Jedi We Are Foremost
A/N: Thanks to Amidala_Skywalker for beta'ing. :) Gabri looked over something for me, and thus, I wrote this for her.
The fog lay heavily on the
Temple grounds, sinuously slipping around pillars and through plant life,
softening and smothering everything in its wide path. He was familiar with the
fog; it had been the home of his training, blinding him and suffocating him when
he was supposed to see. Yoda had always told him the oppressing fog would only
have as much power as he gave it over him. Luke had commented to him it seemed
like a thing alive . . . and Yoda had said it was.
It was as much a part of the Force as anything else.
Luke inhaled deeply, tasting the fresh water vapor. Dagobah had, at times, seemed to be nothing more than a swamp to him, even after meeting Yoda, but after a rain . . . it was like the Force was everywhere, born anew.
Luke opened his eyes and turned away from leaning against the balcony. One of his students stood there, clearly trying not to shift nervously and inform Luke of his presence unnecessarily. Alrik had never quite gotten used to the heavy atmosphere of Dagobah, though most did eventually, knowing they would have to. Dagobah was home now, after all; the Jedi Temple resided here. Yoda had decreed it so.
If Yoda had had his way, Alrik never would have been trained. Luke had been a Knight; he had made his decision on who his Padawan was to be, and he had dug in his heels when Yoda had, in his own incorrigible way, disagreed. Of course, Yoda hadn't particularly wanted to train Luke at first either – though Luke suspected now that had been more of a test. It hardly mattered at this point, beyond learning the way of Yoda's crafty old mind. Alrik had been a good student, older than Luke was and a much harder military background, but easier to train than Luke had suspected himself to be.
Alrik relaxed when Luke smiled at him. "What is it?" Luke asked quietly. The Temple, still so overgrown with Dagobah herself – and probably always would be – always seemed to give the impression that one should always be hushed, though not silent.
"I was wondering if we could talk," Alrik said, focused now.
Luke nodded and began walking out of the small meditation room. Alrik naturally followed, easily taking a position beside him.
More business-like now, Alrik began. "Thrawn has retreated to Ubjor Major. The Republic is considering signing a peace deal with him, as I'm sure you're aware." He sighed. "Maybe it's just my old mercenary instincts, Master, but I suspect something else is going on. I know the Republic wants to send Jedi with the negotiating team."
"You want to be on it?" Luke said, glancing sharply at his former student.
Alrik nodded, dark eyes intense. "Master, I feel the Force guides me," he said bluntly. Especially so, because Yoda did not agree, and had told Alrik so before. Clouded, Yoda had insisted of the future, and even Luke saw only glimpses.
"You have meditated?" Luke asked after a moment.
Luke's gaze was as penetrating as it gave nothing away. "Then you will go."
"Master Yoda –"
"We don’t always agree on everything, Alrik," Luke said shortly, but a little smile arose on his face. "Besides which, I have more pull with the Republic than he does at present. It's a new generation, and one that is not so automatically trusting of any Jedi." His smile faded. "As you know."
Alrik nodded. Tense feelings continued to surface over the renewed growth of the Jedi, though they had seemed somewhat relieved to know the Jedi Temple would not be on Coruscant. Even five years after the fall of Palpatine, trust was slow to build.
Luke sighed and glanced out of one of the many floor length windows, openings really, that were spread everywhere, opening the Temple to the surrounding jungle. So peaceful on the surface, and hectic with life and death everywhere else. "Go and meditate," Luke said at last, meeting Alrik's eyes again. "Until I contact you."
Alrik nodded briefly, bowed, and without a word left his old Master.
Luke closed his eyes, just for a moment, and let the Force flow through him; he was a reed in the wind.
When he opened his eyes, he headed for where he knew Yoda to be. The Temple was small in terms of actual buildings, but it was spread over kilometers of jungle – challenging for the students, and invigorating for the Masters. He pulled the hood of his heavy cloak over his head until his face was completely hidden, then set off at a full jog through the grounds. He moved easily, surely, the Force guiding every step. He never stepped wrong. He knew some caught a glimpse of him as he passed, but it was no more than that. He was moving within the Force now; it flowed too strongly in him for him to ever again move without it.
He halted twenty meters from Yoda.
He had not checked to see if Yoda was alone until now, and he wasn't.
Mara Jade was there with him. He could feel her presence more than see her; only a glint of red physically alerted him to her presence. But the Force sang with her presence, twining through the jungle and to his senses.
He closed his eyes and breathed roughly.
His shields closed into an unbreakable wall, and he knelt silently, discomfort no concern, and waited.
When the flickering red of her presence finally faded, he rose and silently walked over to his old Master.
Yoda looked at him for a moment, large eyes serious and wise. Luke knelt before him, and repressed the tears in his eyes. "Be well, my student," Yoda said in his rough voice, seeing Luke's emotion and reacting to it, as Luke had known he would. "No passion there is, but serenity."
Luke nodded, no longer wishing to meet Yoda's gaze, or talk about this topic. "I did not come here to speak with you on that."
"Sensed your arrival I did, and surprise," Yoda confirmed.
"Alrik wishes to go on the mission to Ubjor Major. Every meditation I have had confirms the advisability of his presence," Luke said without preamble.
Yoda hmphed and tapped Luke's shin with his stick. "See that, I do not."
"But I do," Luke said with a smile. "I cannot remain your student always, Master."
Yoda sighed. "What do you see?"
"Glimpses only, but more than you or the others. Thrawn does not intend peace, not yet, though that may change."
"If disagree I do? Then?"
Luke shrugged, knowing Yoda knew the answer as well as he did.
"Seek my counsel you do, but ignore it when you do not agree," Yoda said.
Luke's mouth twitched into a smile. "Only when I think I'm right."
"Hmph," was Yoda's response, but amusement twinkled in the old Jedi Master's eyes. "Disagree with you Jade does."
Luke stiffened, then forced himself to relax. He rose to his feet. He knew it was childish but being taller than Yoda did sometimes make him feel better in these arguments. "I know. But her knowledge is no greater than that of an Intelligence operative. She does not use the Force like that yet."
"So, champion her cause as a Jedi you do, but believe her now you do not?" Yoda said, gently poking his way through Luke's weakening defense.
Luke exhaled. "I do believe she is meant to be a Jedi, Master. I just don't think she's right in this case. Thrawn is capable of brokering a peace treaty between the Republic and Empire, but I don't think he sees it as necessary yet."
"Learn well, she does, if unorthodox," Yoda commented.
Luke turned away from Yoda and closed his eyes. His old Master definitely knew his weak spots. Leia, who still did not know he was her brother – for all that he had considered telling her, even before Vader's death – and Han, and . . . Mara. "Master, don't do this to me."
"Made a decision you have not," Yoda snapped. "Become aware of your feelings for her, she will soon. There is no passion, there is serenity. Forbid attachment, the Code does."
Luke whirled around, feeling at last a spark of true anger. "Don't play with me," he said darkly.
"Unbalanced you are already," Yoda said, gazing at Luke with all the weighted knowledge in his eyes.
"I am not my father, and Jade is not Padmé," Luke said, folding his hands in the folds of his cloak and releasing his tension and anger carefully, knowing his father had at times been able to do that, too.
Yoda walked to the large, flat boulder that he had been using to teach Mara. "But the potential remains," he said simply.
Luke looked away. "I am not convinced my father's lack of adhering to the Code concerning attachments was responsible for his fall."
"Know nothing, you do. Just a child you were," Yoda retorted harshly, and out of the corner of his eye Luke could see the old Master staring at him. "Speak nothing you do of his death. Still."
Luke met Yoda's gaze without flinching – calm – something deep inside him settling in sadness. He did not know so little as Yoda believed, and he knew it showed in his eyes. But Luke knew so much he wished he had never learned. Would things have been different, had he known damning, grief-filled knowledge was inescapable? Yoda knew only of the death of the Emperor and Vader, not how. No one knew of his father's last words or actions except for him. Certainly not his sister; he loved her too much, and thus it was his burden to carry. All the knowledge of their shared past.
Yoda seemed to pause and withdraw. Then, "Sit, Padawan," Yoda said quietly, placing a small, wizened hand on the rock.
Luke bowed his head and obeyed. He held out his hand, and Yoda took it, climbing onto the rock himself and laying his stick on the ground.
"Not to cause you pain, my intent is," Yoda said, softness in his rough voice. "After my death, the leader you will be. The leader of this generation, you are. Guide you, I do."
Luke let his lids close, and it was purely by accident he let two tears loose. "I know," he whispered.
"Still in the gray, Jade is. Recover she never will from Palpatine's influence. Forever it dominates, my Padawan, even in the Jedi. Have hopes we all do for her, hopes that may be fulfilled. But yours she can never be; too much risk. Follow the Code, you must, for on you the future of the Jedi depends."
"Is it right, then, that no Jedi ever have attachment? What of students and their Masters? Even now that bond is strong, that attachment is strong, and none of the Jedi now are trained from birth as in your time, Master Yoda," Luke said, quietly but forcefully. "There is a contradiction in your words and reality."
"A dangerous but necessary one," Yoda finally agreed. "As with you and Alrik; feared, I did, that the bond of friendship would become too strong."
"And overpower the Code?" Luke asked, raising an eyebrow.
Yoda sighed. "If send Alrik to Ubjor Major you do, disagree further I will not. Friendship you have, but balanced it is. As it must be in all Jedi relationships." He paused, and added, "Though still rebellious, your former Padawan."
Luke nodded, choosing to ignore the comment about Alrik always being on his own path. "But you do not think the same of Mara? Of love?" He wanted to believe his Master so badly, and have all doubts removed, and his path clear, but it just wasn't that simple. He could not bring together the two elements; he understood balance, but it was as if Yoda never wanted to try. Do or do not, he had often said, and it seemed Yoda had already decided 'do not' was the correct way.
"It cannot be," Yoda said bluntly. "Dangerous attachment is; Jedi we are foremost, and forget that you do."
"Because I wasn't trained from birth?" Luke asked with a hint of bitterness. "Like my father?"
"Feel deeply and strongly, you do, like your father," Yoda said in gentle disagreement, gentle soothing. "As the potential is for all Jedi. In the Force we feel strongly, and overpower us it cannot. Stricter controls there must be."
Luke was silent. All that Yoda said . . . he understood it, that it was too dangerous most especially for him. The Jedi could not take the chance and expose themselves to greater danger, especially in these times. He understood it, but he understood also that Yoda hasn't said it was impossible for a Jedi to love and be a Jedi. Too dangerous. His father had risked that danger, but that wasn't what made him fall; Luke didn't believe that. It was love that made his father save his life, not the power of the Jedi that had defeated the Sith. Just . . . love. Ultimately.
"Think on this you will?" Yoda asked after a few more moments.
"Yes, Master," Luke said softly. He could not help but think upon it, upon their every conversation, every time he saw Mara. Every time he trained her, taught her some new trick, or irritated her by reading her too well. He had promised Yoda once that he would go back and complete his training, but he had left again, after hearing the truth with complete finality. That Vader was Anakin, that he was Luke's father. Had that lack of training allowed him to see what the Jedi could not? Even Ben, who guided him after death? If Yoda . . . but he would not think of that, his old Master had been weak, but he had survived with Luke's help.
"Wise, I think it is, for me to train Jade entirely," Yoda added. "Taught by all of us she has been, but time for a Master it is."
"And it shouldn't be me," Luke said flatly. He paused, and then added, "But nor do I think it should be you."
Yoda's ears perked.
Luke met his eyes. "You have too much stake in this, if less than me," he said softly. "Don't think I don't see how you try to guide me without me even knowing it, in your students and what you teach them, as well. Mara will not be your tool, however well-intentioned."
Yoda's bulbous eyes narrowed, but he nodded at last.
"Good," Luke said. "There will be a normal choosing, then." Probably a difficult choosing. Most students accepted whatever Master chose them, but a few did not. Mara would be one of those few regardless of what Yoda intended, he suspected. She had a fiery spirit, she was stubborn, and she was smart. It would take someone as hard as her to train her, and she would have had no patience for Yoda's conundrums in the long term. Nor anyone with a secondary agenda, having been a victim of that before.
"Guided by the Force, it will be," Yoda agreed.
Luke tried to smile. Yoda saw it.
"The future of the Jedi, that is assured," Yoda said.
Luke nodded. That, at least, was clear to both of them, even if the details were unclear. He saw continuation in the future, and what more could they ask of the Force? "It is," he stated with a true smile. It was a comfort to know that, and Yoda knew that.
"Humph. Go I must, to teach a class of younglings," Yoda said.
Luke grinned at that. Seeing Yoda teach a bunch of Force-sensitive, orphaned children was always amazing. The gap between their ages always closed, and the children were old and wise, and Yoda playful and young. "I'll meditate here," he told Yoda.
"May the Force be with you," Yoda said, hopping off the rock. He grabbed his stick that he had laid on the ground, and carefully made his way through the jungle back to where the younglings were.
Luke stayed for several minutes. Yoda's words weighed heavily, but in ways, too, that Yoda had not intended. Yoda was right, but not entirely right, Luke thought. It was Luke who would guide the Jedi into what they would ultimately be for thousands of years. He had seen that when Yoda had. The fulfillment of the prophecy, the changing of the galaxy, all was a passing herald to the dying of the Old Jedi. Things were not meant to be the same. Luke saw that clearly. Whatever Yoda believed would happen in later generations, the age limit would never again occur; Luke would see to that. The old could be trained as could the young – it was just different.
He closed his eyes, touching the Force, letting his senses spread passively, alerting no one to the silent regard of simply letting the Force speak of what was happening . . . everywhere.
Mara was frustrated by a children's game taught to initiates in the old days, he noted. Alrik was meditating, not on the Force, but on those wild berries that looked so good, which he knew he wasn't supposed to have because he was mildly allergic and how irritating that still was. The younglings were excited, shooting off little waves of energy into the Force in their impatience.
He opened his eyes, seeing the ever-present fog of Dagobah slowly clear, winding away far into the jungle.
He rather thought that perhaps he and Alrik should have a talk about taking a Padawan soon before he left for Ubjor Major.