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Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:2:10) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Rodney Castle and Sanctus Mons).
Lieutenant Sierra Dakkar and Grand Moff Claudius Rodney.

Claudius 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.

Tossing and 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*.

She rolled 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 the castle.

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.

The evening 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.

Eventually the 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 and 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.

Was she scared?

Did she look unhappy?


Sierra was 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 life.

The loudest 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.

Every movement 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.

Claudius 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 soon.

Sierra, ever 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 each other.

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