Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
One year before the Battle of Yavin (34:10:33) in the Malastare system: Warspite.
Major Kerrie Kiley, Vice Admiral Claudius Rodney, and Lady Htaere Ka`a Sha`ar.

Major Kiley emerged from the turbolift, making a final adjustment to the appearance of her uniform as she crossed the threshold into the Admiral's personal suite. She had been sent on special assignment to retrieve the Lady Htaere. This was the first assignment she had been given since her 'return' from exile, and even though it was tedious she nevertheless felt quite nervous. She cleared her throat, which was rather dry and walked towards Htaere's bedchambers, under the assumption she would be there she raised her right hand to the door and knocked audibly three times. "Lady Htaere?" she asked in a tone loud enough to be heard through the door.

"Enter" came audibly from beyond the sealed door. Htaere stood near a viewport, as she often did, staring out into the dark void of space. In her glorious flowing gown and intricate hair style, she never failed to be nothing short of glowing and radiant. She turned to face the entrance to her quarters, waiting for the voice she recognized to be paired in short order to Major Kiley's face.

Obediently, Kerrie turned the handle on the door between them and opened the door. A genuine smile formed upon her mimicked Human face as she stepped forward into Htaere's personal chambers. Since this was the first time she had been inside them, she looked around intently ... noting that they were a far cry from her room on Esseles. "Good evening, Milady," she said cheerfully as she stood at attention near the open door.

Her face warmed into a happy smile, pleased to see Kerrie back and resuming her usual responsibilities. "Hello" she beamed towards the major. "How are you feeling since your return?"

"As always, Milady," Kerrie began in a proud tone of voice, "I feel I am more than capable of performing my duties." The smile never left her face as she stepped towards her. "...and regarding those duties," she continued, "I have been sent to bring you to the Admiral."

Htaere nodded, moving towards Kerrie, fingers woven together in front of her. "That is good to hear. You look much better." she commented eagerly. "I am ready if you are" she added, waiting for Kerrie to take the lead.

"Thank you, Milady," Kerrie said nervously as she lowered her head to conceal the embarrassed glow on her face. Upon raising her head back up she nodded politely to her second comment, and proceeded across the living chamber of the room back towards the turbolift. She felt it was strange that the Admiral would dispatch her to 'summon' Htaere like this, but she was merely an obedient underling.

Htaere followed quietly, a pleasant enough smile fixed permanently on her face. In the turbolift, she turned to gaze at Kerrie. "Should I have dressed better? Is this a formal engagement?"

"I have been provided with no details, Milady," Kerrie explained truthfully as she activated the controls for the turbolift. It began to descend towards the lift towards one of the ubiquitous cargo bays.

Htaere's smile thinned a bit, if only to appear momentarily confused before she accepted Kerrie's answer and resumed her jovial outlook. Her eyes dropped to her own clothing to evaluate if they were sufficient. Deciding it might be acceptable, she let it go, eyes lifting back to the meter over the door to watch the lift's progress.

The door to the turbolift opened, revealing an expansive cargo bay seemingly devoid of any unique features. It was a strange setting for a Lady to be in, but nevertheless it was the correct destination. Claudius Rodney, wearing rather athletic-looking attire consisting of a t-shirt, athletic shorts, and running shoes. It was quite out of place. Unknown to Htaere or his family whenever he felt nervous he would run around this cargo bay to clear his mind and maintain his health. He smiled as he saw Htaere and Kerrie as the lift he arrived. It was not a happy smile, it was clear that he was up to something. He was a terrible liar and even worse at deceiving people. A large curtain divided the room. It was dark and no shadows could be made out behind it. "Htaere!" he exclaimed loudly as he saw her, "Please. Come in."

Htaere threw a sideways glance at the major before striding forward towards him in the cargo bay, attention drifting every few steps to gaze around the setting for such an unusual request. It actually made her wary. "Claudius, is everything ok?" she looked a bit concerned, her own smile waning a bit.

As Htaere exited the lift, Kerrie grinned widely. She could tell that the Admiral was in rare form and he had something planned. Deciding not to spoil the moment, she allowed the lift doors to close in front of her, planning to return to duty.

"Everything is perfect, my love," Claudius said happily as she approached. With anticipation, he rubbed his hands together twice. He looked at her in a few moments of silence, smilingly proudly. "I love you," he said, a bit dumbstruck as his mind drifted.

Htaere smiled in response, though faint traces of apprehension were present across her features. "And I you" she answered, pulling her attention from the bay to his attire. "If I am interrupting, I shall wait" she remarked.

"No," Claudius said interrupting her quickly. "I realize the wedding is still more than a week away," he continued, his voice starting to tremble, "but I would like to give you my present now. I can no longer hold this surprise in." He smiled nervously and looked to the curtain, waiting for her response before continuing.

Htaere's soft grey eyes blinked in confusion, her mouth opening slightly. For the first time, the occasion offered her a clarity of insight regarding her marriage that had been previously unknown to her. She almost paled a bit, but retained her composure. "Oh...well if you are sure..."

Claudius lifted up the curtain to allow them to walk beneath it. The other side of the cargo bay was no different with one exception ... there was a majestic Guarlara pacing the floors in repetitive circles. The horse-like creature was native to the planet Naboo. It sported a well-kept mane and two white horns protruding from its head. Its coat was black in color and well kept. It had taken quite some effort on the part of the Admiral and his staff to export one from Naboo, in fact he had to go through the local Moff to arrange it. This particular creature came directly from the Queen's personal stables. It was already sattled and well-equipped for riding, for which it had been trained. He stopped moving to allow her to continue, nervously waiting for a reaction.

Htaere stared at the creature in complete perplecxion. For a long time, she didn't move, simply staring at the large animal with mouth open and expression fixated in stunned stupor. Finally, she seemed to come to...her face taking on a confused look. "It lives...on this ship as well?" she asked...simply dumbfounded and trying desperately to figure out how the creature was sustained aboard the Empire's war ship.

"Until last week this creature lived on the planet Naboo," Claudius explained as he walked towards her and placed his hand on the small of her back gently. "I had it brought here for you," he explained as he looked at the majestic beast, "I thought it would provide you with some animal companionship. Since you have never been a fan of my Worrt, I thought this was more suited to you. It is fully trained and I have hired the appropriate staff, but I believe in time you will choose to perform such tasks  yourself." He paused before concluding, "That is 'if' you accept the gift." He swallowed nervously, waiting for a reply.

For the first time since she had laid eyes on the beast, Htaere's head turned to gaze up at Claudius. "Oh spoil me far too much" she said a smile emerging. "I have never seen such a thing before. It is very beautiful" she remarked, eyes drifting up and down the length of the animal to take in it's strangeness. "What is it? Is it friendly?"

"It is called a Guarlara," Claudius answered, going over the name slowly to pronounce it clearly. He laughed lightly at the second part of the question, "Someone as beautiful as you deserves to be surrounded by beauty. And as for safety ... this animal has been trained since birth by the finest keepers on Naboo. You do not have to concern yourself. This animal was not simply plucked from the wild and dropped here for our 'amusement.' Since the moment its hooves first touched the ground this is the only life it has known." He leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss upon her forehead. "If it didn't bite as bitter a person as Lieutenant Ames," he concluded, "It most certainly won't have a problem with such a lovely person as yourself."

Htaere resorted back to the utter awestruck and statuesque by the magnificent animal. "I...I do not know what to say. I have never had a pet before" she admitted. "Is it a male or female? What is it's name?" she turned her focus back to Claudius momentarily before looking back and the exotic equine. Nervously, she inched towards it, extending a shaky hand towards the elongated face and lengthy forlock that hung nearly beyond the tip of its nose.

"It 'was' a male ," Claudius pronounced, as he lowered himself lightly to look beneath the guarlara to confirm the report he had been given. "As for a name," he said with a slight chuckle, "I'm afraid that's the first obstacle you're going to have to overcome. Choose wisely. I remember when I named my Worrt, I did not think it through and he has been stuck with the name 'Crassus' for years now."

Htaere's hand snatched away from the creature a few times nervously before she finally worked up the courage to pet it's long flaxen hair, and ultimately the sloping forehead and nose beneath it. "It is amazing" she said, more to herself. She flashed a strange grin back towards Claudius. "Oh have simply outdone yourself" she grinned, sidling back towards him and slipping her arms around him, careless of whatever personal perspiration had soaked parts of his shirt. "Will you teach me to ride it?" she asked enthusiastically.

"It is very easy, my love," Claudius said as he too reached out a hand, less nervous, to stroke the beast. "I was very careful in making the selection," he continued to explain, "It is very docile and has had experience as a mount for dainty nobles such as ourselves." He squeezed his hand upon the small of the back, emphasizing his joke.

Htaere's gaze returned to the animal, evaluating it for a second before looking seriously back to Claudius. "I do not own any riding clothes...what does one ride in?"

Claudius tilted his head slightly, a confused look appearing upon his face as he pondered the question. "I am familiar with many things, my dear," he began with a coy smile, "but I am afraid the world of women's fashion is not one of them." He chucked lightly before concluding his thoughts, "Something comfortable I assume. A shopping trip can be arranged prior to our trip home."

To that, she nodded, turning to admire the Guarlara again. She shook her head. "I still cannot believe you brought it *here*" she pondered aloud. "Is there no place locally where we can establish residence planet-side?"

"I needed to find a present as grand as my love for you," Claudius explained proudly as he pulled her closer to him. He surveyed the beast, quite pleased with himself. "As for the second question," he continued, "I'm afraid there is no port nearby where such a thing would be possible." He lowered his head in contemplation before concluding, "We will bring him with us to Alderaan. Many places to ride there."

Htaere made a mental note to spend much time this evening scanning the web for various items for the creature, eager to fawn over it incessantly. She flashed a small smile to her intended husband, stretching up on her toes to plant a soft peck on his cheek. "I do so love it, Claudius. I thank you for such a wonderful gift" she commented, a rather giddy hue to her tone.

"I love you too, Htaere," Claudius said happily as he turned her around to face him. He lowered his head slightly to look her directly in the eyes. He smiled, moving his head forward and resting his nose against hers for a tender moment. His eyes then closed, his head tilted ever so slightly to the right and he placed a soft, gentle kiss upon her supple lips.

Htaere was all too eager to reciprocate, elegant hands reaching up to cradle his face tenderly while she savored the display, heedless of the potential notion that most militaries frowned upon 'PDA'.

Something about the evening made Claudius feel a bit young and daring. Perhaps without even thinking he slid his tongue through his lips and pressed them softly against hers. Teasingly, he licked her top lip before pushing it forward between her teeth. Slowly, he began to move the bottom of his tongue back and forth against the top of hers. He had not done anything like this in more than decade. He probably did not even know he was doing it.

If the brazen move surprised her, it didn't last long. She let him take the more direct approach, enjoying a taste of him she had not previously experienced. She drew him further into her own mouth, exerting a firm but gentle suction on him before releasing him, holding his lower lip a moment longer in a subtle nibble before withdrawing slightly, the gesture evolving into a more conservative nuzzle, lest he become upset.

Claudius maintained his embrace of her, but slowly moved his face away from hers as the kiss broke. As his eyes opened a surprised look appeared upon his face. He had realized what he had done, but did not feel it was appropriate. "I am sorry," he said quietly as his cheeks reddened with embarrassment.

"I am not" she whispered in response. While their exchange had yielded, her embrace did not. Her eyes closed and she rested her head against his chest, willing to hold on until he pushed her away.

"This is going to be the longest week of my life," Claudius said quietly to Htaere as he held her close against him. He turned his eyes to look at the Guarlara for a moment, pleased it was the only witness to his romantic outburst.

To that, Htaere's eyes opened. She lifted her head off of him and gazed up towards his face, a grave look manifesting itself across flawless features. "I am...nervous" she admitted quietly.

"You have nothing to be nervous about, my dear," Claudius said quietly, moving his face towards her to place a reassuring kiss upon the tip of her nose. "It will be a wonderful day," he said as he moved his face away again, "Everything will go smoothly. I can assure you."

"That is not what I meant" she replied, her eyes remaining on him intently. "I am nervous about getting married" she confessed rather shyly.

"Oh," Claudius said quietly as he looked at her more intently. "Well," he continued, trying to explain, "It's normal to be nervous. It's a big step for anyone to take. Is there anything that worries you in particular?"

She reflected on it for a moment before shrugging slightly. "I suppose not...just...the process, the ceremony..." she hesitated a moment. "I will be glad when it is behind us" she added.

Claudius' smile widened as he chuckled slightly. "Do not worry about the ceremony," he said to her reassuringly, "That is more for our parents than for us. On that day with all that will be going on all that matters to me is you." He sighed softly before moving his face towards her to place another soft kiss upon her lips.

She smiled, but it was only brief. She looked pensive again, pursing her lips before pursuing an even more serious topic. "Claudius...I must ask...only to be certain.." She took a deep breath and continued. "It is not too late, should you decide this is not what you want. Given the circumstance of our meeting, there *was* a bit of pressure from both sides." Her eyes were glassy, but she looked sincere. "I shall not be offended if you entirely sure you are ready for another commitment. I..." she debated how to word it before pursuing the statement to its end. "...I in no way wish to infringe or replace your wife, and the mother of your children. I do not wish for any parties to feel as such, and I understand if this is something you are apprehensive about, and think twice of."

Claudius took a moment to consider what she had said. Although he knew that he wanted to marry Htaere, he thought it would be rude to just blurt out an answer to such a serious question without considering it. "I love you, Htaere," Claudius began in a soft, gentle voice, "There is no one I would rather spend this next part of my life with. Julia will always be a part of my life, but the last thing she wanted when she passed away was for my life to end too." He paused, exhaling deeply. "I know this was an arranged marriage," he continued nervously, "and that neither of us knew what to expect of the other, but I have come to care for you very deeply. I love you, Htaere. I want to marry you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. There is no doubt in my mind." He smiled and nodded his head silently as he concluded.

She nodded, accepting the answer passively, willing to let it go from here on out now that she had offered a chance for things to be dissolved. Words escaping her, she let the moment be, the near silence lifting the mood.

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