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The creatures were disappointing.

Maul had been hoping for a contest—for a chance, after the mental demands of his recent undercover mission, to stretch himself to his physical limits. He had thought that, by dint of numbers if nothing else, these beasts would provide some satisfaction.

But they were proving no challenge at all.

With a growl of frustration, Maul spun his double-bladed lightsabre, taunting the creatures, searing their flesh and melting their primitive weapons—snarling in disgust as they fell back, attacking each other in their haste to get away.

At the same time he was reaching out, through the Force, beyond this knot of slavering cowards, past the clearing, between the trees, searching for a worthy opponent.

What he found—less than fifty yards away—intrigued him: a small disturbance in the Force, a concentration of power.

He dispatched the beast behind him with a sharp backwards thrust, then swung the leading blade of his lightsabre like a scythe, forcing the mob in front to fall back whilst he investigated this interesting phenomenon.

The newcomer—for the anomaly was associated with a person—was a warrior, a proud swordsman with some great victory to his—no, to her credit.

The newcomer was a female.

A human female.

Maul sliced the arms from the creature on his left.

He had encountered a human female on his recent mission. She had been…

Interesting.

With his free hand, Maul ‘lifted’ a rock from the ground and dashed it in the face of a massive beast to his right. The thing fell to its knees, and Maul neatly lopped off its head.

Meanwhile, the woman was approaching—riding an animal of some kind—following the sound of the fight. And, as he spun backwards, planting a booted foot in the face of another monster, Maul felt her eyes fall upon him.

Admiration!

She was watching him with unashamed admiration.

Beyond that he could feel her will—undisciplined but strong—untrained, but eager to learn, eager to—Maul bared his teeth in amusement as his red blade took off another head—

The woman was actually wondering whether he needed her help!

Such audacity!

No, not audacity, for she was fully aware that the situation was beyond her abilities.

Honour.

She felt honour-bound to help him—to help anyone attacked by these creatures—for they were widely feared—she feared them—

‘You were trained better than this, my apprentice!’

His Master’s voice drew Mauls attention back to the creatures, a fraction of a second too late. The rock took him by surprise, hitting him centre back, driving the wind from his lungs and, for a moment—no more than a moment—he was almost vulnerable.

‘There is no pain where strength lies.

Maul drew himself upright, and pushed himself back into the fight, using his extinguished lightsabre as a club, calling upon the Force to help him overcome his temporary weakness.

“Wom-man!”

The creatures had detected the human—and at least three of them had left in pursuit.

Useful.

(Though a pity).

Time to end this fight.

Maul raised his lightsabre and, holding it horizontal, reached for the modulation control to ignite the first blade.

But the woman, having somehow evaded the creatures, had decided that her best chance of survival was at his side. And, as his finger approached the button, he sensed her sprinting up the rise behind him, her own weapon already drawn.

He estimated the chances of her impaling herself when she hit the ground at three in four. Suddenly curious, Maul used the Force to catch her and guide her descent.

Let us see what she is made of.

She was far better than he had expected—an elegant fighter, who knew her physical limits, and used a thorough knowledge of the enemy to guide her strategy—which in this case meant keeping her moves defensive until an opening appeared.

“We must break out soon,” he heard her mutter, “and find a proper redoubt. More will come… And Legolas may not be here in time—”

She believes that help is coming.

And when she thought of this ‘Legolas’, Maul was assailed by a great welter of emotions—love, concern, and fear—fear that her death would destroy her lover.

That thinking will get you killed…

Enough!

Losing patience, Maul ignited a single blade and advanced, slicing his way through the rabble. He was almost out before he felt her following—deliberately imitating his own style! With her first cut she scored a lucky hit, but her second was entirely misjudged, and she was forced to dodge the counterblow, almost skewering herself on his blade as she jumped backwards.

Maul did nothing to help—an apprentice must learn from her own mistakes.

But learn she did!

To the Sith’s astonishment, he felt a great seething whirlpool in the Force as this untrained human used her fury to suck in power and hurl it at the massive beast, terrifying it into submission. And this time her strike, guided by the dark side, was sure and deadly.

The remaining creatures—cowardly brutes—were already disappearing into the forest.

Maul extinguished his lightsabre.

He lowered his hood.

The woman gasped, and Maul sensed an instant of fear—quickly mastered—before she squared her shoulders and stared back at him, defiantly.

He bared his teeth in a feral snarl.

The woman remained calm, gathering up her remaining strength and directing it at him, willing him to submit to her.

Amused, Maul let his eyes wander. Yes, she was just as interesting as the female on Dorvalla had been—the same long hair (though this woman’s was golden), the same lightly muscled limbs, the same soft, inviting curves…

Curves that had been torn by a filthy metal blade.

Maul drew off his glove, to determine the extent of wound, but a sudden sound—a twig breaking underfoot—stayed his hand.

“The Orcs,” said the woman. “They have brought reinforcements.”

She reached for her sword, but the Sith was no longer interested in fighting the creatures. “You are injured,” he said. “Come.”


“Where are you going?” she asked, stuggling to keep up with him. “There is nothing defendable here. But if we head east—oh!”

She stopped dead. She—who had called upon the dark side like a Sith apprentice, who had tried to will him into submission—she was afraid of his ship!

Maul grabbed her arm.

“No!”

He let her wrench herself free—“Ha!”—and opened the hatch. “See?”

“It is a building,” she gasped. “But how—”

He sensed her fear fade and, with it, her resistance, and he pulled her inside, closing the hatch behind them.

Maul pulled out a medical kit, bade her remove her tunic, and set about cleaning the wound.

“Agh!”

That reaction to the stinging fluid was disappointing. “There is no pain where strength lies,” he lectured, wondering whether he should illustrate the lesson for her, as his Master had done for him, with ten lashes.

The woman stared up at him, uncomprehending.

Her huge silver eyes were pleasing and her pale skin was flawless—apart from the wound, which spoiled the smooth curve of her breast. “You must learn to use pain: draw strength from it,” he explained, quoting his Master again. “It would be foolish, however,” he added, working the antiseptic into the gash, “to leave this broken flesh untended. You must select what strengthens and discard what weakens.”

She grasped the arms of the chair, and he felt her focus on the smart of her wound, and on the fire of his treatment, and draw them into herself, transforming them into a soothing calm, which she used to relax her hands, and then her arms, and then her entire body.

He nodded approvingly. She learned quickly—though her natural inclination, now that the creatures were no threat, seemed to be towards the light. A few beatings will soon cure that. But something else he sensed in her was interesting him more at the moment. “You are not afraid of me.”

“You have given me no reason to be afraid,” she replied, “as yet…”

“You are strong in the Force,” he said, applying a dressing to her breast—briefly surprised by the softness he felt beneath his fingers, and by his body’s response to it. “You will bear strong children.”

“I am married,” she said.

And I have taken an Oath.

Still…

“Your husband is fortunate.”

“You will let me go?”

Maul considered her question. His Master’s precepts were clear: ‘What is done in secret has great power.’

But did she pose any threat—could she expose him or his Master—isolated, as she was, on this backward planet, unknown to the Republic?

Not that he could see.

She was daring warrior, who had fought, hand-to-hand, with honour, using the dark side with impressive power—she had earned the right to live.

He would let her live. “When it is clear outside…”

And, as he closed the medical kit, he felt a wave of something strange spread out from her, something so unfamiliar that it took him a moment to place it.

Trust.

She trusted him…

“What is this place?” she asked. “Your—house? Why are the walls metal? And this—table—what makes the panels glow?” She reached for the hatch release—

“Do not touch that.” He caught her hand. Zabrak were not a large species, and the woman was almost as tall as he, but her hand looked tiny in his own. He placed it back on her lap. “Metal is strong,” he said.

“Glass is not,” she persisted, nodding, through the viewport, at the mob of creatures baying for blood outside. “They could break through it with rocks.” And she ducked as a boulder suddenly hit the transparisteel shield and bounced away, harmlessly.

“The viewport is not glass,” said Maul, stowing the medical kit back in its locker, “but something much stronger.” He took the pilot’s seat. “I will deal with them.”

One of the ship’s six laser cannons made short work of the creatures.

“Gods!” The woman leapt to her feet. “They are dead! You have killed them all!”

“They are vermin,” said Maul.

“Yes, I know. But…”

The notion of superior armaments was foreign to her. Her people fought at close quarters, standing face to face, with swords, and spears and bows. Maul saw the beauty in that. “It was not the honourable way,” he admitted. “But sometimes, crude measures are necessary.”

“You were playing with them.” She sank back into her chair, and turned to him, realisation dawning on her pale, expressive face—and he saw that he had been wrong to assume she posed no threat to him. “At first, I mean—you were using them for practice.”

“A warrior must hone his skills.” He reached into the locker behind her.

“I thought you were in trouble.”

“You acted bravely—with honour. Though it would have been more sensible to have ridden away.” He pulled out a spare shirt, and handed it to her. “Here, cover yourself. Are there many woman-knights amongst your people?”

She held the fabric to her chest. “No.”

“I thought not,” he said, with deliberate disdain. “You have skill and you have courage. But your body is weak and you need better training. Had I not been there, you would have died.”

His change of temper had taken her by surprise—and she no longer quite trusted him—but he felt her rise to his challenge. “Had you not been there, I would not have fought. And it was my intervention,” she added, “that bought you the time to recover.”

Her pale eyes glowed with indignation—she was like a cold flame. He frowned. “It was your intervention that forced me to temper my attack.”

“You are trained only for single combat.”

“I am trained to fight alone.”

“It is a weakness.”

He bared his teeth.

But something had changed between them. They both knew it. He did not want to harm her.

I should have cut her in two when she first appeared.

Before this happened…

“Do all warriors of your kind wear those markings?” she asked, suddenly.

She could not have chosen a better way to appease him. “We earn them,” he replied, “during a long apprenticeship. Each Sith is free to choose the form and placing of his marks.”

“And you chose your face?”

“I chose to reveal my nature to our enemies,” he said. “I chose to inspire fear. My master chose to hide his—”

“Your master? Who is your master?”

Enough of this. “You should wash,” he said. “Hot water will protect your muscles. Come.”

As she followed him, his spare shirt still clasped to her bare chest, she said, “They do not work—your markings—at least, they do not scare me.”

“No. A pity you are spoken for.”

He said it to unsettle her, for he had realised that her mate was the one chink in her armour. But, when he turned to her, he noticed that her face and throat had turned a deep, glowing red.

It was very attractive.

“In here.” He opened the washroom door and pushed her inside.

Maul sat in the pilot’s seat, gazing out at the pile of smoking bodies.

He could take her, if he wanted.

She would fight him, yes, but only out of concern for her mate—were she not already bonded, he doubted she would resist him at all. Well, perhaps at first.

He had never been with a female—the apprentice must keep his body pure. But he was sure that, as a child, he had seen his father take his mother, and, in any case, he knew that it could be violent or…

Or not.

Strange.

Some of his Master’s females did not survive being taken. Others barely lived. But his mother…

Maul pushed that memory out of his mind.

If the choice were left to him, he would take the woman now.

And she would live, because once would not be enough.

And he would train her, and show her how to use the Force with skill.

But he had sworn an Oath before his Master—and the apprentice must—

He turned at the sound of wet feet running on the metal flooring, and stared, open-mouthed, at the naked woman in his cockpit. Had she come because she sensed what he was thinking?

No.

“Your man is fortunate,” he said, “that I have exceptional self control.”

“What?” She frowned, seemed to read his expression, then—“Oh, never mind that,”—she leaned over him and caught hold of his wrists—“just do not kill Legolas!”

It was the first time that she had touched him and her fingers were strong and warm.

He twisted from her grasp and grabbed her wrists in return.

No, he could not take her, but he would learn something of what it would be like to have her. Slowly exerting his strength, he pulled her hands onto his chest, forcing her to straddle his legs, and arch herself over him. He felt his body respond.

“Who is Legolas?” he asked, though he already knew the answer.

“My husband. He is coming for me.”

He looked up into her silver eyes.

“I sent word to him,” she said, “when I decided to help you. He will find me—track me—he is an elf… He will attack your house to rescue me. Do not kill him with the white fire.”

“Do you realise,” he asked, “that if he were standing outside, he could see you, in here, with me, naked?”

Immediately, she tried to pull away, but he tightened his grip, and keeping his eyes on hers, he probed her mind.

Were she not bonded, she would give herself to me… Eventually.

“Go,” he said, releasing her suddenly. “Go and dress. I will kill nothing more without your ‘permission’.”

She returned, moments later, wearing her leggings and boots, and the black shirt he had provided, and carrying her sword, suspended from a shoulder harness. “Why are you treating me so well?” she asked.

He leaned back in his chair with a sigh, and stared up at the metal ceiling.

It had all started in the clearing. “You called upon the dark side,” he said.

“I do not understand.”

How could he explain it to her? “In the clearing, when you realised that I was not going to wait for you, you were angry and you called upon the dark side—and used it to defeat an enemy many times your weight. You lack discipline, but, at that moment, you fought like a Sith apprentice. My apprentice…” He sighed again. “It would be dishonourable to harm you. You are strong in the Force. And a worthy mate for a Sith.”

“But spoken for.”

“Yes.”

“And not attracted to you.”

He turned to her and smiled, knowingly.

She looked away. “Are they your gods? The Dark Side and the Force?”

He cast his mind back to his own early training. “The dark side—” he began.

Thud!

A primitive but beautiful missile, an arrow, glanced off the window.

“Is that him?”

“Yes—that was a warning shot.”

Maul reached for the communicator controls.

“What are you doing?” She lunged for his hand—“You promised!”

But the Sith was faster. “Trust me!” he cried, grabbing her wrists and holding them tightly, “tell him that you are unharmed and that you are coming out to him. For his sake, convince him that you are telling the truth.”

“How will he hear me?”

He tapped the display. “Speak.”

He had told her to run—and not look back.

Her mate could not have been more unlike a Zabrak—tall, slender, with long pale hair. Maul sensed the Force in him, even stronger than in his woman.

For no good reason, the Sith waited until they had disappeared from view before powering up the Infiltrator and activating the vertical repulsor array. The ship rose quickly, its nav computer already plotting the vectors that would take him back to Coruscant and his Master.

Maul tapped the controls, and held the ship in stasis for a few moments, watching her lead her Jedi to the safety of the ridge where he had first encountered her.

“Farewell, my apprentice…”

He re-engaged the autopilot, rose from his seat, and padded silently—past the washroom—to the open cargo bay at the stern of the ship.

Stripping down to his trousers and boots, he unclipped his lightsabre and—holding it horizontal—ignited both ends.

He needed exercise.


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Timewise, I imagine this happening after Shadowland, but before the Yuletide Mystery.
For Maul, it takes place immediately after the mission described in Darth Maul: Saboteur by James Lucerno.

Zabrak is Maul's species.

The Zabrak are humanoids whose most distinctive feature is the array of small horns on top of their heads, which typically grow at puberty, and are considered secondary sexual characteristics. Zabrak can be completely bald or fully-haired, and certain horn patterns are linked with certain hair patterns (or baldness). They do not have eyebrows and the males do not grow facial hair. Their eye colours are typically similar to the eye colours of humans—Maul's red-yellow eyes are the result of corruption by the dark side. Zabrak traditionally have facial tattoos, composed of a pattern of thin lines, but Maul's tattoos are Sith tattoos.

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