It was a lovely day on Coruscant – the weather grid was still working, after all – and Darth Sidious was examining a Sith artefact in his office. Not a holocron or anything else obviously visually incriminating, but rather a plain black stone with High Sith written on a flat surface. With the writing side facing down, the stone was a perfectly inconspicuous piece of décor, ideal for holding down errant pieces of flimsi.
As an extra precaution against electronic eavesdropping, he'd temporarily turned off the room's comms and placed his personal commlink in a closed drawer. He flicked a jammer on and turned the stone over in his hands.
If one craves the anguish of the Jedi, the inscription read. Unfortunately, the rest had been worn smooth, so Sidious didn't know what to do if he craved the anguish of the Jedi. (Well. He craved their destruction, but while he was biding his time, a little anguish would be a lot of fun.)
He thought he could make out the word for “throw", so he gathered up his frustrations at petty bureaucracy and flung the rock at the far wall. It hit it with a satisfying thunk.
Dark smoke started hissing out of the stone. Sidious rubbed his hands together in glee. This was it. Soon he could laugh at the idiot Jedi as they screamed in pain-
The smoke flashed a blinding white. When the light dimmed, one could see that the smoke had been replaced by some knee-height bird, white of feather and orange of beak. It had orange feet and an evil gleam to its eye.
Some sort of Sith chrysalid, then. Now, he only had to get it to the Jedi Temple somehow. He reached out to brush the creature's mind and bend it to his will.
The goose flung itself at him, honking wildly as it assaulted his face with a barrage of wingflaps. Sidious squawked and jumped backwards, except his chair caught on the carpet and tipped over, back first. He winced as he thunked his head on the floor. The goose, of course, was unaffected.
Then Sidious heard the door opening. “Help!” he cried out. He could just assassinate whomever saw this indignity later.
“Your Excellency!” Skywalker rushed around the desk. “Wait, let me-”
Skywalker reached out his hand; he rapidly pulled it back when the goose snapped at it. He tried reaching out with the Force next, with all that compassion-blinded all-in-harmony rah rah bantha poodoo the Jedi peddled, and instead of exerting his will over the creature, he sent it soothing thoughts and sought to understand it. Sidious tried not to roll his eyes as he made a note to train that out of him.
Surprisingly, the goose settled down and let Sidious shimmy away. “Thank you, Anakin, I always knew you'd be the one to save me in my hour of need.” When he revealed himself, he'd just have to claim this was a pre-planned test. “Perhaps you could take that ... animal away?”
“Of course, sir,” Skywalker said and reached out for the goose. “Here, let's go somewhere safer for you.”
The goose honked loudly and threw Skywalker ass-first out of the window. Honestly, that was kind of pathetic. Maybe Skywalker wasn't Sith material after all.
Before Sidious could consider whom to start grooming in Skywalker's stead, the goose launched itself at him. It caught a strip of his sleeve in its beak and tore his (expensive) robe.
That did it. He was a Sith Lord, but he was also Naboo. No-one touched his clothes and lived.
“You will pay for your insolence!” he hissed, drawing the lightsaber from the damaged sleeve and letting his hatred crackle into lightning around him.
The goose paid no heed to either the lightsaber or the lightning. In fact, it seemed larger.
Sidious sneered. This animal would be nothing more than a petty annoyance. He would delight in destroying it. He twirled his lightsaber and advanced.
Five minutes later, the goose was chasing him, nipping at his ankles, and somehow managing to dodge every single strike from his lightsaber. Sidious was beyond furious. “Die, pest!” he yelled and unleashed a furious blast of lightning at it.
The thing had the gall to simply open its mouth and absorb the lightning to no ill effect. Instead, it grew larger.
Sidious took out his second lightsaber – larger things were slower, and this gave him twice the chance to hit the infernal creature. He swung at the goose again and again, but it didn't so much as lose a feather as it wove through his strikes to barrel at his kneecaps.
“YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO KILL THE JEDI,” Sidious screamed at the goose, a torrent of lightning flowing from his hands as it dodged yet another strike from his lightsabers.
“What?!” Skywalker squawked.
Sidious turned to see that yes, indeed, Skywalker had survived his tumble and was now at the doors to Sidious's office wearing an unflattering expression of dismay. Moreover, he had somehow managed to dig up Mace Windu from somewhere.
“Sithspit,” Windu said. “The Chancellor?”
Sidious would have sneered at his ran-into-a-wall dazed expression and lack of eloquence and brains had he not been interrupted by the goose. It was now the height of a full-grown man, evil and malice worthy of a Sith Lord glinting in its beady eyes.
With a mighty clap of its wings, it slammed Sidious right into Skywalker and Windu with enough force that they all stumbled into the turbolift. Skywalker's hand hit the control panel and the doors closed with a pling.
When Sidious rolled to his feet, Windu had placed himself between Sidious and Skywalker. They crossed sabers, red against purple, in the confined space as the lift trundled downwards.
This would be the perfect opportunity for his future apprentice to display his loyalty by stabbing Windu in the back and going to deal with that goose while Sidious went to cry to the Senate about the Jedi assassination attempt. “Anakin! Can't you see the Jedi are trying to assassinate me?”
Windu blocked one of Sidious's lightsabers into the lift wall and jumped over the other. “Chancellor. You are under arrest for war profiteering, undermining the democratic process, and child abuse.”
“You can't arrest- Child abuse?” Sidious snorted as his lightsaber collided with Windu's. “Does telling a young man the truth count as abuse to you?”
“You are the Sith Master of Darth Maul, of whom we have holo evidence participating in an underground deathmatch ring as a minor.” Windu parried another slash. “As his primary caretaker, you need to be investigated.”
Sidious made a noise of disgust as he stabbed at Windu with both lightsabers. Maul had needed the experience, and he'd thought he'd eliminated any recordings that might've existed. Trust the slicers to be unreliable.
“Given Maul's age in the recordings and lack of official existence, we must also consider how he came into your custody. Did you buy a slave to be your personal assassin?” Windu raised a sardonic eyebrow as he blocked yet another blow. “Or is there a Zabrak mistress hiding in the works?”
This was not how Sidious had intended to spend his afternoon, and he could sense Skywalker slipping from his grasp at the implication of Sidious being a slave master. He snarled and slashed at Windu's feet. “Anakin, wouldn't you say that the Jedi Council are the true slaveholders? All those rules you chafe against, bowing and scraping to Masters, and yet they don't trust you to make the right choice.”
“I'm sorry we left you alone with a Sith Lord, Anakin,” Windu said, mid-hop, before Sidious could say something that subtly stressed Master Windu's rank. “We failed you.”
“Um,” Skywalker replied, unflattering expression of dismay now morphing into an equally unflattering expression of panic.
As nice as it would be to corrupt the Chosen One, Sidious knew when to cut his losses. He'd have liked to get at least another year of war to properly prepare the public for the upcoming Empire, but making them hate the Jedi would be relatively easy. Dooku would still be a problem, of course, but having the clones turn on their friends would guarantee the Fall of at least one padawan or youngling Sidious could take on as an apprentice. Worse come to the worst, he could always poach Ventress.
He reached for his comlink, only to recall he'd taken it off before what was rapidly shaping up to be the worst decision of his life. He released his frustrations with a wordless scream and a barrage of lightning that Windu caught on his lightsaber.
The turbolift dinged and the by now lightsaber-scored doors opened to a red-carpeted hallway. The Guard had an office just around the corner; Sidious would just execute Order 66 from there.
A resounding HONK echoed through the hallway. Sidious turned to see the goose from his office crash through a window. Lightning-fast, it opened its humongous jaws to reveal rows of teeth on its beak and tongue, and struck.
Sidious's lightsabers hit the ground with a clatter.
“Found an explanation in the library, Madame Nu has.” Master Yoda poured Mace and Anakin cups of tea – human-style yellow tea, rather than the viscous gloop Yoda's species preferred, for which Mace was glad. “An old Jedi guard, the goose was, made to track down Darkness.”
“Is that ... something Jedi do?” Anakin asked. “Breed animals to do their bidding?”
“Old, the goose is, older than Yoda.” Yoda sighed. “Changed, the Jedi have, many times over, since. A product of desperation, such experiments were; no need for them, there was, with the Sith gone.”
Mace closed his eyes and breathed in. The Force was light and airy from Sidious's death, despite the ongoing war, and for the first time in a long while, he felt hope for a better tomorrow. There would be an accounting – he and Anakin had spent the afternoon and most of the evening answering the questions of various investigative departments before he'd dragged Anakin away so the kid could have a private freak-out, and tomorrow would be more of the same – but the Sith Lord was dead. They were still at a war with another one, but now that both sides weren't led by the same person, perhaps they could win.
There'd be an internal inquest as well, over leaving a Sith Lord undiscovered and letting said Sith Lord have access to a youngling, but that at least Mace could trust to be free of Palpatine's sycophants and other corrupt officials. If they removed him from the Council, so be it. Perhaps he'd take on another padawan.
“What's going to happen now?” Anakin asked.
“Arrive on Coruscant tomorrow, Master Gallia will. The Jedi representative in the Senate investigations, she will be. Track down the goose, others will. Rest, the two of you should.”
“I don't think I can sleep,” Anakin confessed. Mace sympathized with him – his anxious spiral of thoughts swirled around him in the Force. “He was my friend. And, and how did the goose even get in there? Did it just spontaneously manifest? Why now instead of before?”
“Found in his office, this was.” Master Yoda took a stone from his pocket and placed it on the table.
It was slightly cool to the touch and felt odd in the Force. Mace turned it around and saw the writing. “Ah. The Sith must've bound the creature to the stone somehow.”
“Why would he release it, then?”
Mace's High Sith was far from the best, but the grammar of the legible sentence fragment wasn't complex. “This reads ... ‘Tah hyalwin jidaihâsk’ at the start, which would translate to something along the lines of ‘if the Jedi suffering is desired’. The next word starts with ‘chwit’, which is the High Sith for ‘throw’.” The word for “stone” had been worn off the end, and of the second line only the “if” at the start remained.
“But if it's the suffering of the – wait.” Anakin, for once in his life, actually thought things through before saying something. “Is the High Sith ambiguous as to whether the suffering is made by the Jedi or targeting the Jedi?”
“You'd have to ask Jocasta, but I believe so.”
“Important, acknowledging such ambiguity is,” Yoda said. “Disastrous, it could be, should a treaty hold such contradictory interpretations, hm?”
Mace set the stone down and picked up his teacup. He let the tea's warmth seep into the cradle of his palms as Yoda's teachings washed over him, cadence familiar all the way from the crèche. He recognized the intent to soothe, but-
He couldn't help but hope that Yoda had drugged the tea as well.