Padme, Anakin and the droids walk along the dark landing platform on Adari, looking for their Jedi Knight escort. They can see nothing of the planet from the crowded terminal, but animated posters on the wall brag about the tropical resort islands littering its pristine ocean surface. If only they were here for leisure. With Anakin's mental powers fully restored, they are able to pass unnoticed by the throng of disembarking passengers. They have spoken little today, neither very sure what to say, but they hold hands as they go, and the touch is mutually reassuring.
"There he is," says Anakin, pointing in the direction of a Keldorian in Jedi robes standing motionless in the midst of the rustling crowd.
"Your Highness, this is Master Plokoon," Anakin says when they approach.
Padme is unnerved--not by his twisting horns and mottled bumpy orange skin stretched in intricate folds, which is a common enough appearance beyond humanity, but rather by the black metal cage secured over his eyes and mouth. She maintains her composure and nods her head respectfully.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Master Plokoon."
The Jedi Knight bows low but says nothing, then turns and motions for them to follow.
"Ani..." Padme whispers in Anakin's thoughts, "his face..."
"Master Plokoon has taken a vow of silence and blindness," Anakin thinks back, sensing her concern, "so as to elevate his greater senses."
The Force shifts around them, the perception cloak falls and Padme is able to see the Jedi ship, identical to the one that took her to Coruscant during the Federation invasion. The ineffable beauty of seeing it up close takes Padme's breath away.
"You weren't kidding about Dantooine," Padme says to Anakin, staring out the window as they descend. Green, blue, white, brown, here covered by dark storm clouds and there clear skies. She has never seen anything like it.
They pass over a ridge of mountains and coast low above a vast forest. A flock of white birds takes flight in their wake.
"There, up ahead, is that another ship? It's so big! Are we going to dock with it?"
"That's the Jedi Academy," says Anakin.
The Academy hovers over the treetops like a great bowl drifting along in the breeze, the only worldly stronghold of the otherwise itinerant Jedi Knights. At its brim, four towers mark the points of the compass while a taller spire thrusts from its middle. They land at the base of the central spire, amidst a maze of moss-covered walkways and spherical chambers suspended between the towers. They exit the ship along with Master Plokoon, and are greeted by an enormous knot of white hair sitting atop the back half of a giant anaconda.
"Hello hello hello!" says the furball, allowing Padme to identify the tiny flapping mouth and two beady eyes at its center, "I am Master Oppo Rancisis, Principal Principal Principal of the Jedi Academy. On behalf of the Jedi Council, I welcome welcome welcome you, Padawan Skywalker Skywalker Skywalker, and you, Your Highness Highness Highness Amidala, to the planet planet planet of Dantooine."
After formal greetings are exchanged, he continues, "Your Highness, you are free free free to walk the school grounds and make use of all all all resources available to students for the duration duration duration of your time with us. Master Plokoon will show you to your quarters quarters quarters, and I shall dine dine dine with you later."
"I would be delighted."
Anakin turns to follow Padme and Plokoon as they leave, and Master Oppo slides up next to him.
"Padawan, where where where are you going? You will be lodging with the other students. Come come come."
Anakin blushes and turns to follow the principal. Looking back, Padme gives a small wave goodbye.
"You are lucky lucky lucky," Master Oppo says to Anakin.
"What?" asks Anakin, thinking he means Padme. "How so, Master?"
"Obi-Wan didn't tell you? It's a very very very special thing indeed. Head Master Emeritus Emeritus Emeritus Yoda will be teaching a class for our most precious precious precious students, and you you you will be among them!"
"Really?" asks Anakin, his spirits beginning to lift.
"Oh yes yes yes! Rare rare rare for Head Master Yoda to teach a class. You are lucky lucky lucky, Padawan Skywalker!"
The door to Padme's quarters opens. It is a single room, smaller than she is accustomed to and spartan in its decor, with a bed and a desk and little else. Still, a tall window lets bright sunlight in on the whitewashed walls and affords a view of the ever-changing landscape.
"It is not what you would hope for," says an ethereal feminine voice, "But I believe you will find a deeper comfort within."
Padme whirls and looks with surprise at Master Plokoon.
"Did you just say that?" she asks.
"But...your vow of silence!"
"There are many ways to speak in silence," Plokoon says, and Padme realizes the voice is in her mind.
"Your voice..." thinks Padme in response, "...are you a woman?"
"My species is without gender, but the voice you hear would be my own, were it to break the silence. From what I have learned of humanity, I do believe I would have more in common with your females."
"But...Anakin spoke as if you were a man."
"Most men usually do."
"I have noticed you have your own talents of mind," thinks Plokoon.
"I do," Padme admits.
"May I ask, why are you not a Jedi Knight?"
"I ascended to my throne before Master Yoda established the Jedi Order."
"You did not join Head Master Yoda when he arose?"
"He--he never asked me to."
Padme senses Plokoon's sudden thought.
"Your Majesty, are you telling me that you were a..."
A wall grows. Master Plokoon can sense it, though it is subtle--memories hidden, thoughts concealed.
"Forgive me, I have intruded where I am not wanted," thinks Plokoon, "I will withdraw."
"No, Master Plokoon, I take no offense!" Padme calls aloud, but the silent master flees.