- The Tale of the Crimson Guard and the Dark Knight -
It is said that water is the essence of all being. No life can exist without that precious liquid and nothing can counter its awesome power. And yet the rivers have been tamed and the springs exploited. Only the oceans remain free, untouched, as far as anything can remain untouched by progress. Water equals life and death, water is a power borne out of the sky and earth.
All these thoughts congealed into the great mass of the clear blue of the endless oceans of Roon inside the lonely diver's head. Powerful arms propelled the muscular body through the water elegantly, and it was readily apparent that this creature was no stranger to water at all. When he suddenly turned toward the surface his moves were as fluid as those of an aquatic predator. Ever so slowly his smooth motions brought him closer to another element that was caressing the water and earth with gentle hands. Breaking the surface he drank the air greedily, his short black hair glued to his skull, and dark lashes blinked away the last water droplets from his black eyes. A smile formed on his narrow face and when he swam for the shore it lasted for a long time. Only when he stepped out of the dark green shallows to walk onto the beach did it fade a bit. He turned around once more, hands propped on slender hips, and watched the sun set over the dark blue of the sea. Sighing deeply he let his arms hang at his sides and his shoulders stooped ever so slightly. A soft curse echoed away into the advancing shadows, but it was lost in the vast embrace of the oncoming night as the man left the beach to vanish into the misty forests of Roon to prepare his mission.
Home. There was no way anything could come close to this feeling. He was finally home again. Well, of course, there were some things that could make his heart beat even faster.
But unfortunately those were currently on Naboo. Anakin Skywalker smiled. They had been married only a few months back and he missed her every day they were apart. Which was most of the time, actually. Padmé.
"You are thinking of her, are you not?"
He turned around and his smile broadened into a wide grin. "Mother."
Shmi Skywalker set down the tray on the small wooden table and shook her head slowly.
"It is plain on your face, you know? That absent-minded look ... I miss her too." She took a seat at the table and her fingers started tracing the tabletop's rough surface. "Come, sit down."
He did as asked, but the mood had changed somehow. Anakin could not forget why he had come here. No, not at all.
"Mother, you know that I talked to the Hutt."
She lay a hand on his gently and that shy smile appeared on her lips again. "Son, I told you before, my place is here."
"And I made a promise, and I mean to keep it."
"But not under any circumstances. Anakin, you are a Jedi now. Never forget that."
He gave her a pained look. "I know. But I want you to be free." A frown appeared on his face, scaring her. "Watto!" he hissed. "How dare he!"
"He is dead."
"And good riddance too. There is talk of war and Chancellor Palpatine says that the Hutts have a hand in it. Maybe I can make it so that Jabba-"
"Anakin. He is my owner now."
"Just because Watto left a few bills unpaid when he chose to leave this world ..."
"Son!" She stared at him, wide-eyed. "What is it with you? You are so angry, so on edge. Is it because Padmé is away again? You two should try to find more time together."
He looked at her steadily: "No. It is because I cannot stand seeing you here like this. All alone, always, smiling, always happy. Are you happy, Mother? Truly happy?"
Turning her head away she cast her eyes down demurely and fidgeted with her skirts. "I miss you," she whispered at last. "But my little boy has grown. And I cannot not always be with you."
"Don't say that!"
"But it is true. You have grown so fast. I have no place with you and Padmé."
"That is not right ..."
When she faced him again she was smiling once more: "You are a good boy, Anakin. But please, promise me one thing: do not let your anger get the better of you."
"I will. I promise." And this time I will keep it too.
Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi was studying the latest reports with a keen eye. "The Alliance is primarily attacking industrial worlds. That is where we will have to get to them," he explained.
At his side Chancellor Palptine heaved a defeated sigh and turned toward Kenobi slowly, his shoulders slumped in quiet defeat. "We do not have a choice anymore. I have sent Sri Olec to Nal Hutta to talk to the Hutts, but I doubt she will have any success. Still, we have to try. Meanwhile I suggest mobilizing all of our forces."
"The situation is grave, I agree, but we should not despair," Obi-Wan said soothingly. "The Alliance cannot hope to stand against the might of the Republic. Still, the Hutts have deep pockets and they will not shy back from anything to accomplish their goals. And the Alliance is merely a puppet, a decoy, for their sinister plans."
The Chancellor sighed again: "We should at least await Sri Olec's report. Of course, caution is to be advised, General. But be prepared. I do not believe we can prevent the inevitable. And when it comes to that, we need to be strong."
Nodding slowly the Jedi Master turned away to leave. He doubted that it had been a wise move to send Olec to Nal Hutta in the first place. She was an accomplished diplomat and as Minister of Foreign Affairs she was very skilled in negotiations, but the Hutts were not easy to read and even harder to intimidate. But who was he to question Palpatine's decisions? As the Chancellor had said, they needed to be prepared for any eventuality. On his way back to the Jedi Temple the general was already busy making plans. He would have to meet with the Defense Council, and he would have to call Anakin back. It had been six months that his friend had accomplished his trials and the Council had agreed to let him visit with his mother. Maybe they thought that he was better able to cope with her situation now, but Obi-Wan doubted that strongly. And yet, perhaps his marriage and newfound responsibility would help ease his young friend's inner tension. He would have to inform Amidala too. She would want to know what was going on, undoubtedly. Well, first the calls, then the meeting, and after that he could only wait and hope. Obi-Wan shook his head grimly. Patience was needed and he still had the feeling that they were running out of time.
Sitting back in his chair Darth Sidious smiled coldly. All pawns were in place and a game was about to begin that would shatter the Republic in no time. He had identified and nortured his enemies over the past years and they were now ready to make their move, once he initiated the race. It was, in fact, quite an impressive array of opponents that he was about to face, but they were nothing compared to the power of the Sith. After the unfortunate events on Naboo, which, as it had turned out, had not been so unfortunate at all, Sidious had spent a long time on devising a plan that would see the galaxy bend its knee to him and him alone. The loss of his apprentice had not delayed him for long, and besides, one had not needed until he was ready to strike again. Now though, this close to the crucial stage of his scheme, the Sith Lord had found the perfect tool for his endeavor. A willing tool for now, but ambitious too. He would need to keep a close eye on that one. Fortunately for him though Sidious did not rely on a single factor to work his plan. There were several levers to be pulled at exactly the right moment and should one of them fail another could take its place easily. It all came down to predicting the fitting time and place. And the right protagonists. As it were he had several on his enemies' side.
First there were the Jedi, and namely Kenobi, who had been promoted to a position that made him vulnerable and his fellow Jedi with him, even if they did not realize it yet. Then Senator Amidala from Naboo, a strong voice for the voiceless with a mind that he would be careful to engage if she did not have that particular weakness. Her only vice, as it seemed, was her husband. Anakin Skywalker. The Chosen One. The prophecies had come true at last and he was the pivotal element in the battle to come. But Sidious had to make certain that noone caught on to that at all. No, Skywalker had to remain innocent and unsullied for now. The Sith Lord knew very well that to be able to coordinate this whole affair he had to remain hidden and inconspicious, trusted and feared. The one to bring this game into motion would be his apprentice. His apprentice. Well, that one had survived his first encounter with the Jedi already and come out of that battle with flying colors. He did not overestimate himself and he knew his opponents very well. The Sith Master was still trying to find the flaw that would allow him to crack the man in the end. A difficult task. But maybe in the game ahead an opportunity would present itself. Of course, before it could come to that a certain Jedi Knight had to become his for good. Anakin Skywalker. Curious, wasn't it, how everything seemed to hinge on the young man, unknown to himself. The future of the Jedi and the Sith lay heavily on his shoulders and Sidious hoped dearly that he would not break from the effort once hs destiny was revealed. Until then though a lot of things had to happen and even more time to pass. And yet, Darth Sidious knew very well that the game was only a matter of form. In reality he had won already.