Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
Zero years before the Battle of Yavin (35:1:19) in the Alderaan system: Alderaan (Aldera: Royal Palace).
Ewwiwkewwieikkie, Major Kerrie Kiley, Viceroy Bail Prestor Organa, Vice Admiral Claudius Rodney, Lady Drusilla Rodney, Lady Jelena Rodney, Lord Marcus Rodney, Lady Qeio`i Eschuu da Sha`ar, Lady/Countess Htaere Ka`a Sha`ar/Rodney, and Doctor Pilaq Tohan.

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 Rodney's.

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 wedding.

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 apprehension.

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 had noticed.

"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 simply staggering.

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.

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