The Single Path
Simplicio balanced on a large branch high above the jungle floor. His master sat across from him with eyes closed, leaning back against the trunk of the tree.
"Master, the Jedi is coming."
The Sith nodded at his student.
"Will you kill him, Master?"
It was a minute before the Sith broke his silence.
"I do not plan to, but I am flexible."
"How will you defeat him?"
"By avoiding him."
Simplicio reeled at this. Though he would never dare say so, the Sith's answer had reeked of cowardice. He thought for a moment of how he might chastise his master while at the same time managing to remain alive.
"The Jedi must be strong," suggested the boy.
At this rebuke his master opened his eyes and smiled.
"No, Simplicio. He is not strong enough."
"I don't understand, Master. In the temple we are taught that there is victory or death, and only victory that demonstrates one's superiority over a foe is an acceptable victory."
"It pains me that these concepts are so little understood in the temple."
"Please, instruct me then, Master."
The Sith sighed.
"You assume that my opponent in this incident is the Jedi that has been following us."
"You are incorrect, my student. This Jedi is only the form chosen by the larger enemy -- the Jedi Order. Victory over this Jedi is meaningless and could be self-defeating. What would the Order do if I slew this Jedi?"
Simplicio thought for a moment.
"They would send another Jedi. A stronger Jedi."
"Yes. Now, I could kill him as well, which would set an even more powerful Jedi on our trail. For this example it is useful to keep in mind that there are two of us and, for practical purposes, an infinite number of Jedi willing to kill us.
"If, instead of killing the Jedi, I let him follow us in his bumbling fashion, then the Jedi Order will never have any idea of our strength or purpose. The moment I kill him is the moment we have tipped our hand."
"But, Master, don't you feel disrespected that they have sent such a low-grade Jedi after you?"
"In this case, Simplicio, I would rather live with the insult than die of the compliment. Would you prefer that I killed him?"
"I would prefer that they saw we were strong. Our victory would show our superiority."
"There is only one victory that matters and it will be won inside ourselves. The accolades of triumph, even the fear of one's enemies are little profit to a true warrior. The victory that concerns me is the triumph of my will over my potential -- my control over my power."
Simplicio struggled with this concept for a moment.
"Master, do you mean self-discipline?"
"That, and more. Consider a man that is powerful in the Force but cannot control his abilities -- he will tear himself apart the minute he so much as tries to move a stone. For us, there can be no victory without overcoming the raw power of our connection to the Force by molding it to our will. All other 'victory' is meaningless."
The Sith paused in thought for a second.
"He comes. Mask yourself, Simplicio."
Simplicio obeyed and drew the Force around his body like a cloak, masking his being from the outside world. Below him, on the floor of the jungle, the Jedi passed. He was the center of a long cordon of native hunters and warriors.
Simplicio stared down on the men as they scanned the vegetation and the trees. Whenever their eyes would find him they would instantly pass over -- as if their minds told them there was nothing of interest hidden in those dark branches.
A quarter of an hour passed. During that time a tree viper curled around the Sith's arm before he gently guided it onto a nearby vine.
"They are gone."
Simplicio relaxed and released the Force cloak that had hidden him. He felt drained, though his master looked none the worse for wear.
"Let us go down."
As they descended, Simplicio felt his anger building.
"Master, those people with the Jedi, they are nothing but savages! How dare they hunt us like we were beasts!"
The Sith smiled.
"Does it offend you, Simplicio? Would you like to teach them a lesson?"
"Yes, Master. I want them to know that we do the hunting."
The boy could feel his master's interest growing.
"Tell me, my student, if all the warriors are out here chasing us, what does that mean for their village?"
"It will be undefended."
The pair made their way quickly through the underbrush, at a speed that only those in touch with the Force could reach. Leaping over a fallen tree, Simplicio began to feel giddy. This would be his first blood-letting.
"Master, will we kill all of them?"
"No, it will be best to kill half."
"If the message we are sending is 'This is what happens to those who oppose us' and then they were to do the same thing again, having killed all of the villagers previously, what would we do next time?"
"Oh! There would be no one to threaten. They would have no reason to protect anyone so they would be free to follow us and they would want to take revenge!"
"That's right. But if we leave some alive, they will need to be protected, and they will not be so quick to help the Jedi. We can even hope to sow dissension in the village! Think of the survivor's guilt and the jealousy that will come!"
As night fell they arrived at the outskirts of the village. Aside from two armed men, the small encampment was unprotected.
The Sith placed his hand on Simplicio's shoulder.
"Kill half the women and children and all the aged."
The boy nodded.
Igniting their lightsabers, they moved into the village.
Simplicio had never killed anyone before. The first boy he met was a few years younger than himself. He was unarmed and screamed in terror as the lightsaber cut easily through his wrist.
The child stared at the stump in horror and pain and Simplicio brought the blade down again, finishing him. The young apprentice did not stop though. He could feel the adrenaline burn in his veins and he slashed the small body repeatedly, and would have kept on had a woman not grabbed at him.
He pushed her away with the Force and, wiping away his tears, advanced upon her. She spun and tried to flee but he severed her head from her neck and watched it tumble to the ground.
The massacre took probably 10-15 minutes, but Simplicio lost all sense of time. He watched the survivors run into the dark folds of the jungle and he extinguished his blade.
The noise of an engine caught his attention and his master tore towards him on a stolen swoop bike. The Sith looked exultant.
They rode through the night until Simplicio's master chose to abandon the bike. Then, without speaking, they hiked a safe distance into the interior and made camp.
"Eat something, Simplicio."
"I'm not hungry, Master."
"Murder has sated your appetite?" The Sith laughed and Simplicio shuddered. He closed his eyes, afraid he would be sick.
"Tell me, how did it feel to kill?"
Simplicio braced himself.
"I felt powerful and strong. I felt that it was proof of their inferiority to--"
"I do not ask you these things for my entertainment. Please, do not lie to me."
Simplicio looked up at his master with hatred in his eyes.
"You know how I felt!"
The Sith's voice was even but cold.
"I applaud the strength of your anger, my apprentice, but you will control it."
Simplicio collected himself for a moment.
"It felt awful. It was nothing like I imagined. I wished they would hit back… It didn't even seem like battle. There was no honor. No victory. Just death. Instead of feeling powerful I felt ashamed and weak. I am no Sith."
The campfire crackled and Simplicio stared into it.
"You have done well, my son. Though you felt anguish and disgust you overcame it. You harnessed your emotions. You controlled them instead of letting them control you. You were victorious over your own inclination."
"I do not feel victorious."
"No. Perhaps not. You have had a trying experience. You need time to rest. Some Sith enjoy killing -- I suspect it is common amongst people of all types to enjoy inflicting pain on others. It makes us feel better about ourselves."
"Will I grow to like it?" Simplicio regretted this question the moment he asked it. He was unsure which answer would cause him greater pain.
"You may grow to enjoy it." The Sith counted the constellations he recognized. Not many at this part of the galaxy.
"I always enjoyed killing. I like to see the terror in my victim's eyes… But I regret it sometimes."
Simplicio looked up questioningly at his master.
"No, child, I do not mean that I feel guilt over the wicked deeds I do. I just think that… sometimes I enjoy it too much. It is like any appetite. It must be controlled. All things in moderation. I cannot tell you how many Sith have fallen prey to the unquenchable thirst for destruction. They come to think of the means as the end. Never torture for the sake of torturing. Never kill for the sake of killing. All actions must have a purpose."
The boy ran his fingers over the cool metal of his lightsaber.
"Promise me that if you ever have a Jedi at your mercy you will kill him quickly. Promise you will not waste your time trying to break him."
Simplicio stared into the campfire until he could see nothing else.
"I promise, Master."