The journey out to the Lake District was a lot easier than I had thought it would be and it was quiet. Which was fine by me, I didn’t want conversation and I was glad of the solitude. I found the people and the places I was supposed to according to the Librarian’s way description easily enough and it seemed that visiting the burial site of this past Queen was not unusual. People were kind and helpful and before I really knew it I was sitting in a small boat being taken to a secluded spot hidden in the lakes amongst the mountains.
I sat quietly feeling a little uneasy on the water in the little boat which was operated by a man who had said no more than two words to me. He wasn’t unfriendly, he was just quiet. It was a new experience for me and I was not altogether sure how I liked it, all that water, deep and dark. I found it unnerving and I was never more thankful that Thrawn had taught me learn how to swim than at that moment.
It was so beautiful. All around the lakes the hills and mountains rose majestically, covered in lush green vegetation. Everything here seemed alive and shimmering. Down by the water’s edge, long branched sleepy trees, covered in pretty pale pink flowers decorated the shore line, the scent of the blooms wafted across the water, sweet, like honey. Birds with long wing spans flew high above the lake on thermals in large lazy circles. I was awed by their grace. Despite all the wonders to be seen, I was glad when we reached our destination. In the desert I was at home and comfortable, there I knew how to survive but out in the middle of a large lake surrounded by lush green hills, well that was another thing.
The small dock was half hidden in the little inlet and stone wall. We docked and the silent man helped me out.
“I will be back for you in an hour, Miss. The weather isn’t going to hold, bad on the lake when the storms come through.” He said. “Please be here, awaiting.” He said.
I nodded. “Thank you.” I said as I looked around to see where I was supposed to go next.
The boat pilot smiled. “Go up the hill, Miss, just follow the path and go on to the terrace, just beyond there you’ll see a garden and the grave marker. You can’t miss it.”
“Thank you.” I smiled back at him. I guess he had done this many many times.
I hitched my satchel across my shoulder and began my way up the stone stairs. I was glad it was a nice day, not too hot, not too cold. The sun played hide and seek with big fluffy clouds and the breeze was just enough to keep the flies away. I looked up at the sky, didn’t look like a storm was coming in but I had seen how fast the weather could change here. I believed the boat man when he said it would get nasty.
It was exactly as the boat man had said, across the terrace and through the wrought iron gateway into a small, beautifully tended garden. Right in the middle of this was a simple carved stone grave marker surrounded by a circle of smooth greenish pebbles which I guessed had come from the lakeshore. The grass was manicured and lush. The flower beds that were set against the walls were filled with all manner of colourful flowers and plants. Someone spent a lot of time here tending to this place. It had a peaceful, serene feel to it.
I walked to the stone marker and knelt down at its side. The carvings in the stone were delicate, floral and vine patters that decorated the edge and around the name which was Padmé Amidala Naberrie. There was no other writing and no other information, just her name and this place. I reached out to touch the stone half expecting to feel something, anything that would explain Lord Vader’s connection to this long dead woman but the stone gave me nothing. It was just stone, smooth and warmed by the sunlight. I slipped the Japor Snipped from around my neck, and held it in my hand. The bone like carving still held the heat from being next to my skin. I closed my eyes and tried to conjure up the force, perhaps I could sense something if I were more relaxed but that did not help either. So I just knelt there for a while, in the sunlight, next to this grave full of questions to which there were no answers.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Someone said behind me.
I jumped at the voice. I had not heard her approach nor had I felt her presence. I looked up to see an older but still lovely woman. She had a regal face and beautiful dark hair that was greying at the temples. She had a basket in her arms full with hand gardening tools.
“I didn’t mean to startle you.” She said.
I went to stand up but she gestured for me to stay as I was. “I’m not intruding am I?” I asked.
“No, but this time of year is usually quiet, no longer peak tourist season. I wasn’t expecting anyone here.” She said. “I come up once a week to tend to the garden.” She said setting her basket down. “Are you a student? Are you writing a paper? You are too young to have any memories of Padmé in person.”
“No. No I am not a student. I was told about her by someone I work for and the librarian in Theed told me about this place. I just wished to pay my respects.” I said. I had the Japor Snippet in my fingers and was playing with it absently. “Do you work here?”
The woman smiled and it was sad smile. “No, my family owns this property. I am Sola Naberrie. Padmé was my little sister.”
“Oh, I am so sorry.” I said.
“It was a long time ago.” She said.
I looked at her, the sadness of loss was etched into her face, it showed in her eyes when she spoke her sister’s name. I knew how that felt. “Well, they say that time heals these sorts of wounds but it doesn’t, not really. I don’t think you ever stop missing people that you love.”
She gave me a speculative look. “You know, don’t you? What it feels like to lose someone.”
“My mother.” I said. “She was killed when I was young. I still miss her.”
She nodded. “Most people come out of curiosity I think. They lay flowers, look at the stone and then leave. I am never sure what they are thinking when they stare at her grave. It seems strange to me that she attracts so much attention such a long time after her death. She was a brilliant young woman.” She sighed. “It’s odd, really, of all the moments and memories I have of her I always think about the last time I saw her.”
I nodded. I understood that. “Funny how that works out isn’t it.”
She looked at the snippet in my hand. “What is that?”
“It’s called a Chullpah.” I said, letting her hold it. “It is carved from a Japor Snippet. It is traditional for people from my home world to lay them at graves and burial sites. But they are also good luck charms, tokens of affection as well.”
“It is beautiful.” She said handing it back. “Where is your home world?”
“Tatooine. The snippet carving is something the settlers learned from the Sand People.”
Sola smiled. “Padmé wore one like that around her neck only hers was a little larger and it had different markings on it. A little boy from Tatooine gave it to her when she was quite young, while she was still queen.” She smiled at the memory. “He was a slave. I remember Padmé was outraged when she told me about it. She could not believe that slavery still existed. Anyway, this boy helped her and the people who were protecting her and one of the Jedi knights managed to free him from his master.”
“What happened to him?”
“He went on to become a Jedi Knight himself. Funny really, because when she worked as a Senator this same boy was assigned to watch over her. Anakin Skywalker was his name.” she smiled. “They came to the Lake District to stay, to hide. She came home for a few days and he was with her. I teased her about it. I used to tease her about boys all the time. They liked each other, but of course he was a Jedi. ”
I smiled but that name rang a bell with me. I had heard it before I just could not recall where. “What did that have to do with them liking each other?” I asked.
“The Jedi were forbidden to have attachments, no romance or anything of that nature. Padmé explained that to me after dinner. The Jedi way was a hard path to walk I think. I know he was in love with her, you could see it in his eyes when he looked at her especially when he thought no one was watching and I would bet my life she felt the same for him.”
I looked at her. “How sad. Did they stay friends?”
“I don’t know. It was around that same time the Clone Wars started, she was more often than not on Coruscant, we did not hear from her all that often and she never spoke of him. They probably went their separate ways. She was very devoted to duty, she would not abandon that for love, I don’t think.” She shook her head and sighed. “Here I am boring you with all this nonsense and I don’t even know your name. I am sorry.”
“Merlyn, is my name and it is not boring at all. You have made her seem so alive to me. I am touched and grateful.”
Sola smiled and nodded. “Pretty name. Suits you.”
It was my turn to smile and feel a little shy. “I hope this is not a rude question, but how did she die, the books are all very vague about it?”
“No one knows.” She answered. “We were told she had been killed on Coruscant. No one knew how or who was responsible but it was a terrible time, chaos everywhere. The Jedi were being exterminated and it was war. My family investigated the death when things were more stable but there was nothing. She was pregnant when she was killed, did you know that?”
I shook my head. It wasn’t mentioned in the book I had been reading. “And the boy, Anakin?”
“I don’t know, I think he was killed when the Jedi were purged. We never heard from him or anything about him. He vanished but at that time many Jedi vanished.” Sola said and was quiet for a moment then said. “She was a beautiful girl with a lovely heart. I still miss her.”
I was about to answer her but I heard shouting. “Oh no, the boat…”
Sola smiled and patted my arm. “You do what it is you came here to do. I know the boat man I’ll talk to him. He won't leave without you.” She said and she hurried away.
I knelt at grave marker, knowing this long dead woman suddenly a whole lot better than I had an hour ago. I took the Japor Snippet that Lord Vader had given me and I buried it on the east side of the stone deep underneath the pebbles. I whispered the traditional words that went along with it and then went to leave but before I did I picked up two smooth, round dark green stones and slid them into my satchel. I didn’t know why I had done that but I needed to take something. I felt a strange sadness at leaving. There was a peace and a stillness in this small garden that touched me deeply. It was with great reluctance that I made my way back down to the water where Sola and the boat Master were waiting.
“I’m sorry I didn’t realise how late it was.” I said.
“T’is alright Miss, it happens.” He said.
Sola nodded. “We’ve known Jacob a long time, he is used to it.”
I smiled. “It was really nice to meet you.” I told her. Her smile was warm and kind.
“Yes, it is not often I feel I can speak with people about my sister. Perhaps we will meet again.” She said as I got in the boat.
“I would like that. Thank you.” I said as Jacob pushed us back from the dock and we made our way back out into the lake.
We made it back to the other side just as the rain began and by the time I got to the shuttle port it was pouring. The journey back to Theed I barely noticed. I was wracking my brains as to why the name Anakin Skywalker was so familiar to me. I made to Theed just after supper time and by the time I made it back to the Retreat it was shortly after eight. What had started out as a down pour was now a full blown summer storm. The wind blew the rain horizontally into my face and the lightening and thunder were so loud and so bright that it amazed and almost scared me. By the time I got to my house I was soaked through to the skin and shivering.
I lay awake in bed a long time watching the lightening flash through the window. Sleep it seemed was not going to come easy. I tried to remember where I had heard the name Anakin Skywalker before but that memory remained elusive and out of my reach. When sleep finally did come it was filled with terrible dreams. I awoke bathed in cold sweat with my heart pounding. What I had dreamed I could not remember but the lingering sense of terror and loss stayed. It was half past five in the morning and I knew there would be no more sleep for me so I got up. I dressed warmly, made tea and took my cup to my favourite spot near the water and sat to watch the sun rise. I hoped that Lord Vader would be reachable because I wanted to tell him the job he had given me was done. Maybe that would be the end of the dreams and the restlessness that had accompanied this whole thing. I hoped so but somehow I didn’t really believe it.