Order better than you have over the years."
"A truly wise leader would learn from other's words, would hear criticism and look to see if there truly was cause for it. To often, quick to dismiss those words was I. To change the Jedi for the better, was I not willing to do," he shook his head in deep regret. "Leave that burden to you I unfairly have."
"Master, I am not strong enough."
"To do alone, you are not required," he sharply reprimanded him. "The Council divided may currently be, but differing voices heard from them often lead to the right path. What once was necessary, no longer is needed nor is the right. Too move forward, it is wise – look to the past of the Jedi for in the past is the future."
Mace sighed. "The Chancellor complimented the Jedi on its ability to hold firm to its ways in this changing world. I am to be proven a liar when we do this."
Yoda rapped him sharply on the shoulder. "Traditions do not a Jedi make but the Force itself, gave this truth Adi did. Our ways to the Force must be rooted, not to the Jedi Code or our mythical heroes. Almost lost Padawan Skywalker to this hubris we did. Save him from himself did Obi-Wan – help him you should for need it he will."
"He has grown into a wise man, though he still has strong doubts about himself. I don't think he really believes me when I tell him that our support he already has," Mace smiled slightly. "I don't know what to make of him. But he has impressed me."
"To him Adi has often turned for counsel as have I. A credit to the Order he will become," Yoda nodded.
"So late in life and untrained by a Master?" As admiring of Obi-Wan he may have been, this was shocking to him. It was one thing to say the words as he stared at the man and felt the Force around him. It was another when he was not near by and he was given time to think, to reflect upon what accepting him into the Jedi Order would mean to them all.
What a change it was to an Order who held firm to their ways.
"The Force his Master has been. Nomi Sunrider, a great Jedi she was – but only trained upon her husband's death. His request it was that led her to the Jedi," he pointed out. "Unlike others, not divided is he for to the Jedi he has always been true."
Mace sighed again. "This will tear the Jedi apart."
"Within conflict is strength and growth. If to the Force the Jedi is loyal, then humbled and accepting they will be though struggle with these ideas they will and should. Out of chaos comes order, in silence we learn to sing – what is always our balance and foundation is the Force. To it, we must be true," Yoda taught. "No matter the governmental form we serve, it is to civilization that we owe our allegiance."
"Will I see you again?" Mace asked suddenly.
"Not far away will I be but time as a conscious spirit is not unlimited. To you is the Order to look for guidance – to the Council's collective wisdom, you must look. Alone you never are," he reminded him. "To this time and day, your talents were made and honed. Let go of what once was and embrace what always is – not of the dogma but from the Force is truth found. For even in lies as the Sith tell can one find truth."
Mace reluctantly smiled. "I get it. The Force is our guide and center. In order to best help the Jedi Order to survive and grow, I must find it within once more."
"Find that trouble in doing so, you will not have. Only in your mind is the distance great. To grow and learn, a great Jedi always does," Yoda said, his voice full of comfort. "A hard task this is but strength to face it, you have for always willing to learn you are. Always ready to humble yourself to listen you have been."
"Thank you, Master Yoda. I hope to take counsel with you once again."
"As the Force wills it, so shall it be."
"Thank you," he repeated.
Slowly, he pulled out of the vision and into the chaotic noise of the Council Chambers.
"Of your own admittance you left the Order because you couldn't grieve as a proper Jedi should. Why should we even listen to you when you couldn't be faithful?" he heard someone ask.
"That was rather unbecoming of a Jedi – especially one who sits on the Jedi Council," a voice said from the doorway. "I realize that my presence discomfit many of you. That his words upset you but you should not take your feelings out on Count Dooku – especially when the true source of your unease lies within you for you recognize his words as truth. You have not sought the answers from the Force as you aught.
"Instead, you have chosen to attack.
"You have taken the easier path of attacking rather than meditating in the Force and seeking the answers that are there. Did you not teach us that, Master Piell? That to find the truth is always the harder course to take than attacking someone for the truth may only be found by searching within and seeking that courage within to face that which you may find?"
Adi smiled, relieved to have a voice of reason within the chaos. Only briefly did she wonder why none of the wise Masters had thought of this. Had remembered their own teachings. "Obi-Wan, it is good to hear your logical viewpoint."
"I thank you for the warmth of your welcome. Though I wonder if such a thing is truly so for my presence brings up some contention among the Jedi, Master Gallia," he bowed to her.
Mace cleared his throat, "Before we continue to discuss Count Dooku's words, perhaps a contemplative break is necessary? There are other matters for us to address, such as what to do with Aurra Sing. Perhaps we should call the Dark Woman and ask for her advice on the matter."
Adi's nose twitched at the thought of the borderline Jedi, though she voiced her tentative support for the idea. Her eyes studied Mace carefully, noting the strained look in his eyes. More importantly, she noted the strange sound in his voice. "I also believe it would benefit us all to seek the peace of meditation before proceeding for these are no light matters for us to decide upon an appropriate course."
Ki-Adi nodded. "I, to, could do with an hour of contemplation."
As the Council was disbursing, Mace called out, "Obi-Wan? May I speak with you?"
"I can spare a few minutes," a wry smile crossed his face at the words.
Mace only looked at him in silence.
Once the door was closed, he gestured for Obi-Wan to sit down. Though surprised by the gesture, he sat in one of the chairs, facing Mace. "Don't think that I am not grateful for your timely arrival, but why did you interrupt a Council Meeting? It was an act of unexpected bad manners from you."
Obi-Wan shrugged off the comment. "Because, though he doesn't want to admit it, Count Dooku is far from recovered from the psychic shock of the death of Master Yoda. I could feel him growing exhaustion and weariness as he stood there. I knew an interruption would be easier for him to take than his passing out in front of the Council."
"Yes, his pride has been something of a concern for the Jedi Council."
"Everyone has a bit of pride in them over something, Master Windu. In some cases, it is healthy – and should be called self-esteem rather than pride. But there are other cases in which it is not good. In matters of his health, this is so with Count Dooku," he said.
"Speaking from personal experience?" he asked, amused. It was no secret that Obi-Wan would rather suffer in silence than seek healing.
He shook his head, knowing what Mace's thoughts were. It was only to be expected, considering how his history spoke against him. "My problem is not one of pride but rather I do not like the attention. I feel that there are others who need it more than I do. Besides, I spent far too much time in the infirmary growing up then I care to recall. It is something I must work on for I developed a fear of being unwanted because of my ill health."
"How so?" he leaned forward, interested.
Obi-Wan thought for a moment, gathering his thoughts together. "As a Council member, you may not realize the isolation that some Younglings experience. Especially those who are different in some way. I've always been smaller than the others and prone to spikes of uncontrollable power surges.
"Control over one's self has always been emphasized but it was something that I often could not do.
"As a result, many Masters were afraid to take me on. Then you throw in the fact that my health's always been fragile. The idea that I have more undesirable traits than desirable ones to be a Padawan set in. The person one becomes is often formed by our childhood experiences.
"Regrettably, the majority of us do not rise above what occurred in our youth. We are haunted by what we perceive as our faults and defects. Though we try to ignore it, the past remains with us. We are what our thoughts make us," they thought of the Lost Jedi, "Part of this lies within ourselves. Unhappy as we may be in our path, we do not wish to change what we do. We are either to comfortable or to afraid to change."
"And the other?" Mace asked.
"The other lies in those around us, both friends and family. If we don't know if someone is going to be there, to catch us if we stumble or fall. We are less likely to even take that first step. To walk a path away from darkness is far easier when you walk with someone. I know Xan credits me with bringing him back from that ledge.
"But he helped me far more by reminding me of who I am and what I wished to do with my life," he said.
"What do you mean?" Mace was genuinely interested. He was truly seeing in Obi-Wan what Yoda had been talking about.
"I may have thrown out that line to him but by holding on to it, he kept me from falling over the edge as well. I was a thirteen year old young man who left the only security I had ever know. I needed a friend to help me, to guide me through a world I didn't quite understand. Without Xanatos beside me, I don't know what would've become of me."
Mace nodded thoughtfully. "What of your opinions regarding attachment?"
"Attachment in and of itself is not a bad thing," he replied after a moment. "We have to form them to produce the trust requisite for a Master/Padawan situation. This is a lasting comradeship that lasts long after the dissolution of the actual bond.
"The problem, as I perceive it, is not attachment itself. It is understanding why one must be unwilling to let go of those you love. That letting go does not mean to lose everything you shared. Or even to forget them when we do so.
"Anakin asked me what's wrong with attachments, with emotions. As he point out, they are a part of one's make-up. If you take out a part of your natural being, what are you left with? Many are confused by this divorcement of self for a child is open to all kinds of emotions, to feelings.
"It is not just Anakin who is puzzled, especially when he is told that he must listen to and act upon his instincts. The most basic definition of an instinct is that it's an emotion."
Mace nodded slowly, "A gut reaction to a situation or problem one finds one's self facing. I see where you and Count Dooku are going with this. We teach a contradiction without meaning to. The question is, can we undo the damage that has been done?"
"I think you will find that many in the Jedi Order are ready for such a change to be made as they are true servants of the Force," he paused. "What I fear is that even they may be conflicted, many will be torn between what has been taught to them and what is true in the Force.
"While the Force remains steady and constant, there are certain precepts that do change over time as we mature and grow. As our minds expand and we become ready to hear it. I fear the Jedi will be at war before this is finished."
"You speak cold words of comfort," he sighed. Although he acknowledged the truth of what he was hearing and it was not comfort he needed to be hearing. As much as it wouldn't be amiss, he knew that it was not time for comfort. Now, now was the time for him to listen and learn what he could. "Is the Galaxy ready for us to fight?"
"The Galactic Republic is in no shape because they have become used to the Jedi doing everything. I fear our private war will become a Galactic conflict. As much as I wish otherwise, it cannot be so."
"Optimism isn't your strong suit, is it?" Mace dryly observed.
There was a knock on the door, "Master? Is everything all right?"
"Come in, Anakin," he invited after seeing Mace's gesture. The boy entered the room and looked at them, shy curiosity in her eyes. "We were just discussing a few things about Master Dooku's words regarding the path of the Jedi and the Jedi Code."
Anakin stared at Mace, trying to read his expression. It did not escape his notice that, while the Master studied him, he did not attempt to use the Force to read into him as he had the first time they'd met. He wondered about the change. Not that he wasn't grateful for the respect shown him, the gentle consideration towards his right to privacy, he couldn't help but wonder why.
"Master Windu, I have something to say to you in regards to Master Kenobi," he paused and waited for Mace to reprimand him about Jedi protocol or tradition. He was surprised when Mace inclined his head, gesturing for him to speak. Confused, he looked to Obi-Wan for guidance.
"It's all right, Anakin."
Still, it took him a moment to gather up his courage. Quiet acceptance wasn't something he had been prepared for. He'd been prepared to brash it out. As a result, he wasn't quite sure what to say. "I know I can't make you change the rules of the Order to serve my situation. I am also aware that Master Kenobi did not complete his training his training. Believe me, it is something he was constantly reminding of."
"Rightly so, Padawan," Mace commented. "Teacher would have been the better term to use."
"But it would have been the wrong one to use when the Force was telling me that he was my Master. At the time, I didn't understand the full truth. All I knew was that I felt the safest with him. For the first time in my life, even counting the years with my mother, I felt like I belonged. Like I was where I was always meant to be.
"I meant what I said earlier, if my Master is not to stay here, I won't stay either. I realize my importance to the Jedi in this time of desperate need for a light to be held aloft in the darkness – but you have to understand his importance to me. As I am a light to the Jedi, he is a strength to me. Though I hardly appreciate Yaleri's words, they are truth for we fit. As good as Master Jinn was for me, he was not right."
Mace nodded, "Which is why I have every intention of supporting the both of you in your endeavors. It won't be effortless, but we Jedi should never want or accept what's trouble-free. In doing so, we weaken ourselves and the Republic we've sworn to uphold and defend. Easy has gotten us into trouble," his last words were soft as if for his ears alone.
As neither could come up with a response, they allowed him the right of privacy. "Sir, did you want us to leave you alone so that you might meditate upon today's revelations?" Obi-Wan quietly asked.
There was an absent nod from him and they walked out. On their way to their appointed apartments, they walked in companionable silence before Anakin froze.
Obi-Wan stopped and walked back, kneeling down in concern. "Is everything all right?" he asked.
"I don't know," Anakin's reply was slow in coming. "I thought I felt something evil standing behind me."
The first reaction Obi-Wan had was to look around. Suppressing it, for he knew that any danger would've attacked them already. His second tamped down response was to scoff for he'd felt nothing. If there was one thing he'd learned, it was that Anakin often sensed what he could not.
"Was it close by?" he asked, keeping his tone low and even.
Anakin's face was pinched tight with thought. He was trying to seek the source, trying to find the answer to the question asked of him.
"Don't force it, Padawan," he soothed. "Trust the Force to do the hard work. Let it flow into and through you. As you allow it to do so, you will find that which you seek."
In the shadows, Master Piell stood, thunderstruck. In all his experiences with the young Anakin, he had never seen anything quite like what happened between those two. Having watched Master Jinn work with the boy, he'd seen the quiet frustration on the Master's face – the struggle of the young boy to merely obey a simple order.
Under Obi-Wan's hands, the boy just let got and fell into the Force.
Perhaps there was something to Count Dooku's words after all. It may just be possible that this man, though no properly trained Jedi, could do what no one else could.
Perhaps he could make a Jedi Knight out of Anakin Skywalker.
The End, for now.
Author's Note : This is the natural end of this story. I tried to write more and only came up with nothing. It seems that the main point of this was to introduce new factors to harm the Jedi Order, to get Obi-Wan and Anakin together as Master/Padawan with a far stronger relationship, and to set things right. I plan to work on the sequel soon but I have to finish my other story first. I hope that I haven't disappointed my loving and desperately needed supportive readers and reviewers too much. YOU GUYS ARE BRILLIANT! Thank you.