Mari stirred next to the warmth of a fire burning near her. It was morning. She had cried herself to sleep. Beside the fire, on a rock, was a bowl full of water. She cupped it and examined it closely. She smelled it. ‘Fruit?’ She drank a sip then almost involuntarily drained the rest of the liquid from the bowl. She breathed a small sigh. ‘So sweet.’
The green canopy had been a wonderful covering from the morning shower that had set the leaves of the forest a-glitter. She had slept through that. ’Darn,’ she thought, ‘I miss wandering in the rain’. She thought of Tian and how they would get soaked together in it wandering in the forests of Dromund Kaas after her initiation had concluded.
The sun broke through a clearing in the canopy blinding her for a moment and interrupting her reminisce. She looked around her again, feeling something she could not place. ‘A presence? No.'
She moved soundlessly out from the copse which had sheltered her during the night, reaching out with her senses and touched something conflicted. It withdrew immediately. Then she felt a light press on her thoughts.
“You’re up.” said the thought… distinctly male… incredibly peaceful. She started at the intrusion. “I hope you enjoyed the refreshment. If you’d like, come south to the creek. We can talk there.”
‘Nothing pressing to do’ thought Miri as she looked again at the verdant landscape encompassing her. Quickly, she readied herself and set off.
“YOU WHAT?!” echoed the gravelly voice of Darth Granus. She shoved her way across her vast office space to look her assassin in the eye, nose to nose.
The assassin trembled as slowly his neck began to rise, held by another force. “We… we were… attacked my Lord. A… human, but … not… hum – “ His explanation was cut short as his vocal cords were being pressed.
Then his mouth contorted into a soundless, raging scream and his eyes shut vice-tight. His brow furrowed unnaturally as he writhed in mid-air.
“I WILL have my answer!” screamed Granus. Her eyes narrowed and she leered at him. Light distorted in front of them as if an inferno blazed from within them. Her face grew gaunt, but she pressed in, launching a scathing mental assault.
She had no mercy on her servant assassin, slashing and ripping at every part of his mind until at last she arrived at the scene in the forest and saw what transpired.
The assassin fell limp to the floor, a vacant expression on his face. Drool pooled from his lips where he lay.
Kourou winced. His eyes welled. He felt the assassin’s sanity leave him and knew all that remained was a fleshly shell where once had been a soul. Alive, but vacant.
'Nothing has changed.’ He thought, shaking his head almost imperceptibly.
Mari approached from behind him, clearing her throat as she approached.
“I’m sorry, Mari, if I mis-read your intentions but I thought helping you escape was the best choice… given the alternative.”
“You felt it too…” she said. She had been crying.
“I hate her.”
“Hate is a strong word…”
“I do! You have NO idea what I’ve been through!” Mari’s mind raced through a lifetime of memories and experiences with her old master, Darth Granus.
“You’re right, I have not been through what you have experienced.” Kourou conceded. “Can we at least agree that I have had experiences also?”
Mari watched him for a moment and looked up at the mid-day sky. A breeze caught her and lifted her silky hair, caressing her face. Every time she felt that kind of a breeze she was reminded of how Tian would cradle her face in his palms and press his forehead on hers before kissing her gently.
“Mari… what does she fear in you that she would hunt you?” Kourou asked warily.