Endor’s Moon didn’t look the same it did a few hours ago, when the battle had unleashed a chaos that spread to every corner of the landscape both earth and sky.
Leia smiled. She grieved for the lives lost, but serenity rose up her spine when the thought that none of those brave men and women had perished in vain came to her mind.
The moments following the destruction of the Second Death Star, Luke got in touch from an Imperial shuttle just to tell her the only new that truly mattered.
‘‘The Emperor has fallen.’’
A blast of euphoria shook her with such strength she didn’t even realise that her brother’s voice didn’t show the joy it should have. The total defeat of the Empire was a matter of a few months. Now, the whole galaxy looked like a different one.
However, that cheerfulness dimmed the moment she remembered the other key figure of the Imperial forces and whose mere existence meant a threat great enough for her to feel uneasy.
‘‘What about Lord Vader?’’ she had asked, cautiously.
Leia didn’t know what to infer from the silence that followed. She frowned. She was about to open her to speak again when Luke’s voice came to her from the other side of the comm device.
‘‘Same thing’’ he answered briefly.
Leia restrained a triumphant cry because she knew that for Luke the death of the Dark Lord meant something afar from a victory.
‘‘A feast is being pulled off tonight’’ she told him. ‘‘Food, music… Come and tell us everything.’’
‘‘I will, but I have something to do first.’’
‘‘What is it?’’
Another silence. The Princess simply knew his brother wanted to ask her something; make her part of that secret matter but, for some reason, he ended up rejecting the idea.
‘‘Never mind, but don’t worry, I’ll be around in the forest. See you later.’’
Luke had cut the transmission and Leia didn’t had the need to argue. It was not so difficult to understand what was all about, nor it was to know what was that question never asked.
She sighed and turned to see the immense trees of the Moon of Endor. The traditional Ewok wood structures began to be adorned with cloth ribbons and braided ropes. On top of one of those high platforms, Han argued with C-3PO about some nonsense. Or maybe he was just complaining about the pedantry of the poor droid. Whatever it was it surely contained some sort of affection for the droid, a tender feeling that her beloved smuggler would never acknowledge. Leia grinned and looked back to the plain where she awaited the landing of a ship. Mon Mothma had sent her a message reporting that one of the oldest collaboratos of the Alliance wanted to meet her and congratulate her in person for the success. Leia almost rejected the petition since there were many members of the Rebel Alliance wishing to talk to her, but Mon insisted: ‘‘This is the original Fulcrum’’.
She could not refuse. Leia had never met her. She was a mysterious figure even for her and only the most veteran –old senators and officers from the Republic that had planted the seeds for the Rebellion- seemed to have more information about her. Not only was not possible for Leia to reject that visit; she was looking forward to it.
The ship arrived and Leia gulped. It was a shuttle T-6, with chrome decoration in maroon over the white surface. Its wings retracted and the ship lowered gently to the ground. The twilight sun teared silver drops from the hull. The door opened and a slim silhouette outlined in the indoor darkness. With her heart pounding fierce in her chest, Leia waited until she showed herself clearly. She did not understand all that tension she was feeling. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she was about to meet someone she had spent half of her life hearing things about.
The woman removed the pale hood that covered her face and revealed some white and blue montrals and lekkus that framed her orange skin. She held a large stick in her right hand.
-General Organa –she greeted with a soft and clean voice.
Leia raised her eyebrows with both surprise and satisfaction. Until that moment no one had ever referred to her in those terms, since her royal condition seemed to eclipse everything else, but she definitely felt more comfortable with that new title. After all, the destruction of Alderaan had taken with it the possibility of succeeding her as queen someday, which condemned her to be an eternal princess who could no longer serve as such so, what was the purpose of it now? She kept that title in memory of her home, but that was it. All her last’s years work had more to do with war than with wearing crowns and carry the diplomatic tasks that were expected from the royalty.
‘‘It is a pleasure to meet you…’’
Leia lengthened the last vowel in order to make the newcomer understand that she didn’t know what her name was. Calling her just Fulcrum didn’t seem right.
‘‘My name is Ahsoka Tano’’ she said.
‘‘Well, then it is nice to meet you, Ahsoka Tano. I’m aware of how valuable your help has been to our cause since it begun so this victory is yours as well.
The Togruta dropped a tired smile, as if for her it didn’t make any sense to talk about victories or defeats, only peace.
They walked toward the woods.
‘‘The Force is with us’’ Ahsoka said.
Leia looked for her eyes.
‘‘The Force… Do you feel it?’’
‘‘I do. And I also sense it in you.’’
The princess gulped.
‘‘I… I don’t know yet…’’
‘‘It’s okay. We’re not talking about something that must be known. You learn it, you feel it, you have it… But you don’t know it.’’ There was something in her voice that felt sedative, encouraging. Reliable. ‘‘Speaking of’’ she continued ‘‘I would love to meet commander… Skywalker.’’ She pronounced that name as if it was the saddest word in the galaxy. ‘‘He is quite famous since he destroyed the Death Star.’’
‘‘Yes. And he is also a good friend’’ Leia added. She was still getting used to the idea of Luke and herself being siblings, although in the bottom of her heart that bond felt so natural. In that moment two Ewoks passed by carrying some helmets of the Stormtroopers that had perished in the battle. ‘‘They are assembling percussion instruments with it.’’ Leia explained with a ding of amusement in her tone. ‘‘And the truth is that it doesn’t sound as awful as one could think.’’
Despite Ahsoka’s smile provoked by the tenderness those creatures woke in her and for the contagious energy they gave off, her blue eyes casted a shadow of nostalgia.
And Leia didn’t need to ask. Maybe it was because of the recent power that had awoken in her, but she knew without finding out that the Togruta was remembering older times, older wars, and older soldiers that fought in them and that were precursors of the Imperial troops. It was not far-fetched to think, both for the age Ahsoka looked like and the Force sensitivity Leia was starting to engage, that she had somehow participated in The Clone Wars.
R2-D2, only witnessing the dispute between Han and C-3PO but not intervening, took a quick look around and stopped when the Togruta came in sight. He started to do little jumps and beeped with one of his characteristic sounds that rather sounded like a scream of joy. He flew through them.
‘‘What the…?’’ Leia didn’t understand what was going on.
Once the astromech was in front of Ahsoka, she kneeled so she could face the little droid.
‘‘Hey, bud’’ she said, obviously glad. ‘‘It’s been a long time.’’
‘‘Do you know each other?’’ Leia asked.
‘‘This little one here saved my life more times than I can recall.’’ Ahsoka explained as she stroked the top of the droid. ‘‘Mine and many others. He’s a little hero.’’
‘‘That’s true’’ Leia admitted. ‘‘It belongs to Luke but we all have a thing for him.’’
‘‘It is Luke’s?
‘‘Yes. They’re flesh and bone.
‘‘I see. I’m going to have to thank him for taking care of R2.’’
‘‘Yeah, about that… I have to say that Luke’s not here.’’
‘‘Do you know where to find him?’’
‘‘I don’t think it’ll take you long. He’s somewhere in these woods but… I don’t know if he wants company. He had something important to take care of.’’
‘‘At this point you can well imagine that I’m not here out of mere sympathy.’’ Ahsoka looked as if she was hesitating about what to say next. ‘‘I want to talk to him about his father.’’
‘‘About Darth Vader?’’
The scathing glance Leia gave her didn’t disturb Ahsoka.
‘‘So you know.’’
‘‘Luke told me.’’
‘‘And what else did he tell you?’’
Leia clenched her fist and looked down momentarily. It was clear Ahsoka knew so hiding it would’ve been nonsense. Plus, everybody would find out sooner or later.
‘‘That he was also mine. Not with those words but it was implied.’’
The hint of bitterness in the princess’s voice would have been obvious to anyone listening, but it was something more for Ahsoka. She stiffened her facial expression and said:
‘‘I’ve seen holos of yours, Leia. Archive videos about your headstrong senatorial interventions. You reminded me of him in all of them.’’
Ahsoka touched her shoulder as to say goodbye and headed towards the green density, willing to find Luke. Leia let her go because what she had said, more than offensive, felt disturbing. She couldn’t imagine in which ways Vader and her were similar but neither she could imagine the Togruta lying.
An ocean of twinkling stars, still shy because of the recent retreat of the sun, covered that part of the Moon of Endor. Ahsoka was well aware of what she would find, but something deep inside revolved against that thought. She didn’t know what she would do when she saw him; didn’t know which words to use to introduce herself to Luke.
Far away, between the trees, a shaft of orange light cast vague shadows on the grass. Ahsoka walked towards it and the scene outlined before her eyes. She reached the last row of trees that marked the end of the foliage and the beginning of a clearing where a bonfire consumed what was left of the closest thing she had ever had to a family. She awaited in the dark.
Luke, wearing black, was facing the bonfire. In front of him, Anakin.
Ahsoka swallowed hard to quell a tear and stared at the helmet she had already faced once, not so long ago. A few years; a whole eternity. Sometimes the difference was blurred in the memory of what it was and the longing for what it might have been.
She needed to know how it happened, but that meant interrupting Luke, and she didn’t want to do it. Not that soon, at least. He was his son. That moment belonged to them, so she stayed in the shadows a little bit longer, with her heart constricted by loss. She felt that same loss twenty-three years ago, when the Order 66 was executed. The bond that united her with her master throughout the Light Side of the Force had cracked until it broke. Ahsoka read it as a death, not as a fell into the Dark Side. And, as terrible as the latter could be for her, knowing he was alive ignited a spark of light of hope. Later, in their duel, she saw it. She saw it in his eyes, uncovered because of the cut she had inflicted on his helmet. Anakin was there, fighting against Darth Vader, who held the undisputed sovereignty of his spirit. Bearing that in mind, how was Ahsoka supposed to leave him? How could she have lost hope that Anakin saved himself someday? Jedi despised the idea of redemption. They didn’t think about it seriously or didn’t believe it was possible. But she was not a Jedi.
And it seemed Luke didn’t either. At least not in the old way. Ahsoka sensed the pain in him. If he was bidding that kind of farewell, it had to be because in the end he got to see Anakin. The Anakin she knew.
Some fireworks exploded in the sky to celebrate the death of the tyrant that Palpatine was, and Ahsoka almost felt how the entire galaxy oozed joy while she and Luke said goodbye to a man that had changed their lives and had taught them so much. None of them would have been who they were without him.
Past a few minutes, when the fire had already consumed what it was to consume and the dark night was closing in on them, Ahsoka took a few steps, aware that there was no need of saying anything, since Luke would sense her presence and would turn. And so he did, with his hand on his belt just in case a fight was needed.
‘‘Who are you?’’ he asked.
‘‘My name is Ahsoka Tano.’’ She answered. The firelight illuminated her face. ‘‘I helped Bail Organa with the first spying network of the Rebel Alliance and I have continued to collaborate with it from time to time since the
Luke dropped the defensive posture and frowned.
‘‘I haven’t heard of you.’’
‘‘I made sure to go quite unnoticed.’’ Ahsoka said not looking at him. Her eyes were fixed in the helmet of Darth Vader. ‘‘He did come back to the light, didn’t he.’’
Luke separated his lips as a gesture of surprise.
‘‘How…? What do you know about him?’’
‘‘Probably more than you.’’ She sighed. ‘‘Anakin Skywalker was my master when I was young.
Luke took a moment to digest the information.
‘‘I… I didn’t know you were… Are you a Jedi?’’
‘‘I was. I left the Order before Sidious ended it.
But Ahsoka didn’t want to answer that.
‘‘Tell me about his redemption.’’
Luke stared back at the mortal remains of this father.
‘‘The Emperor almost killed me. He used some sort of rays that came out of his hands… It was so painful, I could hardly think and the only thing that came to my mind was to appeal to my father’s good feelings because, despite everything, I knew they were there.’’
‘‘Did it work?’’
‘‘It did. He fought against him knowing he would die, but he did it anyway.’’
‘‘To save you.’’
Ahsoka felt a knot in the throat but it was different from the ones that came with grief or sadness. This time it was about relief, about pride. The crackle of the fire grew weaker, and its flames were fading. The light died out little by little.
Ahsoka Tano pulled out a lightsaber from her cloak. She turned it on and held it steady in front of her as if it was a torch. Luke did the same with his. Both lights green and white reflected on the heat atrophied helmet.
‘‘Now you are one with the Force’’ Ahsoka said with the shadow of a smile in her lips. She turned off her lightsaber and her eyes met Luke’s. ‘‘I want to talk you about him, but not tonight. Now you have something to celebrate with your friends, but tomorrow morning I’ll be waiting for you in one of the nearby hills. If you want to.’’
‘‘Yes’’ he answered quickly. ‘‘I want to know more about my father.’’
‘‘And you will. See you tomorrow, Luke Skywalker.’’
And so Ahsoka disappeared in the darkness.
After so many years of war, the din of festivities were comforting. The Empire had not yet been completely defeated and there were still a couple of battles to fight, but it was gratifying to become the dominant army.
The Ewoks danced, stoked the fire and played music as the others clapped. In the middle of the party, Luke had seen the Force Ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin. It was a peaceful feeling to know that, somehow, they were still there, balanced. He would not forget the last words Ahsoka had said to Anakin. ‘‘Now you are one with the Force.’’ So that was what dying meant for the users of the light side of the Force: to become one with it. It was not a bad fate.
He looked at Leia. It was unclear how to explain all these things to her, but he didn’t intend to do it yet. Although there was something Luke had to say to her.
‘‘Leia, I need to talk to you’’ he said, lowering his voice.
Leia, who in that moment was clapping her hands to animate a dance in pairs, made a sign to Han to make him understand she would be absent for a couple of minutes and followed Luke to a more private place.
The night breeze was so gentle it became pleasant. Leia’s loose hair danced softly over her back.
‘‘I have to talk to you about our father.’’
Leia sighed and looked away. She rested her hands on one of the rope and wood balustrades that marked the end of the Ewok platforms.
Luke had been about to invite her to attend the impromptu funeral with him, but then realized that she would say no and that would make them both feel bad. Could he blame her? After all, Darth Vader had been retaining her while they destroyed her world into a million pieces in front of her. He was also the one who tortured and carbonized Han. Among other misfortunes Luke didn’t wish to recall.
‘‘He saved my life, Leia.’’ The Princess looked up and fixed her big brown eyes in her brother. ‘‘Palpatine was so close to kill me when he faced him to save me. He died in that confrontation but there was time for us to talk a little before he finally closed her eyes.’’
‘‘And what did he said?’’
‘‘He wanted to make sure you’d know.’’
‘‘That there was good in him. He asked me to tell you so.’’
Leia pulled away from him, arms in her hips, and gave a bitter laugh.
‘‘What would he care I knew it or not?’’
‘‘Because you are his daughter and he wanted his family to know that the last thing he did, he did it right.’’
‘‘I’m not his family.’’
‘‘What about me? Am I your family?’’
‘‘You know you are.’’
‘‘Then he is as well, because he is for me. You don’t have to acknowledge him as a father,’’ he explained, calmly. ‘‘Your father was and always will be Bail Organa. That I know, Leia. But for him you were his daughter.’’
‘‘But Darth Vader…’’
‘‘Don’t think of Vader. Think of Anakin Skywalker.’’
Leia hunched her shoulders and closed her eyes as she shook her head. She then she looked at Luke and put a hand on his cheek, tenderly.
‘‘I’m glad he came back to the light, but I… I can’t be that forgiving, Luke. Maybe in the future I’ll ask you to tell me about Anakin, but now I’m not ready. It is too soon.
Luke put his hand over hers to remove it from his face and wrap it with love.
Ahsoka waited next to her ship not knowing when would the young Skywalker appear.
‘‘The young Skywalker…’’ she mumbled.
It was rare to think that there was an Anakin’s son out there, but it was also pleasing. Not only because Luke seemed a very exceptional person, considering his achievements and the few words shared with him, but because he was what was left of his former master. Somehow, she also thought about herself as a wielder of his legacy. Many things she learned as a Padawan helped her become who she was today. She survived the Empire, a regime which leader was determined to haunt her down and those who were like her. If she made it out alive, was because of Anakin’s teachings. She knew it the first time she had to survive in the trandoshan moon of Wasskah, were some bastards entertained themselves with people hunting. And she knew it now, after twenty-three years of tyranny. Back then she had had the opportunity to thank her master. Now she would’ve loved to do the same.
Luke arrived with the break of down. His faced showed both tiredness and predisposition.
‘‘Good morning’’ he said.
‘‘Hello’’ she answered. ‘‘Okay, I thought I could take you to a place and talk along the way.’’
‘‘Which place?’’ Luke asked as he entered the ship.
‘‘I’m not sure. This past years I’ve been making some inquiries but couldn’t check upon all of them. Have you heard about the Mustafar System?
‘‘It is not far. One or two systems away.’’
‘‘As far as I know the closer systems apart from Rattatak and Cerea are Bespin and Hoth.’’
‘‘Mustafar is nearby Hoth. And it seems Anakin lived there during his years as lord Sith.’’
The bridge was not very big but it looked wide. Luke sat in the co-pilot sit.
‘‘I’ve noticed you don’t refer to him as Vader.’’
‘‘That name lost its significance to me once I knew who was behind it.’’Ahsoka explained as she turned on the ship. ‘‘Last time I saw him, he called me by my name and I called him by his.’’
‘‘Did you fight?’’
‘‘But you survived.’’
The ship dived into the sky.
‘‘That’s not something I want to remember now.’’
‘‘I understand. But it draws my attention that you thought about him as Anakin even when you were fighting.’’
‘‘You did the same, didn’t you?’’
‘‘What did he say?’’
‘‘That that name didn’t have any meaning for him.’’
Ahsoka let out a small laugh.
‘‘He told me that Anakin Skywalker was weak and that he had destroyed it.’’
‘‘So he actually made a distinction between Anakin and Vader’’ Luke mused.
‘‘So it seems. But the truth is I saw Anakin in Vader. And he was also Vader long before Darth Sidious put him that name.’’
‘‘What do you mean?’’
‘‘There both light and darkness in all of us, Luke, and it is our decisions that keep one at bay and enhance the other. But you can only get lost in darkness, never in light. And when that happens it is hard to find yourself again. Anakin lost himself and then had to fight to recover himself again. If that fight had not existed inside him, your cries for help would not have had an effect on him and he would not have saved you. But just as Anakin was latent deep within Vader, Vader was also underlying in Anakin.
In the last days Ahsoka had regained in a very vivid way many memories of their past: Anakin about to kill a zygerrian slaver that could not defend himself. If he finally didn’t was because Ahsoka had stopped him. One word was enough, but even then it was clear that there was an anger in him that sometimes flared up and made him lose sight of what it meant to be a Jedi knight. His tendency to deviate from that path was apparent in other aspects, but no one ever paid enough attention to it.
‘‘What was that made him fell into the dark side?’’
Ahsoka shook her head slightly and activated the hyperspace drive. She glanced at Luke.
‘‘I’m not sure. The circumstances were not favourable either. Your father was one of the most powerful Jedi of the Order and it is possible that the Order feared him for it and he felt undervalued. But it had to be something else… Well, the fact that you are here is prove that he had a life outside the Orden and apart from the Code.’’
‘‘Couldn’t the Jedi have children?’’
‘‘We were forbidden to make such emotional ties, but he did. That doesn’t surprise me, anyone who spent enough time next to him realized that keeping emotions at bay was not his strong suit. You should have seen how he got when someone messed with R2.’’
‘‘Was R2 his astromech?’’
‘‘That droid has never say so…’’
‘‘I guess he never got to knew what actually happened to Anakin and there’s no reason he should recognize him in the figure of Vader.’’
‘‘That makes sense… Then, for what you’ve told me, the affair between Anakin and my mother had to be secret…’’
‘‘What do you know about your mother?’’
‘‘Anakin never told me about it but now things are clear. Your mother’s name was Pad…’’
‘‘No, wait’’ Luke interrupted. ‘‘Tell it when my sister is able to hear it as well. She deserves to find out at the same as me.’’
‘‘She does have interest in your mother, doesn’t she? More than in her father, as far as I’ve seen.
Luke yawned and leaned back in his sit.
‘‘She feels conflict.’’
‘‘That’s normal. Well, at least she’ll be able to feel proud about her mother. And so proud. You’ll see.
‘‘My uncles never told me about her.’’
‘‘Your uncles raised you?’’
‘‘Yes… My uncle Owen was my father’s half-brother.’’
‘‘In Tatooine, right?’’
Ahsoka recalled her first mission as a Padawan. The intrigue of Count Dooku, how they had carried that slug baby through the desert, Jabba’s Palace… A lifetime had passed since that. A life that weighed heavily on her memory.
Luke was starting to close his eyes unintentionally.
‘‘You should sleep, young Skywalker. There’s a resting compartment back there. Go lie down.’’
The boy didn’t even have the strength to reply. Like an automaton, he got up and before leaving the cabin he said:
‘‘Wake me up once we’re there. Don’t wait.’’
The hours passed quickly because, deep inside, Ahsoka did not want to get to Mustafar, and the more you fear the arrival of something the faster it arrives. She didn’t know what she was going to find there but she did know that he was going to hurt.
Ahsoka flew over that desolate, fiery world looking for something that would show her where to start looking. Then she saw it. A huge black fortress towering up into the ashen sky. A river of lava flowed through its base until it cascaded into a sea of fire. It was a bleak landscape.
As the ship landed, Ahsoka felt it: an inescapable Force charge. Wasn’t that just any place? Why had Anakin chosen it as his abode? Or hadn’t it been his choice?
She went to the resting chamber and met Luke on the way. The landing had awakened him. He, too, must have sensed the intensity of the Force in that place. It was disconcerting because there was hardly any life… But there was memory.
‘‘What a sad place’’ Luke said once the door opened.
Ahsoka remained silent. She looked around and saw, on top of a dead tree, a very familiar bird to her, although she hadn’t seen it for a while.
‘‘Morai’’ she muttered.
This time, the convor’s eyes were closed and calm, as if enjoying a newfound balance. Ahsoka had rescued from oblivion some memories related to that mystical creature …
The sensation of having died and then resurrected, the certainty that the ways of the Force were much more complex than she had originally believed. She still hadn’t forgotten that World Between Worlds into which Ezra Bridger plunged her in a desperate move to save her… Which reminded her that, now that the war was about to end, she had an important appointment in the Lothal system.
‘‘So he lived in that castle…’’ Luke said with his gaze lost in the huge black structure.
‘‘I think so.’’
They walked toward the fortress in silence, each one swimming deep in their own thoughts. And that’s when Ahsoka heard it; a display of disordered voices but connected forever in the same moment:
You’re going down a path I can’t follow.
I see through the lies of the Jedi.
I will do what I must.
You underestimate my power!
You were my brother, Anakin…
I hate you!
…I loved you.
Ahsoka stopped all of a sudden and put a hand to her temple. She recognized the three voices, and although none of their owners lived anymore, hearing them were not disconcerting to her. It was not the first time that she heard something that she had not witnessed. Stranger things happened on a daily basis.
The Force had a space and a time of its own, and if your connection to it was strong enough, you could be faced with the echo of past events and, sometimes, even future ones. Sometimes this manifested in the form of premonitory dreams for some Jedi, but none had been able to explain it with the clarity with which, for some time, Ahsoka had begun to understand it. The nature of the Force was complex and she would probably never fully understand it. At least not in life. But her experiences and her study had allowed her to get closer to that truth than most Jedi she had ever known.
‘‘What’s the matter?’’ Luke asked, oblivious to all those things.
Ahsoka knelt and scooped up a handful of the blackened, barren earth. She felt it in her hand as if by doing so she could get the clairvoyance needed to know exactly what had happened between Anakin, Obi-Wan and Padmé.
‘‘Never mind’’ she said. ‘‘Let’s go.’’
The castle was empty. It had had a few members of the service and perhaps some guards guarding its lord’s abode until very recently, but now there was no one left. News that Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader as well as other high officials of the Empire had died swept through the galaxy at breakneck speed. Hundreds of systems celebrated it, from Dantooine to Ryloth to Corellia and Kashyyyk. There was no point staying in a castle whose master would not return.
Inside, the ceilings were so high that one could hardly see where they ended. There was nothing: no decoration or personal effects of any kind. It was so desolate that their footsteps echoed around every corner.
They got to a well-equipped medical room. In the center of it there was a bacta tank: a healing pod in which the patient had to be inserted and remain for a few hours immersed in a healing liquid.
Ahsoka felt a pang in her chest at the thought that Anakin had needed that machine as badly as to have one in his residence.
Luke, who was thinking the same thing as her, rested a hand on the glass.
‘‘What happened to him?’’
‘‘I don’t know.’’
Luke took a deep breath.
‘‘It seems to me that he suffered a lot all his life’’ he said with a bit of sadness.
‘‘No. Not all of it. Come on.’’
They went up a cylindrical elevator to the highest floor. A huge corridor welcomed the. There was a door at the end of it. They opened it and looked inside with a mixture of anticipation and heartbreak.
To the left was a shelf with files, documents, and even Sith holocrons. In the center, a perfectly neat bed of black sheets. On the right, a trunk.
Luke went to the left side. Ahsoka, to the right one.
Luke rummaged through the files and Ahsoka tried to open the trunk, but the lock was double. To open it you needed the Force and a password. The Force thing was not a problem. Ahsoka closed her eyes, reached out and heard the movement of the interior mechanisms unlocking.
Then a keyboard extended and demanded a password.
Ahsoka bit her lip.
Correct key. Ahsoka couldn’t help but smile. Some things never change, she thought.
She opened the dusty lid and took a look. She saw six things.
The first, one of Darth Vader’s helmets, and not just any one, but the one with a diagonal cut at visor level.
Ahsoka took it with both hands and gulped. She would have recognized it in any circumstance. She ran her fingertips over the slit and closed her eyes for a moment to deal in a better way with the pain that washed over her memories.
She put the helmet aside.
The second thing she saw was a neatly folded white dress. It was embroidered and had rhinestones. Ahsoka was slow to realize that it was a wedding dress but as soon as she came to that conclusion she pushed away the hand with which she had been about to remove it. She didn’t need to see it any further. It was not due to do so.
The third thing was a bracelet made of japor, a typical Tatooine bead material.
Maybe it belonged to his mother, she thought.
The fourth was a traditional ancient Naboo figurine. In Naboo there was a very special tradition about their queens: when they died, a small carved wooden figure with their appearance was distributed among the population. They were received by families who considered that the queen in question was the one who best represented their ideals, so it was decided to venerate her in death as if she were some kind of lesser divinity, someone who had the favour of the gods. For them it was a symbol of respect, loyalty and gratitude. They placed the figure in their homes, as if it could thus watch over them.
Anakin had gotten one of Padmé.
‘‘Luke.’’ Ahsoka called. ‘‘Come here.’’
Luke walked to her, then glanced at the painted wooden figure. He appreciated a young woman, with a white makeup, a red upper lip, two crimson polka dots on her cheeks and a spectacular maroon and black dress, as well as a headdress of the same colors. The level of detail was breathtaking.
‘‘What is this?’’ he asked with admiration.
‘‘That’s your mother. She was very important among her people. There’s a mausoleum in her home planet that receives numerous visits every day. I visited it a while ago.
‘‘She looks like some sort of queen.’’
‘‘She was. Among other things. I’ll tell you and your sister about it.’’
‘‘She was so beautiful. Leia says she recalls her a sad woman.’’
‘‘Yes. She told me so yesterday. Although I don’t get it. She must have been as young as I was when we got separated from her. Babies, I’d say.
‘‘Well, it is possible to retain memories through the Force rather than through consciousness. Just because Leia’s power is awakening now doesn’t mean it wasn’t there before.’’
‘‘Oh, I see.’’
Ahsoka looked at the last two things.
The fifth was a small velvet bag. She undid the knot and dropped the contents into her palm. They were beads… beads that she herself had attached to her montrals during the Clone Wars as a distinctive feature of a Padawan. She remembered how they had been removed during the expulsion of the Jedi Order. She also remembered, with searing clarity, how Anakin had offered them back to her while he begged her with his eyes to come back to them and, more specifically, to him.
But Ahsoka had closed Anakin’s fist with them inside and told him that she was sorry… that she would not return. That memory tortured her. She had wondered for years what would have happened if she had stayed with him until the end. Could she have avoided his fateful fate? She put the beads back in the bag and set them aside.
The last thing was left. She sensed what it was but she still hadn’t dared to stare at it. In the end she had no choice.
Ahsoka gazed at the sword. The sword that, more than two decades ago, Ahsoka dropped in front of some thirty graves that she had dug herself with the help of an old friend. She picked it up and gasped. It was not difficult to guess what had happened.
Anakin went to the scene of the disaster, where the cruise ship had crashed and hundreds of clones who were once his men had perished. Among all that death and destruction, he found one of the two swords that he himself had gifted her only days before, when nothing had been lost and the galaxy was not subdued yet.
Ahsoka turned it on. Luke raised his head.
‘‘Was this sword there? Doesn’t seem Sith to me.’’
‘‘It was mine. It was a gift Anakin gave me just before… Well, before everything went wrong. Then I lost it and he must have found it.’’
‘‘And he kept it all these time?’’
That was the worst part. Both the sword and the beads were hers, things that Anakin, already submitted to the dominance of Darth Vader, had decided to keep for all those years. She wiped away an incipient tear and glanced at Luke.
‘‘He was never fully gone.’’
Luke nodded, his face saddened and his eyes twinkling.
It was time to go and Ahsoka judged it right take the trunk with her.
‘‘Anakin wouldn’t have wanted all these things to be forgotten here,’’ she reasoned.
Ahsoka hadn’t had the chance to see it in its peak, but she was convinced that Padmé’s wedding dress was as beautiful as all the outfits she always wore. She wondered if Leia would ever want to wear it given the chance.
She guessed Padmé had used it sometime before the Clone Wars. Or maybe it was during the war… She couldn’t know, but what was clear was that she had had a life in common with her former master, with all its implications. Plans, dreams, confidences, a shared house… A house that was completely abandoned overnight.
Perhaps it received one last visit from one of its owners. That would explain why the dress was in that trunk.
The thought of Anakin there, alone after the Padmé’s death, already turned into the dark Darth Vader that everyone knew, opened a new wound in Ahsoka’s heart.
Hours didn’t seem to exist outdoors. The sky was still covered with ash and the high temperature did not change.
Luke, who was carrying the trunk, walked to the ship without stopping, but Ahsoka did.
She turned to take one last glance at the black castle, and in the distance a white reflection captured her attention. She narrowed her eyes. Was her eyesight failing or was it what she believed? Soon his silhouette was drawn more clearly in front of her and, despite the considerable distance between them, Ahsoka unmistakably made out Anakin’s face, the one she had known.
She had heard about Force ghosts. She knew they were real, but she still didn’t understand who had that power after they died and who didn’t. She was glad to see that her master was among the first.
With a smile, Anakin cocked his head in the direction of the ship, as if telling her that there was no time to waste because someone was waiting for her.
‘‘Come on, Snips’’ his eyes seemed to say. ‘‘There will be plenty of time to talk.’’
Ahsoka smiled. The first genuine, sincere, pure smile that had found its way across her lips in… she didn’t know how long.
She nodded silently and walked towards Luke.