Summary: While on the planet Cath to witness a royal coronation, Obi-Wan Kenobi and his 16 year old apprentice Anakin Skywalker discover an ancient enemy of the Jedi. An enemy Obi-Wan has faced before.
The usual disclaimers apply. George Lucas owns it all, I'm not making any money on this.
This was the first Star Wars fanfic I ever wrote and posted. I want to thank Valeda Kor who kindly took the time to beta it. Subtle changes and improvements to the plot have been made to fix errors and weaknesses.
Sweat stung Anakin Skywalker's eyes but he fought the urge to wipe them clear. A moment of weakness would be his downfall. His breathing came in short quick gasps as he leapt, flipped and sliced his pale blue lightsaber through the air only to be caught in the grinding of a well timed block.
Obi-Wan Kenobi pushed Anakin back, growling through clenched teeth as he twisted his lightsaber free and landed a swift kick to the boy's chest.
Stumbling slightly, the youth quickly regained his footing and dodge the powerful blows leveled at him. He took a step backwards. Not this time, Anakin thought as he blocked another hit.
Lightsabers flashed through the air.
Moving with grace and ease, Anakin quickly swept around, driving his weapon down against his opponent. He willed the smile turning up the corners of his mouth to still as he caught Obi-Wan, but his master quickly blocked and leapt free of the mighty assault.
Delight danced through Anakin's mind. He knew he was giving Obi-Wan a good fight. The duel had lasted better than a standard hour with neither one delivering the fatal blow to end the battle.
They walked cautious circles, the power of the Force swirling between them. Anakin's wild, turbulent emotions drove his actions. He faked a lunge and drew back to judge his master's reaction.
A calm radiated from Obi-Wan as the Force guided his moves. Seasoned in battle, he did not allow Anakin's taunting to distract him from the task at hand.
Anakin studied the subtle shifts of the older Jedi's movement. From years of practice and friendship he knew that Obi-Wan was mentally dissecting him, searching for that one unguarded moment of weakness to take him down.
Not this time, Anakin reminded himself as he focused on the weariness entering his master's moves. A small ripple in the Force gave him Obi-Wan's next strategy. Moving quickly, he intercepted the Jedi as he feinted left, but rushed right.
Taken off guard, Obi-Wan barely blocked the fierce attack as he was quickly driven backward. Deftly he dodged a killing blow. His lightsaber hummed through the air as he turned, striking quickly at his apprentice.
Anakin kicked out as he spun free, catching Obi-Wan's bearded chin with his boot, sending the knight down to the rough stone floor. The youth's lightsaber crashed down against the deck as Obi-Wan twisted and hopped to his feet. Missing a wild swing, he flipped over Anakin bringing his weapon down at a hard angle, nearly overtaking the boy. Only Anakin's quick reflexes saved him.
The dance of lightsabers filled the air with electricity.
This is too easy, Anakin mused as he easily anticipated Obi-Wan's next move.
A static crash turned the tables, sending him on the retreat. He reached out with the Force, but his thoughts were raging and uncontrolled as he was driven to the nearby stone wall. He dodged parried left and thrust.
The pale and bright blue hues of the two lightsabers crackled as they came together menacingly, their wielders unwilling to break away. Muscles strained as the two glowing blades of light slid down to the hilts.
Sweat clung to the tips of Obi-Wan's ginger hair as he pressed against the wayward padawan, who not only had the advantage of youth but of height and strength as Anakin brought his weight to bear against the locked sabers.
The Force moved as Anakin's thoughts raced. He reached out with the Force attempting to ascertain, to know, how Obi-Wan planned on getting out of this.
Sifting through tactics and strategies, he felt a flicker.
Drowning in eyes black as space.
In the distance of a heartbeat, the all-encompassing power of the Force asserted itself. For a split second Anakin was awed by its strength. A sense of warning and protection flared then a violent surge of power exploded between the two combatants.
Anakin stumbled, nearly swept off his feet as he struggled to regain his footing on the smooth stone beneath. Bringing his guard up he was surprised to notice that Obi-Wan had the same brief look of confusion.
They eyed each other warily as they walked circles, their lightsabers guaranteeing a certain distance for the moment.
Oddly, the Force push left Anakin slightly rattled. It had been a strange sensation, one that he had never felt before. At the edge of his distracted thoughts he could sense the ripple of warning that the power still existed, waiting to assert itself once again.
He noted the calm resolve washing over his master. Obi-Wan didn't seem too unsettled by the ripple.
Anakin resisted the urge to comment, already knowing how the master would answer.
In battle the enemy doesn't have to play fair. Deal with it.
Raging on the thought, Anakin lunged forward on the offensive. Obi-Wan could have all the tricks in the world; they would not save him. At the tender age of sixteen the youth not only equaled his master's formidable fighting skill, but now was surpassing him. Still, he was unable to produce the all-important killing blow, dragging the sparring match on. He forced Obi-Wan on the retreat, moving as if unhindered by the ground beneath him.
"I have you now."
"Don't get cocky," Obi-Wan warned under his breath, the exhaustion evident in his voice.
A swift kick to the shoulder again sent Anakin on the defensive, striving to block each strike as Obi-Wan drove him to the edge of the practice floor. But his master's movements were getting slower, and Anakin found with each clash of the lightsaber they were becoming easier to block. Anakin slashed through the air and Obi-Wan faltered. It was all the youth needed as he threw his strength into a menacing attack.
In a fluid, dance-like movement, Obi-Wan deactivated his lightsaber and moved to intercept Anakin's great momentum. Using the sheer strength behind the apprentice's forward motion to his advantage, the Jedi master locked his arm around his padawan's. Aided by the power of the Force he anchored himself in place.
A grunt escaped Anakin as he was roughly jerked backwards. The sudden change in momentum sent his feet flying and he landed hard on the floor. Air exploded from his lungs as his saber flew across the room.
Before he could summon his weapon, the warm hum of Obi-Wan's lightsaber grazed the tender flesh of his neck. Grudgingly, Anakin laid his head back and half panted, "You win." He closed his eyes and centered for a moment. "You could have ended the fight at any time." The realization ached like the faint pain in his back.
The weariness of his master's movements and voice all but disappeared as he offered Anakin a helping hand. "Yes, but the question you should be asking is, why didn't I?"
"Not something else to meditate on," Anakin groaned. "Should I expect another lecture or center myself first?" He gave a small teasing smile.
Both men exchanged the customary bow.
For Obi-Wan, there was never any gloating in the win. Only a serene calmness that he had done what he had set out to accomplish. In this case, that was to humble his somewhat arrogant apprentice. His impassive face never gave hint to the emotions behind his eyes.
Sometimes--just once at least--Anakin wished Obi-Wan would show just a little exuberance in such a win, especially after one of the more trying bouts. "As usual I underestimated you," the boy said, still trying to goad some reaction from his master as he smoothed his dark tunic. His grin filled his face. "You fooled me."
Obi-Wan didn't return the smile like he always did. Instead he turned away, fingers gently massaging his temples.
There it was again, Anakin thought. A flicker of somethingdark.
Like a splash of cold water to the face it hit him. Obi-Wan was blocking. Not just a little. Not closing out certain thoughts. For the first time Anakin felt as if their bond was in danger of being severed. It was an uncomfortable feeling for him to think of losing that bond. He didn't want to lose it, not after it had been so hard to gain in the first place. He had come to enjoy and depend on the connection with his young master. It had saved him too many times, and given him a unique insight to the quiet Jedi.
This was different, unsettling as Obi-Wan walked quietly off the practice floor.
Anakin quickly withdrew, sensing that same surge in the Force that occurred while they were sparring.
It was soft. Distant. Displaced. Anakin fought to quickly squash a burgeoning headache, but realized it wasn't his.
"Master?" he called out becoming concerned.
Drowning in eyes black as space.
Summoning his lost lightsaber, he broke into a jog to catch up with the knight. Calling out, he broke protocol. "Obi-Wan?"
* * *
The Jedi turned to face Anakin's worried look with a furrowed brow, then his expression lightened. "You should clean up," he said absently, not really paying attention to the apprentice, his gaze distant and unfocused. Thoughts, elsewhere.
"Meditatemeditate on why you lost."
No, that's not what he would usually tell Anakin, but at the moment it was the only thing he could offer as the headache stepped up a notch. The look on Anakin's face concerned him as he looked into the boy's wide blue eyes. The dull roar in the back of his head left him feeling unbalanced. A wave of dizziness made his surroundings move and shift as if alive.
"I can't do this, Master," he murmured out loud.
"Obi-Wan?" Anakin asked as he reached for the older Jedi, who seemed unsteady on his feet.
Instantly Obi-Wan snapped to attention, pulling away from Anakin. "Go, you have things to do," he said weakly as he turned to walk away.
Anakin was left standing on the practice floor, a look of worry coloring his handsome features.
15 Years Earlier
The silence of the large, rounded room was deafening. It always was when things had not gone well.
Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn carefully eyed many of the members seated around the Council chambers. His expression was somber, matching the mood of those who watched him. The stillness reverberated through the room, defying the constant movement of the commerce lines that flowed in wide arcs around the ancient temple.
In almost an act of defiance, the rich, natural brown of Qui-Gon's cloak shifted as he drew his arms into a tighter fold. "There was no warning."
The calmness radiating in his voice left no room for doubt in his statement. The venerable Jedi held his head high as if daring the Council members to contradict him. His gaze finally settled on Mace Windu.
The equally commanding senior Council member met Qui-Gon with a steady gaze. Pressing the tips of his long fingers together in a contemplative stance, Mace studied the maverick that stood calmly before him.
"According to your report, these rebels knew exactly where the negotiations were being held. They apparently knew exactly where everyone was sitting as evidenced that Ambassador Vison was shot without hesitation."
Only silence reigned.
Qui-Gon began, "The senate—"
"Has closed their investigation of the Adamere incident," Mace finished.
"Our own Council we will keep," Yoda interrupted, "on when this matter is closed."
The tall Jedi nodded respectfully to the diminutive master. The ends of his gray streaked hair fell forward. "They came in quickly," Qui-Gon said, rebuffed. "Somehow information was leaked."
"Obviously," Mace said coolly.
"Every precaution had been taken."
Ki-Adi Mundi leaned forward in his chair. He spoke in a gentle tone belying his position and his interest in getting on with the questioning. "Explain what happened after the rebels stormed the negotiations."
Qui-Gon acknowledged the master with a slight nod, thankful for the respite from Mace's interrogation. "Ambassador Vison was shot the moment the rebels stormed the room. His associate Exen fell next."
"And then?" Mace pushed.
"And then I woke up on theHepterius en route back to Coruscant."
Qui-Gon gave a sidelong glance at his apprentice who stood silently next to him. His firm expression gave no hint of the concern that flooded through him. A thickness clogged his memories. Vaguely he flashed on the dull ache that had been at the back of his head as he trudged through the small transport searching for his missing padawan.
Mace relaxed a little, folding back into the shape of his chair, glancing over at Yoda in silent counsel before his gaze returned to Qui-Gon. "Was there any way that Minister Tepin could have got the information out?"
"As I stated in my report," Qui-Gon repeated, "every precaution had been taken. There was nothere was a vague sense of uncertainty. If Minister Tepin was involved he masked it well."
"Tepin was quite involved," Mundi spoke up. "He's claimed responsibility for organizing the coup. Placed himself Viceroy. The settlement is under martial law, on the verge of civil war."
"Doomed to fail it was," Master Yoda said after a long pause as if finally accepting what he had long known. "More willing to fight than seek a peaceful solution." His gaze never met Qui-Gon's; instead, he settled on the apprentice.
"We had hoped the Adamerians would have at least tried negotiation before attempting an overthrow," Mace added as a wave of his hand dismissed the Jedi.
Qui-Gon bowed and began to retreat toward the doors.
"I just have one more question." The tone in Mace's voice was deadly serious. Unwavering, his dark eyes settled upon Obi-Wan, who had stood silently by his master's side during the questioning.
"Where were you?" His voice was steady as he spoke up again after a long lull, "Have you nothing to say?"
Obi-Wan stood silently, arms folded into the sleeves of his cloak. His head bowed in a gesture of humility.
"Master Jinn said you were sent to retrieve a case for Minister Tepin. Is this correct?" Mace watched the young man carefully. "Yes or no?"
Another long silence permeated the chambers.
"Acknowledge me when I am speaking to you."
Quickly Obi-Wan looked up, his sharp eyes briefly meeting Mace's. After a moment, cloudiness glazed over them as he stared back down at the pattern on the floor.
Jedi or not, he knew they were all watching him intensely, attempting to discern his secrets. There were vague, distant attempts to probe his heavily shielded mind.
Master Mace kept speaking but the words scarcely came through the static and raging headache that was slowly numbing his mind.
Questions were being asked of him from all ends of the circular room. All he wanted was to answer them. Tell them–himself–what had happened.
The answer was simple enough.
Master Jinn had sent him to retrieve the case for Minister Tepin. The Ambassador needed some information he had mistakenly forgotten. Vison had refused to allow a break in the negotiations so Qui-Gon had arbitrated an agreement to allow the apprentice to go in Tepin's stead. Tepin had been quite upset but agreed to it.
The young Jedi shook his head. Why hadn't Tepin's reaction bothered him before?
Obi-Wan tried to focus. His thoughts had been so scattered since waking in the med center days before.
"Where were you?" Mace demanded.
The tiles in the floor seemed strangely interesting. They wavered and pulsed as the dull throbbing stepped up a notch to a stabbing pain in Obi-Wan's head. Every time Adamere had been mentioned any thought he would have had on the subject washed away.
"How did you get to the transport before Master Jinn?" Mace pressed.
He would tell the revered master if only he could formulate the words. Focus his thoughts. Even remember being on the transport.
Yoda had stopped stirring his gimer stick against the floor. He studied the apprentice.
The Council's eyes weighed heavily on Obi-Wan.
Just answer the question, the youth screamed in his thoughts. Just tell them, you were walking...where?
Something had happened to him, that he knew.
Drowning in eyes as black as space.
Something had been in his mind.
In its wake there was a trail of devastation that he could not even begin to comprehend.
The patterns in the floor fluctuated. The room seemed so big and loud.
A sense of warmth filled him. Beckoning him to look up to the tall and serene figure of his master.
Worry colored Qui-Gon's face. Concern filled him with the sense of how disturbed the Force was swirling around his apprentice.
A few deep, calming breaths. All Obi-Wan had to do was ease his agitated emotions, release the frustration to the Force and he would be able to answer the questions.
He would be able to tell them something terrible had happened.
Mace continued, "How did you get to the transport--"
Qui-Gon quickly spoke up. "He's only been released from the healer's care for a day. He spent the entire trip from Adamere unconscious--"
"Master Jinn," Mace said sternly. "He managed to fly the transport off Adamere, set the coordinates and send the ship into hyperspace. A Jedi has remarkable abilities but I have yet to see them do anything like that while completely unconscious." He stared at Obi-Wan. "Where were you when the negotiations came under siege?"
The normally quiet halls of the ancient temple vibrated with the pounding of footsteps as Anakin dodged and darted around casual walkers.
The dark leather of the padawan's boots was a blur as he sped, tilted and barely made a corner. Skidding over the polished tile, blue eyes darted along the length of the hall as he unconsciously reached out for the Force.
Pulled along on a current of energy he started sprinting toward an unknown destination. He didn't need vision or hearing to guide him. His entire being buzzed with the sense of all paths everything moved on, the entire temple pulsing with its own intensity. The arcane power cascaded over him like the great waterfall of Theed; his senses tuned to a bright, shining thread. Grasping onto the conduit of light, Anakin chased it through the immense structure.
So focused on the singular thread he never saw the tall figure of Ki-Adi Mundi until it was nearly too late. Anakin's feet got in the way as he tried to stop, tumbled, rolled and leapt back up in a single fluid motion.
"Excuse me, Master!"
"Young Skywalker," Mundi said calmly, hardly ruffled by the boy's antics.
Anakin executed a formal bow. His breathing was quick and he made no attempt to calm himself, his thoughts reaching out and riding on the Force searching the vast temple for the thread he had dropped in his near collision.
"Is there not someplace you should be?"
"I'm on my way there now," Anakin said as he abruptly took off running again, having found the thread.
Mundi just shook his long head.
Anakin's gait slowed as he jogged closer to the library, never stopping as he continued past the large doors and on down the hall. The bright thread of light guided him around corners to a rarely used section of the temple.
The large room that overlooked the flowing veins of cloud cars went unused save for nontraditional celebrations and gatherings.
He made no attempt to mask his presence.
The natural and artificial glow of Coruscant poured in through the large glass domed ceiling. Golden light that danced over the intricate floor pattern reminded the youth of the gently shifting sands of Tatooine. Immediately he shook off the notion of home in favor of a more urgent matter.
A soft pounding echoed in the back of his thoughts connected to the shimmering thread that drew him deeper into the large room.
Am I the only one? He thought. There is an entire temple full of Jedi. They have to know. How could they not? The constant thrumming was a homing beacon.
Master?Anakin called out softly over the strangled bond to the figure standing near the curved windows.
The stillness of the large room radiated calming energies toward his turbulent emotions. Anakin paused, breathing in deeply and centered himself.
Master?A little more forcefully this time.
On the edge there was a threat just out of reach.
"You are blocking me again."
Obi-Wan turned to stare at his apprentice with a mild hint of alarm that would have been missed by anyone but Anakin.
"Something about our next assignment has changed," the boy said, as if testing the air. "We're still going to Cath. Something's different."
The youth hesitated as if waiting for the answer to reveal itself through the Force. The masters of the Council chambers were keeping a tight hold on their information. His mind was racing with excitement, sensing another grand adventure to mark his young life.
"The Council has summoned us. I have been urged to find you quickly. They are waiting."
There was little response from the silent figure by the window.
"I tried contactingyou were blocking me again." Anakin tried to steel his voice but a little crack seeped through. Quickly he let loose a roguish grin to cover up his weakness. "I'm beginning to think this is some lesson you're teaching me on how to find people who don't want to be found."
Again Anakin caught the brief look of alarm and then Obi-Wan's expression eased, followed by a slightly fake smile. "I am sorry," Obi-Wan said softly as he looked back at the boy. Then folding his arms into his cloak sleeves he walked slowly across the large room. "My thoughts have been elsewhere."
Surprise momentarily clouded Anakin's face at his master's indifference. "You were really blocking me." This had not been a case of his master loosing focus or meditating deeply. It was intentional blocking. And over the last few weeks, it was becoming too much even for Anakin to bear. He walked a few steps with his eyes closed, the Force providing an alternate sense of his surroundings. He didn't want Obi-Wan to see the frustration in his eyes.
There was a loneliness that had begun to fill him.
So much like the chill that had consumed him on his first trip to Coruscant aboard the Nubian.