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Sunlit Shadows

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Sheev watched intently as a small, reptilian creature with bright markings squeezed its way through the long grass. He reached out and gently prodded its scales with his finger, jumping back a bit when it quickly curled up. He decided that this interesting specimen needed a home, so he gathered sticks and leaves before pulling out fistfuls of grass to clear a small patch of soil. There, he built a makeshift hut and placed the creature inside. Pleased with his work, he stretched out on the ground and gazed at the windblown clouds. It was so peaceful out here in the forest meadow. But, it didn’t last.

“I’m not going to ask you again.” A deep voice interrupted his reverie and filled him with dread.

He winced as his father grabbed his hair and pulled him to his feet before angrily pointing back at the pavilion where Sheev’s mother and a few of their acquaintances, mostly Naboo nobles and politicians and their families, were eating lunch. Sheev hated these events. He would rather be home at the manor.

His father released him. “I told you to stay at the table.”

Sheev rubbed his head. A sudden chill came over him and he shivered and folded his arms. “I’m—I…”

He couldn’t finish his sentence. Even though it was a nice, warm afternoon, he felt like he was drowning in an icy torrent of anger and revulsion. The surreal sensation coursed through him as he unconsciously turned toward the woods. Inaudible whispers filled his ears and an unexplainable desire to go to the trees filled his mind.

He was barely aware of his father shouting his name over and over. Only a sharp pain on the side of his face brought him back to reality. Sheev stumbled backwards from the blow.

“What is wrong with you?” His father looked more nervous than angry. That was unusual. In all of the eight years he’d been alive, Sheev couldn’t remember a time where his father hadn’t been upset with him for one reason or another.

“I’m cold,” Sheev said, blinking away tears and gingerly touching his face.

His father gave him an incredulous look. “Go back to your mother and stay quiet. You will NOT embarrass me today, you little freak. This is an important gala,” he said as he walked back to the group.

Sheev turned toward the woods and felt his skin prickle when he spotted a dark figure standing under a tree. It beckoned him. He knew he should run back to the pavilion, but his curiosity intensified. He quickly glanced back at the gathering to make sure no one was watching before darting through the grass and wildflowers until he reached the mysterious visitor.

“Sheev Palpatine.” The calm and pleasant voice belonged to a tall, alien man dressed in a frayed dark robe.

Sheev felt a tinge of fear as he looked up at the creature’s pale, deformed face and piercing blue eyes. The alien squatted down in front of him. Sheev considered running away, but the stranger was mesmerizing. Before he could stop himself, he reached out and touched the unsightly scar on the side of the alien’s face.

“Why are you hurt?” Sheev asked uneasily.

“It’s not a pretty sight, is it?” The alien sighed. “When you live so many years, accidents are inevitable. “

“Who are you?”

“Call me Snoke,” the alien said. His name hung in the air.

There was a moment of silence as Snoke studied Sheev, pale eyes blazing with fascination. He reached into his robe and retrieved a pyramidal object. He brushed it off a little before handing it to Sheev, who turned it over in his hands, confused at all of the markings along its sides.

“A gift for you.”

“What is this?” Sheev asked. It looked like another antique that adorned the mantelpieces in his house. Nothing exciting.

“You’ll find out in time,” Snoke said. “You’re a very interesting person, Palpatine. I’ve seen regimes rise and fall throughout the days of the Old Republic and people with unimaginable power and potential, so please don’t take my compliment lightly. The Force is strong in you right now, especially the dark. I’ve never felt anything like it. I see a promising future ahead with you as its architect…one that I’ve been awaiting for many, many years.”

Sheev didn’t know what Snoke was talking about and didn’t particularly care. He pointed at the alien’s face. “But, you’re hurt. You need medicine.” This frail being was beginning to make him anxious.

Snoke smiled and stood up. “I’m alright. These old wounds happened centuries ago. Now, you should probably rejoin your family.”

Sheev gave him one last look before returning to the sunlit meadow.

***

Much to Sheev’s relief, his parents didn’t question him about the strange object he carried back to the pavilion. However, his father had seen him coming out of the woods and waited until they returned home before unleashing his fury, yelling at him about what a disobedient disgrace he was to the family name.

Now, Sheev sat on the floor in his spacious bedroom, trying to calm his nerves. For a brief moment, he considered packing a bag and climbing out of the window. He would run to the spaceport and journey to the stars where no one could find him. He hated his father. He wished he would die. Sheev was terrified by his own thoughts and tried to focus on something else.

Suddenly, the room was bathed in a red glow. Sheev looked around, startled when he saw that it was coming from the pyramidal object on his bedside table. He cautiously crept over to it as it grew brighter and brighter.