Liz Dorner and
Zero years before the Battle of Yavin
(35:2:23) in the Alderaan system:
Royal Palace and
Viceroy Bail Prestor Organa,
Countess Htaere Rodney.
Visually, Htaere had made a major recovery. The young woman sat
patiently on the edge of one of the beds on the medical level. She'd
been cleaned up with a warm shower, a good night's sleep and dressed
back in her usual glamour and ornate regalia, this particular dress one
of Alderaanian nobility. A few medical droids tinkered about, one
examining her busted lip from Tashi's fierce backhand. Her hair was
brushed out, draping again in immaculate ringlets down her shoulders.
The droid warbled a few questions here and there to gauge her well-being
the day following her recovery. She answered the questions obediently,
waiting for the droid to finish and send her on her way.
Viceroy Bail Organa waited patiently in the private landing platform
adjoining the Aldera Royal Palace. He had not slept the night before,
the events of the past day weighing heavily upon him. He had received
word his old friend's shuttle would soon be arriving and he began
rehearsing various ways to explain the situation to him. He had been
very brief in his message, still not comfortable with the notion he
would be lying to him. Privately, he doubted someone who knew him as
long as Claudius did would even believe him. He squinted, holding his
hand above his eyes to shadow the light from the setting Aldera star as
he saw the shuttle approaching on the horizon. This would not be easy.
In the passenger compartment of the shuttle, a very frazzled looking
Claudius Rodney lay tiredly on one of the rows of chairs, still
suffering from the ill effects of the other night. He had not shaved and
there was the feint growth of hair that had not been seen since before
the Clone Wars. His uniform had not been pressed and it appeared
rumpled, looking more like an engineer than a serving line officer. A
shower too had been omitted and the smell of alcohol still stained his
breath. His right hand was swollen and red, visible cuts on each of his
knuckles, grimly reminding him of the crime he had committed. There were
even specs of dried blood on his boots that would go unnoticed by the
untrained eye, but it was not his blood.
Htaere's dangling feet kicked a little, heaving a sigh. "Am I
permitted to leave?" she asked, growing a little on the impatient side.
The rotating cylindrical dome that served as the head swiveled to take
in the Hapan heiress with a glowing optical sensor. ~We are waiting for
the pharmaceutical order to be filled~ it warbled in response. Htaere
frowned, knowing exactly why they'd called in for pharmaceuticals. She
nodded but remained silent, resuming kicking her feet a little in idle
The Lambda-class made its descent onto the small landing
platform usually reserved for only members of Alderaan's Royal House,
but the Viceroy had arranged for this to be an exception due to the
unique set of circumstances. No one could recall an Imperial vessel
having ever set down upon it. Almost immediately following the shuttle's
landing, the small ramp descended from beneath the cockpit and a frantic
Claudius Rodney strode across the deck. "Where is she?" he asked in a
state of exhaustion and confusion as weary eyes locked on his old friend
Bail Organa. His gate was awkward as he strode towards the man, most of
his energy having been drained in the past twenty-four hours.
"She is safe and she is well, Claudius," Bail Organa said quickly and
in a reassuring tone as he placed his hand upon his friend's side,
helping to firm him up. "She is in the care of our medical staff here in
the Palace," he explained as the two old friends began working their way
through the ancient and ornately decorated structure in the heart of the
glistening capital city of Alderaan. In the twenty-five years he had
known Claudius, he had only seen him like this once before ... when his
first wife died. He felt terrible for his friend, which made the act of
lying to him even more difficult.
As another droid entered, carrying a small bag, Htaere straightened
up, gazing at it expectantly. It floated towards her extending the bag
and speaking in a soothing voice. ~Your supplements, milady. Please
follow the instructions for dosage as prescribed by the physician who's
care you were in during your stay and should you have any questions,
please do not hesitate to contact us.~ Htaere accepted the bag, hopping
down from the bed and nodding thankfully to the droid team. She floated
towards he door, making her way from the medical levels towards the
larger halls and throne room.
"Medical staff?" Claudius asked his friend as he stopped dead in his
tracks for a moment, not expecting that. His attention quickly turned to
his old friend, his eyes locking upon his with concern and anger. "What
has happened?" he asked, imagining only the worst possible outcomes
inside of his mind. He felt the wind taken out of him and he began to
stagger, but managed a recovery. "Take me to her," he pleased as he
began moving down the corridors on his own, even though he knew not
where to go.
"She is all right, Claudius," Bail stated as he hurried to catch up
with him, turning to guide him to the correct room where Htaere would be
waiting. "There was some minor bruising," he explained as he caught up
to him and began walking alongside him once more. "I assure you.
Everything is superficial in nature and our medical staff has shown her
excellent care," he said as he began to speak quickly before they
arrived at the scene. He wanted Claudius to seem calm and rational
before they arrived. Finally, they arrived in the area near the throne
room where Htaere would be waiting, Bail forcing a smile onto his face
as he hoped to mediate this situation as we would a trade dispute.
Htaere took a seat on one of the plus settees atop the large elevated
dais where the grand thrones of Bail Organa and his wife and other
Alderaanian nobility. A service droid relieved her of the bag, holding
it off to the side along with a tray with a cold beverage on it should
she want it. Her hands were folded in her lap, fidgeting slightly. Her
eyes raised towards the large carved wooden doors, brow lifted
Claudius rushed through he large doorway, pushing past Bail Organa to
move quickly towards his beloved wife. "Are you all right?" he asked as
he came to a stop in front of her, his eyes frantically roaming across
her body to seek out and kind of wear and tear. "I was so worried," he
tried to explain, knowing he would never be able to explain to her the
despair that he felt. He pressed his lips to her cheek slowly, and his
hands began to rest upon her sides as he held her. Oh how he was
relieved to see that she seemed well.
Htaere practically leaped towards him, wrapping her arms around his
torso and clinging to him desperately. "Oh Claudius! I missed you so
very much" she whispered, nuzzling the fabric of his tunic. She held
onto him or an immeasurable amount of time, unwilling to separate from
"What happened?" Claudius asked of her as he moved his face back
slightly to look her squarely in the eye. "Bail said something about a
ransom?" he asked as his eyes darted back towards the Viceroy, still
trying to put the pieces together in his head. "I should have never let
you go..." he repeated several times as he shook his head in dismay,
very disappointed in himself.
"I do not know what happened. I was following someone in the market
and then I woke up on their ship. Viceroy Organa paid the ransom she
demanded" Htaere answered, looking him over intently. Her hands raised
to cradle his face tenderly. "Claudius, what has happened to you?"
Fingers traced down his jaw, neck, shoulders, then down the length of
his arms, taking a step back and taking his hands in hers, lifting them
and staring in horror at his damaged knuckles.
"It was nothing more than a pack of thugs, Claudius," Bail Organa
interrupted as he took a step forward from his position in the doorway,
where he had thus far remained, observing silently. "They demanded fifty
thousand credits for her release and I paid it," he explained, lying
through his carefully maintained teeth. He shook his head in disbelief
to his old friend, wondering what the galaxy has come to. "I forwarded
what info we gathered to your security detachment. Major Kiley, I
believe it was..." he said as he backed away to give them time alone.
Claudius listened to Htaere and Bail, still feeling as if all the
facts had not presented themselves. He sighed, turning his attention
back to Htaere. "I am just so glad to have you back," he explained as
his tired face lovingly gazed upon her. He took a step back, recoiling
as he looked over himself, seeing what Htaere had seen. "I..." he
stumbled over the words, not sure what had happened, and not remember
much because of his inebriation. "It was a very difficult time for me,
my love," he said to her as his voice began to tremble, his lip
quivering slightly as a tear formed in his left eye.
"Then take the time to clean yourself up and recover before we head
back" Htaere pleaded, her facad manifesting her concern. "The medical
facilities are premium..." she continued, glancing down at his hands
"...and you are bleeding...you are hurt. Your wounds need treatment."
She threw a glance to Bail, hoping for some support of her appeal.
Bail stepped forward, agreeing with Htaere that Claudius could use
some rest and an opportunity to get clean. The idea of having an
Imperial Admiral within the Palace for any period of duration did seem
dangerous, but if he could allow the man to regain his mental capacity
before returning to the war-zone it might ease his response towards the
people of Brentaal. "Please stay, Claudius," he said in a genuinely
concerned tone. "We will make a private suite in the east wing of the
Palace accessible to the both of you," he explained as he looked towards
a servant droid.
Claudius hesitated, listening to their words, and considering it very
thoughtfully. The situation in the Ringali Shell had changed
significantly over the past few days and the thought of having his
finger off the pulse seeming rather difficult. But, he needed some time
away. He was feeling the strain and it was taking a visible toll on him.
There was also the issue of Kerrie ... he did not know if he would ever
be able to face her again. He swallowed and lowered his head in a
surrendering sigh. "Very well," he said quietly as he leaned upon
Htaere's seat for support.
Htaere's face resumed its glow, the corners of her lips lifting.
"This will be just the thing for you, my love" she said optimistically.
"Come...let us get you taken care of" she motioned away from the throne
room. The service droid, still carrying her small bag of vitamins
hastened towards her, should she require anything. She looked to Viceroy
Organa. "I promise we shall not interfere with your affairs while we are
guests in your home" she assured him.
Claudius weakly moved with Htaere as they were escorted through the
palace by a serving droid towards a suite that had been arranged for
them. The opulence was almost overwhelming, bordering on decadent. The
open balcony afforded them a spectacular view of the surrounding city
and the distant, snowcapped mountains. It was truly a wonder to behold.
Claudius could barely make it to the bed, almost collapsing upon it as
he let out a long, drawn out groan. What had he done? There were
blinding visions of it in his head, flashes, but not complete details.
If he knew the extent of it he might have killed himself.
"Shall I start the shower for you or would you prefer having the
medical droids come first?" she asked, tilting her head to one side as
she regarded him, and how rough he looked. "Have you eaten?" she added,
meandering quietly to the side of the bed and having a seat.
"No. I haven't eaten," Claudius said in a mumbled voice, his face
firmly planted into the thin blanket that was draped across the
mattress. His entire body ached, but not nearly one-hundredth the pain
of what Kerrie was currently experiencing back aboard the Warspite.
"Send for the medical droid," he said to her weakly, if only because of
the fact he did not think he could stand safely in the shower in his
present state. "Uh," he murmured softly as his body weakened against the
"As you wish..." she got to her feet and disappeared, the room
churning into quiet for a moment as she located the wall-mounted com
unit in the next room. When she reappeared, she had a warm wash cloth
with her. She began tugging off his boots, unbuttoning his tunic,
unfastening his belt, and so on, removing all but the most basic
articles of clothing to get him comfortable. When that ask was finished,
she used the cloth to dab at his knuckles lightly, avoiding the wounds
and focusing on the blood stains around them. "How did this happen
Claudius? Were you in a fight?"
Claudius cringed as she washed his bruised hands, the sensation
stinging ever-so-slightly. He remained silent for a moment, not knowing
what to tell her, not knowing entirely what happened himself. "I do not
think you could consider it a 'fight'..." he began very cautiously,
revealing very little information and sounding very cryptic. He knew of
the fondness Htaere had for Kerrie, but also knew that lying to her
would be unforgivable. He had put himself in an unthinkable position.
It took very little time for the medical droid to appear, immediately
setting about the task of assessing Claudius' wounds, cleaning and
dressing them and performing a routine physical exam for any other
ailments or issues. While it worked, Htaere remained out of the way,
watching in silence as it carried on with its work. "Would you prefer to
nap for a while before starting home, or to stay the night and leave in
the morning? Viceroy Organa is a generous host, but I would hate to wear
out our welcome."
Claudius allowed the medical droid to service his hands, having
refused Doctor Tohan's medical services until he had finished treating
Kerrie. The droid began to dispense a salve that was designed to reduce
the swelling in the hands and treat the cuts simultaneously. It was cold
to the touch and stung slight at first, but he soon became used to it.
"Let us have one night away from the chaos," he explained to her as he
lay unmoving on the bed. He was not merely speaking about the war, but
also the trouble with the family, and now with Kerrie.
"That will be lovely then" she answered, reseating herself on the
side of the bed. Htaere's service droid held the bag in its metallic
fingers. ~Mistress Htaere, you must remember to attend to these as
instructed before you retire for the evening. Where would you like me to
put them?~ it asked, shuffling further into the room. Htaere glanced to
the droid. "Oh, in my bag is fine, thank you" she said hastily before
looking back to Claudius. "Will you be ready to eat upon competion of
the medical treatment or should I let you sleep..?"
Claudius turned onto his side to look at the droid, and then his eyes
roamed slowly over towards Htaere and offered her a quixotic look. "Are
you injured, my love?" he asked her with some concern as the medical
droid finished applying its treatment to his hands. He never suspected
pregnancy would even be a possibility, and so naturally he assumed she
had been prescribed something for pain.
"No, I am not injured" she smiled wearily. "They are some vitamins
and supplements and such." Again she grew quiet, watching the medical
droid work, mentally churning over both that development and the ones of
Claudius laughed softly, suspecting nothing as he knew of his
people's obsession with health and clean living. Something he could most
assuredly use himself at this point in his life. Finally he began to sit
back up, having lay still quite long enough. "Let us eat out on the
balcony," he said to her with a kind smile as he moved towards the bed
and walked towards it. He inhaled deeply, breathing the crisp, clean air
that he seemed unable to find anywhere else in his journeys. "Who knows
how much longer we'll be able to enjoy this view..." he said, turning to
her briefly with a loving smile. Of course he was referring to the fact
that they would soon depart and his business rarely afforded him time to
"It is quite an extraordinary one" she replied, joining him out side,
and taking in the grand view and all of the splendor therein. "It almost
reminds me of home" she said lazily, feeling instantly happier and more
at ease in the fresh air, and glorious sunshine.
As Claudius took a seat on a small, metallic chair that accompanied a
small, circular table that seemed more home in a sidewalk café than in
the Royal Palace he reached for her hand and guided her opposite him.
His hand gently caressed hers as the serving droid began to lay out a
small portion of local fare, nothing too substantial. He turned to her,
as his face moved away from gazing upon the open horizon towards the
mountains. "So beautiful..." he said quietly, as if he were talking
about the view, but in actuality was referring to her.
"And it is more so indeed" she responded, nodding towards the long
lines of the picture itself, "Is there anything else I can get for you
Claudius looked at her, watching her hair flutter in the gentle
breeze that often accompanies a sunset in Aldera and a kind smile came
upon his aged, tired face. He stood from the table and moved towards the
refresher where he began the process of restoring his physical state to
his normal appearance ... his mental state would take far longer to
return. He would return to her, having spent considerable time in the
sonic shower and having shaved, smelling like a proper Alderaanian man
and not some drunkard down in the city's Spacer Quarter. He took her by
the hand and led her towards the large, well-appointed bed that had been
prepared for them. "There is one thing..." he said quietly as he finally
answered her question, the lights to the room dimming as the blinds were
drawn by automatic controls.