A/N: Hello, Star Wars, I have missed you.
Based on the Clone Wars episode of nearly the same name.
Ventress's life was a series of masters leaving her.
The Nightsisters poured green fog around her, its cold seeping into her skin. For memory, they used to say when she sat around the campfire in her mother's wrappings, watching the elder sisters dance. Their fire, and her mother's skin where Asajj pressed pale lips against her collarbone in her shyness, smelled of bark and sap. She could barely remember those days, but the words of the song came back and back. Fog for memory, mists for memory, unguents for memory. We use the land. We dig its secrets. The sisters danced for the secrets of the forest and the Force, and Asajj had, for her entire life, been watching them. This green water-that-was-not-water was not alien to her. She had never seen it before, not in the clearest memories of her childhood. But she knew, perhaps by smell, that it came from the sap of the same tree used for the fires, and was related to the tree used to camouflage skin for speed and silence.
("Nothing there but fog and witches," the vulture said when he dragged her ship in. He had not known how right he had been to speak of those two powers together.)
She lay flat on the hard dais, her knees pulling and feet scraping as if to run, and she remembered.
Dooku's memory was only the most painful because it was new. It took all the others and rolled them up in a cage of words, an ever-spiraling staircase-
Asajj had laid in the cockpit almost surrounding the foot-high purple hologram of Dooku, held up by the safety straps and almost falling onto it. He said "I am withdrawing your reinforcements," and because gravity was turned all upside-down she had to keep embracing his image.
Darkness sank like a stone toward her core, and she heard Ky Narec's voice in her head.
"The Jedi can't get to us, Asajj. Reinforcements are on their way but we're, we're too far out—"
He was too much of a Jedi to say "I'm sorry."
She could feel the desperation in him, and in a way that made it worse. He knew that somewhere far up in the stars, someone was deciding to leave them alone with their war.
She hated the warlords whose lives she painted on her skin—simply one, featureless stroke for each, identical black lines. She would give them no characteristics, no way to differentiate one from another. They were a sloppy painting of evil, one shape indistinguishable from the next.
And she hated Ky, for not making the Jedi help her. She hated him for dying. She hated him, in the worst times, for letting her call him by his name.
Her first master had no other name. If he did for her, once, she had long since forgotten it. His wrinkled brow, like a crown of skin that had not grown right, had frightened her, but he had familiar tattoos, with more branches than Mother Talzin's. If he was marked it meant he was sentient, not part of the trees or the ground that just grew as they would, without direction. Monsters had faces like trees, unmarked.
But her first master had marks, and so she went with him as tribute, that word that hissed out on Talzin's tongue and made her mother's face go hard every time she heard it.
She carried water for him and painted the walls of his home and did his dishes, and the other warlords had their battles outside their house, until Ky Narec found her
And then she went out, or the war went in. She was not sure which.
She had never quite grown used to calling people by their names, but they worked their way up to "Ky". She was not "girl". She was "Asajj." He was "Ky."
And then, when she first called Dooku "Master", the word felt like an old jacket that fit again.
The ritual was almost finished. The fog dissipated, fading into the ground to feed the trees from whence its pungencies came. Asajj felt her legs relax and slump against the stone. Its grainy surface was no longer cold. She breathed out and in, exhaling her memories.
Her history of masters was why she hated Obi-Wan Kenobi. He did not know what was to have to serve without choice.
This, too was why she was fascinated by him. He exuded freedom. He was, before she ever lost Ky, released from having to call anyone "master".
But she could do the same, now. She felt it in the mists. She could defy Dooku, and release him from his role as her mentor, her guiding light, her spirit in the forest.
She could say his name.
She sat up, and for a moment her jaw fought her. The words balked behind her teeth. The rest of the sentence was right there, easy to say. Betrayal was easy. His name was not.
But she fought it and worked at it with her tongue, and so she said the first words of her baptism back into sisterhood.
"Dooku has betrayed me."