I'm holding a skull in my hands.
It's black and shiny, and if I turn it the right way I can see my distorted reflection in its concave cheek. I'd prefer not to. After the Imperials rescued me from that fiery lake, I refused to look at myself in any mirror. Losing my arm to Dooku had been nothing compared to losing my body in that pit Obi-Wan had thrust me in.
I saw the horrified looks the medics gave me when I was first brought in. I am a monster now. I had been ashamed to wear a mechanical arm, but now I have more circuits than real flesh. Emperor Palpatine has provided me with new armor to put on before I have to leave the medical lab, armor that will help me to walk and talk and... live. The medics had to help me with the body armor, but I sent them away after that. I wanted to look at my new face before I put it on.
Its eyes are black and empty, like pits. They seem utterly empty. My eyes are blue; Padm?'s are brown. She has these huge eyes, and when I used to look in them I didn't need the Force to know what she was thinking. Her eyes always shone with love. I wanted our daughters to have brown eyes so I could watch little angels like her.
We'll have no children now.
I shift the skull, hoping to catch a reflection of light in those opaque eyes, but they remain as black as ever. Whenever people look at me, they will see this skull. They will see it and wonder if it is theirs, leering up at them from the grave. Those rebels against the Emperor, the hated Jedi, those who have betrayed me, shall quake at the sight of the skull.
My lips twist into a smile. Obi-Wan will see it. Before I strike him down for all the wrongs he has done me, he will look at the skull in horror. I see him now, in my mind's eye, backing away from me, from looming doom.
His face blurs and morphs into another's. Will my Padm? see this skull? Never. She shall never know death, for angels never die. But I'd hide my face before letting Padm? see me like this. Such beings of light like angels cannot stand the darkness of death. She'd take flight rather than see this skull.
I turn the skull over in my hands, but I can feel little through my gloves. I'm wearing my black gloves, black cape, and black armor. I need only put on this skull, and I will be Lord Vader, black knight of the Sith. I'll take my place beside my new master; my power will rise beyond all.
And Anakin Skywalker will finally die.
He's already dead, I remind myself angrily. He was first beaten by Tusken raiders, then torn apart in grief when Padm? left. Whatever was left of Anakin Skywalker after that melted away in that volcanic hell, where Obi-Wan had been prepared to strike him down. Anakin Skywalker died in that pain.
There is no pain with the Emperor. There is anger and hate and maliciousness - but there is no pain. He defies me to turn my hurt into raw power. Only this way, he says, will I reach my full potential, will I be able to master this gift that has been given to me. The Emperor has given me the power to stop the pain, and I have given him the only thing left over, my anger.
A devil's deal, but one I'm willing to make.
I lift the helm, ready to fix it on my shoulders, when it finally catches the light of something. I wonder what bright object has finally forced a reflection in those empty eyes. I look closer, and horror dawns on me with a disquieting knowledge. My own face stares back at me, white and pale, thin and pocked, distorted, disfigured, and ugly. This mask may bring terror to my victims, but it is not really their charred skulls they'll see.
This skull is my own.
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