—Before her eyes—
—Buzz two flies—
—Flies at night—
“You cannot lie.”
Moonlight eyes. “You cannot hide.”
But she can try…
A man stares forward.
Like one would lean.
Grey tornado toward.
That purple queen.
“Wolf of Ryloth.”
“There is…history…between two worlds.”
Two women—governors—two little girls. “Karazak’s roads once flowed so red.”
The man’s eyes are grey, yes, dead. “With the blood of the Twi’lek slaves.”
A man needs to feed…since last ate. “A woman has motive to assassinate.”
Maybe she thought it wasn’t too late. But a woman does not yet know pain. “Revenge against a world so enslaved.”
A man looks away.
Dark is his gaze.
Sees a face.
“The truth cannot hide.”
A voice can tell the truth.
A voice can tell a lie too. “A man produces proof.”
Coin rolls left to right.
Left hand moves in the night.
Dark is the room—not too bright.
Silence the tune—like a naked eye.
A man’s hand offers woman a datapad. “I believe the face of that Twi’lek is familiar.”
It should be to her, Ryssa Kalayli, his master.
Not this man’s, datapad in hand, but dead man’s. “This is the same Twi’lek who attacked a police officer.”
Maybe she thought he was lying but no matter, not a bother.
“His body was found in an alley.”
The coin rolls right to left again. “Shot dead in self-defense.”
The actor plays pretend. “For gross malcontent.”
Moves hand to the left.
Shows him plus men. “For conspiring…”
Same Twi’lek… “With this…
A lady…is afraid…
Asks her aide.
I lose my face.
Lost this place.
But where is…
Can a lady be afraid?
And still be a Protector? Can a lady be a maze?
A lady is afraid.
But has a blade.
She has shades.
…They’re in a hall…
…But not Harmonhal…
…This is the nest of starlings…
…Shades are blades with wings…
It is dark…
Not of heart.
Firelight dances. Fireflies…madness…
A lady remembers Mother. Your stories of sadness…
And songs of gladness…
A lady remembers Father. “What are you, Daughter?”
“Death’s gong in a maze!”
A lady is unafraid!
A lady is a maze!
A lady is a blade!
A lady is Maze!
Sweeps a gaze.
Knows her name.
Shades are nameless.
But Maze can’t forget. “Are to find a bird.”
A term and word they heard.
Shades were their name.
Breakers of chains.
But weren’t Blades.
They were the Shades.
Not light—dark was the game.
She stands before shadows.
Still within their silent chateau.
These Shadows are loyal to her.
Sworn swords to Lady Protector.
“Ryssa Kalayli has gone missing.” My guest—future friend—drifting. “Spare no flame, spare no shade.”
Blades in a gaze! A lady is Maze! “Wherever she is…who took her…” Will pay for it. Like dead murderers. “Is likely of House Terel…after Hur…”
“We will do as our lady commands.”
Shade lifts her head.
And so do all the rest.
Mazeryl Xiron has command over sun and moon…
Governor of Karazak, Lady Protector, over souls too. Be my guide, my father…and be my roaring sword!
Daughter, you are mine…so you just push forward!
"Then we plan, we advance, every woman, every man."
She raised a hand. "Sweep the streets, channels and activity."
Eyes continue to scan. "But we can't risk publicity."
If abducted, her throat could be slit. "Look high, look low! Find me my quarry!"
Was this man, in all seriousness, accusing her of plotting to assassinate Governor Xiron? This was ludicrous. He accused her of lying too, and Ryssa had just about had it. If there was anything worse than being held hostage, it was the idea of her reputation being tarnished with something like this.
“Those times are behind us. Karazak and Ryloth are members of the ISC, and therefore allies.” She made sure to stress the last word. “Neither Governor Xiron nor any Karazakan alive today has wronged my people from Ryloth in that manner.”Unless you count today, maybe. But she was starting to doubt that Maze was behind this. Surely she’d have been more… sophisticated about it, but then again, maybe it was part of the act. She didn’t know what to believe anymore, especially after the man then pulled up what he called proof on a datapad.
“I don’t know this man.” She shook her head. Whether or not she actually did didn’t matter. For all she knew the image could have been doctored, and he was just trying to make her doubt herself. The latter part was definitely true, and she wouldn’t give in to an false claim of that magnitude. “I assure you he does not have any connection to me whatsoever.”
Her orders were to sweep the streets, channels, activity, and most importantly of all, stay in the shadows, and that was what the Shades did best. Each knew their role, and each would fulfill it.
Subterfuge and secrecy, however, was not Vadrian’s specialty. He was a warrior, used to carrying himself out in the open. He would remain by Maze’s side, surveying the scene. The streets were being cleared, the fire being put out, and the mess from the duel before being cleaned up.
“My lady.” Vadrian cleared his throat. “If you believe House Terel is behind this, I suggest questioning those who have surrendered to us.” They were still back at the earlier scene, but it wouldn’t be difficult to get a hold of a few to interview. If this had been planned, it was likely at least one would know something about it.
A woman is stressed—
—Lekku is so naked—
—Purple face, nude—
—She has gold eyes—
—He has cold eyes—
—Shakes her head—
—Fear in her breath—
A man has a test…
This is…not an investigation.
For her, this is an interrogation.
Interrogators don’t ask questions.
Not ones like him—not in his skin.
They...created answers...in red pen.
“You don’t know this man.”
A man repeats with voice.
Though this is not Force. “Not a part of his…plan.”
If eyes can see…this man. “No connection to him.”
She should look again. “I am the officer, madam.”
Fear could blind the eye.
Like flies in naked light.
Dead Twi'lek's face—
—In dark alleyway—
—Is the very same—
—As Ryssa's aide— Dread. Dry. Drapes.
No light—a quiet toll.
Like a death bell… Yes…so…so old.
“You do recognize him.”
A man…tilts his head.
But not…a stiff neck. “So…you lied to me.”
Not…not a question. “So…disappointing…”
A man has eyes!
Like two grey seas!
He sees! He sees!
If a gaze can penetrate.
Grey eyes...like graves...
End of days…
A lady’s rage!
Fear be gone!
A lady is a woman!
She must be strong!
“I—I want courage, Father!”
“You will learn it, Daughter.”
A man is Vadrian.
Man is great.
Serves well. …Mazeryl…
“A superb suggestion.”
Fist to chest—friend. “Let’s get to it then.”
…In a room…
“This is not an interrogation.”
At a man’s face.
It is not Vadrian’s.
“At least…not yet.”
Hands on desk.
A ceiling next.
Floor and all.
A lady’s breath.
“You are a captain.”
One of Terel’s best. “And a House Blade.”
A Maze has a blade.
It's a kiss on her hip.
Knows how to use it.
Yet keeps it sheathed.
Daggers in her eyes.
Daggers in her lips!
“Governor…Kalayli...” Bravery unwavering! “Tell me where she is.”
Nods her head.
Toward the left.
At a Shade again. “Or you deal with him.”
Him being one Vadrian. "And...this investigation...
Becomes an interrogation."
Blades knew death.
That farewell breath.
Shades knew pain.
The kind to dread.
A closer look at the datapad out of morbid curiosity did, in fact, reveal the face of one of her aides. Taplo? It made her pause for a moment. Was there some truth to this? Had he been plotting this? Ryssa looked uncertainly at the man sitting across from her.
“I’m not lying.” She wasn’t lying. She didn’t know anything about this, it was true! Yet she still felt her breath catch in her throat as if she were. There was something about this man, his insistence, that coin… this whole thing just didn’t sit right.
“He was my aide. He was so kind, outgoing, he couldn’t have. It’s not like him.” Then her eyes widened just slightly when she suddenly realized her mistake. “I didn’t recognize him at first because of the… angle.” She was confusing herself now, starting to struggle between what was real and what wasn’t. The evidence could very well have been fabricated. But on the other hand… how would the man have gotten an image of Taplo? She had only arrived on Karazak a few hours ago, and her aides were supposed to stay on the ship. The only way the man could have gotten even a semi-clear image of him was if he’d gone out for some reason.
Vadrian would stand by the door, hand on his hilt as the Maze began the questioning of the man who, technically, could be considered his counterpart. Any move he made would be carefully watched, and though he was stripped of any weapons and armor, even a fool knew that a Blade was just as deadly without.
The Terel man only looked back, his posture relaxed as he leaned back in his seat.
“I don’t know.” His tone was nonchalant, though his eyes were fixed on the governor’s. “Now, Xiron, I’d like to make this clear. I surrendered to you because Hur made a deal, and Terel always follows through. However, nowhere did anyone say that surrendering my sword means I have to give away anything else.” He folded his arms.
Vadrian took a step forward, his hand still on his hilt, and glanced at Maze. He would be more than happy to make the man talk if that was what the Lady Protector needed from him.
A man is…
He has a face.
But this man is
Not…not a Sith.
What he is…is
He is like…grave.
Neither black nor
White. That man
Is…he is…grey… …Time…to play…
A closer look at the datapad.
Out of morbid curiosity.
Not a fact.
Or was it fact?
Could a Governor discern?
Truth from lie, would she learn? Lekku—let fly—plague worms.
Was that the same Twi’lek?
Did a…lying voice…inflect..? Flies…night…light…insect…
A woman’s breath—
—Locked in throat—
—She might choke—
—Hands, the man's—
—Man has choked—
—Men women both—
—A woman again—
—Pulses on neck—
Is a woman…dead?
“You didn't answer my question.”
Coin rolls across the knuckles.
From the right and to the left.
Aunt, cousins, even uncles.
A man has…made dead…
From dust they come…
There they return…
From up, bottom.
Bottom then up.
Death got ‘em.
Life thinks thus.
Coin left to right.
Silent like tonight.
A woman’s breath.
Is loud but quiet yet.
Maybe a missing head.
Caught in her lies again.
That purple freckled Twi’lek.
“And…do not lie again…”
Cold breath on a man. “It is fate—not chance.”
Blaster is still in his lap. “Life, death, it dictates.”
A man’s hunger aches. “What is the most that”
A man’s eyes are…off. “You’ve lost in a coin toss?”
She knew pain.
She knew hate.
She knew rage.
At the gate.
Earthquake. I am a…
Eyes into eyes. “Is that my name?”
Her eyes are…off.
He has her gaze.
“Yes…that is you.”
His eyes are blue.
They suit his suit.
Her eyes are brown.
She is sitting down.
Smiles—no frown. “Say it then. Out loud.”
House Terel’s Blade. Soon to say farewell.
His eyes penetrate. “You are Mazeryl Xiron.” “And now say the rest.” “Governor of Karazak.” “Nope...more than that.” “The…Lady Protector…” “Fact. That is me. Her.”
Stands up. On her feet.
Her pupils are blades!
In her hand is his fate!
A woman is the Maze!
A maze who may slay!
“That is the name you will scream.”
The woman says what she means. “For my Shade shall make you sing!”
And a woman will be listening to lips.
Feasting as he spills his sweet secrets.
She has had enough of this business.
Wherever Ryssa is, time is running out.
House Terel’s Blade would have to shout.
A man had his chance. Vadrian’s turn now.
Ryssa thought he was going to press her further— ask her more about the aide, the evidence, maybe even try to force a confession or something of the sort from her. She was at least somewhat prepared to answer those, so his next question caught her completely off guard.
This time though, it felt much more ominous. She was instantly reminded of the blaster still sitting on the man’s lap. He wouldn’t dare kill a governor… would he? His eyes didn’t give anything away.
“Chance or fate, it doesn’t make a difference. I will not let a coin make decisions for me.” While trying and failing to sound unfazed, the fear that came from not knowing why he’d brought it up again was certainly noticeable. “I’m not about to start today.”
The real question was, was that her choice to make?
Maze called for his assistance, and Vadrian would oblige. His expression didn’t change as he approached the man sitting defiantly across from the governor. A shadow of uncertainty crossed the other Blade’s countenance for a moment, and Vadrian looked at him.
“You’re going to tell her where the Governor of Ryloth is.” He didn’t bark it as a command. His voice, instead, was calm, the kind before a storm. But the Terel Blade was not so easily intimidated.
“What makes you think I will?” Vadrian drew his sword, pointed the tip at the man’s chest. It was only then he saw fear. He knew that it was not of torture— the Blade was no barbarian— but of failure. Vadrian was one of Karazak’s finest warriors, and his counterpart knew it. While he was good, he wasn’t that good, and yet another loss to Xiron, Terel wouldn’t tolerate.
“There were… plans,” their prisoner confessed, “to make a statement out of her. But Hur’s death will change things.” Vadrian withdrew his blade, waiting for him to continue. “You won’t find her. She’s hidden well— well enough so that even your Shades will have their fair share of trouble getting to her.”
A man is…soundless.
Yes…like dead breath.
He has…grey eyes…
They see…dying life…
A woman is anxious—
—Ryssa thought he was going to press her further—
—Ask her more about the aide, the evidence, maybe—
—Even try to force a confession or something of the sort—
—From her—She was at least somewhat prepared to—
—Answer those—so his next question caught her complete—
—ly off guard—This time though—it felt—much more—
—Rich with—vitamins—and—in this pit—there—is—no—
Thinks a man.
There is such fear inside this woman’s heartbeat.
To a man like this one, cold as snow—it is a treat.
Her fearrr…it is quite like a feast—yes, he can eat.
On his face!
Doesn’t show it!
Lips cover teeth—split!
“Chance or fate, you say.”
Spider’s silk—so quiet… “I’m not about to start today.”
He repeats. Eyes don’t blink.
Even a Governor can die. “And it…rolls…a…nine…”
A man—this man—thinks.
But...what does it...mean?
Coin rolls across knuckles.
Blaster by that belt buckle.
“What is politics…”
Should not answer it. “But a difference…”
Hands—lightning quick. “...Of…decisions…”
This Shade can see.
Frozen in time, the thing.
A man…flips a coin.
Flies…from his hand.
Joins the flies of night.
It falls…then it lands…
A fist grips it.
Eyes at Twi’lek.
Upon her sweat. “...............Call it.”
A man understands.
A woman’s confusion.
What is she calling for?
What’s behind the door?
Her head. “Tails.”
But the truth of the matter…
Is her guess does not matter.
Fate had already decided her fate.
Maybe the coin lands on…heads.
Heads could mean her…death…
But what if she guesses heads?
Yes, what if her guess is correct?
That just might…spare her…life?
Does heads mean she won't die?
That was unless the truth of it is
She should guess tails instead.
Maybe guessing it...incorrect...
Would let her keep her...head...
Politics is...a dangerous game.
Sometimes the lie supersedes
The truth and spares a...life...
Call it, a man said.
A woman would call.
Or she would be dead.
Ryssa shifted uncomfortably in her seat as the coin came out again. This time, the man was asking for her to call it. She had a fifty-fifty shot… but was it really? She didn’t know whether getting it wrong or right was the better option, and even then, what stopped the man from changing his predetermined response?
Either way she would lose, and she had no intention of giving him the satisfaction of her falling right into his trap.
“It won’t make a difference which I call,” she said, giving him a light shake of her head. “Not unless I know what each side represents.” She looked in his unblinking, hollow eyes after that. She knew he wouldn’t give her a straight answer— he hadn’t given a single one yet. Try as she might, she still couldn’t read him.
He brought up politics, but it didn’t matter right now. It hadn’t mattered on Ruusan either, and it was something to think about. Now that it was on her mind, how could anyone worry about such things when the Killiks and their Joiners were everywhere? Whatever this man’s goals were certainly paled in comparison to the bugs’. And she might not even be around to see what the endgame was for either of them.
Only when Vadrian pressed his sword against the man’s neck did he finally reveal the location of the governor and the person who held her, and as soon as he provided the information, the gravity of the situation hit him and he withdrew his weapon.
“Agreed.” Blade and Governor would exit the room, leaving their prisoner behind as others would escort him back to where he was being held. This “Ninja” would soon end up behind bars too, if he could help it.
Vadrian and Maze would make their way to the designated location. With them were a dozen Shades, with more Blades on the way.
“Lanster Gate.” No one was around, and the alley looked deserted. No sign of a struggle either, but this was the place. And Vadrian didn’t think that the man had been lying.
A quick investigation of the alley revealed a small door hidden in the middle, and he would have missed it if not for the strange way the light reflected on the dull metal.
“My lady? I think you should have a look at this,” he called to Maze.