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Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:5:13) in the Essesia system: Esseles (New Calamar: Claudius Rodney's estate).
Countess Htaere Rodney and Lady Jelena Rodney.

It had been two weeks since the destruction of Alderaan and the young Jelena Rodney had barely spoken more than a handful of words. She had not eaten and spent most of her time secluded in her room away from her family. She could no longer stand the sight of any Imperial ... including her father ... whom she held responsible for deaths of many closest friends and loved ones. The young girl looked weary and frail and had not taken good personal hygiene during her withdrawal from public life. Incredibly thirsty, she moved from her room and began walking down the staircase towards the ground level where the kitchen was. It was the first time she had gotten out of bed that entire day.

As each family member had taken to coping with the issue in his or her own way, Htaere was no exception. In a subtle withdrawal of her own, she spent more time out in the gardens of the estate, away from as many people as she could, or in the company of her guarlara, either riding along the perimeters of the estate or spending hours walking the animal in the shade of the regal trees, content to be hypnotized by the heedless grazing. This day was no different as she'd finished with a morning ride, and ascended the terrace steps of the estate elegantly, plucking off her riding gloves as she went.

Jelena pulled a bottle of blue milk out of the refrigerator and placed it on the counter as she went to get a glass. As she walked by she brushed against the counter and knocked the bottle off. It fell to the tile floor and shattered instantly, spreading glass and blue milk all over the floor. "Damn it," she cursed as she went for a rag and descended to her hands and knees and began clotting up the spilled milk. She cut her hands in several places from the glass and blood began to pool on the rag, but she did not seem to notice and instead continued her frustrated cleaning.

As Htaere moved through the lower level of the estate, her focus was pulled from the large stair towards the galley, where she detoured in pursuit of the noise. Surprised to see Jelena, she paused at the threshold, watching the girl in silence and taking inventory of her less then stellar presentation. After a long moment, she spoke quietly. "You are cutting your fingers."

"I made a mess..." Jelena said, as if in a trace as she continued to attempt to clot the blue milk that was growing increasingly red with her blood. She began to take a deep inhale as she started to cry, completely overwhelmed by what had happened. "I...I just wanted something to drink..." she said weakly as she struggled with the difficult task of clotting the entire spill with the small rag.

Stifling a frown, Htaere moved to a cabinet to retrieve disposable towels to join Jelena in cleaning up the mess. "I am certain there is no use crying over spilled milk. This can be cleaned easily," she said. "I shall call a house droid to conclude this task, as I believe your wounds need tending." Jelena's lack of cleanliness did not escape her notice either. "Perhaps a shower is in order as well."

Jelena released the rag and scooted away from the mess on the floor before the milk would reach her pajama pants. "What does it matter?" she asked, as she defiantly folded her arms in front of her chest in a pathetic pout. "If I clean myself up I'll just be paraded around for some Imperial nonsense..." she complained as she awkwardly picked out fragments of glass from the wounds between her fingers, gasping with each pluck.

"It matters because you are offensive to the senses, and lack of personal hygiene puts you at greater risk for illness and infection," Htaere answered simply. "No one is parading anyone else around for promotion. The only person being disgraced by living in filth is yourself, and you are better then this."

"Do you promise you won't let him parade me around anymore?" Jelena said, as she took in a sharp inhale to try and fight back the tears. "That is the only way I'll take a shower," she explained to her, as she placed a bloody hand upon the floor and pushed herself back up into a standing position.

Htaere's head canted curiously. "The only parading I am aware of was our recent trip, which you agreed to in exchange for enrollment. To suggest it was completely against your will after the fact is unfair, especially in light of the developments which your father had no control over whatsoever," she answered. "I believe he would respect your privacy and seclusion if that is your wish." She let her grey eyes descend the young woman's frame in disapproval. "Part of maturity and refinement is holding one's decorum together, despite the circumstances. I know you are capable of such."

"Father is a 'Grand' Moff now," Jelena said, as she emphasized the word 'grand' whilst rolling her eyes. "I can see it now ... dinner parties, diplomatic gatherings, conferences..." she prattled on as she held her cut hand beneath a running faucet of hot water, washing away the broken glass and blood. "A never-ending series of events for which he'll want me present..." she complained as she pulled her hand away when the water got too hot. "Heir to the family and all ... I don't want that. Drusilla wants it ... she can have it," she muttered, as she stared through the window at the ocean in the distance.

"I believe that if you simply advised him that you wished to be left alone rather then attend any social functions, that he would respect your wishes. He did not force you to come along with Dr. Tohan and the children and I on our trip to Ithor and Hapes," Htaere reasoned softly. "From where are you drawing this assumption?"

Jelena let out an exasperated sigh as she turned the faucet off and began to dry off her hands, grimacing as she dried off her cut hands. "Have you seen the way he has acted since his promotion?" she asked, as she turned around to look Htaere directly in this eye. "It has gone to his head," she admitted, feeling as if she had made an honest assessment of the situation.

Htaere resisted the urge to put her hands on her hips in akimbo at such a silly statement. "Would you also not be proud of your accomplishments?" She shook her head slightly, half frowning at the young woman. "I do not believe any of this provides valid argument for your behavior. What is this really about?"

Jelena shook her head at Htaere before turning her back to her again. "Everyone I grew up with is dead. Everyone I went to school with is dead. My mother's family is dead..." she admitted dejectedly, as her body sunk into herself, unable to cope with the words she was saying. "And he is up there working for the men who are responsible," she concluded angrily as her hands slammed down in frustration on the marble counter top.

Htaere let her vent, saying nothing initially. "The rebellion's weapon destroyed Alderaan," she answered. "It was in the news coverage."

"Alderaan is ... was ... a peaceful planet," Jelena explained, as she looked down into the bottom of the drain wishing she could wash herself away and start a new life somewhere. "They would not have a 'super' weapon. They would not have any weapons..." she said, as she turned around and began to walk towards Htaere. "Open your eyes. Look around you. The Empire is the one with weapons!" she said emphatically, as she was now standing just two meters from Htaere.

Htaere maintained her position, firm yet unthreatening. "Saying such things will get you arrested and interrogated," she cautioned. "And believe me when I say that is not something you want to experience." She lowered her voice further. "Personal convictions about the Empire are best left in private."

"Hah!" Jelena said as she raised a finger ad pointed it at Htaere's face. "See ... you admit the Empire is something to be feared! she exclaimed, taking a small moment of victory for the woman's statement. "You've spent time on Alderaan. Did you see any weapons? Let alone one powerful enough to destroy the planet?" she asked, moving her tear stained face right in front of Htaere's as she continued the rapid series of questions.

"Hapan Intel is something to be feared, when on their bad side," she retorted. "That proves nothing. I am afraid I did not see any weaponry, though if they possessed such a powerful weapon, I do not believe I would have been chosen to view it, nor would I know where to look."

Jelena bit down on her lower lip before she said something she might regret. "One day you will know the truth. I just hope by then it's not too late..." she said, as she turned and moved away from the woman. "I'll go take that shower now..." she said in defeat, slinking away to leave the kitchen and Htaere behind.

Htaere's eyes trailed Jelena as she took leave, allowing a sigh only when she was certain the girl was out of sight. Turning, she glided back out of the estate promptly to vanish into the gardens for a while, in need of fresh air.

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