One year later...
She never knew exactly why she left the place he'd taken her to...only that something compelled her to find a way off the peaceful Rim planet of Urbax. His child nestled close to her as she boarded the freighter, the tiny crown of nubs the only indication he wasn't entirely human until he opened his golden eyes. Everything Silvra owned she had slung across her back in the heavy satchel. Not much to account for her life to this point. Still, she felt the drive to travel to Naboo...to the place she felt certain her love had met his end.
The captain, a huge Wookie, didn't ask questions when she had approached him for passage. He merely growled a reply and told her, through an interpreter, that all he required was some decent meals instead of droid prepared food.
Silvra had smiled at that. She'd gotten rather good at cooking in her time on the backwater planet. Quite a different talent for someone who started out life as a pampered princess and progressed to a sex slave on a Hutt controlled world.
Captain Pawran greeted her with a rumble and gestured toward her quarters as he prepared for take off. Silvra scurried toward them to deposit her bag, then rushed back to the passenger area to strap in. None too soon as the engines whined and rumbled to life and the entire ship began to tremble as it fought the gravity. S'Khamier stirred in her arms, nuzzling her against her chest.
"Shhh, love...Mama's here. Are you hungry?" Silvra pulled up her rough fiber blouse to expose her breast and brought her son's lips to it. The tiny lips latched on to the nipple, vigorously suckling. Tears gathered in Silvra's eyes as she watched him eat. Pleasurable sensations washed through her, mixed with the pain of the knowledge she would never feel her lover's lips on her again.
Khamier...Maul...whoever you were...I miss you so. She wept silently, her heart aching with the loss.
A chill moved up her spine...
//Ah, but I have not gone yet, beloved. I am here?? around you. You have but to open your heart...//
In the dim light of the passenger cabin, Silvra shivered and peered into the shadowy corners. The lights flickered a moment, surely a power surge, nothing more. Then...to her disbelieving eyes a hazy form began to appear, coalescing before her until she could no longer attribute it to faulty electricity.
"My Lord!" she gasped, clutching her son...their son, closer.
//Did I not say I was not your lord? Did I not give to you of myself? The proof lies there in your arms.//
The specter studied the feeding infant, its hand reaching for the tiny head and barely brushing the top. For a heartbeat the babe hesitated and seemed to move against the incorporeal hand as if seeking its touch.
Silvra bit back a sob, forcing herself to remain calm. Perhaps she would awake and find this but a dream. The form's next words disabused her of that vain hope.
//I am with the Force now. My body lies in stasis on the planet you travel toward. It was I who urged you to go
there...seek me. My master believes me dead?? in truth, my flesh has ceased to be my home. Still, there are ways that I may return to you. Seek the one they call Marna...she will assist you.//
As if sensing her distress, the spirit knelt before her, gazing into her troubled eyes.
//Beloved, if Marna has success in reviving my severely injured body I will most likely not remember this. I do not even know if I will remember you. Leave the child with one you trust before you come to me...I would do you and him no harm, yet there are those who would benefit if all I cared for were destroyed... along with any trace of my being. It paused. Take heart...perhaps my love for you will reach beyond the limitations of my body...else why am I here now?//
Silvra could no longer meet the shade's eyes. She studied her son instead. A shadowy hand passed before her gaze to rest atop her own as she cradled the child.
//Come to me, Silvra. Be with me forever. If I cannot return to my body let me stay with you in this form for as long as I am able. And when you pass on, join me. Here, in this plane, I have learned there are no limits..except for pleasures of the flesh. Still, I cannot find peace here because I long to seek justice for what has happened.//
She wanted to cry out, "Tell me!" Yet she held her tongue. She wanted to yell, "Why did you leave me?" Still, she could not bring herself to do so. Until she once again looked into the apparition's eyes, seeing the despair, the pain, the emptiness within. Surprisingly, the darkness of his soul she had felt when he lived had faded, leaving only a deep, abiding sadness and sense of betrayal. The words tore from her, filled with her own misery.
"Why?" she asked him. "Why did you leave me? What happened?"
The shade merely shook its head and rose to fade away among the shadows with a last request. //Come to me...and no matter what...remember me always...//
A week passed before they passed the Dagobah system, then on to land on Naboo. When Silvra tried to give Pawran what little coin she had he pushed her hand away gently and mumbled something, shaking his head. Silvra thanked him, wishing she spoke Wookie, and took her leave. He walked with her down the ramp into the freight hanger where they'd landed then saw her off. She turned to wave goodbye and saw he'd begun unloading his cargo. Perhaps someday she might properly show her gratitude to the kind-hearted creature.
With a quick look around the busy place, Silvra began to feel overwhelmed. Just where should she start searching for a dead Sith Lord's body? At the image of her asking someone such a thing, an almost uncontrollable urge to giggle welled up and it took all her concentration to squelch it. Her time was valuable and she had to figure out some way of looking for him. Determined to succeed, she adjusted her satchel and rearranged S'Khamier in her arms. First things first. She had a bit of money she'd managed to save so she'd look for more reputable clothing.
After she inquired about a market place from one of the hanger workers, she headed toward the main square. The Theed palace loomed above the open air stalls, its grandeur rather daunting, though it evoked faint memories of another impressive royal residence.As unobtrusively as possible, she made purchases of modest, but well made clothing and shoes to replace the poor things she had gotten on Urbax.
She then made her way toward what appeared to be some sort of temple. Something drew her there and she wondered if her beloved Khamier hovered somewhere nearby. After she climbed the steep steps she realized what the place must be... A stone slab lay in the center, remnants of ashes scattered on top of them. A shudder ran through her. Had this been his end? If so, there was no hope of ever rejoining him in
//No, but here the Jedi Master Qui-Gon's body burned. I was responsible for his death and in turn, his apprentice slew me. Fitting justice, would you not say?// A touch of irony colored his words.
"What are you telling me?" she whispered.
Khameir's form appeared before her again. //That I bested a Jedi Master, but in my arrogance, discounted his
apprentice...his Padawan. In that, I met my end. And though my Master felt anger at this, he will replace me soon.
Indeed, I do not believe he ever intended for me to become the Master. It is his betrayal I feel the most... not the Jedi. Though when I lived, my hatred and desire for vengeance against them drove me to often-foolhardy acts. It was this that blinded me to the Padawan's strength in the Force.//
"Where... where is your... body?"
//You must make your way to the palace melting pit. It will not be easy, for since my death, it has been heavily guarded.//
Silvra nodded and turned to descend.
//Wait! What are doing here? You should be with the others...this is my place!//
She spun and found another ghostly form had joined that of her beloved. This one towered over him, the faint features leonine with a beard and long hair...and Jedi robes. Could this be the Master he had slain?
/I bear you no ill will, Sith, for I know you were betrayed as well. However, what you propose to do is wrong./
//How can you say that, Jedi? My life had just begun...there is much I have left to do...a family to raise. Can you say the same?//
Pain seemed to radiate from the Jedi before he answered. /Because of my death, much will happen to destroy peace. The boy...Obi-Wan cannot train him as Yoda would or I would have...yet I made him promise to do so. Only now, only here, do I see what this may do in the future. You are right
to fear your Master will replace you...and worse, it will be with Anakin./
//Never! I would sooner slay my old Master than have that whelp become his apprentice.//
/Ah, but he is strong in the Force...stronger than any I have seen. Stronger than you and when he is grown, he will become a power beyond what we know. True, he has the potential to work for the Light, but Yoda was right...he has much anger./
//Bah! He is but a child. How can you know so much?//
The Jedi shook his head with a rueful smile. /Did your Master never teach you to feel the Force? Understand the possibilities? In my life I concentrated on the living Force, the here and now, but Master Yoda has the ability to see into the future. He always said it was in motion, not set, but mutable with the decisions and actions of those involved./
Silvra watched silently, unable to believe what she heard and saw. In life these two had been deadly enemies, ready to strike at each other without thought...now they seemed able to express themselves without pause. How would this affect what Khamier had directed her to do? It seemed as though they had forgotten her.
Her son solved that problem. He let out a howl loud enough to echo around the entire square below her. She rushed to the wall and peered over. Heads turned her way. Hoping to alleviate any suspicions, she waved and held her crying son up for all to see. Most turned away, but she could see a group of what appeared to be security guards start toward the stairs leading to her. Quickly, she returned to the center of the room, ransacking her brain for a good reason to be up here.
/Young woman, why have you come?/
/Qui-Gon will do./
"Qui-Gon, I was...I am...oh, this is so difficult! Lord Maul and I had a relationship over a year ago. This is his child. I...I felt called to come here. He wishes me to try to reunite his spirit with his body. Though I grieve for your death...I want my child to know his father...I want to be with him." Tears filled her eyes. "His way may not have been all that I wished for in a mate, but I found good within him."
//Do not speak to him, Silvra! He will try to turn you against me!//
"No, my Lord...Khamier. It is only right that I address this. You told me when you lived that you did not believe you would become the next Sith Master. Perhaps there is a reason for this. Perhaps this was meant to be." She stopped, hearing footsteps approaching, then continued in a whisper. "However, it would not be wise for us to be discovered here like this. At the very least I'll be considered mad, as I have no idea if anyone else can see either of you. Can we go somewhere else?"
/Follow the tunnel at the base of the waterfall. It will take you to the place where both he and I met our ends. Until later./ The Jedi's form dissipated, leaving only Maul's behind.
//Beloved, I cannot like this, but I must agree with you and him. Much as this dismays me, we must continue later. Tell the guards the truth. You came to see the view and your child awoke frightened. Meet me near the melting pit.//
Just as he disappeared the guards arrived and found Silvra perched on the wall, feeding her baby.
"Mistress, this area is considered off limits. You need to leave," the Captain, a compact dark skinned man, told her.
"I'm sorry. This is my first visit to Naboo and Theed. I was just curious what the view from here was like. My son awoke, hungry and frightened and I merely wanted to comfort him."
The Captain cleared his throat, then sighed. "Very well, but once you finish, please leave. One of my men will stay at the bottom of the stairs to help direct you wherever you need to go."
Silvra thanked him and watched as they left. This could make things very awkward. How was she to find the entrance to the tunnel with a guard hovering over her? Little S'Khamier had fallen asleep, so she straightened her clothing, shouldered her bag and descended.
She let the guard take her to a modest hostel and see her settled in. Pleasant and helpful, he gave her directions to areas for sightseeing and tours and then left in the care of the hostel owner, Hairta, a jolly rotund woman with a soft voice and sharp eyes.
"Just visiting, dearie?"
"Yes, I've been off my planet so little I decided to come and see what Naboo looked like. I had heard it had an amazing waterfall. Do you have any tours of it?"
"Certainly...those that come to see the sights like to get a good view of it from hovercraft. Here," she scribbled directions on a scrap of paper. "This fella takes visitors for a nice ride around the rivers and the plains. You can get a good view of the waterfall and the palace from there. Pretty reasonable rates, too."
With a smile, Silvra accepted her advice and decided she'd best lay low for the rest of the day. The sky had already begun to darken and everything she'd been through had taken its toll. Her bag and the baby felt heavy as stones around her neck as she climbed the stairs behind Hairta. Relieved to sit in peace, Silvra rocked S'Khamier as she ate the meal Hairta provided and considered her options. Since her
beloved and the Jedi Master had no corporeal forms she could only guess that they would await her at the pit. With an amused smile, she wondered if they would continue to argue philosophy in her absence. What a thought!
S'Khameir stretched, yawning and snuggling against her. Her own eyelids felt weighted and she looked over at the bed with longing. As gently as possible, she rose, placed S'Khamier on one side of the bed with pillows beneath the covers to keep him from rolling off, then removed her skirt and blouse and climbed beneath the sheets. A cool dampness seemed to pervade the cloth, even through her chemise, but soon her and her child's body warmth dispelled that. She pulled the light shawl she'd brought from Urbax over him, then curled around him and fell asleep.
The morning found Silvra up and on her way to the man Hairta had recommended. He had barely risen, but agreed to take her as soon as he got his hover car warmed up. Hairta had offered to watch S'Khamier, and though Silvra had just met her, she sensed the woman's goodness. He accepted her without a whimper and just stared at her face in fascination. Hairta never mentioned his obviously non-human features.
"Had seven of my own. And I know just what to do when he gets hungry. How long you figure to be gone?"
"I should be back by noon." She hoped sooner, else she'd be full and ready to burst with milk.
"No problem. Here's a comm link. If it looks like longer just give me a call." Hairta handed her a hand held device and showed Silvra how to activate it.
Silvra thanked her and returned to find Jopper, the tour guide, ready to leave.
"Get strapped in 'cause this can get downright exciting with the updrafts," he told her, then hardly gave her time to do so before starting off.
Her stomach lurched as he dropped off the cliff the palace perched on toward the plain below. The hover car's engines whined and shuddered as they skimmed the faint trail down the rocky cliff side until the plain rose up to meet them. Silvra rubbed her moist palms on her skirt, thankful she had a strong constitution and didn't frighten easily.
For awhile, Jopper moved out into the open, allowing her time to enjoy the sight of the beautiful palace and city perched atop the cliffs. In the distance, the heavy foliage of the Gungan swamp gave a dark green border to the paler green of the plain. As they returned to glide along the base of the cliff, Jopper pointed out historic sites.
"And that's where the Gungans...they're our allies in the swamp...battled the Federation's droids." He rambled on, telling her about the events of the last year, about the Queen, the Jedi, and the duel between the Jedi and the
Silvra sat rooted to her seat, listening to the story of what had transpired... knowing it was what had happened to her beloved. A terrible pain and anger grew... How dare his Master send him on such a despicable mission? He had been set up to lose, for no matter what the outcome of the battle, his Master stood to gain a great deal. She knew some of the machinations behind the story... and guessed a great deal more from piecing together what she had learned from Jopper, the Jedi, and Maul.
"Could you give me a closer view of the waterfall?" she asked. "Perhaps we could take a break. I need to stretch my legs."
"Sure... should be coming up on a nice little spot in just a moment." He swerved toward an opening in the foliage, not far from the bottom of the waterfall.
Mist rose in a great cloud, making vision difficult. Silvra intended to make use of it. She asked him if she could take a swim and have him return in about half an hour. He scratched his head dubiously.
"Don't know that's such a great idea. We've got some really dangerous water creatures on Naboo. Especially down here... Up in Theed itself it's not so bad, but here...never know what you might run into."
"Well, how about if I just get out and walk near the shore? Would that be too risky?"
"Hmmm... just don't get too close to the water. I'll wait here. Use your comm link if you need help. It'll also act as a locator if you get lost in this fog."
She gave him a smile and moved off toward the base of the waterfall. Only a few moments passed before she could no longer see him. Without hesitation, Silvra hurried toward the darker area she spotted in the distance. There... that must be the tunnel Qui-Gon had mentioned. Gathering up her skirt, she nearly ran up the slope and found her way blocked by a closed door.
An unladylike oath sprang from her lips. With a grim look, she jiggled the handle and nearly cried in relief when the door creaked open. She peered around the dimly lit corridor, then proceeded to hurry up the steep staircase.
At the top another door proved no problem. Silvra looked around at the cavernous rooms around her. How in the world would she ever find what she was looking for? She wasn't even certain exactly what she was supposed to find. A scraping sound to one side had her jumping. A wizened old woman hobbled out from a doorway, searching the room and finding Silvra, she moved toward her.
"Hehehe... said someone would be along to claim him. My guess is...you're that someone." The crone cackled and gestured for Silvra to follow her.
"Are... are you Marna?"
"Yup. He's been hanging around here off and on ever since he got 'separated.' Him and that other one... the one they burned up topside. Actually, today's the first day I've seen 'em together. Usually it's one or the other. Certainly are restless folks. Can't say as I blame 'em though. Pretty intense fight that was... hard to rest when ya meet yur end that away." Marna laughed again, then wheezed and coughed. "Durn place ain't healthy. But somebody's got to keep it clean. 'Twas me that found him... nothing I could do but put him in stasis... too far gone."
"Come on... we'll see what we can do together."
Silvra followed her to a smaller chamber off the main room. There she found her beloved...
"By the gods!" she muttered at the sight of his bisected body.
"Not a pleasant thing to look at, eh? Still, I managed to keep it from rotting by putting it in stasis."
"Why do you say we'll see what we can do together? I have no training as a healer... not that I believe anything can be done at this point."
"Ah, but faith can do much... You must have faith. Here... Help me undress him so we can join his two halves." Marna took Silvra's arm to pull her over to the body. Maul's spirit appeared beside it, a strange look on his face.
"Heh! You're back. Well, don't know how much we can do... but we'll try. Stand aside, boy and give us room," the old woman ordered. Silvra could only shake her head. Why should it make any difference where his ghost...Force self... whatever... stood?
Marna called her attention back to the task. "Come along. Here... Take this." She handed Silvra a stone... at least it looked like a stone... a deep golden color with darker red streaks through it... The piece felt warm to the touch, as if alive.
"What is this?" Silvra asked as she fingered the piece in fascination.
"Called amber... Comes from tree sap that's fossilized. Powerful stuff... Full of life and hope. But it takes
someone with a like power to use it to its fullest potential."
"What do I do?"
"First off, need to put the pieces back together." The old woman looked at her expectantly, then sighed in exasperation. "Well, let's get to it." She deactivated the stasis field, the pulled Silvra over to help her strip Maul down, then align and move his upper and lower halves into place. With a tsk at the still less than optimal results, she gave Silvra an appraising look. "Not the best job,
but don't have any healers down here. Had a feeling they might not be disposed to fixing him up, seeing as he did in the Jedi Master."
/A true healer would not have hesitated, Marna. As you did not./
Silvra flinched at the Jedi Master's appearance at her elbow. He gave her a charming smile and she wondered how many hearts he had broken in his lifetime. Oh, why had her beloved taken him on?
//Merely because he was Jedi and stood in the way of what my Master wanted as well. Personally, I knew him not at all except as a remarkable warrior for his age.//
The Jedi gave Khamier a wry smile. /For my age?/
//Yes, old man,// Maul taunted with a hint of his previous arrogance. Then he grimaced. //But that is irrelevant now. My Master has shunned my memory and I no longer have any loyalty to him.// He turned to Silvra. //You must try my love. I have things I must accomplish before I return to the Force in this form. Concentrate..//
She moved to his body, and at Marna's direction, held the amber between her hands, moving the piece over the terrible wound. The stone warmed as she pictured him whole, the way she had last seen him on the trip to Urbax. Silently, eyes tightly shut, she prayed to every god she knew...to the Force...to any and all powers that might aid her.
"Yes, yes... whatever you have called upon is working," hissed Marna, but Silvra did not open her eyes.
Marna watched for her, seeing the torn flesh mending, broken vessels, organs and bones rejoining until only slender shiny scar shone across the black and red skin at Maul's waist. His spirit form shimmered, wavered, then disappeared. The body on the slab gasped, coughed and opened its eyes.
Silvra's arms dropped to her sides as exhaustion washed over her. Afraid to look at his face, she kept her gaze on his chest as it rose and fell with deep breaths. She took her own shuddering breath and a painful lump rose in her throat.
"Beloved..." he whispered, then reached out for her limp hand.
His touch broke her control. Uncontrollable sobs wracked her as she flung herself across him, pressing kisses to his shoulder, then burying her head against his chest.
/Make the best of it, Sith. A rare gift she has given you... don't abuse it./
Maul's gaze lifted to the Jedi's spirit standing beside him. A fleeting hatred passed through his eyes and stiffened his body before he relaxed and rueful smile quirked his mouth.
"Very well, Jedi. I agree," he said, his hands caressing Silvra, comforting her. "What must I do, in your opinion?"
/Watch Anakin and Obi-Wan. Don't allow your old Master to pervert Anakin. There is much good in him, but he is so impatient and so is Obi-Wan, that I fear they may find themselves at odds many times./
Maul gave a derisive snort. "And how am I to do this, Jedi? One look at my face and all the Council will be after me."
/You will find a way... I will help you./ Qui-Gon smiled again with a nod to Silvra, who returned a watery
"Why would you help us, Qui-Gon?" she asked.
/Because I believe in giving second chances and that there is always hope where there is life. The Jedi spirit crossed his arms with a speculative look at Maul. I believe this experience has purged you of your Master's purpose. Go on now...retrieve your son and leave this place. If you ever need me... just call me.../
His form faded before their eyes. Silvra scrubbed at her eyes and stood, drinking in her lover's form like a thirsty man presented with water. Marna backed away, silently exiting the room with a satisfied expression of work well accomplished.
"What now? Where do we go from here?"
He sighed. "Maul is no more...I renounce the title. Yet I have work I must do...we must go to Coruscant." With a groan he rose from the table, Silvra aiding him. He looked over at his Sith robes, grimacing at the though of donning them again.
"Just until we get some new ones, love," she said as she helped into the black tunics and cloak. "For now, we need to retrieve S'Khamier and make our way off planet."
Khamier frowned. "I wonder... When I arrived here I left my Infiltrator in a secret hanger."
"Do you think you could tell someone how to get there?"
A trace of his old feral smile crossed his lips before he laughed. "Two years ago I would have said yes and made certain those involved died to keep my secrets. Now..." He laughed again. "Of course. But perhaps it would be wiser if I gave you the directions. The less I am seen, the better."
Silvra joined him in his laughter. Love brimmed from her eyes, returned in full by the former Sith Lord. With all her heart, she promised herself he would have in full measure the dark passions he had awakened in her. Behind him now were those of intense anger and unreasoning hatred.
"Indeed, beloved. Though I cannot promise I will never be angry again, the only passion I wish at this moment is yours," he whispered with a look in his eyes that took her breath away.
Then he enfolded her in his arms, his lips seeking hers in a kiss to seal his pledge. Heady it was, and filled with the sweet promise of heated joining. Forgotten on the table, the amber glowed and pulsed with life.
To be continued when my obstinate Muse deigns to visit me again. :)