The strengthening light of dawn from the first of
Tatooine's suns peeked above the horizon. The night
had seemed to last an eternity, as had his rage...
Gradually awakening in stages, Anakin heaved a sigh
and stared straight up at the bright cloudless sky
for several minutes. Where was he? He couldn't
recall for a moment or so, but it felt as if he had
lost an entire day. Vivid impressions sifted
through his mind as he lounged on the flat-faced rock
that he had fallen asleep on. In time, he faltered
to his feet. For having slept out in the open,
physically, he felt no worse for wear. His state of
mind was something else entirely.
The early morning air was dead still, not even the
whisper of a breeze stirred. Although it was very
early, it was already very warm. With heat this
intense at this hour, this day promised to be a
Anakin stretched a bit before shaking his head to
clear it. The stench of death was unmistakable;
it was cloying and hung heavily in the lifeless air.
It hung like an invisible funereal shroud over
everything. Dispassionately, the young Jedi surveyed
the destruction that he had wrought late last night.
The surprise and vehemence of his attack had been
the decisive deciders. All the Sand People were
dead-- good! He could taste their filthy blood in his
dry mouth. He had burned all the slain and most of
the camp that they had once inhabited.
A grim smile partnered his murky thoughts, and a
burning thirst for water was driving him mad.
There had to be some, he considered, closing his
watering eyes to relive the part he had played in
his mother's tormentors' swift demise. In his
mind, his master's well-meaning counsel whispered
to him, Killing is never an easy thing, young
one. Obi-Wan had the habit of reducing most
things to either being black or white. The man
treated gray areas as though they didn't exist.
Before opening his eyes, Anakin reflected that
killing wasn't that hard a thing, not when it was
fueled by revenge. If there had been more Tuskens
than there had been, he would have killed them
too-- all deserved to die! The battered, bloodied
body of his dear mother fogged all other thoughts
until his eyes fell upon her form. He had
swaddled her in sackcloth, once a bag that he had
ripped up, having found it in one of the tents
he had not burned to the ground. He had secured
Shmi's body on the swoop bike prior to his
drifting off into a troubled sleep. His fit of
bloodletting had rendered him exhausted. The
crackling of the smelly fires had lulled him to
What? He strained to hear, wanting to be sure.
As had occurred once he had taken his initial swipes
with his lightsaber, cutting down many Sand People
who had rushed him after he had killed the two at the
entrance of the tent they had held his mother in,
Anakin heard the agitated voice appeal to him. It
wasn't as strong and not as urgent now as it had been
then. He stared at his hands upon raising them; they
trembled a little. Kicking at the dusty ground, the
angsty apprentice tried turning a deaf ear to the
paternal-sounding plea. Perhaps if he blocked the
plaintive entreaty out, it would go away, in time.
How could it have been Qui-Gon? He was dead. Jedi died,
as the felled man who had befriended him had once
said. Was it his conscience? Anakin considered,
realizing that sometimes it wasn't always so simple
to distinguish his own from his initial master's
censure. Blinking several times then, the young man
decided that he did not care what the murmurings
within him actually were, he concentrated on darker
feelings. Doing so helped him to blot out any
remorse; he would not feel guilty-- he just wouldn't!
Anakin stopped debating with himself, and decided
that his first priority before setting off for the
Lars' homestead was to find that water-- before he
died of thirst. He kicked at the dusty ground once
again. His mouth and throat felt so parched, it
was as if he'd gone without water for days. Most
of the former camp was nothing more than smoldering
ruins. When the heat of his fury had reached its
zenith, he had lost count of how many tents he had
set on fire, while Force-chucking his enemies' limp,
saggy bodies into the roaring conflagrations. He
hoped that he'd find water in one of the few tents
he had left unscathed.
Maniacal determination urged him to hunt, snooping
in one former dwelling place, and when his efforts
proved fruitless, he raced to the next. He found
nothing-- not even one drained skin bottle! The raw
stench of half-burnt remains nearly overwhelmed him;
it was greasy, rancid-- awful. Anakin grunted in
renewed disgust. He yanked a sizeable cloth that
was scratchy from an inner pocket of his tunic,
using it as a mask.
The last intact tent that remained to be searched
was to his far left, bordering what had once
been the nomadic community's arbitrary perimeter.
Hurrying to it, he tied his makeshift mask into
place and breathed easier. Before he was even
close to the tent's flapping entrance, he heard
The sound was faint, and he could not place it
right away. It was as though something smothered
was mewling. Upset, he crossly told himself to
focus. The Force was with him, but he could
perceive nothing at the moment. He hesitated at
the ragged entrance of the tent, trying to decide
whether or not his imagination was getting the
better of him. Was his guilty conscience
responsible for his hearing their anguished
cries? Some of his terrified victims had begged
for mercy before he had struck them down; it had
been the women, mostly.
The women, along with their children had tried to
flee from the devastation embodied in the rampaging
Jedi, but their feeble attempts had been in vain.
He had slaughtered them all without compassion, in
the ardor of his insatiable fury. And now their
silenced voices haunted him...
NO-- it wasn't that. The wind had picked up some,
he rationalized; it was that-- nothing more!
But it was more than that. He heard whimpering,
coming from inside this last tent. He feared the
sound, and yet felt compelled to learn its source.
Sucking in a breath, Anakin entered the tent, which
was surprisingly cool. The mewling stopped, and
so did Anakin's breathing, until he heard it again.
The soft cries were plaintive and reached into the
depths of his heart. They sounded as though they
emanated from the center of the primitive dwelling.
Anakin turned around to secure the flap, allowing
the light from outside to penetrate the physical
darkness that had momentarily blinded him. He
blinked, startled for half of a moment, believing
that he saw Padme lurking behind a taut skin
stretched over a framework of wooden struts-- a form
of screen. Mistaken, of course, he slowed his
breathing down. His excitable imagination had
conjured her up and thinking about her hurt.
Would he tell her what he had done? Would she
understand? Fear over her reaction gripped him.
Before hearing another bleat-like cry, he promised
himself that he would never confess his vengeful
course of action to Padme. He wasn't going to
risk losing her forever if he dared speak of the
unspeakable. His eyes homed in on the spot where
the cries came, and as though spellbound, he was
drawn to them.
What he saw was unbelievable-- there, wrapped in
what looked to be a badly soiled cowl, was a
Tusken-- an infant-- perhaps not even two weeks old!
In the aftermath of all the destruction and
subsequent carnage, this fragile life had survived!
The littlest Sand Person's smooth though mottled
skin was the color of the Dune Sea. The baby was
bound from the crown of its delicate head to the
soles of its small feet in fabric that was porous
yet durable; only the littlest flailing arms he
had ever seen were exposed. As though knowing
there was an audience now, the infant sobbed with
What lungs, Anakin thought, fascinated by the
little one's stamina. Woozy, he wobbled on
shaky legs before squatting over the hole where
the newborn was plugged into. Why had he spared
this tent? And then he realized that at one
point he had considered burning this one down
too. He couldn't remember why he'd changed his
mind. A chill swept through him when he
considered if he had gone through with it.
In-between the infant's tiny snuffles and a few
sneezes, Anakin gazed upon the helpless creature
and felt compassion; it welled up inside,
threatening to overwhelm him. He wondered if the
baby was hungry or as thirsty as he was. Anakin
reached the conclusion that the baby needed water.
The Jedi closed his eyes, and focused, and it
wasn't long before he pulsed with strong Force
sensations. A water source was near.
Shutting out the infant's distractions, Anakin
breathed deeply. He felt the pace of the blood
in his veins slow. Gradually, concrete imagery
took shape and suggested that he investigate
beneath the craggy obsidian rock that was a bit
off to his and the infant's left. Lifting the
dull obstruction with a flick of his hand and
an undulation of his fingers, Anakin was rewarded
by the touch of cool dampness when he knelt at the
sizeable pock mark in the ground.
While thinking about how handy Artoo would be to
have around right now, he fashioned a crude digging
implement from what was available and unearthed
soil until he was up to his ankles in sweet water.
Repeatedly, he raised cupped hands to his mouth,
feeling himself revive.
The infant's whimpers summoned Anakin. Kneeling,
he drew the little one into his arms protectively
and carried the baby to the shallow pool he had
made. He moistened his fingers, dripping a few
water droplets upon the child's fleshy pink lips
and gently he coaxed water into the infant's
mouth that was one of the smallest openings he'd
Anakin smiled, watching intently as the baby greedily
sucked his finger. The water wasn't very clean, but
it was water all the same and the littlest Tusken
wasn't fretting. He wondered whether this was a girl
or a boy; referring to the baby as an it, was
unsatisfactory so he decided this was a girl, for
argument's sake. She was tiny. The Jedi blinked
back tears that misted his eyes all at once. The
memory of the numerous children he had massacred
re-asserted itself, assailing him, and his turmoil
But wallowing in recrimination served no purpose.
He had to take action if this little one was going
to survive. But what was he going to do with this
child? The question made his breath hitch. What
would his mother have him do?
Help her, Ani...she needs you...
The newborn squirmed in his arms. Settling her
against his chest so her chin rested upon his
shoulder quieted her as he hoped it would. He
imagined he heard his mother speaking to him
in a hushed voice again, and this time he did not
feel as conflicted. Gently, he rubbed the little
back up and down, and the baby cooed-trilled.
Oddly, Anakin thought that she sounded content; it
was a contentment far removed from matters such as
they were. She was an orphan in the truest sense
of the word, and the one responsible for her plight
was the only one who could rescue her now.
"If you only knew," he whispered into her pinkish
pasty face that was swathed in dirty, gauzy cloth.
She yawned. "You'd hate me. You'd want me dead."
Thoughtfully then, he continued, "We're alike, you
know. We're both orphans..."
The gurgling baby stuck her dusty, loosely wrapped
fist into her mouth, gumming it.
"I bet you're hungry too." Anakin's eyes scoured
the disheveled surroundings, doubting there was
anything edible on hand, at least nothing he would
find appetizing. Just what did baby Tuskens eat,
he mused. Adult Tuskens were widely known to pretty
much scarf whatever they could scrounge. "Toothy,"
he said, and the girl gummed her fist harder, opening
and closing her deep sloe eyes that seemed slightly
unfocused. They were dull eyes, but somehow they
shone for Anakin. So defenseless, he thought,
sighing, as he established that he liked the nickname
he'd sytled for her. He called her by it again, then
divulged, "Mom'd want me to find you a new life, and
by Qui-Gon's grizzled beard, I will-- for her!"
The vagrant odor of roasting bantha meat was the
first indication that their camp was close by. The
smell was sharp and greasy. The air vibrated with
the bellows and shrieks of their crude language.
Gruff words grated in the Jedi's ears.
High atop his lofty perch, Anakin surveyed the modest
camp that was less populated than the one he had
decimated. The Sand People scurried about like
dandaweevils, oblivious to his presence; their
various activities consumed their attention. The
swoopbike was parked high atop a flat eastern ridge
with spiry earthern peaks as a backdrop. His mother's
body, which he had had to re-secure several times to
prevent it from jiggling loose, was bathed in shade,
protected from the searing rays of the double suns.
Getting back to the Lars homestead was his prime
consideration, or risk having the corpse reek to high
heaven in this sweltering heat. But first, despite
his grief over the loss of his mother...he had to find
Toothy new parents, as Shmi would have wished.
The prospective parents would have to be young, truly
wanting a little one to fuss over. Anakin realized
the challenge, and put his faith in the Force.
Through it, he sensed strong bonds of affection
between parents and children. While in the throes
of destroying these people, he had felt it, and he
felt it again, now, in his quest to unite this baby
with a deserving couple who would give her a good
"C'mon, Toothy, let's...go-- " Pausing, Anakin
observed the infant. Her mouth was drenched with
frothy, beads of saliva. Like a seasoned caregiver,
he lightly flicked the wetness away. A rush of
sentimentality made him hesitate several moments
longer before pressing her close to his body, and
enveloping her in his cape. Mentally, he counted
to three before making the careful, well-timed drop
to the ground, which lay many meters off.
For a crazy moment, he considered taking her back
with him, but knew better, although the new life
that he held had touched his heart. Adopting her
was out of the question; it was purely a rash
impulse. Padme would want to know what he was doing
with her. And he could already hear Obi-Wan berate
him for the senseless butchery. He, raising a Tusken
child...it would never work. He was training for his
trials, not for becoming a substitute father. "You'll
be fine. You'll see," he spoke softly, aware of the
lump in his throat. "They'll take good care of you."
Kissing the top of her little head, he murmured,
"Well, here goes..."
Their landing was gentle, and went completely unseen
by the busy Tuskens, going about their daily routines,
souls of industriousness on this dusty inferno. The
infant's hiccups sounded like giggles, and made Anakin
smile as he filtered in and out of long shadows,
making for the camp. He hung its perimeter when they
were in hailing distance. His perceptions grew
stronger, more clarified, from this vantage. Not
more than the length of two lightsabers put end to
end sat a tent where she might be taken in. Anakin
perceived that a couple that had recently paired up
lived there; they wanted children, but the female
had not conceived as yet.
Anakin locked in, firm in his resolve. He pulled
the girl's body closer to him and set off, flitting
his way to the targeted destination where he would
forge a new family. He skulked to the back of the
weatherbeaten tent, located a section where the
give of the hide felt just right. Carefully, he
extracted the precious bundle from beneath the warm
folds of his billowing cape. He paused a moment
before bidding his tiny find farewell.
About to kiss the top of her delicate head, Anakin
started when a piercing shriek spoiled the tender
goodbye. He froze for a moment, stunned into
paralysis, as the gush of irate-sounding gibberish
got louder. The infant was noisy too, her mewling
audible enough to capture the source of the shouter's
Reacting impulsively, Anakin presented the infant
hidden beneath the bulk of his cloak. The sight of
the swaddled baby spurred Anakin's discoverer to
keen louder. "I'm not stealing this child!" Anakin
shouted, keeping his eyes trained on the defender's
raised spear. Already feeling the ridged hilt of his
lightsaber within his hand, he tensed in anticipation.
The affection he felt for the child stayed his second
impulse, but dying wasn't something he had planned
on doing this day.
The taller than average Tusken brayed more insults
at him, and Anakin, not altogether ignorant of the
dialect, bristled. The familiar anger welled up
inside of him, and for an instant, he saw himself
repeating the carnage he had wreaked on the other
band. Moments away from igniting his weapon, Anakin
gulped a breath when he heard a calmer, lighter voice
intervene. Both Anakin and the seething Sand Person
backed off from trading baleful looks with each other.
The Tusken lowered his weapon, the bladed gaderffii,
in stages while the Sand Person who was far less
truculent, and whose face was covered by an elaborate
jeweled mask with eyeslits that distinguished her as
female, approached Anakin. She was this male's mate.
Meekly, with arms outstretched, she waited for the
human to place the infant, who had begun whimpering,
into her waiting hands.
Obediently as he complied, Anakin assured them as
best he could in their difficult language, "I was
only bringing her to a good home. I found her in
the wasteland-- her folks are dead. I couldn't leave
her there to die also, could I? Take care of her,
The male, grunting loudly, brandished the spear at
Anakin, making it clear by his combative jabs that
the choice of words had been poor, and the way that
they had been spoken was even worse. The Tusken
lunged at Anakin menacingly, forcing him to to a
fighting stance as his hand slipped to the hilt of
It was then that the female barked sharply at her
threatening mate, and then by her softer tone, made
him back down. Anakin's hand remained on his
lightsaber, but he also took his cues from the female
who held Toothy snugly to her bosom. Raising her
voice, the female addressed all of the spectators who
had gathered, and who were all too eager to punish this
intruder whom they had concluded was trying to steal
away with one of their own.
One by one, following a good deal of boisterous
discussion, members of the milling crowd returned to
their own concerns as the female instructed them to.
There was nothing to dispute here, nothing to mete
out punishment for. This was an admirable case of
a responsible young human male doing a good deed,
saving a life from certain death. No one-- most of
all her hot-tempered mate-- would be doing him any
From the gist that Anakin understood, and as he
watched them back off, he could not help but think
how would this outspoken female judge him if she
knew the truth about him. With the female turned
in his direction, striking an accommodating pose,
he condemned himself for the merciless way he had
cut down the terrified female Tuskens. The metallic
taste of bile stuck in his throat and he coughed
several, times. His thirst for water was again
"I'm so thirsty..."
The female barked at her docile mate again, and her
husband beat a hasty retreat into their tent. Just
as Anakin was licking his badly chapped lips, the
male returned, carrying a skin bottle that looked
as though it was bursting at its seams. It was
offered, and the apprentice drank his fill, nearly
draining the bottle. When he made to return it to
the male, who still acted as though he did not trust
the mysterious human altogether, his wife insisted
that Anakin keep it for the long journey back to
wherever it was that he'd come from.
"Thank you," Anakin told them both, steadily keeping
his eyes on the little one who had made deep inroads
into his heart. He smiled, approached the new mother
with the foundling and said, "You be a good girl,
Toothy." He leaned in as he bent down, kissing the
baby upon her head that had found a warm niche
against the female's bosom. "Take good care of her,"
he whispered to the female who was soughing softly
to the girl, and kept thanking Anakin over and over.
"You're welcome," he replied. "Thank you..." Taking
a final look at the baby before snapping his cloak in
a flourish and walking away, he surveyed the camp one
last time. Nothing could atone for what he had done
to her village, but he did what he could for her. He
headed for the small rise of mounds that led to his
swoopbike and the precious cargo loaded on it.
There was no doubt whatsoever that he heard his
mother's lilting voice, and it commended, Well done,
Ani. I'm so proud of you. I love you, always...
At long last, the appearance of the stark, sun-blasted
dwellings of the Lars homestead was a welcoming site.
The way back had seemed more arduous than his going
forth. He was tired, dusty and dirty. He needed to
eat, he longed for his sweetheart's embrace, but first
he needed to lay his mother, the only soul in the
universe who had loved him unconditionally, to rest...
As Anakin unloaded his mother's lifeless body off the
swoopbike, his heart suddenly burned with the same
fierce darkness that had festered in the hearts of
those who had caused her senseless death. He thought
about the baby who had been spared by a fluke; she,
a victim of his dark side, just as his mother had been
one, as a result of the band of Sand People who had
let their baser nature overrule any bit of compassion
that might have saved her.
Despite all of the reasonable explanations Obi-Wan had
ever given him, life was a gamble that rarely made
Unseen by his new relatives, and the flawless woman he
loved who was looking on, he shed tears. He need not
have looked away. Having been pent up all this time,
they fell rapidly, but never touched is face.
Evaporated by the stultifying heat of mid-afternoon,
his tears were phantoms.
Original cover by THeMPIRE. HTML formatting copyright 2003 TheForce.Net LLC.