A read-only archive of discourse.darkjedibrotherhood.com as of Sunday May 01, 2022.

[Vodo and Zasati] Ten Year Itch


System Location Redacted
Interstellar Space
BAC Dark Prophet II

Vodo stared out the view plates of the cruiser’s command bridge. The black of space was dotted with blue and white specs of light, each representing the potential for a new world and a new home. The Bridge Crew worked silently, each attending to their own tasks as the Captain and the First Officer made their rounds, checking on each station in turn. The crew ignored the Sith’s presence, or at least put forward the effort to appear as though they did not notice one the Clan’s preeminent officers: one of the Taldrya.

The Consul could be felt to be approaching before he made his presence known with a gentle ahem to clear his throat, “Where will you go, do you think?”

The blue-skinned man walked up and stood beside the Rollmaster, also staring out the view-plates. “I do not know, Lord Consul. The Force will direct my actions.”

Rhylance nodded silently for a second, “I’ll never understand that. I want to wish you success in your journey because if you return to us with a new home world you will do me—this clan a great service. We can finally start rebuilding.”

There was a silence between them for a handful of moments. Vodo took pleasure in dictating the pace of conversations with such silences, “There’s something else you wish to tell me.”

The Consul’s red eyes flashed to Vodo’s face as he did a incredulous, yet subtle, double take, “I—yes.”

“You will be gone for some time. I think it would be prudent if you took your Apprentice with you. She is undisciplined, untrained, and could benefit from your, well, instruction”, Hands clasped behind his back, dressed in his crispest uniform, Rhylance turned to the Sith.

Vodo regarded the Consul seriously before turning his head back to the cold depths of space, “Is that an order, my Consul?”

The corner of the Chiss’s mouth crawled up into a wry smile. He turned to leave, stopping to place a hand up on the Twi’lek’s shoulder, “If it were, would you obey?”

Vodo shrugged the hand off without looking down at the man, “Yes, my Lord.”

BAC Dark Prophet II
Hangar Bar 2a
Upsilon-class Shuttle Karufr Knight

Zasati approached the painted shuttle with some trepidation. The last time she’d boarded that ship she’d left a hand and a wrist there. She’d seen very little of her Master since that night having found many ways to avoid encountering or having to spend too much time in his presence with the help of the Commander. The Consul’s words rang still in her ears. He knew far more than anyone had a right to, not after she’d spent an appreciable portion of a lifetime trying to hide her son from powerful men like Rhylance and Vodo.

Her feet carried her closer and closer to the Karufr Knight which had been so recently a place of renewed hope and longing. Why did this always happen to her? Why did something good always turn into yet more danger and hurt? Well, the Hapan woman said to herself, there was one thing that had never hurt her; one thing that would never cease to fill her with happiness and warmth. She thought of Zakai, alone at school again, and when she might be able to see him again.

The ramp of the shuttle opened to admit her as she approached. Vodo was seated within at his wrap around desk in the Lounge, “You’re late.”

Her first instinct was to snap a snarky reply like, “That’s what you get when you give me 15 minutes notice.”

Instead she bit the inside of her cheek and headed to the cockpit with only a respectful nod of her head. The Droid Brain would do the flying and that was fine. She’d never done much to learn and didn’t see the need. Zasati just wanted to be somewhere other than where He was. Rhylance would make her do this for him but she couldn’t just throw herself at that tyrant again. Vodo hadn’t lied to her; he’d been rather forward in telling her he was a Monster. Zakai wanted to know a Father so badly but how could she ever introduce her angel, her world to Him? Vodo would take the boy from her, she knew it. He would train him in his ways, he would be cruel, and the soft boy she’d taken such great lengths to raise well would be made into a hard man.

What mother could hope for that?

“Pilot”, Vodo’s voice spoke through the ship’s comlink to the Droid Brain, “Take us out. Destination is System 1 in the search file.”


As the shuttle roared to life, Zasati sank into one of the plush G-couches inside the cockpit. Elbows hooked over the armrests; her hands dangled lazily above the cold, steel floor. The woman studied the control panels, absentmindedly wondering if her son would someday know how to pilot such a vessel. He was intelligent and far better at studying than she’d ever been. The switches and knobs meant nothing to her. They may have well been some ancient tome of scrawled glyphs.

Zasati sighed with heavy bitterness, knowing that she should have left while she had the chance. “You’re late,” she mumbled, mocking the Twi’lek in the other room. He was insufferable.

The half-Hapan tapped the pearlescent white digits of her cybernetic hand against the seat. Each rap rang louder and louder as her thoughts took to darkness. She understood Rhylance’s desire for her to spy on Vodo, but such a voyage seemed unnecessary. The tattoo on her left cheek illuminated a bright orange. Zasati worried if she’d make it back alive. After all, she was inescapably alone with a beast of a man. Nevermind that her Consul had sworn her protection and ‘countermeasures’ to ensure it. The reality, she believed, was that Vodo was powerful and could easily dispose of her on a whim. Why he hadn’t already, well… that was beyond her.

A red light on the control panel sprang to life, disrupting her thoughts.

“Tryezsh,” Vodo’s stern voice boomed through the ship’s comlink. She knew him well enough to know that his tone was a summons. Zasati gripped the arms of the G-couch tightly and pushed herself up with reluctance.

Moments later, she halted in the threshold of the lounge and surveyed the room. A sudden pang of fear caught in her throat as she remembered her head cracking against the durasteel floor near the bar and the searing pain of-- She forced the sensation away. The Jedi Hunter pushed her chin forward, pulled her shoulders back, and stepped into the room.

“Yes, Master?” She turned to him, waiting for him to look up for the datapad in his hands.

“Pour me a drink.” Yellow-red eyes locked with her lapis blue ones. She flinched despite herself.

Zasati caught her scoff at his order and managed to turn away, snuffing out the flame before it could blaze. She seethed on her way to the bar. He could probably make his drink from across the room if he wanted. Why couldn’t he just let her be? The woman pressed against the counter as she reached up, pulling a single crystal glass from the shelf.

“Quit drinking?” His words almost startled her.

“Yes,” she lied, glancing over her shoulder.

“The Consul’s Stateroom inventory suggests otherwise.” He raised a brow and waved his hand slightly, signaling her to pour herself a drink as well.

The half-Hapan glowered but complied. Zasati ran her tongue over the edge of her teeth, the coolness of the room nipping at her bare shoulders. She turned gracefully, twin glasses in hand, blue skirt fluttering behind her. The glass clicked against his desk as she slid it forward with mechanical fingers.

“Sit,” Vodo smirked as he took a long pull of the drink.

Zasati wanted to scream. She strangled her anger as it bucked wildly, tattoo flickering from black to blue to black again. She marched to the nearby couch and slipped into its luxurious comfort. She ran a hand behind her head and pulled out a pin, her long black hair tumbling down over her shoulder.

They sat in a long silence, Vodo exercising his power to dictate the conversation and Zasati unwilling to speak unless necessary.

She sipped the liquor slowly; her eyes fixed on the white casing of her left hand. So many questioned why she continued to serve under the Warlord. He’d taken her hand; he’d beaten her and nearly killed her. The woman bit at the inside of her lip. They weren’t wrong, but they also didn’t understand Vodo.

He should have killed her outright. She went against his direct authority and murdered a fellow Taldryan in cold blood, with an audience no less. Her death would have had no impact on his schemes. Vodo had every right to do what he did, and yet, he spared her.

Still, despite her understanding, she couldn’t easily put her resentment away. It showed.

“The first system we will review is still some distance away. We will continue your training during transit.” He flicked a finger across the screen of his datapad.

Zasati merely lifted her glass to her lips and nodded. Watching him, she noticed the smallest flicker of irritation move across his upper lip.

Yes, Master. She spoke directly to his mind; her lips pressed tightly around the rim of the glass as she finished the drink.


He stared at her as she insolently sipped at the glass of amber liquid, as though the crystal glass were a shield she hid behind. Vodo glanced at the circlet of smooth, dark metal sitting upon his desk that she hadn’t noticed when serving his drink. It was a ring of unadorned metal that had a hidden button on the inside that would split it open, hinging, to accept a neck. Her eyes followed his to the circlet.

“What is that?”, her voice displayed the sudden mistrust she broadcast so openly in the Force.

Vodo languidly crooked a finger at the circlet and floated the thing into the air. He lazily circled his finger and the circlet began to tumble end over end as it spun around its circumference slowly. It danced there like a magnetically levitated sculpture on some corporate executive’s desk for a few moments before it slowly moved toward Zasati.

The thing came to a rest at chest height before her, where she sat, and remained until she grasped it under Vodo’s silent prompting, “This is a shock collar, like the ones used by the Clan’s security services to control prisoners and high risk Force Users.”

Zasati’s eyes went wide as she stared at the rather heavy, cold metal device in her hand, “And what am I supposed to do with this?”

“You’re going to put it on”, Vodo said with a certain unmistakable finality.

“I will do no such thing”, Zasati shot to her feet, anger flashing blue across her facial tattoo.

“Sit”, she obeyed immediately even though he’d never raised his voice, “You will put the collar on or I will kill you. Make your decision.”

Zasati’s eye’s welled with tears, tears that she fought off with sheer determination. She wanted to think of her little Zakai, she wanted to see his face just then, but forced those feelings away lest she betray them to her Master. She didn’t understand; Vodo never explained anything he did and merely expected her to obey and to learn. It wasn’t fair! She stared at the collar in her hands and back at the Twi’lek, the man who occupied so many her thoughts.

“Why?” The words crept unbidden from her mouth.

Vodo stood slowly, stretching so that his broad chest flexed under the roll of his shoulders, and he walked from behind the desk to stand over her where she sat on the couch, “Do it or don’t.”

She wanted to scream at him, to launch herself at him with the same ferocity she’d directed at Anubis those weeks ago. Something told her that was a bad idea, an idea that could orphan her son and would leave him at the mercy of Rhylance. Why had she returned at Vodo’s summons? Life hadn’t been easy these last ten years but they had at least been free. The collar’s weight spoke of a burden, like a yoke, and a commitment to something she might not survive anyways. The snap-hiss of a lightsaber broke her thoughts.

“Make your decision now”, Vodo’s white blade cast a strange red light over the shuttle’s floor and her body.
Zasati looked into Vodo’s yellow eyes, flecked with red, and steeled herself. She found the hidden button on the inside of the collar, where she would be unable to press it once she wore it. It clicked open gently, hinged on the opposite side. She drew it up and placed it around her neck, snapping shut once more with a gentle metallic click. It was cool against her skin and pressed into the flesh of her neck and her clavicle.

Vodo sneered at her as he deactivated the saber’s blade, “As I suspected.”

“What? I did what you asked!” She shouted at the Sith as he walked back to the desk and picked up the glass of liquor she’d poured him.

Vodo took a pull of the amber liquid, his back still turned to his Apprentice, “I was hoping you’d find a backbone for once; I was hoping you would attack me and die with some courage instead of cowering like usual.”

The icy chill of dread settled in her chest as she took his statement in but didn’t have much time to process it. She was struck by a hammer blow. It hit her nervous system and covered her entire body causing her to jack knife and fall from where she sat on the plush couch. Her mind went blank with the pain of the electrical shock and it took a few moments to regain her wits. Her heart beat wildly, responding suddenly to her evolutionary fight or flight response.

The Warlord turned back around to face her and in his hand he held a small circular remote, “This is your salvation. Take it from me and you can free yourself from that thing.”

Zasati opened her mouth to spit something vile at him when she was hit with the hammer blow again. And again. And again.

“Sit up. Adopt a meditation pose”, Vodo commanded imperiously.

Her tattoo shone bright orange-yellow with her pain and fear as she scrambled to obey. Again she was hit with a shock so strong it seized her muscles. Again Vodo commanded her to adopt a meditation pose. She sneered at him, her facial tattoo blue again with anger. This time she was able to gather her feet beneath her and to the side so her skirts would not bunch. Vodo did not activate the collar this time.

“I’ve noticed a distinct lack of understanding of the Dark Side in you. You’re soft”, he purred as he bent over, his body casting an enormous shadow over her, “You lack discipline and control of your emotions but more than that—you lack the proper focus.”

Zasati said nothing. She had nothing productive to say to him right now. Vodo ignored her silence and continued, “I am going to teach you once and for all what it is to be angry. I will teach you to hate, to feel rage, and how to harness them to command the Force. You will learn, this time, or you will die.”


On the floor, in the center of the lounge, Zasati sat, legs folded beneath her and hands pressed flat against her thighs in meditative repose. With time lost to her, days had passed, and she did not know it. Black hair disheveled; strands still dried against her cheeks. There were no tears left, and exhaustion weighed heavily on her. Still, her tattoo remained an unwavering blue, its glow casting half of her face in deep shadow. Pain, hunger, fatigue: she was numb to them now, consumed only by rage, just as her Master intended.

Her eyes snapped open when the door to Vodo’s private quarters hissed from across the room. The woman did not move. The Twi’lek strode over to his desk, clearly refreshed. Briefly, their gazes met. She found herself remembering. Wasn’t there a time when those fearsome, tainted eyes were a soft hazel and filled with the smallest bit of warmth for her? Quiet breaths passed her lips as she willed her mind silent. He would use everything she loved as a weapon against her. Even himself.

“You look terrible.” He turned away and set a small holodisk on his desk.

Those words pushed Zasati over the edge. Her tattoo flared so brightly it would have blinded her had it not been for her Hapan blood. She shot to her feet, eyes burning as her entire body trembled with rage. Blood blossomed between her teeth. She bit down on her tongue, silencing herself.

Vodo could feel her wrath as it rose around them. He was pleased with himself. Perhaps she was finally bending to his will. Perhaps she was finally going to live up to the potential he had seen in her all those years ago.

Her throat stood out against the tight metal collar; bloodshot eyes, wild and hungry. Something called out to her. It whispered promises of victory and tantalized her with freedom. It said to let go. It beckoned her to the Darkness.

Zasati gave in.

An angry roar broke free from her clamped jaw as she threw a hand before her. The power of her scream crashed, untamed, through the Force. The items on Vodo’s stately desk flew out in all directions as the crystal glasses above the bar rattled, threatening to shatter. Her hatred pushed against him just enough to warrant his attention. She was finally learning. The Warlord turned, his robe swaying. With a smirk, he casually pressed the remote in his hand.

The shock ripped through every tendon- every thought. Zasati sank back to her knees, palms pressed to the cold floor as she gasped wordlessly. Vodo noted that she had not completely collapsed and went to push the button again. He paused as the ship’s comlink pinged, announcing their arrival to System 1. The Warlord cast a sidelong glance at the woman on the floor.

“Go.” He lifted two fingers, the door to his quarters opening again. “Make yourself more presentable.”

Slowly, she slid to stand up. She looked at the open door and back to her Master. She didn’t trust him. Vodo sensed her hesitation, a latent smile curling his lips. He dismissively waved her away and said nothing.

Zasati wiped away the foggy condensation collected on the mirror of her Master’s bath and studied herself for a long moment. Lapis blue irises stood out against the rings of tired redness and dark circles curled beneath them. She touched two fingers gingerly across the collar. Vainly, the half-Hapan worried that she looked as hollow as she felt.

He was gradually draining her of her identity. She questioned her sanity. Furiously, she had tried to scrub his heavy words from her skin. But they remained, burned to her soul like the tattoo on her face. Zasati swore she wouldn’t break. Not now. She wouldn’t give Vodo the satisfaction.

When she returned to the lounge, she found the lights dimmed and her Master, studying a holo-projection of, what she presumed to be, the planet below. She ran her fingers through her damp hair, tousling it back loosely.

Vodo extended a datapad to her. She approached timidly and took it. Zasati glanced down, numbers and charts displayed neatly on the screen. She calmed her mind, trying to forget the past few days and her recent outburst, and focus. Reviewing the information, she found herself thankful for the odd jobs she’d had. She’d surveyed so many planets while on runs, she could have made sense of the report in her sleep.

“All the readings look good. Class Mern. Forty-three percent water. Rocky terrain, but not completely desolate. Several vast subterranean systems, possibly mineral rich. Uninhabited.” She looked up warily, but he was still studying the holoimage.

Zasati rolled her stiff shoulders and adjusted her shirt with her free hand. She continued, “I’m concerned about the current atmospheric conditions. It’s showing a huge storm depression over the largest landmass, but no cloud coverage. There’s cyclonic circulation and- I’ve never seen this before.” She tapped the screen to zoom in on the image. “It could be some sort of gas pocket. We really shouldn’t-”

“Prepare for a ground survey.” Vodo looked down at the woman beside him, thumb hovering over the small remote in his hand. He waited for her usual snide remark.

She nodded her head with forced respect and said nothing.


The droid brain piloted the shuttle to the surface of the continent that encircled the majority of the planet’s northern hemisphere. Both passengers rode the descent out in the cockpit, strapped into the acceleration couches at the pilot and co-pilot’s positions. Vodo watched as the sky changed from the black of space to a gradual lavender-blue once the flames of the reentry had subsided. He could feel Zasati’s simmering hatred of him and that was pleasing. He’d managed to kindle a black flame there in her heart at last and now it was time to stoke it.

The shuttle vibrated as they hit a dense pocket of air and Vodo gasped inwardly in pain as the wound over his rib gave him a not so unsubtle reminder he wasn’t yet fully healed from his encounter with Azrith Etsu. The pain reminded him of his own failure. He’d rescued the Taldryan prisoners with the help of Mortetior and Alexander but Azrith was, as far as Vodo knew, still alive. That is unless Cotelin had killed the Inquisitor for his own failings. In the days after their triumphant rendezvous with the Fleet Vodo had maintained an air of health and vitality, letting no hint of his true constitution taint the Clan’s image of him. It was crucial that he appear strong in victory as he stood beside the Consul. Rhylance had begrudgingly recognized Vodo’s success, how could he not? They both had parts to play and until one of them could remove the other from the story they had to carry on.

Zasati’s eyes searched his face, having heard and probably sensed his pain and distraction. Vodo fixed her concentration by depressing the button on the remote. The shock hit her hard, like it was meant to, but she took it in stride having learned how to resist the physical need to contort and seize up. He was proud of her, of his ability to break her down rather, and he let it show in the Force.

“Droid, set us down atop that mesa”, he commanded the ship’s autopilot.

The Karufr Knight angled for the flat top mountain the shuttle’s owner designated and set down with gentle finesse. The wings folded up as the landing struts came down, the rising orange sun on the horizon bathing the Knight’s distinctive red, white, and black paint scheme in rays of early morning light. The Taldryan symbol, painted in red, stood atop the wings declaring to the empty world who had come to inspect it.

“Grab one of the expedition bags from the airlock’s stores. You’ll need water and something to eat. Prepare one for me as well”, Vodo left the cockpit and made for the ramp.

Zasati watched him go over her shoulder before unstrapping and silently mouthing his words back to him snottily. She joined her Master with both bags at the base of the ramp some minutes later and offered one to Vodo. He looked at her with disdain and began walking, leaving her there holding both.

The Warlord strode atop his cybernetic legs, the rocky terrain slowing him down little. Zasati scrambled after, attempting to keep both expedition bags’ straps secured over her shoulders while trying avoid tripping on the uneven terrain. She’d changed into the trousers she’d stashed aboard the ship weeks ago, thankfully, while she was still in Vodo’s good graces. Her skirt would have been the death of her had she’d been forced to wear that here.

It took them most of the morning but they crested the gentle rise atop the Mesa and could see for miles in all directions. The world was gorgeous, in its own way, but eerily silent. No wind, no insects, and no birds. Vegetation was scarce too; small patches of moss or lichen clung to the southward side of the rocks, trying to stretch what little solar energy the dim sun provided.

“This place is much like parts of Antei”, Vodo spoke conversationally, startling Zasati who’d suffered the entire hike in silence.

She looked at him, unsure if she was supposed to respond but figured she might as well, “Yeah? When did you spend much time exploring Antei?”

One of the bags tugged off her shoulder, she slid her arm out of the strap as it went, and it floated into Vodo’s outstretched hand, “Back when I first found the Brotherhood it was common for prospective Acolytes to be dropped off at one end of the Shadow Lands with nothing but a single canteen of water and whatever they had upon them at that moment.”

“They were told”, he continued reminiscing uncharacteristically, “to reach the Great Hall of Antei, sited at the far end of the desolate plain, and those that did would be accepted into the rolls of the Brotherhood.”

Zasati knew something of what he was talking about. The practice had only ended a short time before she’d found herself wound up in the Dark Brotherhood, “You clearly survived.”

Vodo seated himself upon a rock and opened the expedition bag and drew out the canteen, “I did. The two others marooned with me did not.”

Zasati took out her own canteen, and one of the protein bars she’d packed into the bag, before seating herself, “What happened to them?”

It was at that moment Vodo’s bearing changed, as though he realized he’d been speaking too much, “One had a knife I needed. The other got in my way.”

That put a damper on the conversation and for a while they sat in silence drinking and snacking. Zasati was the one who broke the quiet, “Only the strong survived.”

Vodo’s yellow eyes met hers, they were sharp and fierce like a predators, “You can only be free as long as you are alive, and you can only be alive as long as you are strong enough to be free.”

It was almost like one piece of the puzzle finally fit another; She saw him in a new light. Vodo had always been strong and hard but he’d never laid his inner workings bare like this. Zasati didn’t dare speak lest she ruin the moment.
The Master stood, slinging the bag back to her, and pointed, “We will learn how strong you are. Come.”

She followed his pointing finger and her heart skipped a beat. Fallen pillars, stone works and horribly eroded statues lay littering the ground only 50 meters from where they sat. She could have sworn there’d been nothing there moments earlier. Had Vodo been concealing it with his sorcerery? She hadn’t felt him drawing upon the Dark Side. It was when they approached the ruin that her heart stopped entirely. A door, surrounded by carved stone, still stood at the center leading to a stairwell down into the heart of the mesa. It was a portal into darkness.

“Fear makes us stronger my Apprentice, but only once we have defeated it. Lead on.”


She stood before the mouth of her fate, a cold breath wailing from its depths, pulling at the ends of her long hair. Zasati lamented her Hapan blood, wishing desperately that her Master would reconsider. She loathed the darkness more than anything. Even him.

She leaned back, forcing resolve. Who needed sight in the dark, Zasati wondered sourly. She thought back to years before, when she’d gone into ruins just like this. She remembered that utter blackness, the terror of the chase, and finally, like a stab of pain, her Zakai wailing in her arms.

She shook it away, hoping that the man beside her had not noticed.

The woman pushed to the front and went down the stairs. They were both silent. Like a shadow, he followed her. Zasati licked her dry lips. The long corridor was empty. Far down in its silence, the fading light was devoured by the black. Surely this was the place one existed before being born, and they had come back to it. It was nowhere, the darkness behind the sky, cold and stale and full of faintest rustles and murmurs and drips.

Zasati questioned for a moment if Vodo had used this mission as a ploy to pull her away from the safety of Rhylance. He’d taken her to this place of shadow for his own gain, and this was sure to be her tomb.

They stopped at the end of the staircase, nothing but darkness spread before them. Standing there, Zasati heard nothing at first; then small noises, droppings and remote echoes, faint. She could hardly bear it. Her tattoo flickered yellow, but she was grateful for the small light it provided.

A sudden snap-hiss came from behind and caused her to leap forward, hands clenched around the straps of their bags. Breathless, she fought for control. Still. Keep still.


It was a brilliant red, steady and glowing, but for a flickering moment, Zasati thought it meant her end had finally come. She flinched. Instead, Vodo lifted his saber into the air, illuminating all that was around them.

The chamber was vast. On each side, it faded away into shadows, and Zasati could see by the wall near the end of the stairs that it was solid stone, a natural cavern, seamed with gleaming quartz. The crystals grew from the walls, blue and white, sharp-edged, faceted. The cave glittered.

The crumbling remains of altars and statues littered the great Hall, which had once been dressed for now long forgotten worship. Zasati shifted the weight of their packs, wishing she could ignite her lightsaber as well.

“Why didn’t this read on the scans?” She glanced over her shoulder, muttering in bewilderment. Vodo merely raised a brow, and she could sense that he wanted to proceed. Carefully, she obliged.

Vodo walked, silent, at her side. She wanted to find comfort in his presence, as she had in the past. Instead, she found only slow burning anger and, admittedly, fear. Just ahead, she saw another threshold; ancient marks were carved deeply into the crystal-speckled stone around it. Stairs led down into thick gloom.

They pressed forward, still without words, from the second level to the third. Hundreds of steps into the deep. As they descended, the air changed. It became warm, a muffling, constant heat. They arrived at the fourth, which seemed to be the deepest level where the carved staircase stopped.

“Haven’t we gone far enough?” Zasati paused breathless, a pain in her side. She looked at the Twi’lek, her long, lapis eyes hard.

The Twi’lek glared at her. "No.”

Zasati set her teeth. They were passing through soft rock now, scooped and hollowed centuries ago. Her legs ached and, even in the red glowing embrace, her eyes stung from the strain to see ahead.

Down. Further down they went until she thought they must be at the very heart of the planet, inside its hot, beating heart. She could almost hear it: a thudding, distant vibration that she thought was only in her head and chest.

Until Vodo caught her arm and whispered, “Listen.”

Red rocks rattled. Before them, even more darkness. Zasati’s labored breaths were loud. There was something. It pulsed, barely there, and then as they strained to hear, it had gone, and she was sure she had imagined it.

“Be silent,” the Warlord’s voice rumbled. She quieted, and they concentrated.


A dark figure, cloaked in a robe so dark it stood out against the pitch black of the cavern, emerged to stand beside them. It was covered, head to toe, in the material that seemingly swallowed the light as well as the shadows. Zasati’s hand gripped her Master’s forearm instinctively as she tensed in fright. The hand slipped away just as quickly. The Robed figure stared at Zasati from beneath the hole of the cowl as it raised a hand, unseen under the robe, and pointed further into the cavern.

The woman hesitantly stepped forward. Zasati wasn’t entirely sure why her feet were moving but she felt she must go so she did. The Figure walked alongside her without a word or a noise. The dark pressed in all around her but from the echoes of her own footsteps she could tell the cavern had widened out considerably. It was then she realized that the little light she was seeing by was coming from the walls, a subtle red glow that bathed everything in its soft neon and silhouetted the figure of black perfectly. Vodo, nor his lightsaber, could be seen. When had she lost him?

The Figure crossed over the cleared area she’d led Zasati to. When it reached the other end, 15m away, it stopped and turned. The cloak dropped from it, all at once, revealing a woman not too much older than she herself was with long black hair that lay in bunchs and wavy curls. It was the tattoo on the woman’s face that stopped Zasati’s heart. It sat there, a double helix splashed across one side of her face under those fierce, yellow-red eyes. Her eyes.
The Dark Zasati drew a lightsaber hilt and activated it with a snap-hiss. A deep sapphire blade emerged from the weapon and flicked upward into a diffident salute. Zasati grabbed for her own hilt, an elegant white and silver thing for one handed use, and activated its brilliant cyan blade.

Vodo’s Apprentice disappeared down the cavern with the Force Apparition. He watched their shapes merge with the black of the dark beyond wondering which would return to him. Zasati would be consumed by the Dark Side energy of this place and it would destroy her or give her a new focus. In truth this planet offered nothing for Taldryan. It was too near the New Republic and the System was mineral poor. They would begin the survey on the next planet, a place his nav charts only listed as Imperial Outpost Besh 2-Aurek in the system named only for its star, similarly named Besh 2-23.This was a detour, a crucial one.

If Zasati could finally be instilled with a heart for the Dark Side he could finally teach her. She wasn’t entirely soft, Anubis’s murder proved that, but she lacked the fortitude that mastery of the Dark Side required. He would make her like iron, like durasteel, and she would become worthy at last of his instruction. Vodo feared if he didn’t the Consul would turn her his way. Honestly, Vodo was concerned he already had. Rhylance was a worm; he was slippery and was adept at finding dirt.

The echo of a tumbling stone attracted Vodo’s attention. He deactivated his Lightsaber, enrobing himself in the dark of the Cavern. Was it another apparition? This was place was strong in the Force, it was possible, but he had long ago conquered this place’s test. He reached out with his senses, his physical ones as well as the Force, and felt not the foci of the Force which would summon the apparition but rather the shape of a person with no particular connection to the Force.

The man picked his way through the dark and Vodo could sense his frustration. The man was probably armored and trying to sneak through the cave using only helmet sensors to find his way silently. The man was filled with the sort of focus that Vodo had grown used to feeling in others before a tough fight. He’d come here to fight something tough, like Vodo.

Vodo’s blood became hot. Rhylance was making his move already? Was Zasati in on it as well? The Warlord pressed himself up against a stalagmite that had fused with a stalactite to form an enormous mineral pillar, and awaited the man’s arrival. He would deal with the assassin before confronting his erstwhile Apprentice.


In the depths of the cave, the two women stood; a mirrored reflection.

The Dark Woman slid her right foot back gracefully, silver battle dress rippling like mercury around her lissome frame. Eyes narrowed, Zasati faced Herself, fingers curled tightly around the hilt of her saber. She quickly lifted the bags from across her shoulder and cast them aside. Whatever this trick was, she could not allow herself to lose to it. Wetting her lips in apprehension, she swallowed hard; her tattoo flickered through a myriad of color with every rising emotion.

You wish to be free, but you are a slave. The Apparition’s words fell suddenly across Zasati’s mind, cutting her heavy thoughts like a knife through water.

Remembering her training, Zasati turned her body to minimize her profile to the Specter, while her right arm and saber extended outward, parallel with the floor.

You are a slave to Taldryan, the Dark Woman continued, her lips unmoving. You are a slave to your Consul and Master. You are a slave to Motherhood. But above all else, Zasati Tryezsh, you are a slave to your Fear.

“I am no such thing,” Zasati hissed.

The Hunter let the weight of her blade rest on her ring and little finger, the slight curve of her hilt hugging the palm of her hand. The tug of its energy felt foreign- harsh and officious. It reminded her of Vodo. She locked gaze with the other woman; their tattoos both illuminating bright blue. She would prove that she could overcome herself, be a worthy advisory or, at the very least, a worthy student. It was in this moment of thought that, simultaneously, the women advanced upon each other.

Blades crashed with a lustful sizzle, sparks licking the Hunter’s robes. The Dark Woman’s attack came with an aggressive force Zasati had not expected, a whirlwind of gossamer light that nearly exploded with power. The Hapan parried quickly, slipping fluidly past the path of the Apparition’s fury. Hot breaths of the Force rippled through her; obsidian tendrils floated up as Zasati leapt into the air. The Dark Woman struck out again- her sapphire blade moving in a graceful arch to crack against cyan once more.

The attack sent a shudder through the younger woman. Something was wrong. The opalescent-blue of her blade seemed to be faint- almost like a fading light. The Apparition never let up, contentiously attacking until she quickly overpowered her weaker opponent, nearly forcing Zasati to her knees. Locked together, the sabers crackled and sputtered, heat and light and sparks enveloping them. Suddenly, the Seeker felt something click- felt the light snap off.

With an effort of will, the Dark Woman moved, casting away her opponent’s saber as she slid smoothly to the right, slamming her hand against Zasati’s face. The Apparition reached out with a malicious Illusion, poisoning the weaker mind with ease.

Tell me, do you really wish to be Free? A wicked grin curled at the corners of the Dark Woman’s lips, as her red-yellow eyes burned. She tightened her grasp on Zasati’s visage, nails digging into ivory skin.

“Yes,” Zasati murmured, voice ragged from fighting against the Darkness. A part of her wanted the pain and strength: the destructive power; the other refused it. Pressure pinpointed on her, demanding that she concede. Black crept around the edges of her vision and, just as Zasati was about to scream, the Apparition released her grip and threw her arm out.

In that case, you won’t be needing him. A bolt of electric blue erupted from the Dark Woman’s fingertips, rushing past and through the cavernous room behind them.

Zasati turned; her lapis eyes following the curve of electricity across the space. Horrified, her gaze met that of her son’s. She felt the breathless terror rise inside her like a pain. A hateful roar spilled from Zasati’s mouth; a rattled echo that reverberated violently against the stone walls. She summoned her hilt to her hand, pressed it to the Dark Woman’s side, and ignited it.

The Apparition remained firmly in place. The scent of scorched flesh and smoldering cloth rose through the damp air as the blade pierced through. The glow of her sapphire blade vanished as Zasati moved away, feet digging into the earth.

She knew she would never be fast enough. It couldn’t be real. None of it was real. But she could still feel him.

Zakai’s small body crumpled to the ground long before she was by his side. Blue static fluttered across his chest, desperate to devour all it touched. She cradled his head, empty eyes looking through her. He was gone. Just like that. Faster than she could breathe. Faster than a single thought could form. She rocked gently, unwilling to comprehend the Darkness as it sank into her bones.

Behind her, a dull thud echoed. Everything went numb as the Apparition of her son slowly faded from her arms and back into shadow.

Alone, sweating, Zasati released a long, shuddering breath. Hands clenched; she made herself open them, her fingers pained, raw and rigid. Venomous hate burned through her veins. Was that really who she could become? A monster so starved for power that she’d kill anything that stood in her path? Even her own child? She tasted her weakness and potential and found them both lacking.

Zasati rose up, unfolding herself like a pale spider. She glanced at the body of the Dark Woman, a sidelong jerk of the head, watching as it faded away. The chamber fell dark, but Zasati remained oddly calm, unafraid. She would be free, yes. But it would be on her terms. Nothing, not even the Force itself, would dictate her future ever again.

She would ensure it.


Zasati returned to her Master’s side. She found him sitting upon a plinth where once a stature must have resided. He sat, deep in concentration, and did not react to her approach. Only momentarily, she considered the possibility of killing him and being done with one more problem. Vodo stirred and she shunted the thoughts from her mind.

“You’ve returned to me”, he voice was low but perfectly audible in the silence of the cavern, “I can feel you’ve grown in conviction. Good.”

As Zasati drew up level with the Warlord she saw then what her Master was focused on, “Who is that?”

A man writhed on the ground, silently screaming in terror, trying to bat away some unseen horror that was attempting to attack him, “Someone foolish enough to follow us. He said his Mistress’s name is Siv.”

Zasati’s heart froze at the name, “Siv…”

Vodo stood and walked over to the man, “I seem to recall a Ki’nota Siv from our first acquaintance. It wouldn’t be the one and the same, would it?”

“I can’t imagine she’s given up looking for me, but this is extreme even by her standards”, Zasati knelt near the mercenary, careful to stay clear of his thrashing, “What will you do with him?”

Vodo gave her a quixotic look in the dim light of the chemlight in his hand, “What will I do? What will you do.”
The Warlord took several steps back, signifying the man was entirely hers to do with as she pleased. The man still wore the majority of the tan-brown armor he’d come in with, though many of the armored plates looked as though they’d weathered a fearsome attack by a lightsaber. The mercenary lacked a helmet, though his tussled hair and the throat-mic sleeve suggested he’d had one at some point. Vodo had battered this man before he’d cast whatever hex he had upon him to cause him to writhe and squirm so strangely. Zasati stared at the man, pitilessly, and walked forward.

She felt her Master do something in the Force. The Mercenary’s eye deglazed and focused; his thrashing ceased and he became still, “Where am I?”

“At the end of your line”, her Cyan lightsaber extended with a snap-hiss.

The man had no time to react as she closed on him and plunged the weapon through his throat. It passed through his flesh like a hot knife in butter and she held it there long enough that it began to sink into the rock floor beneath him filling the room with ozone and the smell of iron. She watched him gurgle and squirm in his death throes, his own movements tearing her blade through the soft of his neck, until he stopped shortly thereafter. It was exhilarating. The man was a no-body but he had been sent by that hag. Siv would suffer, far more than he ever had, she would see to it.

Vodo stood still, watching his Apprentice with gleeful delight. His eyes danced with mirth as he drank in her transformation. Dark power radiated from her being as she stood over the man’s corpse savoring her victory and her revenge. The Galaxy, as large as it was, was miraculously small at times and it had worked in his favor once again. Had Siv not sent this man, by way of their dear Consul, Zasati’s lesson here in the Cavern might have only been half-finished. This would greatly accelerate his plans for her.

“Come, My Apprentice”, He began back towards the ascending stairwell, “We have many worlds to explore and this one has nothing left to offer us.”

They sat aboard the Karufr Knight in the lounge. The Droid Brain was piloting them to the next world, the first in the true exploration for Taldryan’s future home, so that they might decompress in peace. The Galley had prepared two meals at Vodo’s command and place settings were made at the hide away table in the center of the room so that Master and Apprentice sat opposite one another in the middle.

“I’m proud of you, Zasati”, Vodo told her between bites, “That world belongs to the dead and few living visitors are allowed to leave.”

She peered at the homely visage of the Twi’lek across from her over the rim of her wineglass, “What was that place?”

“It has no name, not anymore, but it was once a world inhabited by the descendants of a lost Corellian colony ship. Thousands of years ago the Core Worlds flung their people to the stars using hibernation pods and cannons that propelled the ships into hyperspace, this was before hyperdrives mind you, with the hope that one day these far flung colonies would reestablish contact with the home worlds”, there it was she saw-- the bookish Journeyman with a tendency to drone on about history and politics without a moment’s notice.

Vodo stopped when she saw her staring at him, “Suffice to say they died out leaving only the ruins of their Dark Side cult or religion behind.”


Imperial Outpost Besh 2-Aurek
Besh 2-23 System
Karufr Knight

The shuttle set down on a plateau overlooking a vast basin. Against the horizon climbed the white peaks of an endless mountain range. It was eerily beautiful. Zasati gazed out of the view plates of the shuttle at the new world below them. The steppe rolled for kilometers beyond, a sea of golden grass. Below, the rivers parted a valley like ice-scaled serpents. Further still, she could make out the crumbling remains of ancient stone temples peppered across the land.

The woman sighed wistfully at the view as she leaned forward against the command dash. It reminded her of home. Home. She rolled the word around in her head, savoring it. She missed her son more than anything in that quiet moment. For all of her new found resolve, she still worried about him. Did Zakai think she had abandoned him? Would he wonder why his mother never came home? It had been, what? Weeks? Or was it months since she’d been able to contact him? Surely, he would forgive-

The sharp sting of electricity jolted her back to reality.

“What the frakking hell was that for?!” Zasati hissed as she whirled around, hand clasped around the shock collar at her neck. She was going to end that man, so help her. Her hate-filled eyes met Vodo’s stoic form.

“Now that I have your attention,” the Twi’lek smirked and slipped the collar’s remote back into the folds of his robe. “Grab your cold-weather gear and provisions for us. I want to reach the structure you scanned before nightfall.”

Lips pursed, she forced herself to bow slightly in acknowledgment, “Yes, Master.”

Snowdust swirled as she crested the final ridge, the slowly setting sun painting the sky a brilliant violet behind her. A bloom of unfamiliar chill pierced Zasati’s cloak as Vodo summoned her into the gloom of the aimless winter ice. She inhaled the smell of the cold earth around them; a shiver slipped down her arms, and she rubbed them nervously. Some 500 meters ahead, in a clearing between the tall trees, rose a small ziggurat. Its onyx-black steps climbed into the fading light, imposing a harsh shadow over the fresh blanket of white.

In all of her years, Zasati had never seen such perfect snow. It lay in silver waves on the ground, crunching underfoot. She was envious of it. Pure and free in all of its ethereal graces as it swirled down gently. The half-Hapan pulled her cloak up tighter around her and turned around, walking along the edge of the ice-marbled terrace, past beautiful, crumbling statues of long forgotten Gods.

Vodo halted suddenly, causing the oblivious Zasati to collide into his arm. The man stared down at her, as she sheepishly backed away and adjusted the packs on her shoulder. She felt herself blush involuntarily under his scrutinizing gaze; her tattoo glimmered yellow.

Wordlessly, he set to work, methodically clearing a small area just along the tree line. Zasati turned to look at the looming structure behind them. Exhaling, she studied it and likened it to her Master. It dominated the landscape, commanding all to look upon it, touting its prestige and power over all.

She turned to look back at the swallow-skinned Twi’lek beside her. Beneath Vodo’s hands, a fire blossomed, its tongues ablaze. Over her shoulders and above the ziggurat, the scattered brilliance of the stars burned against the darkness. Clouds rolled slowly across the sky, silvery threads of moonlight tumbling from their embrace.

“Sit,” he addressed her cooly, gesturing to a spot beside the fire.

“Yes, Master,” she replied, a bitter smile tightening across her lips. Zasati joined him, sitting straight with her sharp gaze toward him.

They sat in total, painful quiet for what seemed like eons. Across the fire, she caught Vodo touched the spot on his side, the old injury he thought he was so cleverly hiding. That would explain his silence, she mused. He glowered at her and returned to his stoic repose: a statue of brooding anger. Zasati took note of his reaction, suppressing a grin. The Great Biask Taldrya could feel pain after all.

It began to snow again. Still silent, they watched it spin down between them; soft wet flakes fell on her inky hair and in the folds of their clothes, hanging from them like frail lace. Her lapis eyes reflected the fiery light, tresses falling like black snakes around her shoulders.

Zasati lifted her hand to adjust her cloak. The metal casing of her left hand clicked softly against the collar cinched tight around her neck. She froze as her reality hit her like a blizzard. It began as a whisper, drifting from the back of her mind. It unfolded, and the pieces drifted together- a torrent of ice screaming through the dark, velvety air.

She held her cybernetic hand out, willing the mechanism to clench into a fist. The cool blue of Anger illuminated her tattoo. How had she allowed him to treat her in such a way? After everything they’d been through, after the passion, they had shared all those years ago? How had she allowed herself to be his prisoner? He was- no. No.

The woman finally broke the stillness. “Vodo, I hope you know that I will not apologize for being a disappointment to you. I came back of my own accord. I agreed to help right the wrongs done to the Clan.” He looked at her, a crinkle of anger flickering across his visage. She grinned wickedly, unwilling to back down, no matter the consequences. “You do not own me because I answered your call to action.”

Zasati leaned back; a gust of cold wind bit her skin once more, and she noticed the trees heavy, needled branches waver slightly. With a faint smile flickering across her lips, pressed on, “We will return to the Lord Consul tomorrow.” The woman held her breath as the command fell from her tongue. She was ready.

His eyes narrowed dangerously at her blatant defiance. He was disappointed. All of his work towards her obedience: gone. She would be harder to break than he thought. He scoffed, tongue in cheek, as he lifted a hand.

“Vodo,” she hissed through clenched teeth.

“My Apprentice.”

The raven-haired woman returned his words with a disdainful glare. Vodo adjusted into a more comfortable position, seemingly unphased by her outburst. It only angered her more. The Twi’lek raised a brow, waiting. If he couldn’t teach her through physical force, he would have to break her another way.

Suddenly, all of her new found strength fled. Zasati was frightened by him- by his intense stare; the endless, empty depths of his eyes pierced her like a glinting spear. As the wind began to pick up, clouds rushed in from the far off ends of the world; she found that she couldn’t look away.

She gripped her cloak as a sharp pain rushed up her leg. Her heart began to slow as the tortuous chains of his anger twisted up her body, holding her firmly in place.

“Clearly, you and I need to have this conversation.”


Zasati lay pinned where she had been seated. Vodo rose menacingly to his feet so that he towered over her, even from across their small fire. The look upon his face was more a grimace of pain than fury but the hard look in his eye left no doubt what it was he was feeling. The Twi’lek mindlessly held the wound his side, all pretense of hiding it gone, as he glowered angrily at his Apprentice.

“You act as though I owe you something; as though you’re still something special”, his voice was growl and Zasati couldn’t tell if she’d only imagined him say ‘to me’.

His emotions, normally so controlled and channeled, were now bleeding through the Force. “You act as though I haven’t given you any regard. You… You who I gave my heart to, you who ran away from me when the going got hard, you who took with you my only opportunity to produce a legacy. I’m half of a man now, Zasati! I have no child, I can never have one, and the only thing I have left the is the hope to train an Apprentice strong enough-- worthy enough to inherit all that I will create. That too you took from me.”

He saw the startled look at on her face and felt her concern but also confusion in the Force, “You killed my Apprentice, the man I was going to groom to be my Right Hand; The man who I could have treated like a son and an heir who could have learned from me and grown to be more than I am. Anubis was the only Apprentice of any worth who returned to me and for a short instant I had hope that my plans weren’t for naught.”

Vodo trod over the fire, paying its rising thermals no mind as he did so, his over-cloak brushing the embers lightly, “I could have forgiven that theft if you’d killed him with the intention to claim his place. I can respect ruthlessness and pragmatism but you’re neither of those things, My Apprentice. You’re petulant, weak, and your emotions rule you. You killed him because he put you in your place like he was supposed to do.”

Zasati was trembling, a combination of the cold and her fear wracking her body, “Why couldn’t you just open yourself to me, like you used to?”

Crouching before her, Vodo brought his homely face very close to hers so that the heat of his words brushed across her face, “The man you knew died when you ran from him. My legacy is all I have anymore and you seem set on taking that from me even now.”

The Force released her and Zasati could move at last. He hovered over her, the warmth of his upper body wafting over her, almost daring her to try something.


“You do not deserve a legacy. You deserve to burn to ash,” Zasati spat, forcing back angry tears as she struggled to strengthen her resolve. “I have taken nothing from you. I gave myself to you completely. Every. Single. Piece. And you have the audac-” she inhaled sharply, “the audacity to claim I abandoned you? After everything?” The woman leaned in until their faces were merely a hand’s breadth apart.

“You were rising through the ranks so quickly… Do you remember?” Her brows knitted together tightly. “Do you remember how many wanted to see you in ruins back then?” She lifted her hand to his cheek, red nails dragging along his sallow skin. “You know nothing of what happened to me,” her voice quivered, her tattoo bathing them in cerulean light. Vodo was still, his burning glare fueling her anger even more.

She slammed her hands against his chest and pushed back, rising so that his gaze was level with her waist. “Instead… Instead, you lash out with your bitter anger like- like a child! You call me the coward.” In one fluid motion, Zasati threw back her cloak and drew up her layered shirts to expose her torso. Through the frigid air, she could feel his surprise rumble around her. The Warlord stared, unblinking, at the once flawless buttermilk skin. There, covering the expanse of her midriff, lay dozens of jagged scars; the bodies of soldiers scattered across a battlefield.

“Y-you were so consumed by your narcissism that-” she choked back her words. “How can you believe I left you of my own volition?” She sneered, tears flowing as she pulled her shirts back down. “Their torture was ten-fold to Siv’s.”

Zasati clenched her hands to keep from shaking, “For over a year I endured. I waited. And you never came for me,” she sobbed, venom laced through her words. “When I needed you. When we needed you- you did not come.”


Her words caught him off-guard, the scars hammering them home mercilessly. He remembered that night, their last night, all those years ago. There had been a fight between them-- what it ways he only barely remembered. Zasati had been talking about their futures, their future together, and she had been urging him to leave the Brotherhood and to leave Taldryan. He’d argued back that his place was in Clan Taldryan, that he would be an important man with an important future here; he’d told her of his plans and how she would rise along with him and explore her full potential. She hadn’t wanted that and so they shouted through the night. The next day she’d vanished and Vodo wrote her off. Clearly she hadn’t believed in him and, in her cowardice, she’d ran—or so he’d always thought.

Her words cut through his defenses and emotional barriers like a Lightsaber. They wove through his natural callousness; batted away his reflexive dislike of emotional topics. It struck at his heart in the way only someone you loved could. Vodo’s eyes were hard like iron as he glared at those scars on her stomach. So many competing thoughts fought for dominance in his head. He wanted to know where they’d gone wrong. He wanted to tell her that there was no way he could have known. Mostly he wanted to find the man who had done this and twist his head off.

Still kneeling he looked up into her blue eyes, one brightly illuminated by that tattoo on her check also brightly glowing blue, “Who did this to you?”

The venom in his voice shook her from her pedestal of anger momentarily, “What?”

Rising, Vodo lightly grasped both of her arms in his large hands, “Tell me who did this to you.”


She winced at his touch, glancing down at his hand in disgust as she tore herself away. “D-do not touch me,” she hissed, drawing her arms around herself. “You have done enough damage- enough.” Zasati backed away, heart racing as tear-stained cheeks began to freeze in the gelid air. Her anger would not cease. It rose inside her, icy and sharp, cutting away all of her inhibitions. She would have none of his tricks- none of his lies or his false empathy. Never again. She composed herself, drawing in a final, shaking breath.

“Why?! Why should I tell you anything more? You failed me in every way as a man. And I… I simply returned the favor as your Apprentice.” The wind began to pick up, snow dancing between them in torrents of silvery white. “Suddenly, you care?” Her hair whipped wildly with each gusty bellow. “You want to find the men- the monsters who did this to me?” She quietly slipped her hand to the hilt of her blaster strapped to her thigh. “Start with yourself.”

His iron stare was unwavering, and he was certain there was a momentary flash of yellow-red across her lapis eyes. Her hatred was palpable on the air; it spread out like thick, black oil in the Force around them. Vodo took a step forward, reaching out to grab her again.

That defiant act set Zasati ablaze: an explosion of pure, unbridled rage. In the frigid tempest, she stood before the man she once loved. Gone were those feelings. Burned to utter ash and scattered to the winds like the scorched earth of Karufr. Before her now stood her most feared adversary- her most bitter mistake.

Without hesitation, Zasati ripped her blaster from its holster and fired rapidly. Her eyes followed the Twi’lek as he moved, shots screeching past him. A wicked grin blossomed on her blood red lips as a bolt grazed the very edge of his right lekku, causing her Master to growl in surprise.

“You worthless–” the Warlord grunted, quickly calming his nerves.


“Not one step closer!” Zasati wrapped her other hand over the grip of the blaster, “I won’t miss this time.”

Vodo’s nostrils flared as he breathed deeply in and out, focusing on the pain in his right lekku, “Put the gun down, Zasati. Put it down and I won’t hurt you…”

Her eyes flashed dangerously, “I’m sick of your orders. You don’t own me! No one owns me!”

“Zasati… The only order I’m giving you right now is to point that gun somewhere else. Just put it down-- I didn’t know what had happened to you”, He felt her determination steel so he was forced to act.

The blaster screeched as a bolt fired. The red bolt flew up and over Vodo’s shoulder, well wide of hitting him, as Zasati crumpled into a heap feet back from where she’d been standing. The Force had taken her off her feet, throwing her aim off. Vodo reached for the remote in his robes to activate her collar but found the pocket empty. His lekku tingled, his danger sense warning him she was drawing a bead on him once again. He whirled out of the way as another bolt of red energy sailed past him and dissipated into a nearby tree with a fizzle and a puff of vapor.

Zasati climbed to her knees and took aim at her Master once again, “You knew—you knew I was being hunted.”

Vodo could feel her rage pouring off of her like boiling water, “Put. The Gun. Down. I won’t warn you again…”

She sneered at him, “I would sooner suffer at the hands of the Jarrcara or Siv again than spend another moment with you!”

Sensing her intent to pull the trigger again Vodo summoned his lightsaber to hand. It flew into his hand, the sideways motion of the hilt catching her attention and momentarily distracting her. Vodo was able to activate the white blade just as she fired a trio of bolts at him. The Warlord deflected the attacks into the environment around her causing Zasati to flinch and recoil. He bounded forward, his metal foot coming down in the center of the fire they’d built sending sparks flying in all directions, and batted another bolt fired at him away. Zasati prepared for a cleaving strike but was instead tackled to the ground by Vodo’s mass. She scrambled to get out from beneath him but he trapped her by pinning her cybernetic hand beneath his taloned foot. The other he placed carefully across her sternum while he held the point of his saber out to the side so that she could see it.

“Do you want me to kill you?” he roared down at her, furious, “Is that all you feel right now?”

“I never loved you,” she laughed, all but begging for him to finally end it.

Vodo stared down at her, her tattoo burning a vibrant blue. He could feel the tumult of her emotions, consisting of mostly anger and disgust, but found something else there: fear. Not for herself but for someone else, someone very important to her. Vodo was confused for a moment, wondering how she could possibly be fearing for him at this moment, when he caught a flash of her thoughts through the Force; A small person, skin a ruddy color of pink, and feelings of love and adoration throughout. The meaning of the images staggered him.

He blinked, his eyes staring down into her hard glare, “You have a child?”

Her glare melted into wide-eyed terror as her tattoo went black and dead, “Get out of my head!”

Vodo flicked his wrist and the blaster flew out of her pinned hand into the brush at the edge of their camp, “I’m going to let you up. Are you going to do something we’ll both regret?”


After a long moment, Zasati finally nodded in submission. The Twi’lek moved back, freeing her from his talons. She drew her arms to her chest, exhaustion apparent on her face. Chest heaving with every quiet sob, she sank into the snow, utterly defeated. The darkness enveloped her as the nearby fire finally died. She could feel him staring- waiting as she tried to calm herself.

Zasati rolled onto her side and slowly pushed herself up. Her shoulders slumped forward, obsidian strands hanging carelessly in her lapis eyes. Each drawn breath pulled the bitter cold into her lungs, ripping inside her chest like millions of glacial barbs. Desperate for relief, she rubbed the heel of her palm against her chest, but it remained.

“How old is your child?” his voice, usually hard and authoritative, fell over her with surprising softness.

“A-almost ten, he’s-” she whispered, voice cracking as she tried to stop her words.

“So, the men, the Jarrcara… the child, he is their-” Vodo stopped short, his brow furrowed as she finally looked up, eyes locking with his burning red-yellow gaze.

Slowly, the black of her tattoo began to fade away. The light grew brighter, painting her cheek with a ribbon of twisted, blood red brilliance. Zasati’s chin trembled as unstoppable emotions finally spilled out, vibrant and carelessly tumbling into the Force around them. A decade of her fears and struggles and her love. A decade of silence. Even now, she did not have to speak the words for him to know.

The child was his.


He was gobsmacked. Vodo trod backward slowly until one of his rear-facing talons caught on a root. He stumbled but caught himself on a tree and lowered himself till he sat against its trunk. His eyes blinked slowly as he processed the feeling he’d caught from her. It had been fleeting, there for only an instant, but he’d sensed it clear as day. She looked back at him, aware of the secret she’d given away, with the helical tattoo on her still burning red while shifting to a frightful orange.

The child was his.

They sat in a tense silence for a long moment. Vodo couldn’t seem to think of anything else; he couldn’t move past the thought. I have a child. I have a son. I have a legacy.

“How could you hide him from me?” he whispered weakly.

Zasati stuck her chin out impudently, “I couldn’t let you raise him in the Brotherhood. I couldn’t let your rivals use him as leverage in their games, their machinations for power… He’s my- our Son…”

There was a logic to her reasoning, Vodo admitted inwardly. He wanted to be angry, as he so often was, but he just couldn’t summon the energy to be anything other than stunned. He’d become so resigned for so many years now that there would never be an issue of his flesh to carry his name and his legacy forward. Vodo had never had a family, he’d never known his parents, and for the longest time his only desire was to set down roots and to build something that others would envy and respect. He wanted power, he wanted prestige and respect, and he’d wanted a child to give it all to so that his name could live forever.

How easy it had been to argue with her these last minutes when all there had been between them was years of misunderstanding and ill will but there was now a complication. Zasati had no love for him any longer-- that was clear. Vodo would see this child though, he had to. He had to see if the boy was worthy of him, if he could be trained and molded, or if he was like his mother. Zasati had potential but she would never be worthy of truly being his Apprentice. She’d made that point succinctly.
Vodo’s eyes darted about the small clearing of their encampment. He could see well in the dark, like all Twi’lek, but the small round remote was too similar in color to the snowy, stony ground to be seen by the firelight alone. Vodo expanded his senses and soon felt the small round device lying rather close to Zasati. He reached out with his arm and floated the remote into the air. Zasati followed it with a distrustful glare until it moved towards her rather than her Master.

Vodo lowered the device gently into her awaiting palm, “Tell me about my Son.”

The shock collar around her neck clicked gently when she depressed the button on the remote. Zasati reached up, grabbed the thing, and hurled it into the woods behind him. She used her hand to rub the soft of her neck, warming the flesh and soothing the irritation the collar had caused, “He’s a lot like you in many ways… Intelligent, resourceful, and he always gets his way.”

That brought a small smile to the corner of Vodo’s lips, “And what has he taken from you?”

Zasati considered her answer for a moment, “He doesn’t put up with bullies.”

Vodo chuckled inwardly while nodding approvingly, “Good. What’s his name?”


Zasati hesitated as she drew her legs beneath her. It was strange, speaking to Vodo about their son. She didn’t trust him- no, she didn’t trust herself. Not anymore. A decade spent hiding her greatest treasure from the hands that would tarnish it and in her recklessness, she’d given it up. Zasati pulled her cloak tighter. She dared not move again, lest the glacial winds pierce through her. The half-Hapan was exhausted, and the lingering anger still tasted bitter in her mouth. Zasati struggled to control the chaos of her emotions, her tattoo flickering from a vivid blue to pink to orange again.

“His name is Zakai.” She almost winced saying her son’s name aloud to the Warlord.

“And does he know the Force?” Vodo pressed, tilted his body towards her.

Zasati leaned away slightly in response, the wind tugging at her long hair. Either Vodo had forgotten how vehemently she disagreed with teaching the ways of the Force to children, or he was still trying to get under her skin. “He… is attuned to it.”

“That is not what I asked.”

“Shall I lie to protect your delicate emotions?” she snapped, glaring daggers at him.

He grimaced sourly, attempting to keep his anger contained within himself. Try as he might, the tempered steel of his displeasure seeped out into the Force around them.

A faint smile pulled at the corner of Zasati’s lips. She enjoyed watching him bite his tongue. “He has not studied it.” She looked across at the dying fire; logs dusted with marbled frost. “I know you disagree. I wanted him to have the life we were both denied. I wanted him to have a childhood- to give him the chance to find his own path.”

Vodo looked up at Zasati and started to say something. Instead, she felt the Twi’lek quell himself. After a few moments, he began to worry at the inside of his lip, “What have you told him of me?”

Zasati subconsciously clasped her prosthetic hand with her fingers of flesh. Lapis eyes met tainted yellow-red orbs as she searched for the answer: honest, yet careful. “Only that he has a father… and that someday, when he is older, he might meet you.” The half-Hapan waited for the Warlord to attack or, at the very least, lash out in some way. To her surprise, he remained still.

“I do have the right to meet my son, Zasati,” his words fell with a heaviness that she couldn’t quite place. It was disconcertingly so unlike him, and she willed herself to understand his ever-changing nature.

“Rhylance is expecting our return, as well as our report, shortly. You know, as well as I do, that he likely has eyes on us. The most prudent option, right now, is to return to the fleet and ensure that he does not find out about Zakai.” She shrugged slightly. “Can you not wait a little while longer?”


Vodo probed her emotions with the Force and made no effort to conceal that he was doing so. She was so careful, so guarded, regarding her son that he couldn’t get a good read on her but he also couldn’t shake the feeling that she was concealing something else from him entirely. His patience was being tested and as much as he reminded himself that he had to endure, Vodo just wanted to have the answer from her by any means necessary. It was this desire for violence, for inflicting his will upon others, that he constantly fought against just to remain civil around others. This woman had always pushed those buttons, wantonly, better than anyone else.

“I will wait”, he exhaled heavily, “But not for very long. Rhylance believes you are a weapon that can be used against me. I guarantee he has people looking into your past and when they turn up a child, a half-Twi’lek child, he will use it against us.”

The look in her eye was one part terror and one part determination, “You don’t think I’ve thought of that?”

“It becomes clearer to me every minute how little I truly knew you at all”, he hid nothing from the tone of his voice. Vodo was impressed. He was very impressed that she could hide this from him for so long.

Upsilon-class Shuttle Karufr Knight
En route to Taldryan Fleet Rendezvous
Location Redacted

The shuttle piloted itself as it grabbed the homing signal from the Dark Prophet II, still so distant as to be a speck in the dark of space, even though the two sat in the plush pilot’s couches. There was a heavy silence in the air, one that had persisted since they’d departed the barren, frozen world where they’d spent the last day surveying. Vodo glanced at Zasati out of the corner of his eye, at the long gleaming black hair she wore neatly tied in back, at the slender build of her frame, and wondered about what could have been. He wondered if there was ever a chance he could have been a family man, a happily married father and husband. It sounded as foreign as it felt. His life was not one of ease, of pleasure and contentment. His was a life of struggle, of constantly politicking and of sacrifice. He was Sith and always destined to have been one it appeared.

He felt for the satchel laying at the foot of his seat where he’d left it upon departing the Fleet earlier in the week. It was still there. He could feel its weight in his hand as he scooped it up and held it beside himself, on the side away from Zasati, so that his mass hid it from her view. It would change nothing between them, probably, but he wasn’t a heartless monster—even if he took great pains to appear that way. Life without his legs had changed many things he knew firsthand what a good prosthetic meant to its owner.


She looked at him, slightly perplexed he would interrupt their quietude so casually, “Yes?”

Vodo lifted the satchel physically and then handed it to her across the small space between their seats. She furrowed her brow and inspected the leather bag before accepting it from him, “What is this?”

“The closest thing to an apology that I am capable of”, Vodo watched as she drew the thing contained within from the satchel.

It was a thing of beauty. It had the form of a slender, feminine hand though it was crafted from Electrum and gleamed a flawless platinum-gold. The joints of the fingers were delicately crafted and finely assembled so that only under close scrutiny could the seams between the pieces be seen. Lines of inlaid precious metals played across the back of the polished surface, flush with it, giving the thing vibrancy and energy even as it remained still. Zasati turned the metal hand over and inspected it as the finger splayed out. Small sensors lay embedded in the pads of each finger and across the palm as well.

“I killed the man who made my prosthetics so that no one could trace his work back to me. This hand was crafted by his best apprentice and was intended for you upon completing your training with me on this mission. You finished, though not in the way I had expected, so there is only this left”, Vodo studied her feelings, trying to gauge her reaction to the cybernetic, “Wear it or don’t: it is yours. A thing of beauty for the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met.”