No matter how hard I tried, I could not sleep. I tossed and turned, finding only emptiness where Kory should have been, in the Force and in my heart. The oppressive heat did not help either, especially when the image of Ffon Althe flashed in my mind, his smirk etched forever in my memory. I took a deep breath, trying to think of something, anything, to relieve the pressure I was feeling.
I pushed myself out of bed, trying my best to ignore the ring of sweat that had soaked through the thin tank top I slept in. The Sith were not one for wasting high fashion on lowly acolytes, but even still I would have hoped for something more than rough fabric that left a rash...and little to the imagination for leering acolytes and Sith alike.
My thoughts returned to Harkun’s chamber, the crackle of the lightning, the smell of burning flesh. I shuddered. All because she didn’t give the appropriately inhumane answers to Spindrall.
I felt my anger turn to rage, felt it bubbling under the surface of my skin, just aching for release. I struggled against it, struggled to remember everything my father had taught me.
There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no ignorance, there is no knowledge. There is no passion, there is serenity…
I grit my teeth. It wasn’t working. There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no emotion…
It was a pleasant lie, but a lie nonetheless. Anyone who divorced themselves from their emotions was as dangerous as a Sith. The love I had for my family and friends only gave me strength and helped me move forward. Being connected to those around you was a strength, not a weakness.
I could never be at peace with a code that expected me to feel nothing as my friend died.
Unbidden, and for reasons I did not understand, I felt Quorian Dorjis’ arms around me again, his lips pressed against mine. He was warm and his presence was comforting. Now I know I am going mad. Completely mad
. I shook my head, willing the memory away even though some part of me did not want to. I needed air.
The door snapped open with a flourish and I made my way down the darkened halls, taking in the short respite that my nocturnal meanderings gave me from the pain of the academy. The whispers in my head were quieter, my connection to the Force more harmonious. I ignored the stares of the few guards still on duty and headed out the front entrance. I had more important matters to be concerned with.
Spindrall lived in the Tomb of Ajunta Pall, and it would be his tomb as well. I had done some research on him in the archives during my free time; he had long been a gatekeeper for the academy, the arbiter of life and death that could make or break a career in the Sith. Or could snuff out a life without a second thought.
I tried desperately not to think of Kory.
As I entered his lair, I was nearly overwhelmed by the stench. Something was rotting in there, and when I first laid eyes on Spindrall I knew it was him. Not just his flesh, which had turned dark and mottled from the corruption of the Dark Side that dominated him; his body was still in one piece, but I could sense that his soul had been shattered years ago.
He sensed my presence.
“Slave, why are you here at so late an hour?” He paused, and I could feel the tendrils of his Force presence reaching out to me. I denied him entry to my mind and being, sparking a look of annoyance on his face. “Acolytes come here to be judged, in an attempt to return to their master with some mark of favor. But…I sense that is not why you are here.” He reached out in the Force again, and I rebuffed him, more forcefully this time.
I stood facing him, saying nothing.
“Well, I imagine you have not come to listen to the prattling of an old man, a reclusive hermit that has lost his grip on reality.” He eyed me closely, clearly realizing that I was actively resisting his attempts to read my intent, yet unable to determine how or why. “Have you come for some discreet instruction on the Code of the Sith, then?”
I remained silent, and I could feel his frustration grow, palpable in the force and visible on his face. I wanted to believe I did not know why I was here, but some part of me knew, that shadowy place where your deepest desires and darkest fears reside, always lurking for the opportunity to seize control. I think Spindrall knew too, at least subconsciously.
“You do know the Code of the Sith, yes? Or must I force it out of you.”
I nodded slightly. “Nwûl tash. Dzwol shâsotkun. Shâsotjontû châtsatul nu tyûk. Tyûkjontû châtsatul nu midwan. Midwanjontû châtsatul nu asha. Ashajontû kotswinot itsu nuyak. Wonoksh Qyâsik nun.” I gave him a knowing glance and was rewarded with widening eyes filled with shock.
“How…how does a mere acolyte know the words of the Sith language?”
I smiled, but not a happy one. It was an ugly smile, the kind a predator
“My father taught me that you have to understand your enemy in order to fight them. You have to understand their language, their viewpoint, their tactics, and use them to your advantage. It is almost a Sith
viewpoint, ironically, but tempered by humanity and love. Those are things no Sith can truly understand.”
He was slowly slinking back towards his lightsaber. I made no move to stop him. It was too late to matter.
“What do you know of studying an enemy? What could you truly know of the Sith? You are but an up-jumped slave who has forgotten her place. I should break you where you stand.” He was practically quivering with rage, but beneath his anger was growing fear. I enjoyed finding it, probing it but that enjoyment frightened me in return. No, I must maintain control. I can’t become like him. Like them
. My concentration slipped, and he detected a hint of what I had been hiding.
“Ahhhh. So your true nature reveals itself. I can feel your fear, your anger….it threatens to consume you at all times. You try to fight it but deep within you, there is the realization that you want to embrace
it. My, my. You will be a marvelous Sith indeed, once you stop denying yourself your true potential.”
“No!” I reached out with the Force, levitated a large boulder from the ground, and hurled it at his head. He dodged, just barely. “I am no slave. I am no Sith. I am your end.” He fashioned a slight smile in response, perhaps because of what I had said, perhaps because he had finally reached his lightsaber. “Do you remember a girl named Kory? Red hair, warm smile?”
He activated his blade, the red glow harsh in the gloomy darkness. “A foolish girl, too weak to be a Sith. What of her?”
I moved towards him, my blade still turned off to lull him into a false sense of security. “You killed her. You murdered
her as much as Harkun. She was more than a foolish girl. She was a person with hopes and dreams. She was a good person, she deserved better from life. And she was my friend
. You will answer for her.”
“Foolish child, you cannot possibly comprehend the power of the Dark Side.” He practically spat the words out.
“I have lived in the dark for years now. I am not afraid of it. I am not afraid of you.” I collected myself, I had to maintain control of myself, my emotions. “But you…you are afraid of me
.” The small, involuntary, flinch told me all I needed to know. I activated my vibro-sword and stepped forward purposefully to make an end of it.
He fired a burst of lightning that I easily dodged, and then a pair more that I absorbed with my blade. Twenty feet.
He cursed me in the Sith tongue, something I did not quite understand, but I knew it could only be something foul. His desperation was palpable. Ten
. Another burst of lightning was caught on my blade, at which point he raised his saber to defend himself.
“Prepare to die, slave.” I don’t think even he believed it as he said it.
Our blades clashed. Yellow against red. Light against dark.
He parried my first blow, but only narrowly avoided my second. My third took his arm clean off at the elbow. He shrieked in pain. I kicked the saber he had dropped away, far out of reach by the Force, let alone his remaining hand.
“This is for all the lives the Sith have stolen, the crimes they have perpetuated. The murders, the rapes, the pillaging, all of the crimes of your order. The souls corrupted, the families broken, the worlds left scarred” I lowered my blade and reached out with the Force to apply pressure on one of the Sith statues in the room. “I am Veresia Martell. I will be the voice for the victims you have silenced. I will be the justice they have been denied. You should be proud; you are the first. You will not be the last.”
Spindrall was too focused on the stump he had in place of his arm to respond. No matter.
I flicked my wrist delicately, ripping the statue from the floor and sailing it through the air towards Spindrall. He barely had time to scream.
I stepped gingerly over his corpse and made my way back towards the academy, breathing heavily and quickly glancing over myself to ensure I left no incriminating sign of my involvement. No doubt, the blame would fall on some hated instructor, some jealous official, and more blood would be spilled in the name of Sith politics. Once, perhaps, the prospect of causing still more death might have troubled me, but that had changed. I
I could no longer be the person that I had been, but I could be something else. Something more. I hoped my father, wherever he was, would understand.