By the time Miriné made it to the Jedi temple, most of the damage had already been done. Carbon scoring from blasters and lightsabers alike dotted and slashed the walls, and the once beautiful polished stone floors were littered with rubble and corpses. The acrid smell of smoke and burnt organic material hung oppressively in the air, thick enough to make even the strongest of stomachs turn. But what frightened Miriné most was the silence and the emptiness in the Force. On a planet as busy as Coruscant, no place should have been as devoid of life as this.
Miriné was no stranger to death. The smell was familiar- it had offended her nostrils during the invasion of Naboo and had never truly left her. The sight of the dead did not disturb her either, for she had killed and seen others kill many times before. What horrified her, however, was the scale of death. Hundreds, perhaps thousands had been slaughtered, and far too many of them had only been children. There was no honor in killing younglings, there was no excuse to kill them, they had simply been murdered where they stood, unable to fight back. It reminded her far too much of what had happened on Naboo when she herself was a child. And she had let it happen. This had been his plan all along, and she had been too much of a fool to realize it.
She reached out into the Force and felt the faint presence of her friend and apprentice. Maija was still alive. Though she had never stepped foot into the temple, she let her instincts guide her to the upper floors of the dormitories. The hallways here were narrow and dark, with the dim light of the emergency lights blotted out by the lingering smoke, but she continued on until finally, she arrived at a door. It was wholly unremarkable, identical to the dozens she had already passed, but she could feel Maija on the other side.
Miriné drew one of her violet-bladed sabers and sliced through the door's locking mechanism, letting out a sigh of relief as it opened to reveal Maija hiding under a bed with a pair of small human younglings huddled against her.
"Thank the Force you're alive, Maija!" Miriné said in a hushed voice as she dropped to her knees. She held out her hand, motioning for her to come from her hiding place. "Come quickly, we have to-"
"We are not going anywhere with you," Maija interrupted sharply. "You did this." Miriné's jaw dropped in disbelief at her old friend's words.
"Me? Maija, I am your friend!"
"The Sith did this!" the Mirialan shot back, her eyes beginning to fill with both rage and tears. "I was wrong to have ever believed anything good could have come from the Dark Side! Now leave, you'll draw their attention here!"
"I didn't do this! It's Skywalker, I swear-"
"You turned him against us! Every single drop of blood spilled in this temple is on your hands!"
"Maija, don't do this. I don't want your blood on my hands. Come with me. I can save you, I-"
The sound of a lightsaber igniting behind her interrupted her, and the chill in the Force that ran through her body confirmed who it was before she even saw the brilliant blue blade he wielded.
"Vader," she greeted him as she rose to her feet once more. "Are you done massacring innocents yet?"
"The Jedi are not innocent," the fallen Jedi's voice boomed. "They must perish. And if you protect them, you will perish too." She turned to face him, taking a moment to gaze into his now garishly yellow eyes to see if she could find even a hint of the Anakin Skywalker she once knew. But he had been consumed by his anger and hate in a way that she never had, in a way that would make him powerful but unpredictable and thus incredibly dangerous. He had finally become the weapon she and her master had worked so hard to forge, and now it was a threat to her own life.
"We shall see about that," she hissed as her twin blades ignited. "You have taken enough lives this day. I will not let you have my apprentice's as well."
"So be it."
Her blades met his in a flurry of sparks and hisses. Vader, beyond being powerful in the Force, was strong and experienced, and she knew better than to underestimate him, but the power of the Force filled her, stronger than ever as her mind focused on one thing only: protecting Maija and the younglings. There was unbridled fury in every movement of her blade and every little step. She could not lose this duel, no matter what it would cost her.
"Run, Maija!" she barked as her blades locked with Vader's. "I'll hold him off! Get out of here!"
Maija was no fool. She darted out from under the bed, swept the smaller youngling into her arms while holding the hand of the other, and bolted out the door, knowing she stood no chance in combat against the man she knew as Anakin Skywalker.
But to Miriné's horror, the corridor outside echoed with the sound of shouting. Blasterfire filled the air, but just as suddenly as it started, it stopped with the sound of a body thudding to the ground.
"NO!" she cried, feeling her heart drop as she felt Maija's spirit fade away into the Force.
The brief moment of distraction was all that Vader needed to defeat her. He drove his saber into her chest, leaving her behind as the world faded into black.