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Untitled Document

Oasis Begins In Dawn's Azure Light Aisle.

Episode I: Azure and Gold

so blue, 't was a dream,
An impossible, unconceived hue,
The high sky of summer dropped down
Some rapturous ocean to woo.

Azure & Gold by Amy Lowell (1874-1925)
From A Dome of Many Colored Glass.

Part 10: Trials of Dreams.

Obi-Wan stood before the doors to the Council chambers silently reviewing all the times he had been here before with his Master, as Qui-Gon harangued the members into surrender over a seemingly impossible cause.

First there had been the argument to change the wording of the Code, to allow Padawans and other Jedi to realise that emotion was unavoidable in life no matter what the situation, for it coloured every thought and view one made. That by becoming distant and detached one risked losing the ability to understand the way of the universe, of compassion, guidance and justice, all things which made the Jedi who they were. Not only had he convinced the Council to see the wisdom in his point of view, Qui-Gon had managed to achieve a new system of training the younglings to recognise emotion, as well as the adoption of the older Code, which by changing the word 'no' for 'yet', allowed the existence of emotion within the Order.

Secondly, there had been the argument that younglings should not be denied of their potential to become Jedi just because no Master had chosen to accept them as their Padawan learner. Qui-Gon reminded the Council of the scarcity of Jedi recently, brought on not just by the Lost Nineteen, but practice of celibacy, and the decision to send talented initiates to Bandomeer. He displayed Obi-Wan as the perfect example of where such a mistake had been made, and made a point of thanking Master Yoda for sending him on a mission to the service corps planet while his future Padawan also travelled there, enabling him to realise the potential the boy had, leading them to one of the finest partnerships of the Order.

Obi-Wan had never felt more proud of his Master than that day when the Council agreed to review each youngling who did not get selected, presenting them with the option of remaining at the Temple for more learning, or leaving to follow another career. The numbers of the Order had increased significantly since then.

Lastly, there had been the occasion when Qui-Gon had fought for the extension of what had become known as the Corellian experiment. The Jedi who came from said system were unique in the Order, in that they rarely ventured beyond their native planet for missions in the field, and defied the Code on a regular basis by forming attachments and having children, who went on to become Jedi under their parent's tutelage.

Apart from one notable exception made to a Council Member, the Order accepted such practice only amongst those Jedi who were from Corellia, knowing the planet's tradition in regarding family as important. Qui-Gon however fought to extend the experiment to include the entire Order, arguing that allowing Jedi to marry would increase numbers and destroy the common impression formed by outsiders that the Jedi considered themselves superior to non-force sensitives, being determined to isolate themselves from the Republic which they served.

Now, they were here again, this time on the subject of the Chosen One, whom his Master seemed convinced was Anakin. Obi-Wan observed the boy as he stood beside Qui-Gon, his curious eyes darting about the corridor they were waiting in, taking in every detail they could see. He could not deny that Anakin was powerful in the Force, he could sense the signature in him, a beacon of light so bright as to be immediately distinguishable from all the others who were in the Temple at this moment. But he doubted that Anakin was the Chosen One. True the boy possessed great potential, but his background told against him, having an undeniable impact on his emotional, physical and intellectual welfare.

Instead of freeing him from the clutches of slavery, Qui-Gon had simply bound the boy to another type of indentured service, one from which he could not escape, and would expose him to even more of the evil in this universe. Already the Council's impression of the boy had been coloured by his Master's belief in his potential, rendering the outcome of this meeting dubious whichever way the judgement went.

Whatever this day held for Anakin, the moment would be forever imprinted upon the mind of the boy, inevitably clouding his fate. If he came to learn of the main reason why Qui-Gon had strove to free him, and Obi-Wan held now the increasing certainty that he would, then a burden would be placed on him from which he would never escape, and one that he could never possibility fulfil, perhaps even exceed.

A Chosen One said to bring balance to the Force. Such a concept meant that the Force was unbalanced at this time, which Obi-Wan could not see the logic in, unless the existence of the Sith whom his Master had fought meant that, as oppose to showing the Order that the dark side had to coexist with the light, else chaos would ensue.

But if Anakin was a vergence, then that would imply either that a more powerful Sith existed than the one Qui-Gon fought, and or the boy was meant to learn about both sides of the Force in order to balance it, indicating that the darkness of the Sith was due to rise over the Jedi once more. With all this reasoning in mind, could the Council really afford to take the risk of training Anakin? Obi-Wan doubted it. However he knew his Master's stubbornness, his often single-minded determination to force the Council into conceding the wisdom of his argument. Whatever their judgement, Obi-Wan did not doubt that Qui-Gon would fight to achieve Anakin's acceptance to the Temple, what ever the cost might be.

And while he applauded such methods, Obi-Wan feared what the outcome might prove, and who would be the looser in the conflict.

The doors opened, causing the Jedi to rise to their feet, and enter the chamber, Anakin ushered ahead by Qui-Gon, all three halting in the centre of the room.

"Finished we are with our examination of the boy," Yoda declared. "Correct you were, Qui-Gon."

Master Windu nodded. "His cells contain a very high concentration of midi-chlorians."

Obi-Wan caught the emphasis on 'very high' as opposed to vergence. He knew what was coming even as his Master presumed otherwise.

"He is to be trained then."

"No," Mace replied. "He will not be trained."

Obi-Wan took a side glance at Anakin, feeling sorry for him in having his dreams shattered so publicly. Did the Council have any idea what this could do to a boy already abused by slavery? And yet his Master was equally culpable for not insisting that Anakin remain outside while they heard the judgement of the Council. Obi-Wan knew the Jedi were expected to accept a ruling like this without question and Anakin had a right to hear it. But the boy was not a Jedi, and a little compassion could go a long way in salvaging this situation from having so much of a lasting impact on him.

Qui-Gon was surprised. The word "no," escaped his mouth in a tone full of disbelief.

"He is too old," Master Windu continued. "There is already too much anger in him."

Obi-Wan could feel the anger in this room, but he did not believe it came from Anakin, not at this moment.

"He is the Chosen One," Qui-Gon insisted, causing his Padawan to groan inwardly as his worst fears were proved. "You must see it."

"Clouded this boy's future is," Yoda remarked. "Masked by his youth."

Obi-Wan restrained himself from rolling his eyes at that cryptic comment, which could easily be true of any child, Force sensitive or not. He saw his master take in the gaze then of every single councillor and he realised what was coming. He braced himself for it.

"Very well, I will train him then," Qui-Gon said. "I take Anakin Skywalker as my Padawan apprentice."

Even though he had been warned and anticipated these words from his Master, Obi-Wan was still vulnerable to the shock such a declaration produced. He felt the emotions rising within him, all too familiar, his master having rejected him once before, until the mission to Bandomeer had proved him wrong. Determinedly he sent them into the Force, focusing his attention on the here and now.

"An apprentice you already have, Qui-Gon," Yoda said, a sharply reminder. "Impossible to take on a second."

"We forbid it," added Mace.

"Obi-Wan is ready," Qui-Gon declared.

Before he entered the room, when his master had prewarned him of this, and even when he had spoken of it to Padmé, Obi-Wan had not come to a decision concerning his readiness to become a knight. The Force told him it was a certainty when he was with Padmé, but he had been determined not to appear too eager, too sure of his abilities, for it was not his way, or a Jedi's for that matter. Yet now before he realised what he was about, he heard himself answer, "I am, I am ready to face the trials," in a voice which failed to mask the turmoil of emotions he believed he had under control.

Yoda shifted his gaze towards him, raising an eyebrow in mild rebuke. "Ready so early are you? What know you of ready?"

Qui-Gon looked at him, his expression somehow conveying both apology and admonishment all at the same time. "Obi-Wan is headstrong and he has much to learn still about the Living Force, but he is capable. There is little more he can learn from me."

Obi-Wan saw Yoda never remove his gaze from him as he mastered his emotions. "Our counsel we will keep on who is ready, Qui-Gon," the revered Master remarked.

"Now is not the time for this," Mace said, abruptly bringing the matter to a close. "Queen Amidala called for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Valorum and the Senate will being voting on the replacement tomorrow. She, we are advised, is returning home which will put pressure on the Federation and could widen the confrontation. Those responsible will be quick to act on these new events."

"Drawn out of hiding her attackers will be," Yoda predicted.

"Go with the Queen to Naboo and discover the identity of this dark warrior who attacked you, be it Sith or otherwise," Master Windu ordered. "That is the clue we need to unravel this mystery."

"Decided later, young Skywalker's fate will be," Yoda declared.

"I brought Anakin here," Qui-Gon uttered quietly. "He must stay in my charge. He has no where else to go."

Obi-Wan silently recalled Shmi Skywalker's face as she argued, pleaded and cajoled for him to take her son as a Jedi. Anakin did have somewhere to go, but this was not the time to argue it, particularly not by Qui-Gon, who was still determined to win this fight.

However, on this point the Council the was willing to be generous. "He is your ward, Qui-Gon," Mace conceded. "We do not dispute that."

"But train him not!" Yoda uttered forcibly. "Take him with you, but train him not."

"Protect the Queen," Mace added, "but do not intercede if it comes to war until we have the Senate's approval."

"May the Force be with you," Yoda added in his dismissal.

As Obi-Wan bowed, watching his master do the same, nudging Anakin into the gesture with a firm hand on his shoulder, he heard Master Yoda's voice inside his mind.

-Speak with you, I will,- he said through the Force. -Before you leave, in my rooms.-

-Yes Master,- Obi-Wan replied back before following Qui-Gon and Anakin out of the Council Chamber.

The last time Obi-Wan had been asked to go to Yoda's rooms was when the venerable Master had told him about the mortal nature of Qui-Gon's disease. The Grand Master had been unusually discomposed, appearing saddened, tired and old to a young Padawan so recently accepted back into the order for a second time.

He remembered feeling fearful upon entering the rooms, only to be bathed in the brilliance of the Force, as it seemed to seep from every particle within the Master's chambers. Yoda had been as gentle as he was with his clan students, honest almost to a fault, but a comforting balm as well which Obi-Wan had badly needed just then. Yoda gave him the strength to deal with Qui-Gon's illness and paved the way for him to gain training in healing techniques, the very ones that helped sustain his Master in missions for now.

So despite the Master's judgement on him during the Council meeting, Obi-Wan held no qualms about meeting with him before his departure. He pressed the signal square outside and waited for the door to slide open, allowing him admittance into that room, where the Force still held a brilliancy unparalleled by any other place in the Temple, even the room of a thousand fountains.

He closed his eyes, allowing the Force to wash over him, remembering how he had felt when he showed Padmé the wondrous sight of the Force, how he had tried to achieve conveying the same kind of joy he experienced whenever he visited this Master, or mediated in the room of a thousand fountains. The same chorus washed over him, bathing him in all it's glory.

Master Yoda's voice caused him to return to the moment. "Flowering youth is," he said, a deceptively inane comment, which Obi-Wan felt almost sure was a reference to Padmé. Nothing escaped the foremost Master of the Order it seemed.

"Your opinion on Qui-Gon's illness I need," he began then, ushering Obi-Wan to the meditation cushions with his gimmer stick.

Obi-Wan sat down, sinking gracefully into the crossed leg pose. "He seemed to be coping well, Master," he answered.

Yoda hummed, causing Obi-Wan to wonder if he had chosen the wrong reply. "Are you asking me if I think his illness is affecting his judgement?"

"Know what I ask," Yoda replied, "determine your answer, you must!"

It was a question which Obi-Wan had spent most of the mission silently wondering about. Still he was no closer to an firm opinion one way or another.

"I don't know, Master."

Another hum escaped the revered Master, this one more thoughtful. "Right on one thing, Qui-Gon was," he uttered quietly. "Ready are you."

The words caught him by surprise, as Yoda it seemed knew they would. "Thank you, Master," Obi-Wan answered.

"Needed not your gratitude is," Yoda replied. "Proved yourself a Jedi when last we met like this."

Obi-Wan nodded numbly, his mind still processing the thoughts this revelation had created. "You wish me to remain with Master Qui-Gon," he realised aloud. "To help him with his condition."

Yoda nodded. "Serves you well, your insight always has. Important your continued presence by his side is. Necessary to this mission and the future."

Should he say it, Obi-Wan wondered, half suspecting Yoda knew his feelings already. The Grand Master had always treated him with honesty, it was only right of him to reply in kind. "I would return Qui-Gon to Naboo anyway, Master."

Yoda snorted, tapping his gimmer stick on the floor before pointing it at the Padawan. "Know this already, I do. Ignorant of your feelings for Queen Amidala, I am not! Passed on some of his rebellious nature, Qui-Gon has. Warn you to be careful, I need not."

Bowing his head Obi-Wan nodded. "Yes Master. I know. And we will be." He lifted his head at this and wondered if he imagined the smile on Yoda's face, so brief its presence was.

"Go now you may," the Master said, causing Obi-Wan to rise and bow. "May the Force be with you, Obi-Wan."

"And with you Master," Obi-Wan returned before exiting the room.

Part 11: Falling in to the Shadow.

When Padmé returned to the landing dock, she saw Qui-Gon rise to his full height from a conversation with Anakin, while Obi-Wan was nowhere in sight. A momentary worry entered her head as she wondered if the Council had granted Master's Jinn's request to train Anakin, leaving Obi-Wan to fend for himself or perhaps under another Master, meaning that the last time she saw him was at the landing dock hours before when they had no chance to exchange a proper farewell. Then she caught sight of a brown cloak emerging briefly from the ship and she felt comforted that her other rescuer was also returning to Naboo.

"Your Highness," Qui-Gon said, bowing slightly as she neared him, "it will be our pleasure to continue to serve and protect you."

"I welcome your help," Padmé replied in a civil tone as he fell into place to walk beside her for a moment. "Senator Palpatine fears the Federation means to destroy me."

"I promise you, we will not let that happen," Qui-Gon replied with another bow, letting her and her handmaidens pass him.

The brown robes had disappeared by the time she entered the ship and with the Jedi Master close behind her escort, Padmé concluded that he and his Padawan must have had a quarrel before her shuttle arrived. After waiting Master Jinn to follow Anakin to the cockpit, she dismissed her handmaidens and Captain Panaka, then entered her chambers to find, as she had suspected, a pacing, preoccupied Padawan Kenobi.

"What happened?" She asked him as she walked towards him.

He looked up from where his gaze had been fixed on the floor, to freeze her form with a deep blue grey gaze, full of emotional turmoil. Slowly and in a concise a manner as was rendered possible by this conflict, he told her everything that occurred in the Council Chambers concerning Anakin and himself.

It was the first time she had ever seen Obi-Wan like this, even when he told her about Master Jinn's decision to take over the mission on Mos Espa, forcing a temporary separation between her and him. Now she realised the danger emotions held for the Jedi, along with the tremendous control Obi-Wan possessed over his, extremely careful as he was throughout the narrative to let his temper leak only as far as his tone and his eyes. His respect for her, Anakin, the Council members, even his Master, never wavered once, though it was clear that he held Qui-Gon's conduct in contempt.

Padmé held her silence until he reached the end, whereupon she reached out to tentatively touch him in a gesture of support, her hands fixing a grip on his brown cloak. Gently he pried the well worn material from her grasp, to take the slender fingers and palm in his callused own, hardened from years of lightsaber training. "Poor Ani," she murmured, her brown eyes seeking out his, which had become the shade of the ocean again. "And poor you."

"I knew what was coming," Obi-Wan replied. "Qui-Gon even had the courtesy to warn me of his actions." He bowed his head a little, the misplaced guilt rising within him. "It should not affect me like this."

"It's understandable that it does," Padmé reasoned. "The Council did not force him into doing this, he gave them no choice. How can you accept such a thing calmly, even as a Jedi?" She shook her head in frustration. "When I didn't see you on the platform I feared the worst. Then I caught sight of your brown cloak."

He smiled. "I sensed your concern. We had a quarrel over Anakin on the platform. I didn't mean to fight with him, especially in front of Ani, but...." he breathed in deeply, sighing. "I best go and find him, make amends."

"I'm afraid it will have to wait," Padmé uttered. "I need to speak with both of you, as well as Jar Jar and my escort, about what I intend to do when we land on Naboo."

"Of course," Obi-Wan said, inclining his head. "I'll go and summon them, your Highness." he added, performing a far more flamboyant bow.

"Thank you, Master Jedi," Padmé returned, along with the smile. She watched him go, then prepared herself for the briefing which was about to take place.

As it turned out, the apology had to wait until they arrived on Naboo, in brief moment of privacy while Jar Jar went to fetch his sovereign. Whether he sensed his Padawan's conflict or simply wished to avoid him, Obi-Wan could not tell, for aside from the meeting in the Queen chambers, Qui-Gon never purposefully sought him out, the two of them reserving any comment they made aboard the ship during hyperspace for others.

Now, as they stood side by side, a little distance from the Queen and her escorts, although Padmé had assumed the role of decoy once more, trusting in Sabé to perform the necessary overtures she intended to make with Boss Nass. She had been very mysterious in the briefing which she summoned the Jedi, handmaidens, security and Jar Jar for, only revealing that she wished to meet with the Gungans, and Jar Jar was to be her emissary.

Obi-Wan could sense the strong disapproval of her security captain, clearly concerned that his Queen had once more ignored his advice by travelling to a planet on which her life was at risk. He was standing with the decoy now, but his eyes were fixed on Padmé, watching her as she talked with Anakin. His gaze was also on her, even as his mind focused on making amends with his Master, observing her compassion for the small boy who had been thrust into this dangerous mission, who gazed up at her with a look of admiration.

Obi-Wan frowned. He could not blame Anakin for possessing such a feeling, he was guilty of such emotions too, but there was something which told him that this could prove dangerous in the future. That strange, elusive feeling which he had sensed from the very beginning of the mission, causing him to wonder if it was that which the Council used as their motive to reject Anakin, and if his Master was truly guided by the Force in continuing to champion his cause.

"I have been thinking," Qui-Gon said suddenly, breaking the silence between them. "We are treading on dangerous ground. If the Queen intends to fight a war, we cannot become involved. Not in her efforts to persuade the Gungans to join with the Naboo against the Federation, if that is what she intends by coming here. The Jedi have no authority to take sides."

"But we do have an authority to protect the Queen," Obi-Wan reasoned. "Even if our actions will be misconstrued by others."

"It is a fine line we walk, then," Qui-Gon added, facing him.

Obi-Wan knew now was the moment to speak. "Master, I behaved badly on Coruscant and I am embarrassed. I meant no disrespect to you. I do not wish to be difficult in the matter of Anakin."

"Nor have you been," Qui-Gon replied. "You have been honest with me. Honesty is never wrong. I did not lie when I told the Council you were ready. You are. I have taught you all I can. You will be a great Jedi, my young Padawan. You will make me proud." He held out his hand and Obi-Wan gripped it, bowing his head in gratitude at the praise which a part of him still felt he did not deserve.

With this brief shake their bond and friendship as Master and apprentice was restored to its previous intimacy once more, and he turned his eyes back to Padmé and Anakin with relief, which increased when he saw the boy walk away from the Queen to meet with the returning figure of Jar Jar, who emerged from the water to announce that the Gungan capital was deserted. For a brief moment they contemplated the possible capture of the species, only for Jar Jar to declare that his people must have retreated to their sacred place, which with a request from Qui-Gon, he led them to.

Obi-Wan kept his gaze on Padmé as her decoy tried to make the necessary overtures to convince the Gungans to form an alliance with them. Seeing the passage of emotions across her face, and knowing as he did of her real position upon this planet, he was not surprised when she emerged from the cadre of handmaidens to make her way to Sabé's side.

"You did well, Sabé," she murmured quietly to her handmaiden, who stepped back to allow her sovereign precedence. "But I will have to do this myself."

"Who dis?" Boss Nass snapped.

"I am Queen Amidala," Padmé announced. "Sabé serves from time to time as my decoy, my loyal bodyguard. I am sorry for the deception, but given the circumstances, I am sure you can understand. Although our people do not always agree, Your Honour, we have always lived in peace. Until now. The Trade Federation, with all its tanks and maccaneks has destroyed all that we have worked so hard to build. The Gungans are in hiding, and the Naboo have been imprisoned in camps. If we do not act quickly, all that we value will be lost forever. I ask you to help us, Your Honour." She paused before correcting herself. "No, I beg you to help us."

Before all assembled, Queen Amidala of the Naboo knelt on bended knee before the Gungans. "We are your humble servants, our fate is in your hands. Please help us."

Around her the handmaidens and security followed suit, as did Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, causing a shocked Anakin to do so too. Obi-Wan's gazed flicked from Padmé to the Gungans, trying to get a sense of their feelings as a general hush fell over the meeting.

The leader of the Gungans laughed deeply, before replying, "Me like dis! Dis good! Yous no think yous greater den da Gungans!" He walked towards the Queen, his hand held out to her in friendship, causing Obi-Wan to smile. "Yous stand, Queen Amidoll. Yous talk wit me, okay? Mebbe we gonna be friends after all!"

"They're back!" Anakin called out, as Captain Panaka and his security were first sighted upon their return from Theed, their sovereign having sent them out to the city on a reconnaissance mission. Since Boss Nass' decision to form an alliance with the Queen, she had been locked in a strategy sessions with the Jedi and the Gungan Generals, as they discussed the best way to overcome the forces of the Trade Federation. R2 provided a holo map of the capital city, but until the security forces returned from their information gathering, the allies had no true idea concerning the weight of the forces ready to oppose them.

"I think we got through without being detected, Your Highness," Panaka reported to his Queen when he had reached the meeting.

"What is the situation?" Padmé asked him.

"Most of our people are in the detention caps. A few hundred officers and guards have formed an underground movement to resist the invasion. I've brought back as many of the leaders as I could find."

"Good," Padmé replied. "The Gungans have a larger army than we imagined."

"We'll need it," Panaka remarked. "The Federation army is much larger than we thought too. And stronger. In my opinion, this isn't a battle we can win, Your Highness."

"I don't intend to win it, Captain," Padmé informed him. "The battle is a diversion. We need the Gungans to draw the droid army away from the Theed, so we can infiltrate the palace through the secret passages and capture the Neimoidian Viceroy. Neimoidians don't think for themselves. Without the Viceroy to command them, they will cease to be a threat." She turned to her silent protectors. "What do you think, Master Jedi?"

"A well conceived plan, Your Highness," Qui-Gon complimented. "It appears to be your best possible move, although there is great risk. Even with the droid army in the field, the viceroy will be well guarded. And many of the Gungans may be killed."

Boss Nass shrugged unconcernedly. "They bombad guns no get through our shields! We ready to fight!"

"The difficulty's getting into the throne room," Panaka informed them. "Once we're inside, we shouldn't have a problem."

"We will reduce the Gungan causalities by securing the main hanger and sending our pilots to knock out their orbiting control ship," Padmé revealed. "Without the control ship to signal them, the droid army cannot function."

"But if the Viceroy should escape, Your Highness, he will return with another droid army and you'll be no better off than you are now," Obi-Wan added. "Whatever else happens you must capture him. If he is allowed to escape I'm certain he'll show no mercy a second time."

"And we will, Obi-Wan," Padmé assured him. "I have no doubt of that."

It was not a long or hard journey from the sacred swamps where the strategy session was ended, but a slow one, the pace set by the need for stealth and to add the element of surprise to their three pronged attack. The Gungans went to secure their battleground, and the Naboo travelled to their capital, using the secret passages in the waterfalls, coming to a brief halt directly across from the hanger entrance. Panaka, along with a contingent of fighters set himself up in a position opposite Padmé and her forces, preparing to catch the droid squads and tanks between them in a crossfire.

"Once we get inside, Ani," Qui-Gon uttered to the boy as he took his place by the Jedi, who were beside the young Queen, lightsabers at the ready, "you find a safe place to hide until this is all over."

"Sure," Anakin promised, a little too easily in Obi-Wan's opinion.

"And stay there," Qui-Gon added, his own sense detecting enough to produce the same suspicion as well.

In front of them Padmé activated her glow rod, sending the prearranged precoded signal to Panaka, whereupon a reclaimed hover tank moved into direct view of the droids and with her forces on both sides of the plaza unleashed it's weapons and opened fire on one of the Trade Federation squad vehicles in the courtyard beside them. The explosion was enough to cause the tank to drop to the ground, flatting the droids nearest, and making the rest turn in the presumed direction of the threat.

When enough droids fell uselessly to the floor, the Queen and her escort rose from their hiding place and ran across the plaza, the two Jedi providing projection throughout, as Qui-Gon deflected blaster fire from the Naboo and Obi-Wan dismembered a still active droid before joining the Queen at the entrance to the Hanger bay. The doors opened on her keyed in command, and with the Jedi infront and pilots following, they stormed the area.

"Ani, take cover," Qui-Gon ordered, his voice somehow still distinguishable amid the sharp noise of blaster fire.

"Get to your ships," Padmé commanded her pilots, who bravely dodged shots to obey their Queen.

The droid army guards continued to fire at them as the ships collected pilots and droids before taking off in steady formation, heading out of the hanger towards the atmosphere and the control craft which orbited the planet overseeing the blockade and invasion. One ship did not make it, blaster fire catching one of the wing propellers, sending it crashing into the streams outside the hanger.

Captain Panaka and the other contingents of Naboo joined the battle for full control of the hanger bay, and quickly they achieved that objective. He ran to his sovereign's side as soon as the blaster fire had ceased to be a threat.

"My guess is the Viceroy is still in the throne room," Padmé said to him.

Panaka nodded. "Red group, blue group," he called, causing Naboo to look to him, "everyone this way," he directed, his arm waving ahead towards the passages which would ultimately lead them to that destination.

"Hey, wait for me," Anakin cried as he emerged from his sanctuary, one of the remaining ships left in the bay, R2 D2 behind him.

"Anakin, stay where you are," Qui-Gon ordered as he and Obi-Wan joined the advancing Naboo.

The boy started to protest. "But I...."

Qui-Gon sent him a hard look, and Obi-Wan backed it up with one of his own. "Stay in that cockpit."

Ahead of them the doors opened, revealing a dark cloaked figure. Padmé stilled as it lifted his cowled head, the Queen recognising him for the Sith Lord who had fought Qui-Gon on Tatooine. She remembered seeing the tattooed creature on the viewscreen in the cockpit of her cruiser, but it was nothing compared to the threatening flesh so close to her now. His eyes were a myriad of shades, narrow bands of yellow darkening to red, as if they had been bleached by the sun. The cowl framed his red and black face, falling in folds over the rest of his body, hiding nothing of the deadly strength which seemed to stretch out before him like an aura. She sensed the same powerful ability from the Jedi, but this was their nemesis, turning the Force into a tool of death far more frightening.

"We'll handle this," Qui-Gon declared, stepping forward through the Naboo to face the creature.

Padmé encountered his Padawan's steady gaze, Obi-Wan's blue eyes sending a silently eloquent look to assuage her fears concerning his safety. "We'll take the long way," she ordered her forces, who turned to the left of the Jedi, moving quickly out of their way.

Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon dropped their cloaks and fired up their lightsabers, the green and blue blades swooping into their chosen methods of defence, waiting as they always did for their enemy to make the first move.

The Sith disrobed of his dark cloak in sync, before activating his lightsaber, revealing not one, but two red blades, emerging from both ends of the hilt. He presented the weapon horizontally to the Jedi, waiting for them.

Obi-Wan called upon the Force and somersaulted over the Sith, his blue blade moving to block his enemy's moves as he landed behind him. His mind was focused on this battle, knowing his Master could not fight and defeat the Sith alone, as the first encounter warned him on Tatooine.

He did not notice the destroyer droids which rolled out of hiding to confront Padmé and the Naboo, nor Anakin's actions to take care of that threat, activating the craft he had sheltered in, firing on the droids before the autopilot took over and flew him out of the hanger to join the rest of the fleet. Later he would be able to deduce from his memory Anakin's heroic actions, but now only the Sith commanded his attention, as he moved his blade in the styles he had been trained; Ataru, Soresu, Shii-Cho, Sokan, Niman.

Every Padawan learned the basics of each form of combat, specialising in their preferred form once they became a knight, some times even before. Obi-Wan had a certain advantage however, for his Master had trained under one of the finest warriors in the Order, Master Dooku.

A pupil of Yoda, Dooku was unsurpassed for his technique with the lightsaber, even designing his own unique hilt and form of combat. He had taught Qui-Gon everything he could, and in turn Qui-Gon had passed those lessons to Obi-Wan. Still, before this, rarely had he been called to use his lightsaber in such a battle, even when they had fought Xanatos and Bruck to protect Master Yoda.

The last encounter to which this bore the most resemblance was the final round of the Padawan combat competition, which he had participated in, along with Bruck, a deadly rival during his days in the temple clan.

He had been so desperate during that fight to gain Qui-Gon's approval that his aggressive methods and emotions turned against him, forcing him to achieve a hollow victory, as he won the bout, but lost the chance of becoming a Padawan. Now however, there was only the question of how long his Master could fight before succumbing to the ravages of the disease inside him. Obi-Wan would have to reserve his aggression, store his energy, bide his time in preparation for taking on the Sith alone.

Their enemy gave ground now, moving towards two doors behind him, motioning with his free hand at a droid part, using the Force to make it leap to the command panel and open them. He continued attacking, seemingly retreating into the power station, but in reality leading the Jedi to the battleground of his own choosing. Around him were narrow catwalks, the pathways between generators and shields to the reactors which managed the power of the Palace, criss-crossing roads akin to the transparent traffic routes of Coruscant, calling for close quarter fights, forcing his enemy to split their focus between countering his blade and keeping their balance.

The Sith seemed to sense through the dark side of the Force that Obi-Wan was trying to protect his Master, as he raised his leg during one move to send him to the floor with a kick to his side. Obi-Wan rolled up almost immediately, moving his lightsaber out of the way of his body, darting back to take the lead into the duel once more, only allowing a grunt to escape from his Jedi demeanour. With his Master they forced the Sith to the edge of the main platform in the reactor room, but the Sith anticipated the manoeuvre, jumping away from them on to one of the catwalks.

Calling upon the Force, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon followed him.

Padmé and her forces came to a temporary halt in one of the wide ceremonial corridors enroute to the throne room, stealing behind marble pillars due to the heavy blaster fire from the droids. As she settled into the pattern of deflection and return, she knew that this would only delay their attack, and perhaps cause the Viceroy to escape.

"We don't have time for this, Captain!" she cried to Panaka, raising her voice under the sharp noise of blaster fire.

"Let's try outside!" He suggested. Judging his moment, he turned his blaster away from the droids to fire at one of the large windows across from them. "Go!"

Dodging shots, they ran to the opening, Panaka calling for Ascension guns. Handing one to his Queen after they had climbed over the ledge, in unison they raised the weapons and fired the ropes inside, fastening them to the beam above the highest window, before using the retractor to lift them to the last corridor before the throne room.

Padmé moved carefully on the ledge to one side and aimed her weapon at the glass in front of them. After the broken shards settled on the floor, she and her forces leapt inside.

With a kick to the jaw, the Sith sent Obi-Wan flying off the catwalk into oblivion, causing the Padawan to call on the Force to save himself. His lightsaber flew away from his hand, and he reached out and clutched the ledge of a walkway just above him, his weapon landing on top of it.

By the time he had raised himself to stand on that platform, Obi-Wan saw his Master and the Sith fighting on the main route that led to the service corridor for the melting pit. Designed to store the energy residue from the power station, it was protected by five shields which partitioned the corridor into small sections. The Sith had reached the last of these before the melting pit, Qui-Gon was caught between four and five. And due to the fall, Obi-Wan had only reached the first.

He gathered his breath and energy reserves, watching as the Sith deactivated his lightsaber and settled into an alert stance, his red eyes glancing between both himself and his Master, who had dropped to his knees in a temporary meditation. Obi-Wan powered off his saber, but he did not follow his Master's lead. He knew Qui-Gon needed it, for so far the duel would have taken a tremendous toll on his resources, split as they often were between sustaining his body from the fight, and from the disease inside him, and although it would probably prove beneficial to him also, Obi-Wan knew he had not the time for one.

If, or rather when his Master tired, he would have to take on the Sith single-handedly, which meant conquering the distance between himself and the creature as quickly as possible. He needed to time when the shields powered down, measuring how long he would have to call on the Force to aid his running to his Master's side. And he needed to find where the control panel for the shields was located in the room, for if he failed to reach his Master in time, he would need to shut them down via the Force.

He found the one at his end first, and with a hard glare directed towards the Sith, turned part of his vision on the panel, memorising its controls. He could not use this one, for Qui-Gon was still meditating. Deactivating the shields now would give the Sith just as much advantage as him, while his Master would be vulnerable to the former's attack. Logic and practicality dictated however that the panel at the other end of the corridor would have been designed with the same principles, allowing him to call on that one if he had to.

His task done, Obi-Wan followed his Master's tactic, but remained standing, as he sank into the embrace of the Force.

In the corridor Padmé and her forces reached the entrance to the throne room, only to be prevented from entering by Destroyer droids. As the machines surrounded them, she knew that they had little hope of retreating to the window, and even if they could, the manoeuvre would rid them of their goal to capture the Viceroy. Whereas..... she hid her smile as the solution to their plans formed in her mind.

"Throw down your weapons," she ordered her forces. "They win this round."

"But, Your Majesty, we can't!" Panaka objected, glancing at her in shock.

"Captain," Padmé broke in, her dark brown eyes fixing on his, "I said, throw down your weapons."

Panaka let his blaster drop to the floor, never taking his eyes from his sovereign. As the droids came to seize the weapons, he saw her hand move to the comlink sewn into her clothes, her slender fingers sending an encoded transmission.

"Have faith, Captain," she remarked quietly, and it was time for him too to hide a smile, as he realised her plans.

Obi-Wan heard the signal from the Force and activated his lightsaber. A second later the shields dropped, Qui-Gon and the Sith powered up their weapons and resumed the duel. He waited for the barriers to complete their cascade collapse, then summoned the Force and ran through the corridor to join them.

He wasn't fast enough. Reaching the last of the shields, Obi-Wan heard the quiet click of capacitors as they turned to raise the barriers once more, forcing him to a halt. Leaning his body away from the forward pace of his booted legs, he blinked as the laser came down, the red glow clouding his vision for a moment. Frustrated his tore his gaze from his Master and the Sith to locate the control panel knowing he needed to join in the duel before Qui-Gon's reserves gave out.

But luck was not with him. The search rendered in vain, he turned helplessly towards the duel, forced to watch as Qui-Gon seemed to gain an advantage, keeping the Sith on the defensive, until the creature realised and darted away. Worry, fear and anger threatened to overwhelm him but he pushed them away into the Force, knowing what was coming next, knowing there was nothing he could do to prevent it. Ever since his Master was diagnosed with the disease, he had prepared for this eventuality, intensifying his training in the hope that if the worst occurred, he would have time to try and save him.

Then the moment came. The Sith feinted a blind reserve lunge, which Qui-Gon caught too late, his green blade missing the chance to protect his body from the wound which the Sith dealt to the midsection. Due to the width of the laser blade, the deep burn through flesh, organs and bone was narrow, but it was enough. Qui-Gon stiffened under the impact, then dropped to his knees, his lightsaber clattering to the ground as his hands instinctively went to the wound.

Obi-Wan was not aware at first that it was his own voice which cried out the howl of angry despair that echoed through the shield to encompass the entire power station. Preparation was no substitute for the horror of reality. Control over his emotions died the moment he saw his Master, whom he loved like a father, fall to the floor, sinking into unconscious oblivion. In a rage he tore his gaze from Qui-Gon to the Sith who stood waiting for him, the enemy appearing gleefully smug at the victory, confident that defeating the Padawan would prove even less of a challenge.

The shield separating them powered down and Obi-Wan sprinted into the fray, determined to prove the creature wrong.

Escorted into the throne room, Padmé fixed her expression into one of feigned frustrated defeat, as her eyes caught sight of the Viceroy and his underling standing a short distance from the throne itself. Their fractured red monochrome eyes turned on her, seeing through the simple understated mask of the decoy to power which lay behind her, revealing her true identity as leader of the Naboo.

"Your little insurrection is at an end, Your Highness," he said confidently. "The rabble army you sent against us south of the city has been crushed. The Jedi are being dealt with elsewhere. You are my captive. It time for you to put an end to the pointless debate you instigated in the Republic Senate. Sign the treaty now."

Just at that moment, the plan she had time to transmit via her comlink arrived, in the form of Sabé and her contingent of forces coming down the corridor she had just been escorted through. Her decoy was still attired in the elaborate hairstyle and makeup which went with Queen Amidala, fooling the Neimoidians completely.

"I will not be signing any treaty, Viceroy!" Sabé called out in a tone of voice similar to the formal one Padmé used as sovereign. "Your occupation of our planet has ended!"

"After her!" the Viceroy ordered his droids, emptying the throne room of some his security forces. "This one's a decoy!"

Her escort distracted, Padmé made her way to the throne, pressing upon the release button to a secret compartment where several blasters were stored. She reached in and tossed one to Captain Panaka, before retrieving one for herself. Together they quickly disabled the rest of the droids in the throne room.

"Jam the doors," Panaka ordered to their freed fighters.

Padmé came before the Viceroy once more, who seemed bewildered by the reversal of fortunes which he had undergone so rapidly. "Now, Viceroy, we will discuss a new treaty."

Fortunately for Obi-Wan, his anger fuelled him into a formidable opponent to the Sith lord, who despite using such power himself was caught unprepared by the violence of the Padawan's attack. Stroke for stroke the duel rose in intensity as Obi-Wan pressed forward that advantage, before darting away in an effort to make the battleground his own.

The manoeuvre worked, calling the Sith to come forward, allowing Obi-Wan to call on the Force and his natural talents, anticipating where the blade would strike, and into what position his weapon could direct it. Choosing his moment, he struck his lightsaber at the double hilt of the Sith's, parting one from the other, sending the now useless half skittering down the service corridor.

His opponent however was just as capable with one blade as with two. Slowly the advantage slipped away. Energy reserved fuelled by anger and despair, negative emotions which the Jedi were never trained into using, gradually dried up too, forcing Obi-Wan to combat his feelings concerning the unconscious figure of his Master, lying motionless on the ground across from the duel.

As he sent them out into the Force, he saw the Sith attempt the same move he had used to send him off the catwalks earlier, and turned so the kick sent him into an Ataru somersault, the result giving no ground.

The Sith turned his back on the service corridor which they had ran through. Obi-Wan pressed forward, hoping to send the creature back down there. But suddenly his opponent let go of his weapon, using one gloved hand to send the Padawan forward. Caught unprepared, he fell backwards into the melting pit.

Obi-Wan summoned the Force and reached out, catching one of the oval metal pods which supported the vast shaft. He hung there helplessly, watching as the Sith kicked his deactivated lightsaber, sending the weapon down into the bottom of the pit, rendering him defenceless.

At least it appeared so. Obi-Wan however, knew of another weapon within reach. As the Sith attacked the edge of the shaft with his red blade, trying to use the sparks in an effort to make him fall, he was summoning the Force within himself, showing the Light what he intended to do.

And the Light answered him. He leapt upwards, his hand reaching out for Qui-Gon's saber, activating the green blade as the hilt fell into his grip. Somersaulting over his opponent's head, he struck out with the weapon.

The Sith threw him a stunned incredulous look of disbelief, before his body surrendered to the mortal injury, falling down the melting shaft in half.

Obi-Wan stood there for a moment, watching the body fall, then he thumbed off the saber and ran to his Master's side.

Falling into a crouch he cradled Qui-Gon's head. "Master."

"Too late," Qui-Gon breathed out. "Promise me you will train the boy."

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan cried, even as he shook his head in disagreement to the first judgement.

"He is the Chosen One," Qui-Gon uttered, more it seemed for himself than for his Padawan. With a shaking hand he reached out and touched Obi-Wan's cheek in a fatherly caress. "He will bring balance."

Qui-Gon's eyes closed and a last breath escaped his lips. Tears fell down Obi-Wan's face as he gathered his father into his embrace.

Part 12: Future Vows.

For a time the Viceroy stood silent, as his mind attempted to realise the enormity of his defeat, and that of the victory which this young woman staring at him now had achieved. Outside his droid forces fired uselessly at the doors, jammed against any entry, even from the Nubian force which carried the decoy that had fooled him into this position. Even if she had been defeated, he could not bargain with the sovereign, who would listen to nothing but the new treaty she insisted he must sign.

Then everything fell into an abrupt silence, as all the sharp noise of blaster fire echoing beyond the jammed doors ceased.

Captain Panaka turned to his Queen with a worried look. "What's going on?"

"Try communications," Padmé ordered. "Activate the viewscreens."

He went to the crescent shaped table which the chairs and throne encircled, pressing the button to bring the communications into life. Before them the holoscreen displayed the various views of Naboo, showing the defenceless droid forces amidst thousands of cheering Gungan soldiers, and the exploding control ship in orbit above the planet.

Padmé allowed her smile to show. "Viceroy, take a seat. We shall discuss the new treaty which I have in mind."

"Your Highness," Panaka called out, causing her to turn midroute to her throne.

"What is it, Captain?" She asked him.

"I think the medics will be needed in the melting room of the power station," he said, his voice heavy with the gravity of the situation.

She turned her gaze to where his was directed, at a section of the holoscreen where surveillance for that room of the Palace was located. Quietly she focused on the figures positioned on the ringed catwalk which surrounded the melting shaft. Concern rose within her as she identified the Jedi robes.

"Reopen the doors!" she ordered her soldiers. "Call the medics to the melting pit!" she added before hurrying towards the exit.

"Your Majesty!" Panaka called out in an attempt to call her back.

But Padmé would not be deterred. "We will have time to deal with them later, Captain," she replied, before directing him to assign her forces to guard the Viceroy and his underling in the throne room.

She didn't stop running until she had reached the two figures on the catwalk. One crouched over the other, gathering the prostrate form into his embrace, tears falling from his face. Motioning her escort and medics to pause, Padmé darted forward, gracefully falling to her knees before the grieving Padawan.

He looked up, his blue grey eyes meeting her brown ones as soon as she sought his out. "I put him in a healing trance."

Padmé breathed a sigh of relief. "Do you need the medics?"

"They would prove useful," he replied, and she turned, beckoning them forward. With infinite care he lowered Qui-Gon to the ground, allowing them to encircle and treat him, before rising slowly to his feet.

She rose to, watching him as he seemed to tear his gaze from his Master to her form, intuitively realising his need for distraction. "A pilot managed to knock out the control ship, deactivating the droid army. I have the Viceroy and Rune Haako in my throne room, ready, if not necessarily willing to sign a treaty of my own divining."

"Good," he murmured, his Coruscanti accent deep under the weight of emotion he was still enduring. "Where is Anakin?"

She bestowed upon him a puzzled expression. "I thought he was in the hanger bay."

Obi-Wan shook his head. "I believed he powered up the ship he was in and fired on the destroyer droids which barred your exit," he explained. "After that, I think the ship went into autopilot."

Padmé nodded as she understood the direction of his concern. "I'll have the pilots commed and asked to land." She looked at him carefully, studying the burnt clothes, trying to descry if he carried any injuries.

He answered her unspoken query. "I just need some rest."

"I'll have one of the apartments aired for you and Master Jinn," she informed him.

Despite the weight, from somewhere inside himself he managed to muster a graceful bow, and smile, if a little small. "Thank you, milady."

"And you, Master Jedi," she returned, before leading the way out of the melting pit.

Obi-Wan stood before the window of the room in Theed Palace's healer's wing assigned to his Master. Qui-Gon lay on the bed behind him, deep in a trance which somehow he had mustered the energy and the Force for after defeating the Sith. A strange sense of calm had settled over him awhile ago, which he could only ascribe as a numbness, his Jedi training managing to detach a part of himself from the trauma he had undergone, allowing him to examine and reflect.

Most of his actions during the duel he could not recall, no easy feat for a Jedi, who learned to pull their memories from the Force with vivid detail. Vague flashes penetrated his mind; the first view of the Sith as he appeared to him in the hanger bay, occasional moves he had managed to use to his advantage, ones which were not anticipated by the Sith, the long moment he spent hanging inside the melting pit, the thrust of Qui-Gon's lightsaber as he used the weapon to kill the creature.

Even more vague was the moment he held his Master in his arms, promising faithfully to do what he asked, knowing that he would agree to anything in that space of seconds in which he summoned the Force and called upon the healing techniques those at the Temple had taught him. He didn't think they would work. After all, they were acquired for treating the disease, not a fourth degree burn from a lightsaber. Yet they had, for the proof lay behind him, in the form of his sleeping Master. And now that Qui-Gon was in that healing trance, Obi-Wan had time to think about what he had promised his Master.

To train Anakin. Something he had found himself promising Shmi so easily on Tatooine, yet now as he stood here, Obi-Wan found the oath difficult even in theoretical terms. He could simply forget it; afterall, Qui-Gon believed he was dying, he would never have made him agree to such a promise otherwise. But there was no ignoring the request now it had been aired, and from a certain point of view, it made sense.

Despite the healing trance, his Master would not be completely well when he woke, the illness would still take its toll on his body, until he would be grounded at the Temple permanently. If the Order accepted Anakin, Qui-Gon would be in no condition to take him into the field when he was ready, and Obi-Wan doubted that there would be few Masters or Knights willing to consider training a boy accepted at nine from a life of slavery. Despite all his Master's efforts, there were still very few unconventional Jedi in the Order, and Anakin would need an unconventional Master, to whom emotions were not alien.

Yet, Obi-Wan hesitated to take that role himself. He might consider himself ready for the Trials, Yoda considered him ready, but not to take on a Padawan. Knights were suppose to have a few years solo in the field, a few years teaching at the Temple before they could take a Padawan. Learning as such was one thing, but teaching such was entirely another.

Perhaps an unconventional approach was called for here, he mused. Both he and Qui-Gon would train Anakin. Two Masters training the same Padawan was as rare as two Padawans under one Master, but one could argue that a Padawan had many Masters while they learned at the Temple, only one in the field. Assuming the Order agreed to accept the boy for training.

Obi-Wan had sent the Council a detailed report of Anakin's brave actions during the attack on the Trade Federations' control ship, which he had learned through an interview with the boy while Qui-Gon was attended to by the Palace healers. Though Anakin had claimed to possess no plan for destroying the ship, it was clear to Obi-Wan that the Force had guided his actions, saving the lives of the Gungans and the Naboo. He had also included a less thorough report of his and Qui-Gon's actions, which the Council would have to be satisfied with for now, as he was experiencing a certain difficulty recalling every moment of the duel with the Sith.

If he paused his thoughts for a moment to consider the view below him, he would notice the aid crews working across the capital, beginning the restoration of the city to the beauty which the armies of the Trade Federation had destroyed by their invasion, and the Nubians in determination to take back the planet. He would join them tomorrow, along with most of the Palace's occupants, including Queen Amidala. The young sovereign was still in talks with the Viceroy, awaiting communications from the Senate and the new Chancellor of the Republic, whom they had yet to learn the identity of. She had returned to her throne room after escorting him and his Master to the healer's ward, somewhat reluctantly, her concern for him clear upon her face and in her thoughts.

It was time to consider and reflect on those too, as much as he hated to do so. But he could no longer ignore their positions in the Republic. He was still a Padawan, she was Queen of her world. Their relationship would be viewed as a political alliance in the eyes of the Republic, and the backlash from that would inevitably damage them as they tried to cope with leading a personal life under the public spotlight. Of course, their love for each other should be strong enough to ignore this, but there was no denying their responsibilities and their duties. The burden on her would be heavy, perhaps too heavy, for she still had her youth to contend with.

Only one option seemed sensible to him. That they should wait. Not just until he had passed his trials when such a relationship was permitted, but until her term as Queen came to an end. After that, only the unconventionality of a Jedi forming an attachment would incur a backlash.

Apart from her it was easy to contemplate this, to plan for such a time, to be rational. But as Obi-Wan prepared to meditate over the events of the duel, it occurred to him that it might not be as easy when she was with him.

Padmé stepped into her private apartments in Theed Palace and uttered a relieved sigh. After many hours spent locked in talks in the throne room, the Viceroy of the Trade Federation could finally be sent back Coruscant for his trial. The treaty that he signed was in fact a confession relaying all his actions concerning the blockade of her planet. It was not as detailed as she would like, there were certain glaring gaps which convinced her that the Trade Federation had not acted alone, but the Viceroy was too terrified to tell her who ordered him to invade her world, protesting that the mysterious person would kill them. Despite all that he had done to her people, her generous nature resisted pressing him further.

Slowly she stripped off her gown, glad to be out of the combat clothes she had worn ever since they returned to the planet. Letting the swathes of material fall to the floor, she stepped over the crumpled heap and moved towards the large wardrobes containing her vast collection of robes, majestic and simple. Her hands moved instinctively towards the latter, before her mind reluctantly moved them to the official wear expected of Queen Amidala.

The ship carrying the new Supreme Chancellor and members of the Jedi Council would be arriving shortly, and she was no longer in such danger which demanded that she could hide behind her decoy in handmaiden cowl and gown. The irony of her feelings now compared to the last time she had stood here did not escape her. She no longer doubted the faith of her people in choosing her for their Queen, but this time she wanted to be herself and to meet with Obi-Wan. She had not seen him since she bade him farewell at the healer's ward. Padmé did not want the last time she saw him other than official moments to be in the melting pit. The image of his vulnerable form, tears falling down his face even as he worked through the Force to save his Master would haunt her forever.

Perhaps it was selfish of her but she wanted to see if she could make him happy, if he still felt for her what they had realised on Tatooine. If he was willing to listen to a proposal she had decided to make, in view of the present restrictions placed on them. She loved him. To offworlders that concept was extraordinary, wrong almost, but they did not know that the maturity which young Nubians reached for was matched by their education.

Despite her youth she loved the Padawan, and she was fully aware of all the implications which accompanied that love. Her heart ached to be with him, to make a life with him, but her head was still rational. Her mind knew that they had responsibilities and commitments; he to the Jedi Order, she to the Naboo, both of them to a peaceful Republic. There was a reason why they found comfort in the knowledge that their beliefs, their ideals were the same. To love someone without losing those ideals which were your foundations, that was true intimacy. She had realised that when he showed her the Force on Tatooine. Just as she realised that now was not the time to savour that attachment, still technically forbidden.

But that time would come.

They could not look at each other, but they knew instinctively where their thoughts lay, and it was not with the Neimoidians who stood before them, their heads bowed in remorse. Nor was it with the handmaidens, Anakin, Panaka, Governor Bibble, or any other Nubian official who stood with them. Neither was it with the sleek metallic craft which was the Chancellor's transport, that just touched down behind the Viceroy.

Padmé looked to him and reminded him of his duty. "Now, Viceroy, you are going to have to go back to the Senate and explain all this."

"I think you can kiss your Trade franchise goodbye," Panaka remarked.

The Neimoidians turned round to begin the arduous walk to the transport, as the ramp lowered to reveal the new Supreme Chancellor of the Republic. Escorted by his guards, he walked towards the Queen with a proud smile.

"Congratulations on your election, Chancellor," Padmé acknowledged the new title with appropriate surprise. Only later would her mind question as to whether she truly felt any. "It is so good to see you again."

"It's good to be home," Palpatine replied. "Your boldness has saved our people, Your Majesty. It is you who should be congratulated. Together we shall bring peace and prosperity to the Republic."

The Chancellor turned to the robed figure nearby. "And to you, Jedi Kenobi, I give thanks, as well to your Master. Our people are in your debt." His eyes lowered to the small boy standing beside him. "And to you, young Skywalker. We shall watch your career with great interest."

Obi-Wan bowed his head in acknowledgement of the Chancellor's praise, then met the slight glance she directed towards him, before walking over to the members of the Jedi Council who had also arrived. He ushered Anakin in front of him, then into a bow, a courtesy which he also performed.

"Proved myself and Qui-Gon right you have, Obi-Wan," Yoda began. "Much to discuss have we. But see Master Jinn first, I wish."

"Of course, Master," Obi-Wan replied, before stepping back to let the Council members walk across the plaza once more.

Later, as the sun lowered slowly to meet the waterfall horizon of Theed, in a large reception room not far the quarters assigned to him and his Master, Obi-Wan dropped gracefully on to one knee before the diminutive Master Yoda, whose size was nothing when compared to the power and wisdom of the Force he carried inside him. Having seen and talked with Qui-Gon, then seen and talked with Anakin, the Jedi now wished to talk with the brave Padawan who had done his duty and so much more in the Relief of Naboo.

"Confer on you, the level of Jedi Knight the Council does," Yoda said. "But agree on you taking this boy as your Padawan learner, I do not."

Obi-Wan remained on bended knee before the Grand Master of the Order. He answered in a calm, composed voice, leaving the heart to process that one of his life long dreams had been granted. "Qui-Gon believes in him. I believe in Qui-Gon."

Yoda almost sighed in the face of such Jedi implacability. "The Chosen One the boy may be," he conceded, "nevertheless, grave danger I fear in his training."

"Master Yoda, I gave Qui-Gon my word," Obi-Wan reminded him. "I will help him train Anakin. Without the approval of the Council if I must."

"Qui-Gon's defiance I sense in you," Yoda remarked irascibly. "Need that, you do not. Agree, the council does. Yours and Qui-Gon's apprentice, young Skywalker will be."

"Thank you, Master," Obi-Wan replied. He watched the revered Jedi come to a halt in his pacing, observing his mood in the Force before he asked his question. "Master Yoda, before that happens, will you grant me something else?"

Yoda regarded him curiously. "Name your request."

Obi-Wan met his gaze. "I ask to under go the Trials, Master, as other Padawans have done before me."

"And what trial should we give you?" Yoda asked. "Equal the test you have already undergone, no trial of our making would."

"Master, I have no desire to be known as the former Padawan who killed a Sith to become a Knight," Obi-Wan confessed. "Not only does it set a precedent for other Initiates, it lends an allusion of aggression to an Order which prides itself on peace and compassion."

There was a moment of silence as Yoda considered this. "Your point you make well, Obi-Wan. Wisdom and maturity have you gained, not only because of this mission."

Obi-Wan bowed his head, knowing Yoda referred to Qui-Gon's illness. His Master was still healing in the quarters assigned to them within the Palace. Padmé had called for Naboo's most learned physicians to assess him and offer what they treatments they could. Obi-Wan appreciated the gesture, even though he doubted they would reveal anything new or hopeful in the nature of his Master's health.

"Grant this request we shall," Yoda said, surprising Obi-Wan, for he did not think Yoda would. "A more peaceful matter of diplomacy we shall seek for you to negotiate."

Obi-Wan bowed his head in gratitude. "Thank you, Master."

He watched the Head of the Order turned to leave the room, his walking stick tapping rhythmically against the floor. As he reached the darkness which cloaked the threshold of the chamber, he stopped and performed a slight yet graceful bow.

"Queen Amidala, for your hospitality, we thank you," he said.

"You will always be welcome here, Master Yoda," Amidala replied, before stepping aside to let the diminutive Grand Master leave.

Obi-Wan rose from his knees as the Queen came into view, his Jedi training only just saving him from letting loose a slack jaw. Since their brief reunion during the aftermath of his fight with the Sith, when he feared his Master was about to become one with the Force, he had only seen Padmé once, in her official ceremonial robes for welcoming the new Supreme Chancellor, her old Senator to Naboo, along with the Jedi Masters of the Council who chose to accompany Yoda.

Now she came towards him not in her formal wardrobe, but in simple clothing, almost as simple as his own, yet made somehow beautiful by her beauty, both within and without. A yellow dress embroidered with flowers, reminding him of the images he had seen in her mind when he showed her the Force. He wondered where that place was, he never had the chance to ask her. It harked him back to their conversations in Mos Espa, when he could forget she was the Queen, because they had other concerns.

Since their return to Naboo he had tried to press upon himself that she was a Queen and above him, beyond his dreams, for now at least. Her formal wear during the greeting had helped him remember that, but now as he saw her, recalling what Anakin had called her, he wanted to forget that duty would part them soon, that her youth parted them anyway, in favour of staying with her here.

"Congratulations, Knight Kenobi," she greeted him with, coming to a halt directly before him, the light from the window streaming upon her ensemble, adding extra jewels of colour to the needlework and mesh, catching within the necklace he brought her, which hung around her neck.

"Thank you, Your Highness," Obi-Wan replied in the same formal tone, as he smiled at how once again she had been watching over him by listening to his conversation with Master Yoda.

"I think you will pass this trial easily, though I understand why you want to do so," she added, causing him to smile.

"It shall be different," he allowed, "but nonetheless I shall be glad to undergo the proper, traditional trial and ceremony after all. It is a comfort in the face of the approaching storm." He paused before asking, "How is Master Qui-Gon?"

"His healers say he is recovering well," Padmé answered. "Aside from his other condition, he should be well enough to leave in a few days."

"I would ask if you make sure that condition does not become public knowledge," Obi-Wan uttered. "It is a tragic truth known only to members of the Council, and myself."

"Hence why he asked for you to help him train Anakin," Padmé realised.

Obi-Wan nodded, and for a moment they allowed a silence to settle between them. Then she stepped a fraction closer to him.

"Do you think we shall ever see each other again?" She asked softly.

"If the Force wills it," he replied.

"Our duties force us to part in a few days," she added.

He let his eyes run over her body, remembering the many occasions during their time together that he had held her in his arms. Even though he just comforted her, he had been unable to deny to himself how much he loved her. And even though he knew she felt the same way, he still could not let her throw away all she had worked so hard for. "You're so young," he whispered. "You still have all your life to live."

She met his gaze with her own. "So do you," she uttered softly. "Which is why I have a proposal to make."

Obi-Wan stilled. "I'm listening."

"I promised my people I and those elected after me would reign by terms. One of my first acts as Queen was to amend the constitution to include this rule. If after my reign we meet again and still feel the same, who is to prevent us from exploring the possibility?"

"No one," he answered, before he was even aware of doing so.

"Good," she smiled. "Now, my healers have an idea as to how help Master Qui-Gon. While it cannot cure him, it will help prolong his life, without putting a strain on himself, as I am sure his use of the Force to do so does."

"What did they have in mind?" Obi-Wan asked.

"Placing himself in stasis for certain periods," Padmé replied.

Obi-Wan considered the idea. "They believe he can do this without risk to his life?" He asked her.

"Yes, they have developed a technique which is similar to hibernation," she explained. "Without the risks similar treatments such as Carbon Freezing include."

"I take it you asked him if he would consent to this," he remarked.

Padmé nodded. "I did and he replied that it should be the will of the Force."

The new Knight smiled. "Perhaps it is selfish of me to urge that the healers prepare this technique. But I fear I shall need his help in training Anakin. It is unusual for a Knight to take on a Padawan so soon after their trials. Then Anakin is an unusual case. A special case."

"Do not forget that," Padmé urged softly. "A part of me fears that he has little idea of the trials he will face to become a Jedi. What sacrifices will be called on him."

"So do I," Obi-Wan replied. "I will do all I can. To keep that promise and the other, Your Highness."

She smiled at the emphasis he placed on her title, the same he had placed in her chambers aboard the ship before her boldness saved Naboo. "See that you do, Master Jedi."

As the dawn of a new Nubian day eclipsed across Theed, crowds flocked to the plaza which held the entrance to the Palace, where a great parade of the brave Gungan army came to present themselves before their new allies. In columns they rode and marched down the paved street, amidst cheers and waves of ribbons, falling all around them.

Upon the steps before the grand entrance of the Palace stood the Nubian government, joined by the Supreme Chancellor and members of the Jedi Council. In the front row Queen Amidala awaited Boss Nass, looking at her most beautiful. She was wearing a white pink silk gown which clung to her form, bodice cut, with two thin straps placed on the shoulders, hidden by a floor length cloak which was adorned with countless pink petals. Her hair was in another of those incredibly intricate styles, behind which lay a white lace halo attached to the cloak. The sun made the colours shine and sparkle, as did her smile, which she bestowed on every creature present, and in particular the brave Padawan, now almost Knight of the Jedi Order who graced a row to the left of her.

Beside him stood Anakin Skywalker, decked in the new robes of a Jedi Padawan, thoughts full of everything which had happened to him since he had met Obi-Wan Kenobi and Master Qui-Gon Jinn on Tatooine.

That Jedi stood beside Master Yoda, his outward appearance seemingly much restored, so convincingly that few were aware of the reality which lay behind his eyes. Qui-Gon did not much care for celebrations such as these, but he understood the need for them, just as he understood why Obi-Wan had chosen to heal him in the melting pit. He knew the Knight was a great Jedi, capable of becoming renowned in his own right, and he held no doubt that had Obi-Wan left him to become one with the Force, he would have found the ability within himself to train Anakin as well as any Master in the Order.

But he also realised that Force intended another purpose for his pupil, just as it intended another for him, else it would not have let Obi-Wan's healing trance work. Clearly there was a reason for Qui-Gon to live, just as there was a reason for this parade. Whether the end was the same for both, only the future could tell.

The Gungans came to a halt before the stairs, and Boss Nass descended from his Kaadu, Jar Jar clumsily following, to ascend the stairs and meet Queen Amidala. Fellow sovereigns stood facing each other before the Palace doors, smiling as Amidala presented Nass with the Globe of Peace. The Gungan raised the sphere high so all those gathered might view the swirling lights inside, and a great cry rose towards the sky.

Amidala glanced around her once more amidst the cheers, her brown eyes meeting the blue gaze of her faithful Knight. He returned her smile, his pupils full of future promise, aware how fragile things were, how only time would tell if their vows would hold.

Beside him stood another who thought the angel gaze down upon him, and bestowed upon him not just her smile, but her heart and her hand as well.

Episode II: Calm in the Mirage

© Danielle Harwood-Atkinson 2021. All rights reserved.