The noise of the settlement was slowly subsiding into the everlasting silence of the desert. That was how the real, deep desert was: the occasional howl of wind, murmur of shifting grains of sand, and the stunned quietness of rocks, and the eternal silence of the sky above.
There was only a single moon that night, a pale disk outlined in white against the slowly dying fiery reds of sunset. The sky was dripping blood, or so the Sand People believed. She knew a similar belief, coming from a place lost far back among the passing years: that the red sky meant blood had been shed somewhere.
Brushing the rugged hem of her robe aside, she knelt in the sand. The grains in her hand were still warm from sunlight. Like tiny souls, still warm with last fleeing sparks of life.
Up above, first stars were climbing up the darkening sky. She looked up, among the stars. Somewhere there, far away, blood had been shed. Was being shed, still, in crimson rivers.
Her fingers convulsed around the hilt of her lightsaber. Then she laid it down, into a tiny hole dug out in the sand. There was no further use of it. There was no longer anything she could save. The sand whispered as she shoved it atop the metal hilt, burying her past with it, along with the last remains of hope. No dreams, for her dreams had been buried long months ago, in the fires of a beginning war.
The night was quiet, serene. Peaceful, so peaceful it hurt. It hurt to feel breath in her lungs, to feel the faint wind on her face, sand under her feet. To live knowing so many had died, and the world was falling. Or maybe it had fallen already, she could not tell any longer. What remained was not quite emptiness; it was the burning feeling of loss, the lack of things that used to be there for so long the world was incomplete without them. The night was divine in its beauty, and it hurt all the more, knowing the universe could just go on.
"Bellezza divina," whispered a voice beside her, so softly it sounded like a gust of wind.
She turned her head abruptly, her hand reaching for the lightsaber which was no longer at her belt. Behind her, there was only clear air. And yet... She knew that voice. She knew that language.
Impossible, she thought grimly. That voice was dead, and forever lost in darkness.
"Just improbable," said the same voice, so, so close beside her.
Taking a slow, deep breath she closed her eyes. "But you are dead," she whispered back, into the night.
"My body, yes." There was a shift in the Force, and a thought touched her mind softly. One cannot kill the spirit.
But you were lost...
"You do no longer believe there can be redemption?" the question was soft, barely audible.
"You know I do. But how-... why-..." She raised a hand to her face and wiped something away from the corners of her eyes. In the desert, one did not shed tears for the dead. Yet she was, after all, not a desert creature.
"It is lonely here, is it not?"
"It's how the deserts are. Lonely." A thought occurred to her. That, maybe, they both were walking a desert, just each of them a different one. "Is it cold, out there?"
"And... the Beyond?"
"I have not seen it, not yet. I have to find a way first; it is my atonement."
"Is that how it felt, in the end?"
There was a long silence, and she thought he was gone, or maybe only a dream, a mirage-...
"Yes." And then, after another pause. "There is nothing splendid about the Dark."
"Then why did you go?"
"Many reasons. None seems good enough right now."
The wind swept over her gently, brushing her face; a lightest of touches, like a shadow of a feather.
"If I open my eyes-..." she did not finish the question.
"I will not be there," answered the voice softly. "You know it."
Her heart contracted; she had dared to hope she would be less lonely, if only for a while. She took a deep breath, then let it out slowly, her imagination clothing the exhaled air into mist. The mist coiled and formed a silhouette, gradually taking on colours. Outlines of the face, a memory of sunset on the sand; white starlight of hair; robes, tailored with dust blowing among desert rocks; and finally the dark gleam of the eyes, like a reflection of the night sky on the surface of water. She smiled to that imagined face, despite herself.
And suddenly the vision changed, features softening, wrinkles smoothing out, hair taking on the colour of the dark sky.
"I truly am here," he said, and the ghostly lips smiled at her gently.
"But you cannot be a Force ghost."
"No. I am not."
She did not ask further, not of that. Did it matter, anyway, really matter? The Force had more than just one way.
"Why are you here? Why come to me?"
"To wander with you. That is my unfinished quest, the oath that binds me. I have promised once to always be there for you, shall you ever need me; here I am."
"Will-... will you stay?"
"Until the end, just like I have been with you ever since my own."
"I have never heard you before."
"No. For that, you need silence. You have often been on your own, but there were voices, noises, echoes. Now, in this place, it is only you alone with silence. It is quiet enough to listen to your thoughts."
Another smile, bittersweet, as he raised his hand to her face. There was a fleeting, faint impression of warmth on her cheek.
"Stelletta, that is where I still live. In you."
Nothing was changed in the desert when she opened her eyes, but suddenly everything felt serene, not lonely, and even the starlight grew warmer. The night turned into a scene of quiet, divine beauty, and she was part of it.
The lightsaber sprang up, in a fountain of sand, and landed on her outstretched palm. Maybe it was over for her, and she could no longer save anything dear to hear heart, but, out there, away, there still were things worth fighting for.
The quiet beauty of the night was no longer painful. Now, there was strength in it.
"That's right, Little Star," said the voice beside her. The wind was blowing softly, in gentle, almost regulars gusts, like a breath. "Rise up and shine."
Bellezza divina - 'divine beauty'; Stelleta ~ 'little star' (at least the online translator says so...)