After the less then soothing time on Ithor, Htaere found herself
eager to return to the Hapes Cluster, more so then she usually did. As
enjoyable as the amazing landscapes were that carpeted Ithor, the heavy
Imperial presence was not something she had been expecting, despite
notification of the quarantine, and the constant cavalier of troops that
chaperoned them was what she had hoped to escape from on this hiatus.
Avowing to return post war, she was eager to experience the glories of
Ithor sans the ever present barrage of Imperials that she was growing
more weary of as time went on.
The shuttle Kwai barely flinched as it exited hyperspace, and
Htaere knew the time was short until they touched down at her home.
Having notified them of their impending visit, moving through the
heavily guarded borders of the cluster would prove no difficulty. For
them to ascertain clearance and obtain the navigation codes for the
location of Gallinore within the closer took mere moments, and with a
brief jump into hyperspace lasting 20 minutes, the shuttle made it's way
through the cluster to Htaere's homeworld.
As it settled on the tarmac within the family's estate, Htaere was
quick to unfasten her crash restraint and get to her feet. Completely
shed of the Imperial mantle in this part of the galaxy, they could truly
relax for the first time.
Doctor Tohan's hands tightened around the walking stick as he forced
himself back onto his feet. He had never been to the Hapes Cluster
before, and Htaere was the only Hapan that he had ever met. He had heard
stories regarding their opulent culture and extravagant lifestyles, but
the record banks were remarkably incomplete. Taking charge of the
children, the venerable Ithorian physician began slowly making his way
down the shuttle's ramp. His large, bulbous eyes widened slightly as he
took his first look at the planet Gallinore. He was thankful for the
first time in years not to see an Imperial presence, but he silently
wondered if any region of the galaxy would ever truly remain outside of
their menacing reach. Knowing his place, he stood behind Htaere
silently, allowing her to guide him and the others on their way.
As the major topographical feature of Gallinore was rain forests, the
splendors of rich green were accented here and there with the odd cliff
face, meadow and prairie. Htaere strode down the ramp confidently and
languishing in the fresh air and sunshine. At the base of the ramp, her
homecoming reception stood gathered, fronted by none other than Hapan
Attaché My`Ahme Renault. Behind her, in an arc of golden orange gauzy
gowns were 6 handmaidens, all but their eyes concealed by veils, their
bare wrists and ankles glittering in the sunlight with gold jewelry.
Behind the handmaidens stood two guards. Each handmaiden carried a
basket brimming with pricey gifts and of various class, weapons,
jewelry, utensils, decor and so on.
"Lady Htaere," My`Ahme and the entourage behind her bowed
collectively before straightening and offering a genuine pearly white
flawless smile. "It is with great joy the people of Hapes welcome you
home," she continued before motioning to the many baskets of trinkets.
"Gifts have been brought at the request of the people to welcome your
family. Come, you must be fatigued after your travels," she continued.
The eloquent young diplomat with straight brown hair spoke with a thick
Hapan accent, melodious to the ear. Htaere reciprocated with a grateful
but weary smile of her own. "Thank you, My`Ahme. We are honored at the
people's generosity." She moved to the side slightly to make space for
Pilaq and the children.
My`Ahme and haindmaidens bowed deeply again to Htaere's family,
perfectly choreographed and unwavering in grace before the attaché
spoke. "Dr. Tohan, we are happy to see you again, and are humbled by
your presence in Hapes," she offered. Genuflecting to Drusilla and Ewwie
as well, My`Ahme showered the youths with her diplomacy and good
manners. "We are likewise honored to have Lord Rodney's daughters. If
there is anything we may do to make your stay superlative, please do let
us know." Htaere waited patiently while My`Ahme dispensed with the
formalities, as was her job.
Drusilla's mood perked up considerably when she saw the Hapans
bearing gifts, being considerably impressed by the size and arrangement
of many of the jewels. Perhaps she should consider marrying a Hapan if
they all have such wealth.
Ewwiekewwieikkie was more concerned by the Hapan's shoes, and quickly
found herself on the ground closely examining their footwear. "I trade
you forks for feets!" she said as she tilted her head, sniffing at their
feet excitedly. "Nice," she said happily, as her head tilted up back to
Htaere seeking assistance.
Doctor Tohan nodded politely at the Hapan delegation feeling that the
mood was much more pleasant here on Gallinore than it was on Ithor.
"Thank you for your warm greeting, gentlebeing," he announced
pleasantly, as he bowed his large hammerhead respectfully to the
The handmaiden at who's feet Ewwie had crawled looked down at the
fury blue creature and asked her something in Hapan, as she did not
speak Basic. The spoken language was fluent and gentle, pleasing to
hear. My`Ahme extended a hand to touch Ewwie's arm respectfully. "She
would have you tell her your size of footwear, so that she may procure
your exact fit," she explained.
Ewwiekewwieikkie rose to her feet to look up at My`Ahme, considering
her words as much as her mind could process. "Hmm..." she said, her blue
fur covered paw stroking at her chin lately. "Three forks!" she
announced confidently as she began the haggling process. "This good
haggle," she said with an emphatic nod of her head, as she dove into her
basket of trinkets. She dove in head first and began to frantically
burrow before produced the desired the quantity of utensils.
Claudius Rodney "Oh goodness," Drusilla said, as she brought her
forehead down into the palm of her hand. She never understood why her
father rescued the simple brained creature, and she was a source of
constant embarrassment to her. "We never should have brought her," she
said to Htaere snottily, as she stepped forward to take the Squib by the
arm and lead her away from the scene she was creating.
Htaere gazed back to My`Ahme "Better bring a variety, as I am not
sure." The attaché nodded and motioned them to a speeder parked at the
edge of the tarmac. "Please, let us depart so that you may begin to
relax." Eager to be done with the pomp and circumstance, Htaere moved to
the speeder, pausing only long enough to extend an arm to Dr. Tohan with
a smile. Behind them, a few droids and the shuttle crew collected the
The speeder journey was only a few minutes, but necessary to traverse
hastily the sprawling and flawlessly manicured acreage between the
landing pad and the actual estate home.
Drusilla was growing increasingly jealous and bitter by the moment.
The grounds were far superior to her family's castle on Delaya, and it
bothered her to know end that she was being upstaged. "Very nice..." she
muttered quietly to Htaere as she sized up the family estate. She knew
that her father married into the Hapan nobility, but she did not expect
their wealth to apparently surpass their own.
"You come from a very lovely planet, Milady," Pilaq said to Htaere
politely as he took in the landscaping during the journey in the
speeder. "How long has it been in your family?" he asked, making polite
small talk. His tension was already beginning to lower as he felt
finally to be away from the stress of the war. He had hoped it would
have the same pleasing affect on Htaere.
"Millennia worth of generations," Htaere answered. "The Ka`a Sha`ahr
have owned the exclusive mining rights of the rainbow gems since their
discovery." The speeder ride was indeed brief, drawing to halt to let
its passengers off at the circular front drive of the estate. My`Ahme
stepped to the side, the handmaidens taking up positions on either side
of the ramp to join her. "Welcome to Iisombernahy," she announced
formally. Before them towered the 264 room, ten story high palace that
had been in the possession of the Ka`a Sha`ahr dynasty for thousands of
years. Shimmering like a celestial tower of over the top opulence,
shimmering gates hiding inner courtyards and lines of polished marble
pillars guided the way into the main entrance of the home. Statues of
women in flowing Grecian robes lined the grand walkway.
Having grown up here, Htaere strolled casually towards the main
entrance of the estate, with it's old fashioned enormous carved wooden
doors within the inner courtyard. My`Ahme was at her heals. "My Lady,
Erenada herself has requested your presence when you are feeling well
rested. And your mother..." she did not get the chance to finish. Htaere
interrupted her as she walked, raising a hand to silence My`Ahme in mid
sentence. "I am honored by Erenada's request and we shall pay our
respects to her in short. As for my mother, tell the harpy, and my
sisters, we are not to be bothered. I do not wish to see them here," she
commanded firmly. My`Ahme bowed once more. "As you wish, my Lady."
As the triumphant homecoming parade marched further into the palace
Iisombernahy, it became evident that the building was circular, built
around a main court yard spanning several acres in size. The wings of
the palace encompassed the hidden paradise protectively and rightfully
The massive palace courtyard centered around a three story high
gargantuan and pretentious fountain and hanging gardens. Towering
trellis, aqueduct and support beam spanned around the courtyard, holding
up suspended bowls of varying sizes, their contents brimming over by the
myriad species of natural flora found throughout the cluster.
Dotting the elaborate and staggering fountain from top to bottom were
37 stone statues of women. Pristine trails disappeared beyond the
enormous centerpiece into parts unknown of the elaborate and
ostentatious courtyard. Htaere paused long enough to draw a deep breath
and look around appreciatively of her home, almost museum-like in
sumptuous and unrivaled wealth from millennia of credits made by the
ultra rare and valuable rainbow gems that constituted the backbone of
Drusilla's teeth had clenched so severely she threatened to destroy a
fortune in corrective dental work, as her jealousy threatened to boil
over. "This ... is where you grew up?" she asked, sounding awestruck.
She simply could not accept that Htaere came from such a magnificent
estate that overshadowed everything she had seen on her journeys through
the galaxy so far. "It simply isn't fair," she protested, folding her
arms in front of her chest as she looked around, mentally calculating
the cost of everything around her. Gradually her lower lip began to rise
in a full on pout. When she returned she would have to press her
grandfather to dramatically renovate her family's ancestral home.
The long walk through the mammoth estate had begun to take its toll
on the aging doctor, and with each step Pilaq needed to rely more
heavily on his walking stick. His breathing became slightly labored,
billowing from his uniquely positioned stereophonic mouths. His eyes
closed for a moment as he attempted to steady himself, transferring his
body weight to the walking stick entirely.
"All so shiny!" Ewwiekewwieikkie commented as she scampered among the
group. She ran in a zigzag pattern from side to side, sticking her face
in anything and everything she could find and examining it closely. For
a moment, she seemed to be acting Drusilla as her overwhelming desire to
own all of the beautiful objects she came across was beginning to
Pilaq was embarrassed by the fact that the fatigue had gotten the
better than him, but he graciously accepted Htaere's kind support.
"Thank you, Milady," he said in a kind and courteous voice as he
followed her out towards the terrace. "We have been traveling a great
distance and I was not quite prepared for the amount of walking," he
conceded as he gripped firmly upon the walking stick for much needed
support. When they arrived at the terrace he was quick to find a seat,
letting out a tired and content sigh as he settled down. "Thank you for
inviting me into your home," he said with a polite nod as his naturally
curious eyes scanned the terrain, taking in the details of the
surrounding landscaping. It was quite an impressive sight.
Htaere took a seat next to him and made herself comfortable. In short
order, various vegetarian items were laid out before them, with a
matching assortment of beverages including water, tea, Hapan Ale and
Whyren's Reserve. Off to the side, a minstrel began playing a gentle
tune quietly on a string instrument. "I am thrilled I could pull you
away from the Warspite long enough to join me," she replied
eagerly with a grin. "There is no Imperial presence here. We should not
be bothered at all, no armed escorts, no imposition on the locals, and
all the fresh air and greenery we can handle."
Pilaq helped himself to a small portion to refresh himself as he
attempted to make the most of what he might consider a vacation. "I am
sorry for the all the bother on Ithor, Milady," he offered,
apologetically as he tried to put that part of the trip behind them.
"The last time your husband and I visited Ithor there was a small
incident," he vaguely explained as he helped himself to a glass of the
Hapan Ale, attempting to sample the local flavor. "I am certain the
Empire merely wished to avoid another incident that might cause them
undue embarrassment or criticism," he concluded, taking in a deep breath
of the fresh air to soothe himself.
"Oh?" It piqued her interest a bit. "What transpired?"
"Have you never heard the story of how Major Kiley came to be in Lord
Rodney's service?" Pilaq replied, somewhat surprised, given the
perceived closeness between the two women. Perhaps he should not have
said anything, and quickly helped himself to a second glass of the Hapan
Ale as he attempted to relax himself. It was medicinal he thought to
himself as he heartily drank of the glass.
"I believe she's given abridged bits and pieces," Htaere rifled
through memories in her mind about the in depth conversations she shared
"It is not my place to go into any great detail," Pilaq explained as
he finished the second glass of Ale and had to muster every ounce of his
fortitude to refrain from a third serving. "But they met during our last
trip to Ithor..." he continued, interrupting the conversation to force a
rather large leafy vegetable in his mouth. "...and it necessitated
certain security protocols being changed," he said with a slight
chuckle, reflecting on the moment in a much different light than when it
first occurred. "I am not keeping you from visiting with your friends
and family am I?" he asked her, stopping to take a bite of yet another
interesting vegetable. He felt as if he had been unfairly monopolizing
"My preference is to remain here," Htaere replied with a soft smile.
"The company is far superior. And we came here to relax, to be away from
everyone for a while, to do things at our leisure. I intend to take full
advantage of it."
Pilaq nodded at her comments, agreeing with her completely.
"Relaxation is very important for your recovery, Milady," he explained
as his eyes again rolled down towards the bottle of Hapan Ale. He
considered a third glass yet again, but resisted the temptation with a
slight degree of effort. "What happened to you was inexcusable..." he
continued, with some hesitation as he did not want to upset her by
bringing up unfortunate memories. However, he realized that she would
have to talk about it at some point if she were ever truly going to
Htaere did not respond right away. Over time, she had begun to
formulate ideas about the Empire, and the experience with ISB only
served to give those contemplations a base for justification. Instead
she drew a deep breath and fixated her eyes out towards the majestic
fountain and hanging gardens. Reluctant to speak such utterances as they
could be perceived as potentially treasonous, she kept her thoughts to
herself, uncertainty and skepticism for the Empire ever increasing.
(9:49:46 PM) Claudius Rodney Pilaq realized that he had attempted to
discuss a subject that she was not quite ready for, and decided now was
not the time to press her further on the subject. "You have done a great
deal to reinvigorate your husband, Milady," Pilaq explained in a
compassionate tone, seeking to change the subject to a happier topic.
"He was alone for so long that I feared he would never find love again,"
he confessed, perhaps getting a bit too personal, but if there was ever
a time to discuss such a subject it was now.
"I do not know that such is fact," Htaere admitted. "Claudius seems
to deteriorate further with each passing day. His health is of great
concern." Shifting a bit in her seat before sipping tea from a delicate
cup and saucer, she admitted quietly. "I asked him if he has considered
Pilaq blinked slowly when he heard the word 'retirement', believing
it was something that his old friend would never consider. "His own
condition and the conditions in the Ringali Shell form a symbiotic
relationship," he explained to her as he took a sample from the fruit
plate that had been placed before him, munching happily. "When
conditions improve, his health will improve as well," he concluded
positively, believing the might of the Empire that they had witnessed
firsthand could not be held back by a poorly equipped band of rebels.
"I hope it is sooner rather then later," she remarked, sighing. "I do
not know that Claudius in good enough health to keep up with a child.
Conditions do not seem to be improving."
"I have seen him pull himself out of deeper holes," Pilaq said,
reassuringly as he finally gave into temptation and poured a third glass
of the Hapan Ale. After all, he was on vacation and it was very unlikely
that he would be called on to perform the services of a physician.
Htaere's eyes studied the teacup for a moment. "I am disappointed he
could not attend this vacation." Drawing her thoughts together from
being maudlin, she managed a smile and shifted her stormy grey pools
over to the Ithorian. She let the sunlight warm her face before
speaking. "And what about you? Do you enjoy what you are doing? Is this
where you choose to be?"
"I am confident that he wished to attend, Milady," Pilaq informed
her, genuinely appreciating the love that existed between the two of
them. "Unfortunately, his responsibilities do not afford him much time
for retreats such as this," he concluded, before the subject changed to
a more personal topic. "It is important to find enjoyment in whatever it
is you do, Milady," he responded to her, doing his best to dodge the
question. However, given what he had just seen on Ithor he no longer
much of a desire to return to home.
"That is not what I asked," she answered plainly.
The young Hapan was perhaps more clever than he gave her credit, as
she easily confronted him on his attempt to dodge the question. "I am
where I am needed," he explained to her thoughtfully, having rarely
spent much time considering the issue itself. "Unfortunately, the
conflict affords me a great number of opportunities to practice my use
as a physician," he explained to her, perhaps a bit grimly, but he
nevertheless did enjoy being useful.
"Needed, but not where you wish to be," Htaere gave structure to the
notion he was reluctant to admit. "I no longer wish to be there either.
I feel uncomfortable on the ship, that every breath is being scrutinized
in search of any minuscule particle for them to use as yet another
reason for false accusation."
"My dear, when you are my age you will realize that what we wish is
rarely what is so," Pilaq thoughtfully explained to her as he considered
her first words carefully. He was surprised by her admission, and it
took him slightly off guard and it was truly something he was not
prepared for. "No one ever accused an Imperial Star Destroyer of being
comfortable," he said with a firm nod of his head as he finished his
third glass of Hapan Ale. "However, home is where you make it and I know
your husband has gone to a great deal of effort to make it as pleasant
for you as possible," he continued before sampling another of the local
vegetables with a loud crunch.
A brief smile touched Htaere's lips, but it was short lived. "My
discomfort has nothing to do with the accommodations." Feeling as though
she had spent the duration of the discussion complaining unjustly, she
relented. "And no measure of Claudius' efforts have ever gone unnoticed.
He has been kind to me since we first met, and I am supremely grateful
for such benevolence."
Pilaq titled his head slightly as he considered her words carefully.
"From where does your discomfort stem?" he asked her, genuinely
interested as his hands reluctantly moved to pour himself a fourth glass
of the Hapan Ale. The topic of the conversation had convinced him that
he would most definitely require another beverage.
Htaere stifled the immense frown as she recalled what bits and pieces
she could from the blurry memory of her interrogation. "I was accused of
accessing information of some sort and leaking it to the rebellion. I
have absolutely no idea what information they were referring to, what
terminal was used and why I was identified as the one who perpetrated
the retrieval," she explained. "I have done nothing in any way, shape or
form to even present any question as to my activities aboard the ship. I
have touched nothing but the terminal within our suite, and strictly to
make transmission requests with the ship's communications officer," she
shook her head, still bewildered as to how her involvement had been
fabricated. "I have intentionally taken great care not to do anything
that might even suggest impropriety. And despite these unwavering and
conscientious efforts, somehow I was still presented as the traitor."
Htaere's sun kissed shoulders lifted and fell in the most subtle of
shrugs. "And now, I am afraid."
Doctor Tohan listened to her words carefully, not having been aware
of the particulars of the charges that were made against her. He was
confident in her innocence, however. "The Imperial Security Bureau is a
notorious, shameful organization," he said, agreeing her statements and
believing she had a reason to be justly afraid. "Your husband is adamant
in support for your cause and is your greatest champion, Milady," he
continued, nodding his hammerhead slightly as he continued to eat, the
affects of the ale making him quite hungry. "You should not fear any
longer. The matter has been resolved and they shall not make the mistake
of harming you again," he concluded, as he looked over what was left of
the appetizers eagerly.
"Not everything has been resolved with an apology, Doctor," Htaere
lamented. "Not everything is repairable here. There was no attempt to
seek the truth. It was anything but. That woman would not acquiesce to
even the slightest possibility that she could have been wrong." Sinking
into the recollections of such a hell, Htaere waved the self-induced
torment away. "Ah well, we are on vacation, and should not let such
vexations preoccupy our energies."
By this point Pilaq had too much to drink and the old Ithorian was in
danger of saying things he should not. "Given Major Kiley's past life I
would not be surprised if she took revenge for you, Milady," he
admitted, as he cleared the last of the fruit from his plate, eagerly
letting it fill both of his mouth's simultaneously.
"Kerrie is a dear friend, but I do not think this to be an
opportunity for vengeance for her, and certainly hope it would not be.
As it is, I am not aware that she is familiar with any of the details,
and it is perhaps best that it remain as such," Htaere replied looking
over to the physician. She raised a hand slightly, and as a result one
of the house droids came hurrying over. She addressed it quietly for
dinner preparations before turning her attention back to her esteemed
guest. "I am rather relieved that she was not forced to come along on
this trip," Htaere chuckled a bit. "I cannot help but feel that more
often then not, she is subjected to undue pain and suffering as a result
of my actions. In addition, I believe it is a waste of her talents to
babysit me all day."
"I believe she wanted to come, but was ordered to 'babysit' Jelena,"
Pilaq explained, using her word to describe the situation. He was
feeling quite flushed from the affects of the ale and his eyelids began
to feel quite heavy His head began to lower slightly as he tried to
steady himself. From time to time he would sample some of the liquors he
kept for medicinal purposes, but it had been quite some time since he
had consumed such an amount of alcohol.
"Dr. Tohan?" Htaere gazed at him curiously. "Would you like to
retire? I can have a meal sent to your personal chambers," she offered,
a bit concerned.
"Perhaps I have overindulged myself," Pilaq admitted as he slowly
began to rise from his seat into a standing position. He walked towards
the estate, unable to walk in a straight line, and relying heavily on
his walking stick for guidance and balance as he tipsily proceeded. "Oh
dear," he sheepishly chirped as he looked to Htaere, rather embarrassed
by the situation he had put himself in.
Htaere smiled, placing down her cup of tea and hurried over to offer
her arm. "Come, let me assist you and repay the favor you have bestowed
upon me on more then one occasion."
As Doctor Tohan made his way into the estate it felt as if a
concussion grenade had gone off directly adjacent to his head, and he
was forced to bring his free hand up to the side of his head to steady
himself. "I apologize for my conduct, Milady," he said to her again, his
ornate walking stick clanking against the floors as he gradually made
his way to the room that had been prepared for him with Htaere's
"It is nothing," Htaere tried not to laugh at his embarrassment. As
the illuminators around the room came to bear in a soft dim, the sound
of water trickling could be heard from the three tier fountain in the
seating area of the balcony terrace for the chambers. Guiding the
Ithorian to the elaborate canopy bed, Htaere helped to seat him. "I
shall have your meal sent up promptly. The bathing chambers are off to
the right. Would you like me to get a fire lit in the fireplace for
"You have already done too much," Pilaq said to her, not at all being
comfortable with the idea of her serving him on his vacation. "I have
all that I need and look forward to seeing more of your homeworld
tomorrow," he said to her, as he settled into the bed, allowing his head
to lay comfortably against the pillow as his eyes began to close.
Suddenly Ewwiekewwieikkie burst into the room, seeming very excited.
She pulled down the ornate curtains from her room and fashioned them
into a form of toga that she was now wearing. She closed the distance on
Htaere and wrapped her arms around her lower body tightly, the grip so
strong that it threatened to cut off the circulation to her leg. "Me
like it here," she announced cheerfully as she attempted to show off the
new outfit she had made.
Htaere turned to look at Ewwie and giggled slightly. "I do so love
your outfit, very lovely," she whispered before putting a finger to her
lips and pointing to Dr. Tohan. Tiptoeing towards the chamber entrance,
she motioned for she and Ewwie to make their silent escape.