Rodney lay in his bed in one of Castle Rodney's
numerous spires. He was *alone*. He had no idea
where his wife was, but it did not seem to trouble
him as much as it should. The trip to Delaya had
thus far been a disaster, save for the time it
afforded him to spend with the young Sierra. There
she was again ... creeping into the forefront of his
thoughts where she did not belong. "Oh damn it all,"
he groaned, as he ripped the covers off him, and
rose quickly from the bed. The time for his
daughter's funeral was nearly upon him, and he could
not sleep ... it was a wasted effort to even try.
Changing into rugged civilian attire rather than the
formal robes of state or even his Imperial uniform,
he quickly moved from the top level, to one of the
lower levels of the spire where they had assigned
Lieutenant Dakkar. He barged into her room without
thinking, but when he saw she, too, was awake, he
felt less of a monster. "I'm sorry, Sierra," he
said, as he moved towards her, standing in front of
the bed with a renewed state of energy. "I'm going
to take a ride. Clear my head. Will you accompany
me?" he asked, as he outstretched his hand towards
her. It was a bold move for an old man.
turning, Sierra's mind was plagued with the good
times. She recalled all those times that she and
Jelana and spent together. No matter how many times
she cried, she seemed to always have tears for her
best friend. Tomorrow, she would be forced to say
goodbye for the final time. She mashed her eyes
closed. Tarkintown was but a breath away. Her mind
was cracking in half. How long until she had to lean
on Claudius for support? Claudius... *Shit*.
onto her stomach, burying her head in her pillow. It
was then that he burst through into her room. Her
head shot up immediately. Her blonde hair was a mess
from having spent her night rolling around her bed.
She looked at him with confused eyes. He wasn't even
in his uniform, only he was better dressed than she.
Sierra still wore a modest night gown. She began
sitting up as he drew himself closer to her bed.
"What's wrong, Claudius?" She whispered. Sierra was
dreaming again, clearly. His question came far out
of left field. It *was* bold. It was bold, and just
the thing she needed. She answered, first physically
with her hand reaching out to his. Her finger
brushed against his. She took his hand, rising from
bed. "Let me make myself decent." The blonde haired
woman turned her back on him. She disappeared into
her bathroom and reappeared in record breaking time.
She hadn't put any effort into her outfit; leggings,
a loosely fitting tunic, and a pair of ankle boots.
She took his hand once more, whisking him away from
Marcus was not
the only one with secrets who once lived in this
castle, and he led her to the small garage his wife
had permitted him for 'guy stuff'. It was hardly the
weapons cache of the Nerf Herder, but for Claudius
Rodney it was in his sharp contrast to his subdued
persona. There was even a picture of Twi'lek, which
he was quick to obscure my standing in front of it.
He grabbed hold his Ikas-Adno 22-B Nightfalcon
speeder bike, offering her a helmet. His own helmet
was quickly placed on his head as he jumped onto the
speeder and took the controls. "Hold on," he advised
her, as he activated the repulsors and lifted them
off the ground. His feet his the accelerators and
suddenly they were on their way, but instead of
heading down the main road down towards Leiliani, he
turned in the opposite direction that led up the
rugged path further up the mountains. Where they
were heading few had the courage to venture, and
Claudius, himself, had not been there in 30 years.
became a whirlwind of events. Sierra did not ask
where they were going. She was comfortable with
surrendering control to him. She stood in his 'man
cave', internally smiling about that Twi'lek picture
that he tried to hide from her! He had quite a
selection going on. It was comforting to know that
there were weapons so close, should her demons come
to attempt to drag her to the grave. Placing the
helmet upon her head and tightening its straps,
Sierra mounted the bike directly behind Claudius.
She was close, made secure there by wrapping her
arms around his waist. Pressing the front of her
body into the back of his brought on refreshing
feelings. "I'm ready," she confirmed. There was no
way either one of them were going to sleep tonight.
An impromptu ride with Claudius offered a better
evening than crying into her pillow over Jelena and
watching the minutes tick by. She held on tight,
clueless as to where he was headed to. His
directionality indicated that they weren't headed to
the city, but some place more private.
primitive road gave way and they were pushing
forward on loose rocks and ice as they ascended
higher into the mountains. Behind them the castle
now looked as far away as Leiliani looked from the
castle. As they moved into higher elevation the
engine began to sound louder as there was less
oxygen to suck in. Finally, after some time, the
speeder passed through clouds and they arrived at
the top Sanctus Mons, the tallest peak in all of
Delaya. He climbed off the bike carefully, as a fall
from here would likely send his body plummeting to a
crevasse where it would never be found. "Careful,"
he said, as he took Sierra by the hand, and led her
carefully to where she could get a look. "I can show
you the world," he said to her, as he outstretched
his hand. It was so clear that his eyes hurt from
how far they could see. The Castle, the city, the
distant sea. And unfortunately, much of the
pollution. It looked far different from the last
time he was here, before the Clone Wars, but it was
still his special places where neither Delaya nor
the Empire existed. This belonged to no one but him.
If any place were rightfully to be called 'Rodneyland'
as the refugees suggested ... *this* was it.
higher, Sierra and Claudius ascended into the
unknown. The adrenaline from the ride started to
mend the parts of her that hurt so badly. His
presence did the rest of the work. The sound of the
engine buzzed in her ears until finally, finally
they arrived at their destination. She had never
been on Sanctus Mons before. Her time in Delaya was
mostly spent in the Rodney castle. She had always
been soft towards Delaya. Now that Alderaan was
gone, it was as close to home as she could get.
Taking his hand, she carefully rose from the speeder
and stood with him. They were *really* high up.
Did she look
cautious as she moved. It would be unfortunate if
Claudius had to attend two funerals in Delaya. She
pulled her helmet off with her free hand so her
vision was not obscured in any way. Her jaw dropped
at the sight that he showed her. The whole planet
spread out as far as she could see. Emotions brushed
over her heart, then grasped it. She was teary-eyed,
ignoring the pollution for what natural beauties
still existed. She was speechless. Her head turned
back to him. "It's gorgeous," she said in awe. "I've
never seen Delaya like this." Her fingers slowly
began to weave in between his. Her helmet dropped to
the snowy ground at her feet. She took a step
forward so she stood in front of him. Her other hand
took his, marrying their fingers just like with the
opposite hand. Her chin tilted towards the distant
ocean. The constant breeze pushed her hair to and
thro. It was easily the most special moment in her
shriek Sierra was ever likely to hear occurred when
a large thranta landed suddenly near them. The
majestic winged creatures had taken to nesting in
the mountains at higher elevators to escape the
layer of pollution further down. Claudius reached
forward and placed his hand upon the beast's head,
touching it gently. "Beautiful, beautiful," he said,
as he noticed the baby thrantas in their nest
chirping happily at the notion their mother was
home. "Tell me, Sierra, do you trust me?" he said,
as he took hold of her hand, and moved her slowly
towards the creature. "Slowly. Do not startle it,"
he warned her, before he guided her hand onto the
beast as well. Its large wings began to flap, but
eventually it settled down and allowed the humans to
touch it. The creature was surprisingly tame. "I
have not done this in three decades, and I do not
guarantee our safety. You need not accompany me
further," he said, as he moved behind the thranta
and climbed slowly upon its back. "In my youth I met
with the thranta riders and they taught me how to
control the beast, but ... that was a lifetime ago,"
he warned her, as he steadied himself a top the
majestic beast. He then reached out with his left
arm, offering her to scoop her up with him. He
offered what smile he could to reassure her, but
what what they were going to attempt was reckless,
if not suicidal.
The world had
seemingly stopped. Something warm began to spread
from inside the girl's chest. The thranta appeared
unexpectedly. Sierra stopped herself from letting
out a shriek of her own and scaring the winged
beast. It was the closest she'd ever seen one. She
was entranced by it. Claudius, her fearless leader,
pet it as if it was a tame tauntaun. She wanted to
touch it too, only she didn't know the first thing
about it. A sweet smile stretched over her face. "Aww..."
The young thrantas nestled in their nest were so
adorable! Without missing a beat, Sierra responded
to his serious question. "I trust you," blindly,
stupidly, into whatever mess he took her into.
she made was slow. Her hand calmly met with the
thranta. The beast allowed it. Sierra was tickled.
Thranta were beautiful creatures. It was a shame
that pollution and poachers threatened their
existence on Delaya. "I'm touching it..." An obvious
statement, but a shocking one coming from a girl who
had never even owned a pet. Her obsessive mind had
been derailed from the dark side of life. She felt
fearless and strong on top of the mountain. Her hand
slowly dropped from the creature. As if the night
couldn't get any crazier, she witnessed the Grand
Moff mount the beast. At this point, Sierra was
beginning to look a little jealous! What she would
give to meet with thranta riders and learn their
ways. "I love your confidence, Claudius." They could
both die tonight... And Sierra showed no objection
to any of this.
With his help,
she settled on the thranta in front of him. Claudius
created a false sense of security for her. Her hands
touched ever so softly against the great beast.
Reckless, suicidal, stupid, and amazingly romantic.
She didn't know if he understood that he'd whisked
her off her feet in more than one way tonight. She
made the mistake of looking downward as the beast
began to approach the edge of the mountain. She
giggled. "Wow, we're *really* high up." And if they
died, it was damn worth it.
decided it was pointless to warn her, as it would
likely only cause anticipatory fear that could spook
the animal. The thranta let loose a shriek and
before they knew it, the wings had expanded, and it
had dropped off the mountain. "I wanted you to see
my Delaya," he said, over her shoulder, as they flew
over the clouds and mountain peaks in the moonlight.
"I never ... I never got to do this with Jelena," he
confessed, as they soar over the Castle, thousands
of meters above his ancestral home. It all looked so
small from up here, and he could make out the S
curve in the river that lay below, which seemed to
sparkle at night. "My life has become impossibly
difficult, Sierra," he told her, as his arms
tightened around her. He was beginning to see her
for the woman she had become, rather than the little
girl she used to be. In the distance the Aldera star
began to peek out over the distant sea, cascading
her blond locks with the first rays of a new dawn.
In the sunshine he leaned his head forward, turning
his head, and placed the most loving, tender kiss he
had placed upon a woman since he was as young as the
day was new.
Her heart had
relocated to her throat during that single moment of
fear that occurred as the thranta dropped from the
mountain. Thrills replaced her fear quickly. It was
even better than riding the speeder bike. She
breathed in deeply, inhaling *freedom*. The view was
even more beautiful when she was in it. The clouds
passed by rapidly. Below, the world was just
beginning to wake. She was relaxed on top of the
beast. Her heart thudded harder. *Claudius' Delaya*.
Jelena would have loved to do this. It was a magical
experience. One of her hands dropped to his,
squeezing it supportively. "I'm so sorry,
Claudius.." She couldn't comprehend how sad he was
over the loss of his daughter. There were so many
things that would never happen. She had gone too
the problem solver, wanted to uncomplicate his life
as soon as he confessed to her. The only problem was
that she had become a wrench in the whole entire
thing. Call it fate, call is Mother Nature's
interference, but there was undeniable things she
felt for him. She had moved past thinking about how
wrong it was...though guilt still dwelled inside of
her gut. As the morning star broke through the
polluted skies, Sierra and Claudius shared a kiss.
The feelings it brought her were simply
indescribable. Those feelings inside of her danced
with his. Like how she weaved her fingers with his,
the emotions naturally meshed. She didn't allow
herself to question such a pure, sweet moment. In
that moment of pure passion, Sierra realized the
truth; no one else would be good for her except
Claudius Rodney. She held onto that kiss, pouring
herself out to him. They couldn't stay away from