The Tusken camp lay below on the flat desert floor. Bright campfires dotted the ground here and there. Anakin Skywalker peered down at it from the edge of the cliff where he was crouched. Was his mother down there now, among those monsters, those animals? Was she still alive? Or was she ... he couldn't bring himself to even think that she had suffered that awful fate.
He leaped off the side of the cliff, bringing the Force around him to land softly. A few Sand People milled around the small domed tents, completely oblivious to the young Jedi approaching their encampment from the edge of the darkness.
Anakin stole along the perimeter of the camp, his keen blue eyes searching the domed tents. He spotted the only tent that was guarded and sneaked quietly toward it, avoiding the Sand People that were guarding the tent and lingering about. He didn't want to be noticed; all he wanted was to get to his mother.
Finally reaching the side opposite the entrance, Anakin drew his lightsaber and ignited it. Shielding the blue glow as best he could, he cut a hole large enough for him to slip through. Then, without pausing to see if any Tuskens were in the tent, he ducked inside.
His heart twisted at the sight that awaited him. Shmi Skywalker, his mother, was bound roughly to a post. She had hardly changed at all. She still wore the same rough, gray peasant dress and her graying hair was still gathered in a bun at the base of her neck. She had been tortured, he noticed, with a flash of anger; the back of her dress was ripped and torn, the skin raw. Her eyes were closed.
"Mom," he whispered, pulling the rough cords from her bloody wrists. Having gotten her untied, he gently laid a supportive arm across her shoulders and lowered her to the ground. "Mom," he said softly. "Mom."
He held his mother to him, softly repeating her name until she slowly opened her eyes. Blood was caked all around them and Anakin could see the suffering in the soft brown.
"Ani?" she asked softly, her voice incredulous. "Ani?"
Anakin fought back tears. He could feel her weakness and knew that she was slowly dying. "It's me, Mom."
"Ani?" Shmi looked at him and smiled, putting her hand to his cheek. "You look so handsome!"
Anakin managed a weak smile, hoping and praying that his mother would hold on. She had to last so he could get her back home. Shmi stroked his cheek.
"Oh my son ... my grown-up son ..."
Anakin felt a sudden sense of panic as she seemed to grow weaker. "Stay with me, Mom. Everything will ..."
His voice trailed off and Shmi tried to speak once again. Joy was in the eyes that were slowly fading into the stillness of death.
"Now I am complete," she said, smiling at Anakin. "I love ... I love ..."
The light faded from her eyes. Her body went limp.
Tears fell from Anakin's eyes, but he didn't notice them. They were nothing more than a distraction from what was lying before him.
"No. Mom ... Mom," he whispered, holding her closer to his chest. She was gone. He had failed to save her. Very, very gently, he lowered her to the ground. Rage such as he had never felt before was building up inside him, despite his earlier gentleness. It was uncontrollable, powerful, and all consuming. He had the sudden urge to attack, to kill. He had to satisfy the dark rage that filled him.
Igniting his lightsaber once more, he ducked under the flap at the entrance, cutting down both Tuskens on either side. Both fell to the ground, unaware until their last living moment what had happened. A haze of rage clouded his vision. He raised his lightsaber to kill the next one, and that's when he heard the voice.
"No, Anakin, no! Don't!"
Had he listened more closely, he would have recognized the voice of Qui-Gon Jinn, warning him. But he didn't, and so his rage continued to take control. It boiled up inside him until it erupted like a volcano, spurring him on, encouraging him to murder, to kill. It gave him such power and confidence; it was easy to let it flow.
A Tusken warrior came at him, gaffi stick raised. Anakin sliced him neatly in half and whirled around to meet the other warrior coming from behind. A female ran past in terror, a child right behind her. He slaughtered them both without a thought. They did not matter to him; they were animals. They hadn't cared about his mother. He wouldn't care about them. He let his hatred take hold. He found that it gave him strength as it flowed through him.
Anakin didn't stop until the camp was deserted. The fires were the only movement in the camp. Bodies lay everywhere. Only one tent remained standing. Switching off his lightsaber, Anakin's anger slowly began to give way to the growing horror of what he had just done. He had killed, without any kind of remorse. With satisfaction. Yes, he was glad they had died. He was glad they had suffered just like his mother had.
Anakin ducked inside the last standing tent to retrieve his mother's body. The sight of her brought a fresh wave of grief over him and he wept, for her loss, for the uncontrollable rage that had pulsed through him, and for the fear and dark satisfaction he had felt at killing those Tuskens. He had passed beyond the light this night.
Original cover by Cosmic. HTML formatting copyright 2002 TheForce.Net LLC.