Yeron Teyir watched his apprentice from the doorway.
Poor child. Poor, foolish, stupid child.
The Dark Jedi glanced down at the tiny syringe in his hand. This was regrettable, but completely necessary. Despite his best efforts, the child refused to listen to him. He would protect her from herself, and she would never know. That was how it had to be.
Yeron didn’t bother to look up at the slim, athletic young woman that sat down across from him. She paused for several long moments, as if waiting for him to acknowledge her, then sighed heavily and reached for a small round platter on the table between them.
The girl paused, then drew her hand back to herself. She held her left palm out flat and motioned towards the dish with her right hand; slowly, the platter rose into the air and settled on upturned palm. The young woman took one of the three pieces of meat on the platter and returned the dish to its former place.
Sathine snorted and replied sarcastically, “Yeah, I retrieved my dinner with the Force instead of my arm. Very difficult.”
Yeron still didn’t raise his head as he said evenly, “The simple uses of the Force strengthen you more than you know. When you’re fighting for your freedom or your life, you will thank me for making you use the Force for trivial matters.”
The young woman frowned, but didn’t answer.
They ate in silence for several minutes.
Eventually, Yeron neatly wiped his mouth on a small cloth and ordered her quietly, “Recite the Code.”
She threw him a silent glance of annoyance as she finished chewing and swallowed. “One: The Dark Side, my Master, and my instinct are my only guides. Two: Avoid unnecessary battle; if I lose and am spared, then I become a slave to the victor, and if someone saves me from my imminent defeat, then I become a slave to him. Three: the Dark Side is my only true ally. Trust in anything else is misguided.”
Sathine’s eyes narrowed slightly, but she didn’t say anything.
Yeron’s thin lips twitched into a frown. “You don’t believe it’s real, do you?”
“The Code,” Yeron specified calmly. “You don’t believe it’s real.”
Sathine crossed her arms. “Fine. I don’t. No one would bind themselves to the second rule by choice.”
The older man sighed heavily. “We’ve had this conversation before, young one. This is the true way of the Dark Side. The weak are ruled by the strong. One failure is one more than the Dark Side will allow. That constant knowledge fuels the servants of the darkness with insatiable desire to learn…to keep their freedom.”
“Enough,” he interrupted sharply. “I have told you the truth. You will believe it and focus on your training.”
“I’m always focusing on my training!” Sathine snapped, her voice trembling with the strain of keeping her anger under control. “That’s all I ever do! Focus! Train! Learn! Recite! Repe—“
Her voice strangled to a halt, and her hand flew to her throat as Yeron’s invisible grip tightened around her throat. “I said, enough,” the man ordered her, his tone suddenly hard as flint. “You are the apprentice. I am the master. I know what’s best for you.” The grip slackened slightly. “The first rule?”
The young woman gritted her teeth and managed to growl out, “The Dark Side…my Master…my instinct…only guides.”
“And I am?”
“Good. I am the master. You will trust my judgment. This conversation is over.”
The grip fell away completely; Sathine took one deep breath and forced herself to continue breathing normally. Yeron frowned to himself, his eyes still focused on the table. Her anger…it was still rolling off of her, like waves washing up to a shore and breaking against rocks. Usually her emotions would quiet after he reprimanded her. Something was different today. He stretched out towards her mind and attempted to glean more information, only to come up against pure, frustrated rage. Yeron’s brow furrowed slightly, and he unconsciously placed his hand on his forehead. Her wrath was like static. It burned against his senses, distorted them. It seemed he would have to do this the old fashioned way.
Quietly he asked, “What’s wrong, my apprentice?”
She hesitated. Yeron reminded her in the same even, casual tone he used before, “You can’t hide your feelings from me. I know you too well.”
The woman took another deep breath. “You’ve told me about the rest of the galaxy. You’ve used the Force to show me wonders on other planets, things I wouldn’t have ever dreamt of otherwise.” Her icy blue eyes sparkled slightly. “You let me feel what it’s like to touch the minds of thousands of people, to let their passions flow through you—free you to the Force.” The light that had lit her face deadened, leaving behind a hard mask. “But those are only shadows. I want to see them myself.”
A slight jolt of fear ran through Yeron. Just for a moment, his eyes wandered from their fixed position. She…wanted to…? “Leave?” he finished his thought out loud. “But…” The man paused for a moment and steadied himself. “Zonju V is better for our training. We are far from the Empire. They can’t find us here.”
“I’ve had enough training!” the girl pressed. “You have me do everything with the Force. I could take this house apart and reassemble it in two minutes and twenty-three seconds with my mind alone. I can disappear from sight and from the Force in a matter of moments. If the Imperials do manage to find me, I can rip them apart.”
“Zonju V is—“
“Deserted. We’re all alone here. How can my training ever be completed if I’m only fighting you? I know your moves, but what about someone else’s?”
Yeron grasped at her last words. “Exactly! You must stay here and continue training against me. When you can defeat me, you can adapt to another’s movements and defeat them as well.”
“Then let me defeat you.”
The old man felt his heart begin beating faster as his fears rose to the surface. “W-what?”
Sathine stood up and leaned forward, resting her hands flat on the table. “Let me fight you, master. For real. Whoever touches the other with a lightsaber first wins. No training sabers. Only things prohibited maiming or killing blows.” Her back straightened. “If I win, we leave.”
Yeron finally looked up at her. Her eyes were flashing with determination. Her anger was gone now, replaced with anticipation. He could not deny her this.
But he couldn’t let her leave, either. The galaxy was far more dangerous than she knew. If one of the Emperor’s agents found her, he would find her as well, and then he would strip her will from her and force her into his service. Someone with her unique skills would be an invaluable assassin for such a one as Darth Sidious. Once her existence was known, he would never stop pursuing her until she was dead or his slave.
Then, something in the back of Yeron’s mind flickered.
The man’s gaunt face twitched into a thin smile. “Very well. We will duel tomorrow morning, when we’re both fresh. Go practice.”
A smile of her own returned the light to Sathine’s face. She nodded once and took a step back towards the door leading to her room. “Tomorrow morning? You’re certain?”
Yeron felt his face softening in response to her expression. “Yes.”
Warmth flooded through her presence in the Force. “Thank you, Master.” She spun around and ran into her room, returning a moment later with her lightsaber in hand. The door leading outside opened, and she ran into the fading sunlight.
The old man watched her sprint through the fields towards the cliff where she liked to train. His smile faded slightly. She was so young, so naďve and innocent—happy, even. The galaxy would take that from her, one way or another. It would rip her joy from her, the pure essence of using the Dark Side.
Yeron rose to his feet and walked into his own room. He glanced around, mentally making sure everything was as he had left it. Strange that he still did that—it had been twenty years since he’d really needed to. Yes, there, a result of the galaxy’s use of him. He had once been young, strong, supremely confident in his power, but ever since that—attack—he’d been fearful, skulking through alleys to avoid surveillance cameras and common troops, peering around corners, checking his own belongings for bugs or homing devices. Even here, that habit remained with him—here, where they were alone, safe.
His eyes closed. Oh, the attack. It still haunted his dreams. He could see it even now.
The black nightmare descended upon him, its red lightsaber flashing, its steady, horribly unnatural breathing echoing through the dark street—while another figure stood in the background, laughing. The figure who had once been Yeron’s friend, supposedly Yeron’s love, but who had been an Imperial agent sent to keep him in one place while the nightmare prepared to come kill him.
No, not the nightmare. Vader. Darth Vader. Rumored to be Anakin Skywalker, former hero of the Republic. Just a man in a suit.
A shudder ran through him. No, no…Vader wasn’t just a man. No one could call him “just a man”, not after facing him. Yeron’s hand trembled as it rose to his face, tracing a scar from his left temple to his chin. Another centimeter to the right and he would’ve lost his eye. Another five centimeters back, and he would be dead.
Then someone wielding a blue lightsaber, a girl no more than fifteen years old, had raced in from the shadows and caught the Dark Lord’s saber with her own. Yeron had leaped to his feet, and the girl had called for help as Vader beat her back, back, further back into a corner. But no—he had run towards the Imperial agent in the back, caught her, and cut off her head as the figure begged for mercy. The rescuer shouted for aid again, but Yeron ran away towards the spaceport. He hadn’t ever gone back to really see what happened to the young girl with the blue lightsaber…but her piercing shriek had reached his ears hundreds of meters away.
That had broken him.
His eyes snapped open. No. No! Vader was still around! No one could’ve defeated him! The Dark Lord would come for his precious daughter, and he would kill her! She couldn’t be allowed to leave! Yeron turned back towards the door. He would go out there right now and tell her she couldn’t possibly go! Right now!
A faint ripple of excitement ran through the Force, touching him. Sathine’s face as she had left filled his vision, and his shoulders slumped. No, he couldn’t do that. Constant, often harsh training had left her love for him strained through the years. If he took this from her, she would hate him forever. He couldn’t bear that.
No, she had to be defeated in another way. He wasn’t really sure if he could do that without some kind of aid—he was old, she was young, and the Force was far stronger with her than it had ever been with him. This trial would be fixed to ensure his victory.
He walked over to a home-made shelf and brushed the dust off a small metal box at the very top. This…he had barely touched it for twenty years, but now it was needed. Yeron picked it up and set it on his low cot. He unfastened it, lifted the lid off, and carefully set aside three layers of soft, downy padding.
Twenty vials of yellow liquid were nestled in their separate compartments, each completely protected from damage. A syringe lay in its own special compartment on one side. Yeron picked up the syringe and studied it for a few moments. Yes, yes…this would do the trick.
Yeron approached the sleeping girl silently, his feet cloaked by the sharp, light pinging of the rain on the roof, slipping through the shadowy room like a wraith of legend. He’d promised her he would never hurt her, so he wouldn’t. He would never let anyone hurt her.
The old man froze as Sathine sighed softly and rolled onto her back. A sharp pang went through him when he saw her face. Two large, cauterized slashes were cut across it, deforming her lovely features. He’d said he would never hurt her…but he had done that. Those wounds would scar horribly after they’d had time to heal. Twice they had fought so far; twice he had beaten her and left her with a permanent reminder of his victory.
He glanced at the syringe again. They were going to fight once more, and then she would know she wasn’t ready for the galaxy. There would be no need to…to poison her again after this.
Sathine strangled back her gasp of pain as Yeron’s red-hot blade cut into her face, leaving a blackened, diagonal wound from her right eyebrow to her hairline. She gritted her teeth, steadied herself, and saluted her master with her blade. “I lose again.”
Yeron returned the salute, closed his ‘saber, and returned it to his belt, inwardly attempting to slow his pounding heart and keep his breathing steady. Despite the medicine he’d give her, she had almost beaten him today. “So you do.”
The girl shut down her weapon. “I want to try again.”
Yeron frowned inwardly. He would have to treat her again tonight. How long would she continue this test before she finally gave up? Gently he reminded her, “Sathine, no one in the galaxy will allow you another chance after you lose once, much less twice or three times. We should continue your training for another few yea—“
“No,” Sathine interrupted sharply, her eyes fixed on the ground like an embarrassed school child. “These last two days have been different. I haven’t…felt…right. I-I don’t feel right now. Something’s wrong with me physically. I’m not as strong as usual, less coordinated, less agile. I can’t focus.” Her embarrassment, as it often did, was swept away by the tide of frustration, and her gaze darted from the ground to Yeron. “This hasn’t ever happened before! Why now! It can’t be something natural, or I would’ve felt it before. The only thing that’s different is this test.”
The old man took care to cloak his thoughts and merely shrugged. “I have no idea. Your weakness is no excuse for your loss. A servant of the Dark Side does not allow stress to make them fall short. Go practice and meditate on your failure.”
Sathine gave her master a forced bow, then turned and started towards her cliff again.
As soon as she was out of hearing range, Yeron let out a short gasp and made no more effort to contain his breathing. He sank to the ground as he sucked in the air greedily. Tonight he needed to up the dosage of the poison. She didn’t know it, but she was adapting to its effects. Yesterday their bout had lasted three minutes. Today, it had lasted over twenty. Yes, increasing the amount would weaken her sufficien—
Yeron suppressed another gasp and looked up. Sathine had returned, looking very troubled. “Father, are you all right?”
“Of course, of course,” he replied quickly, standing up and brushing the loose grass off himself. “I’m just a little out of breath. What is it, child?”
She swallowed hard. “You’ve always said my mother got sick here and died. What if I have what killed her?”
No! She didn’t have what killed Valya! That was ridiculous! He would never murder his daughter! “I would—“ The old man broke off sharply before he voiced his thought. Wait, no. It had been so long since they’d discussed it that he’d forgotten for a moment, but she was right. He’d told her that her mother had fallen prey to a disease. More calmly he continued, “I would doubt that. The sickness that stole her from us was swift. She felt weak one day, and the next she was dead. If you were suffering from what she had, you’d be dead already. I believe I told you to practice?”
Sathine pressed her lips together and replied stiffly, “I suppose you did. It’s not like I’m concerned about anything you should care about.” She spun and started walking away again.
Yeron closed his eyes. It had been a long time since he’d thought about Valya. That woman, that stupid, idiotic woman, had come here with him. She’d thought it was simply a short vacation, never noticing the supplies he’d packed into their shuttle were far more than was needed for a week-long trip. When she had found out about his deception, she’d taken Sathine, then only an infant, and tried to go back to Eriadu. There had been no choice. He would’ve liked to have her there to raise their child with him, but she’d been a danger to Sathine. So, he’d killed her. It hadn’t taken any effort at all. Just a quick snap of the neck, and she’d been dead. He’d felt sad then as he watched his wife crumple to the floor, but now he felt…nothing.
For a moment he wondered why that was before dismissing the thought. He had to prepare another dose of the medicine for Sathine.
A crack of thunder roared above them, sounding eerily similar to a death knell. Sathine started slightly and woke.
Yeron froze, his heart flying into his mouth. Her eyes darted around for a moment, then lit on him. She sighed heavily and stood up. “Yes, Mas—“
Her voice faltered, her eyes fixed on his hand. The old man followed her eyes. She was staring at the syringe. No, no. This couldn’t be happening. She’d woken up, she’d seen this, she would know why she’d lost! She would want an explanation. He had to find one, now, before she realized it was poison!
Her eyes flew to his face, wide, hurt. Oh, Force. He hadn’t guarded his thoughts. She knew.
“Poison?” Sathine echoed. She glanced at her father for a moment, then returned her eyes to the syringe. “That’s…that’s for me.”
The old Dark Jedi’s mind flew to a thousand responses, trying to find some justification she would accept. Nothing would come. Hesitantly he began, “Sathine—“
The young woman was shaking her head slowly. Unsteadily, she supported herself against the bedpost. “No, you…” Her lip trembled, and water started pooling in her eyes. Something akin to a sob escaped her. “Master, you…”
Her wildly fluctuating emotions touched him. He attempted a smile and took a tiny step towards her. “Daughter, I—“
A tear rolled down her cheek as her jaw clenched. The grief that had flooded through her was becoming polluted with something else. A warning flashed through the Force as she began speaking, her voice shaking. “You always said you wouldn’t ever hurt me, you always said!” Her lightsaber flew from its place on the table to her hand in an instant, flashed on, and descended towards Yeron.
The old man snatched his own lightsaber from its belt and brought it up, stopping her blade mere millimeters from his head. The caustic smell of his burning hair filled his nostrils. He shook his head desperately. “No! No, I did it to save you, child! I did it for you!”
Sathine’s fury began rolling off of her like ocean waves in a storm, practically blinding Yeron. She ripped her lightsaber out of the block and attacked him viciously, so quickly that the weapon was a blur. The old man managed to keep up with her, but was beaten back a little further with every strike as he struggled to defend himself. “I trusted you! You said I could trust you!”
Yeron felt like a man sliding down a steep cliff towards an impossibly long fall, fingers desperately scrabbling for some crack he could dig his fingers into before the one thing he cared about slipped away from him. “It was for the best! Let me explain!”
Her shriek rose above the hum of the clashing blades and the drumming of the rain on the roof both, filling his ears. “You poisoned me! You bastard, you poisoned me! I’ll kill you!”
Yeron was dimly aware of being pushed out the door, out into the open field in front of their house. The light rain washed into his eyes and disoriented him further. Terror began to run through him. His plan had failed! Sathine, his apprentice, his precious daughter, was trying to kill him! She couldn’t be mollified! She would hate him forever unless he did something right then! He had to convince her that he would never, ever harm her! He had to!
The bright light from the clashing sabers danced through the darkness in the rain, letting him almost make out his darling girl’s face. She wasn’t crying anymore. Her grief was gone, replaced entirely by the need for vengeance and the pure, unadulterated Dark Side. But…but no. The dark filling her wasn’t pure anymore, it was tainted, twisted. His fear was suddenly transmuted into horror as he realized what he’d done.
He, Yeron Teyir, had broken her. Not the Emperor; not Vader; him. The joy was gone. The one spark of light left in his ravaged world was gone forever, leaving behind a faint mockery of his daughter.
Bile filled his mouth. That was it, then. His purpose was gone. He couldn’t restore her any more than he could restore himself.
The radiance of red against blue flickered through his vision. He didn’t need his eyes to see her now. A being of corrupted rage was left in her place, and it was determined to kill him. The old man steeled himself. Yes. Yes, this was the only way. He would kill her, and then himself—it was the only way for both of them to escape this nightmare.
As abruptly as the decision to end her had come, it faded. No. He couldn’t. He couldn’t ever lay a hand on his dear child, even if it was merely a shadow of the child he’d loved.
A slight sigh escaped him. There was only one thing left, then.
Sathine pulled back her lightsaber to drop her father off-balance, then drew her blade back further to deliver a thrust towards his abdomen. Yeron, instead of moving to parry her blade, simply spread his arms wide and dropped his lightsaber.
Fire tore into his nerves a fraction of a second later, and he collapsed onto the wet ground.
For several long moments, Yeron heard nothing but the sound of the rain spattering and steaming against his daughter’s lightsaber. He shivered. It was so cold out here…
The hissing of the ‘saber stopped. Its silver handle splashed into the mud in front of him. He felt…shock, but not his own.
An empty voice, little more than a whimper, brushed against his ear.
Yeron felt himself slipping further, further, further into a dark hole that seemed to be sucking him in. The voice fell away.
It came again, stronger this time. “Daddy?”
Then, someone was shaking him furiously, and the voice continued, etched with increasing desperation. “Daddy? Daddy, it’s okay, Daddy, I’m here. Daddy? Daddy!”
Briefly, his eyes opened, and he saw Sathine crouched beside him. He tried to see her face, but…he couldn’t. Droplets of rain were in the way. The old man’s lips cracked into a wan smile. “Follow the rules.”
Then he was falling towards the whirlpool again, and he didn’t look back.
A voice echoed in the emptiness left behind. “Daddy, come back…I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…I didn’t mean it! Daddy? Daddy, please, no! Daddy! Can you hear me? I’m so sorry, please come back!”
As always, comments and criticism are both very welcome. Hope you enjoyed the story!
OH...my WORD! From start to finish, this story is gold. You have my vote, and loyalty!
Wow, oh wow... yah, this one's got my vote too.
When I started reading, I couldn't stop. Felt sorry for Yeron, how he spent all that time doing what he thought was right to protect his little girl. Just goes to show that what you think is right isn't always. Her reaction to discovering his betrayal is what you'd expect of a Dark Jedi in training; then, the realization that she's just killed her own father brings out the little kid she'd have been years ago were it not for having been deprived of a normal childhood.
Reactions are realistic and well written. The story follows a logical progression of events to a satisfying, if very sad conclusion. Very well done! :)
This I find to be a nice reflection of what happens when you do things with the best intentions in mind. What I found interesting was that Yeron, while an agent of evil almost seemed to fluctuate between total dark side and grey Jedi. This is partly influenced by the fact that Sathine is his daughter. The character development of Yeron was well thought out and I like how you inserted bits of flashbacks from his life.
The last part with the girl calling Daddy was just the right touch. Also a bit of deja vu with Anakin realizing that he killed in cold blood. Good job.
When I read this over at SO, you mentioned that it was a prequel of sorts to something else you were working on. Is that something you've posted, be it here or elsewhere? I'd definitely be interested in reading more about Sathine if there's more to be read.
Thank you all for your comments! ^_^ It's always great to see that people like my stories, especially ones that I look at after I've finished writing them and go, "Ehh...I think I should just trash this and write something else".
I shall begin work on the next story.
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