What To Do With Him
The nondescript starship wound its way across the galaxy, unerringly directing its cargo of two humanoids and six droids toward the outer reaches of civilization. This was a ship that was not meant to be seen, yet it was felt by many as it passed. Most aware of the passage described the feeling as dark emptiness, a cold hopelessness that permeated their souls and drained the laughter from their lips.
Within this shadowy transport, the Sith Lord that was one of the two organic beings paced slowly back and forth across the small but elegantly decorated passenger cabin. As rare as a traveling Sith Lord was, what he was doing was still more unique. In his wiry arms lay a small infant, a Zabrak male that could not have been more than a standard year old. The Sith Lord paced up and down, up and down, muttering softly to himself and glancing often at the red-and-black face.
Darth Sidious, better known as the young, amiable, and up-and-coming Ambassador Palpatine of Naboo, had discovered (much to his chagrin) that walking the infant seemed to calm it. He needed time to think, and the previous wailing had been unacceptable. So he found himself performing the disgusting and motherly act. He supposed he might have given it to the droids, but the power in the tiny body was too attractive to abandon just yet.
What to do with him? He looked down to observe the sleeping body, noting the primal, slightly soft horns that were just beginning to grow from the skull. He studied the rest of him, noting the thin arms and legs, the bright red skin and irritation still evident around the black pigment in his skin. "Maul" she had called him, and Maul he would remain. The name was appropriate, perhaps chosen by the Dark Side itself in preparation for this day.
Sidious traced his finger idly down one of the elegantly-curved tattoos, each of which told a fantastic legend that was local to Dathomir. Legends of witches and daring-do, the epic triumphs of the darkness that soaked the planet: these covered every centimeter of the infant's tender skin. His skills with ritualistic Dathomirian were rusty at best, but he found himself attempting to read the patterns anyway with the lack of other entertainment on the long flight.
He absently found a seat as he studied the designs. Ah, here was one for light. He hesitated, momentarily puzzled until he realized that no, actually, that one meant fire, referencing the mythical fire spirit of the Lowest Caves on nodded to himself. "There is a difference, young one," he rumbled to the sleeping form. "You must be the fire without the light, now that you are mine, a never-ending burning darkness and the extension of my will."
Mine, and no other's… The thought sent a dark shiver of delight through him. In his hands, the Zabrak babe woke up and opened its bright ochre-rimmed eyes, disturbed by his deep voice breaking the silence of the passenger cabin. Or perhaps even now he sensed the Dark Side that coursed through Sidious. There was no doubt, the infant was already strong with the Force, too strong to have left to the fates of the Nightsisters, or worse, the Jedi.
This "Maul" would forever be his. His to mold, his to wound, his to kill if he so desired. No other would instruct the infant without his permission. No other would command his loyalty and power. Sidious inhaled deeply and let his breath out slowly, softly hissing with the pleasure of his thoughts.
Now even the Jedi would never have a chance to corral and corrupt this pure, unblemished darkness. Sidious leaned back in his seat and half-listened to the soft chime overhead, the announcement of the halfway point to his destination – Mustafar. He would take the child there and leave him with some of his elite training droids at one of the Damask Holdings' facilities. He would be brought up as a fighter and trained in the arts of assassin and warrior alike. And then…Then…
What would he do with him then? Sidious, connoisseur of the future and master manipulator of the Dark Side, had not truly thought ahead for this. His acceptance of the wiggling bundle from the Nightsister had been driven more by a powerful urge from the Force than from his own long-term plans. At the basic level, Sidious knew he would need an apprentice of his own, someone to mold into a perfect enforcer and maybe even an equal. At the basic level, he might want that someday.
However, looking down at this tiny thing, its jagged teeth bared in a mockery of a smile, Sidious was uncertain. In his long and dark perusals of the Force's will, he thought he had seen something greater in his future than this. But this infant would grow quickly and his power with him. The only problem was the Munn.
Hego Damask, known to a precious few by his true name, Darth Plagueis, Dark Lord of the Sith. The deceptively mild and wealthy banker, Plagueis was straying from the path of the true Sith Lords on his self-centered quest for immortality. In his cold-hearted assumption that he would succeed in this task, Plagueis often spoke to his apprentice of the ancient Rule of Two. Soon, Plagueis promised, their joint immortality would render finding new Force-users unnecessary.
For all time would be the master and the apprentice, never-changing. The teacher and learner, the master and slave, Plagueis and Sidious. A guttural snarl of unrestrained hatred surged between his gritted teeth at the thought. "The fool," he snapped. "He thinks to hold me on his leash for eternity." In his arms, the Zabrak let out a tiny growl to mirror his own. He glanced down and calmed himself with a faint smile and a small rearrangement of the tiny body. "Eternity will pass much sooner than he expects, I can promise that."
Maul released a miniscule roar of hunger, and Sidious was brought back to the present. What to do with this one in the meantime? Perhaps he could hide the boy's existence from Plagueis until he was old enough to... Sidious abandoned the thought quickly. The risk of Plagueis finding out about his deception was too high. He had to move carefully.
Then Plagueis would have to be told. Just not…immediately… Sidious needed time to think, to delve into the currents of darkness and plot his path. Even now, the Dark Side caressed his blackened soul and promised him success in this endeavor. Maul would be very useful; he foresaw this with crystal clarity. How, he did not yet know, and really, he did not yet care. All would fall into place in time. And he would know the moment to tell Plagueis when it came.
The infant let out another squeaky snarl. Sidious glanced down and mentally reached toward the child's mind. It held no defenses, unlike his own young mind years ago, but instead the infant flooded him with images of raw, shredded meat and gnawed bones. "Ah, my famished little Nexu," Sidious chuckled softly and pressed the service button beside his chair.
411-XCD's monotonous tones droned over the intercom, "Orders, sir?"
"Exceed, bring some of the meat from the mess to the passenger cabin."
The droid showed no surprise. "And would you like that prepared to well or medium, sir?"
Sidious glanced down at the razor-sharp teeth that clicked hungrily together. "Make that raw. And warm it slightly." Exceed replied in the affirmative, although Sidious caught a slight waver of confusion in its modulated Coruscanti accent.
As he waited, Sidious gently ran his hand over the infant's head, watching as the child leaned into his touch, butting the soft horns against his fingers. He sensed a warm comfort in the babe's mind, and tightened his grip on one of the horns until the warmness dissolved to heated pain. Maul snarled, and the pair scowled at each other. "Do not think this will be easy," Sidious warned.
When the droid arrived with the meal, Sidious took a long piece in his hand and held it over the infant, just out of reach. "How long has it been?" he crooned softly, pleasantly.
Maul's tiny body went rigid as he took in the smell and sight, then exploded in a furious struggle upward to seize hold. Sidious watched, dispassionate, as the Zabrak found its body too weak to carry out the task. The sharp teeth gnashed together, catching on the chapped lips and tearing into the skin. Still the infant, not yet a year old, growled its hunger.
"You… are an animal, Maul," Sidious reflected quietly as he dangled the stringy piece before the growling child. Maul ignored his words and swiped his sharp little fingers out, snagging his nails into the meat and drawing it into his bloody maw. Sidious grinned at the determined grimace on the tiny face. Single-minded, forceful, ignorant of personal danger, an apex predator assured of its place in the universe.
No doubt Maul would make a fine weapon. But that was all Sidious could see in the future. The infant was already too single-minded, too passionate, too eager to destroy all in his path. The Sith who survived knew when to fall back, when to cover themselves in the darkness and bide their time. Only much rigorous training could beat Maul's arrogance from him, to put the animal on a tight leash.
He withheld the second piece as well, watching the infant throw itself into a ravenous bloodlust. Maul reminded him of an imported Nexu cub, all teeth and claws and hunger. He had once smuggled one into one of his boarding schools, so many year ago. The resulting chaos and violence had been well worth the expulsion and abuse from his father.
"Did not your mother teach you better manners than that?" he taunted softly but finally let the second piece drop into reach. It disappeared quickly down the wide-open mouth.
He slipped the final piece of meat to the infant, already growing bored with Maul's grunting protests. Sidious was no baby minder. The training droids would do these tasks for him, until Maul was old enough to begin his true training. When the infant swallowed the last chunk, Sidious moved Maul back to his tiny carrier and reclaimed his seat.
He glanced at his hand, slick with the warm blood from the meat, shrugged, and slowly licked it from his fingers. It tasted surprisingly good, a sweet flavor that coated his mouth and left him hungry for more. He imagined what his genteel friends of Naboo might say to this. Sidious reached for one of the towels that Exceed had left and cleaned his hands carefully. Once done, he eyed the Zabrak who was now sleepily turning in the small carrier and searching for a place to rest.
Sidious sighed, and when he spoke, his voice was deceptively gentle. "Perhaps we all have an animal in us, young one. Someday, you will learn to suppress yours, as I have mine, until the day we will no longer be required to hide."
And oh, how he looked forward to that.
While cleaning out files on my computer and having a few minutes of spare time, I finished up this "missing scene" from Darth Plagueis. It takes place between the point when Maul's mother drops him off with Palpatine and the point when Plagueis and Palpatine meet at the Gathering. Apologies for not updating much of late. Life has been absolutely a madhouse. Season 5 of Clone Wars has come out and I've barely been able to watch it. Go Palpatine/Sidious/updated CGI model! Whip that wayward apprentice of yours into shape!
Reviews are always much beloved! :)