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Master and Apprentice: Secrets of the Sith

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Community Content > Fan Fiction
Master and Apprentice: Secrets of the Sith

Darth_Slaine's Avatar

12.13.2011 , 09:26 PM | #1
Master and Apprentice

Chapter I
The Gateless Gate

The Sith lowered his hood. His sparse, whitish-blond hair lay plastered to his skull. For a moment he examined the intricately-carved basalt slab before closing his red-rimmed eyes in thought.
Behind him, Simplicio sat on a stone and, for want of anything better to do, began to recite from memory:

"Peace is a lie. There is only passion. Through passion, I gain strength. Through strength, I gain power. Through power, I gain victory. Through victory, my chains are broken. The Force shall free me."

The Sith opened his eyes.
"Yes, Master?"
"Do not recite gibberish in my presence. If you cannot keep your mind focused, perhaps you could at least recite some entertaining limericks or sing an off-color song."
Simplicio was horrified.
"But, Master?! It is The Code!" And for lack of a better way of explaining himself he began to repeat the words so deeply etched in his memory. "Peace is a lie. There is only passion--"

The Sith turned to face the boy, effectively silencing the child.
"No, Simplicio. There is only recitation. Through your recitation, I gain annoyance. Through my annoyance, you lose everything."

Simplicio winced. What his master said was true. Simplicio had barely survived his time on Korriban. Though not the weakest amongst his cohorts, neither was he the apex predator he needed to be. He had feared that no one would take him for an apprentice -- he would have nightmares that all his peers would be paired with the best and bravest of Sith Warriors and he would be left standing alone, until some drooling idiot would hobble into the room saying, I overslept, at which point he would be referred to the only apprentice left in stock.
It had not been like that, which was at once pleasing but at the same time clear proof that Simplicio did not posess the gift of prophecy. In fact, his master had been shown a wary deference by the Sith of the Academy and he chose Simplicio out of the crowd after only a moment's consideration.

Leaving the school with his bundle on his back, Simplicio had been overcome with a sudden and near-suicidal need to be acknowledged for the first time in his life as having some worth. He asked, "Master, why did you choose me?"
The Sith was silent for a few seconds, and then, smiling, answered, "Perversity."
Simplicio interpreted that as any young man might and afterwards slept with his lightsaber in his hand.

But no attack ever came, and over time Simplicio began to grow accustomed to his master's strange ways.
Now the boy watched as his master sat down in the dust and began rummaging through his pack. Simplicio waited until he felt the atmosphere seemed defused before asking, "Master, do you not believe in The Code?"
The Sith paused in his search and thought for a few seconds.
"I believe in the existence of The Code, but I do not believe in its utility."
"I do not understand, Master."
The Sith nodded and began the process of messily discarding an item at a time from his pack as he continued searching its contents.
"Clearly there is a thing called 'The Code', otherwise it would be difficult to get all you mewling children to recite it -- though I suppose it could be a coincidence, like the joke about having a million furbkeys spontaneously compose the works of Elchor the Gradual. The Code exists. The Code is also a load of -- Aha!!!"

The Sith pulled an item from the bag and held it toward Simplicio in victory. It seemed to be a wrapped pickle.
The boy tried to look suitably grave and awed.
"Now we can have lunch… As I was saying, The Code is meaningless. It is just a jumble of words that seem to say something but actually don't. 'Peace is a lie'? Well, everything is a lie, just as anything can be made true if you have the power to make it so."

Simplicio puzzled over this for a short time but gave up.
"But, Master, is it not…" he caught himself before he said true, a word whose meaning was obviously subject for debate, "isn't it correct that we gain strength through passion? And through strength I gain power?"
"You could say that, but you could also say, just as correctly, 'through power I gain strength' or 'through power I gain passion'… which will become more apparent to you when you've matured a bit. Passion and power are certainly connected but not in the sort of cause-and-effect chain that The Code presents. But most importantly, Simplicio, the Force will never free you. It is only we that may free ourselves."

Simplicio sat back, confused, and tried to sort through his feelings. This process began to make him angry, which, though supposed to give him strength, instead made him tired. He gave up.
"Master, will I not gain victory through power?"
"It is possible to gain victory through power. It is also possible to be destroyed by wielding it. The certain thing about power is that every attempt to harness it will create an equal resistance to it. To use power is to wrestle your own twin."

The Sith took out a small knife and began to unwrap the pickle.
"But can I not just use more power to overcome the resistance? Oh, but then it would resist all the more! But if I was strong enough I'm sure I could handle it."
"Let us see." The Sith put the pickle on a flat stone and handed the boy the knife.
"This pickle is the resistance to your application of power -- which in this instance we will call 'oppression'. What I want you to do is to use your strength and cut the pickle with the knife until it is no longer a pickle."

Simplicio could see where this was heading but he dutifully began to cut the pickle into pieces. When he had bisected his trisections, he paused and looked up at his master.
"It is still a pickle, Master."
The Sith viewed the fragmented gherkin critically.
"Yes, it is still quite a pickle, or, depending on viewpoint, it is now several pickles. Clearly the mere application of force will not remove its pickle-ness."
"How, then, shall I overcome resistance?"
"There are two easy ways. The first…"
The Sith took a particularly knobby section of pickle and sniffed it. He grimaced and tossed it over his shoulder.
"That is not a pickle. That is 'trash'."
"The resistance is transformed?"
"To a degree. It can be tricky. You need to make sure that it is transformed in everyone's eyes. Look."
The Sith pointed to a large sandroach that was crawling energetically over the discarded food.
"To us it is trash, but to him it is still a pickle. That will not do."

"And the other way, Master?"
The Sith smiled and popped a piece of the pickle into his mouth.
"You consume it. It becomes part of you and adds to your strength."

While Simplicio thought about this, his master consumed several more little resistances. The boy, as was appropriate, waited until the Sith had finished eating and had left the food behind before he ate any himself.

The Sith had returned to staring at the basalt slab.
"The Code may have its place, but too many Sith recite it like it was a magical formula or a prayer. Only the weak pray, Simplicio."
Simplicio watched as his master ran his pale fingers over the archaic symbols carved into the slab.
"It is very beautiful, but it defies me. I wish to enter this tomb and I cannot see how to open this door." The Sith reached out with the Force again but saw no effect.
Simplicio, still thoughtful, muttered, "A door that will not open is a wall."
The Sith turned to him.
"What?" he asked icily.
The boy blanched. He looked at the ground.
"It was nothing, Master!"
"Repeat what you said."
What had seemed glib and clever a moment ago now seemed fraught with danger. Simplicio took a deep breath.
"A door that will not open is a wall."

The Sith stared at the boy for a minute and then turned back to the wall of rock that housed the tomb. He ran his hand over the ornately-carved basalt once more.
"It will not open because it does not open because it is not a door. It is a false door meant to waste our time, so if the wall looks like a door, then the door must look like…" He strode up and down the rock face until, stopping, he spread his fingers wide and a completely unexceptional outcropping began to shudder and then recessed into the mountain, leaving an opening to a dark corridor.

A low moan issued from the mouth of the tomb and Simplicio shivered in spite of the desert heat.
The Sith turned to him and smiled.
"You first, my clever student."

Gestahlt's Avatar

12.13.2011 , 09:40 PM | #2
Simplicio, you fool!

Darth_Slaine's Avatar

12.14.2011 , 10:21 AM | #3
Chapter II:
Life and Death

The glow from Simplicio's lantern bathed the tomb walls in blue light. Ahead, the boy's master paused at a bifurcation in the long hall. Again the strange moan that had so chilled Simplicio on the surface echoed through the caverns. Coming to stand abreast with his master, Simplicio looked up into the older Sith's face. His master's eyes were closed in concentration but he spoke.
"This place is old, Simplicio. It was ancient before the Sith Lord chose it for his tomb. The people of this place thought their god spoke to them here."

The beginnings of the moan began to grow and swell in the rocks themselves and Simplicio felt a breath of clammy air wash over him.
"I would rather not hear what their god had to say, Master."
The Sith chuckled and opened his eyes for for a moment.
"This way." He began to lead again, deeper into the tomb. "Stretch out your senses and tell me what you feel."
Grudgingly the boy obeyed.

Through the Force he could feel the lingering reverence that still permeated the walls and a dark hunger that waited for tribute. Generations had worn down these stones, walking on their knees in supplication and in search of wisdom. Though the questions were always different, the answers held something in common -- they were always what no one wanted to hear.
But that was not all, Simplicio reached further in search of something that seemed to be actively eluding his senses, something more immediate than the worship of a dead and malicious god.

"Master! There is something in here with us!" Simplicio froze.
"What do you feel?"
"There is something angry at our presence. It is like a haarhound staying just outside the light of a campfire. It circles us and I feel it… nipping at my shadow. Is it a ghost?"
The Sith began to walk.
"It may have been at one time. Now it is more like a memory. It is a thing that tried to cheat death -- afraid to move on. Now it is simply a revenant. Do not be overly concerned. It would love to hurt us but it is very weak. It is hoping an opportunity to do us harm will present itself. Do not be afraid. Fear strengthens it."
"I will have no fear, Master."
Even through the darkness, Simplicio could feel the smile spread across his master's face.
"Of course not, Simplicio."

Simplicio once more wished he was carrying his lightsaber in his hand rather than the lantern, but he would make no move to draw his until his master did so first. He would not embarrass himself by showing weakness. He tried to focus on his connection to the Force, but the things it told him were… unpleasant.
"What happens to us after we die?"

The Sith crouched down and began to look at the stones. He beckoned Simplicio to bring the lantern closer. There were symbols on the floor which the Sith traced with his fingers and then, dusting his hands off, he stood and began to walk more quickly.
"After we die?"
"Yes, Master."
"Once there was a rich businessman whose wife died. He was very powerful and had connections to the Jedi temple. After a few days the Jedi sent one of their best and brightest to offer their condolences and comfort…

"The bright-eyed Jedi told the man that his wife had gone on to join the Force, and that all living things join the Force when they die, and that he, the businessman, would be rejoined with his wife one day too.
"The businessman thought about this and asked very practically, 'Will I be able to transfer my business over there?'
"'No', said the Jedi. 'You won't need a business.'
"'How about my house?'
"'No, you won't need a house. Everyone joins the Force. There are no boundaries between people, just unity. We are all connected in something bigger than ourselves. We become one with everything.'

"The businessman thought about this for a minute and then dropped to his knees. 'Noble Jedi,' he cried, 'please kill me quickly so I can rejoin my wife!'
"The Jedi was aghast. 'No, my friend. You will see her when the time is right.'
"'You don't understand, Jedi! My wife was a very attractive woman and I had better get over there quick before she starts becoming one with EVERYTHING!'"

The Sith laughed at his own joke. Simplicio stood thoughtfully.
"The man did not understand… because he could not conceive of a state unlike the one to which he was accustomed?"
"Yes. We are all like that though. It is not a peculiar weakness of businessmen."
"So can we ever truly understand death without dying?"
"We are always dying, Simplicio. From the moment of our births, we are engaged in a great act of dying."

The conversation engaged in its own act of dying while Simplicio and his master slowly squeezed through a collapsed and rubble-strewn shaft on their stomachs. Once through the Sith signaled for them to stop and drink.
As they rested, Simplicio's mind returned to the story.
"Perhaps the Jedi should have just told him it would be exactly like the world he knew. Why confuse him with something he would not understand?"
"That Jedi was foolish. He did not understand the nature of the businessman. To understand a thing's nature is halfway to controlling it."

Simplicio sat up.
"How do I learn the nature of things?"
"Through observation. It takes time and study."
"What is the nature of Man?"
The Sith began to restow his canteen.

"Each individual has a personal nature, but there are aspects of nature that are true for all of a type. The general nature of man is conflict."
"Conflict? As in war?"
"Conflict as in conflict. Everything people do is conflicted. There is a germ of antithesis in every thesis."
"I don't understand."
This time when the moan came it was very loud. Simplicio felt they must be nearing the source of the sound.

"Let us say you went to offer your condolences to that businessman -- while you were saying how terrible it was his wife was dead you would also be thinking how nice it is that your wife is alive. When you congratulate someone there is always a tinge of envy behind it. To own something is to fear its loss. People are always trying to reconcile two opposites."
"In the temple they told us that Anger was a pure emotion -- and that Hatred was Anger with a focus."
"Nothing is 'pure', Simplicio. Emotions do not have defined beginning and ends, even though we pretend that they do by giving them arbitrary names. Tell me about the time when you felt the greatest Anger."

Simplicio thought for a moment. It wasn't hard to pick out the incident but he wasn't sure if he wished to share it with the Sith. His master might be disgusted by the boy's weakness..
"I… while at the temple some of the other students ambushed me. I tried… they stripped me and mocked me. Many people saw. If my Anger had just come to life they all would have died. I promised to have revenge."

The Sith and his apprentice were silent for a minute.

"Did you feel any emotions beside Anger?"
"Yes. I felt Hatred. I felt… Shame. Fear at my own weakness. Fear that everyone would know they could do the same and I would be unable to stop it. I vowed revenge but I knew I would never be able to take it. I knew I had lost. Is that an emotion?"
"Yes. Even that is an emotion."
"Does Anger ever come without Shame and Fear?"
"It always comes with something"
"I wish I understood the nature of Anger."
"Because then I would be 'halfway to controlling it.'"

Before them the hallway ended in a large circular hole. Around the opening sat four figures -- mummified corpses, Simplicio saw when he cast the light over them. The Sith knocked one aside and then began taking the coil of nylorope from his pack. After he had secured it to a mostly intact pillar, he tied the lantern to the other end and began lowering it into the abyss. Simplicio gasped as the light was reflected on the face of a pool of black water.
"What is it?"
"It is where the god lives."
Swinging the lantern they could make out a stone sarcophagus toward the edge of the pool chamber.
"Let's go down. You first, Simplicio."
"But, Master! We can't both go down! I should stay up here. In case anything happens I can run for help."
"Only a very foolish master would leave his apprentice in charge of his lifeline. We go down together."
"What if the rope breaks?"
"Then we die together."

The boy began to lower himself down the rope. Thoughtfully, it had been knotted to provide at least some foot and hand holds. Simplicio felt a wave of vertigo pass over him as he realized he was hanging about 60 feet above the ground. He felt his master's added weight above him. He had wished his master had waited until he had made it to the ground before coming down though he could feel the overwhelming excitement pouring off the Sith. Now they were both at the mercy of the rope… and the thing that had been following them.

Simplicio froze halfway down the rope. All that connected him to this life was a finger's width of cord. What had his master said? It is hoping an opportunity to do us harm will present itself. And here was that opportunity.
The boy closed his eyes. In his mind he saw a mummified hand open and flex. A malevolent force was, he was sure, focused on the rope and it was smiling. He winced as he imagined the hand testing the tension in the nylorope, feeling its texture, preparing to cut…

"Master, it is going to cut--"
"Simplicio, you are feeding it. Calm yourself. You are safe with me."

Simplicio felt a well of Anger grow in his chest. Anger at his master, Anger at the ghost and his own weakness. He shut his eyes and began to descend once more, hand over hand. Even while he did so, he could tell that beneath the Anger was still an undercurrent of Fear. He just hoped it was not enough to give power to the revenant.

After an eternity his boots touched the ground and his master dropped down beside him.
The Sith strode to the sarcophagus and, using the Force, sent the heavy stone lid crashing onto the floor. Inside was a coffin decorated in precious metals, which was soon tossed aside to reveal the moldering bones of a long departed Sith Lord and on his chest -- a holocron.

Simplicio's master slapped the dead hands away from the artifact and plucked it from the coffin. At the same time the pool bubbled and splashed and the moan erupted from it, so deafening now that Simplicio covered his ears.
It echoed through the halls of the tomb followed closely by his master's laughter.

When they had finished climbing back up the rope, Simplicio rolled beside the hole, panting. As his master pulled up the lantern, the light fell again on the mummies. Though he could not be sure, it looked to Simplicio as if one of them had changed position slightly while they were gone -- as if it had moved closer to the rope.
The light flashed on an object in its hand -- a mostly-rusted dagger.

At that moment Simplicio decided that when he became a master, no matter how exciting the treasure might be, he would stay up at the top of the hole.

Darth_Slaine's Avatar

12.15.2011 , 10:01 AM | #4
Chapter III:
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."
Simplicio nodded.
"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?"
Simplicio smiled.
"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."
"Why, Master?"
"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.
"Get on."

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.
"Yes, Master?"
"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."

Polisciguy's Avatar

12.15.2011 , 04:41 PM | #5
Really enjoying this. Great work! Cannot wait for the next installment.

Darth_Slaine's Avatar

12.17.2011 , 11:27 AM | #6
Chapter IV:
The Thousand Rivers

The Jedi leapt from his troop-carrier and somersaulted through the air. Before him a robed figure stood rooted to the spot in awe.
Whistling through the dark sky, the Jedi roared, "I know your past, present and future! Prepare to meet your doom!"

As he landed nimbly the Jedi ignited two yellow-bladed lightsabers and rained bloody judgment down upon his dark opponent. In the flash of an eye, victory belonged to the Jedi Knight.
"Another dead Sith," he spat.

The holoscreen flickered and the picture lost all clarity for a moment.
"Master, is that what Jedi are like?"
"No, Simplicio. That would be a rather inaccurate depiction of Jedi -- at least in my experience."
In the distance the sky lit up, and seconds later a sound like thunder shook the air.

The Sith looked into the night.
"If I didn't know it was a planetary bombardment, I could almost mistake it for a summer storm."

Suddenly the town was plunged into darkness. Around the Sith and his apprentice, the cantina patrons groaned as the holoscreen disappeared for good.
It took a minute for the emergency generators to kick on and give some of the buildings at least a semblance of illumination.
"Now we'll never know what happened to the Jedi!" complained a drunk.

"Master," Simplicio whispered, "why is it that people seem so detached from reality?"
"In what sense?"
"The nearest urban center is being bombed. A ground invasion is imminent. Yet these people are more interested in the fortunes of an imaginary Jedi."
The Sith thought about this.
"Simplicio, there is a small species of feline that lives on Hurrangh-7. When confronted by something that is beyond its stress tolerance… say, a much larger carnivore, the cat will turn its back on the threat and close its eyes. It cannot deal with the direct reality of the situation -- the immediate threat of destruction -- so it chooses to ignore it.
"Though you would be surprised to hear it, many of the people in this bar have intellects more complex than the cat's, so they need to go to extra pains to forget that death waits around the corner. You see this a lot, really. When reality is too hard to accept, people will turn to intoxicants, or mindless behavior, or any diversion. While the bombs over the hill are throwing it in sharp relief just now, you should recognize that it is an ongoing phenomenon."

Simplicio considered this.
"It seems a bad survival mechanism."
"Yes, but it does make people more manageable. How else would you ever be able to send an army off to war if your soldiers actually focused on the danger they would be exposing themselves to? How would you control a city's populace during a famine if you could not distract them with their favorite celebrity gossip?"

"Master, a long time ago you told me that understanding a thing's nature is halfway to controlling it. Is this an example of that principle?"
"Yes. If I understand that people are naturally inclined to ignore unpleasant aspects of reality, then I can use this to my benefit. Have you heard of the Three Sith Warlords?"
Simplicio shook his head.
"Well, once there were three great and terrrible Sith Warriors, and they each set about carving the galaxy up into little kingdoms. The three had different philosophies of leadership. On one occasion all three travelled to a little planet to have a meeting to discuss some very esoteric issues, and while out walking they saw a bird famous for the sweetness of its voice. They waited under the branch upon which it sat in hopes of hearing it sing but the bird remained silent.
"'We really must get this bird to sing,' decided the three Sith, and each warlord thought of how he usually went about getting things to do his bidding.
"The first warlord said, 'If the bird does not sing, I will kill it.'
"The second warlord said, 'I will make it want to sing.'
"Finally, the third warlord said, 'I will wait.'"

The Sith sat back in his chair and took a sip of his water. The bombing continued and an orange glow was making its appearance on the distant hill.
"It seems to be burning now," observed the Sith.
Simplicio did not hear him.
"Master, which is the correct answer?"
"Which is the best way to make the bird sing?"
"In this case there is no 'best'. All three approaches have their utility depending on context, but each requires an understanding of nature. Let's say the warlords had decided they wanted a dog to sing, rather than a bird. Well, you could coax a dog until your hair fell out, or wait until you turned into dust but it will never sing. In such a case, you might as well kill it -- though I would be inclined to leave it and wonder why I had been so arrogant as to think I could make a dog do something not in its nature.
"Personally, I prefer the 'I will make it want to sing' school of thought. But, if you have the time, the surest option is to wait.
"When a flood comes it will follow the path of the rivers. I am content to nudge, and guide something in a direction that it is already heading.
"This is often the opposite of what the Jedi do, whether they realize it or not. They try to make people into something they are not. They wish cowards to become heroes, and flawed personalities to attain sainthood. When dealing with a coward, all I ask is that when he runs, he runs in the direction I suggested."

"So, as a Sith, I am not forcing others to do anything they wouldn't do, but I am controlling them by guiding the direction in which their nature expresses itself?"
"Precisely. You are applying leverage at certain key points to fashion an outcome that is to your liking."
"It is similar to combat, when I use my enemy's own strength against him, by redirecting the force in his blows."
"Yes. The same approach can be used in almost every situation. "

"But Master, let us imagine that for some reason I wish to have a boulder at the top of a hill -- the inclination of the boulder will always be to roll down. How, in a case like that, can I reach my goal, and be in accord with the nature of the rock?"
"Should you find yourself in such a situation, it is best to rethink your goal. No goal that goes against the natural course of the Universe is a good goal. It is not the Universe that is being intransigent but ourselves. Some goals are foolish.
"An example of a foolish goal is to try and preserve something indefinitely, be it life, or culture, or a form of government. Things fall apart. That is nature. No matter what you do, in the long run, everything will fall apart. Therefore, long-term preservation is a bad goal because it is unachievable and therefore a waste of energy and resources."

The Sith closed his eyes for a moment and rubbed them.
Another question formed in Simplicio's mind, though he was reluctant to ask it.
"Simplicio, you are about to say something. Please, spit it out. Your suspense is irritating."
"Yes, Master. I was wondering--" He tried to sound very casual. "--if things falling apart applied to us in a special way."
"Expand on that."
"It is something I have noticed. I remember it from the temple and now… other places. The more powerful a Sith becomes, the more he--" Simplicio began to wish he had never begun this line of questioning. "The more he falls apart."

The Sith stared at Simplicio, his eyes reddish in the dim light.
"The act of harnessing and controlling the Force is a drain on both mental and physical reserves. There is a price to be paid for power."
"Is it worth it?" The question was out before Simplicio had a chance to think about it.
The Sith closed his eyes and fell silent.

Just when his student began to suspect his master had fallen asleep the older man began to speak.
"The Jedi act as conduits for the Force. They channel it but they are afraid to truly control it. It may be safe enough to admire the Force from a suitable distance -- to treat it with respect. I, though, have had intimate knowledge of the Force. And even if it is only a temporary arrangement, it is better to be the master of a slave than its equal. I have no regrets."
"The more power I wield, the faster I will destroy myself?"
"Yes. I will not lie to you. You must decide for yourself, Simplicio."

"I will follow my nature."

Nyxian's Avatar

12.21.2011 , 11:57 AM | #7
YOu could have used the reset to retcon some ewoks into the story this time...

jus' saying...
"Words are such poor receipts for what time has taken away"

Darth_Slaine's Avatar

12.23.2011 , 01:33 PM | #8
Quote: Originally Posted by Nyxian View Post
YOu could have used the reset to retcon some ewoks into the story this time...

jus' saying...
I was considering adding a Jawa to my next story. Does that count?

twisterfries's Avatar

12.27.2011 , 03:33 AM | #9
Amazing work! A real pleasure to read

Nyxian's Avatar

12.28.2011 , 09:17 AM | #10
Quote: Originally Posted by Darth_Slaine View Post
I was considering adding a Jawa to my next story. Does that count?
Would it be to much to hope for a Jawa and an Ewok? Both severely under-represented...
"Words are such poor receipts for what time has taken away"