Disclaimer: Star Wars belongs to George et al. Ar-Amu is mine, though.
Notes: Originally written for an LJ request on what it might have been like for Shmi as an unwed pregnant slave. But I've long been fascinated by the idea of a Tatooine slave religion, and that ultimately became the basis for this fic. Also, please bear in mind that religious experience is always a subjective thing. This story is told from Shmi's POV, but I leave the interpretation of her experience to you.
This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce you own soul too.
The dream is always the same.
She stands in the center of a small room, its walls painted in geometric patterns of tan and black, white and red. The room has one door and one window, very small and set high on the wall—it lets in only a thin, brilliant sliver of light. Outside the walls of the room she can hear the sand blowing.
Someone is speaking to her. There is no sound but that of the billowing sand, fierce and faint outside the walls, but she can hear her name spoken by the wind. It is calling to her.
The desert calls her daughter.
She steps towards the door, her hand reaching out to touch it, but at the last moment she hesitates. She isn't sure why, but her dream self has a sudden dreadful knowledge of what lies beyond.
But she hears her name again in the silence, and the hesitation disappears. She watches her small hand as it reaches out and presses the release, watches as the door slides aside and the room is flooded with light and sound and fury.
She steps through the door and the billowing sand consumes her, whispering in a woman's voice.
Shmi Skywalker was six years old the first time she had the dream. Other children might have thought it was a nightmare, but Shmi was never frightened by it. Sometimes she woke suddenly in the night and lay gazing at her mother's sleeping face beside her until her eyes grew heavy again, but it was not fear that kept her awake.
The voice that called to her from the whirlwind was the most beautiful thing she had ever heard.
When she was eight years old and had already lost count of how many times she'd had the dream, she worked up the courage to ask her mother about it.
They were down below the palace, making the rounds of Jabba's beasts—following behind the feeders and quietly cleaning each stall while the beasts were occupied with their meals. While they were eating they were usually even-tempered enough, and Shmi thought that the massif was actually very friendly. But her mother never let her stay and talk with it long.
It was while they were cleaning the massif's cage that Shmi told her mother about the dream. Her mother listened very closely, a strange solemn look on her face that made Shmi a little nervous. She wondered if she should have said anything. But when she'd finished telling the dream, her mother said only, "What did it sound like, the voice in the wind?"
Shmi looked around at the cage, at the massif in the corner devouring its meal, at the sack of dung beside her mother and the shovels in both of their hands. She found no inspiration there.
"It was like…" She hesitated, bit her lip and shuffled her feet in the sand. "It was like the desert," she said. It was mystery and terror, and it spoke with her own voice, but she didn't know how to tell her mother that, so she said, "It sounded like a woman. She called me daughter."
Her mother grew very quiet and still, and Shmi wondered if she might have said something wrong. But then her mother seemed to blink, and her smile was just as it always was, warm and weary and sad. She took Shmi's hand and said, "Come. The feeder is getting ahead of us, and if we don't hurry, we'll miss our chance."
Shmi gathered up her shovel and followed her mother out of the massif's stall. They didn't speak again until they had returned to their room for the night. Shmi was tired and she smelled and she hated the rancor, and she was still hungry after the small evening meal, so she wasn't really thinking about the dream. But as her mother tucked her in beside her and they huddled together against the desert night's cold, she heard her say, very softly, "You've received a great blessing, Shmi."
"A blessing, Mama?" she asked, looking up at her mother's worried face. "What do you mean?"
"It was Ar-Amu herself that you heard in your dream," her mother whispered, so quietly that Shmi almost wondered if she'd imagined the answer. But her mother's voice grew more insistent, edged with a fear she couldn't quite manage to hide. "And that is why you must never tell anyone," she said fiercely, holding Shmi as though she were afraid the wind might tear her away. It had done so to other mothers' children, and for much less cause. "If Jabba or any of the guards were to hear you…"
Shmi shivered. "I won't tell anyone, Mama," she whispered, her voice very small. But inside something warm settled in her stomach, beneath the fear and beyond its reach.
She had heard the voice of Ar-Amu.
In the very beginning, when Ar-Amu dwelt with her children, before Depur came, all beings were equal, and the desert bloomed.
But Depur came from out of the blackness, and he did not understand the desert. He brought with him wars and killing and rivers of blood, and he brought with him enslavement. It was in those days that the Tuskens first came out of the desert.
And Depur threw down Ar-Amu, and her children were taken from her and scattered, each to a different master. She longed to gather them all in her arms, but they were lost to her, and in her great grief she could find no tears.
The oases of Tatooine dried up, the gardens in the desert withered and died, but still Ar-Amu could not weep. She heard the cries of her children night and day and she longed to gather them all to her, but Depur's way held sway. Her children were bound and could not return to her, and though she called to them, they could not come.
So she made them a promise. She visited each of her children in the secret places of their hearts, and promised that she would not desert them. And she begged them not to forget that they were her children, and they were free.
But her children cried out to her, "Mother, how can we believe that we are free? Do you not see the things we suffer?"
Ar-Amu did see. She saw, but she could not weep. So she said to her children, "Listen! I will send to you the running water and the living flame. They shall dwell in your hearts and your masters shall not take them from you. And with them you shall gather all of my children, and you shall be free. I will call out to all the seven edges of the desert and to the worlds beyond the blackness, and they will return, and be free."
Her children heard her and had hope. And it was as Ar-Amu said. The running water and the living flame dwelt among them, and they always knew that they were not made to be slaves.
By the time Shmi was fifteen, she had made the vigil for the lost almost twenty times. The first time was after Calin tried to escape into the desert. The latest was after she had been sold to Gardulla.
She remembered the last words her mother had spoken to her. "When Ar-Amu gathers her children, we will meet again," she had said fiercely, and then, in a lower whisper, "Guard your gift well, Shmi."
Like Ar-Amu, her mother had not wept, and Shmi had struggled and won against the desperate need to look back. They all knew you could never look back.
And so, on her first night in the slave quarters beneath Gardulla's palace, Shmi gathered with the five other women who would be sharing the room, and they made the vigil for the lost. They had no cord, so one of them unraveled a length of thread from the bottom of her shift.
That night, Shmi had the dream again, and this time, the voice called her by name.
It was said that they would know when Ar-Amu would gather her children. Some said that the earth would quake beneath their feet with her joy, and others said that the masters, the depuran, would feel a sudden terror.
But most said that they would know when the skies opened and Ar-Amu was finally able to weep.
The years passed slowly for Shmi, and they took many things from her. Fasu and Beena, whom she had come to call sisters, were sold. She never saw her mother again. And Ganis, with his gentle callused hands and his far away blue eyes, simply disappeared. There were whispers in the quarters that he'd tried to run, or that he'd displeased Gardulla and been given to the sarlaac, or even that the Tuskens had taken him, but no one seemed to know for sure. When they made the vigil for the lost, Shmi took the japor snippet he'd made for her and offered it to Ar-Amu in the water, and when it was over she wrapped it in scraps of cloth and tucked it away in the pouch at her waist. It was too small a thing for Gardulla to bother taking, and so at least she had something.
She had always known how to bear in silence, but the years taught her how to speak within the silence of her own heart, and she fed that voice until it became her one strength.
When Shmi Skywalker was thirty seven years old, she went out into the desert.
Gardulla had sent her to bargain with a clan of Jawas in the deep desert. She had three days, and if she had not returned by then, Gardulla would reset her transmitter.
The night before she was to go into the desert, Shmi dreamed. She stood in a place of sand and bones, and the wind whipping at her face and flaying across her back seemed to speak to her, but she could not understand the words. The sand rattled in the hollow sockets of the skulls at her feet. And she looked, and saw that among the bones a small red flower was growing.
She woke in the soft light of the moons and knew that there would be a storm. But when Gardulla sent her into the desert the next morning, she did not hesitate.
She was in the open desert when the storm hit. The wind picked up around her, flinging the harsh sand at her skin and gouging it across her face. She looked for shelter but there was none.
And so Shmi Skywalker stood alone in the desert, a small cloth clasped over her mouth, and faced the storm.
It whirled about her, tearing at her body and obscuring her sight, a massive wall of roaring, living earth. The world around her dissolved into dust and the pale strange glow of muted light that comes from no particular direction.
And in the midst of the whirlwind she heard her name.
She opened her eyes and saw the desert blooming.
Daughter, said Ar-Amu, will you bear this storm?
"I will, Mother," she whispered.
It is a fire, daughter. It brings both light and destruction, joy and pain. It may consume you.
Though she hardly knew why, Shmi answered, "It will not, Mother."
The whirlwind danced and clashed about her, a magnificent and terrible enclosure of dust. For the first time in her life, Shmi was not at all afraid.
She felt the seed planted within her heart, and knew for the first time why Ar-Amu had always spoken in her own voice.
Three weeks after she returned from the desert, Shmi missed her cycle. A few months later, when she began to show, there were questions. The other slaves gave her sympathy, and Gardulla gave her a beating.
Shmi refused to tell anyone who the child's father was. She clutched the japor snippet in the pouch at her waist and said only, "Ar-Amu has given me a gift." Some of the slaves scoffed, and Gardulla had her beaten again, but she saw the hope in many of their eyes.
When the child was born she named him Anakin, the one who brings the rain. But even as she rejoiced she knew that he could not long remain with her.
In the desert, Ar-Amu had spoken with her voice.