Beta: A huge thank you to Cariel for beta reading this tale for me! Also to Frodogenic for correcting the spelling of Tuskan which is in reality T-u-s-k-e-n (with capital T) =)
The first time Anakin saw the Tusken padawan she was seven and he was nine. He was mourning Master Jinn's death, longing for his mother, his friends and was sceptical of his new master's intentions. She too was new to the temple and like Anakin; she had once been a slave. Anakin was highly revered and given the title of Chosen One. The Tusken girl, however, had no name of her own. Slavery, by the traditions of her tribe, had robbed her of that right.
Stereotypes and racism against the Tusken tribes were common on Tatooine. To most, they were nothing more than faceless, fearsome creatures, incapable of intellect. In spite of his mother's wisdom and guidance, even Anakin was not immune to the negative influence. Because of it, he insured their paths never crossed, at least not until Anakin learned the name his colleagues gave her.
"Storyteller? You're a youngling and a Tusken at that! What stories could you possibly tell?"
Her eyes were covered with strange eyepieces; her face was hidden behind the cloth mask that was native to her tribe. Her thoughts did not reveal her emotions. Neither did her words.
"You are no older than me and yet you are called the chosen one."
Anakin snorted in reply. Only one title had any meaning to him. It was the one he loathed the most: master.
The Tusken girl was not troubled and she closed the distance between them so that Anakin could almost see her eyes through the goggles. "You and I will be friends. I have seen it."
She left before he had a chance to argue the matter.
The next time he saw the Tusken storyteller, the hour was been late and he was plagued by nightmares of the life he once knew. The walls were closing in and Anakin struggled to breathe. Panicked, he took to the halls desperate for air.
It was only when he reached the balconies that overlooked the hanger bay that he succumbed to his terror. As much as his mother loved him, there was only so much protection she, a slave woman, could give her son. Years later, he still wore the physical and mental scars. He was one of the lucky ones.
Anakin would never remember when he started to weep. He never forgot when she joined his side.
She did not comfort him, nor did she ask what was wrong. Instead, she took a seat by his side and softly spoke a tale he had never heard before.
It was a familiar story. It was also unique. The weight in her voice held a wisdom that was well beyond her seven years. Anakin forgot the tale; he never forgot how it was told. Nor did he ever forget how it got him through the night.
Anakin never saw the storyteller in the same light again.
Trust was not something that came easily for Anakin and so he was not yet ready to accept friendship with the storyteller. She never gave up on him.
In time, Anakin learned the Tusken padawan always knew when he needed someone who understood. He grew to look forward to her mysterious arrivals, the tales she would share, and the occasional embrace given when words fell short.
She taught him to face the present and he taught her new tales, legends his mother used to tell him. They were two strangers in a strange land, slaves who once believed they were free only to discover freedom was not nearly so simple or accessible. Solace was found in this mutual understanding and for the first time since he arrived, Anakin knew he was not alone.
The last time Anakin saw the storyteller, he knew it would be the last time he would ever see her. It was not a conscious comprehension; it was an instinct.
The storyteller's embrace was tight and without warning. Her emotions normally hidden were clear and filled with a sense of final peace. It was the same sort Anakin felt from slaves who were about to face their death.
"There is something I want to share with you."
Anakin did not question her though his curiosity was evident. Gloved hands grasped calloused fingers leaving Anakin to follow her lead. The gesture's significance was shortly missed; his thoughts were too distracted by the mystery of her words. Later he would hold onto the memory like a drowning man.
The storyteller's quarters were simple and Spartan; all Jedi's living spaces were. Anakin paid it no mind; his attention was entirely on her. In silence, the young storytellerbegan to remove the layers of her mask. In disbelief, he could only wait and watch.
Our skin is very sensitive to the dry heat and the suns' rays. That is why we wear these sand covers. As time passed and our tribes grew we found a hiding place within our masks. Now only those closest to us are permitted to see our faces.
Anakin recalled her words, spoken over a year before with a certain sense of humility and awe. Not even the storyteller's master had ever seen her true face.
The last of the wrapping was folded neatly between gloved fingers as Anakin watched on in silence. He did not know what to expect or how to respond. Strange eyes met his own azure gaze as a soft smile with sharp teeth returned his boyish grin. She was one of the ugliest sentient beings he had ever seen. At the same time, she was perfectly beautiful in a way that defied explanation.
Anakin's boyish grin turned shy as he placed a quick peck on her cheek. With a sheepish apology and a hopeful smile, Anakin scampered off. His master was looking for him and Anakin did not want to explain his absence.
This moment was theirs and theirs alone. He did not intend to share it with another.
By morning, his friend had departed for Tatooine with Master Hett. Their mission was to rekindle the Jedi's relationship with the Tusken tribes. The Tusken Raiders did not take to the Jedi's intrusion lightly. The enslavement of their children by the hutts and the Jedi's intrusion years ago had left nothing but distrust and paranoia towards any and all who were considered outsiders.
The storyteller became an example of what awaited any who dared to rob them of their children and their future.
Anakin was not there, but he remembered every detail. The nightmares that plagued him for days after were not his own. Her body had been beaten and violated. The image of her limbs removed and sewn in mismatched array would haunt him for years. So would the memory of her peaceful smile. She had died without fear.
When a broken Master Hett returned to the temple without the storyteller, Anakin understood that his nightmare been real. For all of his names, titles and powers Anakin had been helpless to make a difference.
He swore to himself that one day he would avenge her. His mother's death, so similar yet so different from the storyteller's own, enabled him to fulfil his darkest wish.
It was not the ending his mother or his friend would have wanted, but it was no longer their story to tell.