"Thank you for
coming with me, El-Nay." Sierra Rodney said from
within the Kom'rk class starfighter. "There's a
probability that this little meeting will get ugly."
The arrival of the invitation to Callista's sixth
birthday party at Castle Rodney had flipped a switch
inside of Major Rodney. Perhaps driven by her
hormones, she decided to use a trump card that she'd
been waiting to use for a better time. She abruptly
scheduled a meeting with Governor Arundel, gathered
her ammunition, and headed to Delaya with El-Nay.
She wanted to give her another chance to prove
herself...not just to Claudius, but to Sierra
herself. "Go ahead and land at the garrison. The
less time we're there, the better." She glanced down
at the datapad on her lap. She wanted Claudius to
have his freedom on his home planet again. It wasn't
fair that they needed to beg Papius for his
permission every time they wanted to visit the
planet together. With a groan, Sierra adjusted her
tunic. She hoped Governor Arundel didn't get too
much enjoyment out of the fact that her tunics were
getting tighter again. Upon seeing the ugly
garrison, Sierra let out a sigh. "If I thought we
could get away with it, I'd just have him killed."
"It is an
honor, milady," the Mandalorian El-Nay Darr said
from beneath her helmet, which concealed a broad
smile. Since being banished from the personal
service of Lady Sierra Rodney, she had toiled in
anonymity within the Void. She never expected to be
given another chance, so when it came she was nearly
bowled over. She wanted to prove herself. She wanted
to make up for what happened, but she felt anxious
and it was likely to lead to a mistake. "The, uh,
garrison, milady?" she asked, as she arched an
eyebrow, before rerouting the ship towards the
imposing garrison near the still rebuilding city of
Leiliani. "I said I'd kill him," she whined, unaware
of the difficulty in the killing of an Imperial
governor. Gradually she brought the ship into a
gentle landing at the designated landing platform.
As the thrusters fired and the ship touched down,
she turned to look at Sierra. "I have a bad feeling
about this..." she warned, as she unstrapped herself
from her seat.
"I'd love for
you to kill him. There are many problems with
actually carrying it out. His Majesty seems to enjoy
the fighting within the ranks, however, I worry what
will replace him. It would be better to teach Papius
not to mess with me." If Papius Arundel was killed,
there was a good chance a member of the Rodney
family would be blamed. Be it Claudius, herself,
Marcus, or even Zara. Everyone had their motivations
for getting rid of him. She felt discomfort growing
inside of her as they arrived. Governor Arundel's
garrison was a cold, unwelcoming place. "I do too.
Stay close." Sierra rose from her seat. As she
adjusted her tunic, one might see that she was
wearing a small blaster pistol at her hip. Safety
was everything when it came to dining with the
enemy. She wouldn't let Papius stop her from being
reunited with her family.
straightened up, tucked her datapad beneath her arm,
and headed out onto the landing platform where she
was immediately greeted by a group of Stormtroopers.
"I have a meeting with Governor Arundel. Please take
me to him." Though she had only visited the garrison
a handful of times, she had it memorized. It was an
uncomfortable place for her. The sick man who
awaited her at the top of the garrison loved messing
with her. Standing in the turbolift, Sierra glanced
at El-Nay. It was important that they were not
separated for this meeting. The awkward silence that
formed between all of them was broken once the
turbolift's doors opened. The Stormtrooper
approached a comm into Governor Arundel's office. He
pressed a button. "Sir, Major Rodney is here to see
you." He announced.
Papius was so
excited to learn of the impending arrival of of
Sierra Rodney that he nearly spilled the Sierra's
Scandal Squib Sinsation ice cream all over his
tunic. He had to envy the King of Skor II, despite
the fact that he was an alien, for how physically
close he had gotten to the woman of his dreams. "Uh.
Send her in," he stammered, with a mouth full of ice
cream that dribbled down his chin. He began chewing
quickly and swallowed even faster, but did not
conceal the bowl, as he wanted her to know what it
was he was eating. He moved his hand over his face
to get into character and then, as if someone
flipped a switch, a smug little grin crept onto his
face. He was ready.
want to see him. He had made quite the impression
when he stripped her bare and loomed over her like a
predator. Part of him was irrationally scared of
him, while the other felt that she could put him in
his place. The durasteel doors before her opened.
She stepped through them with El-Nay. "Here we go,"
she whispered to the Mandalorian under her breath.
Like Papius, she put on a metaphorical mask of her
own as she began to get into character. "Governor
Arundel, it's been awhile." Her eyes briefly gazed
over the ice cream in his hands. Of course...
Sierra's Scandal Squib Sinsation. She recalled
burning those trousers as she tried to erase the
memory of the King of Skor II. Sierra didn't wait
for his suggestion to sit. Instead, she perched
herself in front of his desk. "Leiliani is looking
better than the last time I visited. How long before
you destroy it again?" Her blue eyes went cold.
Arundel did not stand when Sierra entered, possibly
because her presence made it difficult for him to
stand. "My dear Lady Rodney, it is always a pleasure
to see you," he said, with a smirk, as he dipped his
spoon into the bowl of ice cream and slowly savored
a bite. "Would you like some?" he asked her, as he
allowed the spoon to loudly fall back into the bowl.
"You've been traveling quite a bit lately. Skor II,
Pavo Prime, Delaya ... Skor II..." he repeated, with
a wink, as he motioned for them to come forward. "I
see you brought the orange menace. Don't feel safe?"
he asked her, with a soft chuckle, followed by
another sampling of the ice cream. "Destroy it? I
saved it from the Rebels, also known as your
deceased in-laws," he said, with incredible smugness
as he looked towards them.
"No thank you.
I'm more of a pudding pop girl." She would not be
eating pudding pops in front of him any time soon.
The very last thing she needed was to put certain
images inside of his head. She saw that he was
trying to get a rise out of her by mentioning Skor
II. While it was a sore spot, it was never going to
happen again. "Ah, yes. Perks of being married to
Governor Rodney, hm? We actually get to leave our
command ship. Speaking of Pavo Prime, did you see
our Auntie Mae special? It was actually done
tastefully. Bravo, Mae." Sierra crossed her arms
over her chest. "No offense, Papius, but you aren't
exactly a warm guy to be around. Perhaps I should
bring some of my husband's Troopers next time in
addition to my Mandalorian friend?" She looked at
El-Nay. She hoped beyond hoped that one day she'd
see El-Nay shove a rocket up Papius' ass.
you mention the Rebels." Sierra slid the datapad out
from underneath her arm. She clicked through a few
screens, then turned the datapad to show him footage
of him with a redhead who wore the Rebel uniform. "I
wonder how Grand Moff Praji would feel if he knew
what a traitor you really are." Sierra pressed a
button on the datapad to allow the footage to play.
She had footage from within *his* garrison, as well
as other secret rendezvous. She had arranged it in
such a way where *he* looked like a Rebel spy. "Tsk
tsk, Governor Arundel. By how intimate you are with
this woman, it really looks like you love the Rebel.
I wonder how long this has been going on. I thought
I might take it to Grand Moff Praji myself. I'm sure
exposing you would be enough to raise my rank
again... and make you amount to nothing in the
Empire." Sierra knew the truth. In her efforts to
keep a watchful eye on Arundel, she had altered some
of the mouse droids running around his garrison. She
wasn't going to tell him about that.
"No. I must
have missed it," Governor Arundel replied, but in
truth not only had he watched the live stream, but
he also had watched the recording several times. "If
you feel you must, although that would leave less
troopers to protect your husband and children on
Esseles which, as you know, is a war zone," he
reminded her, devilishly, as he again smirked at
her. He did not expect Sierra to have such footage,
but when it was revealed his cheeks flushed red with
a mixture of embarrassment and anger, and his heart
began to race to furiously pump blood through his
system. "I'll have you know that woman is not, in
fact, a Rebel, but an agent in my employ who has
provided the Empire with invaluable intelligence,"
he explained to her, as he reached forward in an
attempt to snatch away the datapad.
She saw she
had struck a nerve for once. Usually, it was Papius
driving her insane. Ultimately, Sierra was getting
tired of being pushed around. She would use her
abilities as an ISB officer to get what she wanted.
The woman sat back in her seat. It didn't matter if
he actually succeeded in getting her datapad away
from her, Sierra had backed up her information.
"‘Invaluable intelligence'? Is that what you're
calling it now? I wonder if your word will weigh
more than the footage. I mean, it looks to me like
you captured a Rebel and purposely shot Imperial
cameras so no one could see what happened next...
You're being so secretive with her. The evidence
will back up my claim. You are a traitor." She
repeated the words as she rested her datapad in her
lap. "You can destroy this datapad, but the evidence
still exists. Are you willing to play with your
career like that?"
Arundel curled his right hand into a fist and
slammed it down on his desk so hard that it upended
his bowl of ice cream. "Damn," he cursed her, before
rotating his chair around so that the back was
facing her and he was looking out the viewport. He
folded his hands in his lap and sat there silently,
with no reply, which drew in for several long,
awkward moments. "Alright. What is it you want?" he
asked her, finally, in a deflated voice, and without
turning his chair back around. In the game the two
had been playing for many months she had just landed
a major, perhaps even decisive, blow.
shoulders tensed as his fist collided with his desk.
The ice cream created a pool of sticky mess on his
desk. It began to drip off the edge down to the
floor. She had finally done it: she had finally
taken home a win in the war waged between her and
Papius. The battle was complete, but the war would
continue to rage on. A silence grew between them.
Sierra's eyes diverted towards El-Nay to show the
Mandalorian that she was fine. As much as she wanted
El-Nay to attack, it would have to wait. It was time
to draw up the peace treaty. Major Rodney crossed
one leg over the other. "I want you to go to Praji
and tell him that there is peace between you and my
husband. Claudius will be allowed to come and go
from Delaya as he pleases. This is his home
planet...this is *our* home planet. We shouldn't
have to ask anyone's permission to come here. In
return, I will ensure that this evidence never sees
the light of day."
Arundel clenched his jaw so tightly it was a
surprise that teeth did not come flying out of his
mouth. She had asked for the one thing he did not
want to give, which was in actuality the only thing
of value he had to offer her. He stood from his desk
and moved towards the viewport, once again curling
his gloved hand into a fist. Unexpectedly he slammed
it forward, shattering the glass and causing
considerable damage to his hand in the process.
"Fine!" he shouted, his back still turned towards
her. His head hung low, and a small pool of blood
was forming at the floor, as it dripped from his
mangled hand. "Leave," he said, in an angry, yet
subdued voice, as he was not one who tolerated
others seeing him like this.
Sierra was acting like an ISB officer and getting
results. She had wanted to destroy Papius for a long
time. The young woman took pleasure in seeing him
furious and flustered. That confidence Claudius had
instilled inside of her would have taken her up to
Grand Moff Praji. Sierra was more than capable of
making everything look very convincing. She watched
him punch the viewport. Glass shattered everywhere.
His hand looked bloody and disfigured, but she
didn't care. She immediately rose to her feet. "Send
me a copy of the communication when it's complete. I
expect it to happen in a timely manner, Governor."
She left Papius behind. The celebratory feelings
didn't settle in until they were back inside of
El-Nay's ship. "Shit, that actually worked." She
laughed nervously. "Are you ready to go to
Callista's party? You got an invite too." She
informed El-Nay, reaching into a small messenger bag
she'd brought along. She picked up a card Callista
had made of her and El-Nay hugging. She handed it to
the Mandalorian. "I want you to stay near. I've just
pissed off a boar. He might do something."
remained silent the entire time in the Governor's
office out of fear she would say something
inappropriate and fall out of Sierra's favor again.
Once inside the ship, she moved her hands to the
sides of her helmet and lifted it off her head
carefully, revealing the young woman that lay
beneath. She ran a gloved hand through the short
artificially blonde hairs that sat upon her head.
"You were really something in there, milady," she
said, with a genuine smile and look of awe. She
reached out to take the invitation from her, looking
it over, and laughing softly. "Of course I'll go,"
she said, before heeding Sierra's warning about the
Governor. "I won't leave your side, milady," she
pledged, before bowing her head in obedience. The
debt she had with Sierra had not been broken when
she had been dismissed.
and laughed softly. "Thank you. I've been waiting to
drop that bomb on him. I'm so sick and tired of him
pushing Claudius and I around." She had no intent of
deleting the footage she had either. If Papius tried
something, then she would see that he was disposed
of for good. She could never humiliate him like he
had done to her, however, she could take away his
pride and joy: his career.
done well in the garrison. It was helpful to Sierra
just to have her there. It was the same way with the
party. With Iyah and Mug present, they all needed to
be careful. She sat back and relaxed on the short
trip from the garrison to the castle. She saw the
repaired Kwai on one of the landing pads already.
Her smile grew. She couldn't wait to tell Claudius
the good news. As the ship landed, Sierra quickly
rose. "I'll see you inside." She patted El-Nay's
shoulder before quickly taking off into the castle.
of the castle had been changed for the party. There
were pink streamers hanging from everywhere.
Matching pink and purple balloons floated around on
the ground. The theme was princess tea party and it
appeared that Zara had gone as full out as possible
(just wait until they saw the dining room). Sierra
navigated towards the wing of the castle that her
family repeatedly occupied when they visited. There
was a jump in her step. She had done it, she had
landed a blow on the evil Governor Arundel.
At about the
same time the Mandalorian starfighter was landing at
Rodney Castle, the newly repaired Lambda-class
shuttle Kwai descended right beside it. On board
were Grand Moff Claudius Rodney and family, which
was quite the ordeal for the old man without his
beloved Sierra. Ewwiekewwieikkie and Melickielickie
should have *never* been told they were going to a
party, because they had been dancing nonstop. He was
impatiently waiting by the ramp and, before it even
finished lowered, he marched down the ramp ...
desperate to find his wife. Not only was he feeling
overwhelmed by having the girls all to himself, he
was also troubled by her detour to the garrison. He
had spent so little time in the castle the last
several months he had trouble remembering where he
was going, but eventually he found her. "Sierra!" he
said, sounding as if he had not seen her in ages. He
moved towards her, reaching out and taking hold of
her by each arm. His face moved down swiftly,
placing a loving kiss upon her sweet lips.
It had been
stupid, on her part, to go to the garrison. Sierra
had did what she could to reassure her husband that
she held a smoking blaster and that Papius wouldn't
try anything if he knew what was good for him.
Thankfully, she was correct. She was so happy to see
Claudius. Her heart suddenly took off inside of her
chest. "Claudius!" An instant later, she was in his
arms and kissing him. She could only imagine what
chaos he'd had to deal with on the way to Delaya.
When the kiss broke, she happily delivered the good
news. "I'm sorry I left you with all the girls. I
think I can make it up to you, however. Firstly, by
not abandoning you with so much estrogen.... And
secondly, by revealing to you that Governor Arundel
no longer has any say about when you come to Delaya.
You can visit as much as you like." She smiled at
alright. I don't mind them at all. I am just glad to
see you well," Claudius said, as he smiled down at
her affectionately. "What?!" he asked, when he heard
his travel restrictions had been lifted. He reached
down, grabbed her by her hips, and lifted her in the
air before spinning her around in an excited manner,
which was a considerable effort since she was
carrying twins. "How on earth did you manage that?"
he asked her, as he let her back down onto the
floor. He felt something in the small of his back,
but he was not about to mention that until they were
alone ... *later*.
whisked her off her feet. Sierra laughed. It had
been worth it to push Papius around to make her
husband so happy. Her hands remained on him to
steady herself once she was back on her feet. "Oh,
you know, by being an evil ISB officer." She
explained to him, wiggling her eyebrows. "I've been
keeping tabs on him. He's using a Rebel informative,
however, he didn't keep the relationship
professional. By rearranging the story, it can
appear as if Papius is the traitor. I threatened to
go to Praji with the information." She beamed at
Claudius. As they stood together, Sierra began to
hear a frantic meowing. She turned, spotting their
luggage which had been placed near the door to their
private quarters. "Oh no..." She released her
husband and darted towards the suitcase. Gently
resting it on its side, Sierra unzipped the center
and out came... Nea! The scared felinx bolted
towards Claudius. Everything inside of the suitcase
was covered in black and white fur. "H-How..? He
wasn't there when I closed everything up earlier..."
"Ah hah! I
knew it!" Claudius fired back in response to her
claim that she was an 'evil' ISB agent. "Oh that is
very devious. I approve, and I *am* impressed," he
said, as he smiled down at her, seeing something new
for the first time. "What?! How did he get in
*there*?!" he asked to know, as he suddenly felt the
felinx moving between his legs, rubbing back and
forth against them in repeatedly. "The thing's a
menace," he said, before reaching down to pick it
up, which was made more difficult by wrenching his
back. Once in his arms he held Nea, almost in the
same manner, he held Bruce, and the purrfest began.
the garden, a petting zoo had been set up. There was
an assortment of animals: miniature banathas,
choreamnos, tauntaun, akk dogs, and more. As per the
norm, where there are animals, there is Ewwiekewwie,
Melickielickie, Bruce, and the birthday girl
herself: Callista. Callista was so happy. This was
the bestest birthday she'd ever had. Her Auntie Zara
had seen to finding her the most pink, foofy
princess dress. Her crown, as always, was firmly on
her head. It seemed she had taken influence from
Drusilla, because her crown wasn't her only
accessory. She had thick bracelets on each wrist and
even fake, plastic rings on her fingers. On top of
that, there was already bits of blue fur on her
dress as well as other animal fur. She was currently
cuddling a baby tauntuan in her lap. "Imma keep
you!" She squeaked, wrapping her arms around the
animal who was desperately trying to get away from
her ... and reach Bruce.
was pretending to be a choreamnos. She was hanging
by her feet off of a branch with the lazy creatures
right next to her. "Woooooo. Dizzzyyyy." She
hazardously fell from the tree onto the ground. "Oooohhh."
She stared up at the sky. It was moving around and
around. Melickielickie clutched her stomach.
"Sissy.. Make it stop movinggg."
Rodney was watching the girls closely. It had been a
lot of fun for her to plan Callista's party. She
couldn't wait until the twins were old enough to
enjoy the same kind of over the top parties...and
Fiona too. So far, everything was running smoothly.
The cake had arrived (and was hidden). Decorations
were all in order. None of the animals had bit
anyone ... though, they were oddly attracted to
Bruce. "Melickie, are you okay?" She called out when
she saw the Squib fall.
Ewwiekewwieikkie was standing in the garden wearing
a pink party dress with a birthday hat on top of her
head, which was attached by a string to keep from
falling off. She was holding her adoptive baby
brother, Bruce, but instead of holding him tight to
her body, she was holding him out in front of her
and pointing him at the animals she wanted to come
to her. "Yay. Is working," she declared, as she soon
found herself surrounded by animals. "He an animal
magnet," she told Auntie Zara, before looking down
at the animals giggling excitedly. She needed to
take him to the zoo she decided right then and
As his wife
had been tasked with watching *all* the girls at the
party, Marcus Rodney found himself tasked with
caring for Sia and Darrus. He held Darrus in one arm
and Sia in the other as he quixotically watched
Ewwiekewwieikkie and Bruce along with virtually
every animal at the petting zoo. "Uh. What's going
on?" he asked Zara, quietly, as he immediately
thought back to the incident with the sea monster in
Melickielickie called out from the ground. She
thrust a thumb up into the air, then slowly rose to
her feet. Standing back, the small Squib watched in
awe as her sister was surrounded by the animals. She
wanted to join in! "‘Lista! You come too!" She
called out for her friend as she made her way
towards the animals. She immediately began to pet
everything in sight. "Oooh. So soft!" She had no
idea why there were so many animals at Auntie Zara's
and Uncle Marcy Marc's, but she *loved* it. It was
just like home! The miniature banthas were even
better behaved than Sorbet.
sidelines, Zara nervously watched the animals
crowding around Ewwiekewwieikkie. No one would ever
forget what had happened at the lake. Zara didn't
know if a repeat performance was about to happen.
She chewed on her lower lip nervously. "I-I don't
know... It doesn't look good.. I'm out of my league.
I'm going to get Sierra and Claudius. Make sure
nobody dies while I'm gone, kay?" She kissed his
cheek, the Darrus' and Sia's. Zara quickly scampered
off into the castle to find where her in-laws were
hiding. She wondered when Mug and Iyah were going to
make an appearance. She knew it wasn't easy for
them, but they'd promised they would be there for
Callista's birthday. "Sierra? Claudius?!" She called
out, reaching their rooms but not going into them.
"The animals are swarming Ewwie and Bruce. I thought
you might like to know!"
remember these from the zoo!" Callista squeaked.
Choreamnos. Her auntie liked those. She ran both of
her hands over separate choreamnos. Then, just like
at the zoo, she rubbed her face directly against one
of them. "I wuv you!" She had repeated the same
action with Nea many, many times. Callista gave the
choreamnos kisses, totally unaware what the fallout
of her affection would be.
"How long can
we subject Marcus and Zara to all of the children?"
Claudius asked his wife, with a devilish grin, as
his eyes moved down her body. But, before he could
say another word or make a move, Zara arrived with
alarming, but not entirely unexpected, news. He
smirked before starting to laugh softly. "We should
have known," he said, before raising his hand to
buck up her chin and caress her cheek. "Shall we?"
he asked, as he outstretched his arm and intertwined
it with hers, and then led her out of the room out
towards where Zara was waiting.
I hope." Sierra was ready to disrobe right then and
there. It was probably best she didn't, because Zara
chose then to disrupt them. She already was
imagining Ewwiekewwieikkie thrusting Bruce up in the
air like it was the presentation of Simba. She
laughed. "I bet Ewwiekewwieikkie is having the time
of her life." Sierra sighed. His affection was to
sweet. "We'll sneak away when things start dying
down," she whispered into his ear. Her arm wrapped
around his and together, the left the room. "Bruce
does have a certain ... effect on animals..." Sierra
commented on the way towards the garden. When she
arrived, Ewwiekewwieikkie was being swarmed with
animals. Melickielickie and Callista were both
happily snuggling the occupants of the petting zoo.
For a moment, there was peace. The peace was broken
by a simple sneeze. Sierra's eyes quickly zoned in
on Callista and the... "Choreamnos! Callista is
extremely allergic to those!" She didn't fill Zara
in as to why she knew that. Of course, Callista had
her face planted into one of them. As soon as the
little girl lifted her face to take a breath, Sierra
could already see her swelling up. "Get her out of
there. I'm going to get my first aid kit." Sierra
nervously squeezed her husband's arm before
releasing and darting away.
Callista squeaked. "I *love* the petting zoo! It's
so awesome!" She sneezed against a choreamnos. She
could see her aunt waving her out of the petting
zoo, but then something else caught her eye.
"*Mommy*!" The brown-haired birthday girl took off.
She ducked in between the makeshift fence set up to
keep the animals in and darted towards her parents.
"Mommy! Daddy!" For Iyah and Mug, they were seeing
their daughter suffering from an allergic reaction
for the first time. Needless to say, it didn't look
arrived on the scene at Rodney Castle to find the
happiest sight in the world. His darling daughter
Callista. "Callista!" he shouted with equal amounts
of excitement to what his daughter was exhibiting.
As she drew near he could see that she was not
looking so great, but he was not sure what the cause
was. "What happened?" he asked, as he dropped down
into a crouch so he could examine her at eye level.
He was so glad to see her, as every time they went
on a mission and left her in the care of others he
was terrified he would never see her again. (D)
Iyah Zoran was glad to see her daughter again. Being
a Rebel wasn't glamorous. It was difficult. Her work
took her and Mug away from New Alderaan more than
she liked. She told herself that they were working
towards a better tomorrow, and that when the
Rebellion won the war, she, Mug, and Callista would
be a family again. At that point, Iyah would never
let the precious little girl leave her sight. "Callista!
Happy birthday, my sweet little girl!" Iyah saw that
something was wrong. Callista's face was red and
swollen. It was the first time she'd seen something
wrong with Callista, so she began to panic. She
quickly embraced her daughter while looking to Zara
for answers. "What's wrong with her?!" Iyah
Sierra would disappear just as Iyah and Mug arrived.
Zara felt like a deer in headlights. "Um. Well. Um.
Uh. Um." She inched backwards towards Marcus. "I...
Uh... Well, you see. Callista is apparently allergic
to choreamnos." She sputtered. "Those weird looking
things right there... In the petting zoo." Zara
pointed a finger towards the lazy camel-looking
creatures. "I didn't know your daughter was allergic
to any animals. Sierra is going to make it better!"
She hoped her sister-in-law had a solution. Zara
felt like one horrible person for inadvertently
causing Callista's reaction. She sunk down next to
Marcus. "Oh my Germanicus. I'm the worst person
ever..." She hung her head.
Sierra was moving much more quickly than she would
be in a few months. She returned to the garden
clutching a first aid kit and a bottle of water.
"Mug. Iyah." She made eye contact with them as she
knelt down before Callista. Callista seemed
oblivious that she was having a reaction. All she
did was say that her throat felt funny. "Alright
sweetie. Take this medicine and it'll make you all
better." She placed two small pink pills in
Callista's hand. She had the mind to restock the
first aid kit with non-drowsy medication, so at
least she wouldn't be asleep for the remainder of
conflicted. He was upset that his daughter was
having an allergic reaction to the choreamnos, but
these people were their family, and they were
throwing a majestic birthday party at considerable
expense. As he listened to Zara calmly explain the
situation he refrained from getting upset, and
instead focused on comforting his daughter. "Callista,
darling. I know you love the choreamnos, but they
make you sick," he said to her, as he brought his
hand up to brush at her hair softly. "You can look
at them, but you can't kiss them anymore. Okay?" he
told her, in a calm voice to avoid making it seems
like he was yelling at her.
quick to stand by his wife's side, still carrying
both of their children. He knew how upset he would
be if something like this happened to Darrus or Sia,
so he wanted to do his best to support her if things
turned ugly. "You're not the worst person ever," he
said, as they sat back down, which made it easier
for him to care for the children. "We didn't know
she was allergic," he said, but then out of the
corner of his eyes he spotted Sierra giving Callista
some medicine. "See. Everything is under control,"
he said, as he leaned over to place a supporting
kiss on her cheek. "I love you. You're a great mom
*and* aunt," he reassured her, with a loving smile.
Zara knew how
upset she'd be...upset enough to strangle those
responsible for hurting her child. How was she to
know about the allergy? She sat beside Marcus,
deciding it best to watch over her own children for
now. She gently scooped Sia from his arms and
cradled her against her chest. She could hear the
happy cooing from her infant. Between that and
Marcus' words of confidence, she began to calm down.
She looked at him teary-eyed. "I love you, Marcus.
Thanks.. I feel less like a jerk now." Zara leaned
against his shoulder. At least the Squibs were still
having fun. Bruce appeared to be happy to be around
the animals too. He wasn't even having an allergic
turned towards her auntie. She took the medication,
no questions asked. "Thankies, Auntie. I wanna feel
better so I can eat lots and lots of cake! Like at
your wedding! Nom nom nom nom." She pretended to eat
an imaginary cake, turning towards her father as he
explained that choreamnos made her sick. Callista's
face shrunk. "No more kissing them?" She looked back
at the petting zoo then to her daddy. "O-Okay,
daddy.." She understood, but she still felt a little
sad about the choreamnos.
close to Callista's ear. Sierra whispered, "There
might be a choreamno you can kiss in your presents.
Just wait." She stood up right just as Callista let
out a happy shriek. She could see Callista tackling
both of her parents and rambling about all of her
recent adventures. Sierra drew herself away from
them. She, instead, turned to enter the petting zoo.
"Alright, Ewwiekewwieikkie. Let me have Bruce. We're
going to have cake soon." She stepped over various
animals to reach her.
Ewwiekewwieikkie replied to Sierra, as she listened
to the bargain. "Bruce is animals, but cake is
cake..." she said, as she moved her mouth around,
clearly processing the data and trying to determine
which was better. "Okay. Cake," she said, as she
offered up her baby brother, immediately causing a
stir amongst all of the animals. "Woah!" she said,
as there was nearly a stampede towards her to get at
Sierra. "See. A magnet. I told you!" she said,
before sticking out her tongue at her Aunt Zara.
down at her son once he was tucked in her arms.
"Hello my little Bruce. You were enjoying the
animals too, weren't you?" Bruce was smiling. He
reached up, with both of his little hands, and
grasped Sierra's blonde hair. "Ohno!" Suddenly, all
the animals were surrounding her and Bruce.
Ewwiekewwieikkie had the chance to get away, but now
she was trapped. It was worse than Nea rubbing
between her legs and nearly tripping her.
"Claudius..?" She looked to him for help. She began
trying to shuffle her away out of the petting zoo.
stuck her tongue out at her niece. "I said I
believed you before!" There had been a conversation
about Bruce's special abilities earlier. Zara didn't
mention that she'd seen a gigantic sea monster fall
under her nephew's influence. With Ewwie heading in
the direction of cake, Zara rose to protect it. She
led the crowd towards the dining hall, which was
done up in a very Alice in Wonderland inspired tea
party style. While the rest of the family went to
enjoy Callista's sixth birthday, Sierra, Claudius,
and Bruce were left with the animals.
Claudius screamed as he watched an onrush of animals
swarm her once Ewwiekewwieikkie was transferred to
her. He moved towards his family quickly, although
he found it quite difficult to worm his way through
the creatures until he finally reached his wife. He
placed his arms around his wife's hips for support,
before slowly leading her away from the herd of
animals. As soon as they got through the gate he
moved to seal it behind them, causing all of the
animals to unleash groans of displeasure. "Phew," he
said, as he raised his forearm to his forehead.
"That was *too* close," he said to his wife, before
looking to see where everyone else went.
purposely been avoiding going to the zoo with
Ewwiekewwieikkie for this exact reason: Bruce. It
was difficult to deal with animals that were
reasonably sized. What if something like a rancor
was attracted to him? She was rescued by her
husband, who helped guide her away from the animals
and out of the little petting zoo. "That was.." A
line of animals stood by the gate looking
disappointed that Bruce was gone. Bruce released his
mother's hair to reach for the animals. "Oh no.
We're getting away from here for now." She turned
her head to the side to kiss his cute, chubby cheek.
"Looks like everyone else ditched us for cake."
Sierra commented. She slid her free hand into his,
guiding him towards the dining hall.
Callista who sat at the head of the table. She
already looked infinitely more healthy than before.
The swelling had gone down. Her face was
significantly less red. More than anything else, she
was very happy again. She had savagely unwrapped the
present from Sierra, Claudius, and her nieces and
nephew as soon as she reached the great hall. Now
she was sharing her seat with a pink choreamno
plush. Sierra had made it not long after the zoo
trip in anticipation of Callista's birthday. By hand
making it, she could make it extremely fluffy like
Callista seemed to enjoy in her stuffed animals. "*Caakkkkkkkkkkeeeeeeeeeee*!!"
She screamed at the top of her lungs. There was a
three tier bright pink Auntie Mae cake in front of
her on the table. The six candles placed on it
looked so tiny. "Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake!" She
chanted. From nearby, Melickielickie was watching
and drooling. "Can we sing?" She asked her uncle
Marcus was not
sure what stampede was more dangerous. The animals
towards Bruce or the children towards the cake. "Of
course you can sing," he said to Callista, as he
motioned for the adults to come and join the
children at the table. As he sat there and looked at
the cake he worried that there would not be enough
with the way these girls ate. "Happy birthday to
you..." he began singing, leading the chorus of
partygoers. "Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday
dear Princess Callista..." he said, loudly, with a
big smile, but with an awful voice. "Happy birthday
to you!" he finished, before breaking out into
Cake! Cake!" Ewwiekewwieikkie screamed, as she began
shaking frantically in her chair. However, she had
been to enough birthday parties to know that the
singing came before the cake. She sang along with
everyone, trying to hurry the song, to speed up when
she would receive the cake. When the song was over
her tongue slid from her mouth and ran the entire
length of her snout. She wanted the cake now, but
she knew Callista had to get the first piece.
"Hurry. Hurry. Cut it!" she said, frantically, as if
she were pleading with someone to cut a wire to
disarm a bomb.
As soon as
Callista started feeling better, so did Iyah. She
sat beside Mug. Everyone had crowded around the
table for Callista's birthday It was touching.
Despite the war, despite the fact that the sides
divided the family, everyone was able to celebrate
with her daughter. Iyah recalled Callista's fifth
birthday, which had taken place soon after they had
adopted her. It had been just her, Mug, and Callista.
With their limited wages, they hadn't been able to
do much. Callista had been just as happy then as she
now was. Iyah was touched that everyone had pulled
together to make her daughter's day so special. She
reached over, holding Mug's hand. "Happy birthday to
you.." She began to sing. Her free hand reached over
to brush brown strands of hair away from Callista's
In her seat,
Callista's arms were wrapped around her stuffed toy.
She moved from side to side as she, too, sang. There
was a glimmer in her eyes. Though she was young,
Callista still had memories of her family before
Tarkintown. They had never been so nice to her. She
looked through the candles at her family; her mommy
and daddy, her bestest friend in the whole entire
world, and, of course, the ambassador of candyland.
As the song reached its conclusion, Callista closed
her eyes tight and wished that every birthday could
be like this: together. She blew as hard as she
could, instantly defeated four out of six candles.
She had to try several more times before blowing out
the last of the candles. "Yayyyyyyyyyyy! *Cake
time*!" She tried to wait patiently but her little
body was shaking excitedly in her seat.
It was Sierra
who was brave enough to place herself between Squibs
and cake. She took a knife and cut Callista a large
piece of birthday cake. "Happy birthday,
sweetheart." She smiled down at her. The chants of
‘cake' made her begin cutting and distributing
pieces again. Melickielickie refused a fork and
immediately face planted her snout into the cake.
Callista, ever the little princess, was doing her
best to use her fork and carefully eat her cake. A
very brief moment of disappointment washed over
Sierra as she handed out the last pieces of cake and
stepped back. Bruce wouldn't celebrate his sixth
birthday with them. She forced herself to not obsess
over it. With Claudius by her side, they could make
it through whatever happened as a result of Bruce's
holding up a holorecorder to capture Callista as
they sang the song, blew out the candles, and began
to eat cake. He wanted them to have a record of this
for a lifetime. It was her first birthday with them
and he hoped they would share a lifetime of them.
Behind the recorder there were tears in his eyes,
and as he looked around the table he no longer felt
like the 'bastard'. He felt like these people, even
the Imperials, really were his family. He reached
over to Iyah, placing his hand on her thigh, and
squeezing it reassuringly.
wanted cake, although he would not admit it in the
same fashion as the girls. Still, he did not
complain when he was handed a particularly large
piece of cake. "Thank you," he mouthed to Sierra,
before he began to fork his cake. As he looked
across the table he saw Melickielickie and
Ewwiekewwieikkie eating their cake in a manner
similar to the animals in the petting zoo. He began
to burst into uncontrollable laughter, happy that
this irregular group had come together to form a
No piece of
cake was every big enough, so there was a slight 'aww'
that escaped Ewwiekewwieikkie when she was served
the piece of cake. Even though it was twice as large
as the one that Callista got, she feared it would
not be enough. She lowered her face forward and
began to devour the cake. She would have eaten the
entire thing in one bite if it would have fit. She
looked up with her cake stained face once her father
started laughing, and although she did not know what
was making him laugh, she began to laugh too. This
was a very happy birthday ... even if it was not