Raban was a quiet planet.
Luke Skywalker could tell that much just from the cockpit of his ship, slowly orbiting the golden planet beneath him. It was not a place he had ever heard of until recently — it had no well-known exports, no famous cities, no successful inhabitants. It had never even had its own Senator in any form of galactic government, Republic or Imperial; instead, its few interests had always been cared for by a sector representative. His X-wing’s cursory scans of the planet picked up large amounts of flora and fauna, but only a few small, scattered settlements. Raban was, in short, one of the most unremarkable planets Luke had ever heard of.
Which made his reasons for being there all the more curious.
He eased his ship down towards the planet, gently slipping from orbit and into the atmosphere. He set his course for one of the larger settlements, near the coast of the northern continent. Most of Raban was grassland, stretching across two landmasses bisected by a strip of blue ocean that wound its way around the planet’s middle. The fields of yellowed grass rolled like waves beneath him as he shot towards the distant town, and he could see the ocean far off to his right, pale and calm.
The settlement didn’t appear on the horizon until he had almost arrived. Even from a distance he could tell that it was small, with only a handful of buildings that were taller than one storey. He could see a number of speeders parked along the outskirts, and two small ships that didn’t look as if they were even capable of leaving the atmosphere. He set down near them, cutting the engines and pulling off his helmet. A few people milled about outside, and they cast him curious glances, obviously unaccustomed to visits from strangers.
R2-D2, positioned in the droid socket behind the cockpit, let out a string of concerned beeps, swivelling his domed head as he took in their surroundings.
“Someone around here has to know something, Artoo,” Luke assured him. “The Empire seemed convinced that something was out here, and so did that old man on Chalacta. I want to find out what it is.”
R2 didn’t seem entirely convinced, but he didn’t say anything else.
Luke retracted the canopy and climbed out of the cockpit, hopping down onto the ground. The buildings that made up the town were small and rough, most of them made out of dark stone. A very generous estimate would place the population at around two hundred, though Luke guessed it was actually somewhat less. From what he had seen, most of the inhabitants appeared to be human, wearing simple, roughspun clothes that reminded him of his youth on Tatooine. That corroborated what little information he was able to find about Raban — with no native sentient species of its own, the planet’s population was made up almost entirely of immigrated humans, most of whom made their living by ranching on the expansive plains.
“Wait here, alright?” Luke said to R2, and the astromech beeped his agreement.
Luke approached the town cautiously. His lightsaber was tucked into his flight suit, hidden from view but still easily accessible. He knew how people thought on these isolated backwater planets — he had grown up on one, raised by an aunt and uncle who had always been suspicious of strangers. Though Raban seemed to not be as coarse or crime-ridden as Tatooine, it was still best to make it clear that he wasn’t a threat, while also protecting himself from anyone who might see him as one.
His plan was to seek out a cantina or some other place where people gathered, and ask around until he found a local willing to speak with him. They would likely be wary of him, and some probably wouldn’t even know what he was talking about, but Luke knew that there was something on Raban — something to do with the Jedi. He could sense its presence, humming through the Force, calling out to him. It wanted to be found, and so he would find it.
People stopped and stared at him as he passed, whispering to each other as they watched him go. Luke could see caution in their eyes, but no hostility; most seemed to be more curious than suspicious, wondering who this stranger was and why he had come to their village. As far as he could see, there were no signs to differentiate the shops and businesses from homes; in a place this small, everyone knew everyone else, and it was assumed that you would know which building was which.
A pair of boys stood nearby, whispering to each other and watching Luke. They were probably in their late teens, if not younger, and they seemed more curious than anything, so Luke decided to try his chances and wandered over towards them, a warm smile on his face. Their eyes widened as they realized that he was walking towards them, but they stayed where they were, either too scared or too curious to move.
“Hello,” Luke greeted. “I’m looking for a cantina, or some other place where I can talk to some locals who might be willing to answer a couple questions. Do you think you could point me in the right direction?”
The two boys were silent for a moment.
“Are you a pilot?” the taller one blurted out, and his friend smacked him on the arm, rolling his eyes as if to say, “Of course he’s a pilot!”
Luke just continued to smile. “Yes, I am.”
“And you’re with the Rebellion?” The boy’s eyes glanced to the Alliance starbird stamped on the left breast of Luke’s vest.
Luke nodded, and both boys’ mouths fell open a bit in awe. From what Luke could tell, the Empire’s curiosity in Raban had been relatively recent, and they had never actually made it out to the planet before their forces were scattered at Endor. With nothing besides herds of grazing animals to offer the Empire, Raban had lived out the decades after the Clone Wars in relative peace, leaving its people isolated from the horrors of the Civil War. These boys had no doubt heard stories of the war, but Luke would be surprised if they’d ever even seen a stormtrooper before. He hadn’t at their age, before a pair of crashed droids had brought Imperial interest to Tatooine.
“Have you been in many battles?” the tall boy’s friend asked, unable to contain his curiosity anymore.
Luke nearly laughed; he remembered asking that same question nearly five years ago, in his uncle’s dusty garage. It felt like it had been so much longer than that. “I’ve been in a few, yes,” he said.
“What are doing out here?” the tall boy asked. “Are you on a mission?”
“I’ve heard some stories about your planet,” Luke explained. “I’ve come to see if they were true.”
The gleeful curiosity in the boys’ eyes vanished, and their faces both took on serious expressions. They glanced at each other, shifting nervously. “The one you want to talk to is Mayzee Lanith,” the short one said. He lifted a hand, pointing to a nearby street. “She runs the mechanics shop down that way. She’ll tell you what you need to know.”
And then the boys were gone, hurrying off in the opposite direction. Luke stared after them, brows furrowed in confusion. Whatever he had said had spooked them — which just confirmed what he already knew. There was something strange on Raban.
The shop wasn’t difficult to find. Though there was no sign, the piles of scrap and junk metal flowing out of the wide door were sign enough. A narrow walkway through the trash had been cleared, and Luke followed it inside. The interior of the shop was dim, and the air was filled with the smell of grease and oil. More scrap was strewn along counters and worktops, piled in the corners and balanced precariously on rickety shelves. Larger pieces of machinery were scattered throughout, most with their guts exposed and half taken apart. It was impossible to tell which was a work-in-progress and which was being used for parts.
An old woman sat on a work bench at the back of the shop, magnifying goggles riding low on her nose. Her skin was wrinkled and tanned, and her long white hair was pulled back from her face in a messy braid. She had to be at least seventy, if not older, but her hands were steady as they picked through the miniscule parts of a servomotor. She didn’t look up as Luke approached, though unless old age had made her hard of hearing, there was no way she wouldn’t have heard his footsteps.
“Are you Mayzee Lanith?” Luke asked.
“I am,” the woman said and she glanced up at him, only briefly, before turning her eyes back to her work. “And you’re Luke Skywalker.”
Luke blinked in surprise. “How did you know?”
“You’re famous, boy,” Mayzee Lanith said, motioning with one of her tools to the old holoprojector flickering in a corner of the room. It was broadcasting the HoloNet News — the recently-established channel set up by the fledgling New Republic to replace the Empire’s old propaganda machine. “Your face is all over the HoloNet.”
“Ah. Right.” Luke had been famous before the Battle of Endor, but the fact that he was no longer an enemy of the state brought with it an entirely new form of fame. Namely, his face being plastered across every holoprojector in the galaxy as the poster boy of the New Republic and a better, brighter future. It was a fame he hadn’t quite grown accustomed to yet.
“So, to what do I owe this great honour?” Mayzee asked.
“I have been told that you can help me,” Luke explained. “I’m looking for something that I believe is somewhere on Raban. I recently came across reports from an old Imperial outpost that mentioned rumours of a Jedi temple in the Mid Rim. A man I spoke to on Chalacta told me of folk tales from Raban, about a strange temple on the northern coast.” He paused, trying to gauge Mayzee’s response to his words. Her expression remained neutral, her gaze focused on the servomotor in her hands. She felt steady even through the Force, entirely unsurprised by what she was hearing. “Do you know what I’m talking about?” he asked.
Mayzee nodded her head. “Oh, yes, I certainly do. There have been stories about that temple for as long as there have been humans on Raban. It was here before we were, and I’ve no doubt it’ll be here after.”
Excitement soared in Luke’s heart. “Was it built by the Jedi?” he asked. Though he had been kept busy by the continuation of the war, he had already begun collecting whatever information he could find on the Jedi religion, preparing for the day when peace in the galaxy was finally achieved and he could begin rebuilding the Order. Unfortunately, the Empire had not left much for him to find. If this temple truly turned out to be Jedi in origin, it would be one of the strongest remnants of the old Order he had ever discovered.
Mayzee made a noise low in her throat. “Now that, I don’t know. You’re the Jedi here, not me. But I do know that there’s something strange about that place. It doesn’t like visitors.”
“What do you mean?”
“People go in and then they wake up back outside, with no memory of what happened in the temple. Sometimes only seconds will have passed since they went in, but other times it will have been hours, days, or even weeks since they entered. I’ve heard tales of people gone for months, only to return exactly as they left, with no memory of the time that passed.”
“And people still go in the temple?”
Mayzee looked at him, her thin brows raised. “Is that not what you’re planning to do?”
Luke ceded that she had a point. “Have you ever been to the temple?” he asked.
Her wrinkled lips turned down in a frown, and she nodded. “Once, when I was younger and more reckless than you are now.”
“How long were you gone?”
There was a long pause, where Mayzee’s focus seemed to shift even more to the servomotor. Her mouth drew into a thin line, and Luke could see her bony fingers shaking slightly. “Longer than most,” she answered finally.
“Will you bring me to it?” Luke asked. He had no idea if the Force was capable of such things — of messing with time and altering people’s memories — but there was definitely something going on at the temple on Raban, and he wanted to know what.
Mayzee shook her head. “No, I’ll not be going back to that place,” she said. “Not ever. If I were you, boy, I’d turn right back around, get back in my fancy ship, and fly far away.”
His questions had shaken her. She may not remember her time in the temple, but from what she’d said, it sounded as if she had been in there for months; it couldn’t have been easy to lose so much of her life.
“I want to help,” he said. “I’m a Jedi. If this is somehow the work of the Force, I might be able to stop it.”
Mayzee finally stopped her tinkering, setting down her tools and placing her shaking hands flat on the countertop. “I’ll not go with you,” she said, looking straight at him for the first time since he had entered her shop. “I’ll tell you the way, but I’ll not go with you.”
Luke nodded. “I understand,” he said. “Thank you.”
Mayzee’s directions were remarkably simple — fly south from the village until he hit the coast, and then continue west until he reached the temple. It was apparently built right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean, and impossible to miss. Luke left the old mechanic with many thanks, and she gave him a rather sombre goodbye, which he supposed was meant to serve as one final warning.
“Come see me when you return,” she told him, “if I’m not dead by the time the temple sees fit to spit you back out.”
He made his way quickly back to where he had left his X-wing. R2 was still there, snuggled in the droid socket. He let out a loud beep as Luke approached, annoyed at having been left alone for more than half an hour.
“I told you I would find what I needed,” Luke said, jogging through the tall grass towards his ship. “I know where the temple is.”
R2 whistled a question, retracting the canopy as Luke began to climb the side of the X-wing.
“It’s to the southwest,” Luke answered, sliding into the cockpit and grabbing his helmet. “It won’t take us long to reach it.”
And it didn’t. They got to the coast after only ten minutes of flying, and then it was just a short cruise to the west before the shape of a tall stone building materialized on the horizon. It was perhaps three storeys high, and made of the same dark stone as the buildings in the village. From what Luke could see, its architecture was simple and roughhewn, with very little regard for any sort of design. As he grew closer, he could see that it actually continued down along the cliff face, built into the hard rock.
He landed his ship not far from the temple entrance. There was no door, just an open archway that led into the darkness. He could see only a handful of small windows, high up on the temple walls. Retracting the canopy, he climbed out of the cockpit and jumped down. Here, the golden grass reached past his knees, undisturbed by animals and the comings and goings of humans. A cool ocean wind whipped past, bringing with it a fine mist and the smell of salt.
Luke took off his flight suit, retrieving his lightsaber from one of its pockets before tossing it up into the cockpit. He had no idea what could be waiting for him inside the temple, and he didn’t want to be encumbered by a baggy, bright orange flight suit. As he clipped his lightsaber onto his belt, R2 lowered himself from the droid socket, letting out a nervous tone.
“Don’t worry, Artoo,” Luke told him, giving the astromech a gentle pat as he rolled up beside Luke. “We’ve faced worse than this before.”
But even he felt uneasy. The Force rippled and pulsed around the temple, its presence strong and forceful. It did not feel evil, and Luke could sense no signs of the dark side, but the light did not flow easily here, either. If anything, the Force felt… unsure. Wary. Caught somewhere between the light and the dark. The temple did not belong to the Sith, but it did not belong to the Jedi, either. It belonged to the Force, and to itself.
Luke started towards it, wading through the tall grass. R2 whimpered, but followed obediently, his domed head rotating anxiously. The Force seemed to grow louder and louder the closer Luke grew to the temple, but he did not know what it was trying to tell him — whether it was trying to warn him away or beckoning him forward. He hesitated at the doorway for only a moment, before stepping through.
The Force quieted as soon as he passed the threshold, diminishing from a shout to a soft murmur. Strangely, despite the stone walls and the damp ocean wind, the interior was warm. The section that rested aboveground was simply one big entrance hall, with a towering ceiling that stretched high up. Several small windows were carved into the stone, near the top of the walls, and they let in thin shafts of light, illuminating the room with warm sunshine.
There wasn’t much to illuminate. The walls were bare — no murals, no inscriptions, no tapestries. No statues were carved into the stone, and no pieces of furniture lingered. If anyone had ever lived here, it seemed as if they had cleared out long ago, before even the Empire had risen.
There was only one doorway in the room, at the opposite end of the hall from the entrance. Luke crossed the floor slowly, his footsteps echoing loudly around the vast, empty chamber. He was unsurprised to find that the doorway led to a staircase winding down into the cliff face, where the rest of the temple waited.
He looked to R2. “You should stay here,” Luke advised him. He had no idea how far down the stairwell went, and R2’s treads wouldn’t make it easy for him to maneuver. The astromech seemed more than happy to comply. “Wait outside. If I’m not back by sunset, get on the X-wing’s comms and contact Leia.”
R2 beeped an affirmative, and Luke stepped onto the first stair. Thin slits in the wall let in streams of light, but after only a few steps, the stairs curved to the left, and the doorway and R2 disappeared from sight. The stairs continued straight down for a while, until they reached a landing. The landing was bare, with no doors and only a few small windows near the top of the wall.
He descended further, down to a second landing. This one had a door, which opened into a windowless hallway. With no source of light, the hallway was dark, and Luke could only see a few feet in, to where the light from the landing ended. He had a small glowrod with him, and he illuminated it, shining the beam of light through the door into the hallway. It stretched deep into the side of the cliff, lined with numerous dark doorways. Just as in the entrance hall, there were no adornments on the walls, and no signs that anyone else had ever even been there.
Though the stairwell continued down behind him, Luke stepped into the hallway. He kept his free hand near his lightsaber, shining his glowrod into the doors as he passed. They were all empty, nothing more than four plain stone walls and a ceiling. The silence was eerie — all he could hear was his breathing and the sound of his footsteps. The temple was, as far as he could tell, entirely empty. Mayzee had told him that it didn’t like visitors, but it had yet to do anything to him besides instill a small sense of unease.
One of the doors led to another staircase, slightly narrower than the other. It went in only one direction, down, and so Luke began to descend. It was short, twisting into a sort of U shape before ending in another hallway. It was nearly identical to the one above, with plain stone walls and small empty rooms. Luke could see no stairwell at the end of the hallway, as there had been with the other, but after a quick investigation he discovered that one of the doors led to another corridor, with a set of stairs at the end.
He continued this way for a short while, searching through empty hallways and climbing down, deeper into the temple. All was silent at first, but as he climbed lower, he began to hear things — voices, whispering past his ear. They were unfamiliar and incomprehensible, speaking words he didn’t understand. As the voices grew, so did the Force; it had weakened when he had stepped through the temple door, but it gained strength now, pushing against him. There was something deeper in the temple — he could feel it, reaching out for him.
He pushed on, and the whispers grew harsher. He had thought at first that he was imagining things, but it quickly became obvious that they were real. He had no doubts that they were coming from whatever thing waited for him at the bottom. The temple was a maze of stairwells and corridors; there was no obvious pattern to it all. It was as if it was designed to confuse.
Luke tried to listen to what the whispering voices were saying, but there were so many of them that they melded together. At one point he thought he heard his name, and after that, the voices began to grow more familiar. He still could not understand the words, but for a moment he would think he had heard Leia’s voice, or Obi-Wan’s, or Han’s, even his father’s, but the second he tried to focus on the voice, to single it out from all the others, it vanished, melting back into the crowd.
They only grew louder the deeper he went, which he supposed meant he must be getting closer. He tried to reach through the Force, to sense whatever this thing that was calling out to him was, but it was like trying to swim through sand. The Force was thick and murky, a storm through which he couldn’t see. There was no way for him to know if this thing was good or evil — a product of the light side, or of the dark. He would just have to find out.
Eventually, stepping into his sixth or seventh hallway, he noticed light up ahead — sunlight, shining through an open doorway. He hurried towards it, finding yet another set of stairs. This one was short, and went straight down. The hallway at the bottom was larger than any of the others, and windows lined its northern wall, looking out to the sea. This floor rested nearly at the water line, and as Luke descended towards the hallway, he could see waves crashing against the side of the temple, always coming just shy of dumping water in through the open windows.
There was only one doorway in this hallway, located at the very end. It was larger than even the temple entrance, and unlike all the others, it actually had a door. Not a mechanical door, but an ancient one, with a handle that had to be turned and pushed.
The whispers grew to an almost deafening roar as he stepped off the stairs and into the hallway. He could feel tendrils of the Force reaching out to him from behind the door. Whatever was in that room, he knew it didn’t want to hurt him, but its intentions were still unclear. Nothing that could cause so much terror for the people of Raban could be wholly good.
Still, Luke approached the door without hesitation. It was made of wood, somehow still sturdy after what must have been eons. He reached out to the handle, and the door opened at his touch, swinging inward.
Inside was a metal disc.
It was the only thing in the room, resting in the middle of the stone floor. It was flat and ovular, small enough to fit in the palm of his hand, and it looked to be about two inches thick, with smooth, rounded edges. There were no markings of any kind on it, and no way for Luke to know its purpose. As far as he could see, it was nothing but a hunk of metal. But the Force whipped around it as if unsettled, and Luke could feel its presence, powerful and arcane.
He stepped into the room, as plain and simple as all the others, and the disc began to rise, lifting itself up into the air. Markings and glyphs began to appear on its surface, glowing pale blue, and the light pulsed as if it was alive. The whispering voices continued, as if beckoning Luke towards it. Now he was certain that he could recognize some of the voices, though many remained unidentified, and snippets of what they were saying became audible. Some phrases were unfamiliar to him, but others he had already heard, months or years ago.
I was once a Jedi Knight, the same as your father.
I know. Somehow, I’ve always known.
The Force will be with you, always.
From my point of view, the Jedi are evil!
Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.
For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic.
Your son is gone. He was weak and foolish, like his father, so I destroyed him.
The glowing marks grew brighter, and Luke stepped closer, lifting his hand and stretching it out towards the disc. The whispers reached a crescendo, and the disc urged him on — to take that final step, to stretch his arm that bit closer.
And he did. The tips of his fingers pressed gently against the cool metal of the disc, and the whispers immediately quieted. For a second, there was complete silence. Not even the waves crashing outside could be heard.
Then there was a flash of brilliant white light. Something slammed into Luke’s chest, knocking the wind out of him and sending him careening backwards. He struck the ground hard, and the white gave way to darkness.