Title: Trickster Author: JadeLotus Category: Drama, Angst, AU Rating: PG Characters: Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade. A/N: The quote preceding the fic is from "The Last Unicorn" by Peter S Beagle Dare: (courtesy of VaderLVR64) The Death Star blew up Yavin, so Leia is dead. Luke ran away from Vader and was sent by blue ghostie Obi-Wan to Dagobah, where he learned the ways of the Force. He got tired of Yoda?s constant lectures and ran away. More than twelve years have passed since the Death Star ?incident? and Luke is now in his early thirties. The Empire still rules the galaxy. Vader hears about a man who has ?magical? powers and decides to investigate. Luke has been earning his living as a circus performer, touring the galaxy and staying out of the way of the Emperor and his henchman, Darth Vader. Vader tracks down Luke and finally recognizes him as his son. What will Vader do? ******* The true secret in being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock on the witch's door when she is already away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a very long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story. There were stirrings in the Force. Darth Vader had felt them for some time now, a faint, rousing pressure not willing to be ignored. His master had not sensed it, of that he was sure. Palpatine, so assured of his own greatness, his own power, did not notice the minuscule changes in the Force, the ripples that moved discreetly under the saturation of the Dark Side. Vader, trapped in the prison that inhibited in his movements and shortened his life, could not access the Force on such a scale. He had no hope of summoning the power that his master did, but his perception was more acute, more refined. And he had sensed something familiar, something located in the Corellian system. He sent out his spies, and they had returned with excellent information. They knew if they had not their lives would be forfeit. Suppressing a familiar pain that flowed through him, Vader studied the vivid holos of the man his spies had collected. A magician, Vader thought with disgust. A member of one of those ‘travelling circuses’ that seemed to worm their way throughout the Outer Rim and into the civilised worlds. But this man was no ordinary trickster. With familiar blue eyes and dirty blond hair, he cut a striking image. He was perhaps thirty years old, or a little older. No – he would be 32, of that Vader was sure. That day was burned forever into his memory. I’m afraid in your anger, you killed her... He’d been lied to. Vader clenched a gloved fist, ignoring the familiar agony that came from it. She’d been alive, long enough to birth their child. The child that should have been raised by his side, in his image. Vader sensed Obi-Wan’s scheming hand in all of this, and he was thankful he had ended it that day in the Death Star. Vader also remembered the sandy-haired youth that had called out in that moment. He may not have recognised the boy then, but now he knew. Those stirrings had been his son, calling to him. It was the Force, finally bringing them together. Searching his memory, Vader’s thoughts went back to that day, when the princess had screamed out to the boy. She’d called him...Luke. He barely remembered the name Luke Skywalker. It had been so long since anyone had addressed him by it, and longer still since he had thought of himself in that way. As far as the galaxy was aware, Luke Skywalker perished on Yavin 4 with the last hopes of the Rebellion. It had been his fault. He’d trusted the Force, like Obi-Wan had told him. He’d let himself go, allowed himself to feel, rather than see his target. But Vader had been right there behind him, and Luke had been forced to choose between staying on target and allowing himself to be killed, and pulling his X-Wing out of the line of fire. He should have chosen the former, secure in the knowledge that the Rebellion would continue without him, that he would become a hero and a martyr. But the latter had been instinctual. He had failed. Failed the Rebellion, failed Ben and the Force, failed the father he’d sworn to avenge. Failed Leia. Luke had drifted aimlessly after that, alone, save for his damaged Artoo unit and the persistent voice of Obi-Wan. He’d still been young – still imbued with the idealistic fervour of youth, and he’d gone dutifully to Dagobah. But he was weak, berated by Yoda at every turn. Too old. Too reckless. Too much anger. He spent years drifting between systems, searching for something to fill his life. He travelled between planets using a variety of names, until he forgot his own. With no skills other than the barest talent in the Force, Luke found it difficult to find work, or a home. That was until he came across the circus. The Force had seemed like magic to the owners, and he’d been travelling with them ever since. He wondered if Master Yoda could sense his actions from his secluded home, if Ben was watching over him, tormented by what he had become. The thought gave him some satisfaction. He was certain both of them felt his current use of the Force was beneath a Jedi. But that was something Luke would never be, and he was glad of it. The patrons of the travelling circus were undemanding, and easily pleased. So thoroughly entertained by his illusions, his tricks. It was not a happy existence, but an easy one. He possessed only one sorrow, and that was the fact that he was alone, save for the crying of his wounded, desperate soul, calling endlessly into the night. Luke threw back another shot of alcohol, and a face caught his eye, one that appeared to be studying him. It was one of the court dancers – beautiful, but Luke sensed deception beneath the surface. He examined her set, determined expression, the glint of her eyes, the blonde hair. He dismissed the woman without another thought, raising unsteadily to his feet, prepared to begin his act. “I am Schmendrick, the Magician” he began, filling his voice with a great resonance, spreading his arms wide towards the audience. “Conjurer of tricks beyond your wildest dreams, master of illusion and deception. I hold the power of the universe in my hand – I am a bearing, I am a dwelling, I am a messenger...” He spoke the speech from rote, inwardly wincing at the absurdity of it all. But it always seemed to invoke wonder and awe in the patrons. Juggling teacups in mid-air, creating illusions of beasts and kyrat dragons, creating a storm of colours and sounds that danced and moved around them all. It was enough, he supposed. Later, Luke stumbled hazily back to his transport. Had he been more aware, more in tune with the Force, he might have sensed the presence behind him. As it was, he saw a glimpse of blonde hair, and then nothing. Vader seethed with anger, and the room shook with the force of it. The transparisteel window overlooking the city quivered violently, dangerously close to shattering. How the Emperor had discovered the boy, he didn’t know. Probably that insufferable Hand of his, always more than willing to search and destroy any opposition to her beloved Master. His anger began to stifle him, to rob Vader of his precious breath, and he willed himself to calm down. Perhaps it was better this way. Yes, the Emperor would bring the boy to him, and he would have his chance. He could wait. Not too much longer, but he could wait. Luke awoke to a darkened cell, but he sensed another presence within. “So, you’re finally awake”. The dull lights flickered on, illuminating a woman seated opposite him, idly twirling his lightsaber in her slim fingers. She was about his own age, he guessed, and she might have possessed the beauty of youth, were it not for the markings of resignation and defeat that laced her expression. Her green eyes might once have been full of life, but they were dull, deadened to all emotion. The red colour to her hair might be considered vibrant, were it not so shrouded in darkness. Luke assessed, and understood her. She was affected by the same affliction he was. Abandonment, failure. They both reeked of it. “It wasn’t you, who brought me here?” That face had been younger, more alive. For a brief moment her eyes flashed in a remembered anger. But they dulled just as quickly, and became impassive once more. “That was one of the Emperor’s Hands” she stated. “And what’s that?” he asked. Her lip twitched, and Luke knew it was dangerous of her to be giving him this information. But he sensed a strong apathy within her. Perhaps she didn’t care. “An extension of the Emperor’s will. Spies, assassins, trained to carry out the Emperor’s wishes, to exercise his desires”. Her voice was expressionless, but Luke could sense something beneath that...a longing, perhaps? “You’re not one of them, then?” he asked. A sorrow passed over her face. “No. My duties confine me to the Imperial Palace.” “Were you once?” He had expected an outburst from the woman, some display of anger, if only at his audacity. But she was silent, and that was answer enough. Although she still appeared to be in perfect health, Luke had heard rumors of the Emperor constantly replacing those in his inner sanctum with younger, more virile and impressionable minds. Only Lord Vader remained a constant in his court. Luke surmised that this woman had been a victim to that whim. Once one of his most trusted servants, now relegated to a position as an overqualified guard. He filed away the information. It might be of use to him in the future. “So why am I here?” He changed the subject. “You are a magician?” Her brow almost quirked in amusement. Luke nodded, and she shrugged. “The Emperor would like a performance”. Jade had brought him the boy’s lightsaber. She was easy enough to manipulate. Her loyalty to Palpatine had been waning over the years, and she was so starved of praise and attention that she was more than happy to run errands for Vader, if he flattered her in the right way. There were no doubts now. He recognised every smooth curve of his own craftsmanship in the blade handle. His lightsaber, stolen from him by Obi-Wan, the treacherous old man had obviously passed it on to Luke at some point before his inevitable death. That pleased him. That his son had carried it, all this time. Had borne a part of him. Vader had been impressed by Luke’s audience with his Master. He had sensed an undercurrent of bitter darkness to his son, so close to the Dark Side. It also proved that Luke had not had any real, formal Jedi training, which pleased Vader greatly. It would make his task so much easier. He would go to him, train him, right under Palpatine’s watchful eye. His master had been dismissive of Luke’s potential, and was still unaware of Vader’s connection to him. He had conceded that the boy had great strength, but was of no threat. He was a fool. Your death sits in that cell, Vader thought with a smugness he had not felt in years. The Dark Lord blanketed himself in malevolence, drawing on the Dark Side to shield him, guide him. Sustain him. Vader could not longer deny the fact that he was dying. He was old, now, a fact unchanged by the mechanical part of his being. There was so little of his human body left, not enough to sustain him for much longer. But he would live, hold on long enough to finally see his son, hear his voice. Watch him defeat the Emperor in his father’s name. It was too late for Luke to join him. But vengeance? That was something else entirely. Though he did not appear so, Vader was very weak when he was finally able to come face to face with Luke. Jade had kept an eye on the boy for him, while he bided his time. Waited for the Emperor’s eyes to drift away from the prisoner, to become bored with him and move on to another opportunity. Despite his inner weakness, Vader cut an imposing figure against the skyline as Luke was brought into his quarters. He nodded to Jade, who pushed him unceremoniously further into the room. She smirked, and left. Luke’s gaze drifted around the room, his eyes widened in surprise when it settled on the figure of his father. Anger filled the blue depths of his eyes, swirling hatefully within him. Vader ignored it. “Hello, Luke.” The boy tried to hide his surprised expression, but it shone out like a beacon. Before he could express it, Vader spoke again. “Yes, Luke. I know you.” If I were blind I would know who you are. “And I know you, Lord Vader,” Luke spat out the words bitterly. “What do you know of me?” Vader was intrigued. What lies had Obi-Wan told him? “That you serve the Dark Side.” His voice was strained, and Vader could sense his emotions start to spike. “It serves me,” he replied succinctly. Luke’s jaw tightened. “That you killed my father”. So that was the treachery. It did not surprise him. “Obi-Wan’s apprentice was weak and foolish as a Jedi, but his power was immense. He chose his fate”. “Chose for you to kill him?” “Oh, he is not dead,” Vader advanced on him, revelling at the sight of Luke’s hopeful expression. “He and I...we are one.” Comprehension dawned on Luke, and Vader did not sense any anger or resistance within him. Perhaps, if he had been told as young man, his reaction would have been stronger, less inclined to believe. But the man that stood before knew to search his feelings for the truth to be found there. “You’re my father?” Vader nodded, as Luke’s acceptance spilled through him, filling the gaps of longing in his soul. “I’ve heard of your – exploits since the Rebellion died.” He moved closer to Luke. “Such a waste of the Force”. Luke shrugged, still reeling from Vader’s revelation. “It’s a living I suppose.” “You should not settle for less of anything Luke. Not if you want to achieve greatness.” Seeing that his words were not having the desired effect, Vader changed his strategy. He had, after all, loathed lectures in his own tutelage. Vader reached out a palm to his son. “Show me your...magic” he entreated. “And I will show you mine”. It was several months of secret training, of whispered teachings and hidden instruction. Luke had progressed beyond all of his hope, and Vader was more than satisfied with him. He had grown used to his presence, as if they had always been together, had always been connected in such a way. When the time came, Vader summoned him. “I am dying, Luke.” It was plaintive, and simple...resigned. Luke’s reaction was not so. “What? You – you can’t die,” Luke’s voice quivered, and for a moment, he appeared as a child again. “I’ve only just found you!” “It comes so quickly, in the end,” Vader’s voice, for once, was soft. “Death,” he clarified. Tears filled Luke’s eyes, as he reached to clutch Vader’s gloved hand. “Please, Father...” The darkness began to overtake him, and Vader knew he only had a few minutes. He struggled to reach to his side, to grasp his lightsaber, to press it into Luke’s trembling free hand. “Promise me, Luke.” He drew him close. “Promise you’ll be stronger than me. Stronger than the Emperor. Let no one be your master.” And Lord Vader closed his eyes as the blood-red hue of his blade illuminated the room, lightening up the fierce, dark determination in his son’s eyes. As Vader let the abyss take him, he heard Luke’s final promise resonate through his fading being: I will not fail you, Father.