The Apprentice I

The Apprentice

 

Lord Zahira walked into a dusty cantina in a backwater outpost on Tatooine. Her most recent Cartel contract had brought her to this desert planet. She had been tracking a Republic spy, and needed to make him vanish before he could do any more damage.

The nice thing about the open desert was that the man had screamed for hours before the scent of his blood attracted scavengers. Disposing of the body hadn’t been a problem. The seclusion gave her time to enjoy her work. The scent and taste of his fear was almost as sharp as the red of his blood splashed across the sand. Her heat rose when she saw the acceptance in his eyes, the knowledge that he was hers, and that she would take him by the hand and lead him to his death. She was pleased with the kill. Her pleasure hovered around her like wisps of fragrant fire that she could sense like a dark perfume.

Despite the day’s entertainment, she’d had about enough of Jawas and sand, and now she just wanted to get paid and go back to Dromund Kaas. She arrived early for the meeting in the run-down cantina, thinking that she might as well stay out of the suns while she waited.

`There was a Twi’lek standing at the bar. She was pink, her face and lekku marked with black stripes. She turned to glance at another Twi’lek, dancing at a table not far away, and Zahira saw the look of contempt on the pink one’s face. She radiated Force power like an arc light in the darkness. “Ahh, to take this one on a journey through pain and pleasure.” She thought.

She walked up to the bar, stood next to her, and smiled.

When the Twi’lek looked at her with huge violet eyes, Zahira saw a slave brand high on her left cheek. She mused to herself that they had one thing in common.

“I was a slave too, before the Academy.” Zahira said to her. “But no longer. I am Lord Malakh, now.

“I’m no slave. I’m no Sith, either.” She replied. “I’m just Tigris, and the Academy can kiss my ass.” Tigris eyed the tall Zabrak, watching for her reaction. Zahira looked amused and ordered drinks for the two of them.

Several strong drinks later, Tigris told her story. Tigris and her older sister Shiri, the blue beauty dancing for tips several tables over, had fled the academy and survived. Tigris had been born to Ruitan parents but because of her color had brought shame to them. Shiri was their precious one, pampered and given everything. When the time came for them to give up their first born to slavers as was custom, they gleefully offered up Tigris instead of her older sister.

When her Force abilities became evident, she had been purchased by an ambitious Master and sent to Korriban. To her mind, academy life was no better than slavery and she balked at obeying orders and authority. Shiri was also force-sensitive, and her parents had spared no expense to send her to the Academy to train.

The siblings had found each other on Korriban and her sister had tried to reconcile with Tigris by helping her escape. They had been living by their wits, scraping up enough credits to survive by any means necessary in the shady underworld of Tatooine. Tigris loved and hated her sister with a passion only sibling rivalries could fuel. The deprivation of Tatooine didn’t stop them from fighting like womp rats over a day-old carcass and they were currently on the outs.

By the time her shifty-looking Rodian contact showed up and headed to his back room “office,” Zahira was out of hard credits and the Twi’lek was drunk. She excused herself and went to talk business with the fixer, leaving Tigris at the bar.

Tigris watched her go. The Zabrak was interesting but wasn’t like some of the other Sith who had talked to her. She was almost certain that Zahira had been flirting with her. She turned to look at her sister, busy with her latest mark, plying the man for credits and drinks. He was trying to get her to come back to his room, and she looked like she was going along with it. She didn’t like the feel of him and tried to give a warning to her sister, but she wasn’t paying attention. Tigris sighed and discretely followed her sister out of the bar.

In the office, the Rodian was pleased to hear that the spy was no longer a problem. Her fees were high, but Zahira had a reputation for lethal efficiency with no witnesses or survivors. He delayed her with chit-chat, tempting her with work financed by some Hutt or another, despite her repeated statements that she was not interested. She stared at him with crimson eyes; he finally shut up and paid her.

When she walked back into the bar, she was disappointed to find that both Twi’leks were gone. She mounted her rented swoop outside and headed out of town, hoping to make Mos Ila spaceport by nightfall. She twisted through the alleys of the place. The lanes varied from open squares choked by raucous vendors to narrow byways that were deathly silent and empty. Zahira’s senses prickled in one such empty place, and she stopped, alerted. Something twisted inside her chest as she recognized the presence of another Sith. But it wasn’t… yes. It was. Tigris was nearby.

She could feel her raw presence somewhere close – down that turn, around that way. Zahira slipped into the shadows, vanishing from view. She was hunting now, her senses finely tuned, a predatory instinct driving her forward. She followed the bright aura that seemed to be just around every corner. As she got closer, she could feel the Twi’lek flaring with anger. Her passion was tempting.

Zahira sucked on her bottom lip, smiled a little and stalked her prey through the alleys. She savored the chase; there was something about this Twi’lek that excited her. If she wasn’t Sith, what was she? Could she be tempted? As she rounded the corner, she saw the blue glare of a light saber as it flashed through the shadows, and the body of a male falling to the sandy street.

Shiri screamed at Tigris in panic. “He wasn’t hurting me, damn you!”

“Not yet.” Tigris deactivated the saber and stepped back. “He was going to hurt you, Shiri. Take you away and sell you as a slave.” Shiri knelt beside the man’s body and quickly stripped him of valuables. Tigris continued, “I could hear him think it. I could feel it. I’d rather die than see a slave collar again — even on the likes of you.”

The blue Twi’lek assailed her sister with a string of profanity and they began arguing in the darkening street. Zahira watched invisible in the shadows, hidden by the Force and by her sorcery. Tigris tried to reason with her sister, but the girl wasn’t listening. She was headstrong, self-centered and self-important. When she turned her back and stalked away from Tigris, the pink Twi’lek burned with anger.

Zahira broke her spell and stepped out of the shadows. To her surprise, Tigris turned to her calmly. “I wondered how long you’d been there.”

“Long enough.” She replied. “Let’s get this body out of here before a patrol comes through.” She wrestled the body of the man up on to her shoulder and somehow managed to get herself, Tigris, and the dead man secured to the rented swoop.

The machine groaned under the weight but held up as they crawled over the sands to a desolate place far outside the town. They put the body at the base of a dune. With a burst of power, Tigris moved a cascade of sand to cover it.

The long ride back through the night-kissed sand dunes gave Zahira time to think. The Twi’lek was powerful. Her Force burned with an intensity that Zahira could almost taste. She knew now that she didn’t want to kill her.

The Twi’lek was completely untrained, wildly out of control and it was a miracle that some other Sith hadn’t found her and returned her to the Academy–or killed her. Or perhaps someone had tried and they were now just one more desiccated husk drying out under a sand dune twenty miles outside of civilization.

The feel of Tigris behind her was almost comforting. At the speed they were going it was certainly necessary for her to hold on. The Twi’lek held her gently, with no urgency or fear of falling from the swoop. The longer she felt Tigris’ arms around her waist, with her head tucked down behind Zahira’s shoulders to shield her face from the wind, the more she wished the journey were longer. Something flared to life inside her – something she thought had died on Korriban.

Her passion stirred and fed the memories of her past. She thought of the long nights in the slave mews, curled against Shonna’s body in the dark, safe from overseers and guards. Shonna had taught her how to survive, how to love and how to make love. Zahira had repaid her with betrayal and death. Her thoughts stilled. “Such is the way of the Sith. This time, it will be different.” She shook her head.

There had to be some way to keep Tigris with her. She was so strong, so… delicious. Zahira knew she would be either wasted or dead on this desolate planet, and was unwilling to leave her behind. She would teach her every lesson she’d learned without resorting to the cruelty of her first Master or the rigors of the Academy. Tigris was pure potential and if she could teach her how to control her power, she could be something magnificent. She could be hers. Together, they could be unstoppable.

Yes. That was the answer she was looking for. She would make the girl her apprentice. Teach her. Guide her. The thought filled her with pride and anticipation.

Zahira brought the swoop to the Mos Ila Star port. Tigris never stopped her or corrected her path. She had never asked where she would like to go, or where she was staying. When they dismounted, she stood quietly and looked at the pink Twi’lek.

“You can stay on my ship tonight.” Zahira offered.

Tigris looked at her for a long time, her eyes deep violet in the harsh lights of the port. She needed a place to stay and she was hours away from the single room she shared with Shiri. One night wouldn’t matter, and the Sith would be gone in the morning. Finally, she shrugged, and said, “Sure.”

Zahira nodded. She turned away from Tigris and walked into the star port, headed for her ship. She heard the scuff of Tigris’ boots behind her as she followed, but didn’t look back until she had entered the hangar. She lowered the ramp to the Shining Angel and led Tigris inside.

Pausing just inside the doors, Tigris stopped and leaned against the bulkhead, resting her hands behind her back. The question went unasked, but was plain to see in Tigris’ eyes, so plain she almost heard it in her mind.

“Do you want me?” The pull of emotion inside her core made Zahira gasp.

Within the space of a heartbeat, Zahira closed the distance between them, wrapped her arms around Tigris’ waist and whispered the answer against her ear cone. Tigris replied with a fiercely passionate kiss. There was no need for further conversation for quite some time.

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