Obi-Wan leaps high in the air, his blue saber unsheathing with a hum as he lands between his friends and the Dark Lord. Darth Maul bears down on him before he can make a witty quip.
Gungans scream, diving back into the walls of the watery cavern, their light globes rolling across the floor. Boss Nass ushers the Queen and Panaka to the side opposite the altar, leaving Anakin and Qui-Gon to stand staring at the duel.
"Anakin! Come on!" shouts the Queen. At the sound of her voice, he runs back to her side.
"Any day now, Jinn!" shouts Obi-Wan, barely able to deflect Maul's rapid barrage. Qui-Gon's green saber jumps to life, and he joins the fray.
Darth Maul's double-sided saber is able to land two blows for every one from a single Jedi, leaving them evenly matched. Lightsabers spin faster than those watching can follow, and though Darth Maul is stuck between foes, the Jedi are the ones on the defensive.
Panaka takes aim at Darth Maul with his blaster, but the Queen stays his hand. "No! Blasters can be deflected by lightsabers. He could kill any one of us with your shot!"
"This altar will run with your blood, Jedi!" bellows Maul. "Its power shall be mine!"
Obi-Wan turns a fumbled strike into a punch, and Maul reels back a step. Anakin lets loose an involuntary whoop of excitement, but Maul is back on the attack before it's all the way out.
In Anakin's imagination, great battles such as this were always accompanied by a soaring orchestral soundtrack, but now there is no sound but the buzzing clash of saber on saber. As the fight moves across the hall, he and the other noncombatants inch their way along the wall, attempting to stay as far from the fight as possible. Soon they are the ones upon the altar, with the Jedi and Sith clashing below them.
"Focus, Qui-Gon!" shouts Obi-Wan, growing frustrated that his partner seems to be holding back. "What's got your head?"
"Do you see it, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon asks with a calm that would make you think he was meditating in a field of wildflowers.
"What, the angry Sith that's trying to kill us?"
Buzz, whirr, hack, humm. "The vergence in the Force," says Qui-Gon. "Right here, right this moment, that which was hidden is made clear. There is only one path through the coming darkness...one path to the light. What we do next will decide the fate of us all."
"Yeah, so we'd better win!"
Darth Maul laughs. "Listen to the geezer, little man! The time of the Jedi is over! Here begins the new age of the Sith!"
Qui-Gon takes no note of the Sith's taunts, but his saber technique slides even more into automatic, his attention caught by something beyond Obi-Wan's perception. "But there IS a path, Obi-Wan! I can see it now! There will be pain, suffering, and loss, but the galaxy can yet prevail over the Dark Side!"
"Stop with the riddles, old man! What are we supposed to do?"
For Anakin, time crawls to a standstill; he will carry the next few moments with him for the rest of his life. Darth Maul lands a kick directly to Obi-Wan's chin, sprawling him out at the foot of the altar. This leaves Maul open to attack, but Qui-Gon doesn't go for it. Instead he stands upright and looks directly at Anakin, beaming such love and forgiveness that Ani's heart seizes with the hurt of it. Qui-Gon sheaths his lightsaber.
"No..." Anakin whispers.
Time regains its speed, and Darth Maul's saber pierces straight through Qui-Gon's chest. He crumples to the ground.
All is still. Obi-Wan lies stunned at the sight. Padme gasps; at either side of her, Panaka and Nass stare in mute shock. Darth Maul stands panting over Qui-Gon's defeated body. And Anakin...
Anakin stands, fists clenched, at the pinnacle of the altar. "You killed my mother," he seethes at Maul. "You killed my Master." With a snap and a flash, a blue spark connects between himself and the statue behind him.
Darth Maul grins and paces toward Anakin, dual saber spinning. "And now I'll kill the rest of you!"
"You're a murderer..." More electrical snaps, and Anakin begins to glow. "You're a monster, and you...deserve...to DIE!"
The blast flows from the statue, through Anakin and into Maul, the power of the tomb racking Maul's body. The others scramble off the altar as the waterfall begins to bend into the beam. With a final visceral yell, Anakin sends a column of rushing water directly at the Dark Lord, washing him away.
All the world seems to be noise and flickering shadow to Obi-Wan, but he ignores it, running to take Qui-Gon in his arms even as Anakin sends the contents of the lake flying above them.
"Hang on there, buddy. Come on now..."
"It is too late...it's..." Qui-Gon chokes on blood. "Promise me, Obi-Wan...promise me you'll train the boy..."
"Yes, Master," cries Obi-Wan.
"Set a good example for him. Show him...show him what a good man can be. He will bring balance to the Force...I have seen it...in the end...our only hope..."
"I will. But--but you will!" Obi-Wan speaks through tears. "You can't die!"
Qui-Gon smiles. "I always tried to tell you, Ben," he sighs. "We never truly die..." He shuts his eyes, and breathes his last.
Above them, the rapids of Anakin's judgment continue to roar.
At the edge of the lake, Captain Tarpals sits on a log, enjoying the twilight of the day. His soldiers likewise lounge. They have delivered many Naboo wanderers into the bongo these past few years, at the insistence of Boss Nass, and nothing ever comes of it. All it means is that the Boss will be occupied for the rest of the evening, and he and his meexa can relax.
But what is that rumbling sound?
The geyser rockets out of the water and over their heads, and Tarpals leaps to his feet. His soldiers flee from the lakeshore, but he is transfixed, watching the lakeshore flee from them as it drains.
The earth quakes and the lake turns inside out, the ground jutting upward in chunks. Tarpals scurries up a thick blade of grass to avoid the mud sliding down the new hill.
"Holey Plagoo..." he whispers in awe. The mud clears to reveal a hillside covered in Gungan machines of war--Bombad Canons, Shell Makers, Caterpullits and more. Some he doesn't even recognize. They shine like they're brand new.
At the summit stands a statue, sparking with power. It casts bolts of lightning down on the Gungans, paralyzing them with its charge, and Tarpals tries to scramble back down to get away. But when the warm energy reaches him, there is no pain. For the first time in his life, Captain Tarpals feels whole.
Anakin gasps for breath, wiping the water from his eyes. Below him stretches the countryside of Meadowbrook, and he sees where it gets its name; blue ribbons wind across a field of green to meet the setting sun at the horizon. His anger recedes like the echo of a drumbeat, and for a moment he forgets everything except this beauty. He feels powerful, more powerful than he has ever felt before. He's on top of the world.
Across the hillside, beached Gungan warriors and priests stare at themselves in wonder. The warriors' armor shines with a light of its own; the priests' globes crackle with silver fire.
"Behold the Choosin One! He has unleashed the power of the Gungans, and he shall lead us to victory!" The booming voice of Boss Nass carries down the hillside, and the Gungans turn and fall to their knees. Anakin realizes they're bowing to him, and he remembers.
Obi-Wan, Padme and Panaka crouch around a body. Anakin remembers, but he doesn't want to see. He can't accept this, not yet. There's too much for him to process all at once.
He is past the Gungans, down the hill and deep within the tall grass forest before he knows he's running again.