“Hush, Threepio. This is a safe place, and that’s all that matters.”
This was the fourth moon of Yavin, code name “school.” Bail had said to the young pilot to take the former senator and her family to “the school” and he had dropped them off on this jungle moon, instructing them to make for the huge temple-like structure in the center.
Artoo didn’t look happy about the environment either, or maybe just about Luke electing to ride on top of him, but Padmé herself felt relaxed for the first time in months, maybe even years. There was something about the air on this moon that felt reassuring.
They had not too far to walk before a welcoming party came out to greet them, and Padmé understood why Bail had chosen this destination for them. She found herself bowing to Mace Windu, carefully, as Leia was riding on her back, and to his auburn-haired companion, who was clearly also a Jedi, and who looked familiar too.
It was Anakin who recognized him first. “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
“Is that him?” asked Shmi softly.
“It is, and I am Master Mace Windu.” He bowed in return. “Captain Antilles notified us of your arrival. Are these your children?”
“Whose else would they be?” replied Anakin. “That's Luke on top of the astromech droid, and that’s Leia.”
“And both are Force-sensitive?”
“We tested them both before we left Naboo.”
“Then you’ve come to the right place,” Obi-Wan remarked. Since the battle of Naboo, so long ago, Padmé had seen little of him besides occasional pictures on the holonet. It was hardly surprising that she hadn’t recognized him at first; not only had he aged over fifteen years, but he looked at if he had aged thirty.
“When the Jedi Temple was attacked at the beginning of the Purge," he was explaining, "most the Younglings were killed by clone troopers, but a few escaped out of one the Temple’s special passages. They’ve been hidden here ever since, and we’ve continued their training as best we can. Your children are at an ideal age to join them.”
They had been walking steadily towards the temple entrance, but here Anakin and Padmé both froze in their tracks, and grabbed hold of the droids to stop them too. “You will not take them from us,” Anakin said, and Padmé nodded.
“No,” Obi-Wan assured them. “We can no longer afford to operate as we did in the old days. In fact, Anakin, we will want to talk to you in private later.”
Anakin opened his mouth, and Padmé thought whatever he was going to say wouldn’t be cooperative, but suddenly a voice which she knew immediately yelled, “Padmé!”
“Coté!” And she pushed past the Jedi into the embrace of her old handmaiden. “I thought you were dead!” It was the disappearance of this Force-sensitive handmaiden that had prompted Padmé to start looking into the dangers her husband and children might be in.
“I knew we should have told you,” Coté sighed.
“‘We’?” Padmé repeated, pulling away. “Who’s ‘we’?”
“The handmaidens. They helped me run. They saw me off. Several of them wanted you to be let into it, but we didn’t have time and we didn’t want to draw any kind of attention and you know how it is. Though, in fact, it was irresponsible of us, come to think of it, considering whom you’re married to. But then, I didn’t even tell them...”
“Coté...” Master Windu started warningly.
“Oh shake the cosmos down, Master, she’s married to the Chosen One, and whatever you might have been hoping, I know them both, and I highly doubt we’re going to get them to divorce anytime soon. We’re going to have to tell her.”
“The Chosen One?” Padmé have never heard the phrase in her life. She looked at her husband in confusion.
Anakin shrugged. “It was something they mentioned when they were talking about me in the Council chamber back when they considered me for training as a kid. Some sort of Prophecy, I think. Master Qui-Gon insisted...oh, I don’t remember.”
“Look, we don’t even know for sure that he’s the Chosen One...” Master Windu started. Then his eyes traveled over Padmé and Shmi, still reluctant, it seemed, to explain to them.
“Before we continue this conversation,” said Anakin at this point, “whatever you want to talk to me about, whatever this Prophecy is about, you can talk to me about it around my mother and wife. Whatever you want out of us, you have to deal with all five of us.” With one arm he scooped up Luke from Artoo, and he placed the other around Padmé. Shmi moved to stand with them.
“Very well,” Obi-Wan said after a moment or two. “Come in, and we’ll explain everything to the three of you.”
But when they walked into the temple’s cool interior, a new distraction arrived in the form of the Younglings. The youngest looked about seven; the oldest couldn’t be twelve. One of them, a boy, specifically said “Hi” to Coté, and she brought him over to Padmé. “This is Cortin Klistorin. I’m sure you recognize the name.”
“Yes, your grandmother was from his family, I believe. I heard his name too, after the attack. The poor murdered tiny son of Naboo. I’m glad to see he’s alive after all.”
“How could he have done it?” she mused further, kneeling down and letting little Cortin poke up at Leia, who stared curiously down at him and made noises. “How could Palpatine have become so corrupt? He was one of my oldest advisors, served as my Ambassador when I was Queen, and his kindness to Anakin...it would amaze you. He was so fond of him. Of course we all were.”
“Really?” She heard Obi-Wan ask. “Is this true, Anakin?”
“Did he ever behave oddly around you in any way?” Master Windu.
“What?” Padmé looked up, confused, and saw that Anakin looked more stunned.
“Yes...” he said slowly. “When Padmé became a Senator and we first went to Coruscant, he suddenly seemed to become convinced I was wasting my life with Padmé, tried to get me to leave her-we weren’t married yet either-told me I could accomplish great things with him. When I refused, he became angry. He insulted me, he insulted Padmé, he even tried to make me feel guilty, saying I had a duty to the galaxy.”
His voice shook. Padmé tried to meet his eyes, but he wouldn’t let her. Why had he never told her about this before? She’d noticed the Emperor’s dotage stopping, and sometimes wondered why, but in the end she’d chalked it up to the general loss of his soul.
“It was no benign generosity he showed you on Naboo,” said Master Windu grimly. “He hoped to turn you into a Dark Lord of the Sith.”
“The Sith?” asked all three of Anakin, Padmé, and Shmi together.
“He’s a Sith Lord,” said Coté. “That’s why he killed all the Jedi and is killing all the Force-sensitives, except those he can turn for his own use. And you thought it was all just politics.”
“But a Sith Lord...Ani, what did you say about them? He would have been putting up a false front for...”
“...years,” Anakin finished. The way his voiced trembled reinforced what Padmé knew about the Sith, those beings like the one she'd seen and been sent to flee from on Naboo all those years ago. To call them bad news was to put it mildly.
“He was behind everything, including the Clone Wars,” said Obi-Wan. “Which is why we need Anakin. The Chosen One is the one who can destroy the Sith. That’s why Qui-Gon was so desperate to train him.”
“And you want to train me now?” asked Anakin. Both men nodded.
Luke was still clutching at his side. Anakin looked down at him, then pulled him fully up to his chest. “I have one condition, and that I’ve said already. Padmé stays with me, and we all stay with the children. That’s non-negotiable.”
Padmé stood up, lowering Leia to her own breast while taking a hold of Anakin’s hand. “I think if you’re willing to accept that, we’ll be willing to do what you want.” She looked to Anakin for confirmation, and got it by the squeeze of his hand.