The day had finally arrived. A nervous
Claudius Rodney sat silently in an antique chair in one of the Aldera
Royal Palace's ubiquitous antechambers. He was dressed in his best
Alderaanian regalia ... fine fashion that he had not worn since his days
in the Republic Senate decades ago. Clammy, the palms of his hands clung
to his knees as if he was holding on for dear life. He swallowed
nervously, his eyes flashing back and forth to the chronometer on the
wall. It had been ages since he was this nervous. He did not even
remember feeling this way prior to his first wedding. He swallowed in
futility before coughing to clear his throat. He was parched. He
struggled to grab the pitcher of cold water and refill his glass. He
only managed to get it half-full. He had drained the pitcher entirely.
Reaching for the glass, he gulped it down as if he had spent the past
several days stranded in the wastelands of Tatooine.
"That's your sixth glass," Marcus Rodney
was quick to point out, "You don't want her to get halfway down the
aisle and then have to stop the ceremony so you can rush to the
refresher." He laughed loudly, trying to reassure his older brother. His
memories of the first wedding were vague ... he was very young and the
later trauma had caused him to push it from his mind. His attire matched
his brother's. He hated the feel of the lavish fabrics on his body. He
had long scorned the nobility as it diminished his worth as a 'second
son.' He was here as a favor to his brother ... nothing more ... and he
made no secret of it.
"We should proceed," the familiar voice
of Pilaq Tohan echoed through the small antechamber. Claudius Rodney's
personal physician and long-term friend felt honored to play such an
important role in today's ceremony. He realized, however, that the
Admiral's occupation prevented him from making many friends. He also
noted the icy way the majority of Alderaan's population had treated them
since their arrival on the planet earlier in the week. These people did
not seem to go along with Imperial ideals he thought, but the events of
the day superseded everything else in terms of importance.
In yet another large illustrious chamber
within the palace was the bridal party, an extensive and ornate
collection of females, from Claudius' daughters to Htaere's mother. In
addition were a collection of handmaidens in their own long flowing
gowns and veils concealing all but their eyes. Amid the swarm of women
stood the bride-to-be, Htaere Ka`a Sha`ar, her shaky hands in front of
her holding some massive tear-shaped bouquet of amazing and imported
flowering plants, the tail of such an arrangement nearly skimming the
ground in front of her incredible wedding dress. Her head and bust were
concealed beneath one of the more elaborate headdresses from Hapes, her
face hidden entirely from view, which in such a situation was probably
for the best, given that her mother, the abrasive and domineering Qeio`i
Eschuu da Sha`ar, stood before her making last ditch efforts to instill
in her daughter an authoritative solidarity before losing her to the
At long last, Qeio`i Eschuu gave an
exasperated sigh before looking to the door as an attendant entered to
inform all the ceremony was about to begin. With that, and a few more
"lasting" words of encouragement, the horrendous matriarch withdrew,
leaving underlings to organize Htaere and her entourage.
Quiet and a mystery behind the extensive
veil that concealed nearly her entire upper half, Htaere's head lifted
from the shameful admonishment she had been given towards her maid of
honor, Kerrie Kiley.
Kerrie squirmed, visibly uncomfortable.
The look on her carefully mimicked Human face was one of both shock and
dismay. Since being fitted for this dress she had marked the day in her
calendar with an increasing sense of dread. She shifted from her right
leg to her left noticeably, her hands running over her sides and tugging
at the fabric awkwardly trying to somehow find the way to make an
adjustment that would somehow make it comfortable. Oh how she wished she
could have just worn her uniform. Ignoring Htaere and the others she
stared ominously into the mirror, looking at the job the handmaidens had
done on her hair and the makeup on her face. For a shape-shifter it was
normal to stare at one's reflection and view a stranger ... but this was
something entirely different. She was out of her element and in such a
situation she was extremely uncomfortable. Although the Alderaan Guard
was providing ample security, nevertheless her mind was going over the
dangers that could fall upon them rather than the tedious affairs of a
The silence was broken by Drusilla
Rodney, youngest of the Admiral's three daughters. "Why is your dress
nicer than mine?" she asked her older sister in a tone somewhere between
that of a fire alarm and an air raid siren. The young girl was wearing
virtually the same dress as her sister, but lacking some of the finer
jewelry reserved for a woman of Jelena's age and position in society.
Her grandparents had arranged it that way, as she was well-past the
point where she should be married ... at least in their opinion.
"Quiet down," Jelena responded to her
younger sister, looking somewhat embarrassed by the scene she had made.
"This day isn't about us, remember," she dried to explain, but succeeded
in getting virtually nowhere with her younger counterpart. She gave a
pleasant, reassuring smile to Htaere. In the back of her mind she
thought about her mother and what she must have looked like on her
wedding day. Her mixed emotions were culminating after months of
Ewwiekewwieikkie stood out like a sore
thumb in her dress, clashing with the blue fur of her particular race of
Squib. Nevertheless, she was bouncing enthusiastically as she waited for
them to make their way from the antechamber to the main hall of the
palace. She had never been there before, but Claudius refused to leave
her out of the ceremony despite the concerns voiced by his parents.
Taking a strand of pearls from one of the table she put them in her
mouth and attempted to gnaw on them. "Yuck," she groaned as they grated
against her teeth and she spit them out. "They taste awful," she said,
mostly to herself as she walked away from the slobbered on jewelry.
One of the wedding orchestrators
appeared, raising her voice to address all present. "Attention
please...we are beginning...places if you will" she sang out pleasantly
but firmly. One by one, the wedding party took up their respective
places in the grand parade of sorts that would traverse the long
carpeted aisle established between the rows of seating brought in to
accommodate the sheer numbers of guests within the palace. First were
Claudius' daughters, one by one who would meet up with their respective
escorts toward the massive dais that had been designated the alter as
such. Following was Kerrie, then Htaere trailed by her handmaidens.
Still silent and safely concealed behind her gauzy veil, the future
bride revealed nothing of her state, pristine decorum holding up
remarkably. As the doors were opened, the bridal party moved forward,
pausing just behind the grand entrance to the majestic ball room that
had been converted for the ceremony. The room was full, standing room
was a rare commodity and as all the guests and media reps stood, the
thousands of eyes turned from the dais in anticipation.
By now, Claudius had made his way with
his compatriots to the main chamber of Aldera Royal Palace. The stage
was set for the social event of the season. In the northern end of the
hall Claudius stood front and center, his hands no longer nervously
grasping for his knees, instead replaced with a tense, proper paw-like
grip to minimize his fingers. Off to the side stood his brother Marcus,
who was serving as his best man, with Pilaq Tohan standing further off
to the side. In the center stood Viceroy Bail Organa who would be
performing the ceremonies. The seats were packed with various nobles and
dignitaries from throughout the Alderaan Sector and the vast Empire
beyond. The front rows on his side were noticeably occupied by the Duke
and Duchess of Delaya, Claudius' notorious parents who had arranged for
this ceremony. To their side sat their honored guests, Princess Leia
Organa and her mother, the Queen. Behind them sat additional members of
the Royal family and other noble houses of Alderaan. Towards the back
sat Captain Tiberius Anson and the rest of the officers of the
Warspite, the Admiral's flagship. Most of the crew seemed rather
muted, but Lieutenant Allegra Ames was keen to interact with other
dignitaries ... always dropping her father's name and attempting to make
whatever contacts she could. It seemed that Lieutenant Randi Trainor had
already had too much drink, as she had temporarily been permitted to
take up drinking again for ceremonial purposes. She burped audibly
before excusing herself and sinking down in her chair hoping very few
"You can still back out," Marcus
whispered in Claudius' ear, joking of course. He gave a quick glare over
to his father, the Duke, who was shooting holes in him with the stare he
was given him. They had not spoken in months, and both were struggling
to get through the day without confronting one another. Livia was doing
her best to tame them both, hoping the alcohol of the later festivities
would settle them both.
"Not on your life," Claudius murmured
back to his brother. He nodded politely to the Viceroy, who ironically
had served as the best man at his first wedding ceremony decades ago. He
cleared his throat one final time and then turned to face the entrance
to the south as the chamber orchestra began to play.
At the cue of the music, the bridal
party began to grace across the expanse of the chamber, the group moving
slowly and collected, dignified and astounding. Opposite the Rodney's
and occupying the first sets of seating were the Hapans, a mind-numbing
collection of exceptional looking people. Htaere's family were an earth
shattering site alone, her mother, father and sisters, and their
high-powered entourage and servants all monopolized the view in their
near gluttonous splendor. The women of the Sha`ar house, as well as a
good many of their nobility friends were all veiled, as was customary.
They were truly a site, the collective value of the Hapan representation
Htaere's head lifted at long last, her
chin tilted up in what was almost condescension as it was nearly her
turn. Behind her, the four handmaidens stood in a perfect square, each
carrying one part of the long ornate train that trailed Htaere's wedding
gown. From the safe confines of her veil, she surveyed what she could
see of the audience hall, teeming with beings and nearly all of their
attentions on her in a matter of moments. Oddly, it did not concern her
much. Trained from childhood in the fine art of showmanship and
behavior, the masses were the least intimidating to Htaere. Instead, her
focus was up ahead in the distance, where Claudius stood. It was
difficult to see amid the countless people, but she trained herself to
look there and nowhere else. Finally, the orchestrator signaled her, and
Htaere stepped through the light curtained arch into the utter glory
that was her wedding. It was simply awe inspiring, the pomp and
circumstance and completely glamorous, complete with high profile
notoriety and all that came with it. Slowly, Htaere drifted towards the
dais, the sounds in her ears deafening into a filtered numbness, her
heart racing wildly beneath her chest.
Claudius' eyes locked on Htaere as she
approached. It was as if she were something out of a dream. He was
mesmerized by her beauty and the music in the room was soon replaced by
a different sort of beat in his head. He was oblivious to the goings on
in the ceremony, including his younger brother's foolish attempt to
flirt with Kerrie. Little did he know the temporarily dolled up Major
was in reality a reptilian creature who would sooner eat him than make
love to him. As Htaere arrived, he smiled at her semi-concealed face.
His hands shook nervously as he raised them to the side of her face and
delicately lifted the veil up over her face and on to her head. His face
curled into a nervous, silent smile as he turned to face his friend and
colleague who was about to perform the ceremony. His left hand took her
right hand and he squeezed it gently, more to reassure himself than her.
Bail Organa looked to his old friend
Claudius and nodded slightly. He then turned his head slightly to look
at Htaere and smiled warmly. Folding his hands in front of him, he began
to speak, first to the audience, "We have gathered here from all points
in the galaxy today not for political reasons, nor for the concerns of
high society. We are here to celebrate our oldest and most sacred
tradition ... marriage." He paused for effect before continuing, "I have
known the Lord Rodney for three decades and although I have just
recently met Lady Ka`a Sha`ar I am honored to welcome them both into my
home for today's joyous event." He paused, allowing for the crowd to
applaud at each line as they were prone to do at such affairs. "With no
further speeches allow me to get to the matter at hand and allow these
two to begin their journey together."
"Do you," Viceroy Organa began in a
loud, proper tone as he turned to face Claudius, "Lord Claudius Rodney,
take the Lady Htaere Ka`a Sha`aar to be your wife to have and to hold,
for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health,
to love and to cherish 'till death do you part."
The duration of the Viceroy's reading of
the vows seemed to take an eternity. Claudius' slipped his tongue over
lips to moist them as he prepared to speak. "I do," he said in a firm
tone as he glanced quickly to Htaere before focusing on the Viceroy.
Viceroy Organa nodded to Claudius and
his attention focused on Htaere. A kind smile appeared upon his tan
visage as he addressed her. "Do you," he began repeating the vows, "Lady
Htaere Ka`a Sha`aar, take Lord Claudius Rodney to be your husband ... to
have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in
sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do you part."
Htaere's exquisitely decorated face was
a bit pasty. Scared and trembling she smiled shakily towards her
intended husband, the Viceroy's words echoed in her ears. She could hear
him, and in the moments that would follow, this would seal the marriage.
From behind the various arrays of jewels and studs across her face,
chest and arms, Htaere's soft grey eyes met Claudius' forcing her
attentions on he and he alone. "I do" she answered quietly, a shy smile
on her lips.
Viceroy Bail Organa extended both of his
arms in a welcoming gesture as his attention turned from the couple and
to the throng of gathered individuals. He smiled as glanced down at the
two for a moment before shifting to the larger sense of things. "Then,"
he began in a loud voice, "By the power granted to me by the High
Council of Alderaan I pronounce you husband and wife." As the crowd
began to clap loudly the Viceroy's face lowered to the two in a quieter,
more intimate voice, "You may now kiss the bride."
Without needing any instructions
Claudius tilted his head slightly to the left and moved his face towards
hers. His eyes began to close just at the point where his lips made
contact with hers. He held them there for only a moment, being modest by
their standards but longer than society standards might dictate. He
wished that the moment could last forever, but in what seemed like only
an instant his face retreated back to its original position. As his eyes
opened he smiled at her, as if to say, "We did it!"
Htaere could barely feel the soft
exchange despite the number of times they had shared such an affection.
The moment was electrifying and though she had all but excluded everyone
else in the room, Htaere was still a bundle of nerves. She smiled
nervously at her new husband, the moment still lost on her largely. She
squeezed his hands, glancing out at the vast array of wedding guests,
the ruckus of their applause and approval still emulating up into the
high rafters and buttresses of the palace. Htaere didn't even dignify
her family with a glance to see their reactions, instead ignoring them
largely to keep her momentum up.
Claudius took her left hand in his right
hand securely and proceeded out of the hall at a slow place, stopping at
each aisle of chairs to accept congratulations and accept nods. There
would be a brief pause allowing them some time together as the guests
moved towards the reception area. His body temperature was rising as the
formal attire clung to his body ... his stubbornness had led to him
ordering his youthful size, allowing no room in hid mind for slight
weight gain with old age. Despite his workouts, he had just managed to
fit into the clothing and now he was paying the price. The walk back
down the aisle felt like an eternity, as he could not be rude and could
not afford to snub any of the countless dignitaries who had traveled for
the ceremony. Soon though it would pass, and for a few fleeting moments
they were free from the crowd.
Htaere's eyes briefly caught site of her
mother and sisters, discarding them still to move on to others, smiling
and nodding politely the way down the aisle at Claudius' side, grateful
for the turn out and eager for it to be done with none the less. When
they moved down the walkway towards the inviting silence and serenity
offered by a temporary retreat beyond the chamber, even if only
temporarily, Htaere was grateful to be out of public eye, despite the
respite only being brief.