Forged By Fire
It had been two years since the duel, two years since the woman he loved but who never truly understood him, accepted the darkness with the light had paid the price for not knowing in her heart who he was. For the darkness had always been equal to the good, and in truth that had never changed. In truth, he needed someone who had walked the path he had, who had Death in the confines of their soul in order to find peace. He needed the hero and the villian of the ancient Hellmouth. He needed Willow Rosenberg to bring him to the Valley of Peace that was the Balance, to be redeemed in shades of grey.
Chapter One: Children of the Abyss
To see her was understanding
to know the pain and the rage in her eyes
the horrible cost for cheating death of so many lives
what it meant to live in a Hellish world plagued with lies
all the things you must give and the human toll of sacrafice.
No need to raise himself when he understood so perfectly.
An ungrateful Providence forever of it's Champions demanding
while claiming the souls of all they hold dear
lifting no finger when true Evil rose by power of fear
more cannon fodder and unanswered tears
a calling from which they are never set free.
And what if Hell lay in wait underneath
clawing and ripping beneath fragile skin
rising in answer to a Creation drowning in sin
yet so willing to point the judging finger at them
did they not also have the right to be free?
To see her was to gaze into the abyss holding back a thousand screams
uncounted shadows, death, Evil incarnate
to understand goodness cruelly stolen by cold fate
a universe committing upon it's most loyal awful rape
his mirrior forged by the fires of Hell and broken promises and dreams
-Those who Favor Fire excerpt by Makilome
It had been the first time that he had a dream that did not feature his departed and beloved Padame. And it was not of smiles, laughter, stolen kisses in sunlit meadows. It was an all to familar scene, one that put a lump in his throat. But it was not him, either. This was a woman, a woman who bore power the likes of which he had never seen, Jedi though he may be. and this did not seem like something random, something his tired mind conjured in his sleep after a long day working on the blue prints for what he dubbed his masterpiece. It would take years . decades for him to complete building the Death Star. By then he hoped to have ended the Emperor. His old friends, they never gave him the chance to explain. They didn't look to understand. Their judgement was cruel, with no room for mercy, no one had been willing to hear what he had to say. His motives, what he planned were still for the people. He held their best interests at heart. He was meerly playing a role, skipping to the Emperor's tune till he was ready to end this farce and make his move. Politics did not work, the Old Republic proved that by being so willing to sale their freedom for safety that was no more than an illusion. It had been all to easy, many had been so corrupted it was nothing for them to throw in their lot with a Sith. None of them cared about the Force, about Light and Dark. They cared that they could feed and shelter their families.
To work in their everyday lives without constantly living in fear for when the next ship would land and spark another intergalatic war that would more than likely end up with them dead! He wished the Jedi had open eyes, paid attention to the plight of their people instead of caring only for themselves, thier power, position. They had taught him that Light and Dark was a point of view, changing with each individual to him you spoke. What mattered was peace, family, security, and those who could not give them these things had no business ruling over them, be they the corrupt Old Republic or the cruel tyranny of his 'master'. And now a voice rang out, out shouting and overpowering the den, screaming so loud he held his head in his hands! But the images did not stop with waking. There was so much more! The woman, with hair the color of blood and beautiful eyes shinning brighter than the finest emeralds, she lived in a world filled with monsters in the true sense, demons forged from the beginning of existance by great beings that had no morals, no code, nothing that would dictate to them what was wrong and what was right. Amoral, it was that which he strived for, that which he reached desperately. She was hunted, by accident she found who and what she was, and she was so much more than anyone he had ever seen! Master Yoda and the Emperor, they had no ability to weild the power contained within her tiny frame. It struck him with awe, and it spoke to him across galaxies.
He had always known that the ways of the Sith and the Jedi were confining, cutting off potential instead of incouraging growth and exploration of what was possible. The energy that hummed beneath his veins since he had been a child had no name. But he knew that the 'Force' was not the full truth. Seeing it now filled him with raw excitement and deep conflict. The red haired woman understood Hell, beneath her skin it's darkness raged, held back and controled by someone who looked so deceptively fragile. She understood revenge, loss, death at an age far to young. He had never been so keenly reminded of that last fight with Obi Wan than now. With eyes black as sin, windows into the abyss, hair the color of midnight and skin so pale it glowed like the stars she stood, a tower of raw and unrestrained power before an ancient tower that she rose with nothing more that the movement of her hands, rage and uncontrolable grief so strong it knocked the wind out of him, feeling everything she felt as her outstreched hands sought to end the suffering of her world by bringing it all to the end. Her friends, a painful reminder of all those who were once dear had turned their backs, unforgiving and not willing to understand. He trembled for her, reaching out with a power that had not been used in all the years he had spent as Jedi or the two spent here. He had to know who she was, where she was! Perhaps there was still good in him, because all he could think about was that he had to find her, had to rescue her from herself!
A dark haired male had been the only one of them that had any spine! Facing down someone whom he had no power to stop. He used his words, used her own past against her, though if you asked him he would disagree if he didn't try to punch you. And the pain engulfed her, crushing her down and searing into her broken heart as she sunk down after she almost killed him. The darkness receded from the surface, hair bleeding back to it's natural color, emerald eyes that were far older than anyone he had ever met. He was startled when he heard an audible gasp. When he used her eyes as she rose, he understood that this was the memory of a very powerful being. One which had no restrictions, knew no limits on what she could do. There was but one word to describe it, a word treated as a joke, as a by line amongst his own. Magick, like that of the ancient worlds, weilded no differently from any other weapon by the legendery founders of the Jedi that others told him was nothing more than myth grafted on to historical people. But he had always known that their was something more to it, alot more to it! It sang to him, to any of those who were sensitive to the Force across galaxies that neither the Empire or the Old Republic knew anything about. But the deeds that kept the hellish gates of that blue world closed affected every creature and living thing of every race.
The intinsity of her emotions, her volatile power and the power of his grief had a vice grip on the heart he had thought dead and burried with Padme. He gripped onto it and refused to let go. lt had been so long since he had felt anything, let alone something this strong! But he was forced out of his thoughts when the Emperor's page sounded his arrival on the com. He demanded Anakin's presense immediately. He felt his stomach drop, fearing that he had not been alone in what he had just seen. If this woman was real, the Emperor would stop at nothing to find her and possess her, using her power to bolster his own. Knowing how he had been tricked, the older man playing upon his insecurities, the young love between him and his beautiful though not understanding nor entirely accepting of his wife, planted dreams of losing her in child birth to make him desperate and willing to sacrafice anything and everything to stop that from happening. Ironicly it ended up a self fulfilling prophecy. By the actions he had took and his irrevocable step into the darkside he had been the one that sent her to her early grave. And his grief, just like the woman in the dream, knew no bounds, it had brought the free galaxies to their knees and young and old Jedi alike had paid the price for his sins. He felt he knew this woman, he understood her, and she understood him in a way that his wife never could, never would. A part of him resented the fact that it was only bits and pieces of him she loved. She did not embrace the darkness lying within his soul.
Those closest were the ones who pointed the judigng fingers the most. She was now so desperately alone, cut off from the others. She walked paths of which they had no understanding. They didn't know what it was to hold so much power, to see the evil all around you and yet no one will let you use that power to combat it head on. To be isolated by brilliance, by all the things that made her and him both the most feared of all those that walked in their worlds. Just like he had known, all those years ago when he had looked to Padame for redemption, deep in the confines of his being, that he didn't belong with the Jedi. He didn't belong with the Sith. His was the more ancient path to walk, to rediscover what was lost and awaken it anew. The Force did not really explain the humming energy vibrating beneath his skin, running through his veins. His connection with the forces of nature, drawing energy in from the things around him as well as using his own personal power was a thing only heard of when gods were still spoken of and worshiped. And he couldn't explain it, but he knew that those gods, they were not just figments of imagination for those who feared their mortality. When he was a boy he could hear the voices, felt the cold that was a poster sign almost announcing that something beyond human comprehension was out there, living in different planes that overlapped his own. His Emperor had laughed at him, but the woman had showed him.
She showed him that Hell and demons, true demons made only to reign in blood and carnage were not just some interesting story or hallucinations. It was all far to real. It chilled him to the bone to know, to understand that Heaven and Hell, good and evil were not just abstract concepts, and sometimes you had to deal in absolutes. Truth was not relative, and facts were facts, as concrete as the deck he now walked following the young messenger and feeling sorry for him. He wonder what lies he had been told about the Emperor before he had been brought into his service. He was almost skipping down the winding passages, eyes betraying his innocence for all the world to see. He himself couldn't even remember back to a time when his soul had not been tainted, when his hands had not been stained by the blood of countless millions, those who's only crime was to place faith with those who were corrupt to their very core and manipulated them to pick up rustic weapons to battle the technology of the Empire and it's clone army. He wondered if the woman could remember a time like that, when Creation wasn't trying to crush the very life out of them by throwing at them obstacles that were impossible for the ordinary being to survive. He wanted to reach out to her, provide her an out from her isolation and utter dispare. With all her power she did not yet have control, a very dangerous thing. It plagued his thoughts, that look of profound and soul shattering pain, her cries ringing in his ears like the sound of a wounded animal.
When they reached the Emperor he was sitting upon his make-shift throne, his visit had been unexpected and sudden, causing his men to scuttle about in panic to make him comfortable, making Anakin try to cover up his growl of annoyance with a fake cough that had the boy in front of him asking if he was alright. He needed all of his men at their posts! The rebel army had gained some momentum, and the challenge they presented could not go unanswered, not with the planets already fed up with the cruelty and coldness of the older Sith Lord who needed but a banner to rally underneath for the excuse to throw in their lot and along with it their supplies, currency, resources and strategic bases from which they could as they grew do some damage to them. His 'master' was entirely to short sighted, forgetting just how it was he came to power in the first place by using the same means that the rebels adopted and made their own. He kept these thoughts locked deeply away, in that place which the Emperor could never penetrate with his steely gaze. Those that were seeing to him bowed upon his entrance as he strode up to the foot of his throne. He bowed low, inwardly loathing himself for not having let Windu complete his mission and kill the old bastard. He had been played for a fool, but all hope was not yet gone. He fought a smirk at the idea that hope rested into the two most feared and hated beings in the known universe. After getting his kicks and making his apprentice grovel, something which went against the very heart of who he was, the Emperor began to speak wearing a delighted and shark like smile.
The glint in his eyes was beyond deadly, and with the pleased mood he was in, Anakin did not want to think about what it was he had done to put him in such a jovial mood. "You may rise Lord Vader!" he said, looking on as he slowly rose to his feet after kneeling during his long bow. He raised his eyes, for this one time thankful of the helment that made his features and expressions invisable to all. "To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit, Master?" he forced himself not to choke on the bile that rose in his throat every time he was forced to use that title. The Emperor was not worthy for his subjects, or the lowests pits of Hell, and he felt a certain satisfaction about knowing where he would end up at the end of his days. It reminded him of what the more ancient Jedi who understood and wielded magick and walked with the gods would say. Everything you cast out, either good or bad, will come back to you by three. There was a price to pay for all the lives the Emperor had uselessly slaughtered, serving no purpose other than his entertainment and feeding into to his ever constant lust for blood and the suffering of others. "Vader, this is no time to play dumb with me. You know exactly why I am here. Everyone with the Force felt it the same as you, no matter how weak their connection may be. We all felt her, the one who didn't just weild the Force, she IS the Force, it's living embodiment cased in human flesh! No one here is a match for the power that runs through her veins, not even you.
But her lack of control plays into our favor. The poor girl feels lost and alone, surrounded by idiots who have no idea who she is and her great her potential truly is! We must have her! She must join us, before she realizes her own strength. She has many things to teach us about the Force, a way to wield it in a manner that no one has ever seen! And I have seen the link that binds the two of you together. Don't try to deny it, you can not hide from me your connection to her. There is no other reason that you and her share the very same dreams. She would make the perfect apprentice for you, and through her we will rule over an Empire that streches past the planets of the outter rim. I have brought with me some ancient texts, written by the early Sith lords, the very first to begin the rebellion against the Jedi Order when they refused to allow the use of the Force in such a manner as she, being both cowards and power hungry they could not allow certain members to grow to strong. Use these, seek after her by the connection that binds you together and we will be able to find her. No one must know of where you go or why. There are yet left a few Jedi, and should they hear of this prodigy they will go out of their way to find her first, and destroy her in their fear!" and just like that his suspicions had been proved true, to his sadness. He had hoped to keep her out of this mess. Not that he wouldn't seek her, but he would wait till he could safely sit upon the Emperor's throne and could pose no threat to either of them.
But he wasn't going to do as he asked. He was going to show her the potential she had at her finger tips. He was going to show her how to control her god-like abilities and train her also in how to fight in hand to hand combat, something she would take to like flight, by what he had seen of her he knew that she would catch on quickly. They would play the game till they were both strong enough, with enough men to take up their side and be as a shield around them until his rule could be fully established and was accepted by the people. And he would be to her the one thing that no one else had truly ever been, a friend. The one person out of the billions who was exactly like her, who understood her pain, her anger, the darkness that fought to throw her back into the clutches of her madness. He would see to it that she never knew the isolation, the heart breaking betrayl by those she had called her family. He knew all to well just how alone she was. It was time for a change, one that could bring about the good for which he had joined Palpatine's cause all that time ago. But now it was time to act, to put up his wall, to play the part of the loyal apprentice he worked so hard at making his 'master' belive he was. "And how do we go about recruiting her? She will be able to feel the dark side in us the moment we meet, lieing to her is not possible. We have to have something she wants, something that will make her willing to depart from the only word she has ever known and forget that she fought her whole life against beings like us." he had slowly replied.
Palpatine nodded in agreement, eyes thoughtful as his right hand now rested beneath his chin, propt up by his elbow on the arm rest of the chair. "Yes, we do, and we have the ability to give her the one thing she wants more than her own life. We will teach her control, how to feed off that anger and hate and channel it into her great power. It is an offer that is far to good for her to turn down, whatever her intial qualms may be. It will take but a short while but it will not be long before she eagerly takes part in our schemes. And with a mind as brillaint as hers I will not have her be waisted by jobs that are beneath her. When she is ready we will make her a true and magnificent Lady of the Sith, who's loyalty will only belong to you. Yes just you, she can indeed feel the evil in us, and she will not serve underneath someone so much like those against whom she has fought her whole life. She will only bow before someone in whom she can still see light, someone she feels that she can trust with her very life, and you my apprentice are the only one that fits that bill. For this mission you will be given one of my best ships, armoured and ready to endure whatever the outter rim has to throw at you with engines capeable of flying at speeds that go well beyond the speed of light. What say you my Lord, are you pleased to be given such an honor? Not many have had such a powerful prodigy in which to train." he said. Once again thankful for the mask that hid his face Anakin indulged himself in rolling his eyes. There was more to this than Palpatine wanting another powerful toy in which to play with while he sadistcly put people by the millions by the death just because he had gotten bored.
"I should say I would be the better for a change, I have languished as of late for the lack of action I now see due to my position. But there is more to this than you are saying. What is it that you want the woman to give you in turn for teaching her control and taking her underneath the wing of the Empire?" Palpatine laughed, his eyes lighting up in that way that made his stomach turn, that look of mad delight at the expense of others. "Perceptive as always my padawan! I wish to learn the source of her power, and how to wield it myself, along with yourself and those who are left among your fellow Sith Lords. I want to gain what the short sighted Jedi were to afraid to persue, and by such means end their existance and crush the rebellion to the point that it never rise and give birth to weeds that would strangle the Empire." the Emperor was every bit the fool the Jedi were. Those who could use the Force did not equal those who could weild magick. It was a different kind of power, one that took years to master and careful study, a luxury they did not have nor did his master have the patience for it. And the woman would use his desire for her power against him as a weapon, not just hand over information that could very well end in the deaths of countless innocents. To kill those who murdered her lover in an act of grief and revenge was one thing, senseless violence was entirely another and she would not give him the tools to do more damage to his suffering subjects.
But Anakin himself contained within him natural magick. He would learn what he could and patiently grab all the powers and allies he needed to end this reign of tyranny. And he was willing to offer her far more than just control. He would offer her a home, offer her a cause she could get behind, something she could believe in after all the death and the horror she has had to brave her way through. He would offer her a true friend, one that would not hide away from the monster burried underneath her skin and embrace her for who and what she was, not who he wanted her to be. He learned the hard way that those who do not accept certain parts of you rejected all of you. It was an idea of him, her cherry coated version of him that she loved, not the actual man with darkness in his soul and bitterness in his heart that stood before her trying to tell her that everything he was doing was for her! He nodded slowly as he took in his master's words. "That is a wise decision master. I shall leave as soon as the ship is ready and I put together a crew and all the supplies we will need. We do not know how long this trip will take, as her home is far away from our known part of the galaxy. We will return to you as fast as we are able." Palpatine clapped his hands together, the delighted look back on his face. "Excellent! You should start right away, and I will speak to you once again before you take your leave. You may go about your business now Lord Vader. In your absense I will run this vessel and see how well the new designs handle." it was a jab at him and he knew it, but he swallowed his pride.
He reminded himself that he would not have to suffer his master's cruel japes for much longer, and the thought filled him with a certain satisfaction. Of all the things Palpatine was, he was still just as mortal as the rest of them! He bowed his head low again, lightly filling it when he clasped Anakin's shoulder in a friendly manner that made him inwardly cringe. Nothing was going to be sweeter than watching that bastard die! "I am deeply honored that you are willing to grace my ship with your leadership, I will inform my crew of that you are to be obeyed in all things. I hope you forgive me but I must leave you, I don't want to take any more time than I have to for this mission. I bid you farewell for now, till we speak again." he rose and swept out of the room, his black cape billowing around his figure as he walked briskley back to his quarters and began gathering all the things he would need while using the com to send out orders to prepare his ship he would take, the supplies, and to send his hand picked crew to him. Time seemed to go far faster than he imagined, it seemed to him as though he only blinked before the timid voice sounded the com and told him all was ready. Not willing to risk waisting time he reached out, seeking for that signature of Power that belonged to the red haired woman alone. Though it had faded a bit, it was still easiness for someone of his advanced ability to be able to pick up. He recieved images of a galaxy he had never seen before, planets that were deserted, with only one liveable one amongst the nine in their solar system and there was no intergalatic travel with their very limited technology.
He was going to have to come up with a lie that the people of that world would buy as to why he was there. He was hoping for this to be a quick job, as he had plans to work on and a Emperor to kill. The fact that the woman could feel him, she knew someone was connected to her, that someone was holding on to her dissapated magick made this a bit better. She didn't need any excuses and she would know who he was as soon as he stepped foot in the Hellish town that had no idea what it harbored in it's isolated womb. She didn't speak but he could feel her, using meditation and words he did not understand to grope across space and find whoever was pulling on the connection and what their motives were. It seemed she did not care whether she lived or died anymore, but a lingering protectiveness over those she had called her family still remained, even though they had abandoned her and gazed at her with hatred in their clouded eyes. She had to be sure that they were not in any danger. So he did the only thing he could think of, send images of what he had planned so that she could see that they had nothing to do with any of this, it was about her and him alone and once they left her world they would be left in one piece. She felt so drained, so detached to everything around her. It was a feeling he understood from the very bottom is his heart, to be set apart your entire life, with the weight of the world thrown on your shoulders when you are far to young to have to bare such a burdan, everyone willing to judge you when you finally snap, being willfully ignorant of the fact that with such a terrible burden anyone would snap at some point.
He held on to that connection with a tight vice grip and he walked onto the deck, not even noticing as he walked by the many voices and salutes he recieved from the other men. It had really been to long since the last time he had piloted a ship, he was going to look forward to this adventure out into the unknown! Who knew what he would encounter along the way! His eyes fell on his all star crew, men he had trained himself and had fought under him, proving their worth to their favorite commander who always treated them fairly and always gave them above and beyond what they had actually earned with any job he selected for them to do. They all bowed as he had not even an hour before. "This is a recruiting mission but we fly to a very dark and volatile place. We must be prepared for anything that hits us. Once we reach our destination it is imperative that we are ready to take off at any second, so I will need you to remain at your post till I arrive with the woman in question. Am I understood?" he asked. "Sir yes sir!" they all said before rising, lifting their bags onto their shoulders and entering into the ship, leaving Anakin to do his own heavy lifting, something he had not done in a long while and as crazy as it sounded he rather liked it. He had never like the pretension of the old corrupted Senators, and now being a Lord his master took special pleasure in torturing him by making him attend gala events or even throw them himself, greeting senators and ambassadors with fake enthusiasm while the inside cried out for someone to start a war or shoot him so he could get out of this. In the cock pit was where he truly belonged, he had known it since the time he had been a child, racing pods against pilots twice his age and experience.
He gladly boarded, taking his place at the helm while the others unpacked their bags and made everything ready for when they hit anti- gravity so there would be nothing floating about that did not belong in the air. He strapped himself in and took off without warning, screaming into the air like a banchee and knocking down the one crew member who didn't yet know when it was time to speed up and get himself in position. If he had been able Anakin would have face palmed himself! His eyes closed, all his senses dulled so that all he could see, hear, or feel was her, her and the connection that lied between them. Like a magnent it drew him in, pulling him slowly to the beacon of god-like magick that was the red haired woman. From the start till they reached the galaxy called the Milkey Way he couldn't tell you how long it took. But he had never left his post, the ship needed to be drove manually if this was to go right, leaving the cook of the crew to have to bring his food to him along with his medical devices so that when the mask was off he did not suffer the ill affects. He had sighed with relief when they had the beautiful and unique looking blue planet in their sight, a planet mostly made up of it's oceans. For such a small amount of living space it was a higly populated place, bustling and brimming with life. As they drew near he could see the land mass on which the Hellish town of his dreams rested. He had to fight against being burnt up alive when they hit the planet's atmosphere, the ozone layer not making it any easier. The outside of the ship became red hot and by the time they had exited the danger zone all of them were burning up like they had spent the day underneath 100 degree heat wave! He put up his newly invented camafluage that made it impossible for the ship to be able to be detected with the naked eye so that he would not be caught by a paranoid public and shot down from the sky.
They finally touched the ground, and nothing could have prepared him for what he felt when he got out of the plane to begin his search. The Evil here was so great it suffocated the very air! You could litterally feel it through the pores of your skin. The overly large gravestones was deeply unsettling even for him, and he easily spotted those true demons who moved about in the guise of human beings. With what she had to work with when she drew her power it was no wonder she ended up tainted! Anyone with a brain would have been able to tell you how dangerous it was to pull that kind of power into yourself and uniting it with your own. And yet those friends were never afraid to ask for this or that spell, selfishly not even considering what it was doing to their friend untill she had dared to become the threat. It was a story he knew all to well, after all he had lived it himself! It infuriated him, the willful and selective ignorence of her friends. It was all to convient for them. Anything that wasn't wrapped up in a nice little bow of black or white they cast out like a leper. Yes, she needed out of this place, away from these cruel people. In certain places her signature was stronger than others, and he went towards them, taking bits and pieces of conversations from those considered supernatural creatures that led him to a populated suburb. Laughing children racing one another down the street, a single home that felt the meloncholy of it's occupant. It was time now to let it begin, he took note of the momentous moment. Afterall, that day was the beginning of the end for the manipulative and tyrannical Palpatine!