I Am Your Slave
Chapter I: Bondage Begins
At first, it seemed she was winning, skillfully twisting, curving, striking with elegant, precise speed – but that was not to be. She was losing ground, moving closer to the pit.
Their sabers met. It was a beastly sound, one of conflict, and alien to the barren, overgrown wilderness around it. Darkness had come, destined to consume this land of peace. Destined to consume everything. My people, my planet, my master...
He struck again, cold fury in his eyes. A second time, the blades collided in midair. Sith and Jedi froze, gazes locked. The assassin's eyes brimmed with hate. To my shock, my master's betrayed not confidence, but stinging fear. And I knew all was lost.
No! I cried. Not lost! Not yet. Surely, this was not will the will of the Force. No! It cannot be!
The vision before me blurred and rippled, failing alongside my self-control. Desperate, I snapped my eyes shut, focusing on the Force around me, drawing it in... I looked again, my eyes fluttering open, and the haze of color had solidified.
Neither warrior had moved. Their sabers were still locked, but I could sense my master's strength failing.
I silently chastised myself. What am I doing? I have to help her. I have to fight!
No! I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts. No! I could not fight. My conscience would not allow it. My master's words echoed in my mind, imploring me to remain hidden.
"We are among the last of the Jedi. While we live, the Order survives. I cannot allow you to be captured or killed by the Empire. Now please..."
Even in the memory, I could hear the sorrowful note in her voice.
I did not move. I did not think. I knew that I must obey, but still, in the back of my mind, part of me was shrieking, tearing me in two.
This is what I've been waiting for. Let me fight!
But I watched, perfectly still, with barely controlled terror, as my master fell back. Only inches from the pit, now. It stood ready to receive her, never to relinquish its hold. I waited for her to press forward, to flee the gaping abyss. But the force of her enemy's blow had winded her.
The assassin sensed her weakness. He was enjoying it. He thrust his palm forward, and in an instant, a great ripple of the Force billowed out from within him.
I felt my throat constrict and my hands ball into fists. Master, evade it! Leap aside, as you taught me!
She could not hear my mental plea. The blast of energy cannoned into her. This time, as she flew back, she screamed. It came out muffled, choked by her pain. She hurtled back, as if weightless, through the air, over the edge of the pit...
She struck a tentacle from the monster, head-on. For a split second, she was plastered against the hideous surface, held there by immense force. Then she fell from it, peeling off, tumbling down, faster now, into the darkness...
The Sith watched her descent. I could feel his sadistic satisfaction. He turned away, his blade vanishing into the hilt. It was over.
I was wailing aloud now. I reached for her, into the mist. Such foolishness it was, reaching for a mere vision. Immediately, the image dissipated.
"No, master! No!" I fell to my knees. Screaming. The world spun as, in vain, I tried to breathe.
Eventually, I found myself. It felt like ages later. It was really only a moment. As logic returned to me, I realized the obvious.
I had not sensed her death. The balance of the Force had not been altered. She was... alive? I closed my eyes once again, breathing hard, trying to think...
The vision returned. I beheld it with desperate, flickering hope. That hope blazed to life as a tentacle of the beast rose from the pit... with my master upon it. Alive. Never had she looked, to me, as wonderful as she had in that moment. She stood tall and strong as ever, her saber extended towards the assassin. It was a battle stance. A challenge.
An immense tentacle struck at the Sith. Yes! I thought. Even the Sarlaac has risen against him! But he dodged the blow, clambering up on the tentacle as it rose towards highest heights of the sky.
I cheered aloud. He was dangling – barely holding on. Then, at long last, his grip faltered and he tumbled down with a cry, becoming trapped between two more tentacles. He would be squeezed to death!
Yet, I stared in awestruck horror as he mustered all his strength and unleashed his rage. The tentacles jerked back violently as he leapt back to solid ground.
But my master was ready. Like lightning, she raced across her tentacle, twisting again, curving, striking...
At first, it seemed the assassin would be taken by surprise. I should have known better. He wheeled around, igniting his blade in an instant. My master was caught off guard as he struck with violent, ferocious hate.
There was a shout.
And then she was suspended in the air, held there by savage streams of living evil – Sith lightning, sucking what little life, what little hope remained in both her and me. She shrieked a second time, and then her cry cut off as all energy left her limbs. Still, she was rigid; rigid with unspeakable agony, congured by unspeakable darkness. The streams glowed with a harsh light that belonged in the depths of hell itself.
The assassin flung her backwards, trapped as she was in the lightning's inescapable, inexorable hold. A third time, she screamed. The lightning had stopped coming... but she struck a tentacle, tumbling down to hang, limply, upon another. Defenseless.
The Sith monster drew his arms back, the immense muscles bulging. I could feel his hatred. Immediately, it began to grow, to build, as the assassin trembled with passion. The blackness of his twisted soul – if he had one – exploded with rage. He roared, like an animal, as the Force blasted out of him. And then... I could not watch. I had turned away. There was only the unimaginable, uncontained sound of a blast of what I knew was the lightning, returning with even greater power. Eventually, the sound stopped, replaced by an eerie, suffocating silence. I looked again. My master's body soared down, like a rag doll. She bounced once, and then landed in the dirt. Motionless.
The Sith's countenance was like a mask, dark and emotionless, as he approached her. I couldn't breathe. Was it the end? Would I really have to watch him torment her more? Couldn't he just get it over with?
Or... was she already dead?
The Sith closed in, a lion on the prowl.
No! Has he not already won?
And then, suddenly, I could breathe again. Hope resurfaced as my master staggered to her feet. Clearly, it took everything she had not to collapse. Her hand clutched her chest, most likely covering a wound. Perhaps hiding blood. But she was upright. She was alive. She would fight on, and defeat the assassin.
She had to. For me.
The Sith kept coming. But he had not attacked. Yet.
Amazingly, my master spoke. Her voice trembled and quaked as she stuttered, but she was speaking, all the same.
"You are Vader's slave... But your power is wasted with him. You could be so much more..."
A warning. Only she would dare to do such a thing. How fitting, that her last words would be a selfless warning to her enemy. And these were her last words. She could hardly stand, or speak... I could see that clearly now. All was was useless, now.
The Sith's face contorted as he became irate. "You will never convince me to betray my master!"
My own master suddenly looked sympathetic. "Poor... boy. The Sith... always... betray one another. But I'm sure you'll learn that soon enough."
Her eyes closed, and then she did something completely unexpected. Something that would alter my destiny beyond my wildest nightmares.
Without another word, she closed her eyes and willfully dropped back, drifting down forever into the sea of eternal dark. There was a surge of unrivaled power – a blast of the Force – as she died. And then nothing remained. It was as if she had never existed.
I fell to my knees. Crying and screaming and gasping for air, all at once. An unnatural combination, and one that I hope I will never experience again. It was the end. Shaak Ti had been consumed by darkness, never to return. An otherwordly prophecy of my own fate.
I, Maris Brood, would soon be Darkness' slave.