((Continuation of the story started here and continued here and here))

I love Dahomey.

It's developed, but I can go places without seeing a McYoda's or a supermarket at every corner. The air is fresh, and wildlife is abundant. The people are honest and brave. Sure, many have away from the wilds to Abomey now, but enough appreciate what Mother Earth has given them. And it's where Tempest is from.

So here we are in the Wildhome Planetary Preserve. I threw some money at the park to help fund it. Not like I really use my trust fund for much of anything. Mother could not complain since we're sponsoring it. Helping preserve Dahomey's natural beauty and its animals is a better cause than wasting money on silks, yachts and speeders.

We? That's Purity, Reverence and me. Purity is Tempest's cousin, the resident nerd and tech whiz. Reverence is from my platoon. Reminds me a bit of myself before, well, everything. The wind brushes against my skin as I steer the speeder. I keep it at a sedate pace. Don't want to unnerve any of the animals. It's one of those vehicles designed for fuel efficiency."Enjoying tour time back home, huh?" I ask the two. Both of them are from Dahomey, but young enough they have few memories of the old days of slavers and warlords. They make me feel old sometimes, even though Purity and I are about the same age.

"I am, ma'am. This brings back memories. Been a lot of cold or air conditioned places recently. That real tropical heat," Reverence says, and laughs.
"It is beautiful, but so hot. I prefer it a bit milder," Purity echoes her words.
"Oh, so you want to be somewhere cooler? How about, um, Belsavis? Hear there's Rakata ruins. Mother would love another giant floating pyramid."
"I like the cold even less than the heat," Purity says primly.
"Your cousin really hates the cold. Tempest could not stop complaining on that one time Mother sent us to Midvinter. Fortunately, I was there. Personally, I like the heat."
"I figured. Won't take long, and you'll tan up well," Reverence jokes.
"I think Tygara has the best balance. Now that I think about it, isn't it rather strange that there are so many planets with a more or less homogenous climate?"
Reverence looks at me. "You can the gears moving in her brain, can't you?"
"Loud and clear. They're practically humming."
"I am serious. Hoth is a snow planet, Endor a temperate forest planet and Tatooine is a desert world. Why do so many have one terrain type without regard to latitudinal variations?" she declares a bit indignantly.
"The Force?" I ask rhetorically. "We're not making fun of you, Purity."
"Just a little bit," Reverence adds because of course she does.
"You're a smart girl. Smarter than both of us put together."
I cannot see colours, but I'm certain she blushes. "Thank you. I'm not a warrior like either of you, but, um, I like to think I help. I did develop that algorithm for the park."

"That you did," I agree. "It's gonna be a great help to the rangers to keep track of the animals."
"Speaking of techie stuff, Purity, enjoying the camera work the Third Pillar makes you do?"
If she was blushing before, now she is scarlet red. "I...well, it is, uh, interesting."
"What's the Third Pillar?" Reverence asks.
"I'll tell you when you're older."
"I'm old enough to shoot, drink and get maimed, ma'am. Is it some kinda club?"
"When you're older, Private." It's not a club I'm really interested in being part of anymore. I liked the glamour at first, but it's not me. Too many aristos. Besides, my mothers run it.

"Hey slow dow," Purity urges and I oblige her as we pass some some Nexu. The two take pictures.
"They're everywhere these days," Reverence remarks. "But they're not native to Dahomey. Wonder how they got here."
"I'd put my money on the slavers. I've read accounts of them being used to run down fugitive slaves."
"Good thing these ones are free then, instead of being misused," I throw in. "Still not the queens of the jungle. That goes to the Cylix."
"Technically, the Kardok are our apex predators, ma'am," Reverence points oh-so innocently.
I wave my hand. "Technicalities. The Cylix are best, and it's good people here are taking steps to protect them."

We drive past the high savannah grass. As far as the naked eye can see, we are the only people around. We pass some Banthas and what Reverence swears is a Tanalaak - a sloth-like creature that can deliver a nasty swipe with its claws - hiding in a tree. The tall grass blows in the wind. The atmosphere is serene, almost tranquil. But nature is not all flowers and peace.

My Senses flare, and a psychic cry of pain hits me. I shake my head. "I felt a disturbance in the Force. Are the instruments showing you anything?" I ask because I cannot read what the computer says.
"Yes, over there," Purity steers me in the right direction. As we get closer, I see what the Force was telling me about. The speeder comes to a halt and we disembark. A Ranger is kneeling on the ground while her colleague stands watch. Beneath them lies a wailing Cylix. The majestic predator is badly wounded, and blood drips out.

"Auntie Protector!" Reverence calls out.
"Reverence, what did I tell you about leaving the vehicle?"
"I'm just...keeping my CO from getting eaten, since she got out first. What happened here? Poachers?" she asks as she gets closer.
"No, look at the marks," the Ranger who is apparently called Protector says, indicating. "Claw marks. Got into a fight over a female with another male. He doesn't have long."
"That's...brutal," Purity sounds like she is feeling a bit sick.
"It's nature," I say softly. Bending down, I kneel before the Cylix. My hand reaches out to touch the marks. They are vicious. He's a big, strong, beautiful one He must have given his opponent a good fight.
"Surely you can heal him, right, Elpsis?" Purity asks.
I shake my head quickly. "No, no, I can't heal." There was a time when I could. I was decent at it. Nowhere near as good as my birth mother, Coryth, but still. Then came Matsu, and then Tephrike. But maybe there was a lesson there. "And his death is part of the cycle."
"But we can still save him. Get an ambulance and give him medical attention."
"It's part of natural cycle," I tell her calmly, but firmly. "He had a fight with another predator; he was not struck by a poacher. It's his time now. But I can soothe his pain."
"Let him die peacefully," the Ranger speaks in affirmation.

The Cylix grunts when my fingers touch his wounds. There is a glow around my hands. "You've struggled long and fought many battles. Now is your time to rest," I say softly. Death is not the end. We return to the Lifeweb, and are reincarnated. His soul will live on, in one form another. He grunts loudly. I stroke his fur. Slowly, he calms as my mind touches his.
For a moment I am elsewhere. I see him on the veldt, glorious and fierce. There is a coppery taste in my mouth when he ambushes his prey. I share in his battles for dominance, his defence of his mate from hunters, spawning of young and his final fight. I wince when I feel the sharp claws tear through his flesh, but I don't stop, silently humming a Dahomian lullaby. Then he is quiet.

"That was a good deed you did," the Ranger says. She looks at Purity. "It's harsh, girl, I know, but it's life. We protect the animals from outside threats, and make sure they have a space to live in and tourists don't mess things up. But we don't intervene in their lives."
"No one's ever truly gone," I get up. "How are things anyway? Have you guys got enough funding?"
Protector shrugs. "I'm not the one counting the profit margins, but Firemane's been pouring in money. And I've been told we recently got a large anonymous donation." I say nothing in response to that.
"What about poachers?" Reverence throws in.
"You just want a reason to go all G.I. Jaina on some idiot hunter, am I right? There was a group a couple weeks ago, but we dealt with them."
"Hope you made them walk in their own traps," I say.
"You're a vicious one, aren't you?" she gives me a look. "Right now most of our problems are idiot tourists racing in their exhaust spewing speeders and leaving their plastic lying around or walking into a Cylix' jaws. And pests." Her colleague carries a few dead rabbits. "You want some?"

The kills are fresh. Purity's aura shows naked horror at the sight. "Umm...I'd prefer it when it's cooked thanks and not with the fur."
"I think we can make a set of gloves out of this, ma'am, maybe get some good meat out of it," Reverence teases.
"Not funny," she grumbles, looking away.
"I'll take one," I say eagerly. "Been dying for some real meat."
"There's supermarkets, you know," Purity points out.
"Yeah, but I don't buy meat. I don't like the way the big farms treat their animals. It's cruel and disrespectful.
"So where do you get it then?"
"I hunt - sustainably. No Force powers, no tech beyond a reliable hunting rifle or a bow. When that's on an option, I go vegetarian."
"I used to hunt a lot," Reverence chimes in. "Now not so much. Hard to find game on the Arx, and people would look at my weird."
I snort. "People like meat, but they don't wanna think about where it's from or how gets on their plate. Anyway..." Then I feel a sharp pain in my skull and stagger. The others seem to be trying to reach me, but their words seem so distant they might as well be miles away. I hear blasterfire, screams and the hum of lightsabres clashing. I smell burnt flesh and taste blood on my tongue. I hear her cry out in pain.
"You ok, Elpsis? What happened?" Purity asks anxiously, standing above me.
"Give her some space, girl," Protector orders her, helping me up.
I must have been out for a couple seconds, but my legs feel wobbly. "I need to go. Siobhan...Mother's in trouble. Save the rabbit for later." The words leave my words as fast as bolts do a repeater.
"Let me come with you, ma'am." There is a fire inside Reverence. "I'll watch your back."
"No, call for backup. Let HQ there's trouble. A lot." Before she can make a response, I get into the speeder and take off at top speed. Little do I know that I'm going to be too late.