He tasted the name, savoring how it sounded to his own ears. She was here.
The connection between them was forged years ago in their childhood. Before her betrayal. Just saying her name generated the feelings of anger. The Sith Lord told himself repeatedly that one day he would have his revenge. It was one of his greatest desires, one of the many situations he hoped to rectify.
He ignored the uneasiness he felt. It's just a memory. The desire for revenge burned strong in him, as it should in any Sith Lord. But the feeling of wrong shouldn't have accompanied it. He could not escape it. The sensations were intertwined permeating the flip side of his desire to see her dead. That was not as it should be.
"Ri." He whispered the name again out loud. Just to show himself it had no power over him. That she had no power over him. He would exact his revenge on her one way or another. He moved forward, taking the point, his master following behind.
Her eyes shot open. The future came often to her, even when she did not want to see it. She couldn't see his face, but she knew who he was. Who he had been at least. He was still out there. Why here of all places did this vision come to me?
And she had sworn to find him, or die trying. Probably the latter, she thought to herself. She glanced around. She'd only stopped for a moment of rest and attempting to get her bearings. Her hand gripped her light saber like a life line. She moved silently, her ears listening, scrutinizing every crackle on the ground. She was here on a mission that had nothing to do with him.
The lush vegetation covered a landscape of ancient temples. The builders were long forgotten. But Yavin 4 was still famous for the many battles that scarred its surface. Its history as almost as well documented as the central world, Coruscant. She'd been forced to learn that history, meticulously. Any Jedi could quote the Republic's history, more specifically the Jedi's part in it.
Rí Marek, was simply taking part in the latest conflict between the Sith and Jedi, the dark and the light. A new Empire dedicated to the Dark side of the Force had arisen outside the Galactic Republic. Naturally, the Jedi were against the Sith as they had chosen to name themselves on any terms. But the Republic after years of war wanted to talk. They had even invited the representatives of the Sith Empire to have a seat on the Republic's Council.
None of that mattered to Rí. She'd come from the Outer Rim. The Sith Empire had been in her back yard for her entire childhood. Politics were not her forte. She was disinclined to believe anything the Sith Empire presented. Her prejudices stemming from years growing up enduring raids, the death of family members and the loss of friends, and battles fought all over her world.
Naturally, she had volunteered to investigate a Sith presence on Yavin 4. It was as close as she could come as a Jedi to admitting she wanted revenge. Revenge was not supposed to be a Jedi feeling. But Ri understood that it didn't make the want for revenge go away. Even clothed in the ideals of justice, she wanted to hit back at those who had taken so much from her. Which was how she'd come to be trailing through the Jungles of Yavin 4, scouting alone.
Her long dark hair was pulled back in a braid that ran down her back and was streaked with blue. Three matching blue lines were tattooed downward over her right eye and down her cheek. It was one of the few customs she brought from her home world of Dagelos. The tattooed lines represented a warrior who had passed their training, one who would guard the King or Queen of their world. As Dagelos no longer had a royal family, Ri wanted some sort of tradition to hold to. Something that screamed she was from Dagelos and the Sith had not crushed them underfoot.
Battle was her escape from the tedium of Coruscant. While she hated unnecessary death, she loved to fight. During the battle, her mind would clear and fighting was her sole purpose. She was a true Dageli, their culture had been a warrior based society. At least it had been until the world's annexation into the Republic two generations ago.
And if the Sith Empire wanted to skirmish along the Outer Rim worlds while the center played politics? So be it. Ri didn't mind, even knowing she was skirting the dark side with her thoughts. With the political bickering that happened even in the Jedi Temple as well as the Senate, no one was taking the time to warn one Jedi Knight that they shouldn't get excited to fight Sith.
There were a few Sith on the ground among the ruins here. Mostly their droids crawled over the surface. The buildings already long scarred from centuries of warfare.
And here we are again. Always moving in circles, always repeating the same mistakes, never learning from the past.
The droid came out of nowhere.
She paused her forward momentum to slice it neatly in two. It had been rolled into a ball, but upright it would have moved swiftly on three legs and presented with a shield that she would have had to disable to cause it some damage. But on the move, they couldn't pull up the shield. Ri shrugged off the destroyed battle droid. Worst design flaw ever.
Blood spotted her brown robe, there were three dead Sith acolytes behind her already. Rí knew the fight would be won if her former master met her on the other side of the gully.
Rí had been scouting when the attack on their group came. There were ten Jedi at the main camp. They had managed to send a message and then radio silence. The silence made her uneasy. She pushed away everything else to move towards the meeting point.
An unregistered ship had landed on the planet. It failed to answer the hails of the locals. It hadn't even landed at their space port. Alarmed they asked for the Jedi to investigate.
No mention of droids had been reported. They should have thought of it, Rí thought. They're Sith.
But that didn't matter now. Survival was all that mattered. Getting back to the others. Rí was good at survival.
She stepped out into a clearing to see a black clad man. He looked as if he were listening, but Rí could sense he was scanning the area with the Force. He was good at hiding his presence. Rí hadn't noticed him before setting eyes on him.
For some reason, he hadn't sensed her either. It meant he was potentially more than just an alcolyte.
She gave a quick scan of the clearing and not seeing anyone else she moved forward.
The man pivoted realizing he wasn't alone. He gave a start of surprise when he laid eyes on her. He had shoulder length blonde hair and brown eyes with more than few scars on his face. He hissed and immediately drew his saber.
The air seemed to thicken as both drew on their respective sides of the Force.
Whether he was an apprentice or the Master she would soon find out.
He moved towards her, his steps slow and deliberate as he studied her. "And to whom do I owe this honor?"
"Honor is for those who die nobly, Sith," Rí said to gauge his response. Rí made no move towards him, not yet. She wanted to see what he would do first. She preferred to always let her enemy make the first move. It gave her time to study their actions.
"Well said, Jedi." He charged towards her swinging his red saber in a violent circle. She drew her light saber catching his blade on its downward arc.
Rí immediately recognized the Juyo forms she had studied on Coruscant. They were quick and designed to bring down an opponent in short order. His next moves would be to corner and confuse her.
They would have if Rí herself had not trained for years in Vaapad, a variant created by a Jedi over a millennium ago. Vaapad was considered too close to the dark side. Forbidden to most Jedi except a few Jedi Knights known as Guardians, it was passed down only to a few.
He rushed swinging his saber wildly. She gave ground he sought before moving into Soresu. Moving into Soresu she would conserve energy and shift into a more defensive fighting technique. She danced nimbly side to side outside of his strike zone, blocking and parrying, allowing the Sith to wear himself out.
After a few moments, Rí noticed his swings growing sluggish. She moved in closer to take advantage of a gap when one wild swing sliced into her robe. She smelled the burned fabric long before she saw it. She flipped backwards away from him landing nimbly on her feet.
His grin was malicious.
"Still not first blood." Rí responded managing a tight smile. She'd been over confident in controlling the fight. A costly mistake on her part.
He was breathing hard. Rí knew immediately this fight needed to be over before anyone else arrived. He had more stamina than she did. He would outlast her in an all-out brawl.
She attacked, whirling and spinning, her own saber a blue blur as she moved into his reach. It was difficult to move over the terrain but she managed to back him into a tree. His back hit and he paused leaving an opening. Rí sliced into his left arm horizontally, slicing the muscle and bone. The arm flopped, useless. Just a little closer and she could have made a clean cut. More blood patterned the ground.
His surprised pleased her in a way it shouldn't have. But she allowed herself a moment of pleasure at the look on his face. A smirk tugged at the corner of her mouth.
She was about to strike a killing blow when something pulsed in the back of her mind. A presence she hadn't sensed in over twenty years. In her shock, she backed up and tripped over a root, landing hard on her side. Her saber clicking off as she went down.
The Sith readily took advantage of the moment, advancing on her with his good arm swinging. Rí cursed and was forced to scramble away on her back as he stumbled towards her. He raised the saber and plunged it into her chest.
"Am I not to know the name of the Jedi Knight I just killed?" He spoke into her face.
She was shaking beneath him, from what he had assumed was a death blow. "If you killed one," She gasped. "Maybe."
He turned his eyes down towards her chest and saw his own light saber protruding Right into her hand. But not out of the other side into her body. She was shaking with the effort it took to absorb that much energy. She wouldn't be able to maintain it forever.
His eyes widened in surprise. "What are you?"
His eyes widened as the snap hiss of Rí's light saber stabbing through his chest ended his questions. His light saber fell from his fingers and the red blade died. He collapsed to the side his eyes opened wide in death as a sigh escaped his mouth.
Rí gasped as she felt the energy fade away and she could release. It was as if she'd been holding her breath underwater, had broken the surface and could breathe again.
"Rí," She muttered to the corpse. "Not that you'll tell anyone."
Stupid, we could have at least questioned him on what they were doing out there. She berated herself and then stared down at her robes.
Bloodstains covered the front. A small slice into her waist that could have ended her. Something had broken her concentration.
She paused trying to figure out what had happened. Her steps had been perfect until that presence. The presence was still there in the back of her mind. It was as if someone had shoved a ball inside her head and it was radiating pressure.
No, not pressure.
Abandoning her original intent to meet back up with the rest of her party she moved away in the direction that the presence felt strongest in.
The metallic tang of blood drifted in the thick air. Rí's fingers drifted across the vine covered wall as she moved. The end of the battle had come and yet she felt the Force shift inside of her. This way... She ignored the heat, the smells, everything as the Force pulled her. Training drilled into her since childhood told her to listen to her feelings.
It was him. It had to be. He was here.
Klayton? His presence was unmistakable.
She was now 33 standard years old. Every encounter she had with the Sith she would reach out for him. But he had never felt this close before, and the only explanation was that they were finally on the same world.
Her connection with him was strong. It had always been strong. Even as children they'd always been able to reach out mentally to one another.
The link exploded with emotions, something she hadn't experienced since childhood. She wondered if that meant he was paying as much attention to her as she was to him. That gave her pause even as she wanted to continue rushing forward. What would he see? What would they say to one another? Guilt pulsated through Rí as she roughly forced the memories away.
Almost moving blindly, no longer paying attention to her surroundings she followed. Allowing the link to be her guide.
The link felt alive, emotional... Angry. Close... She closed her eyes and focused.
She never remembered Klayton as being angry. But it had been twenty-two years.
Without taking thought on what she was doing she began to run. Leaves slapped at her face as she moved quickly, her feet pounding on the ground, her heart pounding in her chest matching the rhythm.
Suddenly she skidded to a stop. The Force was tugging at her...and another one of her gifts began manifesting.
"No, not now...," she groaned.
The one she never shared with anyone...except for him. He knew.
The vision hit her before she could completely stop moving and she fell to her knees in the dirt.
The man was in front of her in an instant. He had red and black hair, was dressed in black and his hardened expression told her everything she needed to know about his intentions. His red saber clicked off as he reached for her throat. She didn't move and was suddenly horrified that this man should be familiar to her somehow.
"Have you come to kill me?" He got out...
And the vision left her abruptly. Rí found herself panting, on her knees, surrounded by green jungle. The sun was going down swiftly. Her gift or her curse as she thought of it was a connection that allowed her to see the future.
She pondered what the vision meant as she forced herself to her feet and moved forward again.
The gift was so rare that any Jedi found to have it was locked into the Temple of the Prophets on Coruscant for the rest of their days.
For their own protection, of course.
Ri had never told anyone about it. It managed to conceal itself from others as if it had a mind of its the reason it never manifested in the presence of others. At night she would dream, no one would hear her. Another reason she hated to be on Coruscant.
She continued an even pace that she could maintain for hours, the Force augmenting her steps as she moved. The link tugged her south towards the smaller of the Temples. She tried to remember what was there but couldn't pick it out of her thoughts.
The vegetation opened into a clearing. The Force pulled her eyes upwards.
He was standing on top of a rocky outcrop red saber in hand brown eyes scanning around wildly. His bright red and black hair pulled to the Right contrasted so much with his black clothes and cape that swirled around him.
Rí gave a short laugh of recognition and disbelief.
It was him.
And he was a Sith.