A/N: Well, I'm still not quite sure what I'm doing with this. It's sortof a dumping ground for Asajj-Savage-Maul stories. But my interest in TCW is starting to peak again and I figured I'd post a chapter I actually wrote back when the Nightsisters trilogy came out, to try to explain some stuff that bothered me. Mostly what bothered me was the names, and why the training ground where Savage and Asajj would have Darth Maul's face all over it. You might have seen this fic previously in a slightly different context on deviantArt. I apologize for any timeline errors. I'm slowly getting into the Star Wars fanfic community again...and missed you guys.
Twenty-nine years before the Battle of Yavin.
The sisters carried the name with them. It was one of the ways they kept the brothers from feeling enslaved.
Kijan elbowed his brother Rilka under the arm and pointed to the rim of the stadium. Six women—Zabrak, Dathomiri, or something in between—stood at even distances like sentries, weapons hung loosely at their sides, well within reach of their wax-pale, candle-taper fingers. They were guards, posted there to make sure none of the men escaped. The sun beat down on them all equally, warming bare, pale arms and tattooed skin.
The brothers glared at the Nightsisters balefully.
Glaring balefully at Nightsisters was one of their favorite pastimes. They had gotten rather good at it.
The spiritual mother of them all, Talzin of the blooded, fronded cloak, stood at the peak of the sandstone arena, tendrils of fabric weaving behind her like trees in a wind. She was here to give a speech, and she would give it, glares or no glares. "Two decades ago, a child was chosen from among you. He was trained in the ways of the dark side far from this place. The name he was given…was Darth Maul."
Kijan and Rilka gave nearly identical tired sighs. The Zabraki language just didn't work when translated into Paecian and then out of it into Basic. Everybody ended up with these melodramatic names like something in a holodrama. Kijan and Rilka only used their Basic names when they had to—namely, when the sisters were watching.
"Poor sap," Rilka whispered to his brother. "Somebody's mother who named their kid Khameir or Ciaràn or something is facepalming right now."
Kijan tried to figure it out quickly in his head. "Probably Ciaràn. Khamier would come out to more like…Audacity."
"Right." Rilka nodded. "That doesn't quite have the same ring."
"Shh." Behind them in line, their father cuffed Rilka across the back of the head.
Both brothers knew the unspoken command. Do not speak over the Mother. Draw attention to yourself, and you might be selected next. Talzin had been steadily intoning through Darth Maul's history while they spoke. She finished with one sentence.
"Today, we celebrate and mourn his fall in battle."
She never clarified. The name, though, brusque as it was, stuck.
It was a meaningless name, and a household one.
By the time the sisters' speech was done, the sun was hot and high. Kijan felt sweat actually congeal and drip its warm weight from the back of his neck to his ear. Even the guards with their bows taller than they were had started to look tired and hunched. The Nightbrothers were not allowed to do the same. Kijan felt his eyes drifting, and his father must have noticed something in the set of his shoulders because he felt another smack across his back. He growled and shook his head.
Rilka gave a concerned look at him. Kijan looked back up at the tiny, feathered form of the Mother.
Certainly their father was just concerned for them. The Dathomiri commanded that the Nightbrothers needed to look strong and prepared, not asleep. If you didn't look strong, you wouldn't be chosen. You wouldn't have value or the semblance of family that the Zabraks were allowed. He wasn't sure whether the Nightsisters knew that the Zabraks didn't exactly consider it an honor.
Sometimes Kijan looked at the guards high on the walls and wondered if his mother was among them.
When the ceremony was over, the clan filed back across the sand in somber order. It didn't remain somber for long, though—once outside the gate Rilka transformed back into a child, running along the packed dirt because he could and because the sun was out.
Two days later the brothers were exploring in the forest, running along the thick branches of nobby trees. Kijan went barefoot, his feet gripping the bark tightly as he ran. The other two boys ran and laughed in front of him, their lighter weight making the speed easier. Kijan's strength was in his muscle; Rilka's was in his eyes.
"There!" Rilka shouted. He and their friend Tarik skidded to a halt. Curious, Kijan plunged off the branch. His feet found a bed of spongy leaves and he tripped a few steps, straightening again to look at where he was going in the shade and the sound-dampening foliage.
He found himself face-to-face with a stone statue.
It could not quite at first be recognized as a Zabrak head. Maybe that was a line of horns curving over the top like the arm of a globe, but then the face should be here, near the middle, and it was not; slitted eyes glared out from an overhang near the bottom of the statue, while spiral and jagged line designs that could have been tattoos weaved all around the seemingly natural stone in the middle.
Tarik's feet slapped the leaves beside him, and Kijan looked over. Tarik, skinny and wearing a woven vest, circled the stone statue. Kijan rubbed his arms; it was cold here, as if the stone was pressing against him instead of simply standing in a humid jungle.
"So what is it?" Tarik asked.
Rilka dropped down from the branch last. Knowing him, he had been looking at a bird or a cloud in the distance. Of all of them, Rilka most wanted to travel to space. He was, though, just as interested in closer aerial phenomena.
He said, "I found it."
Kijan traced the spiral lines of tattoo, chiseled or laser-sculped by someone in the past. Maybe a not too distant past—moss grew on the statue only at its square base. As he looked down at it and followed its gaze past the moss, the face seemed to be twisting in its skull to look over its own shoulder and then down at the ground, glaring its convoluted way into the center of the planet. The effect was unnerving. "Who is it supposed to be?" Kijan said.
Rilka circled it, criss-crossing Tarik's circle in the opposite direction. "Maybe it's Darth Maul."
"I don't think so," Tarik said. "I heard he was born over the Catspine Mountains."
"Heard it from who?" Kijan said, skeptical.
"Do the Nightsisters live there too?" Rilka asked.
"I think so," Tarik replied. "According to Mother Talzin, they're everywhere."
It wasn't good to criticize the Nightsisters. Some said that they could speak to birds, or create them. These birds would carry voices away so the sisters could hear everything the brothers were saying…and if they said the wrong things, the sisters would come on speeders or rancors and take the brothers away.
This was how life was, for the brothers, in the cool of the jungle.
Kijan forgot about Darth Maul then. Occasionally, he thought about names. There was a joke he started with Rilka, who spread it around.
One day, Kijan and Rilka would find someone from another planet. They would tell this person how the Zabraks were kept by the Nightsisters. This person from another world could decide he had to end this plight, and would come down to Dathomir in his silver ship. He would say that he had been sent by the Oppress brothers, and ask where he could find their family.
And the Zabraks' spokesman would say, in Basic, "We are all oppressed brothers."
This was not traditional Zabrak humor. Or, at least, Kijan hoped it wasn't. He wasn't sure.
The Zabraks of Dathomir had lost much, and so names counted among their little property.