Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
Zero years before the Battle of Yavin (35:4:10) in the Essesia system: Esseles (New Calamar: Claudius Rodney's estate).
Vice Admiral Claudius Rodney, Countess Htaere Rodney, and Lady Jelena Rodney.

Claudius Rodney arrived home at his estate on Esseles after another day of service devoted to the glory of the Empire. There seemed to be something different about him this evening. He appeared less tired, and there were no signs of fatigue on his middle-aged face ... but there was a content smile. "Htaere!" he shouted, calling her as he stood at the base of the stairs. He leaned against the railing as his head tilted up to look to the second story for her. "Htaere, please come down here," he said again, unable to contain the excitement he was experiencing.

From her perch on a velveteen settee reading, Htaere's attentions pulled from the novel to follow the sound of Claudius announcing his arrival and summoning her all in one sweep. Placing the old book down she uncurled her feet from beneath her, pushed her feet into the delicate slippers on the floor in front of her and hastened out of the room. She paused at the top of the stair, one hand resting on the banner. "Yes?" she asked, descending the steps carefully.

Claudius hurried up the steps with the energy of a teenager, and when he reached the top of the steps his hands reached for her, grabbing her firmly by the hips, lifting her in the air and twirling her around playfully. "Htaere, I have the most wonderful news!" he explained to her happily, moving his face in towards her to place a quick, soft kiss upon her lips. "Jelena has been called to appear before His Majesty in recognition of her reaching maturity!" he told her excitedly, almost losing his breath as he said the words so quickly he had forgotten to breath. It was just about the best news he could have received given all that had been going on in his life lately.

Processing the news accordingly, Htaere smiled. "That is wonderful, Claudius. I am most happy for you. Truly an honor, indeed. I am certain she will be elated," she said. "Have you told her yet?"

For the first time since returning home, he frowned and shook his head at her. "No. She said she had to go to Brentaal for some shopping," he explained to her, as he considered his daughter's recent string of absences. He hoped this would be a chance to bring the family closer together again.

"Oh, well, when she returns then," Htaere offered optimistically. "When and where will this event be taking place?"

A warm smile returned to Claudius' face as he looked at her joyously. "That is the best part, my love. The entire family has been invited to the Imperial Palace on Coruscant next week!" he exclaimed happily, as he reflected on the moment internally. All of his years of service to the Republic and then the Empire and he had never set foot in the palace before, but now his moment, and his family's moment, had finally arrived.

Htaere could feel the smile drain from her face and quickly refreshed it with enthusiasm. "Oh, I see." Thinking on it, she recounted a few moments on Ithor. "You know, perhaps it is best if you and Jelena go, take the opportunity to catch up and spend some quality time, without any of us to burden you with interference," she suggested optimistically.

Claudius blinked several times as he looked at Htaere somewhat confused. "You mean... you mean you do not wish to go?" he asked her, his face finking slightly as all of the energy that had been filing his mood seemed to be sucked from him. "The whole family is invited," he explained to her, hoping he could convince her to reconsider.

Stormy grey eyes watched Claudius wither in disappointment. Choking down her initial misgivings and apprehension, Htaere worked up a stellar smile. "It sounds lovely," she conceded. "I suppose I shall have to start selecting a gown for the occasion."

The smile returned to Claudius face almost immediately as a sense of relief came over him. "There is something..." he said, as he nervously looked down towards the ground, fidgeting nervously as he shifted his weight uncomfortably. He was not quite sure how to broach this next subject, but it was one they would have to deal with as quickly as possible.

One perfectly sculpted eyebrow arched. "And that is..?" Always a caveat.

Claudius brought his left palm to his face and gently rubbed the bridge of his nose, and then slowly dragged his hand down over his face. "I'm going to need you to ... train ... Ewwiekewwieikkie for this..." he said, somehwat embarrassingly, as he hoped she was out of earshot. He certainly did not want to offend her feelings by excluding her, as she had been part of the family for two decades. Bringing her before the Emperor was risky, but he was confident in Htaere's ability to manage the eager young Squib.

Htaere's mouth fell open, eyes widening to match the dismay. Quickly she pulled her gaze to the floor and made the effort to close her mouth. He could not have slapped her with a larger bag of rocks had he gone out and collected them from the garden personally. With a smile and charming cant of her head, Htaere clarified. "The engagement is next week correct?"

"Yes. An entire week," Claudius said, realizing that perhaps he was asking for too tall a task. He turned for a moment, as he lowered his head in thoughtful contemplation. "Would it be too cruel to have her sedated?" he asked after a period of thoughtful reflection, turning to look over his shoulder at her. A coy smile quickly formed upon his face, indicating that he was joking. Still ... it might work.

A scowl flashed across the Hapan heiress' features momentarily. "Claudius! We shall do no such thing," she admonished him lightly. "If need be, I shall remain out on the terrace with her at the event whilst you present Jelena." Htaere had analyzed the anti-nonhuman instances on Ithor and agonized over whether or not to relay such sentiments to Claudius. "I am certain we shall figure something out."

Claudius remembered the Battle of Skor II, now more than twenty years ago, when he pulled Ewwiekewwie out of the rubble that contained her parents corpses. They had been his friends when he served as an ambassador, and he owed it to them to raise her as best he could. "It is..." he paused, his voice cracking slightly as he threatened to give into the emotion of the moment. "It is important to me that she be there..." he explained, fighting off the emotion as he forced his stiff upper lip in the face of the sorrow.

Htaere's chin dipped once in a subtle nod. "Then she will be," she affirmed. In her mind she already had begun constructing ideas as to how to pull off such a transformation, at least temporarily, and it would begin by placing a transmission to the requisitions office for the estate. "Anything else you need from me before I get to work on this?"

Claudius looked over Htaere from head to toe before locking onto her gray eyes, nodding his head to her. "Just this," he said teasingly, as he stepped forward and placed a loving kiss upon her lips. He was thrilled at the prospect of meeting the Emperor, as the right impression could lead to a promotion and the advance his career desperately needed.

Htaere Kaa Shaahr Letting him bask in his moment of glory, Htaere nuzzled him for a moment. "I am happy for you Claudius," she stated quietly, her hands cradling his aged face.

The door to the estate opened and Lady Jelena Rodney slowly made her way inside. She looked tired and clearly something was on her mind. She froze when she reached the bottom of the staircase, spotting her father and his wife at the top of the stairs. "Father ... Htaere..." she said coldly as she turned her attention away from them, as she was obviously not prepared to see them at home this particular time. She sighed as she nervously rubbed her hands together, looking for a potential route of escape.

"Jelena!" Claudius exclaimed excitedly, as his hands withdrew from Htaere so he could turn to look down the staircase at his eldest daughter. "I have the most wonderful news..." he began as he slowly descended the stairs to close the distance between them. He was too lost in the excitement of the moment to pick up on her body language, and was therefore completely oblivious to the fact that something was off with her.

With Claudius' attentions turned elsewhere, Htaere had the opportunity to silently step out of the center of focus. An inevitable sense of dread was slowly welling up inside of her regarding the family visit to the hub of the Empire. Amid the inner turmoil and contemplation, she half monitored Claudius breaking the news.

Claudius stood before his daughter, admiring her proudly, as if she were a finely chiseled work of art. He sighed happily, placing each of his hands upon her shoulders as he nodded in satisfaction with what he was going to say. "The time has finally come, my dear. You are of age and you are to be presented to His Majesty, the Emperor!" he proudly told her, beaming like a proud parent as he visualized her in a beautiful dress with the finest young women of the galaxy in the Imperial Palace.

Jelena's brow furrowed as she heard her father's word and she began to back away in sheer horror. "What?" she exclaimed in shock, unable to believe what she was hearing. The thought disgusted her, and she pulled away, turning his back on him as she continued to move away. "No... no... no!" she exclaimed through stuttering as she found the nearest sofa, and plopped down weakly as she buried her face in both of her hands and started to cry. The Emperor had come to represent an evil to her and the last thing she wanted was to be paraded in front of him like a piece of art for him to ogle.

Htaere's eyes widened a bit, staying well out of the way for this incident, and more then a little surprised at Jelena's reaction. Her eyes shifted between her husband and his daughter and the fallout ensuing at the news.

Claudius was horrified by his reaction. It could not have possibly gone worse. He stood there for a moment before completely losing his patience with the daughter. "Oh you'll do it, Jelena. You'll do it," he said to her angrily as he moved back to the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs he grabbed hold of the banister, trying to regain his composure. He could not remember the last time he spoke to her that way. He already regretted it, lowering his head as shame as he relied on the banister to keep himself propped up.

Jelena rose from the sofa and ran towards the stairs, pushing her father out of the way. She ran up the stairs, tears streaming from her eyes and causing her makeup to streak. It was just about the worst possible news she could have received and she refused to deal with it. Once upstairs she ran past Htaere without even an acknowledgement, heading to her room where she promptly slammed the door and dived into her bed in a state of deep despair.

At a complete loss and feeling wholly uncomfortable with the display, Htaere bit at her lower lip, eyes trailing after Jelena before looking back to Claudius, who suddenly did not look so good. She had not seen such a blow in his temper in some time. Fishing for something to say as she felt obligated to, she spoke barely above a whisper. "Perhaps when she settles you can attempt to reopen communication again."

Claudius sunk down dramatically, taking a seat on the third stair from the bottom as a blank expression formed upon his face. "It is like I do not know her anymore," he confessed to Htaere as he played over what had just happened in his mind repeatedly, trying to find a way this could have been prevented. "It is a great honor..." he said to himself, more than to Htaere as he let out a helpless sigh, not sure what to do next.

"For her...or you?" Htaere asked quietly, remaining where she stood at the top of the stair.

Claudius lowered his head so that his hand could rub at his tired eyes, still not willing to accept Jelena's refusal. "For us all..." he admitted to Htaere as he shook his head, wondering how he could change her mind. He could not refuse an invitation from the Emperor. Such a thing simply was not done.

Half frowning, Htaere drifted slowly down the stair and took a seat next to him on the step. One slender hand reached out to rest on his shoulder. "Calm yourself, Claudius," she whispered. "You are distressed." She took a deep breath and attempted to sort things out. "There must be some reason she is opposed to the idea. Maybe you can address her frame of mind first," she remarked. "Knowing people requires communication with them," she took the opportunity to broach the subject of their discord.

Claudius appreciated Htaere's sympathy in this moment, and he turned to lean into her, tilting his head so that it could lean on her shoulder. "I do not know what to say to her," he confessed, a tear forming in his left eye, and slowly running down his cheek, although he was unaware of it. "I fear I will only make it worse. I never thought our relationship would become this strained..." he admitted sadly, a couple of additional tears starting to flow as he took in a sharp inhale. He had spent his entire career working to support and protect his family and now he felt as if he was losing them.

"There, there, I am certain this is all perhaps a misunderstanding that can be resolved," Htaere replied, slipping an arm around him. "Per chance, are her friends from Alderaan attending as well?"

"Yes. Young ladies from across the core will be there..." Claudius said as he sat himself up, and brought both of his hands up to rub at his eyes. He realized that he was making quite the scene and became quite embarrassed. "I apologize for my behavior," he said bashfully, as he pulled his hands away from his face to reveal his flushed cheeks.

"Well, perhaps you can mention that. She may be more amicable to the idea when presented with such a crucial piece of information," she noted carefully. "Compose yourself, take some time to settle down and allow her to do the same. And then try again, without giving orders."

"Some times I forget she is not one of the soldiers under my command..." Claudius admitted, disgusted with himself as he shook his head at himself. "What would you say to her?" Claudius asked as he reached out with his arm, putting it around her as he pulled her into a tight embrace.

Htaere thought on it and drew a deep breath. "I would start with an apology," she chuckled lightly. "And then I think I would just listen." She inched closer to him and leaned into him a bit.

"Not tonight..." Claudius said weakly, the wounds of the earlier engagement still fresh on his mind. "I am not strong enough to face her again so soon," he admitted, as a tired sigh escaped his lips. Just a few hours ago he had felt so excited by the news of the invitation, but now it had become something awful that had again placed unnecessary strain on his weakened family.

"I agree," Htaere stood, and extended her hands towards him. "Come to bed, Claudius," she attempted to coax him. "Rest will do you both good."

"Can I order one of the Stormtroopers to carry me?" Claudius asked jokingly as he turned to Htaere. He let out a long, slow groan befitting a man his age as he rose from his seated position on the stairs. He made his way up the stairs with Htaere's support slowly, finding it felt as if he was climbing up a mountain. He stood outside Jelena's door for a moment, and he could clearly make out the muffled sound of her crying. His head sank again as he continued down the corridor towards the master bedroom. He would try again tomorrow, hopefully with better success.

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