A’Sharad Hett didn’t have anything but his lightsabers, his mask and the Force when he followed his new teacher into Mos Espa. The port was busy with people of all species hurrying through the streets, but he still couldn’t shake the looks they were giving him. It didn’t bother him, they were right to wary. A’Sharad was strong and had fought many battles for his clan to protect their hunting grounds from all these outlanders who thought they could push his clan to the dead sands where cowards went to die.
“There is a ship here that will take us back to Coruscant,” Ki-Adi-Mundi said. “I have to run another errand before that though. If you want, I can take you to the ship first and you can wait there for me.”
His new teacher was a strong, wise and kind man. He assumed A’Sharad needed time to recover from the pain of the last days, and he undoubtedly would, but now was not the time to mourn. Tatooine was a harsh world where its very air and sunlight were your enemy and A’Sharad understood all too well that he couldn’t grieve here.
And, perhaps if he allowed himself to think of the honest cool and cutting truth of the moonlight, A’Sharad could admit that he didn’t want to be alone. He wasn’t used to it. Even if one’s fight was their own, a Tusken was never truly lonely.
“I’d like to go with you, Master,” A’Sharad answered.
Mundi smiled at him. “I am glad to hear that Padawan. Perhaps your presence might help make my venture a little easier.”
“What are we doing?”
Mundi guided them through the streets into the poorer districts of the city until eventually, they reached the slave quarters proper. A’Sharad’s clan never had any troubles with the slaves or Tatooine. Their people were hurting just as much as the Tuskens and when they crossed paths in the desert, they gladly invited them to stay a night. It took great strength to run away and take your freedom when you came from nothing. The slaves didn’t know to trust them, but that was no surprise. Their owners, rich businessmen, and moisture farmers alike claimed people and land with no regard to another’s autonomy or belongings.
They were all skaterkst, bad.
“About three months ago another Jedi was stranded here on Tatooine, Qui-Gon Jinn was his name. I mentioned him before.”
A’Sharad recalled that name. Mundi had talked about him with his father. Sharad Hett had held him in high regard. A’Sharad nodded and sighed for Mundi to continue.
“Qui-Gon found a boy here, Anakin. He is very strong in the Force, but was wholly untrained. He freed Anakin in a rather spectacular manner if the boy’s account is to be believed. However, his mother is still a slave. Anakin’s teacher asked me to take a slight detour on this mission to free his mother. We can hardly expect the boy to let go of his attachments if his mother’s torment looms over him like a cord.”
“You are kind,” A’Sharad said.
He had been taught to let go when the storms had claimed his mother when he’d been a young child still. He was an adult now, a warrior. He had slain a krayt dragon and he would become a Jedi of the Order and not think about parents left behind in the desert.
“I’m a Jedi,” Mundi replied, though his answer almost felt more like a correction. “I do what is necessary.”
Mundi then stopped when he saw a group of women talking. A group of children was playing around them, a game of catch or something similar, A’Sharad wasn’t sure. There appeared to be some rules the children followed, but the pattern made no sense to him. Mundi only smiled at the display, then walked over to the women.
“I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I seek a woman by the name of Shmi Skywalker. I am Ki-Adi-Mundi of the Jedi Order and this is my Padawan A’Sharad Hett. We’re here on behalf of her son, Anakin.”
One of the women stepped forward. Out of the three of them, she was the brightest. A’Sharad was used to utilizing the Force as his compass when the storms got so bad, you couldn’t even see your bantha. This woman was so full of light, A’Sharad could be blind and he would still find her.
“Anakin? My Anakin?” The woman repeated.
“You are Shmi Skywalker then?”
“Yes,” Shmi said. A’Sharad couldn’t sense a lie. She was speaking the truth and she was telling it with so much hope, it was startling.
“I’m very glad to hear that. Lady Skywalker, I apologize that it took us so long, but we are here to free you.”
The children that had been playing around them stopped and all of them, with no exception, stared at them with big eyes. The two women with Shmi looked torn between suspicion and disbelief, but the same couldn’t be said about Shmi. She looked at them in relief and wonder. Her arms hung slack at her side and while she didn’t say a word, didn’t ask them a question, A’Sharad could feel it all in the Force. It must be similar for his new teacher who studied her in curiosity before producing a small pouch and giving it to Shmi. She opened it and slowly counted the money, piece after piece before she closed the bag again and closed her eyes for just one moment to take a deep breath. When she was finished, Mundi continued.
Then, in the same voice he had used to ask A’Sharad if he wanted to stay behind, he spoke to Shmi.
“Originally, I was just going to give you the needed peggats as a Jedi cannot be seen dealing in slavery. The political upheaval it would cause is unimaginable. Fortunately, my young Padawan has not been inducted into the Order proper yet and his actions before his introductions will not reflect back on the Order at large.”
Mundi’s eyes shone almost mischievously as he turned to A’Sharad. “A’Sharad, would you take ensuring the freedom of this woman as your first mission as my Padawan?”
Shmi Skywalker with her burning hope looked at him like he was the younger Sky Brother, ready to snap her iron chains and break her out of the cruel enslavement. He could do this, he had to do it. The Force was with him and had guided him on this path and his new circle of life started here on Tatooine with Shmi Skywalker’s name. He wondered if she knew what her name meant to his clan, that it marked her as a great warrior.
“I will guide you, Shmi Skywalker,” A’Sharad promised.
“Thank you,” she said, her voice just as strong as his.
She hesitated at first, but then gave the pouch to A’Sharad.
They bid Shmi’s friends goodbye as they made their way to the Builder that owned her. They didn’t speak a word for the entire journey, only when they arrived at a junkshop did A’Sharad saw it fit to talk again. Tuskens didn’t waste words. Their masks enabled them to speak, but it wasn’t pleasant in any form. Hence most of their stories being relayed through their sign language.
“I will free you,” A’Sharad said.
Shmi looked at him and nodded only slightly, then the two of them stepped through the entrance of the shop. Master Ki-Adi-Mundi stayed outside as not to attract attention of any kind. Inside the store, a Toydorian was flying around, counting his possessions. A’Sharad was glad that Shmi wouldn’t be a part of his calculations much longer. When he saw Shmi, his face twisted into an ugly snarl and A’Sharad knew that if he weren’t standing right beside her, the Toydorian would have said something as harsh a krayt’s claws.
Now, instead, he froze. He was undoubtedly aware of the danger he was in now. A’Sharad felt a grim satisfaction, the Builder deserved it.
“I want to buy your slave,” A’Sharad said.
“I will not repeat myself. You will sell her to me.”
A’Sharad didn’t attempt to influence his mind, it wouldn’t work, but he could certainly outstubborn the Toydorian and let his reputation do the rest.
The Builder’s wings twitched nervously. “What do you want with her?”
“It does not matter.”
“It’s just that Shmi here is very dear to me… The price has to fit, I mean.”
A’Sharad wanted to take out his lightsaber and separate the Toydorian’s head from his torse. That too would be justice, but not the kind he could seek now. The way the Builder talked about Shmi was unacceptable, as if she weren’t there at all.
“I can pay,” A’Sharad replied merely. “So do business with me.”
Like all Builders, the Toydorian was a greedy creature, cruel and vicious. But A’Sharad had seen death and survived, haggling with such a bastard was nothing. After a discussion that felt much too long and too short at the same time, A’Sharad walked out of the store with a free woman.
“It is done?” Mundi asked when he spotted them.
A’Sharad wondered whether he had stood out in the sunlight waiting the whole time instead of searching for some shade.
“Yes,” A’Sharad replied. “She is freed and I have some money still over.”
“Well done, Padawan,” Mundi praised him. He gently put his hand on A’Sharad’s shoulder and squeezed it reassuringly. The gesture reminded A’Sharad too much of his father so that for just one moment he resented it before accepting it as the support it was meant to be.
“Are you alright, Lady Skywalker?”
Shmi was still staring at the small black remote in her hand as if she couldn’t believe it. There was no telling how long she had been a slave for, but even just a minute in chains was a minute too long.
“Yes,” she answered. “Yes, I’m fine. I am… free.”
She began smile, happy, wide and mad like a spirit. Before A’Sharad could react, she pulled him into a hug.
“Thank you,” She whispered, her voice barely above a whisper. When she pulled away from him again, she wiped away the one lone tear that had rolled over her cheeks. With the very same thumb, she gently traced his right cheek. A’Sharad didn’t know the gesture, but he knew better than to disrupt it.
“I will not forget what you did for me,” Shmi said. “Jedi Mundi, I know I’m asking for a lot, but could you tell about my son? And give him a message from me?”
To A’Sharad it didn’t seem like Shmi was asking for much, but they had just freed her. She now had a whole galaxy to observe and travel if she so desired. It would take her time to figure out what her new limits were.
“Of course, Lady Skywalker,” Mundi assured her. “Nothing would please me more.”
Ki-Adi-Mundi was an honorable man. If A’Sharad followed his footsteps, he would certainly make his clan proud. And as Shmi Skywalker took her first steps into a world unbound, A’Sharad Hett set his compass anew and followed suit.