Maz Kanata felt the young Jedi’s presence long before she heard him coming up the path behind her. She was well concealed from his view, seated cross-legged against the low stone wall, but she knew he sensed her too.
“It’s a peaceful view,” she called out to him, her eyes still closed behind her magnifying goggles. “I come here for some good thinking.”
Inwardly, Padawan Ben Solo started. He hadn’t expected her voice to come from below — from out of the depths of the lake itself. Outwardly, he came to a halt and folded his arms, considering a respectful reply, but she didn’t give him a chance.
“Of course, it wasn’t always this peaceful. Back in the dust of time, the Jedi and Sith were at each other’s throats here.”
“The Force is strong in this place,” he acknowledged, gazing about him at the ancient fortress grounds. “Fallen Jedi rest here.” He was still unnerved that he couldn’t see her. Before coming to Takodana, he’d done his research on Maz Kanata, but the holonets had turned up no images of the woman. He didn’t even know what species she was. But everybody who was anybody in the underground knew Maz. If you needed a loan, if you needed information or connections, if you needed to disappear, you came to Maz. No questions asked.
“This has always been a place of refuge despite what the Darkness would make of it.” She stepped onto the path in front of him — a little long-armed thing no larger than a scrawny urchin, with wrinkled skin the color of citrus gone bad. But her eyes were as sharp and bright as coals, enlarged behind the huge goggles she wore to aid her ancient sight. “But come,” she beckoned, the bangles at her wrist jangling merrily. “You are hungry. Tell me over a plate of baked cushnips what brings you here.”
Ben gave her a diplomatic bow, as he’d been taught to do, and followed her into the noisy, dimly-lit stronghold. The wave of gamblers, smugglers, collectors, spacers, pirate captains, deck hands, and grifters instantly parted for her as she lead him to a corner table. Calling out to the kitchen staff in a surprisingly strong voice, a plate quickly appeared before her newest guest.
“You have come seeking treasure, I think, but you are not a collector.” Her eyes narrowed with understanding. “You seek knowledge from what you hunt.”
You young man gave her a nod, taking up one of the cushnips. “Knowledge is power.”
She gave a little snort. “I won’t argue with that, but power always collapses in upon itself.” She looked at him more closely, adjusting the lenses of her goggles. He wasn’t yet twenty, she thought, not yet mature for his species. Giving a little nod as if confirming something to herself, she refocused the conversation before he had a chance to reply. “I’ve seen those eyes before — in a young woman when she was about your age. She faced a great evil and lived to give you those eyes.”
Ben stared at the wizened little woman, his food forgotten. “You knew my mother?” he guessed.
“That good woman, yes.” Maz’s eyes lit up as she climbed off her chair and brought a pitcher of chilled muja juice over from a side table and poured him a glass. “Many here still do.” After a moment, she added with a chuckle, “And if I didn’t know you by your mother’s eyes, I’d know you by your father’s swagger. You tell that scoundrel,” she said in a mock-scolding tone, “he still owes me. He can make it up to me by sending that sweet Wookiee with the payment.”
Ben grinned. “I’ll do that.” He took a drink, growing serious again. “Did you know my mother’s father?” he nearly whispered.
Maz shook her head and a finger. “No. That one I never knew.” She watched him take a bite and swallow, watched the hope fade from his eyes. “But it’s he who has brought you here. The stride of his shadow is long, but your stride is even longer as you stretch to walk in his footsteps.”
The young Jedi took a deep breath. He didn’t like where this conversation was going. He felt like this little withered being could see right through him, but he needed answers. He decided to get to the heart of the matter. “I’m looking for something that belonged to him — something that belonged to my uncle after him. I’m hoping you can help me.” He held her gaze.
“The lightsaber that was lost on Bespin,” she returned, nodding.
“You have it in a chest in the crypts below.” His gaze intensified. In case she misunderstood his intentions, he quickly added, “I’m willing to pay well for it.”
She sighed. “Come.” She waved him to follow her down a curving stone staircase and along a dusty corridor to a storage room. “You have seen this chest in your mind, have you?” She motioned him toward a box made of ancient wroshyr wood.
He stepped forward, barely able to contain his excitement. “Yes, this very one.”
“Have a look. What’s mine is yours. I do not sell the treasures that come to me for a reason.” She looked on sadly as he carefully picked through the old chest. “A relic from the past may someday make a difference in the future.”
Ben looked up, empty-handed and bewildered. “It’s not here.”
She gave him a warm smile and beckoned him closer. When he crouched down in front of her tiny frame, she gave his cheek a soft pat. “Force-visions are a funny thing. They can show us the past, the present, and all the possibilities of the future. The lightsaber you seek is still lost, but in your search for it, you have overlooked something that seeks you.” She felt him watching with great interest as she bent and pulled out a squarish pendant carved on a snippet of Japor ivory wood.
As if in a dream, he took the Jerba leather cord in one hand and laid out the pendant in the other. “Tatooine sand carvings,” he heard himself say just before the vision nearly knocked him off his feet.
The voice belonged to a young woman, her dark hair wound about her head in an elaborate braid. “It’s beautiful, but I don’t need this to remember you by.” She held the Japor snippet in her hand and smiled at a sandy-haired little boy. The scene shifted, the same carved pendant entwined in the resting hands of the woman, now lying in a casket. The imaged blurred and wheeled until she was standing right in front of him — a spectre of brilliant blue light.
“Ben,” she called from across the void. “Don’t do this! You’re still a good person. Don’t follow this path.”
Ben Solo blinked and she was gone. He looked down at the crude necklace in his hands. He had a million things to say but couldn’t find his voice.
That trinket was taken from your grandmother’s grave and now it calls to you,” Maz told him gently.
Ben stared at it again, dumbfounded. “It was carved by my grandfather.”
Maz nodded sagely. “Yes.” She laid her tiny hand on top of his. “The belonging you seek is behind you. Stay. Rest for a while, and then go back to your family.”
@MyKyloRen 4 January 2017