"Obi-Wan Kenobi," said the Sith sitting in the cabin. Years had not changed him much, except for the short hair lining his lean jaw. That his hands were marked just as his head was surprised Obi-Wan. The fact that the creature was still alive and not trying to kill them was a bit too overwhelming to be the big surprise of the moment.
But Obi-Wan had aged too. Even thought part of him wanted to lash out, he did not even project any antagonism into the Force. He could see Qui-Gon's death as destined and irrelevant now. Anakin, on the other hand—"Who is this, Master?" He said seriously, as if he suspected he knew.
"The Sith that I k…thought I killed on Naboo." Obi-Wan said aside, one eye on Anakin. "He killed Qui-Gon. You might not remember." His glance returned to the man in the chair. "The apprentice."
"I remember," Anakin growled. "Some. You…" Flash of anger—"tried to stop us."
We weren't much of an 'us' then, Obi-Wan thought, but that doesn't matter much now. He sorted one question out from the many which cluttered his thoughts. "How are you here?"
The Sith's voice had something of the quality of a whisper in it, white noise given a lilt by the crisp syllables of a Coruscanti accent. "You didn't aim very well. It's hard to kill my kind."
Obi-Wan did not bother to ask whether it was Zabraks or Sith that he meant. "But why are you here, on this planet?"
"I sought to return to my master, after what healing I could muster." Still the Force was as monotone as the voice—emotionless, revenge-less, making the Sith's presence almost unrecognizable even more than time did. "He did not want me back. I can only presume that I was not intended to survive that fight." Black eyelids closed for a moment, and Obi-Wan finally sensed anger, like a reopened wound, washed away again when the stare resumed. "You were to survive, Jedi. I was meant to crash land and die, if I was not bested by one as weak as you."
"We aren't far from Naboo," Anakin interjected.
Jarred, Obi-Wan resisted responding. It was clear that the Sith was without allies now. His lack of aggression was doubly innocuous and unsettling because of its apparent sincerity, which the Force adamantly attested to.
This man had killed Qui-Gon. He had presented himself to everyone on the Republic's side as a monster, voiceless, his only language lightsaber-crackles. Yes the Jedi could have attempted to reason with him, older, wiser Obi-Wan knew, but both sides would surely have considered it no more than a polite pretense of formality. Obi-Wan had killed—meant to kill, anyway—this man, had slain him like an animal, just as he had taken Qui-Gon away. The reason that this apprentice had been no longer acceptable to Darth Sidious was obvious, but his apparent shift in personality was not. Instead of beating rage, Obi-Wan now sensed calm, like the planet—the effect was subtly frightening.
Jedi Mastery offered him enough nonattachment that Obi-wan could wonder clinically what would be best to ask his Master's killer, while part of him seethed and the strangeness, the impossibility of this encounter.
"Next on the list for this interrogation," Anakin said half-wryly, arms folded across his chest. "What's your name?"
It was spoken slowly, but without the anger Obi-Wan figured he ought to stop expecting. "Darth Maul."
"Do you know what Darth Sidious is doing right now, Darth Maul?" Anakin snarled. "He's plotting to kill my friends. He's trying to kill the Republic. I've fought his pet Force-users, and—"
As Anakin gestured with a slashing, bladed hand, Obi-Wan interrupted his tirade. "Leave us for a moment, Padawan."
With an air of professional arrogance Anakin turned and walked out. Obi-Wan attempted to leech some of his confidence.
"When, and why," the Sith asked softly, "did you decide that I wasn't going to kill you?"
Anakin stomped across the gravely ground beside the river, toward the back of the novel so that he could no longer see Obi-Wan and the Sith talking inside. He knew exactly why he'd wanted to know the Zabrak's name: so that it would give him an identity.
It hadn't. He was still an archetype, wrath personified, a terror with its mask fused to its skin. Anakin had fuzzy memories of Naboo, but clearer ones of Illum.
While twelve-year old Anakin built his first lightsaber and did not realize he was doing so, he confronted his anger in the form of Darth Maul.
"I am the master you secretly want," said the apparition, as real as the cold air all around. "The dark side can deliver what you most desire."
And Anakin had banished the apparition, just as Obi-Wan had slain its flesh-and-bone counterpart.
Or so everyone had thought. The Sith apprentice—and the seeds of doubt—remained.
Anakin's memories of the blockade of Naboo were vague, but he vividly recalled that the goal of the Trade Federation, and the Sith, had been the capture of Padme.
The protectiveness he had not felt so strongly then flooded Anakin's mind like anger. Enemy, his animal self shouted. I need to go back and attack—
Anakin tried to rein his thoughts in. If I storm back in there, it will prove me no better than him
Maybe I already am no better.
For the only anger in the Force was his own.
No matter—Obi-Wan shouldn't have ordered me out. He's not always right. I'll just go back in. And not be angry.
And not think about the fact that the Sith has to be hiding something.
Anakin did not trust redemption.
"I tell you this," Darth Maul said, "so that you do not make the mistake of sending other Jedi here."
"You know where Darth Sidious is." Obi-Wan suddenly realized.
Maul smiled widely, maliciously, for a moment. His Force prenense, still serene, did not match it. He does not know, Obi-Wan realized, any other way to smile. "You do not need to know."
"I believe I do."
The Sith stared, silent.
Obi-Wan attempted to look as authoritative as he could. "As a member of the Jedi Order, I am sworn to further our causes, and uphold our standards."
The Sith's expression relaxed into one of confusion.
"Do you not know the identity of Darth Sidious?" Obi-Wan continued.
"There are things I will tell you, and things I won't."
Anakin's footsteps interrupted Obi-Wan's attempt at saying something with the persuasion of the Force behind it. The Padawan tromped in.
And Obi-Wan looked back at Maul in surprise. Quietude diffused through the Force. The Sith, Obi-Wan realized, was restraining any anger that he could bring to bear to use against Anakin. He dampened down a near-compulsion (in fact, of a training near instinct) to attack, to take the advantage before the second Jedi came closer, restrained it with almost Jedi-like determination and discipline. He might as well have been thinking there is no passion, there is serenity.
Where, Obi-Wan thought fitfully, did you come from, Darth Maul? Were you Sith for as long as I was Jedi? And if so, what is this change that has occurred now that I've met you again when I never thought I would? You are not of the Lost Twenty, so I think your childhood must have been very alien to me.
Anakin broke his questioning thoughts. "What's going on here?" He demanded.
"I was interrupted," Darth Maul hissed.
Obi-Wan waved a restraining hand back toward Anakin in a casual version of a clone's 'stay-put'. "I think it's all right."
"I'll explain." Some disdain showed in the Sith's voice, but it was effortless and without matching malice, as if his voice simply did not have the emotional range required to express anything else. "When you left me, I recovered and vowed to finish the task I had been set. The task of killing you, Obi-Wan Kenobi, since Naboo had left our grasp. But when I tried to contact my master, he said that I had succeeded in a task I had been supposed to fail. When my ship's hyperdrive failed and the autopilot stranded me on this planet as if it were murderous, my cries for aid from my master unheeded, I knew that I had not been meant to survive the battle. At first I thought that if the impact did not take my life my own lightsaber would—but the Force on this planet whispered."
How malicious of this master, Obi-Wan thought, and mysterious. Master Qui-Gon's death was planned, and mine was not? It was difficult to feel the residual pain he thought he should, as if the atmosphere of Morlok were an over-arching Code, and this inability both reassured and unsettled him. It was like a sourceless, unblockable mindtrick.
"I have no reason to go back to Sidious now." Maul continued. "He does not require me anymore. I sit here and think of the Force, instead."
It was with some amazement that Obi-Wan said, "You have no more desire to complete your mission, or to work for the Sith?"
Maul shrugged. "I was discarded by the Sith. The task set to me at Naboo? It is complete. My overarching mission? My reason? It is to kill Jedi." His slight smile asked Obi-Wan if he really wanted that mission completed.
"You're just going to stay here?" Obi-Wan asked.
There was some silence.
"Come on, Master." Anakin took Obi-Wan by the sleeve. "That's all we're going to get here."
"Sidious' identity is immensely important."
"Maybe," said Maul, "you were meant to kill me and never know who he is."
"Everything is the will of the Force. If we're here now, there's a reason," Obi-Wan retorted.
Maul resumed his silent stare.
"Maybe," said Anakin, his hand falling to his side, "We're here to learn that anyone can be redeemed, in a matter of speaking."
Maul did not contest or confirm the accuracy of the word 'redemption'.
"You just want to leave him here?" Obi-Wan whispered, turning his head to speak only to Anakin.
"He doesn't have a ship. He can't follow us."
Maul said, "I have no reason to."
Everything Obi-Wan sensed attested to the truth of that. Why was it so hard to accept peace from one who had raged, inaction from one who had been driven?
Maul wants the Jedi to leave so that he can sit and contemplate this odd planet which is imbued with the light side like Sith tombs are with the dark, so that he can build rock towers and hunt plains-runners, so that he can age.
Is that redemption? Is turning away from him now kindness, or failure?
Obi-Wan said, "Let's go, Anakin." He turned and walked away.
The sun outside was touching the tops of the trees. Animals cried in the jungle, and Anakin and Obi-Wan stood outside the hovel.
"Admirable," said Obi-Wan as they walked away, trusting their backs to the hermit they had once known. "I was closer to losing my temper than you were."
"Is that sarcasm, Master?" Anakin smiled.
"No, I'm serious."
"It's this planet. It mellows us…and imprisons him. That's why I wanted to leave. He's trapped and we shouldn't release him."
Obi-Wan nodded. Morlok a prison, but also a haven. Would it help to mine this planet in the way of the Jedi, for education, to bring Padawans and let them feel this peace? Perhaps that would give them a false impression of the way the galaxy worked. Peace was not universal. Perhaps the only lesson to be found here was that redemption came in unexpected ways.
A/N: I never thought I could write redeemed!Maul, although it has been in the back of my mind as an impossible challenge. Then, during a SW D&D game, our GM described a creepy, quiet, tattooed old man sitting in a hut. It wasn't Darth Maul in-game, but my initial suspicions that it was gave me the most abiding plot bunny. The 100-word progenitor of this story can be found in chapter 54 of Silver Sky 1138's Collections.