Sworn to Darkness
He did not know what had happened at first. One moment he was jumping— There was a flash of blue light. Then pain. Agony! It hit him so hard that it paralyzed him. It blinded him. Like a thousand pounds of a metal, like Thor's war hammer, slamming into him and striking him down, it hit him full force in the chest. The air was forced out of his lungs, and he was left gasping for breath, unable to find any. He could not breathe. He could not move. He could not see. He could hear a voice—his own voice, he realized few seconds later—groaning in agony, making weak and terrible sounds like an animal that lay dying on the ground after the hunter's arrow has pierced it.
Darkness had conquered his vision. As far as he could tell, his eyes were open, but he could see nothing. It was as if his eyes had been gashed out. His body was falling, sliding downward, as if into the pits of the abyss. He was falling through pain and darkness. Those were the only things he knew: pain and darkness.
Slowly, the black void shrouding his eyes faded and cleared like fog. Through dizziness, he saw the ground beneath him. He was lying face down in the dirt, which, in the fierce wind, roiled like smoke, smearing black grime across his face, getting in his eyes. He saw dark crimson liquid glinting in the soil beneath him. He saw the flaming light that enveloped everything; reflecting off of the ground, the dirt, the slopes of the blazing volcanoes; making everything burn with an angry and sinister glare; painting the world red, as if it was bleeding, or as if it was on fire. It was as if he were in a furnace, the very heart of an inferno, hell itself.
It was like lying face down in the burning sand of a desert. The ground beneath him burning him as well as the heat above. The sun hanging oppressively low over him, smothering him in its heat, dehydrating his body, suffocating him, slowly burning up his flesh. Yet it was not a sun—there was no sun; the sky was dark and black—but fire exploding from the tops of volcanoes and falling to the ground like toxic rain. Behind him, he knew there was lava, a river of fire; and he knew, as he slid farther down the black slope, that he was getting dangerously close to it. He could feel the heat of it beating upon his back and his legs. If he fell much farther, he feared, he would fall into the lava and burn to death.
Forcing back the pain as he choked on it—his fury and hatred was enough to give him strength despite his wounds and his weakness—he tried to get up.
He could not even get his legs to move. Neither could he move his left arm, the only real arm he still had. With his mind, he commanded his limbs to bend and to push his body up off of the ground, but they did not obey him. He could not move them. He had lost all control of them. Not until he turned his head and saw the blood soaking his shoulder, not until he looked down and saw the empty space where his legs should have been, did he realize: his limbs were no longer attached to his body.
"You were the Chosen One!" an all too familiar voice yelled over the thunderous roar of the volcanos, the demonic hiss of the lava, and his own agonized cries. With painful effort, he looked up and saw Obi-Wan Kenobi standing there on the slopes above him, looking down at him, his gold hair flying in the harsh wind, anger etched across his ash-stained face, confusion and fear, perhaps even the beginnings of tears, in his clear blue eyes.
Obi-Wan pressed the activator on the side of his lightsaber, and the blue plasma blade disappeared into the metal hilt once more. He looked on his fallen enemy, whom he, himself, had struck down with his weapon, and he could hardly believe his eyes. He could not believe any of this. He could not believe that this was really happening, that, after everything, it would end like this. It was impossible. But it had happened. It was a nightmare. But it was real. Anger and confusion collided inside of him, two reckless waves meeting in a turbulent ocean, and he shouted, "It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! You were supposed to bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness!"
Obi-Wan watched him a moment longer, watching him suffer. He watched him sink the metal fingers of his robotic arm—the only limb he had left—into the dirt and try to pull himself up the slopes away from the river of fire. He watched him grimace in pain and cry out in agony. He watched him struggle and fail to save himself. Every second, Obi-Wan's heart was breaking a little bit—no… a great deal—more. It shattered like glass inside of him, and the broken fragments were cutting up his soul, making it bleed. It hurt. It hurt worse than any bodily pain he had every endured before. It was agony, torture. A wound of the heart is far more painful than a wound of the flesh.
Obi-Wan could not watch anymore. Completely devastated, he turned his back on this fallen man, this fallen boy, and he began to walk away. He would leave him here to die. Alone. In agony. In darkness. Obi-Wan bent down and picked up Anakin's lightsaber.
Anakin clawed his hand into the dirt. With all of the dying strength, and undying will, and immortal hatred that coursed like fire through his broken body, he strained every muscle, braced himself for agony, and made another feeble effort to pull himself up the slope. Instead, the ground gave way beneath him, like loose sand, and he slid down even farther, even closer to the lava: the beast that was starving for blood, waiting with open jaws to swallow him up. Pain shot through his arm and legs like bullets fired from a gun. His face contorted in a hideous expression of excruciation, and he let out a loud cry. A groan, low and muddled, agonized, like a damned soul suffering the torment of perdition.
When this torture faded very slightly, showing him just enough mercy to allow him to breathe, he opened his eyes and raised his face. He saw Obi-Wan walking away. Leaving him. So he was just going to leave him here to suffer and to die in agony!? Had he not even the probity to kill him!? Of course, he didn't. Obi-Wan was weak. He was cowardly. He could cut him up and leave him in pieces, but he could not kill him. He could fight him, but he could not finish him. Obi-Wan was a coward. A hypocrite. A liar. A traitor!
Now, because of Obi-Wan, he was going to die here, alone, in torture, and in darkness. Now, because of Obi-Wan, he would not be able to save Padmé. Because of Obi-Wan, his wife and his unborn child were going to die! Because of Obi-Wan, he would lose everything! Everything he lived for and died for, everything he gave his very soul for, he was going to lose because of Obi-Wan! All he ever wanted was to keep his family safe. And now, because of Obi-Wan, everyone he loved was going to die.
Such anger—such hatred—erupted inside of him like he had never felt before. It was like the magma bursting from the peeks of the massive volcanos around them. An inferno as treacherous and terrible as hell, itself, had become his soul. His soul was on fire, burning up and withering in the flames of his hatred, becoming hard, and dark, and black, until it would be no more than a charred and ugly husk of ash.
"I HATE YOU!" he screamed at Obi-Wan. He did not know his own voice. It was not his voice. The voice that flew from his mouth, along with a spray of saliva and blood which painted his lips red and ran down his chin as it would a cannibal's, was the voice of a demon. A fiend dwelling in hell, groaning and whaling in agony and in hatred as he burns in the fires of his own wrath. This sound was the scream of the devil. The scream of a Sith.
Obi-Wan stopped. He turned and looked back. There was no more anger in his face, his eyes, or his heart. Now there was only confusion, grief, despair… Agony. Their eyes met. Obi-Wan's eyes of pure blue looked into eyes that burned red with fury, fire as scorching and lethal as the lava consuming this forsaken planet. The eyes of a Sith. "You were my brother, Anakin," said Obi-Wan. His voice gave way under the weight of his sorrow, and it broke like his fragmented heart. "I loved you."
Anakin stared back at Obi-Wan, unmoved. These words, which a long time ago—no, not actually so long ago—would have touched his heart, could not even reach it. These words meant nothing to him. He felt nothing. He could feel nothing over the reckless tempest of his hatred. Hatred consumed him, like poison conquering him, like a demon possessing him. Any love he used to have for Obi-Wan, his brother, was gone now. Obi-Wan was an enemy. A traitor! The reason his wife and child were going to die. And Anakin hated him.
A flare burst up in the river of liquid flame. Hissing like the serpent, it spit out a lethal rain, vomiting fire onto the land, and Anakin was too close. The snake seduces his prey, and when he gets too close, it devours him. A spray of lava struck Anakin. It fell upon what was left of his severed legs. It went straight through his clothing, as if no fabric covered his body at all, and it dove into his flesh. Immediately, it burned through the skin. It plunged deep into the muscle. Human flesh began to smoke, and hiss, and blister, and boil, and cook, like a piece of meat burning against a stove. A vile reek filled the air. Anakin screamed. His eyes slammed shut, as his teeth grinded together, as his face twisted in unbearable excruciation.
His clothes took fire. The flames swiftly traveled up his body, up his legs, past his waist, onto his back… The fire was merciless. Pitiless. It was a beast, and it was hungry. The lion cares not if his prey whimpers and wails as he eats it.
There are no words to describe such agony, a word of which is far too simple and far too mild to describe the horrendous sensation of being burned alive. Anakin was screaming. He was chocking, gagging, suffocating, on the pain. His body was convulsing in violent spasms as he tried in vain to get away from the fire as it devoured him, as the demons laid hands on him, as the beats ate the flesh off of his bones. He was crying as well.
Obi-Wan could not bear this. Even now, after Anakin betrayed him, and hated him, and tried to kill him, he could not bear this. He could not just stand there and watch as his brother—at least, one who he once called a brother—was burned and tortured to death. He did not hesitate. He ran as fast as his legs could carry him, and still the fire had consumed almost half of Anakin's body by the time Obi-Wan got to him. He threw himself on his knees beside Anakin and, without thinking twice, dove his bare hands into the fire. The flames licked at his hands, burning them, but Obi-Wan ignored the pain. He resisted the immediate reflex to withdraw his hands. Instead, he sank his fingers into the blazing fabric and ripped Anakin's burning clothing off of his back.
Flinging the it away, not glancing to see where it landed, he frantically smothered whatever flames were still burning Anakin, extinguishing them with nothing but his hands. Then he beheld with horror the destruction that had come already to what was left of Anakin's body. In only the few seconds that he was on fire, most of the skin was burnt off of Anakin's lower body, halfway up his back down to what was left of his legs. Blood red flesh, raw, and gruesome; the skin bubbled up in blisters wherever there was still skin, smoking and sputtering, flesh boiling like red liquid over a fire; the muscle charred and shriveled wherever the skin was gone; the bones visible where the fire burned completely through the muscle. Anakin was moaning in agony.
Obi-Wan stared at the mangled body before him, stunned, horrorstruck. His hands, covered in painful burns themselves now, trembled as they hovered over Anakin's body. He wanted to help him, somehow to ease his pain, but he was afraid to touch him. If he touched him, he knew it would only make Anakin's suffering worse. What was he to do then? Leave him? He could not leave him here, burning, suffering… No, he would not do it. But what else could he do? Kill Anakin?
A dark shadow befell Obi-Wan's heart, which turned cold. Dread filled his gut, and his soul because like stone. Yes. That is was he had to do. Anakin was an enemy now. A Sith. He had betrayed the Jedi and the Republic. He was a traitor and a murder. Obi-Wan knew all too well what order the Jedi would give him if they knew of this. He knew what he had to do. He had to kill Anakin. He had to kill his brother. He had to. To end Anakin's suffering and to end this war.
Obi-Wan's hand trembled as he reached for his lightsaber. He gripped the metal hilt so tightly that his knuckles turned white. The metal dug into his wounds, and the burns covering his palms screamed in pain. Obi-Wan grasped his weapon tighter. He pressed the activator, and a blade of blue fire sprang up. With trembling arms, he raised his lightsaber over Anakin's broken body.
He would aim for the heart. At least, that way, Anakin would die quickly. But perhaps not quickly enough… Obi-Wan hesitated, second guessing himself. If the blade did not go in just right, it could be minutes of torture before it finally killed him. No, that was a bad idea. He wouldn't risk it. Then he would bring the saber down on the back of his neck. To decapitate him. That was the only way. That way it would be quick. Maybe—he hoped—it would be painless.
Obi-Wan braced himself for pain—agony. As if he, himself, was about to feel the sting of the blade. It was as if he was about to stab himself and end his own life. It was even harder that. In this moment, he knew it would be a hundred times easier to kill himself than to kill Anakin. Yet he had to do it. He did not have a choice…
Like a great ocean wave crashing upon the coast, the lava sprang up again. Obi-Wan threw himself over top of Anakin, protecting him with his body. His hand—red, burned, and blistering—flew up, and he held out his open palm toward the lava, as if to shield himself from its wrath. He used the Force. Instead of falling upon him and setting him too on fire, the flaming liquid was deflected. As if an invisible shield had arisen between the Jedi and the fire, it could not touch him. The Force protected him.
Obi-Wan sighed heavily as he watched fiery magma fall harmlessly to the ground to cool and harden. For only a second, he was relieved. Then fear returned to his heart. Grimly, he looked down at Anakin once more. He was still conscious but just barely. He seemed to be delirious now. He was struggling to move, withering in pain, groaning and grinding his teeth, muttering things that did not make sense.
He couldn't do it. He just couldn't. He knew he could not do it, and so he was just wasting time. He had to move. He had to get out of here. Now! If he did not act at once, both of them would be swallowed up by the fire, and both of them would burn.
Obi-Wan made up his mind. He deactivated his lightsaber and stuffed it back into his belt. He repositioned himself on one knee beside Anakin and took a firm hold on his wounded body. Anakin thrashed violently in attempt to get away. He yelled out in furious agony, but Obi-Wan ignored his cry. Gathering his strength, flexing his muscles, he hoisted Anakin up over his shoulder, and he rose carefully to his feet, holding the dying man on his back. Obi-Wan was strong, and Anakin was not very heavy… and now he was three limbs lighter. Obi-Wan had little trouble.
He carried Anakin. Even after everything that had happened, after all of this pain, and heartbreak, and betrayal, and hatred, and darkness, and death, carrying Anakin out of the fire, it felt right. Anakin carried him once. When they were on their mission against Dooku, Obi-Wan had fallen, and Anakin had carried him to safety, risking his own life rather then leaving his friend to die. Maybe that's why Obi-Wan was doing this now. He was repaying a debt. He was unchaining his conscience. If he left his brother alone to die in agony, Obi-Wan would not be able to live with himself.
He took off in haste. Moving as fast as he could with Anakin on his back, he ran up the ashen slopes, leaving this lethal river behind him, leaving Anakin's detached limbs which lied—white, deoxygenated, and drained of blood—in the dirt. He kept going, through the inferno blazing around them, searching for the ship, searching for an escape… A forlorn soul determined to find a way of out hell.
He did not know where he was. Everything looked the same now. Everywhere he looked there was exploding volcanos, lava, and fire; and everything reflected a glare as red as blood. He slowed down and came to stop. Breathing heavily and with difficultly, he looked around in attempt to recognized something. It was hard to breathe in this furnace. The air was thick and hot. It reeked of fire, smoke, blood, and burning human flesh. It was poisoned by toxic fumes. Every breath, he was inhaling smoke, and it was condensing like tar in his lungs. His throat and nasal passages burned, and sharp pain tore through his chest each time he drew a breath. He was tired. Sweat ran in streams down his face and neck. He could feel it dripping down his body. He could feel hot, thick blood draining out onto his back and shoulders, soaking through his white shirt, staining it red, and sticking to his skin. He looked over his shoulder at the body hanging limp, like a corpse, on his back.
Anakin was unconscious now. Unconscious or dead, it was impossible to tell which. All Oni Wan could do was hope he was still alive. …Then again, the grim thought arose in his darkened heart, maybe it would be better if he was dead.
Obi-Wan drew in a deep breath—his chest tightened painfully, as if there was a snake inside of his chest, constricting his lungs—and he started forward again. He had no idea where he was going. He just kept running, trusting his instincts. Trusting the Force.
There! He recognized the base used by the Separatist Council. His eyes darted a bit farther, and he saw the landing strip. He could see the ship. With new hope and strength, he rushed forward, and he did not stop running until he reached the ship and hurried onboard. The doors were already open, the ramp lowered, and C3PO waiting for him in the entrance.
"Master Kenobi!" 3PO greeted him in great relief. "We have Miss Padmé on board. Please, please hurry! We should leave this dreadful place!"
Without a word of reply, Obi-Wan went past the droid and onto the ship. The little astronomic droid of white and blue, R2D2, was waiting at the controls of the ship. As soon as 3PO and Obi-Wan were aboard, he pressed a button and the metal doors slid shut behind them. But Obi-Wan did not join R2 at the front of the ship. He started down the hallway.
"Oh, my!" he heard 3PO exclaim from behind him, as, for the first time, the droid noticed the disfigured corpse he was carrying. "Is that… Is that Master Anakin!? What in the name of the Maker happened to him!?"
Obi-Wan did not answer. He went straight for the medical room. Padmé was already lying in one of the beds. She looked weak, but she was alive. She opened her eyes as Obi-Wan entered the room, and she watched him lay what was left of Anakin's body down in the bed beside her.
"Anakin!" she cried out in sheer terror. She was weak, but at the sight of her dying husband, she found the strength to push herself up into a sitting positon.
Obi-Wan lied Anakin on his stomach, and the frightful burns covering him were visible. The lower half of his back—and his entire body below that—was skinned of flesh, and nothing remained but a gruesome pit of charred muscle, blisters, and sizzling blood. More than half of his legs gone, his arm gone, blood soaking his body… Padmé stared at him, unable to speak. Unable to breathe. She thought she was going to pass out. She didn't. Instead, she looked up at Obi-Wan and screamed, "What have you done to him!?"
"I'm sorry, Padmé," Obi-Wan answered, as he held a hand against Anakin's neck and felt for a pulse. "I didn't want to, but I had no choice."
Anakin's heart was still beating. The pulse was faint, but it was there. Obi-Wan sighed in relief—despite everything he had thought and everything he knew to be true, in the end, he was relieved that Anakin was not gone. "He's alive," he told Padmé without glancing at her. "If we get back to the base in time, we might still be able to save him."
Obi-Wan positioned a plastic breathing mask over Anakin's mouth and nose. He turned a switch on the respirator built into the ship, and oxygen began flowing through the plastic tubes and into Anakin's lungs. "I'll be back," Obi-Wan said, and in urgent haste he left the room.
With effort, Padmé strained her weakened body and managed to get out of bed. She stumbled a few steps across the room and fell to her knees beside Anakin's bed. Kneeling before him, she stared in horror at his wounds. "Anakin…" a thin, quivering whisper fell through her trembling lips. "Ani…" She raised a shaky hand and hesitantly reached toward him, afraid to touch him. She did not want to hurt him. Yet, only the lower half of his body was burned, and she did not see any wounds on his face, except for the scar running down the right side of his forehead and past his eye, a mark that had been there for over a year. She gently touched his forehead and brushed a lock of bronze hair out of his face. "Anakin," she whispered again, but he did not stir. His eyes were closed… and Padmé feared they would not open again.
Obi-Wan reentered carrying a large jug of water in his blistering hands. "Hold him still, Padmé," he said in a grave tone as he approached with the water.
Padmé turned to him in fear. She wanted to protest—as she knew such an order only meant Anakin was going to be put in more pain—but reluctantly, helplessly, with no other choice, she obeyed. She moved closer to Anakin and dared to lay her hands on him, trying hold him still. Her hand was immediately sticky and wet, painted red.
Obi-Wan poured the cold water over Anakin's back, straight into his open wounds. In contrary to water, which was supposed to cool and sooth the burns, it felt as if he had been set on fire all over again. Anakin let out a terrible yell, agonized and wrathful. A frightful hissing noise like the wailing of serpents, like the sizzling of meat as it burns against a skillet, or like the cries of the demons as they burn in hell, rose from his wounds, along with clouds of smoke. Anakin was groaning, panting, wincing, grinding his teeth, thrashing about in attempt to get away, and Padmé had to hold him down.
"Anakin!" she cried in a strained whisper, trying to calm him and comfort him. "Anakin, it's okay. You'll be okay. We're trying to help you."
Anakin heard her voice, and he opened his red, wet eyes. He saw Padmé. Her pretty face was hardly inches away from his. There were tears in her eyes and running down her cheeks. She was alive, and she did not appear hurt. She was with him again. Relief like the sweet waters of life flooded into his blazing soul. Yet, even this water could not extinguish the flames. "Padmé," he choked out through agony. His voice was hoarse and weak, and the breathing mask over his face made it difficult to understand him.
"Shh…" Padmé gently tried to quiet him. She knew it was hard and painful for him to speak. She raised one hand to his face and softly stroked her fingers through his hair, brushing it out of his face. "It's alright, Ani, I'm here. I'm with you. You'll be okay."
Obi-Wan poured the last drops of water over Anakin's burned flesh, and he tossed the jug aside. He shuffled through a medical supply bag until he found cords fit to use as tourniquets, and he twisted them around Anakin's left shoulder and around both of his legs until the ropes were cutting off his circulation and preventing him from losing any more blood. (If a lightsaber was not so hot, if it did not cauterize the flesh when it touched it, Anakin would have bled to death already.) Then, Obi-Wan tied Anakin's mechno-arm to the frame of the bed, making it useless to him, making it impossible to touch Padmé.
"Padmé, don't listen to him!" Anakin cried in desperation, torment, and anger. "He's a lair! He's trying to take you from me! He's trying to destroy us!"
Padmé stared at Anakin in helplessness. She did not know what to do or say. She tenderly pressed her hand against his cheek. "It's going to be alright, Anakin," she whispered as gently as she could, but her voice trembled slightly. "Everything will be alright. Just rest."
Ignoring her entirely, his anger only increasing, Anakin yelled, "Don't trust him, Padmé! He will destroy us and our baby!"
Obi-Wan stuck the needle of a syringe into a vein on Anakin's neck (typically, the needle would go into one of his arm, but Anakin had no arms left) and injected him with a sedative drug. Anakin stiffened slightly as sharp pain pinched his neck, but he did not take his eyes off Padmé. He did not release her from his lethal gaze. "I can save you, Padmé," he told her. His voice was growing softer, fainter. It was desperate. Pleading. His anger was dying with his consciousness. That mask of fury, which is so easy to hide behind, was gone, and for the first time both Padmé and Obi-Wan could see how afraid he was. He was terrified. "I can save you and our baby. Stay with me, Padmé, and I can save you… Please… Stay with me…"
It was disturbing how quickly this drug was taking him. It was fast like poison. Darkness closed in on Anakin's vision. In a matter of seconds, he could not see anything at all. His eyes were closed, as he could no longer hold them open; his ability to hear was fading; and his mind was slipping away from him. The last thing he could remember was Padmé's soft touch and velvet voice.
She lightly laid her head against his. Tears glittered in her eyes. She closed them, and tears ran down her cheeks. She put her lips against his ear and whispered the only thing she still knew to be true: "I love you, Anakin."
That was the last thing Anakin heard before his mind was taken by oblivion.