Life Lessons at the Sith Academy, Part XIII
[Read Siubhan's author bio]
Based loosely on my experience at the Loon Mountain Highland Games. I've hyperlinked some tartan swatches in appropriate places. If you've never seen Highland Games, you may want to read this description of them at Highland.com since I don't really explain each event in the story.
This story also very deliberately continues the plot line that Katherine and Rose started in the previous story, "Shiny, Happy People." As such, there are nibbles of pathos sprinkled throughout the nuggets of comedy. Deal with it.
"Maul, does your kilt still fit?"
Oh fuck. Not again.
"I haven't worn it in since you were last up for reelection, my Master," Maul growled as Darth Lara Croft died a grizzly death. He flung the PlayStation controls aside in disgust. Why did he even bother trying to win?
"Go try it on. We're spending the weekend at the Loon Mountain Highland Games. Clan MacGregor has invited us back. I think this will make a wonderful campaign appearance, don't you?"
Maul grumbled some more and headed for the bedroom to dig through the deepest recesses of his closet. "How is it that you conned them into accepting a Jewish Sith and his alien ward as members of the clan?" he asked.
Sidious sat on the edge of Maul's bed, enjoying the view of his ward's ass peeping out of the closet. "Oh, these clans will accept anyone if they pay the yearly dues. And fear not, I have kept both our memberships current."
"Aha!" Maul cried as he spotted a hint of plaid among the otherwise solid black strata of his clothes piles. Yanking hard, he freed it, then backed out of the closet, smiling victoriously.
"Are you sure it fits?" Sidious asked, a hint of worry creasing his brow. "We both need to look the part, and an ill-fitting kilt would be frowned upon."
"It had better fit," Maul growled as he wrapped it on over his shorts. "I'm not getting another one."
"I don't see why you insist on wearing the Rob Roy tartan. The regular MacGregor is perfectly lovely."
"Green clashes with my tattoos. Good. It still fits."
"It's a little old. Perhaps you should buy a new one this weekend. Perhaps this time made of sheep's wool instead of Tauntaun."
Maul stepped forward with a predatory snarl that made Sidious nearly wet himself with gleeful anticipation. In a dangerously low whisper, Maul threatened, "This is all I have left of mother."
Sidious spent a moment greedily soaking up Maul's anger, then sighed and said, "Oh, that was lovely. I'll have to remember that for the future. Separating a boy from his mother--now there's a good way to get someone's Dark Side dander up! Fear not, my Apprentice..."
My Apprentice perked up her ears from her vantage point on the bureau.
"Not you, my pretty kitty," Sidious noted. "I should feed you, shouldn't I?"
My Apprentice hopped off the dresser, stretched languidly, then trotted off to the kitchen with Sidious at her heels.
You didn't even whammy him, Maul marveled.
I don't need to anymore. I've got him trained.
Sidious clucked indulgently at the small kitty as he set out some tuna for her, then turned back to Maul and continued, "As I was saying, fear not, I shan't take your beloved kilt away. Besides, you have no idea how hard it was to hunt down the Tauntaun who raised you to get that wool. I swear, all Tauntauns look alike to me..."
"Racist pig," Maul muttered under his breath.
"And this year, since you're old enough, I thought you'd like to participate in the actual Highland Games. Caber tossing, the stone putt, never mind the Stones of Manhood."
"Stones of Manhood?" Maul shuddered. It sounded like one of his kinky master's favorite nightclubs.
Sidious chuckled. "Trust me, you'll love them."
"Then why are you letting me do it?"
"Every now and then, I have to let you have a little fun. All the better for later honing your rage."
Maul cast a longing glance at his PlayStation.
"Get over it, Maul. Now pack. We leave in three hours."
At least they were traveling in style, Maul thought to himself as he climbed into the comfy space cruiser and dumped his duffel bag in the corner. He caught sight of himself in one of the many full-length mirrors that his Master had placed all over the ship and had to admit, he looked damn good in a kilt. Okay, so he was wearing it with a Sith Lords Kick Ass shirt and his jack boots, but there was no way in hell he was going to wear those god-awful knee socks and booties.
"They're called hose and Ghillie Brogue," Sidious noted as he elbowed Maul aside and hogged the mirror. He was the epitome of a dapper Scot, from the Balmoral sitting at just the right jaunty angle on his well-coifed head to the flashes peeping out from his hose.
Maul eyed him suspiciously. "I can't believe you haven't found a way to fop up this outfit."
"Any culture that deliberately puts all men in skirts doesn't require fopping up," Sidious retorted. "Now Maul, you are going regimental, yes?"
"Of course," Maul sneered. "I remember that much from the last time we came."
Sidious grinned and adjusted his Ewok fur Sporran. "Well, we'll be there shortly. Remember, be on your best behavior. This is a campaign appearance."
Maul looked at him incredulously. "Best behavior?"
Before Sidious could get his crackling purple thunderbolts fully charged, My Apprentice trotted in and rubbed herself against his cream colored hose, leaving a generous coating of brown and black striped fur around his ankles. "Good kitty," he cooed, reaching down to scritch her between the ears. Unfortunately for Maul and his lunch, he bent at the waist, giving Maul an unwelcome eyeful of his master's nether regions in the mirror.
What are you doing here?
I wanted to try haggis.
Maul and Palpatine checked into their hotel room, which overlooked the Highland Dancing tents. The sound of bagpipes filled the air, all playing different songs at once. It was hideous. It reminded Maul of mating season on Hoth. A nostalgic grin crossed his face.
"You get the sofa," Palpatine said as he disappeared into the master bedroom. "I may be entertaining guests later, so I'll require some privacy."
Maul valiantly suppressed a shudder, then headed out onto the balcony to get a better view of the dancers. Reaching out with his Force-senses, he felt their knees groaning under the strain of their vigorous hopping, and he placed bets with himself on which one would require reconstructive surgery next. Most of the judges were in knee braces, and those that weren't probably should have been. Maul smiled as he soaked up the bitterness radiating off each and every one of them. If only they were more ambulatory, any one of them would make a fine Sith apprentice.
The door to the neighboring balcony slid open, and Obi-Wan stepped out in a new kilt and a soft cream-colored shirt. "Hey neighbor! Long time, no see. Funny, I guess we're neighbors here too."
Maul took one look at the kilt, squashed his libido into the corner, and banged his head against the railing twelve times before asking, "What the hell are you doing here? I thought you were at the Happy Farms again."
"Qui-Gon finally sprung me," he said with a grin that didn't make it to his eyes.
"That doesn't explain why you're here."
"I've always been interested in Scottish things, as you know, but now that I know I'm a Stewart, I thought I'd come to the games. Why are you here?"
"Palpatine and I are honorary MacGregors."
"That's great! Oh, wait, does that mean I'm a MacGregor or a Stewart?"
Palpatine breezed onto the balcony and said, "You're a Stewart by birth, so you should stick with them. Nice kilt."
"Thanks," Obi-Wan smiled, once again totally unconvincingly. "It's a Dartha Stewart original."
"Of course! Anyhow, must dash."
As his master headed out the door, My Apprentice at his heels, Maul grumbled, "Can't I ever get away from you?"
"Do you want to?"
Maul looked over at a very haunted-looking Obi-Wan and shrugged as nonchalantly as he could muster. "It all depends on how successfully they reprogrammed you this time."
Obi-Wan tittered nervously. "Well, they finally decided that giving mood-altering pharmaceuticals to someone with a history of drug abuse wasn't a good idea, so they decided to try something a little more permanent."
A slight movement caught Maul's attention, and he noticed that Obi-Wan's hands were trembling almost imperceptibly. "Shock therapy?" he asked incredulously.
"Yeah. My last session was yesterday, then Qui-Gon sprung me. The short-term memory loss is a bitch, but they say I should get it all back in a day or two," he said, scrubbing his palm across his forehead.
"So much for Jedi compassion," Maul growled, mentally adding this to his growing list of reasons to hate the Jedi. The Sithliest part of his brain pointed out that it really wasn't regulation of him to be so concerned for a padawan, but the rest of his brain studiously ignored that bit.
"You know, Maul, it's Friday, and I'm going regimental," Obi-Wan grinned. This one finally lit his eyes up a bit.
"The sun's still up."
"It'll be setting soon, which will make it Friday night. I have a full bottle of Glenfiddich, and might I say, you look hot in a kilt!" He was rapidly approaching his normal wattage. Lasciviousness apparently was helping restore him to his old self.
Maul grudgingly admitted to himself that he was still majorly turned on at the sight of Obi-Wan in a kilt, even if said padawan was something of an emotional wreck at the moment. But what he said was, "I'm sleeping on the sofa in here. No privacy."
"I have the room to myself tonight. Qui-Gon doesn't get here until tomorrow. He's still filling out paperwork at the Happy Farm."
Maul's blood pressure went up a few notches. Qui-Gon was going to be in the room next to him all weekend long? This had to be hell. "He's Scottish?" he finally managed to blurt out.
"He's Clan Stewart by virtue of being my Master."
"Whatever. Just leave me alone until the sun sets."
"Your wish is my command, Maulie," he said with an impish gleam in his eye.
Obi-Wan disappeared back into his room before Maul could bark out his customary reply, so he turned his attention back to the dancers. Ah, this was a particularly young bunch and they were doing the sword dance. Hmmm, dancing around swords. If that little one in the green kilt just stepped an inch too far to the left...
One gentle Force-nudge later, Maul sat back and surveyed the chaos. The young whelp had neatly stepped on the hilt of the sword, sending it flying directly at the head of the least bitter judge. The paramedics had finally stopped the bleeding, and the judge's bitterness quotient had increased exponentially. Plus the little girl was now one step closer to total knee failure.
This might be a good weekend after all.
My Apprentice finished scarfing down her haggis and decided that it was her second favorite food after tuna. Licking her chops contentedly, she wound her way down Clan row, peering up the kilts of everyone she ran across to see if they had anything worth playing with under there. So far, they were a rather sorry lot.
Suddenly, she stopped and stared in rapt attention. There before her was a tent bearing the motto "Touch Not This Cat." These were clearly her people. They just didn't know it yet. With a butt wiggle, she launched herself onto their table, raising her paw just like the cat on the badge and hissing menacingly.
"It's the clan mascot!" cried all the assembled members of Clan Chattan.
One reached out to pet her, but another stopped him, saying, "Remember, the full clan motto is 'Touch Not This Cat Without a Glove'."
"Right," he said, pulling out a thick leather glove, donning it, and then trying again.
My Apprentice made quick work of the glove and the hand underneath.
Clan Chattan was mightily impressed.
Morning dawned, accompanied by a cacophony of bagpipes. Maul raised his groggy head and decided that bagpipes were rather Sithly.
Obi-Wan stretched like a cat and smiled up at Maul. "Thanks. I needed that. I think I feel human again."
"Don't mention it. Really."
With a wicked laugh, Obi-Wan said, "You know, sometimes it's nice that some things never change. So, what's on the agenda for today?"
"I was going to watch the games."
"Which ones? Heavy Events or Goth?"
"Heavy Events. I'll probably compete in the amateur games tomorrow. What the hell are the Goth games?"
"Apparently, a typo. A few years ago, the golf tournament was advertised as the Goth tournament by accident. Then when more Goths than golfers showed up, they decided to hold Goth games instead."
Maul chuckled internally. He had no idea his little prank had paid off so spectacularly the last time he was here.
"So like I said, I'm competing," Obi-Wan said. "Will you watch?"
The thought of a field full of kilted Goths was too bizarre to pass up. "Sure, what the hell?" he shrugged.
Obi-Wan looked at the clock and gasped, "Oh shit, you'd better go back to your room. Qui-Gon will be here any minute."
Maul used this as his excuse to disentangle himself from the padawan's arms, since for some reason he didn't want to analyze, he was having trouble with the "Sith do not cuddle" rule this morning. "I thought you two broke up."
"We did, but he sprung me from the Happy Farm, so..." Obi-Wan trailed off with a shrug and a scowl.
"So you're whoring yourself to stay out?"
"No! Look, I just need to convince him that I'm all right, and if he sees me with you..."
"...he might send you back. Fucker." Maul slid out of bed, put his kilt back on, and said, "I like you better with a backbone."
Obi-Wan nodded. "I'll keep that under advisement," he said flatly.
Maul turned away, grabbed his boots and shirt, and headed back to his hotel room. Unlocking the door, he looked in disgust at the trail of tartan leading off to the bedroom. He counted four distinct tartans, which meant that he probably should be grateful to Obi-Wan for the distraction last night. Alas, he was a Sith, and Sith did not do grateful. Revving up the coffee machine, Maul tugged his shirt back on, got his caffeine dose, and escaped before his master and "company" decided to make an appearance.
"Welcome to the Loon Mountain Highland Goth Tournament! Our first game is hiding from the sun!"
A field full of kilted Goths scuttled for any bit of shade that they could find. Obi-Wan, kohled to the max, whipped a black golf umbrella out of his skull-tipped walking staff and popped it open, striking a languid pose in the middle of the field. The rest of the huddling Goths sneered at him.
By Ivy. Click to see larger image.
"Round one goes to Obi-Wan Kenobi!"
Maul had to admit, the padawan had style.
"Next up, ennui!" The field was quickly covered with a large tent, and the Goths reemerged. Blood-red divans were brought onto the field, and as the strains of "Bella Lugosi's Dead" (on bagpipe) filled the air, the Goths started draping themselves languidly on the available furniture. Somehow, Obi-Wan managed to emit a pathetic, soul-draining sigh that could be heard above the piper. He won round two hands-down.
"Round three: weeping!"
Maul decided he'd had enough. Besides, once Kenobi got that lower lip quivering, he couldn't be held responsible for his actions. He decided to head to the athletic field to check out the competition and sign himself up for the amateur games.
Passing the Clan Chattan tent, he did a double-take at the sight of My Apprentice sitting for a portrait. I don't want to know, he thought as he stomped on by. When he reached the MacGregor tent, Palpatine snagged him by the collar and dragged him inside.
"And you remember my ward, Maul?" he said, smiling ingratiatingly at the assembled clan members.
"Aye, you're all grown up!" gushed a particularly matronly woman in a too-tight "A Vote for Palpatine is a Vote for Order, Lassie!" t-shirt. "And you wear the Rob Roy tartan so well. You know, normally I don't like seeing non-humans tromping around in tartans, but any ward of Senator Palpatine is welcome in our clan!"
They just like me because I'm the only member of the Clan who doesn't have pasty knees.
Tut tut, my Apprentice. Be charitable. Out loud, Sidious noted, "Maul here will be competing in the amateur games tomorrow."
"Bring pride on our clan!" an old bearded guy cried from the back of the tent.
Or else, Sidious added before being distracted by a fetching young man in a kilt. Using the Force to gently guide a breeze, he watched as the back of the young man's kilt flew straight up into the air, showing off his tight butt. I do so adore the Highland Games.
Suppressing his gag reflex, Maul muttered, "Gotta sign up for the games," and made his escape.
Scanning the program with a scowl, Maul grumbled, "Sheaf tossing? What the hell happened to sheep tossing?"
"Oh, don't even start," the kilted redhead at the booth grumbled back. "I've been going to these games ever since I was a little girl, and that joke was old the first time I heard it."
Maul glared at her, then noted the large surgery scars on both of her knees. Hmmm. This one seemed rather ambulatory. Maybe she'd be the one. She'd bear watching. "Sheep, sheaf. I'll toss anything. I'm not picky. Where do I sign up?"
"What planet are you representing?"
"Hoth? Oh great. Where the fuck am I going to find sheet music for the Hoth National Anthem before tomorrow? Never mind. I'll manage. Well, no matter how many people sign up, you're a shoe-in since I've never seen anyone else ever compete for Hoth. I didn't even think it was populated."
"Oh, you're Palpatine's kid, aren't you? I saw that special on NNN. What a nice guy. Okay, just sign this waiver and show up tomorrow at 10. And you'll need to wear this," she said, handing him a wad of fabric.
Maul unfolded it and grinned from ear to ear. It was a Pete's Wicked Ale shirt.
"They're the sponsors," she explained. "Sam Adams backed out at the last minute."
Feeling a tap on his shoulder, Maul turned and snarled. "What?"
"Have you seen Obi-Wan?" a Stewart-kilted Qui-Gon asked.
"I thought you didn't wear 'skirts'," Maul taunted.
"I'm doing this for Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon replied with uncharacteristic humility. "Besides, you're the one who got him arrested."
"Only because you pissed him off by fucking around with Mace Windu!"
Palpatine walked by, took one look at Qui-Gon, and sent a breeze up the back of his kilt. Maul once again used this as his opportunity to escape. I swear, when I become the master, I will not be this kinky. Uh uh. No way.
As he walked by the vendor booths, he noticed them pulling all the Clan Chattan badges from their displays and replacing them with ones bearing the likeness of his damnable cat. I don't want to know. I really don't want to know.
The only real disadvantage to the Heavy Athletics Events, Maul thought as he sat on the grassy hillside, was their proximity to all the folk singers with guitars. Grinding his teeth together as a chick with a guitar warbled "Puff the Magic Dragon" for the fifth time, Maul balled his hands into fists and forced himself to watch the entire Open Tournament. He briefly considered using the Force to screw up the caber toss, but Yoda was one of the judges, so he decided instead to analyze them all for form and style so he could cause mayhem first hand when he competed in the morning. He spotted Palpatine standing off by the other side of the field, laden down with shopping bags, and using the Force to send his own kilt flying over his head.
Suddenly, a shadow fell across him. "Hey Maul," Obi-Wan sighed, arm uncomfortably wrapped around his master's waist.
"Piss off. I'm watching the games."
"I just thought I'd let you know that I came in second in the Goth games."
"They were rigged," Qui-Gon grumbled. "You won every event."
"But I'm too healthy-looking to be a proper Goth nowadays," Obi-Wan retorted, "which is ironic, considering what I've been through for the past fortnight."
"It's a tribute to your fortitude," Qui-Gon said, placing a kiss on the top of Obi-Wan's head. "You do know that I got you out as soon as I could?"
"Whatever. They had to give first prize to the person with the next highest score. I wouldn't have placed at all if I hadn't noted the recent shock therapy on my admission form."
Just as Maul thought he would have to bash Qui-Gon's head in with the hilt of his lightsaber repeatedly until it ran the colors of the standard MacGregor tartan, Obi-Wan looked down at him and winked, a lascivious grin spreading across his face. Suddenly, Maul felt a breeze under his kilt, and before he could react, it had blown over his head. He shot the padawan a death glare, but it only seemed to make him grin even wider. "You know, if you wore a sporran, that wouldn't happen," he noted.
"You're not wearing a sporran either," Maul countered.
"Oh dear," Obi-Wan said with mock worry dripping from his voice. Suddenly, his own kilt blew up, giving Maul an eyeful of the Kenobi family jewels.
Across the field, Palpatine passed out.
"I'm competing tomorrow too, so see you on the field in the morning," Obi-Wan said, telepathically adding, If not sooner.
As Maul watched Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon's retreating forms, his eyes widened as a breeze blew the back of Obi-Wan's kilt up, strangely leaving Qui-Gon's in place. He turned back to watch the Stones of Manhood competition, looking away only to spontaneously combust the folkie's guitar as she attempted to launch into "Puff" for the sixth time. Now this looked like a worthy test of manhood. The contestants had to lift two stones, totaling over 500 pounds, and walk as far as they could with them. Damn, none of them passed out, although they all turned impressive shades of red. Ah well, there was always the amateur games in the morning. Maul decided to head back to the grandstand and listen to the pipers.
As he passed the Clan Chattan tent, he saw a long line of kilted clansmen kneeling down and swearing fealty to his cat. I really, truly, honestly don't want to know.
That night, Maul lay on the sofa, totally convinced that he was in the seventh circle of Jedi hell. Not only were the Celtic folkies playing at full volume outside the window, but he also had to endure the sounds of a noisy fuckfest in the next room. Palpatine had managed to snag an entire Tattoo band with his kilt trick. Even more disturbing, there was dead silence coming from the Kenobi/Jinn room to the other side of him. Finally, just before sunrise, the noise stopped, and Maul fell into an exhausted sleep.
Only to be awoken fifteen minutes later by the sunrise and the beginning of amateur bagpipe competition.
I was wrong, Maul seethed as his horns started pounding in agony. Bagpipes aren't Sithly. They're worse. Stumbling to the kitchenette, Maul decided to forgo the brewing process and instead started chomping down fistfuls of instant coffee. The alarming sound of his master waking up filtered in from the next room, so Maul quickly pulled on his Pete's Wicked Ale shirt, put running shorts on under his kilt, laced up his sneakers, and made a beeline for the door.
After finding something that vaguely resembled breakfast, Maul headed for the athletic field, stopping only to see how his cat was doing at the Clan Chattan tent. This morning, she was sitting on a throne of tuna cans, wearing a tiny gold crown and a tartan collar with the clan medallion dangling from it. A burly kilted man approached her, went down on one knee, and said, "Your haggis, my Duke."
My Apprentice yawned. Apparently, they can't give me any higher title than that. How droll.
Shouldn't you be a Duchess?
I like Duke better. Besides, I'm spayed, so what does it matter?
I didn't think Dukes of clans got crowns.
They don't, but I do. With that, she turned her full attention to her haggis.
Maul shook his head in wonderment and headed out to the field to start stretching and testing out the various weights he was going to need to heft. Ten minutes later, Obi-Wan joined him. "You won't believe what your cat is doing."
"Yes I would."
And with that, the amateur games started. Maul took one look at the judges--Yoda, Mace Windu, Qui-Gon, and Palpatine--and realized that there was no way in hell he was going to be able to get away with using the Force. Right. He could be hot shit without it.
Then he took one look at the other competitors and realized that he and Obi-Wan were the only ones under six feet tall and 250 pounds.
Oh great. The amateur pipers were closing in on the field. And the folkies were back. Maul felt his horns start pounding again, then heard Sidious project Good, good my apprentice. Use your anger wisely.
As each competitor was announced, their respective planet's anthem was played. The redhead from registration showed up at the very last second with the sheet music for the Hoth anthem, and Maul felt his blood pressure spike up another notch as the brass band attempted and failed to approximate the dulcet sound of singing Tauntauns. Worse yet, the freaking folkies closest to the field kept singing their insipid music right through it. Yesssss, he'd use his anger wisely all right. Or stupidly. Either way, it wasn't going to waste.
First up, the eighteen pound stone. Maul scanned the crowd, took aim, and let it fly, squarely beaning one of the folkies in the head. Similarly inspired, he manage to take out two more of them with the 28 pound for distance and the 56 pound for distance, soundly winning all three events. He tried alternately visualizing Qui-Gon or Sidious for the sheaf toss and the 56 pound for height, but he ended up coming in respectable seconds in both behind the Wookiee competitor, who could raise his arms five feet higher than Maul could.
Then came the event that the audience had been waiting for. The caber toss. Obi-Wan, who had been languishing near the back of the pack for the rest of the events, suddenly came into his own here and nailed all three of his tosses at a perfect twelve o'clock position. Maul had to admit, he was impressed.
You do realize he's had plenty of practice handling logs, Sidious projected. Have you seen the size of Qui-Gon's equipment?
Maul shuddered. No.
Sidious looked over at Qui-Gon and let a Force breeze rustle the hem of his kilt. Would you like to?
Properly fueled, Maul hefted the caber into the crowd (just as the redhead yelled "pull!"), where it landed at a perfect twelve o'clock position and nearly flattened several spectators. This time, he came in third behind Obi-Wan and the Wookiee.
This was it. The last event. If he didn't beat the Wookiee, they'd have a tie. Maul glared at his competitor, whose kilt was so short he looked more like a Catholic schoolgirl than a Highlander. And of course, being the pantsless freak that he was, the Wookiee was the only competitor who didn't have the good graces to wear shorts under his kilt. Good thing Wookiee schlong was retractable, otherwise Sidious would have drowned in a pile of his own drool by now and Maul would be stuck without a ride home.
Oh shit. The last event was the Stones of Manhood. The Wookiee definitely had the natural advantage.
Be inventive, my apprentice.
Maul gnashed his teeth in frustration as the Wookiee managed to carry the stones a full 102 feet, breaking the Loon Mountain record, and forcing the spotters to take down the fence surrounding the field. The Wookiee dropped the stones, raised his arms above his head, and howled victoriously before doubling over in pain and being carried off the field. None of the other competitors made it nearly so far. Kenobi barely made it five feet before dropping the stones and hopping off the field with a mangled toe.
Finally, it came to Maul. He had to beat the Wookiee for a clean win. Sith did not tie.
Maul looked across the field and saw that the path he was expected to take would lead him right to his nemesis. As if on queue, said folkie launched once more into "Puff the Magic Dragon" as the amateur bagpipers on the other side of the field started honking out their off-key version of the Hoth National Anthem. With that, Maul lifted the stones and marched across the field with them like a thing possessed. The spotters raced to keep up with him as he made a beeline for the object of his ire, and when the crowd roared their approval, it just made his horns pound harder, which only fueled his hatred and thus his determination. The spotters ran ahead of him and took down the fence as the crowd parted down the middle, making way for the crazed Sith. His black skin was starting to match his tattoos, but on he plowed, lugging the Stones of Manhood onward. Finally, when he was in range, he swung them back and let them fly, soundly squashing the folkie flat. A cheer went up from the crowd, the announcer proclaimed there to be a new world record, and Maul felt everything go black...
"Maulie. Wake up Maulie."
"Don't call me that," he grumbled as he slowly swam towards consciousness.
"See, I told you it would work."
"Maul!" Palpatine said rather more sharply.
His eyes snapped open, only to find that he was lying on a hospital bed, surrounded by Palpatine, Obi-Wan, and the Jedi Masters. He was also in a lot of pain. "This is hell, right?" he groaned.
"No my dear boy, you are in the hospital. It seems you didn't know when to drop your Stones of Manhood," Palpatine chuckled.
Right. Now he remembered. "Did I win?"
"You sure did!" Obi-Wan beamed proudly.
"Did the folk singer survive?"
Maul's face fell. "Oh. Maybe next year I'll get her." He winced and grabbed at his bandaged stomach. "What did I do to myself?"
"Hernia you have suffered," Yoda noted. "Other Stones of Manhood you shall not use for several weeks. Otherwise, relapse you shall have."
"Weeks?" Obi-Wan cried indignantly.
"That's all right, my Padawan," Qui-Gon said as he wrapped him up in a possessive bear hug. "We can work on some more Master/Apprentice bonding while he's recuperating."
Mace Windu shot him a dirty look.
"Get the Jedi out or I start projectile vomiting," Maul threatened.
"My ward isn't feeling well right now," Palpatine graciously intervened. "If you wouldn't mind leaving us?"
"Certainly, Senator," Qui-Gon replied diplomatically as he ushered the Jedi out of the room.
Obi-Wan cast one last pained look in Maul's direction, and Maul projected, Backbone.
I'll be waiting for you, he projected back before Qui-Gon put a possessive hand on his butt and yanked him into the hall.
"Well, you and your cat were quite the hit of the games this year, my Apprentice. People were extremely impressed with how you handled your Stones of Manhood. Mind you, regulars at the game call them the Stones of Stupidity."
"Never again," Maul vowed.
"No, I think you're through with the Highland Games. However, your Wookiee competitor was extremely impressed with your handling of the Stones of Manhood and wants to make you an honorary member of his tribe."
"You told him no, right? I'm too short to be an honorary Wookiee. Plus I had all that electrolysis."
"I did no such thing. Maul, how could you think of turning down such an honor..."
"...during a campaign year."
"Exactly," Palpatine beamed. "In a month, after you're healed, we're invited to Kashyyyk for the Wookiee games."
They're wrong. I am in hell, Maul thought with a groan.
"I heard that!"
"I heard that too."
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