Nineteen years after the Battle of Endor...
Luke Skywalker had woken far too early this morning. His family had still been fast asleep when he had risen in silence of the predawn hour, oblivious to his cushioned footsteps as he tread lightly through their still-dark apartment. The only sound that greeted him in the early morning was the faint tinkle of the crystal wind-chimes that Callista had hung in their balcony a few months ago. Absent-mindedly, he watched them blow in the slight breeze outside, their soft serenade soothing him as he fixed himself a cup of tea.
He wasn't quite sure what had gotten him out of the comfort of his bed at such an hour, what could have possibly torn him away from Callista's side as she lay there, sleeping peacefully, her body pressed close to his in the darkness. Maybe it was a flutter of excitement that had awoken him, or then again, maybe even a little bit of nerves. There had been a lot to think about and plan for in the last few days, enough to make even an experienced Jedi like him a bit anxious.
Whatever the reason, he was wide awake now, and he might as well take advantage of the few extra hours to do all that needed to be done. He made his way to the back room as he sipped his tea, careful to make as little noise as possible so he wouldn't disturb anyone.
"Threepio?" he whispered to his loyal droid as he poked his head into the small alcove where Threepio and Artoo spent each morning powering up. The droid's golden head cocked instantly to look up at his master, his eyes like twin moons glowing in the dark.
"Oh, good morning, Master Luke! You're up quite early today, I see."
"I couldn't get back to sleep..." Luke began to explain, then decided that Threepio probably wouldn't be interested in hearing it anyway. "Never mind," he said with a muted laugh.
Artoo released a worried chirp.
"Master Luke, Artoo would like to know if you're all right..."
"Hmm?" Luke realized he had drifted in his thoughts again and turned in amusement at the little droid. "Oh, yes, I'm fine, Artoo. I guess... I've just got a lot on my mind," he said, sighing as he caught sight of the boxes scattered across his living room. Threepio nodded accordingly.
"Is there anything we can do for you, sir?" Threepio immediately asked, always ready to be of service to his master. "Did you want us to finish with the packing?" He rose up in attention like a dutiful soldier, and Luke lowered his head slightly to hide his grin from the well-meaning droid. Funny how even after all these years, when Luke practically considered him and Artoo part of their family, Threepio still insisted on certain formalities. So it was with protocol droids, Luke figured.
"No, it's all right, Callie and I can take care of that later," Luke told him. "Would you two do me a favor though?"
"Yes, of course, Master Luke!"
"Could you make sure everything's set on the Vision? Make sure we didn't forget anything? I'll get all of this in there after we're done packing..."
"Why certainly! Come along Artoo, let's go check on the ship." He waved his hand at the little astromech droid, motioning him to come forward. Artoo beeped back in a quizzical tone.
"Of course we'll check if there's enough fuel!" Threepio exclaimed in exasperation, as if Artoo should have known better than to bring up something so obvious, even to him. "I may only be an interpreter droid," he continued to scold him, "but I do know a thing or two about space travel now, you silly twit! Now let's go!" He tapped on Artoo's domed head for emphasis, causing Artoo to sputter out an annoyed tweet in response. "Sometimes I just don't understand you, Artoo. I swear you just want to try my patience. You're getting more and more eccentric by the day..."
Luke chuckled softly at them, shaking his head as he watched them walk out the door to head for the docking bay.
From the corner of his eye, he caught the first glimmer of light as dawn broke through the thick clouds. The sun's warm orange glow colored the vast sky like firelight, making him sigh involuntarily in awe.
It had begun already. His last day on Yavin.
With a sigh, he crossed the room to step out onto the balcony. He had forgotten how majestic Yavin was. After years of living in the humid jungle world, he had begun to take it for granted. But he had always felt comfortable there, from the moment he landed on its soil as a starry-eyed fighter pilot for the notorious Rebel Fleet, fresh off the barren wastelands of Tatooine. And though his long stint in the Rebellion ultimately swept him off to many distant worlds, Yavin had always beckoned him, and he eventually came back to make it his home when the time came for him to open his Jedi Academy. With the mystique and allure of its grand temples, and its ancient, massive trees, it somehow presented itself as the perfect place to learn about the ways of the Force, the ideal setting to help his students begin on the journey he himself had taken so many years ago.
I'm really going to miss this place, he thought. There would be no more mornings like this one, waking up at sunrise, staring out into the Massassi temples just beyond their suite, listening to the eager voices of the students as they gathered for their early morning exercises in the dense jungle below. But he had made his decision now. As much as he had come to love Yavin, his heart knew he could no longer stay. He stood on the threshold of a new journey, and the time had come for him to follow its call.
Suddenly, he felt his wife's familiar and comforting presence approaching him, and he broke out of his reverie. Callista's warmth enveloped him instantly, making him forget any anxiety he might have felt.
"Hey beautiful," he whispered with a ready smile, before she even stepped onto the balcony. He turned to face her, meeting her halfway and gently pulling her outside to join him in watching the sunrise. "Good morning," he murmured, brushing aside the thick malt-brown curls from her face, before greeting her with a sweet kiss.
"Aww, I wanted to sneak up on you," Callista said. She gave him a playful pout, her surprise now foiled. "I just can't catch you off-guard, can I?" she teased, gladly returning his kiss. She encircled her long arms around his neck and pressed herself close to him as they both stared out into the horizon.
"Not a chance," he responded with a mischievous smile. "I know right away when my wife is near." He affectionately pulled her even closer towards him and glanced towards the inside of their suite. "Are the kids still asleep?"
"Mmm-hmm..." she nodded. "They were up till late last night, running around all over the place while I was packing. I'm sure they exhausted themselves, so I wouldn't be surprised if they don't wake up until much later!" She let out an exasperated laugh as she craned her neck to look towards their room, a smile forming on her lips, the kind of smile Luke always saw on her when she was around their children.
"I don't know where they get their energy," Luke chuckled, shaking his head. "Cailin must have begged me to play at least a thousand games with her and Owen yesterday--and this was all before lunchtime!"
"It's a good thing we went through all that rigorous Jedi training," Callista said. "It sure comes in handy when you're trying to keep up with two kids, doesn't it?"
Luke responded a devilish grin. "It's going to be even crazier when he have more little ones running around," he remarked casually. He looked back at her in amusement, waiting for her reaction.
"More little ones?" she laughed, cocking her head to the side as she eyed him teasingly. "What do you have in mind, Master Skywalker?"
"Oh... Only that I want to make more beautiful babies with my gorgeous wife," he whispered deviously into her ear.
"Mmm, I love the sound of that," she murmured, leaning in provocatively towards him. "Sounds like something we should get started on right away..."
He let out a small laugh and kissed her once again. "My thoughts exactly, Callie."
He held her close to him for a moment, their foreheads pressed to each other. After a while, she finally broke from his embrace and walked over to the balcony railing, her long crimson dress rustling softly as it swept the ground. He watched her lean over the railing, hair spilling over her shoulders in smoke-brown waves that shone even lighter in the bright sun. Even in her silence, he could hear her thoughts.
Memories flooded back to both of them... Luke bringing her back to Yavin, after he had been trapped aboard the Eye for thirty years... Their emotional reunion five years ago... Their wedding at the Great Temple... The births of their daughter and son...
"It's going to be tough leaving here, isn't it?" she said finally, turning back to look at him with an unmistakable look of melancholy in her gray eyes. "So many memories..."
As always, she could read his mind.
Luke walked over to her, wrapping his arms around her from behind as she leaned back against his chest. "I know what you mean," he said, his voice tinged with nostalgia, "I didn't expect to get as attached to this place as I did. We've been through a lot here, haven't we?"
They stood there for what seemed like a long while, motionless, communicating only through their thoughts. After some silence, she turned to face him once again. "It's been a long time coming," she said, placing her delicate hands on his chest.
Luke took a deep breath and brushed aside a stray lock that had fallen into her eyes. "Yes. We've all waited for this moment," he said. "I just... I hope..."
Callista smiled at him before he even finished his sentence, reaching up to frame his face with her hands. "They're proud of you, Luke," she assured him, speaking to his unspoken doubts. It didn't surprise him at all that she knew what he meant, even as he fumbled with the words. "Obi-Wan and Yoda and your father... They'd be so proud of what you've accomplished-"
"What we've accomplished," Luke corrected her gently. They had done this together, just as he had always envisioned they would. "I couldn't have done this without you, Callie. This is as much your triumph as it is mine."
She took his hand in hers and the beautiful smile that Luke knew so well grew even wider. Her slate-colored eyes brimmed with confidence, with the thrill of the challenge ahead.
"Then let's do this."
Only a narrow sliver of light from the full moon outside managed to fight its way through the small gap between the drapes of the dimly lit sitting room. Ayedanna Wey shielded her eyes as the wayward ray fell on her face, and she cursed in annoyance as she spun away from the window.
Over a hundred women sat in hushed silence on the cold, bare floor. Though there was barely enough room for all of them in the cramped space, none of the women complained. No one spoke of discomfort or uneasiness. They were all here for one reason: to hear Ayedanna speak.
The gathering was not optional. Ayedanna had demanded their presence tonight--and no one dared disobey her. Her wrath was infamous; her venom, deadly. There were few laws on the compound, save for one important and hard-fast rule: when Ayedanna spoke, they had to listen.
"I said, close the curtains!" Ayedanna screamed, her shrill voice reverberating through the silent room. For an eerie, awkward moment, no one made a motion towards the window. Clearly paralyzed with fear, they all remained frozen in their places, until finally, Sevar Ruti, one of the younger women in the group, rose from floor and crossed the room, tugging at the heavy drapes to close them. She turned towards the older woman and smiled weakly, as if seeking approval.
"Everything is set now, Ayedanna," she said finally, as she returned to her spot in the front row.
Ayedanna nodded in acknowledgement. "Yes, thank you," she answered with a small wave of her hand. "Now we can begin." She adjusted the sleeves of her velvet gown before she looked out into the group once again. The sheer number of the women who had gathered astounded her for a brief moment; even she hadn't realized how many of them there were now until that very moment. She felt a smug smile form on her lips as her eyes scanned them all. Young and old alike, they were strong and powerful. Powerful in the Force.
We have indeed grown in number, she thought in triumph. They will soon meet their match...
"Let us begin the ritual," she said, clapping her hands together to get their attention. The sound of her hands coming together produced an abrupt crack in the air, and jolted the women upright.
"You will soon see why I have brought you here today." She closed her eyes in concentration, and with a subtle motion of her hand, gestured the women to turn their attention to the red brick fireplace in the center of the back wall. It came alive with the intensity of the roaring blaze, and the sight of it was hypnotic and mesmerizing. As they stared into the yellow tongues of the fire, slowly, the dancing flames began to take shape--shadows at first, then figures, hints of movement, of substance, just enough for their trained eyes to discern. Faint voices--very faint--emanated from the phantom shapes in the fire. The words eluded the women at first, but soon they began to understand their meaning.
"Do you hear them?" Ayedanna whispered in a low monotone voice. "They're not speaking to us, but if you listen, you will hear what they are saying..." She leaned in closer towards them, feeling the energy swelling in the room. "Yes," she continued, leading them to comprehension, "it is the Jedi whose shapes you see..."
Their eyes fluttered to hers as soon as she spoke the words. She had their attention now. In their eyes she saw the questions start to form.
"My sisters, they have grown strong," she told them. "Indeed, they think they are stronger now than they've ever been. But in truth, their downfall awaits them. And our chance has come."
"But... Why now, Ayedanna?" Sevar interjected, not a trace of trepidation in her voice.
Ayedanna shot an arctic glance towards her. But just as instantly as the sneer appeared on her face, it dissolved, replaced by a triumphant smile. "Why now?" she repeated the question, pausing dramatically to ensure that everyone would hear her answer. "Because they are at their most overconfident, and that makes them all the more vulnerable."
She cackled--a violent, ground-shaking laugh, and as disobedient strands of her silver hair came loose from her braid, she casually smoothed them, never letting her eyes leave the ones fixed on hers. She still saw confusion in them, and realized she had to explain further. "Luke Skywalker and his wife have made a major move," she continued. "They've set out to re-establish the Jedi Council, my sisters." She laughed again, then lowered her voice to an ominous whisper. "You see, they think that the Jedi have truly been reborn again. And they won't be looking over their shoulders. They'll be so pre-occupied with restoring 'The Order' that they won't be expecting any threats..."
"We have no means of attack... How could we possibly-"
"You are young, Sevar," Ayedanna hissed. "You needn't concern yourself with unnecessary questions at this time. Leave that to me. The solution will present itself inevitably."
Sevar nodded and looked down in shame. "Yes, Ayedanna," she managed. "I'm... sorry..."
Ayedanna nonchalantly smoothed her hair once again--clearly unfazed by the lone questioning voice. The hard, cold veneer returned once again as she stared out onto her audience. "The Nightsisters will have their revenge," she declared matter-of-factly, and she could feel the chills travel up their spine as she spoke the words. She smiled coolly in response.. "I promise you, we will make them pay for what they did to us. It is only a matter of time."
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