Darth Maul and the Curse of M----th
[Read jedimom's author bio]
The Jedi and the Sith belong to George Lucas (thanks for sharing, George). The Academy belongs to Siubhan. Darth Mary Sue belongs to Katherine the Art Chick. Dartha Stewart belongs to the Plaid Adder. And the Scots Play belongs to William Shakespeare. Thanks to all of the above for letting me play too. Can you believe I finally wrote a CANONICAL one?
Dedicated to the sublime (Ngaio Marsh, author of Light Thickens) and the ridiculous (the director of the show in Macon, GA in which the witches sat the Thane down on the cauldron). All quotes are from the Scots play except for Obi's one stanza of John Donne.
Darth Maul, Sith Apprentice, glided silently through the darkened room. Stealthily he slid the door open, slipped through and slid it closed again. Just a few more feet and he would reach his goal. But the Force warned him that time was short. Gracefully he somersaulted across the almost-bottomless chasm before him. Almost there...
"MAUL!!" shouted an all-too-familiar voice, accompanied by the sound of a door being slammed open.
Oh, shit, thought Maul as he yanked open the sliding door from the balcony and tumbled headlong into his own apartment.
"Yes, my master?" he asked, stepping around the corner as casually as possible.
"Oh. You're awake." Sidious seemed disappointed. "And on a Saturday too. I came to tell you that the Jedi Community Theater's auditions have been moved to this morning. Some kind of last-minute scheduling conflict. So you'll need to be at the theater by nine."
Maul clenched his teeth. "What are they doing this time?" he asked. Images of 1950s musicals bobbed perkily through his head.
"They've decided to go with a classic for a change of pace," said Sidious. "Dear Dartha will be doing the costume and scene designs. She's using this show to launch her new line: 'Highland Heathers'. So she's funding the whole production. Naturally, she'll need a bigger audience than the Community Theater can hold, so the play will be staged at the Coruscant Civic Center."
Maul blinked. The Civic Center's auditorium was the size of the Republic Senate Chambers, plush, elegant, and well-appointed, with state-of-the-art sound and lighting. This boded well for the dressing rooms. "What's the name of the play, Master?" he asked cautiously.
"Oh, didn't I tell you? Macbeth." Curious. Maul was almost certain he felt the Force stir at the mention of the play's name. "Run along, now, and be sure you're in plenty of time for the audition," Sidious fluted, sweeping out the door in Dramatic Exit #128b.
Huh. Macbeth. Maul vaguely recalled that the play had something to do with Scotland. He sighed. That probably meant kilts all around. No doubt his master would attend as many rehearsals as possible.
The thought of kilts led to another important consideration. Maul retraced his path back to Kenobi's apartment.
"Obi-Wan. Wake up."
"Hmm? Mmmmm....." Without opening his eyes the padawan grabbed Maul by the back of the neck and hauled him back into bed.
"Not now, you twit! WAKE UP!" snarled Maul. Obi-Wan gazed reproachfully at him with bleary blue eyes. "Were you planning to audition for Macbeth?" Maul asked.
"Mnh. Yeah. Why?"
"Because they've moved the auditions to nine o'clock this morning and it's 8:15 already."
"WHAT?" Kenobi snapped awake, rolled out of bed and dashed for the bathroom. Halfway there he stopped and shot Maul a suspicious look. "You'd better not be shitting me about this," he said, eyes narrow.
"No. I'm serious."
"Okay. Well...thanks for telling me. Be right back." and he headed for the shower.
Only the prospect of seeing the padawan in a kilt for weeks on end kept Maul from following him. He growled. Delayed gratification was not very Sithly.
Maul's speeder was in the shop after a particularly rage-honing traffic jam on a hot afternoon had inspired him to remove the roof and doors with his lightsaber. He accepted a ride from Obi-Wan with ill grace. Kenobi's wardrobe might have improved since he had stopped taking Perkium, but his car was still a beige wussmobile. Moodily, Maul gulped his liter-size takeout coffee from Dagobah Donuts, wishing he could just take it intravenously. Kenobi was nattering on about something. Maul tuned in belatedly.
"Oh, and Maul?"
"I should warn you--you don't say the M word inside the theater except when you're rehearsing and it's in your lines."
"What are you talking about?"
"'Macbeth'. Don't say it inside the theater. And don't quote from the play."
"Why the hell not?"
"It's a tradition. There's supposed to be some kind of Dark Side thing going on with the play. You know, injuries, disasters, that kind of thing. So we don't say the name. You call the play the Scots Play, and the lead character is the Thane, and his wife's the Lady. And you don't quote lines. It's supposed to be bad luck."
"I thought you Jedi didn't believe in luck."
"Whatever. I'm just warning you so you don't get the whole cast and crew down on your ass."
Maul rolled his eyes.
"Besides, that's my job," Obi-Wan added with a smirk.
The performance might be scheduled for the Civic Center, but the auditions were in the same old cramped, overheated hellhole. Maul sniffed suspiciously as he entered. Ew. Apparently the plumbing was rebelling again. The house manager squished by, pants legs rolled up halfway to the knees, pulling a wet-vac behind him. Maul made a mental note to have his boots cleaned after he left. He did his best to ignore the various multi-legged and -tentacled lifeforms that were greedily sucking nutrients from the reeking carpet.
"Good morning and welcome to auditions for the Scots Play," said Master Adi Gallia. "I'll be your director. Although as Jedi we know that the superstitions surrounding this play are just that--superstitions--in deference to theatrical tradition, we will observe the established protocols."
"Strong in the Dark Side this play is! Do it you should not!" warbled an elderly voice from the back of the theater. Master Adi rolled her eyes.
"Master Yoda, we've been through this already with the play selection committee," she said wearily. "Do you mind?"
"Listen to me no one ever does," grumbled the ancient Master.
"If everyone's filled out an audition form and turned in a head shot, we'll proceed," Master Adi continued.
The audition was rather sparsely attended, not surprisingly considering the last-minute time change. Maul smirked as Jedi after Jedi stumbled badly over the script's archaic dialect. He himself felt right at home. It reminded him of the earlier chapters of the Sith Handbook. He began to take a grudging interest in the play. Apparently there was a great deal of blood involved.
"Thank you," said Master Adi as Mace Windu flubbed his way through the lines he'd been given to read. "Senator Palpatine, will you read next?"
Oh no. Oh, shit, no. Maul turned to see his master, accompanied by Cynthia, strolling down the aisle. Cynthia caught his eye and licked her lips.
I wonder if I can rise up and slay them both before this time next week, thought Maul.
Not until you learn to guard your thoughts, my foolish apprentice, thought Sidious.
The following Tuesday Maul stood under the tattered awning of the Jedi Community Theater building, checking the cast list.
Yesss! thought Maul. I am indeed hot shit!
Lady Macbeth.......................Mary Sue Stewart
Dark Side, take me now! thought Maul
Banquo............................Obi-Wan Kenobi Malcolm.......................... Master Mace Windu Macduff...........................Master Qui-Gon Jinn
Damn it, another show with that aging hippy. I hope we don't have many scenes together...
First Witch.......................Yaddle Second Witch......................Cynthia Palpatine Third Witch.......................Senator S. Palpatine
Typecasting, thought Maul. He went to pick up his script.
The discovery, upon reading through the script, that the lead character was a complete wimp--AND that he was to be killed by Qui-Gon's character!--was almost enough to cause Maul to rise up and lightsaber his master, Adi Gallia, and the entire cast and crew. Except for Obi-Wan. And Mary Sue, of course.
Scenes with Mary Sue.
Rehearsing with Mary Sue.
Meeting Mary Sue outside of rehearsal times to run lines....
Suddenly Maul no longer felt the urge to go get his lightsaber.
"Let's get one thing straight, Maul," said Mary Sue. "I am here to run lines with you. PERIOD. I am not interested in sleeping with you, and even if I were I wouldn't hurt my brother. Understood?"
"Understood," growled Maul. Damn it. "Act I, Scene vii?"
"Okay," said Mary Sue. She opened her script and snapped into character, eyes flashing with indignation at the pitiful wimp she had married, who had the ambition to usurp a throne but lacked the guts to do the dirty work.
"When you durst do it, then you were a man, and to be more than what you were, you would be so much more a man," she spat contemptuously. "I have given suck, and know how tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me. I would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this."
Maul was awash in equal parts lust and awe. Mary Sue's eyes blazed and her strong, resonant voice dripped with Sithly rage and hatred. He almost felt sorry for the poor Thane--outclassed by his own wife. "Bring forth men-children only," he said fervently, "For thy undaunted mettle should compose nothing but males."
"Shakespeare was a sexist pig. And so are you," Mary Sue muttered.
"Lady Macbeth was hot shit. And so are you," leered Maul.
The first rehearsal took place the following day--at the Community Theater, of course, since the Civic Center was booked for other performances. Maul took his place on the shabby, cramped stage.
The annoying Rodian padawan Maul remembered from Sith Wars came scampering up. "Hey! Maul! Who are you playing?"
"Macbeth," growled Maul.
"OUT!" shouted everyone within earshot, pointing to the stage door.
"What?" said Maul.
"Out!" said the Rodian gleefully. "You said the M word! You invoked the Dark Side! You have to go outside the stage door, turn around three times, recite the Preamble to the Jedi Code, knock, apologize and ask to be let back in. Didn't anybody warn you?"
Maul strongly suspected the Rodian of setting him up. "Bullshit. I'm not doing any such thing," he said.
Oh yes you are, said Obi-Wan. Unless you think you can take me AND Qui-Gon AND Mace.
I am NOT reciting the fucking JEDI CODE!
Maul was just about to take his chances against an entire cast of Jedi when he noticed his master in the crowd. We're waiting, my apprentice, Sidious thought gleefully.
Maul stormed out the stage door, slammed it hard enough to warp the frame, turned around three times and recited: "There is no passion [Kenobi's not getting any!], there is peace; there is no ignorance [except that you Jedi assholes can't spot two Sith right under your noses!], there is knowledge; there is no death [just wait till my Master's not here!], there is the Force." Then he knocked on the door, leaving deep dents. "I'm SORRY," he snarled insincerely. "May I come back in?"
Maul, as Macbeth, and Obi-Wan, as Banquo, were reading through their first scene with the witches. Yaddle and Cynthia were openly ogling both Maul and Obi-Wan; Palpatine was being more circumspect but Maul could sense his lascivious interest, as well as his glee at Maul's discomfiture.
"Thane! Banquo!" called Adi Gallia from her barstool in front of the stage. "Get your faces out of your scripts! Take it from the top!"
They did it again. This time Cyn broadcast an image of herself as the filling in an Obi-and-Maul sandwich. Maul and Obi-Wan tried hard to ignore her.
"Great job, witches! Thane and Banquo, good reaction, you're really squirming there. Pull it back just a little."
In the ensuing weeks, Maul managed, through sheer Sithly self-control and presence of mind, not to say the 'M' word, though he did get caught twice quoting lines. Damn it, the thing was so quotable! He soothed his wounded feelings by whammying several other cast members into forgetting the prohibitions, though, so there was a steady stream of exit, recite, knock, enter at the stage door. The Rodian padawan began to develop calluses on his knuckles. Even Qui-Gon, caught at an unguarded moment, succumbed to Maul's subtle Force-nudge. Maul was even able to capitalize on his annoyance to distract him so that he hit his head on the doorframe.
Meanwhile, there were three power failures, the air conditioner stopped working, and a small fire broke out in the prop room (but was quickly extinguished). Maul began to wonder if there might be something to this superstition after all.
After a month of rehearsals it was time for Dartha Stewart to unveil her set and costumes. Maul, who'd been envisioning something involving lots of fluffy pillows, had to admit he was impressed. Dartha had brought a tabletop-sized scale model of the Civic Center stage with working lights and curtains and movable flats, props and backdrops. The sets were dark, brooding, and menacing; the lighting designs made the stage look like the lobby of Hell; and the Scots Lords' costumes were authentic and dashing. The Witches, on the other hand, made him glad he had begun rehearsals with an empty stomach. Sidious was insufferably pleased with his Glinda-after-mud-wrestling-on-Dagobah look (with glitter-tipped elflocks!); Yaddle wore a low-cut gown of screaming magenta velvet that clashed horribly with her skin; and Cynthia was in skimpy, tattered black leather.
By Padawan Zol-Tan.
Maul thought the Macbeth tartan looked pretty good with his tattoos. Even his fears that Dartha would somehow contrive to make him wear a bag over his head proved unfounded. In the early part of the play, the red parts of his tattoos would be covered with black greasepaint. When Macbeth became king, Maul's horns would be gilded to represent a crown. Damned woman can't leave my horns alone, thought Maul. Ew. Don't go there. Beginning with the murder of Duncan, his makeup would gradually be altered to let more and more red show through, until by the end he would shine forth in all his Sithly glory. The only part he objected to was the gilding--anything that smacked of glam made him worry about following in his Master's footsteps--but his incipient tantrum was stopped dead by Obi-Wan's offer to apply the gold leaf himself. And take it off, too, the Jedi added privately. Did you know that gold leaf is edible?
Cynthia broke in on that delightful image like a Bantha stampede at an orgy. Ooh, Maul, you look hot in a kilt, she thought. My kingdom for a hot-air vent! Maul glared at her, wondering in spite of himself if her costume had actually been painted on.
You wouldn't HAPPEN to be ogling my cousin's cleavage, now would you, Maul? thought Obi-Wan, his mind-voice suddenly icy.
Maul started guiltily. Ew! Of course not! Obi-Wan looked unconvinced. Maul heard a faint mental snicker from his master.
Life hates me, he thought miserably.
For the dress rehearsal, they finally moved to the Civic Center auditorium. The dressing rooms were indeed Actor Heaven. Maul, who by rights would have had the star dressing room to himself, graciously deigned to share it with Obi-Wan--only because the Jedi had to help with his makeup.
Deniiiiial, crooned a feline voice in his memory.
Damn cat's got me trained, thought Maul grumpily. He decided to improve his mood by pinning Kenobi to the wall for a quick grope.
"Places for Act I," called the stage manager, with truly Dark-Side-inspired timing.
The players took their places and the lights came up for Act I, Scene i--and suddenly went down again.
"Give me lights," Master Adi said into her headset mike. "LIGHTS! What? Oh, by the Force--!" and she dashed up the aisle, heading for the steps up to the booth.
"Give us work lights, somebody," said the stage manager. One of the crew switched on the lamp that stood in the wings off stage right.
"AAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGHHHH!!!!" came a cry from the control booth, clearly audible onstage even without amplification. The stage manager yanked off her headset and rocked back and forth in agony, hands pressed to her ears. Master Adi appeared in the balcony a moment later, looking a bit ruffled. "The light tech has unfortunately spilled a beer on the light board," she said with forced serenity. "Take five, everyone. Do any of you know anything about emergency electronics repairs?"
"Kenobi's made an intensive study of hotwiring," grumbled Mace Windu. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan both glared at him.
"All right, Obi-Wan," sighed Master Adi. "Get up here and see what you can do with it."
Five minutes later the lights were restored and Obi-Wan sported a collection of band-aids on the thumb and fingers of his right hand. Master Adi took her place on the tall barstool in front of the stage and cued the lights and curtain for the opening scene.
The grand rag slowly slid halfway open and stopped abruptly with a screech of abused pulleys and snarled ropes. Desperate techies swarmed out of the wings, cursing in at least four languages.
Maul heard a rhythmic thumping sound and peeked out of the wings.
Master Adi was banging her head on the apron of the stage.
During the break before his Act III entrance, Maul ducked into his dressing room to have his makeup done. Obi-Wan was sitting on the dressing table holding a sheet of gold leaf by the very edge, with his other hand stretched out flat a few inches below it. The thin sheet was flapping lazily in the air without the aid of any movement from Kenobi's hands--or the Force, Maul realized with surprise.
"How are you doing that?" he asked.
Obi-Wan slowly raised burning blue eyes to Maul's face and fired a dimple at him. "Body heat," he replied huskily. Maul swallowed hard.
Over the next few minutes he gained new respect for the Jedi's abilities as a torturer. Obi-Wan's touch on his horns was infinitely delicate, as he carefully applied the incredibly thin gold leaf to the layer of starch-based adhesive, which he moistened with a gentle, warm breath. Maul shivered and whimpered. In the mirror he could see Kenobi's smirk.
"Act III, one minute!" sang the stage manager from outside the door. Maul idly wondered if he would be able to walk.
Obi-Wan grabbed his cloak, nipped the back of Maul's neck, and dashed out the door. Our two souls therefore, which are one, though I must go, endure not yet a breach, but an expansion, like gold to airy thinness beat, he sent as he trotted up the stairs to the wings.
I will have my revenge, promised Maul as he levered himself shakily out of his chair.
On opening night, the cast assembled onstage behind the closed curtain for a pre-show pep talk by the director. Maul had a bad case of the jitters. Sith do not get stage fright, he repeated to himself. Himself did not seem to be paying attention. Hoping for a distraction, he looked around for Kenobi.
Obi-Wan was leaning up against the proscenium, surrounded by a peppermint-scented cloud. Apparently he had a major Altoid jones. You smell like a kindly grandmother, taunted Maul.
Obi-Wan sucked in a long, cool breath, mentally projecting the sensation to Maul while gazing pointedly at his neighbor's kilt-covered crotch. Maul missed the next several minutes of Master Adi's pep talk. The butterflies in his stomach had moved south.
Opening night was the most weirdly Sithly experience of Maul's life. The flashpot that heralded the witches' first appearance set off the theater's fire alarm and sprinkler system, drenching the audience and causing Dartha, in attendance at the premier, a nearly-fatal fit of apoplexy at the damage done to her exclusive sets and costumes. During the hour it took the frantic techies to restore order, Sidious nearly blew his cover when he discovered that someone had borrowed his greasepaint and used a cotton pad to apply it, mixing liberal wads of fiber into the makeup. Cynthia, unaware that it had been an adroit whammy by Maul that had led her to borrow her uncle's makeup, indignantly defended her right to use the stuff, since it was theater property. Palpatine managed to control his Force-lightning but not his voice, and both combatants got chewed out by Master Adi for making too much noise backstage.
Meanwhile, in the star dressing room, Maul, engaged with Obi-Wan in activities that testified to the origin of the word "obscene", grinned evilly at the sensation of his master's barely-contained rage; Obi-Wan, seized by a desire to see Maul grin like that again, reached new heights of inventiveness that would have demolished a less sturdily built and furnished facility.
The Macduff/Macbeth swordfight, though beautifully choreographed by Qui-Gon himself and meticulously rehearsed, had never been quite like this. Maul was so energized by his interlude in the dressing room that he fought like the Sith he was, as if determined to rewrite the end of the play. Qui-Gon, fresh from a fight with Mace over the latter's reference to his padawan's criminal history, was simmering with rage. Their Force-enhanced speed and strength made their metal sword blades sound like fifteen percussionists overdosed on amphetamines. The audience didn't dare breathe or blink.
You know, he choreographed this fight as if these things didn't have points, Maul mused, his body following its routine without the need of his mind's direction. He filed the information away for possible later use.
Bombarded by darkness, blood and doom, the audience emanated waves of horrified fascination that made Maul's toes curl. It was the same for the entire two-week run. Judging by the sales figures, Dartha Stewart's 'Highland Heathers' would soon decorate every home on Coruscant, and her line of authentic tartans would be the new standard in formalwear this season. A steady stream of minor injuries, equipment failures, lost items, and accidents hinted that the Dark Side was racking up points too. Everyone in the cast and crew would take at least one horror story away from this production (though Maul and Sidious seemed...well, almost protected).
After the curtain closed on the last performance, as the cast and crew scrambled frantically to change clothes, gather their belongings and head out to the cast party--for which Dartha had rented the entire Grey Side of the Force for the evening--Maul and Obi-Wan walked out on the stage for a last look at the set.
"Shite. That was a hell of a show, wasn't it, Maul? I don't know whether to be glad or sorry that it's over," said Obi-Wan.
"Ready to head out to the party?" asked Maul, without much enthusiasm.
"Yeah, I guess so," said Obi-Wan, just as indifferently. "Unless...you had something else in mind?"
Maul contemplated the thirty-six hours till the crew would return to strike the set. Payback time, he thought triumphantly. He gestured dramatically towards the control booth and the stage lights slowly faded to black, leaving only the ghost light and glow tape to hint vaguely at the outlines of the set. Golden eyes and golden horns gleamed in the darkness as he advanced on Obi-Wan, twirling a roll of gaff tape around his index finger. "Stars, hide your fires," he purred menacingly. "Let not light see my black and deep desires."
Obi-Wan glanced toward the stage door, then back at Maul. He decided he would risk invoking the Dark Side just this once.
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