Chapter III: Korriban
“You will do as I tell you.” Lord Kirak spoke close to her ear. “You are still a slave,” She stared ahead at the wall of the shuttle. His voice was quiet against the whine of hyperspace travel. “But you are my slave. I will not have you to answering any other but me. I will train you to use the darkness that grows inside of you. You will be my warrior, and my weapon. Tell no one of this. Do you understand me?”
Zahira nodded silently. Her face remained blank and passive. Her hate for the man flared in her mind and body. Kirak chuckled softly and leaned back in his chair. “Yes. Feed that hate, little girl. It will serve you well. You will learn the ways of it and it will make you strong. “
Korriban was very much like home. The desert air felt good on her face. She craned her neck to look up at the towering red stone walls and massive statues above the landing pad. She fell in behind her master as he walked down the dusty paths and durasteel walkways from the port to the Academy. They passed tombs guarded by soldiers and Zahira spotted other slaves going about their labors inside. Hopefuls, acolytes and apprentices scurried around the grounds, avoiding him and paying no notice to her.
After walking in the heat for some time, Kirak entered one of the tombs. He led her down dark, unused corridors until he came to a slab of rock covered with strange markings.
“This tomb has many secrets, little girl. This is one of them.” He showed her how to press a sequence of hidden triggers and the slab slid away to reveal a passage. The door closed behind them silently. He pulled glow rods from a crate just inside the door and led her within.
“Here is where you will meet me when I call for you. This will be your training ground for now. It’s important you never be seen coming or going from this place, so your first lesson will be how to detect the presence of others.”
She nodded and Lord Kirak began her first lesson, giving name, form, and function to the power that raged inside her. Force he called it. Zahira soaked up his words and for the first time felt the potential of the power that was within her. She was special, just as he had told her father. She would redeem her clan pride after all.
When the lesson was concluded, they slipped from the tomb. He led her along the cool underground corridors that eventually led to a large courtyard. Slaves toiled in the dirt, moving earth and stone to uncover the ruins buried beneath the sand.
“This is the tomb of a great Sith Lord.” He said. “You will join these others in their labor until I call for you.” He motioned towards the tents clustered against one crumbling wall. “Go there to find a place for yourself. Do as the overseers tell you, but remember, you are mine. When I come for you, you will do as I say.”
Zahira stared at him, defiance in her eyes. Lord Kirak raised his hand and slapped her across the face. “Go!” His voice echoed off the rock, making nearby slaves look up, then look away.
The slap stung, but she didn’t cry out. She turned back to meet his eyes. “Yes, my Lord.” She backed away several steps before turning to walk to the tents.
The slave camp on Korriban was far different from that on Dromund Kaas. These people had been together for many years and newcomers were rare. There were Zabrak women here. They fussed over her like she was their own youngster, finding clothes, distractions, and light work for her.
Zahira was already tall for her age and she continued to grow taller on Korriban. “Built like a bantha,” the old overseer had called her. She was proving his prediction. Working at the dig site was difficult and as the time passed, her arms and shoulders became hard and rounded with muscle. Her horns split the skin on her skull and grew until they ringed her head in a crown of spikes. Well over 6 feet tall, she towered over most of the other slaves. She knew she would never be a beauty so she rediscovered her pride and her arrogance and wore them like armor.
She kept to herself and stayed with the women. The incident on Dromund Kaas left her with a deep fear of being alone, especially of being alone with a male. Nightmares of that time troubled her–images of something terrible and shameful that haunted her, but for which she had no name.
When the dreams came, she often woke to find Shonna comforting her with soothing words. Shonna was a Zabrak with dark red skin marked with jagged black tattoos that matched her black horns. She usually slept in the bunk next to hers. The other Zabrak stroked Zahira’s hair and dried her tears until she fell asleep again. When Shonna stayed with her and wrapped her arms around her shoulders, the dreams didn’t come back at all.
Lord Kirak trained her in the secret tomb as often as he could get away. She devoured the knowledge he gave her. He taught her how to use the Force to power and control the lightning that had burst from her twice before. He told her that she had an innate talent with the spells and forms needed to bend the Force to her will. He bragged that she would surpass any of the aspirants currently studying in the Academy. Each time she left the tomb, her senses tingled with satisfaction. She could now feel the power of the Force coming from the planet itself, infusing every stone she picked up. She was growing stronger and wanted to show the Academy just how magnificent she could be.
When she asked him when she would join them, he put her off, “It isn’t the right time. You are my secret, acolyte. When you are ready, I will unleash you on my enemies.”
The other Zabrak women sat with her one evening and told her that it was time for her Rising. They apologized for not being able to do it properly, but they were her family now. They would do what they could to give her a proper Res Selenoren.
The crafted challenges and trials for her, and she passed them all with ease. They held her Rising in the privacy of the tents, and Zahira became an adult in the eyes of her people.
Late one night, in the darkness of the women’s tent, Shonna made the jatos on Zahira’s face with a tiny machine, etching black soot-ink permanently into her skin. “These.” She said, as she traced several jagged lines from her eyes to her cheeks, “These are the tears you must never cry again, Pelira.” She traced a symbol over her lips and down her chin, “And this is the mark of silence. You will carry secrets always in your heart.” She made a mark on her forehead, “And this is to protect you from nightmares.”
As the sting of the ink faded, Shonna kissed her. Zahira felt a fire in her core that wasn’t Force at all. She put her arms around Shonna as she had for many nights for many years. On this night, they did not sleep.
She felt the man follow her into the tunnels, though she couldn’t see him. He’d been eying her for days, trying to be close to her, trying to get her to talk to him. He reminded her of the young men on Dromund Kaas – full of masculine power and pride. There was something he wanted from her that was confusing, violent, and it scared her. Feeling his approach, she hid behind a half-crumbled statue to watch him pass by. She sensed his emotions and knew he was hunting her. She knew the feel of it – the same excitement the pack on Dromund Kaas had in their minds when they’d nearly killed her.
The man was a threat. He meant to track her into the tunnels and do to her what the others had done to her when she was a child. He would hurt her and kill her unless she killed him first. Her eyes narrowed and she moved behind him. Her master wanted her to practice her skills. This was as good a time as any.
The man didn’t have time to scream before the shock of lightning fried his body. He died instantly and it left Zahira frustrated. She wanted to hurt him, not kill him right away. Males like him deserved to die. They also deserved to feel every bit of pain they had caused her and scream out their last breath in agony.
Dissatisfied with herself, and afraid her master would be upset with her, she shouldered the body and trudged down to the depths of a side cavern. The Shyracks had a nest here. They would take care of the evidence for her. She would not make a mistake like this again.
The new guard had been watching her as she walked across the dig site, ferrying tools, equipment, stone and crates of materials. She sneered to herself as she passed him, feeling the now-familiar pull of his arousal. She smelled the cruelty that the guards reserved for the women they thought they could intimidate into compliance. He had already forced two of the women in the camp to participate in his depraved desires. She vowed to make certain that his “entertainment” spree was over.
She’d worn clothes a little too old, a little too small. They revealed without revealing. Fabric strained against her body, accentuating her form and showing every line of muscle underneath. She dropped her load and walked casually to a side entrance to the tomb. She paused, looked back at him, and with a simple nudge of the Force, gave him the will to follow her. She walked inside the cool tunnel and vanished in the darkness.
Lord Kirak had been training her in the seductive arts, much to her distaste. She knew full well that there was nothing she could do–he owned her–so she added one more stone to the mountain of hate she held for him. She knew what the men wanted from her now, and loathed them for it.
It wasn’t long before the guard’s boots scuffed on the stone floor. “Here!” She whispered in the dark, “Come here! I know a place…” Her voice echoed off the stone and she led him, turn by turn, following her voice in the dark until she had him right where she wanted him. His arousal and his cruelty grew as he chased her in the dark.
She opened the panel to the secret tomb aside and lit a glow stick. Now that he could see her, his lust and eagerness made him bold. He pushed her inside. She slid the door closed behind them. He grabbed her shoulders and shoved her up against the wall. His hands groped her breasts.
High above in the roof of the tomb, a small red light flicked on unnoticed.
She controlled the first burst of lightning that stunned the guard and rendered him unconscious. Smiling, she dragged his body to the platform of the tomb, restrained him and began her work. Since her first failed attempt, she had lured a few other males here to the punishment and death they deserved. She knelt in meditation first, feeding on the feeling of triumph at getting him here. Now she needed to keep him alive so she could hone her skills for as long as she dared keep him.
She stood, and jolted a bolt of electricity through him. He woke up, cursed and glared; fought his bonds and said hateful things. Zahira smiled broadly, absorbing his rage and finding the well of fear he was so desperate to hide.
She began with the shocks, experimenting with how long and how much energy she needed to expend in order to cause the most pain. Finding the limits of her own power and the power of the guard to survive, was her goal. He gave up easily and screamed in glorious agony for hours.
When she grew tired of shocking him she toyed with his mind, searching for his deepest fears to lock his mind in a stupor of panic. She tried everything she knew, everything she had learned at Kirak’s feet.
Zahira never heard the door open behind her.
She whipped around, shocked. She had not felt him approach, or heard him enter. The guard dropped his head, senseless. She stammered, “M.. My Lord.” And froze, terrified.
“You forgot something, Slave.” His red eyes blazed from beneath his black hood.
“Master?” Her fear was palpable. He would kill her for bringing someone here.
“You forgot the whirling wind.” Lord Kirak raised his hand and spun the air and tomb dust and dirt around the guard, lifting his body and tearing the bonds from his hands. He spun in the air, comatose and helpless. “Now. End it.”
Zahira closed her eyes tightly, balled her fist, gathered her power and struck a Force blow at the guard. He slammed against the wall, his neck snapped by the impact.
Kirak turned and walked back to the door. He stopped, turned to her and said, “I believe those Shyracks are expecting you by now. Best not keep them waiting when they are hungry. You have done well.”
Zahira fell to her knees and lowered her head to the floor in gratitude.
Eighteen years. Half of her life spent in slavery and in secret. She should have been a warrior by now. Instead, she sat in the shade of a crumbling rock wall sucking meat off the bones of her lunch and listening to the whispers of rebellion stirring in the camp.
Kirak had given her an assignment. Find out who was driving the rebellion, end his life, and during that end, find the names of his inner circle. She would be allowed to use the tomb for her work. If she was successful, he would free her and let her train with the others. She would be allowed to prove her worth and take her place among the Sith where she belonged.
Messages had been flying back and forth all day–ciphers written on chips of stone and passed hand-to-hand on top of buckets of dirt. There would be a meeting tonight and only long-time workers would be there. The message said that they would be awakened when it was safe to meet. These were people Zahira knew and trusted, people who had raised her to adulthood and were as close to her as family.
They meant nothing in the face of achieving her goal.
She woke as Shonna shook her shoulder. “Come on,” She whispered, “Get up.” Zahira rose quietly and stood in her night clothes. Other women were also standing around, stretching and whispering. Shonna moved towards the end of the tent where the stoves burned to keep the chill desert air at bay. The women gathered around for warmth.
“We meet.” Shonna said. “We meet — you and me and all of us together, to end our slavery and take the freedom we deserve.”
Zahira paled in the dark and hoped no one saw. It was Shonna.
“The men are meeting in their own tent but the message is the same.” She continued, “Slicers are working on the droids, weapons have been purchased and stashed in secret. When the time comes, we overpower the guards, make for the shuttle, and get off-planet before the alarm can be raised.”
Shonna scratched a map of the dig site in the dust on the ground. “Our weapons are here… here… and here. When you hear the call, you’ll know it. Grab what is handed you, kill whatever stands in your way, and get to the shuttle pad. We have a pilot among the men who can get us out.” The women nodded assent. Shonna had picked her conspirators carefully. None refused to help.
Back in her bunk, Zahira held Shonna close, feeling their hearts pound with excitement and anxiety. Neither could sleep so they lay there breathing, not daring to move or talk. Zahira had two choices and no easy answers. With time and the long night, her answer became clear.
Before the sun rose, she crawled from the bunk and whispered to Shonna to follow her. They slipped out of the tent, and into a tunnel that led deep underground. Once they were alone, spoke. “I want to show you my secret place. Maybe you can put some weapons there, or you can hide if you need to. Will you come with me?” Shonna nodded. continued, “And tell… Who? Who are the men who are helping us?”
Shonna whispered in the dark, the name of her counterpart on the men’s side and the name of the pilot. “Good.” Zahira said, “You can show them this place later. Take note of where we are going so you don’t get lost – I can only show you the way this one time. I won’t be able to get back here before the time is right.”
She took Shonna to the abandoned tomb, showed her how to open the door, and they slipped inside. Shonna gaped in wonder and looked around the room, excited. “I love it!” She cried. “I wish I’d known about it earlier. We could have done so much with it!”
“I’m glad you like it,” Zahira said, sadness in her voice.
“What? What is it, Pelira?” Shonna looked at her strangely.
“This is your end. You will never leave this room.” Zahira’s voice cracked with emotion. Shonna looked at her, confused. Zahira made her decision, and choked out the words, “I have done my job. I have found the leader of the rebellion, and I will be rewarded.”
“No!” Shonna crumpled to the ground. “Don’t do this, please! I just want to be free. You want to be free. Please?” She looked up, tears in her eyes. “Zaha. I love you.”
Zahira gathered her power and shocked her where she lay on the floor. Shonna screamed and looked at her with bitter hatred in her eyes.
“You are not one of us! What are you?”
Zahira moved her hands in an intricate pattern, calling up the greatest ability she knew. The lightning arced purple and deadly from her hands, killing Shonna instantly.
She looked at the body and whispered to the empty tomb. “I am Sith.”