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