"Search your feelings," he said. "You know it to be true."
He turned away from the window overlooking the streets of Coruscant and met my eyes. I had spent many hours in this office, talking to this great man. He had accepted me as an equal, something I craved.
I flinched away from his words, unable to help myself. The pain that flared to life upon hearing them rivaled the agony of losing my hand. How much more does it hurt to have your heart ripped out than to have a limb sliced from your body?
"No." The word was dragged from me. "I don't believe you." But I did believe. His words confirmed every doubt I had ever harbored about my unworthiness.
"Of course you believe me, Anakin," he said smoothly. "You recognize the truth."
"She wouldn't do that!" I shouted the words. Perhaps the volume of my answer could drown out the mocking laughter that echoed in my head. I turned away from him, unable to bear the sight of his disappointment in me.
"Oh, Anakin, don't do this to yourself," he said, his regret clear. There was a false note to it that rattled, but I deliberately ignored the discordance.
"She loves me," I insisted.
"Of course she does," he soothed, like a parent quoting platitudes to a fearful child. "But she is weak..." He let the thought hang there. My thoughts supplied the images that his words did not. "And you are gone so often. I am sure she gets lonely. Who is to say what a lonely woman will do?"
"No," I growled one final time. "She would not betray me."
"She doesn't understand you any longer," he told me.
My pulse beat faster because I knew that was true. I had become a creature beyond her comprehension. If I was beyond her comprehension, then perhaps I was beyond her love as well.
"But she loves me." Even I heard the disbelief in my voice. "We're going to be parents."
"If she loves you so much then why did she leave you and take your son with her?" His voice seemed almost to taunt me. "If she loves you why did she not tell you herself that she was leaving?"
I did not answer that question, for I could not. Even now my heart was frozen at the thought of her betrayal.
"Perhaps she did not tell you because she was hiding something, or someone, from you," he suggested in a silky tone.
My mind flashed to an image of Bail Organa kissing her hand at a state function. I heard Master Obi-Wan tell her once again how lovely she looked. She had allowed herself to fall in love with one man who was forbidden to her. Who is to say she could not do the same for another?
She had left me alone, at the mercy of the confusion that even now crowded in upon me. I felt lost, without direction. I had been so na?ve. She had been a queen, and I had been a slave. No wonder she had left me.
I finally looked up at him. "You don't understand." I forced the words past the lump that now lived in my throat. "Without her I have nothing, I am nothing." There, the truth was out. He would see me for the pitiful being I was, forever marked by slavery.
"You're wrong," he murmured as he came close to me. "You're so very wrong." He paused and then spoke again. His voice was different now, deeper and darker than it had ever been. "Pure power is yours for the taking, Anakin. All you have to do is ask for it."
"What do you mean?" I grasped at the possibility that something might be left. I was a drowning man and just before going under for the last time, it seemed rescue might be at hand.
"You don't think I've become this powerful simply because I'm a good politician, do you?" He chuckled quietly and I felt a cold shiver run down my spine. His laughter was both ugly and compelling. "My boy, I too can use the Force." With those words he reached into my mind; it was unmistakably a manipulation of the Force.
How could I have missed it? How could the Jedi have remained unaware of this man's power? I was amazed once more at their ignorance, their willful blindness. This man's power had been right under their noses and yet they had no clue. What else might they be wrong about?
"Feel what true power is, Anakin," he said as he guided me through the potent darkness for the first time. "Do you see? Do you feel it? This is the true face of the Force, the one that can make you more powerful than any Jedi." He led me through the dark and wondrous landscape. "And that is why they will not teach you to use it."
I could not breathe. My body began to shut down in the face of the sheer majesty of it. It was beautiful and cold and I wanted it. I wanted it more than I had ever wanted anything in my life.
A slave had been beneath her, and a Jedi had proved unworthy. But what about a man who helped to rule the galaxy? Perhaps he would be deserving of her love.
Then Palpatine took it away, leaving me thirsting for it. My dreams of reclaiming her died as I felt that rush of power leave me. A need grew inside of me in that moment and it howled in protest at the loss.
"It could all be yours, Anakin." The words were soft and seductive. "I can give you everything; true power for the first time in your life, even a new name."
Oh, how tempting to give in to all the feelings that had been growing inside of me for so long. It would be so easy to just follow him and leave behind everything that had plagued me since Master Qui-Gon whisked me away from the sands of Tatooine.
I turned away from him, unable to bear the ache within me as I contemplated what he offered. So much was there! So much of everything I had always desired. Power, prestige, esteem...all of it was there in his hands, the ones he held out to me.
Everything you wanted? a dark and familiar voice mocked. But what about her?
The dark voice that called to me had been uneasy of late; it snarled in impatience as I stood on the edge, the abyss yawning beneath my feet. It hissed at me, commanding me to give myself to the shadows and be done with it.
Palpatine waited for my answer, knowing that his gift was singing its dark song to me. He had sensed the wildness within me, the twilight shadows that followed my every step. He knew what I was before I did.
"You could be more powerful than you ever imagined," he told me.
Power. Even the sound of the word was magical to me. It caressed my ears and made my gut clench in anticipation. All my life I had been controlled by something or someone else. Now I wanted only to decide my own fate.
I was a creature of the dark; the voice had assured me that this was so. There was nothing left but a burning need to prove myself, to claim the power this man wielded for myself.
I closed my eyes as I let the sweetness of it rush over me. But I was not lost in it, not yet. And I was determined that this once, I would take charge of my own fate, that I alone would choose the path I would set my feet upon.
But even without sight, I could sense the light and shadows. Within the light was where she dwelled. She stood there, just out of my sight, worshipped by the light that embraced her. If I claimed the light, I would win the right to her love once more.
Could you live a lie? I heard her words echo back to me through time. But which would really be the lie, to love her or to love the darkness?
And beyond her, bleeding into a dark horizon, were the shadows that called to me.
Theirs was a stark and dismal beauty and I longed for them. Even more than the warmth of her arms, I yearned for the intoxicating power they represented. But I knew that once I gave myself up to the darkness I would be forever condemned to wander in those shadowlands. And I would wander there alone.
Did I have the strength to leave behind the light forever?
In a way, my fall would be her fault. She had left me alone, abandoned me to the questionable mercy of the Force. I had discovered, in the days since she fled me, that my grip on the light was far too weak if she was not there to strengthen me.
Each day without her had let a little more of Anakin Skywalker drift away, for she was no longer there to anchor him to my skin. What was left behind was nothing she would have recognized.
I can't live like this, Anakin. You've changed. Those had been her last words to me before she turned her back on me and took my child, my last hope.
Had I changed, or had I merely revealed the truth? In the end it did not matter, for she was gone.
If I could not have her, if I could not have her love and our family, then I would content myself with something more.
There was no decision to be made really. I had made my choice long ago when I first invited the darkness to seep into my soul and take root. Those fragile tendrils had grown and become stronger with the passage of time. I fed them with hatred and anger and now they were ready to deliver me unto the darkness.
I almost laughed; finally I would control my fate.
It was only now, as I stood with one foot in the glorious light and one hanging over the precipice of darkness that I could see how I had arrived at this precise moment. A thousand small decisions had propelled me to this place, and it was here that my future would be decided.
I looked back one last time at the blazing light the Jedi thought so precious and then I peered down at the darkness that called to me. I closed my eyes, and it was with an odd sense of relief that I let myself slip over the edge.
So be it.
I felt his hand lower to my shoulder, where he squeezed it proprietarily for a moment. And in that moment I had my first inkling of how completely I had given myself over to the ebony void.
There would be no more lying to myself; no longer would I deny what I had sensed for so long. I felt the shadows descend upon me; I quivered in their cold embrace. No turning back now. I was the darkness and the darkness was me.
"Rise, Lord Vader" he said, addressing me for the first time with my new title.
And I did.
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