The sight of one Bamarri venturing near civilization was enough to draw an astonished crowd, but two Bamarri in one place was nothing short of a miracle. They were first spotted on the fringes of Nezamiyeh in the early hours of the morning, walking together in long loping steps, moonlight reflecting off their crystalline bodies. One was larger than the other, and seemed to be the leader while the smaller one followed it like a child. The local citizens who were awake watched from afar, peering through blinds and window curtains, afraid to scare them off.

Days later, the pair made their way to a town square in the largely abandoned older quarter, where a small pool of water still flowed inside an ancient fountain. The bigger Bamarri directed the smaller into the pool, helping it past the fountain’s cracked walls. Once it was completely submerged, the elder stood guard over its younger companion.

Hours passed. The sun rose on the horizon, and with it came the gawkers and tourists. They gathered in the square, wide eyed and in awe, but keeping a cautious distance away from the strange creatures that had wandered in like beasts from the wilderness.

“What are they doing?” a little girl asked. Her mother hesitated, not knowing how to answer.

“They are taking advantage of the nexus,” said a voice. The child looked up and saw a woman approaching—Persis, a teacher at the Academy and a well-known seeress.

Milky, sightless eyes stared straight ahead as Persis made her way into the square. The seeress wore long, pale yellow robes; her small white hands poked out from her sleeves, feeling her way through the crowd until she reached the fountain. “You must leave this place,” she warned, speaking to the Bamarri.

The one on guard stared her down. Among the crowd, those who were sensitive to the Force felt a powerful bombardment of mental imagery and emotion.

We aren’t hurting anyone. Let us stay for just a little while longer.

“Do you think I would dare to disturb you for no reason?” Persis replied. “Someone is coming, a person who wants to take you prisoner and make you do his bidding. I’ve had a vision…”

But we can’t leave now. Look! The Bamarri pointed at its companion in the water. The crystalline structures of its body were growing, accelerated by the effects of the local Force nexus. This one is newly born. It needs to grow more. With the nexus here, it will be finished soon.

He will be here soon,” Persis argued. “Arrius Messala is coming. He is a Sith Lord. Hurry, you don’t have much time to get away!”

Words like “Sith” and “Jedi” held no more meaning to a Bamarri than death and taxes. But they could read her fear and anguish plainly.

What will Arrius Messala do to us?

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “But whatever it is, it can’t be good. Please, go and find somewhere to hide, while you still can!”

The crowd had already begun to disperse as everyone hurried home, frightened by Persis’ foreboding words. Even if they hadn’t known who Arrius Messala was already, the very thought of a Sith Lord coming to their world was enough to strike fear into the hearts of the bravest among them. Sensing the overwhelming atmosphere of terror from the people, the elder Bamarri started to reach into the water to lift its companion out.

At the sound of footsteps, Persis whirled around. She sensed two people approaching, strangers judging by their Force signatures, but she wasn’t taking any chances. “Stay back!”

“We mean no harm,” a woman’s voice replied. Her accent was foreign and difficult to place. “We’re only here because we heard some commotion and wanted to see what was going on.” The woman took another step forward.

“I said stay back!” Persis yelled. “I’ve already called the authorities. It’s dangerous for you to be here!”

“Oh, forget it, Nefretiri,” a man’s voice interrupted. Halfway through his sentence, there was an electronic warble as he turned off the device disguising his appearance and voice. It was, without a doubt, Messala. “There’s no point in trying to hide ourselves from her. She’s as paranoid as the rest of them and would’ve sniffed me out regardless. The Force sent her a vision of my arrival, after all. She makes for a pretty good warning system.”

With crystalline eyes the Bamarri had seen two strangers who lingered in the square while the rest of the crowd left. One was a tall man with forgettable looks, and the other was a female Anubian, her body covered in sleek black fur. Neither had appeared familiar to Persis—she had never met Nefretiri, and Messala had hidden his Force signature using an amulet. But Messala was quick to abandon his holographic disguise, unable to resist reveling in his fearsome reputation on the world which he had once called home.

“I called for a force of Chaldean Academy Guards,” Persis continued, holding her ground even as her body began to tremble. “You won’t be able to get away with this.”

Messala chuckled. “I’ve no doubt of it—provided they actually show up in time. Until then, let's have a look at these specimens I've heard so much about, shall we?”

“I will not let you take them,” she insisted. “I would die first.”

“Save the martyr claptrap for a more fitting occasion. I never raised a hand against you before, why would I start now?”

“You…” Persis began, her brow furrowing. “You may have never attacked me directly, but you betrayed me the moment you fell to the Dark. You betrayed us all, everyone who ever called themselves your friend.”

“But I could never kill you, Persis.” Messala shook his head. “I’ll simply remove you. Put you somewhere safe and out of the way.”

With that, he thrust out a leathery hand, claws splayed, and at the touch of his palm against her brow Persis was thrust into a deep slumber. She slumped, her body going limp, but Messala managed to cushion her fall before she collapsed onto the hard cobblestones.

His merciful act meant to prevent her injury was rewarded by the sensation of his limbs being painfully pinned against his sides by an invisible force. The elder Bamarri was now lashing out, gripping him with the Force hard enough to bruise.

Nefretiri pulled a sword from a sheath at her hip, leaped with canine grace onto the rim of the fountain, then lunged forward, plunging the blade into the Bamarri’s chest. Hairline cracks appeared in its crystal torso, emanating outward from the wound. She yanked the sword out with a whooping war cry, and the Bamarri shattered. An explosion of light burst from the ruined remnants of the crystal being, and like a fog the Bamarri’s spirit dissipated when exposed to the open air.

Messala, now freed, shook himself to get the blood flowing again. “I wish you hadn’t done that,” he muttered.

“You only need one of them,” she replied, sheathing her sword. Turning to where Persis lay on the ground, Nefretiri remarked, “You and her weren’t just friends, were you? I could sense the pain of it in her.”

Messala said nothing. Approaching the fountain, he reached into the water and scooped up the newborn Bamarri. Confused and frightened by the loss of its kindred, it didn’t struggle.

“What did she ever have to offer you?” Nefretiri pressed, unwilling to let the subject go.

“The one thing I wanted most,” Messala replied, starting down an alleyway he knew would lead them out of the city.

“Love?”

Messala laughed. “The future. She could see the future—a talent I’ve always lacked and lusted after.” He projected a false warmth into the Force, trying to soothe the Bamarri in his arms. His voice softened even as the content of his words darkened. “I could withstand anything the galaxy threw at me, but not jealousy. That was what pushed me down the path of the Sith in the first place.”

“If that’s the case, why not call yourself the Lord of Jealousy instead of the Lord of Doubt?”

“Because jealousy is pathetic, and no Sith can afford to wear their vulnerability on their sleeve. Coveting another’s gifts, wanting them for yourself—it just goes to show how little faith you have in your own strengths and abilities that you would need to steal them from someone else. No, I don’t think any Sith Lord could go around calling themselves the Lord of Jealousy and still be feared and respected.” He grinned. “Not that my fellow Sith consider me much of anything, mind you. But it's easier for me to instill doubt, making people second guess their friends, family, allies, even themselves. I’m quite good at bringing out their insecurities and convincing them they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.”

“Sure,” Nefretiri muttered with a smirk. “I’m absolutely full of self-doubt whenever I’m around you.”

“Please, you don’t need me to make you doubt yourself, princess,” he replied with a wink. Seeing the distinct glint of silvery armor up ahead, he slowed his pace. “Oh great. Here come the flying monkeys.”

A group of Chaldean Academy guards marched into the alley. Their distinct suits of armor were designed for combat with Force Users. At the head of the unit was yet another Chaldean who could recognize Messala on sight, a man approaching middle age with ash blond hair cut short and the face of a comedian, though said face currently bore a very serious expression.

Toloth Thrrrreepwood!” Messala greeted him cheerfully, rolling the Rs of the man’s name in an exaggerated manner. “Aren’t you the new Academy headmaster now? Truly, you have ascended. I’m honored that you consider me enough of a threat that you decided to come down here yourself!”

Rolling his eyes, Toloth waved his hand dismissively, cutting straight to the chase. “What are you doing with that Bamarri, Arrius?”

“Well, if you must ask, I intend to extract its soul and place it in a stronger, faster, more resilient vessel,” Messala replied. “That way it won’t be so easily killed, unlike its unfortunate companion.”

“Very nice,” Bendik agreed, much to the Sith Lord’s surprise. “Changing any creature’s life for the better is a noble goal. Only, I’m pretty sure those aren’t your true intentions at all.”

“Awww, what makes you say that?”

“Where do I even start?” Toloth started counting on one hand. “You’re a Sith. You betrayed the ideals of the Potentium and were even involved in the bombing of the West Wing. You’re a Sith. You helped your son escape justice when he faced murder charges. You’re a Sith. Your company keeps manufacturing Atargatis Skins despite their being illegal—”

“The Finfolk need them.”

“No one needs them. The Skins are like any other addictive drug—they destroy lives, tear families apart, and bring ruin to society.”

“How puritanical,” Messala muttered contemptuously. “And how typical of you. It was always so easy for you to obey the rules. You were a stranger to temptation, to desire, to jealousy...”

“Did I mention that you’re a Sith?” Toloth repeated. “Your history is more than proof enough of your malice. It’s obvious you have nefarious plans involving this Bamarri.”

“So, what are you going to do about it? Fight me in the middle of an alleyway?”

Toloth shrugged. “I was going to arrest you, actually. But if it’s a fight you want…”

“And risk harm coming to this innocent Bamarri caught in the crossfire?” Messala gasped. “What are we, barbarians? At least let me put it down somewhere safe.” Turning to Nefretiri, he asked, “Would you mind holding this? Be careful, it’s heavier than it looks.”

Toloth glanced around at his guards, gnawing on his lip, then reluctantly finished his sentence. “If it’s a fight you want, I must refuse. I won’t endanger even more lives trying to stop you from taking a single Bamarri. If that is indeed all that you came here for, then you may go.”

“Just like that?” Messala’s gnarled brow furrowed. He had been expecting much more resistance. “Are you sure?”

“Very sure.” Toloth stepped aside.

Messala continued to stare him down. “... Let me guess. You’re going to sue me.”

Toloth raised an eyebrow. “After all that you’ve done to the Chaldean people, all I would ask is that you never show your face around here again.”

“Mea culpa,” Messala groaned. “Has even the famous Chaldean hospitality dried up when it comes to me?”

“If you don’t leave within the next three minutes, I will escort you out,” Toloth hissed between grit teeth. “In which case yes, you will be hit by a lawsuit. I hope your lawyers are good.”

“On my way out now. Don’t you worry one bit, boss, you’ll never see me again.”