Note #1: The story was written for Corellian Run Radio podcast’s contest “This Ain’t Yo Wampa’s Writing Contest”, where it took the second place.
Everyone left, and Nayel was alone in Thanat… in his chambers. Silence felt deafening. He approached one of library shelves, finding comfort in his steps echoing from the room’s walls. He randomly chose a data file, and accessed it. His eyes scanned the text but his mind wasn’t reading it. “Darth Nox” was still resonating is his memory – the new name Darth Marr had just given him merely a few days ago, and now everyone addressed him in this manner. He liked the sound of it. It felt… potent.
He returned to the table but didn’t sit. He looked at his hand, made a fist, then rolled up his sleeve to uncover his arm. It was like the rest of his body: covered by scars from Thanaton’s lightening attacks. He’d wear them proudly. He had persisted, he had fought, he had never given up.
He felt slightly cheated. Darth Mortis had taken the kill, stealing it from him. For all Thanaton had inflicted upon Nayel, for all he had had to go through to survive, the final blow should be his.
Too late for regrets… or complaints.
Newly minted Darth Nox left the chambers, and headed for the heart of the Sith Academy. After bouncing between Korriban and Dromund Kaas for his new position required visits, it was good to slow down for a moment in the facility that he had taken his first steps in freedom. He smirked with amusement: taking over Thanaton’s duties meant he was now the chief librarian of the Sith Empire. Excitement filled his heart at the thought of all the dark secrets he could now study, all the mysterious artefacts he could now learn to use, all the knowledge that had been mostly beyond his reach until now. His hunger for knowing and wisdom awakened again after years of slumber at the time of consuming ghosts for mere survival.
He overheard someone barking quietly in a darker corner of the main library chamber. The words were too soft to catch everything but his ears were sensitive to “slave” spoken with contempt. He had heard it too many times from that worm Harkun.
Curious, he headed for the source of the quiet but heated argument to see overseer Ruk swearing at a Togruta acolyte. She listened, timid, and shrinkin smaller with every second.
“That’s enough,” Nayel said in a stern tone.
“But–” Ruk tried to argue, but Nayel would have none of that. Not any more. Without hesitation, he zapped the overseer with lightening.
“Out of my sight!”
“Yes, my lord,” Ruk mumbled, and scrambled away.
“What’s your name, acolyte?”
“Report to my chambers once you’re finished with you tasks for today.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Soft, scared, shy. He thought she wouldn’t make it through the Academy, but he could sense her strength in the Force, and believed it’d be a waste to let her die. She needed training, she needed guidance, she needed to learn how to be a Sith.
As if her evening couldn’t be worse, she now had drawn attention of one of Dark Lords. Gossip was strong in the Academy, so she already knew him by reputation: ruthless, powerful, ambitious, and a womaniser on top of all that.
Clutching nervously a datapad with her essay, she went to Darth Nox’s chambers with a heart beating fast. He sat behind his desk, reading something, so she stopped at the threshold, and patiently waited. A few minutes later he raised his head, and spotted her.
“Next time announce your arrival. You won’t waste your or my time,” he said.
“Yes, my lord.” She didn’t have the courage to explain to him that she didn’t mean to interrupt his work.
“Come in,” he waved his hand, inviting her in. “It would appear you don’t have a master yet.”
“No, my lord. Overseer Ruk… he informed me of my next task, which was the last one… it was to be decided… who would choose me.”
“You are the last one standing from this set of tasks,” he stated. “You also excel at theoretical studies. You seem to lack somewhat in the aspect of your combat skills.”
He paced in front of her, while speaking. She did all her best to hold eye contact, but couldn’t. His red eyes terrified her. She lowered her head, and stared at the floor.
“I checked your record. You spend great time in the library, but a lot less in combat practice. Why?”
She nervously squeezed the datapad.
He stopped pacing, approached her, put his fingers gently under her chin, and raised it to look into her eyes. “Why?” he repeated.
“My lord…” She couldn’t tell him. He’d kill her for that. Maybe… maybe a quick death was preferable to this existence. “My lord, I don’t want to be Sith. I never did. I was a slave, and I was brought here against my will. I don’t want to kill people. I don’t want to hurt people. I didn’t want to be here… until I discovered a forgotten place… a chamber of some kind in the tombs. With statues, art, writings on walls.” Her face gradually brightened, as she spoke of things that had interested her back that day. “Sith are scary, and cruel, and terrifying, but the culture, the history… this is fascinating. I want to know more.” The light in her eyes dimmed. “But I don’t want to take lives.”
He watched her for a long while. She didn’t see anger on his face, just interest.
He walked away, and returned to his seat. “You will report to my chamber tomorrow morning. I’ll have a few errands for you.” She was stunned by this turn of events. “Dismissed, Apprentice Herneth. You can go now.”
“Thank you, my lord,” she whispered, and left.
This meeting had not gone the way she’d expected. Still a little numb from shock, she walked to her shared with other acolytes room, replaying the conversation. He had been polite, calm, and… respectful. He’d never dropped the hateful word “slave”, which was the first since she’d arrived in the Academy. She greatly appreciated that.
She didn’t know he hated that word as much as she.