Today I cremated my Master.
Standing in a plaza in a Temple on Naboo, far from the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, I watched as the flames enveloped him. My Master, my mentor, my father, my friend; gone in ashes and smoke.
Today I also became a Jedi Knight.
Odd, how the event that had been the focal point of my entire life, the culmination of everything I have worked so hard for up until this moment, could be relegated to the status of afterthought. I never imagined that the cost of my Knighthood would be so high, that my trials would be to slay my Master's killer. So instead of celebrating my Knighthood, my former Master at my side, I mourn his death, my future Padawan at my side.
My Padawan. **My replacement.**
No. I cannot begin this relationship by burdening the boy with this. And in fairness to him, he could not have known what Qui-Gon's devotion to him would mean for me. He was not raised in the Temple, he knew nothing of the Padawan/Master relationship. He could not have understood the significance of our last appearance before the Council, other than how it related to him. These beings held his future in their hands and they were denying him. In this, are we not the same?
//I was to be sent from the Temple; I would not become a Padawan. The Council thought I would be more suited to the Agricultural corps. Too much anger, too impatient. So I lay all my hopes upon one man, a Jedi who could change my future. If Qui-Gon Jinn would accept me as his Padawan...//
Anakin, too, had only Qui-Gon to save his future. He could not have known that the high regard which flowed so easily and naturally from Qui-Gon had never come so easily to me.
//"Qui-Gon will never take me as a Padawan. He feels I am unworthy, and perhaps he is right." The realization was at once a great burden and a great relief. The deathknell to all that I hoped my future could be, but the doorway to peace as I finally accepted what was not to be. The irony is that only in accepting this fact did I prove myself worthy after all.//
Before the Council, Qui-Gon passionately defended his belief in Anakin, the way he passionately defended so many other causes neither I nor the Council understood. As always, I stood silently behind him, deferential and supportive. No matter how much I disagreed with him, I would never contradict him before others, least of all the Council. Later, in private, I could voice my objections--and to the boy I had many. But Qui-Gon was adamant, even in the face of the Council's decision that the boy was not to be trained as a Jedi.
"Then I will train him. I take Anakin Skywalker as my Padawan Learner."
Had Qui-Gon suddenly stepped over to me and slapped me in the face as hard as he could, it could not have been more of a shock. Nor could it have stung more. I had to bite down hard on my tongue to keep from protesting out loud.
"An apprentice you have, Qui-Gon." That was Master Yoda, giving voice to my own tortured thoughts. **Yes, an apprentice you have!**
//I was on one knee, desperately pleading: "Qui-Gon Jinn, I will be thirteen in four weeks. You are my last chance to be a Jedi Knight."
//"It is better not to train a boy to become a Knight if he has so much anger. There is a risk he will turn to the darkside."//
"Obi-Wan is ready."
My second shock. Qui-Gon thought I was ready to become a Knight? Had he not told me scarcely an hour before that I still had much to learn? But he had at least thrown me a rope. I had words to cling to, some support I could offer him.
"I am ready to face the trials," I offered quickly.
"What know you of ready? Our own counsel we will keep on who is ready." Master Yoda again. However readily he defended me when no one else would, he was just as quick to put me in my place when I showed too much pride. Chastised, I stepped back behind Qui-Gon, who began a hasty argument of my qualifications. But his final words confused me even more:
"There is little more he can learn from me."
He glanced at me, an almost grim look on his face. Was that a compliment or a reproach? Was I truly ready or had he finally lost all patience with my constant objections to his "detours," to his focus on the living Force to the exclusion of the unifying Force? Had I done something to confirm his original impression of me? Had he deemed that I was, after all this time, unteachable?
//His name was Xanatos. "I was his Padawan. So I know what you go through every day, Obi-Wan Kenobi. I know what you wait for. His approval. His trust. But he keeps both from you. He keeps a skin of ice around himself. The more you try to please him, the farther away he goes. He denies you his trust. Yet he demands everything of you." The hateful rationalizations of a fallen man. But within the hate lay a kernel of truth...//
As I struggled to reign in my emotions and make sense of Qui-Gon's words, I barely heard Master Windu table the discussion of Anakin's future--and mine-- and order us back to Naboo with the Queen. With great effort I kept myself behind Qui-Gon, my posture that of quiet support. But when the Council dismissed us, I did something I had never done before in the twelve years that I have been Qui-Gon's Padawan: I did not wait for him to leave first. Turning on my heel, I left the Council's chambers as quickly as my dignity and decorum would allow.
My intention had been to wait for a quiet moment alone with Qui-Gon, but the Queen's departure was imminent and even a lifetime of training had not completely rid me of my impatience. So it was on the Chancellor's platform, waiting for the Queen to board her ship, that I took him aside and challenged him. "They boy is dangerous. They all sense it, why can't you?"
Qui-Gon's response was as chilly as my challenge had been: "The Council will decide Anakin's future. That should be enough for you. Now get on board." And so I did, leaving Qui-Gon to greet the Queen, the boy beside him instead of me. //"You are my last chance to be a Jedi Knight." //"It is better not to train a boy to become a Knight if he has so much anger."//
The trip to Naboo was perhaps the longest of my life. I avoided Qui-Gon whenever possible; I was angry and hurt and I knew he would disapprove. And to top everything off, I realized that Anakin had overheard our argument on the platform, a fact for which I could not stop berating myself. Not only because he most likely had heard me call him dangerous, but because I never confronted Qui-Gon before others. In one brief exchange of words I had insulted a child and dishonored my master. Some Jedi I am.
I spent most of my time on the return journey to Naboo alone, trying to meditate, trying to quiet my feelings, trying to find the peace a Jedi depends upon. It would not come. At least the solitude was easy to come by--no one wanted to be around me in my current state. The only person who even tried to speak with me during the long hyperspace voyage was Anakin, who was obviously wrestling with his own guilt about being the cause of the rift between Qui-Gon and myself. I should have said something to ease his discomfort, told him that it wasn't his fault, that I wasn't angry at him. I should have been more compassionate, behaved more like a Jedi. But I could not and I brushed him away. A mistake, that--one that I hope will not cost me in the future.
Finally we came out of hyperspace in the Naboo system and the Queen called a meeting. For the first time since we had left Coruscant I stood behind Qui-Gon, the proper Padawan once more. It was only then that I at last felt the peace begin to return. Whatever Qui-Gon thought, whatever I felt, this is where I belonged. I was Qui-Gon's Padawan. I would become a Jedi. It wasn't until we were in the swamps outside of Theed, however, awaiting word from the Gungans, that the peace had fully displaced the anger and hurt and I was fully ready to make amends. If he had truly thought I was a lost cause, unteachable, then my humility would prove him wrong. If he did believe that I was ready for the trials, then I would prove him right.
"I behaved badly," I told him. "I meant no disrespect to you. It is not my place to disagree with you about the boy."
Qui-Gon smiled at me, accepting the overture. "I did not lie when I told the Council you were ready. You are a wiser man than I, Obi-Wan. I foresee you will be a great Jedi."
And with these words he ended our last real conversation.
I have many regrets about that day. If I had only run a little faster. If I had only pulled myself up from the bridge a little sooner. If only I had pushed the Sith a little harder. But in the end I thank the Force that I do not have to regret my last words to my Master before that battle. We were one again, Master and Padawan, the bond as strong as ever. But what no one ever told me, what I never even allowed myself to consider, was how painful it would be for that bond to be so abruptly broken. How I would so clearly see my Master fall moments before it happened, and yet be completely powerless to prevent it. How utterly alone I would feel in its absence. Nevertheless, I faced the trial and survived. I defeated a Sith Lord.
No, to be completely honest, he defeated himself. I had been fighting in anger and bitterness and grief, not with the light of the Force. My master had fallen and I would see this Sith Lord fall, too. But as always, anger was my weakness and he bested me, toppling me over the edge of the platform and into certain death had I not managed to grasp a metal rung that protruded from the otherwise slick wall.
//"It is better not to train a boy to become a Knight if he has so much anger. There is a risk he will turn to the darkside."//
Taking a deep breath, I again searched for peace and suddenly the Force was with me once more. The anger would not win. But if anger was my weakness, overconfidence was the Sith's. With the master defeated, he had underestimated the apprentice. As I hung over the abyss, my lightsaber gone, he paced above me, savoring his triumph when he should have been finishing the job. For he failed to see that he had not yet destroyed the bond between Qui-Gon and me, he had only weakened it. With the light side of the Force flowing strong within me, Qui-Gon was with me once more. Weak, but there.
**My lightsaber, Padawan.**
I knew it was the last time he would ever call me that.
//The first time he called me Padawan was in battle as well. I was prepared to sacrifice myself to save him so that he could save many others. He protested, "No, Padawan, there has to be another way." Padawan. I was accepted at last.//
Even as I concentrated on grasping the lightsaber with the Force, my mind protested. **One more time, Master! Call me "Padawan" one more time!** Then I was no longer clinging to the thin metal rung; I was in the air, Qui-Gon's lightsaber in my hand, and it was the Sith who was falling, the look of shock permanently etched into his tattooed face.
**You defeated your anger. You've passed your trials.**
Qui-Gon's presence, familiar but faltering, flowed through me again and I was at his side, holding his head in my lap.
**Not this way. I'd rather be a Padawan with you than a Knight alone...**
But alone I am, with only my memories to guide me as I enter Knighthood. My memories and his last charge to me: "Train the boy. He is the Chosen One. He will bring balance." And so I vowed to train him, to carry on in Qui-Gon's place. I will make him proud. His last words to me were about the boy who was to be my replacement, and yet... an honor as well. I was fit to carry out his wishes, to train this prodigy in whom he so firmly believed.
I was, in the end, deemed worthy.
//"Your courage was extraordinary, even for a Jedi. I would be honored to accept you as my Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi."//
I don't know how long I cradled his body before I realized that elsewhere in the palace, on the planet, other battles raged and I could still be of use. But when I emerged from the power station, it was over. The Queen had captured the Viceroy and the ship controlling the battle droids had been destroyed. The rest of the day is a blur: at some point I found someone to help me with Qui-Gon's body. I remember finding my cloak in the hangar--and Qui-Gon's. I buried my face in the rough fabric, breathing in his scent still clinging to its folds, willing its owner to return to me.
A long time later I recall seeing the fighter pilots milling about, celebrating. It was then that I remembered the boy. He had been hiding in one of the fighters, isn't that where Qui-Gon had told him to stay? As I made my way through the hangar to where the pilots were, I began to hear bits and pieces of what had happened: it was Anakin who had destroyed the Federation ship, saving thousands of Gungans in the process. A nine-year-old boy! I watched from a distance as the pilots congratulated each other and heaped adulation onto a beaming Anakin, unable in my grief to join in their celebrations. After a while, Anakin began looking around, searching for Qui-Gon. His eyes locked with mine and he frowned, no doubt fearing the worst upon finding me alone. Slowly I approached as he worked his way through the crowd toward me.
"Obi-Wan, sir, where is Master Qui-Gon?" he asked, his eyes begging me to allay his fears. Instead I crouched down before him to bring us eye-to-eye.
"He did not survive the battle, Anakin."
For a long moment, we regarded each other, two strangers united in grief. I thought Anakin might cry (I had, was I crying still?), but he just bit his lip and nodded slowly, then turned away from me and ran back into the crowd of jubilant Naboo. I did not follow him.
For two days, Anakin and I kept our distance from each other as we each sought our own form of solace. Mine was in solitude; Anakin turned to the Naboo pilots, who had accepted him as one of their own, to Jar-Jar, to the Queen, who I understand had befriended him on Tatooine while in the guise of her own handmaiden. I did take a moment sometime in that first day after Qui-Gon's death to visit the Queen myself and give her an account of our duel with the Sith. We had, after all, been assigned to protect her and despite my grief I would not make the same mistake I made on our trip here: I would not forget my duty as a Jedi. She was very gracious and genuinely saddened by Qui-Gon's loss, which oddly comforted me. He touched even people he had known for only a short while. She then informed me that the Senate had been contacted with details of the battle and that the newly elected Chancellor Palpatine was en route, along with the entire Jedi Council. The entire Council! It was practically unheard of! I knew they were taking this Sith business very seriously and also knew that my ascension to the rank of Jedi Knight was all but certain. At the moment, however, I did not care.
**I'd rather be a Padawan with you than a Knight alone.**
This morning, however, with the Chancellor and the Council due to arrive in the afternoon, I knew it was time to put aside the past and look to the future. To take the first steps towards fulfilling my promise to my Master. I awoke early and roused Anakin soon afterward. I questioned him in great detail about his role in the battle and found myself astounded. He saw his role as little more than an accident (and I was pleased to note that despite having spent the last two days with fighter pilots--and fighter pilots' egos--he was genuinely humble about the part he played). An attempt to help the Queen by shooting Destroyer droids that ended up as a trip on autopilot into the heart of the battle. But the way he described his actions: "I just pushed whatever button felt right." I could only attribute his success to an acute connection with the Force, albeit an untrained one. But to accomplish what he did, at nine years old, with no training.... I was almost thirteen when I piloted my first ship in battle. Even with the advantage of four years and a lifetime of training at the Temple, I had not performed so well or been so in tune with the Force.
Qui-Gon was right; the boy was a prodigy. More than a prodigy.
I compiled Anakin's tale, with supporting documentation provided by the astromech droid on board his fighter, into a report to present to the Council-- along with the more difficult report on our encounter with the Sith Lord. I then had Anakin's own clothes--the simple ones he brought with him from Tatooine, not the garish Naboo costumes he'd been wearing the past two days--and my robes cleaned and spent the rest of the morning instructing him as to how he was to present himself before the Council. The whole time, he studiously avoided asking the question I knew was foremost in his mind: his future. For my part, I resolved not to broach the subject myself until I knew whether my plans for him would be under the approval of the Council or contrary to it. Council or no Council, I would keep my promise to Qui-Gon.
They arrived on schedule, and Anakin presented himself well. He followed my lead, bowed politely to the praises of the Chancellor, and did not speak at all to the Council members. He was in every respect the model Padawan. I myself had little to say to them; I merely presented Master Yoda my report and waited as the Council found a room in the Palace in which to deliberate their findings. It was nearly dusk when I was summoned. To my surprise, Master Yoda waited for me, alone.
"Kneel, Obi-Wan Kenobi," he ordered formally, and I bowed before him on one knee.
"Confer upon you the level of Jedi Knight, the Council does."
And so it was, I was a Knight.
**I'd rather be a Padawan with you than a Knight alone.**
"But agree with your taking Anakin Skywalker as your Padawan Learner I do not," he continued. I protested, telling him I would train they boy with or without the Council's approval.
"Qui-Gon's defiance I sense in you," he replied irritably. He meant it as a reproach, but he had just given me the greatest compliment he could bestow upon me. "Need that, you do not. Agree with you, the Council does. Your apprentice Skywalker will be."
//"I would be honored to accept you as my Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi..."//
And so, instead of standing before the Council as I become a Knight, my former Master at my side, I stood at his funeral, my future Padawan at my side.
As we watched the flames, I turned to Anakin. My Padawan. He looked at me and finally gave voice to the question he had been avoiding: "What will happen to me now?"
"The Council has allowed me to train you. You *will* become a Jedi, I promise." I told him solemnly.
As the funeral ended, I lingered while the Queen, the Chancellor, the Council members, and the other mourners headed off to the dining hall. There, alone beside the dying embers, I said my last good-bye to my Master; my last good- bye to my life as a Padawan.
It was Anakin. I hadn't even realized that he had remained with me.
"Yes?" I replied, forcing myself to look away from the fire.
He hesitated, looking down at his feet. When he did speak again, his voice was almost a whisper. "How... how did Master Qui-Gon..." He trailed off, unable to continue.
And for the first time, I suddenly saw him as he was -- not a rival, not even an apprentice -- but a young boy utterly alone. Taken from his mother, from the only home he had ever known, watching the funeral of the only person who had believed in him. Left alone with a Jedi who up until this morning had barely spoken three words to him and a Council that had earlier denied him his dream.
//"Qui-Gon will never take me as a Padawan."//
I would not place upon him the burden of my struggles for Qui-Gon's regard. I will not make him struggle for mine. I knelt before him, drew back my hood so he could see me clearly, and told him, holding nothing back. If he was to be a Jedi Padawan, he deserved to know the battles a Jedi must face. The external battles and the internal ones as well. I told him about my battle with anger, how I battle it still. When I was finished, I gave him a moment to absorb the story. I could feel his grief and his anger, emotions that mirrored my own.
//"Don't center on your anxiety, Obi-Wan. Keep your concentration on the here and now. Be mindful of the living Force..."//
"Anakin, from what you have heard from the time you spent at the Temple, do you understand what a Padawan is?" I asked.
"Like an apprentice, right? Some of the farmers and mechanics on Tatooine had apprentices."
"Yes, but a Padawan is more than an apprentice, Anakin. A Padawan and his master develop a special bond, a very special friendship. They learn to move as one, to think as one, to stand together as one. Do you understand?"
"I... I think so," he said hesitantly.
"Qui-Gon wanted you to be his Padawan, Anakin. I am not Qui-Gon. I can never replace him. And I... I regret things I have said about you, for not supporting you the way Qui-Gon did. Now I see that he was right."
Then I rose to my feet, my demeanor instantly becoming formal. I could almost sense Qui-Gon with me, forming the words for me, guiding me in the rite of passage as old as the Jedi Order itself. "You showed great courage and skill in the battle with the Trade Federation. I would be honored to accept you as my Padawan, Anakin Skywalker."
For a moment, Anakin simply stared up at me. Then a slow smile appeared on his face. "Thank you, Master Obi-Wan."
I clasped his hand in mine and smiled in return. I, a brand new Knight and he, a Padawan with no training. What hope did we have of forming a bond anything close to the bond I had with Qui-Gon? But I would find a way. This I would do for Qui-Gon.
And for Anakin, too.
And there, in that hand clasp, I thought I felt a tremor in the Force. There was hope.
"Come on," I said, releasing his hand. "Tomorrow will be a busy day. We must find you some proper Jedi clothes and give you a proper Padawan haircut so you will be fit to stand on the dais beside the Queen."
At this, Anakin looked up at me, a wry grin on his face. "Master Obi-Wan? Is a Jedi, even if he's only a Padawan, worthy of friendship with a queen?"
I almost burst out laughing; the first real moment of good cheer I had felt since Qui-Gon's death. But I restrained myself and explained seriously, "I suspect anyone whom a queen chooses to care for is worthy of her friendship."
He pondered this a moment. "Still, I think it's better to be a Jedi. The girls love Jedi, you know. I think it's the lightsaber."
This time I did laugh out loud. Yes, there was hope for us after all.