, , , , , ,

Here it is… the last chapter. :’-( This story is complete. It’s been a journey, all right…

This time: A friend, a speech, an announcement, a decision, and a Knighting; and last, but not least, a happy ending.

Chapter XV

                Obi-Wan followed Qui-Gon through the streets of Theed, glancing about in admiration. He had never seen a city quite like this one before. “Where are we going, Master?” he asked, slightly curious. Qui-Gon turned briefly back to face him, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

“We shall see,” he said cryptically. Obi-Wan sighed, more amused than annoyed.

In time, they arrived at a small private garden within the city. Qui-Gon slipped in through the gate and they walked slowly along its winding paths, contemplatively. They found their way gradually through a huge maze formed from tall green hedges and into an open space with a fountain in the center. Sitting by the fountain was a tall, golden-skinned woman. “Master Tahl!” Obi-Wan exclaimed. Tahl looked up at the sound of his voice.

“Obi-Wan! For goodness sake, boy, don’t sneak up on me like that!” Her words went disregarded as her strides rapidly ate up the distance between them. She pulled Obi-Wan close. “It’s so good to see you again, sweetheart,” she murmured.

“Sorry about sneaking up on you,” Obi-Wan apologized. “I can’t risk leaving my presence unshielded with Sidious anywhere in the vicinity, and I’m a bit tired to keep up the illusory one right now, especially since I’m out of his sight…” Tahl pressed a kiss to his forehead.

“You’ve grown since the last time I saw you,” she said, fingers brailing his face. Obi-Wan shrugged.

“I haven’t, not that much. I’ll never be as tall as you, or Master Qui-Gon.” Tahl laughed.

“It would be hard for anyone to be as tall as Qui-Gon.” She grinned mischievously at Qui-Gon, who mock-frowned at his friend.

“He’s scowling now,” Obi-Wan said, for the benefit of the blind master.

“I can tell that, thank you, Obi-Wan.” Tahl laughed, the sound like silvery bells. “What has happened to you since the last mission the three of us had together?” Obi-Wan sighed.

“Not much,” he said. “The Sith are gathering an army, and the kidnapped queen has been rescued… Siri Tachi was captured, but I managed to free her… you probably know all about those already anyway. There’s a lot going on, that’s all I can say… everything is moving forward, getting faster and faster… it’s all moving toward a great confrontation, the reckoning for our wrongs.” Tahl smiled.

“I feel as if this state of affairs will not last much longer. The balance is shifting, and shifting towards us this time.” Tahl shifted slightly, facing Qui-Gon’s direction, and sent him a look that Obi-Wan could not quite decipher. It was as if the two of them knew something he didn’t. Obi-Wan shifted, a sudden chill running down his back. Not that it was an unpleasant feeling, it was just as if something was about to happen.

“How many of the Jedi are here, on Naboo, right now?” he asked softly. “There’s the Council, Padawan Tachi, you, Master Jinn, Quinlan, me… that’s seventeen of us in one place! Isn’t that dangerous?”

“It may be dangerous,” Tahl said softly, “but the Force called us here. We can not but heed its bidding, Obi-Wan. Didn’t you hear the summons?”

“No,” Obi-Wan said softly. “I merely went with the flow, so to speak.”

“Hm,” Tahl replied quietly, noncommittally.

“It’s almost time for the announcement, Obi-Wan.” Qui-Gon said softly.

“Goodbye, Master,” Obi-Wan said. “I’d better get back before Sidious misses me.”

The balcony overlooking the plaza at Theed’s center was a good perch to watch the crowds from. Obi-Wan scanned the surrounding area with a habit born from bitter necessity. He looked nervously at Qui-Gon, who was standing down in the crowd, from his vantage point behind Sidious. No one noticed, except for Qui-Gon. The Jedi Master sent a wave of reassurance along their bond, glancing sympathetically at Obi-Wan without seeming to particularly look at him. Then the Sith Lord rose and began his speech. Obi-Wan barely heard a word he said, watching the crowd closely. They were ripe for the governor’s announcement.

“And, despite this great tragedy, the Naboo should know that they are not alone…” Sidious was saying. Obi-Wan inwardly winced. Where is Governor Bibble? he thought anxiously.

As if on cue, the elderly Nabooian came forward, in the plaza below. “Your Majesty! Forgive the interruption, my lord, but we have an important announcement. The Queen-elect has returned!” Stunned silence greeted this interruption. Obi-Wan smiled behind the cover of his hood. Perfect. Padme came forward, already dressed in the ceremonial robes of the Naboo ruler, her face covered with the elaborate makeup.

“My people! The stars shine down upon us in this happy hour!” she proclaimed.

Then the whole meeting erupted into excited cheering. Obi-Wan noted the look on Sidious’ face with satisfaction. The Sith seemed torn between rage, frustration, and confusion. Obi-Wan smiled behind his hood again. Checkmate.

The rest of the gathering was caught up in a number of long, flowery speeches that no one listened to (as a matter of course,) Queen Amidala’s inauguration, and a banquet. Somehow, the arrangements had been miraculously altered, with Sidious and Amidala sitting at the head of the table, the very picture of mutual friendship and congeniality. For having planned the whole thing, Obi-Wan served the two rulers with astonishing equanimity. The feasting and popular celebration ran on late into the night.

When the banquet was done and even the most persistent of the revelers had retired to bed, Obi-Wan made his way down to the subterranean levels of the palace, where he and Qui-Gon had agreed to meet, after receiving Padme’s permission. Obi-Wan found his master in one of the rooms bordered on one side by the waterfall and knelt down beside him in his meditation posture. “Master,” he greeted, sotto voce.

“Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon acknowledged. “Master Yoda spoke to me earlier today. The Council is agreed. They will confer the title of Jedi Knight upon you.” Obi-Wan gasped softly, his breath a puff of pale steam in the cool air.

“I am humbled, Master, but I…”

“You don’t think you’re ready.” Qui-Gon said. It was an answer more than a question. He opened his eyes and looked at Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan did not have to speak for his master to know the truth. “Obi-Wan, I know you are ready, even if you do not think so. In the past twenty-two years, I have seen you grow in so many ways, and not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.” Obi-Wan winced, a wry expression on his face. His lack of height got him laughed at, often. Qui-Gon grimaced, then smiled apologetically. “Sorry. But I have seen you face many foes, some of them Sith, some from within yourself, and you have overcome them all. You have always risen to the occasion, Obi-Wan. No matter what the obstacles; you have surmounted them. No matter what the circumstances, you have overcome them and risen above them, and I believe that there is no one more worthy for the accolades. Life has tested you in more ways than I can count. You have passed far harsher trials than any the Council might assign.” Obi-Wan gazed up, open-mouthed and wide-eyed in wonderment. Qui-Gon smiled. “Yes, they are giving you a field accolade. I don’t have to tell you what an honor that is.” Qui-Gon rose slowly and helped Obi-Wan to his feet. He led the younger man a bit closer to the waterfall; Obi-Wan brushed his fingers across the glassy curtain. “I have also been instructed to tell you something, Obi-Wan.” Obi-Wan gazed quietly at his mentor, glance questioning. Qui-Gon touched the clear, brilliant pendant that Obi-Wan always wore. It was hidden beneath the cloth of his shirt, but in the Force it gave out an unmistakable, clear, sweet chime. “You know that this belonged to your mother, Padawan. You know enough of the old language of her homeworld to know that the name you bear—the name she gave you—means ‘Child of the Light.’” Obi-Wan nodded slowly, clearly unsure of where this was going. “Hear me now, Obi-Wan. What I’m going to tell you may be hard to take, but you must listen. You have a right to know this.” Qui-Gon swallowed and took a deep breath. “You know of the prophecy of the Chosen One?” Obi-Wan nodded silently, once again. “Before she died, your mother told me to train you. She said you were our greatest hope for victory, our only hope for lasting peace. She told me that you were the Chosen One.” Obi-Wan stared, at a complete loss for words. Qui-Gon took a deep breath. “Obi-Wan, Sharya remained a virgin until the day of her death. You were conceived by the will of the Force itself. When I first found you, I tested your midichlorien count. It was impossibly high, too high to measure properly. Later, I tested you again, with a more up-to-date tester, and it still could not determine your exact count. However, I can tell you that it is higher than twenty-five thousand.”

“Isn’t that supposed to be impossible?” Obi-Wan asked, finding his voice again.

“Obi-Wan, many things that are believed to be impossible exist. It does not do to call anything impossible.” Obi-Wan sighed. Qui-Gon rose. “Come. You’ll complete your vigil tonight, and your knighting will take place just before dawn.” Obi-Wan rose and followed Qui-Gon out, and through a maze of passages into another room. Once there, Obi-Wan knelt down and sank into his meditative state. Visions moved quickly through his mind’s eye, winking swiftly one to another; the thousand possible futures that awaited him. The crossroads; he could see it plainly. But he already knew which he would choose. He had already chosen his path. There was no turning back.

At the fourth hour, Siri came to him. “Obi-Wan?” she whispered, her voice sounding hollow, its echo softening the sharp edges of the name.

“I’m here,” he replied, quietly. Siri knelt down in front of him.

“I—I wanted to talk.”

“About what?” he asked. Siri shrugged.

“Oh, nothing.” A pause. Obi-Wan did not look at her. They both knew that it wasn’t nothing. Siri was just gathering up her courage.

“Master Gallia volunteered to take over and complete my training,” she said, softly.

“That was kind of her. She’s a good teacher.”

“Have you ever met her, I mean, on a mission or something, and she helped you out?”

“Once,” he said softly. He had never been so frightened in his whole life as that one day… Adi Gallia had helped him through it. She was a good and kindly woman, somewhat of a maverick like his own master, but a true Jedi—like Qui-Gon in that as well—in spite of it. She and Siri would make a perfect team. “I think I know what you wanted to talk about it.”

“Good,” Siri snapped irritably, “maybe we won’t even have to talk about it after all.”

“We will, Siri, you know we will.” Siri just huffed. “Siri, I’m going to be honest with you. I… I never expected this to happen. I fell in love with you. But at the same time, I don’t think…”

“It’s only forbidden under the Ancient Code,” Siri said. “Not under the intermittent one.” Obi-Wan sighed.

“I know, but all the same. There’s a war coming. I want a family more than anything, but… we both have a duty, to the Jedi Order. If we married, had children… we’d probably never be home. And they… they would worry about us. We might never come home. That’s no life for a child, is it, having to worry all the time?”

“No,” Siri said softly, agreeing with him. “It isn’t.”

“And then, there’s the fact that we might have to choose, one day, which would come first; family or duty. And… And I’m not sure which one I would say, Siri. I don’t know the answer, and that… it bothers me.” Obi-Wan looked down. “I think the ancient masters were right when they eliminated attachments from their lives. But, at the same time, I can’t deny that I do love you.” Slowly, Obi-Wan drew out a ring with a single, scintillating jewel set in it. “This belonged to my mother, once. I think it’s only right that I should pass it on to you.”

“I have one for you, too,” Siri said, pulling out a plain silver band.

“I’m going to vow myself to chastity once again, Siri.” Obi-Wan said softly. “But at the same time, I want you to know that my heart is yours. I really don’t have a choice about that.”

“I’ll do the same,” Siri decided. They spoke their vows, softly, into the welcoming silence.

And then, they parted.

Morning came.

With it, came the memory of something forgotten, just beyond reach. Joy leaped into being.

Silently, Obi-Wan rose, attending to assigned duties as the personal attendant of Sidious. The hours passed swiftly by until he was free again. Padme showed him the hidden garden that she would be honored to host the ceremony in.

At last, it was time.

After entering the garden, Obi-Wan walked slowly forward, clad in the traditional Jedi robes that had been worn by so many before the decimation and supposed destruction of the Jedi Order. The white cloak, slightly too long for him, trailed softly across the soft grass. At a Knighting, the supplicant traditionally wore all white robes, symbolizing innocence, purity, and dedication to duty. The pale cloth over his shoulders, the folds that met above a rapidly beating heart, were a constant reminder of the wings of the seraph, modestly hiding themselves away from view, in awe of their Maker.

For one precious, sacred moment, they were living in a fairy tale. The sweet scent of the flowers in the hidden garden caressed the attenders’ senses, and the birdsong in the trees was as sweet, and sweeter than, any mortal music. The soft green carpet of moss and grass underfoot rustled softly at the gentle, whispering wind that tiptoed through it, and the light, bare feet that trod it, leaving barely a mark. The chuckling fountain, offset to one side, sent a rainbow of soft spray into the air.

Obi-Wan walked forward to the focus of the half-circle formed by the waiting Council. As he knelt on the cool, soft grass, the circle closed behind him. Last night, he had knelt on cold, hard stone; but today, he knelt on rich green grass. What he knelt on did not matter; it was the humility in the heart that made all the difference.

All the others who were there to witness the ceremony gathered around the circle of Jedi Masters. Mace Windu raised his hands, signaling that the ceremony which was about to begin. “My Jedi brethren—honored friends—we are gathered here to witness the ceremony by which a young Jedi comes of age. Padawan Kenobi will be knighted today, in recognition of his readiness, which he has proved many times, and most recently by his rescue of Padawan Tachi and Queen-elect Amidala.

“In ancient times, before the reign of Deriaka, the Padawan would wear a small braid behind the ear on the right side. This was the symbol of the commitment of the student to the master, and conversely of the master to the student. Now, it is safer not to wear such symbols, but the commitment is no less today than it was two thousand years ago.

“It was also the custom, when the apprenticeship was complete, to cut the braid, as the Padawan was then a Knight, and no longer under his or her master’s tutelage.

“Obi-Wan Kenobi, you come before us today. Your training is complete. What do you seek?”

“To serve the Order, to serve the people of this galaxy, and to serve the Force.”

“Do you vow and give your word of honor that you will live simply, and unobtrusively, whatever honors may come your way, and not give into despair when men speak ill of you?”

“I do.”

“Do you vow and give your word of honor that you will abstain and keep yourself free from all emotional ties, instead dedicating yourself to the service of the people and the keeping of the Code?”

“I do.”

“Do you vow and give your word of honor that you will obey your superiors, whatever their commands, even to the danger of your own life, and that should you be ordered to do something morally unacceptable you will defy their words?”

“I do.”

“Do you vow and give your word of honor to pass on these teachings as they were passed on to you, should the time come?”

“I do.”

“And do you vow and give your word of honor to defend the innocent in all things and at all times, even should you be placed in danger of your own death, and never harm another living creature or raise your hand in violence unless it is in protection and preservation of life and for the good of all?”

“I do.” Master Yoda hobbled forward. Obi-Wan bent his head down, and the aged master and placed a hand on his forehead, in blessing.

“Then speak your final vow, you will.”

“I pledge myself, heart, mind, will, body and soul, to the service of the Force and its creatures, to my very death, and even beyond.” Obi-Wan said, firmly.

“Then a Jedi, you truly are.” Yoda lifted his lightsaber. Its blade did not graze Obi-Wan, even in the slightest, as Yoda dubbed him. “By the election of this Council, and the blessing of the Force, dub thee I do. Arise, Master Kenobi.” Obi-Wan bowed slightly, then stood. He walked forward to greet Qui-Gon and Tahl. The two Jedi Masters smiled. He turned and bowed slightly to Siri. She raised her hand, subtly, in a gesture of blessing.

The Force chimed in approval and joy.

All was well with the world.

Author’s Note: So, this story is complete. *sob* They say all good things must come to an end. But it’s not the end of the series! The Shifting Tides run onward in the embrace of time, and where one story ends, another begins. I may be taking a temporary hiatus from the series (partially due to the fact that I’m Nanoing away at a novel, not a fanfic ;-P), but have no fear– in the future, the sequel to this story, which will be entitled Battlefield of the Soul, will be posted on this blog. Thank you all so much for following and reading this story, and may God bless you. 🙂