Saturday, December 30, 2006

Beneath the Surface

Maya woke up, the bed cold and empty beside her. She'd taken to sleeping next to the troubled Jedi since he'd lapsed into a coma and now that he was better, she'd not really wanted to break the habit. There was something soothing about Darrus, which was ironic given how tumultuous he seemed to be himself.

In truth, that wasn't really accurate any longer. After awakening from his twenty three day dream, Darrus wasn't as pained as he used to be. His voice was a quiet whisper but there was no ragged edge to it any longer. His eyes, as dark as ever, seemed softer. Calmer.

He had taken to going on long walks, however, like now. It wasn't even sun rise yet and the Jedi was out of the house again. Last time, she'd found him almost a kilometer away, looking out over the dunes with an almost haunted expression. He hadn't been troubled, but it was clear he'd not been seeing here. She was only empathic; she couldn't read minds. Maya would have given a lot to know what Darrus had been thinking but he wouldn't say.

"This place has seen a lot of sorrow," was all he'd tell her. He cried occasionally, both from his own sadness and from the feelings this place seemed to bring up in him. There were moments when she wasn't honestly sure she was talking to the same man she'd found in the sands more than two months ago.

He was better now, healthier and more collected, but he was also different somehow. There were times when he would talk in strange ways, as if repeating something he'd heard moments before in a voice no one else perceived.

His body movements were off as well, though that was getting better with his constant exercises. Watching him go through his martial drills with his singing blade was one of Maya's secret pleasures. It was a thrill to see him move so fluidly. For the first few days after waking up from his coma, Darrus had been very awkward, but now he was even more graceful than he'd been before. It was amazing... and a little eerie.

What had this place done to him?

Maya got up and found her robe. A present from an amorous patron at the bar, she'd kept it even after trying to politely explain her lack of interest in the regular. It wasn't that she disliked men. She just disliked ruffians with no concern for others and a body odor that would make dewbacks cross the street.

Ten minutes later, she was outside and unable to find Darrus. Unlike the other times he'd gone wandering, there were no tracks in the sand. She tightened her grip on Vaaro's rifle and scanned the horizon with its macro-sight. Nothing. The speeder and the fighter were still here, so he had to be on foot. If he was out here, he'd walked a lot father than normal.

Assuming he was out here. Feeling foolish for not checking inside first, she packed away the heavy weapon and ducked back into the house. Maya wasn't even sure why she'd bothered to take the gun outside. No one came here. This hut was supposed to be haunted. The Tuskens avoided the entire area like a sand-borne plague. There was literally no safer place on all of Tatooine, assuming there wasn't actually a ghost.

Once inside, Maya found where Jeht was hiding pretty quickly. Where an old metal chest had been, there was a pressure switch on the floor. Pressing it with her foot, she opened a sliding panel in the wall. The doorway led to a short flight of steps going down. At the bottom of the stairs, a faint, flickering light could be seen.

Walking softly, she padded down to see what was going on. She started to call out for Darrus but her better judgment kept her quiet. Besides, too much noise would wake Vaaro upstairs and she didn't want him tromping down here and mucking about with things before she saw them for herself.

Vaaro had a way of breaking stuff. It was just his nature.

Feet still on the last step, Maya froze. What she saw was both too frightening to believe at first and too amazing to look away....

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