Buffy VIII - Master and Apprentice
“Is something wrong, Lord Summers?” Thriss asked gently.
Buffy knew what she had felt in the Force. She could have sworn she had heard her sister Slayer saying her name. Wherever Faith was, their bond was still unbroken.
“No, Thriss,” Buffy said idly, her thoughts still on Faith. “Nothing’s wrong. I just thought I felt something.”
“What did you feel?” the beautiful Chiss woman asked as she dug through her apartment closet.
Buffy shook her head and cleared her thoughts. “Something private,” she said a touch sternly.
“I see. I’m sorry, Lord Summers,” Thriss said. “I didn’t mean to intrude on your privacy.”
Buffy dismissed the apology with a wave of her hand. “Don’t worry about it. What did you say you were looking for, again?”
“My prize charric from my days in the Expansionary Defense Force. I never advanced very high in the hierarchy due to my insubordinate attitude,” she explained with a smirk. “And yet, they did not discharge me until my years in the service were over. I excelled in two areas: Piloting spacecraft and marksmanship.
“This here,” Thriss said, holding out a strange looking blaster rifle, “was a prize for a marksmanship contest. It can be modulated for rapid, close-range fire or else for a single, precision, long-range shot. I never had reason to touch it after I left the Defense Force, but I have a feeling it will be useful for traveling with a pair of Sith Lords.”
“Are you quite finished yet?” Dalen called from the other room. He had decided to wait outside Thriss’s personal bedroom out of respect for her privacy.
Buffy was tempted to call her Master a gentleman, but she didn’t want to inflate his ego. For a Sith, it could prove a risky maneuver. “What do you think, Thriss? Are we done here?”
“I have a travel bag already prepared in case of a lengthy expedition. It should suffice. I don’t need a lot to get by.”
“All right, then,” Buffy said with a smile. “We’re coming, Dalen.”
“Wait!” Thriss said suddenly. “I almost forgot something!”
The Chiss archaeologist went over to a small desk and removed a datapad from a drawer. “I never revealed all of my findings on any of my expeditions to Chief Archaeologist Naprol. Some of them were feelings that wouldn’t stand scrutiny in Chiss scientific journals, and others I kept to myself out of a petty desire for revenge against Chiss society for not recognizing my talents for what they are.”
Buffy wondered at the significance of the datapad, given that they weren’t likely to be returning to Csilla anytime soon, if ever.
Thriss shrugged and looked a bit guilty. “It is a personal memento, Lord Summers, nothing more. I mean it to be something to remind me of my past and to give me a reason to move forward.”
“Are you quite finished yet?” Dalen repeated.
Buffy looked to Thriss and received a nod in response. “We’re coming Dalen. We promise we won’t give you any cooties.”
“`Cooties?’ Is that a disease of some sort that I need to concern myself with, Summers?”
“I wasn’t aware my apartment contained any chemical agents that were harmful to humans,” Thriss said seriously.
“It was a bad joke,” Buffy said, walking out of Thriss’s room to find a grumpy-looking Dalen. “It’s not my fault I’m the only one in this galaxy from my planet.”
“What do you mean, you’re the only one?” Thriss asked.
Buffy mentally smacked herself for her carelessness. She could have sworn that she had already told Thriss about her almost-unique situation in this universe or galaxy or whatever it was, but apparently she had not.
“My apprentice comes from a world that is unknown to the Empire,” Dalen explained. “She claims to have been taken from her home to a recently discovered world rich in baradium that is now being fought over. She was found in the middle of the fighting and taken to train as a Sith.”
“What’s baradium?” Buffy asked.
“It is a material used in high-yield explosives,” Thriss explained. “If the Empire and the Republic are both truly preparing for another war, then such a material would be a valuable asset. And you claim that your homeworld was not this baradium-rich planet, Lord Summers?”
“As far as I know, it wasn’t. I don’t think Denova and Earth are the same place. I’m guessing you would’ve all been shocked to find an unknown planet populated only by humans.”
“It is not unheard of,” Dalen said fairly. “However, Denova’s native species are not human. You were the only human the Empire recovered who was not a prisoner from the Republic.”
Buffy frowned as she exited the apartment. “Great. More slaves for the Imperial War Machine.”
“What do you mean by that, Lord Summers?” Thriss asked gently as she followed after Buffy.
“My apprentice speaks out of ignorance,” Dalen said shortly. “We found no native sentient life on Denova. There were some interesting plant species that could have uses in pharmaceutical production, and a few predatory species that might be imported to Korriban for aspiring Sith to test themselves against, but nothing more than that.”
“That doesn’t change the fact that unless you’re Force-sensitive, anyone in the Empire who isn’t a Red Sith or a human is going to be a slave by default,” Buffy said darkly. She knew, logically, that Dalen was not a slave driver, and she knew that he could not be held accountable for the actions of a thousand-year-old Empire, but the beauty of Csilla and of the Chiss people had Buffy contemplating the fate of ‘aliens’ in the Empire.
“Lord Dalen, is this true?” Thriss asked coldly as they exited the apartment building.
While Thriss climbed into the driver’s seat of her speeder, Buffy got in the front passenger seat while Dalen took the rear of the vehicle.
“You must understand, Thriss, that the Sith of ages past were driven into exile by the Republic and the Jedi. They had already won the Great Hyperspace War, and our defeat was certain. It wasn’t enough for the zealots, and they sought to exterminate us entirely. It was only thanks to our Emperor that we managed not only to survive, but to find the long lost world of Dromund Kaas and thrive into the power that we are now.
“There were many among our number who had once been part of the Republic, and these were enslaved to ensure that our extermination would never come to pass,” Dalen explained patiently as Thriss drove to the spaceport. “Strength and power in their rawest form are not the only expressions of those attributes. Cunning and guile are just as much expressions of strength as lifting a heavy object or defeating a powerful foe. Had those of the Republic had the strength to beat us, then they would be thriving in our Empire.”
“The Sith don’t take prisoners as much as they tend to execute those who are a threat to them. Why did you take so many slaves?”
“We might have been a weakened people,” Dalen said patiently, “but we had the Force to guide us. Even so, it would not have been enough. The Empire was built on the backs of races that many Sith deem ‘lesser’ due to their birth status as the descendants of slaves. The Dark Side is fueled by passion, as you know. Fear is one of the greatest motivators of such, and the fear of losing what little we had forced us to subjugate the other races we encountered.”
“Surely, your Empire must have grown to become self-sufficient,” Thriss said coolly. “Why continue such a foolish practice as slavery?”
“It had become a part of our culture by then,” Dalen said with as much regal clout as he could muster. “Power for a Sith is as much the perceptions of others as it is our own true might. For a Sith to maintain his status and power, he must deter all possible challenges to his rule. Maintaining the slave caste of the Empire was a sure way to preserve the power of true Sith.”
“I get the feeling you don’t much like the notion of slavery, Thriss,” Buffy probed gently.
“I do not,” the Chiss answered coldly. “The practice is not only barbaric, but it is counter-productive to the Empire’s interests.”
“Is it, really?” Dalen asked, but Buffy sensed that he was more curious about Thriss’s opinion and was not seeking to challenge her. “What lies behind that conclusion, Thriss?”
Thriss shot a cold glance over her shoulder at Dalen before responding. “People are not domestic animals. They are sentient beings that should not be counted as mere property. We are aware of cultures that do keep slaves, but economic relations with those cultures are a low priority in the Ascendency. Also, if you keep otherwise capable individuals stuck in the lowest of cultural roles, you prohibit your Empire from profiting from their strengths. All points of view should be considered and all assets should be accounted for before a determination of their worth is made.”
“You speak wisely,” Dalen said. Buffy could feel the contentment rolling off of him. “For many in the Empire, the purity of one’s heritage has become a thing of great importance. The worth of a being is less often determined by their merits and more by their station of birth. I agree that this notion is an archaic one, but if I were to voice such opinions more loudly than I already do, then I would be seen as challenging the tenets of the Empire.”
“And a challenge to the Empire is a threat to the Empire,” Buffy finished for her Master. “The Empire doesn’t let threats of any kind go without being killed or destroyed. The trick is to keep your true feelings and opinions hidden. Power for a Sith is as much psychological as it is physical or metaphysical. You want to be prepared for any possible threats to your own personal power. To ensure you always have an edge against your potential enemies, you have to keep some of your powers and secrets to yourself. That way, anyone who gets close enough to threaten you won’t live to tell anyone else what your secret strengths are.”
Thriss tucked her speeder into the airway that led to the spaceport, and then switched on the autopilot. The traffic lane was mostly devoid of other craft, and the computer was smart enough to keep them on a steady course.
“Your Empire is a study in contradictions,” Thriss said with a curious edge to her voice. “You promote practices that seem barbaric to the outside eye, and yet you come to me, civilized and powerful individuals, from this very society. The Empire is a force to be reckoned with, and yet its leaders are constantly fighting for supremacy. The fact that you have not only survived as a galactic power, but thrived in your exile, are a testament to your staying power. I fear, however, that I will not be welcome in the rest of the Empire.”
“Two things that you might want to reconsider,” Buffy said. She sensed a bit of darkness in Dalen as she assumed control of the conversation, but she ignored it. “The Sith are all about the Force. The Force is the ultimate expression of power, and while I don’t think it’s something that’s been going on for a while, anyone in the Empire, no matter what their species or caste, is taken to train as a Sith if they are sensitive to the Force.”
“A smart decision,” Thriss said approvingly. “And the other notion you wish to correct?”
“The Dark Council is always changing. They will always die, whether of old age or from a rival’s lightsaber. The Dark Council, however, is not the ultimate authority of the Empire. I don’t pretend to understand the Emperor, but the way everyone else talks about him, he’s more of a god to the Sith than he is a leader. If he really has lived and ruled for over a thousand year…” Buffy trailed off and let her words resonate. “Well, I’ve seen stranger things.”
“I had always wondered why the Sith were called an Empire when it was ruled by twelve councilors,” Thriss said quietly. “I suspect that the mystique surrounding the Emperor is more of a distraction than truth.”
“Excavator Mitth’ris’sintar!” Dalen shouted.
Thriss whipped her head around and stared at Dalen with wide eyes.
“Such notions, such thoughts… If you were in more traditional company, you would have likely been killed for voicing such thoughts, no matter that this is your homeworld and we are but visitors. It is common, even expected, to challenge other Sith. Many seek to join the Dark Council by plotting the downfall of one of their number. Challenging the Emperor, however, is something that no Imperial citizen would dare to even think about, let alone voice aloud.”
Thriss arched an eyebrow and returned her attention to the road. “You were not exaggerating, Lord Summers,” she said coolly. “They really do deify him.”
“`They?’” Buffy said with a small smirk. “You don’t think I’m as Sith as the rest of them, do you?”
“I do not,” Thriss confirmed. “You do not speak with an Imperial accent, and you do not blindly accept their preconceptions. To the objective observer, you had no preconceptions towards the Empire or the Republic until you were taken to Korriban. I trust your opinion over that of any other Sith. Lord Dalen? Have I said something to upset you?”
Buffy turned to Dalen and sensed his growing discomfort and anger.
“I am unaccustomed,” Dalen said carefully, “to someone speaking their mind as casually as you tend to, Thriss. Among Sith, personal opinions tend to be carefully guarded. One does not simply reveal one’s feelings to another without considering the ramifications.”
Thriss seemed to consider this for a moment. “If I am to learn the ways of the Force, then perhaps I should reevaluate the social customs I am familiar with. Chiss society emphasizes communal integrity and trust of one’s peers. Sith thinking seems contrary to the Chiss cultural mindset.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” Buffy said. “But that’s not what’s bugging Dalen so much.”
“Apprentice,” Dalen warned.
“Master,” Buffy shot back sarcastically. “You’ve made it clear quite a few times, Thriss, that you see me as more powerful than Dalen. You said just now that you’d trust my opinion over any other Sith. You’ve all but deemed me to be the best Sith there is in your eyes.”
“What of it?” Thriss said casually.
“You’ve been challenging Dalen with each of those remarks,” Buffy explained patiently. “Every time you say how powerful I am, or how much you value my opinion, you’re basically slapping Dalen in the face by telling him that you’d support me over him.”
“What does that matter?” Thriss said with a hint of surprise. “I meant no disrespect, Lord Dalen. You seem to be an honorable man with valuable insights, and while you are a product of the Empire, you do not follow blindly. Do you fear me?”
Dalen gritted his teeth and pointedly looked away.
“He’s too polite to say anything,” Buffy explained, “but I think he’s afraid that I’m going to kill him sooner than he thought I would.”
“Why would you do such a thing? You are both powerful Sith, and you temper your power with wisdom. Why would you waste your lives fighting each other?”
“Dalen still has trouble reminding himself that I’m not like most Sith,” Buffy said pointedly, making sure to drive home her words with the Force to make sure that Dalen understood her. “The way of the Sith is for one generation to teach and train the next. When the apprentice feels that she is more powerful than her master, she tends to take his place in the hierarchy by killing him. The Sith believe that this is one of the best ways to ensure that only the strongest rule the Empire.”
“I pity you, Lord Dalen,” Thriss said kindly.
That got Dalen’s attention, and he swung his head back around and reached out with the Force.
Buffy watched in horror as Thriss began to struggle with breathing, and her fingers went to her throat to try and remove some unseen obstruction. The speeder’s autopilot ignored the confrontation and continued towards the spaceport.
“What are you doing?” Buffy hissed.
“A Sith does not need pity,” Dalen snarled. “A Sith is not a weak being who requires the approval of outsiders! A Sith is strength and power and victory, and I will not be pitied by this slip of a girl who does not understand our ways!”
Buffy leaned her seat backwards and crawled over to clasp a hand over Dalen’s throat. “You agreed to take Thriss with us to gain her insights,” Buffy hissed dangerously. “You took me as your apprentice to see the Empire through a new set of eyes. If you’re going to let your pride rob you of such a source of power, then you are no Sith, and I will kill you right now for the short-sighted fool that you’re making yourself look like.”
Thriss continued to gasp and clutch at her throat.
“If she dies, you die,” Buffy said darkly. “Your move, Shar.”
Perhaps out of shock that Buffy had dared to call Dalen by his first name, he let slip his grasp on Thriss and turned to look at Buffy with wide eyes.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” Buffy warned him. “I can still crush your throat in an instant if you make me.”
“You should have killed me,” Dalen said softly. “Any real Sith would have.”
“That’s why you chose me,” Buffy said, releasing her grasp on his throat. “I’m not like any Sith you’ve ever met before. I won’t act like most Sith. I’m unpredictable, and that makes me mighty. I have strength that you can’t imagine, Shar Dalen. I could kill you in so many ways without breaking a sweat. I could seize the mantle of Sith Lord for myself if I wanted to.”
“Then why don’t you?” Thriss asked. Her breath was raspy, and Buffy could sense the Chiss’s simultaneous dread and awe at her companions’ actions.
“Because I’d rather have an ally than a dead former Master. I’d rather have someone I can count on to help me through this Empire that I still know so little about. And I’d also rather have one more good man alive in this galaxy than kill him for no good reason.
“Tell him why you pity him, Thriss. I know I pity him, but I want to hear your reasoning before I tell him mine.”
Thriss looked at Dalen with a hint of fear in her gaze, but Buffy felt her harness that fear and use it to rejuvenate her after her ordeal. “I pity you, Lord Dalen, because of how lonely you must be. A Sith’s existence sounds like a solitary one. I would not wish that upon you.”
The speeder’s computer beeped, prompting Thriss to return her attention to the road. “We’ve almost arrived. Disengaging autopilot.” Taking control of the vehicle once again, Thriss navigated her speeder towards a speeder depot just outside the spaceport proper.
“What are you thinking, Dalen?” Buffy asked the man she knew she would never again call ‘Master.’
“I am thinking,” Dalen said, “that you and your apprentice have much to teach me, Lord Summers.”
Buffy couldn’t help but smirk at Dalen’s acknowledgment of her supremacy, even if she didn’t believe for a moment that she was his better.
“And we both have much to learn from you, Lord Dalen,” Buffy countered.
Dalen looked into Buffy’s eyes hesitantly. “What are you proposing, Buffy?”
Smiling ever wider at the familiarity between them, Buffy looked back into Dalen’s blue gaze. “Nothing more than what we already have: An alliance between equal partners. We can keep up the formalities in ‘polite company,’ but in practice, we’d be a team. We’d help each other out and support each other, just like Darth Revan did. A reliable source told me that you’re an admirer of the man.”
Dalen’s eyes were wide as he considered the ramifications of what his no-longer apprentice was suggesting. “You would have me as an ally? Not a subject?”
“Do I need to smack you, Shar?” Buffy said sarcastically. “I meant what I said and I said what I meant. And anything more is going into territory that you wouldn’t understand.”
Thriss laughed. “You doubt Lord Dalen’s ability to comprehend sincerity?”
“Nope. Just his ability to comprehend Dr. Seuss.”
Dalen looked ready to ask a question, but then seemed to think better of it. “I think, Lord Buffy Summers, that you have the power to change the Empire for the better.”
Buffy smiled. “With your help, Shar Dalen,” she said as she put a hand on his shoulder, “and with your help, Mitth’ris’sintar.” The other hand went to Thriss’s shoulder. “I think we can all become a real force to be reckoned with.”
“You really think I have the potential to be Sith?” Thriss asked. “And are you sure you want me as an ally, Lord Dalen?”
“I think that you have great potential, Thriss,” Dalen said. “And for what it is worth, I regret my rough handling of you. I acted in haste, without thought for the consequences. While the Sith must be creatures of passion, we must be the masters of our passions, lest they master and destroy us.”
“Then it’s settled,” Buffy said. “Together, I’d say we form a nice little Sith Triumvirate."
I don't own Star Wars or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Specifically...
Great Hyperspace War: not mine
Sith Emperor: not mine
Dark Council: not mine
Shar Dalen: original
Charric: not mine
Chiss Expansionary Defense Force: not mine
Chiss Ascendency: not mine
Csilla: not mine
Darth Revan: not mine at all
Special Thanks to Sithspit for beta-reading this chapter!
Reviews, comments, constructive criticism, etc. are all welcome, appreciated, and helpful.
Thank you all for reading, and I hope you enjoy the story!