IV

Images formed in front of the stone. He saw a group of people sitting on the grass in front of a curtain of waterfalls and a lake, all of them dressed in finery, with a young teenager standing at the group's front. Luke strove to see her face because he knew that she was the one, she was his mother he had come to see—but then it was her voice he paid attention to. With entertaining anecdotes and brief explosions of poetry, she captivated him as the audience was captivated. He knew not what she was speaking for, but when she asked for support he was willing to get up from the back of the group and raise his hand.

But he was not in the back of the group of Nabooese in the first days of Padme Naberrie's brilliant political career. He was in the Force, and another scene replaced the first one.

The second experience was an impression, not a physical vision; it had been a period of time, but she, the eloquent speaker, had fallen in love with Anakin Skywalker. He was handsome then, a galactic traveler, just like Luke had once imagined him to be. They married, and she grew to know what it was to be in such a relationship with a Jedi. Although their emotions ran hot, they saw one another rarely. When the Clone Wars began to intensify, she worried about him often. Were she to die, as unlikely as an attack on Coruscant would be at this time, he would know through the Force. Were he to die on a battlefield, she might never know the circumstances.

Luke received no visuals for this, but only impressions and emotions. The same was true of the next scene.

Words of betrayal were spoken to her. No one had betrayed her personally, but it felt like Ben—the messenger, an old friend!—had, in a way, when he told her that the slaughter at the Jedi Temple had been enacted by her husband.

Then came a quick visual of Luke's mother kneeling on a platform shielded against rivers of lava, with the malevolent hand of the Force at her throat.

Then she lay in an unfamiliar bed with pain drawing red hazes like the trails of worms across her eyes. She loved and hated Anakin now, but when Ben, younger than Luke had ever imagined, came to her side she had only one truth for him. There is still good in Anakin.

The last image—and he knew it was the last before it ended, because this time it was real—was of the woman his mother, facing away from him, wearing a red velvet dress. She ran her hands across it, looking down at the floor. She stood in black space, in a world of nothingness and the glass beneath their feet; the Force was quiet.

She turned and looked at him for the first time. Their eyes caught—he sensed pure strength from her, longing and caring, and attention which filled a void in his heart he had forgotten about long decades ago on Tatooine. They stared at one another for a time, and then the Force let Luke gently back into reality.

He stood on the grass before the infinity stone, Cy beside it with her arms crossed. He smiled at her.

"You saw something?" She asked.

"Yeah. Did you?"

"No. I watched you stand."

He turned and walked out; she followed a pace behind. In silence they walked back to camp, then used the Force and the beaten grass to take the route Corran and the others had taken earlier in the morning. It was a comfortable silence, and he felt that if she asked he would tell her what had transpired; but the vision, like Padme's life, was more than the sum of its parts. He thought back on his former opinions of her.

When he had hated Anakin Skywalker for abandoning him, he had hated her. But those moments had not been long, and where he had occupied himself with dramatized imaginings of Anakin's adventures as a freighter captain, he had had no knowledge of her.

Now, he knew that he did not have enough information to judge her—and that that was best. He could look objectively now and see her as beautiful and tragic. Fated, as all of the Skywalkers were. He knew enough now…to know what he did not know.

He thought these things as they walked through the fields of wild grass, and came to the group of Reeras. The offworlders were sitting together on the grass beside a group of children playing a game with a flying disk. Kell was smiling in the way of her species, crocodilian jaws agape, and De'shar was eating a pastry, as was First-Rank Viceroy Tlun, his secretary, and a third Reeran. This one stood after the two Jedi Masters turned their heads as Luke approached.

"Welcome!" He said through a thin translation device. "I am Second-Rank Viceroy Mnua."

Luke bowed and murmured his name.

"Your associates have been excellent to me! I haven't seen such a display of skill at Frisbee for…since the upset of L'tan! The New Republic has given us many kind entreaties in the realms of politics. But I have always believed that leisure time is a show of character. Was the Magic appeased, by your visitation?"

The shift in topic was so quick and the talk about leisure so foreign to Luke that he took a moment to answer. "It gave me what I came for," he said, seriously.

Mnua smiled. "Excellent. My associates are negotiating finalities with Lady De'Shar right now. Soon the senate will see our faces." He smiled, conspiratorial. "And perhaps your HoloNet will show our sports."

"It will be improved by them," Cy said formally, eyeing the bizarre Frisbee teams.

"My apprentice, Cy-Raxx," said Luke quietly. He did not know why he didn't want to talk. He felt serious and, although it was not the expression he thought of first, lonely. The Force had made it clear that Padme, not being Force-sensitive, could not speak to him as his father and teachers had.

Mnua said, "I'm sure you have heard this before, but it is rare for Magic-users to be born to the Reera people. The rest of your team proved themselves already; I would like for you too to demonstrate the peaceful applications of your power. Our planet is imbued with it; we are not superstitious. But it has been a long time since we have seen a Grand Master."

He restrained himself from saying I am no Grand Master. I have been named such by no one.

Instead he nodded sagely and did not have to say anything, because one team of Reeran children scampered off the field and to Kell and her group. The two groups switched. Kell, Corran, and De'Shar jogged onto the field, and Luke found himself laughing as they formed up against the child Reerans, sticks in their hands and joy in the Force. The children, who had just returned, grimy from the game, clustered around Luke, Cy, and Mnua and looked up at them with strange, double, golden eyes. They shuffled their feet and swayed their skirt-like tentacles.

One spoke a word from the back of the crowd and the others stilled.

"Tolpu asks for magic," Mnua said.

Luke knelt down to the children's' level and looked about for something to levitate. After some thought, he spoke. "The Magic is great power. It must be used carefully." He glanced at Mnua, who translated. "I will not give you tricks." After the translation the children stilled again; some lowered their heads, and Luke could sense their disappointment. He was glad to redeem it. "But I will give my apprentice a test." Reeran heads perked up again.

Luke stood; the children formed a scraggly line in front of him. "Cy," Luke said, spying an extra Frisbee stick on the grass at the end of the group of children, about two meters away. "Bring me that stick."

The challenge for her would not be to levitate the object. It would be to do it when so many impressionable eyes were upon her, and when experience told her that there probably was a twist to the simple task, which for once there wasn't. But the Force was with her; she lifted one hand, drawing bravery and serenity from the light side and from her master. The stick floated over the heads of some of the children and into her hand.

Many of the Reerans made hooting sounds and said words; Mnua interpreted them as expressions of delight or amazement. Two of the children from the middle of the group darted away and hid behind the group with their arms around one another.

Luke and Cy performed a few more Force powers for the children. Delight clung to them in a cloud, so that even though the show was over quickly, they returned to the sidelines to watch the game happily. The frightened pair sat on the ground, one's face buried between the tendrils on the other's shoulder, with his own wrapped tightly around his legs. They looked up when it was only the two Jedi and Mnua, whom they reacted to not as if he were a president of the planet but as if he were their older brother, standing beside them. They babbled.

"They do not mean to have offended you," Mnua said. "They were frightened by the space between the stick and your apprentice's hand."

"I understand," said Luke. "These powers do not seem natural to some. Your fear is that I had, when I first saw a sandstorm. The world had become a wall; it had changed. It bore down on the house. The Force can do that too. But it is natural. The light side is natural to us." He reached out and, although the Reerans recoiled at first, he formed a miniature cloud in his hands, condensing the moisture in the air, reaching down to accelerate the molecules so that when the construct approached the Reeran, it gave off a gentle heat, and also a psychic warmth. Even though the Reerans were not Force-sensitive, they would be able to see gentleness and consideration in his eyes.

He allowed them to feel the miniature storm, and then dissipated it, and stood up, inviting them to do the same. They did, and walked back to their peers, no longer frightened of what they did not understand.

Mnua urged on a child who almost tripped over its tendrils as it ran past Kell with the Frisbee and threw.

Luke sensed that Cy wished to speak to him. He led her a few steps away, just beyond the unofficial circle of Reeran activity. She showed him the lightsaber crystal in her hand, turning it over and over with her fingers.

She said, "You told me that making my own lightsaber, putting this heart in it, symbolized who I am, and that I can take care of myself. I am self-sufficient, when I have to be. I survived a war. I survived knowing that it's not always your own skill that determines whether or not you survive a war. I am something different now…I'm not just a Jedi, either…" Her intentions were clearer than words. This means you'll stay with me. I'm afraid you might not.

She held the crystal out to him.

He took it.