This extra chapter seemed necessary to maintain Against the Shadows in the true spirit of Star Wars: with a happy, or at least peaceful, ending.
He was reading the letter for the hundredth time, unfolding the limp creases, reading the angular words between the stains on the paper – stains of her blood, her tears and his own – and when he came again to the end of Nasriel’s last message, he breathed a deep, shuddering sigh and tried to blink away more tears. Why did it still hurt so much, months after her death, nearly a whole year since he had last seen her?
Anakin wandered into the cabin through the open door, pulling up short as he saw his former Master sitting dejectedly on his bunk, fingering the worn paper.
“Hey, what gives?” The boy’s sharp eyes spotted a thin leather cord hanging out of a half-open drawer, and in a trice he had snatched it up and was examining the charm that hung from it. “What is this?”
Trying to keep his voice under control, Obi-Wan snapped, “Put it down, now!”
Raising his hands in mock-surrender, the cord still dangling from his fingers, Anakin asked curiously, “What is it?”
“Tell me, Master.”
Suddenly Obi-Wan wanted Anakin to stay and talk; he didn’t want to be alone with the memories. “You tell me.”
“It’s… a good luck charm?” began Anakin, watching his Master’s face for confirmation. “A girl’s charm. Don’t tell me you have a girlfriend somewhere, Master!”
“Use the Force. Ask it to tell you.” He himself had never dared ask that. He was afraid of what the charm and the Force together would be sure to tell him about her death.
Anakin closed his eyes, holding the charm in his good hand. “It’s so dark. Why is the sun here red? No, my mistake. It’s not the sun. It’s blood. There’s a clone lying dead in it… he’s my soldier, I shouldn’t have let this happen… Ben… Where’s Ben?… Is this what dying feels like? Is this what Master Jinn went through? What Jiron suffered for my sake? It’s so dark, so cold. I can’t feel Ben anywhere, where is he? Master Obi-Wan is going to be so angry with me if he’s dead…” Suddenly Anakin opened his eyes, the vision having abruptly ended. “That was weird. Who was she? Tell all.”
“She’s dead. She was a Jedi and she died in battle.” Some epitaph, thought Obi-Wan grimly. But she wouldn’t have minded.
“Was she pretty? Would I have liked her?”
“She didn’t like you much,” replied Obi-Wan drily. “Her name was Nasriel, and… I didn’t notice.”
“Oh, the Witch,” scoffed Anakin easily. “I thought you meant a real Jedi.” He tossed the charm onto the floor and glided out of the room, closing the door behind him.
“You’re so damn insensitive, you know that?” muttered Obi-Wan to the closed door, and bent to pick up the charm. Yes, it was a foolish thing for a Jedi Master to have in his possession, but it had been Nasriel’s last wish. Keep it in memory of me. He dropped the cord over his head, slipping the charm inside his tunic where it wouldn’t show. The smooth black stone felt cold as death against his skin. Assuming Anakin would call him if he were really needed, he flung himself onto the narrow bunk and was asleep instantly.
In the dream, he was walking down a long, narrow, completely lightless corridor, that seemed from the echoes of his footsteps to be circular and lined on all surfaces with permacrete. Gradually, a pinpoint of light appeared in in the distance. He braced himself for the nightmare, but by the time the permacrete floor had given way to a gravel path, and the dark walls to a dark avenue of trees meeting over his head, the point of light in the blackness was a circle of blazing sunlight, with somebody waiting in it.
He had almost reached her before he saw her clearly: a small, slim girl, dressed in a plain, flame-colored robe belted at the waist. Her face, and her bare arms and feet, were blue, and the short black hair was tousled by the breeze. For a moment he was unsure. This couldn’t be Nasriel – her smiles had never been completely without pain – and the scar of the holocron on her arm was missing. Suddenly, the girl standing in the sunlight saw him and waved. This was his Padawan, for sure. He had forgotten how absurdly flattering her sheer delight at seeing him could be. And this time, he was just as delighted to see her. Not the tired, strained Padawan, old before her time, with the worry crease etched as in stone between her brows, not the dark, anguished child watching her world fall apart for the nth time, but a girl who should have been quite strange to him – Nasriel completely happy – and wasn’t.
She ran forward into the trees to meet him, flinging her slim arms around his neck, laughing with pure joy. When Obi-Wan remonstrated that the Jedi did not show affection, she let go of him at once, but added shyly, “It’s all right, you know, Master Obi-Wan – here.”
“I’m not dead. I can’t be. There’s still so much to do.”
“I know. No. I asked the being in charge – the Father – you’ll like him – if you might be allowed to come in a dream, just so you could see for yourself that I’m all right. You can’t die yet, there’s still young – but he’s not even born yet! I mustn’t tell.”
“You’re happy… being dead?” he still didn’t quite believe it.
“Perfectly happy,” confirmed Nasriel. “I’ve done what I was born to do, and now… I’m free.”
They were out of the tunnel now, standing in an open grassy space that seemed to stretch forever. In the far distance, a pair of silver gates glittered in the middle of the field. Nasriel gestured awkwardly toward them. “You can’t go that way yet.”
“Is Ben…and Adi Gallia? And – ” the hope was too much to bear. “Qui-Gon Jinn?”
Nasriel nodded solemnly. “That’s right. You can’t go yet,” she repeated, adding, “I asked. That’s why I was allowed to come. I told Master Jinn… what I said I would, you know, and he is proud of you. It’s only a few years more now,” she finished consolingly.
“They can’t go too quickly for me.”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to return now. I can come with you, halfway, if you like. Any further and I’ll… show, I’ll be a ghost.”
“You’re sure it’s all right?”
“Master,” said Nasriel simply, “this place is peace. It’s what we’ve been striving for all our lives.” She started walking toward the tunnel, stopping at its dark mouth and holding out her hand for him to take. “Anakin still needs you.”
When the path was permacrete once more, Nasriel’s slim cool fingers slipped from his grasp, and he heard her voice say, “I’m still here. I’ll wait here until you come back. It won’t be long.” Obi-Wan woke with the echo of the clear voice still ringing in his ears. No, not long now until Hope reawakened.