Doctor Tohan's fingers curled against the ancient walking stick that
had been passed down through his family for generations, the ornate wood
featuring a series of decorative carvings added by each generation of
Tohans. He had woken earlier that morning, having hardly been able to
contain his enthusiasm since returning to Ithor. Having spent most of
the morning masquerading as Htaere's servant, he managed to negotiate a
tour with the Imperial officers that would provide the family with the
suitable Ithor experience.
Oblivious to the truth of the situation, Htaere took the sites in
with enthusiasm, sporting a permanent smile as she thrived on what
flora, fauna or landscaping attributes became part of the tour. To see
the number of Imperial troops around was a near disappointment as she
imagined what the visit would have been like with all the restrictions,
but appreciated the Empire's efforts to keep them all safe from the
"You might be interested to note that it is aboard this ship that
your husband and I first met, Milady," Pilaq said to her as they exited
their quarters, and began walking down the winding corridors that
comprised the large circular-shaped vessel. Around each corner were
lavish plants that had been carefully transplanted as to not disturb
them, many of which had grown to incredibly large proportions. The ship
had the feeling of a bazaar with numerous merchants and cafes at every
interval. He came to a stop in his tracks almost immediately as he
picked up a particularly pleasant scent, and took in a deep, longing
"Ooooh. Shiny," Ewwiekewwieikkie said excitedly as she spotted a set
of polished utensils. With her usual excitement she moved over to the
storefront, carrying a large picnic basket that she had converted into a
shopping basket. "These are koovy," she said as she raised a paw up to
the shelf, pushing the entire row of silver into her basket. "Yay," she
cheered, clapping her hands, as she looked around for more baubles. She
had been told by her adoptive father that she could fill her basket with
souvenirs if she agreed to go on the trip.
Htaere paused, eyes flickering over to Ewwie, who was thoroughly
enjoying her shopping experience. She could not help but smile at the
Squibb's affinity for living with reckless abandon. She drifted after
Ewwie, monitoring the jittery being casually, and hoping to placate the
shop owner with the peace of mind that he would be paid accordingly for
whatever wares were piled into Ewwie's basket.
Meshlor Tayhach, the middle-aged female Ithorian shopkeeper, nervously watched as Ewwiekewwieikkie filled her basket with some of her most ornate cutlery.
At first, she thought she had a big sale, but then she realized the
Squib was with the Imperial delegation that had arrived on the
delegation. Her large, bulbous eyes moved from Htaere to the Imperial
Stromtroopers that were patrolling the corridors. She held both of her
hands in front of her, waving them frantically at Htaere. "No...no
charge!" she explained, hoping it would garner her favor with the
Htaere nodded respectfully to the shopkeeper. "Do not be silly, it is
our privilege to be allowed to visit your esteemed Herdship and enjoy
the local pageantry and shopping. What do we owe you for Ewwie's
selection?" she asked moving towards the counter.
Pilaq could sense the distress in the shopkeeper, and realized that
he needed to intervene for both of their sakes. "Milady," he began as he
attempted to think quick on his feet. "On Ithor it is customary to
exchange gifts with visitors..." he explained to her, before turning his
attention to the shopkeeper. "You intended these as a gift, did you
not?" he asked her humbly, to which the shopkeeper quickly nodded a
reply. The conversation monitored by the ever-present soldiers of the
"I certainly appreciate your customs, Dr. Tohan," Htaere began,
feeling a bit unhappy with the interception. "In this circumsance
though, we are the honored guests of this store, and as such, I feel it
necessary to compensate our gracious host for her product." Discarding
any further objection from Pilaq, Htaere produced a credit chit worth
50,000 credits. "Will this be sufficient?"
The Ithorian shopkeeper's eyes went wide as she saw the credit chit
produced, having never had a purchase like that in the entire time her
shop was open. "Thank you, gentlebeing," she said as she extended her
hand, taking the credit chit from her. After the initial excitement wore
off, she lowered her head dejectedly and withdrew from the scene, in the
vein hope that the transaction had not been seen.
"Don't worry, Hattie," Ewwiekewwieikkie said as she raddled her
basket full of silver excitedly. "We rich now!" she exclaimed as she
began dragging the basket down the corridor towards the next suite of
Pilaq nodded his head respectfully to the shopkeeper, hoping that all
would be well. "That was a very generous price, Milady," he whispered to
Htaere, as the duo followed behind the over-energetic Squib. "But
perhaps it might be in our interest to keep a lower profile going
further..." he suggested, wanting to minimize the inconvenience to the
locals as much as possible. There seemed to be a spring in his step,
barely needing the use of his walking stick, as he looked around each
corner at both familiar and new sites.
"I was hoping for a lower profile then an escort of guards," Htaere
replied wistfully, resisting the urge to frown. "And I will not attempt
to deprive these people out of the funds they are justly due for selling
their items," she stated as she followed him. She glanced around a bit
for Drusilla, wondering what she'd gotten herself into and why it was so
Drusilla has learned her lesson from the other day and kept ear
phones in her head the entire time, sparing herself the debacle of
Ewwiekewwieikkie's first encounter with the merchant. She would let the
creature have the shiny babbles, as she had a much bigger gift in mind
from her father when she returned. Besides, she did not want any dirty
alien trinket that would takes to rid the smell of. "When do we eat?"
she asked rudely, moving her way up into the group. "I doubt there's
even anything edible to be had around here?" she said, crinkling her
nose as she caught a whiff of something she found particularly
"Understanding and appreciating other species for their diversity
builds character," Htaere explained patiently. "We learn how much we
really do not know when we visit new places and experience new cultures.
I am certain Dr. Tohan can recommend something wonderful for us to
sample?" she asked eagerly.
"Well if other species would behave like us there would not need to
be any diversity," Drusilla pointed out with a firm nod of her head.
"Well if it is anything like the Doctor's cooking I had several years
ago we are all going to get quite sick," she pointed out, as she folded
her arms in front of her chest and looked up at the large Ithorian.
"There are many wonderful eateries on this level," Doctor Tohan
answered, his nostrils flaring slightly as he caught a whiff of
something particularly delicious. "However," he continued, pausing to
look down at Drusilla, "perhaps you would be more comfortable eating in
the Imperial mess?"
"I should like to vote for local fare," Htaere beamed before looking
to Ewwie. "Do you have a preference?" Hoping to take full advantage of
the new experience, Htaere was eager to follow Pilaq's recommendations
to the hilt.
Ewwiekewwieikkie's golden eyes went wide when she heard her name, her
ears perking up slightly. "Umm..." she stammered, as she brought a paw
up to scratch at her chin, carefully considering the situation. "Hmm..."
she continued, as she looked around a bit, as if the answer might be
written somewhere for her. "Food!" she finally exclaimed as she through
each of her arms in the air victorious, waiving her hands in excitement.
"You are as helpful as ever," Drusilla sneered, rolling her eyes at
the Squib's useless answer. "I can see that I will be out voted," she
said, shaking her head as she stomped her foot frustratingly. "If I get
sick it's your fault!" she said to the Ithorian, giving him a stern
"I am sure I can find something that will suit your palette, young
one," Doctor Tohan said pleasant as he ushered them down the corridor
towards a cafe that seemed to be particularly overflowing with Ithorians
and traders. As they entered the cafe, a squad of Imperial Stormtroopers
took up a defensive position outside the cafe and began scanning over
each of the patrons in the cafe. After only a brief interlude, the group
found themselves ushered into a private table in a part of the
restaurant that had been cleared of other patrons.
Masking her dismay at the fanfare made on their behalf, Htaere made
the best of it, looking to Pilaq with a graceful smile. "What do you
The serving droid arrived promptly at the table, placing a dish in
front of each of them. It contained a slice of artisan bread that had
been freshly baked aboard the Herdship earlier that day, and brushed
with a light coat of oil harvested from locally grown olives. The bread
was covered with arugula and a slice of fresh tomato, and sprinkled with
cheese that had been harvested from the milk of a nerf.
Drusilla poked the dish with her fork cautiously before taking a
bite. "Hmm," she said as she swallowed the first portion, being used to
the unhealthy cooking of the Imperial mess. "Where is the meat?" she
asked as she lifted the piece of bread off the serving dish to look
"Ithorians do not serve meat," Pilaq explained to the young woman as
he began to sample his meal. "The Law of Life dictates we replace
everything we harvest..." he continued, the sound of his audible
munching echoing through the room. "As we cannot create animal life, we
cannot take animal life," he explained to her as he quickly cleared his
"Mmm it is delicious. Delicate flavor of the oil and the peppery
flavor of the lettuce combine for a delectable symphony that is well
balanced and flavorful," Htaere noted aloud, to no one in particular.
The serving droids brought out a selection of locally baked breads
next, while the main course was prepared. During this time
Ewwiekewwieikkie lifted up her plate and smiled at it happily before
tucking it away safely in her basket. The next trinket to find its way
in was the ornately sculpted napkin ring. The young Squib woman had
never seen so many articles of beauty. It was almost overwhelming for
her, like the time she fell into the Warspite's refuse system and
attempted to harvest it all singlehandedly.
Doctor Tohan looked at the Imperial Stromtroopers that were there for
their protection and frowned, noted how quiet the other diners were
being. All around them people were hurrying to finish their meals
without so much as a word, and slowly the cafe began emptying. They had
been quite the imposition for the Ithorian herd that lived on this ship,
which caused a great deal of sorrow to build in his heart.
"Ewwie," Htaere's head shook as she looked at the Squibb. "Put those
back, dear. Those are not to be removed. We shall find other items for
you to procure, legally."
"Aww," Ewwiekewwieikkie wined as she put the plate back on the table
for the serving droid to retrieve. She held the napkin ring in her hand
and rolled her paw over it carefully, having a difficult time releasing
it as if it were a valuable jewel. "Not koovy," she shook her head sadly
as she put the napkin ring back on the table dejectedly.
The serving droids soon returned and placed an assortment of locally
grown vegetables that had been cooked with locally produced cheeses. A
couscous was served in the side in a heavy portion. By now the
restaurant was almost empty and all that could be heard was the
breathing of the Imperial Stormtroopers through their rebreathers. It
was less than the local ambiance than they had hoped for.
"I have arranged for a scenic sky tour, Milady," Doctor Tohan
informed her, feeling quite eager about the idea of getting out of the
way of the locals they had thus far served to inconvenience. "It will
give us an opportunity to see more of the planet and take the air," he
explained, trying to maintain an upbeat and pleasant demeanor.
Since the previous night, Htaere had been concocting in her mind any
number of ways they might escape the constant presence of the
Stormtroopers, grossly intrusive with their constant shadowing, and
destroying the very experience of intermingling amongst the locals that
she'd hoped for. Pulled from her revelry by Pilaq Tohan's stereophonic
and melodious voice, she smiled. "That sounds like it will be wonderful,
and truly a highlight of this trip."
"How do people live on this?" Drusilla asked, is she swirled her fork
around the couscous in frustration. "I am sure even the Squibs have more
substantial meals than this..." she said, as she looked over at Ewwie
who seemed to be munching on the vegetables as if she was some sort of
farm animal. "Disgusting," she muttered as she put her fork down and
concentrated on the water.
"I am sorry it was not to your liking, young one," Pilaq replied, as
he cleared the remainder of his plate into the mouth on the right side
of his face. He was pleased that Ewwie seemed to enjoy her meal, but as
he thought about it he could not recall an instant in her life when she
did not seem to be enjoying one thing or another. He yearned to travel
the planet out of the watchful eyes of their Imperial bodyguards that
seemed to make the trip less than appealing. However, given the events
that transpired during his last trip to Ithor he certainly understand
the abundance of caution they were taking.
"My father used to live here?" Drusilla asked as she ate a little
more of her meal. She looked around the old Herdship, not being very
impressed by anything that she had seen. Having grown up entirely in the
Galactic Core she had developed a taste for the cultures and traditions
that dominated the region. The non-Human societies that surrounded them
did little to make an impression on the adolescent.
"Yes, my dear," Doctor Tohan said as he took a longing sip of the
Ithorian spring water that had been brought to the table to clear their
palettes. "Your father has always been a great diplomat and for a time
he represented your people on Ithor," he explained, remembering those
early days fondly. It had become a different galaxy since then, and he
had reluctantly watched as the old republican had been cast aside even
with good men like his friend in power. "He and I negotiated several
important trade agreements in the years leading up to the Clone Wars..."
he explained to her, as he fondly looked over the Herdship he once
called home. "Perhaps you will one day become a great diplomat..." he
said fondly, admiring the young girl who he had once helped deliver and
had since watched grow into an adolescent.
"I do not intend to have a career, Doctor," Drusilla explained as she
sampled of the spring water, finding it perhaps the only tolerable food
that had been placed before them thus far. "I intend to marry a Prince,"
she explained, an optimstic smile coming upon her face. "Perhaps a Duke
if I have to settle..." she continued to speculate, feeling a great deal
of resentment that her older sister would inherit the family title.
"I wish you all the best," Doctor Tohan said as he raised his glass
in a genuine toast to celebrate the young girl's bold ambition. The
serving droids returned to clear the table and the appropriate credits
were withdrawn from their account for the cost of the meal. The droids
did their best to hurry them on their way, as the proprietors knew that
their business would remain stagnant until this particular party moved
Unsure as to the vacancy that seemed to follow them, Htaere took a
last sip of sparkling water before looking about. "Shall we?" she asked
the group, feeling better with a full stomach. Taking a moment to
straighten the partial veil that only descended to her nose, she emerged
from the booth and waited for the rest of the family to follow suit.
The group made their way onto the upper levels of the Herdship where
they eventually reached the open air atrium. "Air," Pilaq said happily,
taking a deep, energetic breath, extending his arms as if to envelope
the entirety of the atmosphere. After pausing a moment he walked towards
the airspeeder, holding the side door open for Htaere and the children.
Htaere lingered behind as she drew in the first deep breaths of fresh
air in some time. It was like the greatest gift the goddesses could have
afforded her. So invigorating was the experience that she quite
literally stopped in her tracks, lifted her face into whatever breeze
happened by and closed her eyes as she took one deep breath after
another. Rich with the smell of moisture, nature, photosynthesis, growth
and sweet blessed freedom, she felt as though she could not take it in
enough, committing to memory every blissful second of such euphoria. At
long last, she pulled herself together enough to join Pilaq and the
children in the speeder, seating herself comfortably and keenly aware of
the silly grin fixed to her lovely face.
The airspeeder began to shake as the repulsorlift engines fired up,
and with a sudden jolt the craft began to move away from the Herdship at
a respectable seed. The airspeeder veered down, until it was just two
meters over the treetops. All of the plant life was on full display as
they cruised just below the clouds, showing off the rich fertility of
all the trees that had grown over the centuries without interference
from construction. "Beautiful," the Ithorian doctor stated, as he
resisted the urge to stand from his seat. A large bird soared over the
speeder, flapping its wings as if to wave as it passed over the group.
The Ithorian closed his eyes slowly, letting his other senses paint a
picture of the natural world that surrounded them. He could feel the ebb
and flow of the life that existed below, and it was as if the plant life
was speaking directly to him.
Delicate hands raised to Htaere's head, removing the elegant
headpiece and veil she wore. Setting it beside her, she ran a hand
through her hair and the breeze billow through it as the cruised along,
feeling as if months of interstellar travel breathing the stifling
recycled air in the claustrophobic and desolate corridors of the
Warspite were being scrubbed away by the purity of the forests
beneath them. The youngster leaned closer to the edge of the craft,
gazing down across the treetops they soared over and drawing from the
experience a serenity that had been lost as of late.
The airspeeder dropped down into a narrow river valley, affording
them the opportunity to look below the canopy. As the speeder followed
the bath of the river a number of beautiful plants were seen shimmering
along the riverbank. Flowers as large as people lurked in the distance,
the planet resembling a primordial Eden that had been spared millennia
of alteration. "We will be approaching the falls soon," Pilaq informed
them, just as the sound of running water began to grow louder in the
distance. After some time the airspeeder reached the falls, and it began
to slowly descend to the pool that formed at the bottom of the falls. An
assortment of creatures were gathered at the banks, lapping at the
crystal clear water. Pilaq's breathing slowed to a near halt as he held
his hands in front of his body, forming a pyramidal shape and he entered
a tranquil state of meditation. It had been many years since he had seen
the natural wonders of Ithor and it threatened to overwhelm him.
Reflections of the shimmering surface of the pool danced in Htaere's
eyes as she visually drank in the stunning scenery. The roar of the
waterfalls was music to her ears, the water particles crashing about
misting the area and everything in it with a revitalizing spray. She
observed Pilaq, tuning himself back into the nature he'd so long ago had
to leave behind, and for the first time since they'd landed, she felt as
if they could truly enjoy themselves without the uncomfortable presence
of the Imperial garrison.
The serenity of the moment was shattered by the familiar roar of the
ion engines of TIE fighters modified for atmospheric flight. Doctor
Tohan's eyes opened slowly, his eyes rolling upwards as he watched the
fighters streak across the peaceful. A single tear began to run down his
left eye, breaking his meditation as he watched the transgressors soil
his world. He was quiet for a moment before he turned to Htaere. "I
believe we have seen everything there is to see here, Milday," he said
to her quietly as the airspeeder began to rise back up into the lower
atmosphere on a return trip to the Herdship.
Likewise pulled from savoring the glorious sensation of the natural
living world, Htaere's eyes pulled from trailing the fighters into the
distance to the physician, noting his doleful appearance. She nodded
slowly and sat back in her seat, letting her gaze veer back out to the
landscape and taking it in as much as she could before their departure.
The airspeeder made its way back to the Herdship after some time,
touching down to a gentle landing in the upper atrium. The squad of
Imperial Stormtroopers was patiently awaiting their return, and most of
the other traffic had been suspended during their duration. Pilaq led
out a dejected sigh as he now felt that he should not have come back, as
it was evident that he had fully disrupted the activities of this once
thriving Herdship. "We should get on to Gallinore, Milady," he suggested
as he assisted the children in debarking the airspeeder. "Your family is
expecting you," he was quick to point out as they began way from the
central atrium back down into the depths of the Herdship's winding
corridors. He was disappointed that Htaere was not afforded to see the
community as it was truly was, rather than this show put on for them by
the local Imperial bureaucracy.
Htaere departed the airspeeder and took a moment to steal one last
fleeting glimpse at the unmarred jungles and topography of Ithor before
retreating back inside the Herdship. "You are ready to leave?" she asked
curiously. "Please, do not cut short your desires on my account. I have
not informed my family that I am returning home," she stated
matter-of-factly. "Only the immediate members of my estate are aware of
such. There is no need or desire to alert my kin that I will be home. It
will be far more enjoyable and relaxing without those harpies lurking
One of the Imperial Stormtroopers that was escorting them clumsily
crashed into a potted plant, spilling the rich soil over the deck of the
Herdship as the tree crashed unceremoniously to the ground. Pilaq
considered Htaere's for a moment as he watched the locals fret over the
damage to the tree. "Yes. I am quite ready to leave," he conceded with a
firm nod of his head, before sinking down into himself and beginning to
slow march towards the hangar bay of the Herdship.
Htaere winced as the magnificent arboreal specimen toppled. In that
moment, she understood Tohan's desires to escape the destruction in full
view, day after day, of his cherished homeworld. Heaving the deepest of
sighs, she replaced her headpiece to retain some semblance of ladyship
and manners in public before moving off after Tohan.
As the entourage reached the hangar bay, Lieutenant Rost was waiting
for them once again. "Milady," he said with a courteous bow as he
greeted them. "I have had your shuttle refueled and serviced and
everything is ready for your departure. I hope that you will find the
time to inform Lord Rodney that I was helpful during your stay," he said
with another nod of his head, finding it difficult to ignore the young
Squib that was dragging a seemingly overfilled basket filled with
trinkets and baubles. "Did you enjoy yourself aboard the Herdship?" he
asked, as he did his best to escort them to the ramp of the shuttle.
Graciously accepting the courtesy, Htaere nodded as they moved along.
"It was a refreshing change from the interior of a Star Destroyer," she
admitted before venturing on with an even more honest assessment. "I
should like to return when this conflict had ended. I imagine the
Herdship to be even more enjoyable when not locked down for the
protection of the locals."
Lieutenant Rost nodded with a polite smile as he began to walk away
from the shuttle. "With men like your husband we will soon destroy the
rebel scum and make the galaxy once again safe for Humans," he said in a
confident tone, as he stood at attention with his Stormtroopers to watch
the shuttle depart.
Aboard the shuttle Doctor Tohan helped Ewwiekewwieikkie stow her
keepsakes in the overhead compartment. "I think these weigh more than
you," he told her, struggling to get the basket into the narrow
compartment. Once the test of strength was completed he helped the
children into their seats and began strapping them. He had no desire to
stay for the pleasantries being exchanged between Htaere and the COMPNOR
Htaere caught the comment but it took a few moments to register, and
a few more for her to digest the statement and its intent. "Does not
everyone need protection from the rebel terrorists, be they human or
otherwise?" she paused on the ramp and turned slightly to gaze over at
The Lieutenant paused for a moment, not at all pleased by her response.
"Yes..." he stammered, patronizing the foolish young woman. "Yes of
course," he repeated, assuming the Admiral had married her, not for her
brain and sensibilities, but for some unseen physical reason. Typical of
the nobility he thought.
For a handful of heartbeats Htaere said nothing, stormy grey eyes
boring into the officer as if to pick apart every fiber of his being and
deduce his meaning and intention. She started to admonish him and would
likewise regret having to report his grievous insult regarding Ewwie
upon their arrival, but thought the better of it and withheld. They
were, after all, guests of the Empire, and given her recent traumatic
false accusation from the ISB, stirring up a hornets' nest seemed
unwise...and unladylike. Exhaling deeply, she continued up the ramp,
taking a seat, in silence.
The shuttle rumbled as the repulsorlift engines roared to life, and
maneuvered out of the Herdship's hangar. Pilaq watched his homeworld
slowly get smaller through the viewport until finally it was just a
blue-green dot in the distance. He sunk into himself, feeling quite
depressed as another squadron of TIE fighters headed towards the planet.
He was jolted slightly as the shuttle lurched forward into hyperspace
and Ithor disappeared. It was not the planet he remembered, and he began
to wonder whether or not that world would ever exist again. It had
become a dark time for his people, but he had not prepared for just how
bleak the situation seemed to actually be. During the trip to the Hapes
Cluster the aged doctor would have much to think about.