Htaere Ka`a Sha`ar came gliding down the large staircase of the Rodney estate
on Esseles with a flat object wrapped in a tan silk sleeve and tied
with a simple red bow. She looked stately in a long gun-metal grey
dress with silver embroidery across every inch of it, the flared
skirt comprised of three separate pieces of the fabric over a grey
underskirt. Her hair was done up in three rings across the back of
her head with a silver band about an inch thick wrapping from around
her forehead and through each of the rings. A halo of rods protruded
from the band at an angle, both up and longer ones pointing down
with silver balls on the end of each. Looking surprisingly more
comfortable in the manor, with
all the time spent there, she hastened down the stair and towards
the front entry where her escort was waiting.
Major Kerrie Kiley
was waiting patiently in the Admiral's living room. She looked
around the room as she waited for the Htaere to arrive taking note
of the decadence and the opulence that filled the estate. She was
sure that the Lady Drusilla was somehow behind all this. She sighed,
realizing that she could work for the Admiral for several lifetimes
and never be able to afford anything close to this. She stretched
uncomfortably and gritted her teeth as she felt the pull in her
still weakened side. "Gaah," she cried out for a brief moment,
shimmering back into her reptilian Clawdite form for that brief
moment. She smiled as she saw Lady Htaere descend the stairs,
refocusing her attention on her rather than on her discomfort.
Htaere's expression warmed upon seeing the woman waiting there.
"Major Kiley" she acknowledged pleasantly, sporting a friendly grin.
She drifted towards her, the back of her long elaborate dress
trailing behind her. "I have something for you. It made me think of
you and I could not walk away from it" she admitted. She extended
the parcel to the Major eagerly. "Perhaps you will think it silly,
but it is a classic in its own rite."
Kerrie asked, looking at her with some confusion, "For me?" She
lowered her head for a moment, staring at the ground and thinking
over this unusual occurrence for a moment. She assumed it was just a
trivial token and smiled at her politely, awaiting the gift.
Htaere only nodded, lifting up the gift in front of her, letting it
rest across the span of both upturned flattened hands.
Kerrie reached out
and took the gift from Htaere's outstretched hands and examined it
for a moment. She then carefully unwrapped it as it slowly revealed
What lay beneath the wrapping paper was the popular children's book
"Little Lost Bantha Cub." The book was a special edition, printed
old-style on parchment paper with hand painted pictures and a
hardbound cover with a colorful glossy sleeve.
groaned lightly as the gift was revealed. She exhaled lightly and
backed up a few feet as if she was trying to get away from it, but
she could not. She sat down in a chair that she nearly tripped over
as she backtracked. "Oh," Kerrie again murmured, "Wow. That's..."
Kerrie lowered her head, now reverted to its Clawdite form, as she
became overwhelmed with emotion. "That's really nice of you," she
again repeated, "I had one like this when I was a child."
"Oh that is very good to hear. If it guided you as a child, then
possibly it may guide you as an adult" Htaere encouraged. She
wrapped the brown paper back around it to keep it flawless for its
journey to Kerrie's humble domain and stepped over to the chair
where the flabbergasted woman sat. She placed the book in the major's
hands and stepped back. "It is a bit unorthodox as a gift, I
understand. It seemed very appropriate...for each of us" she
commented, nodding, more so in agreement with herself.
Kerrie could only
nod a reply. She was overcome with emotion and memories that she
shared with no one. Her childhood was a happy, but it did not last
very long. She sniffled away the tears that had started to flow as
she shimmered back into her Human form. "I'm being silly," she said
as she rose from her chair, "Anyway. You have a date I have to get
Htaere's head bobbed in an obediant nod, soft grey eyes simply
taking in the major's delicate reaction. "I am ready when you are"
she answered simply, waiting patiently for Major Kiley to recollect
her tunic nervously. She was letting her guard down around Htaere
far too often. She was terrified that she was going to tell the
Admiral, which might cost her job ... and her life. She began moving
towards the door when she turned around to look at Htaere, almost
trembling in fear, "You're not ... you're not going to tell the
Admiral about this ... are you?"
Htaere's attractive face flashed a surprise expression. "I wish
never to violate the sanctity of your privacy" she responded. "This
was from me, on the side. I wish not to include him in our 'girl
chat' " she added with the shrug of an elegant shoulder.
Kerrie did not
know what to make of this. She never had engaged in 'girl talk'
before. It sounded like something she might like to try and smiled
at Htaere, "I did not mean to imply...," she then silenced herself
and decided to quit while she was ahead and refocused, "Thank you."
She then proceeded towards the landing platform where the speeder
waited to take Htaere to a restaurant in Calamar, the planet's
Htaere followed after Major Kiley, climbing into the speeder and
straightening the long elaborate folds of fabric that constituted
her gown. "The Admiral waits for us?" she asked casually, eyes
already fixed beyond the viewport, never tired of seeing new
landscapes unfamiliar to her.
said with a smile and a soft laugh, "He waits for you at least."
With that Kerrie stepped into the landspeeder and took her seat next
to Htaere. The speeder then began its long trip towards Calamar,
which lay down in the plains from the hills where the Admiral had
chosen for his residence.
sat nervously at his table in The Calamar House, the metropolitan
city's most noted restaurant. Each of the patrons eyed him
nervously. They were keenly aware he was the most powerful man in
the region. Occasionally he would nod at one of the members of
society who had come to eat a prepared meal, but he was rarely
comfortable around them. He had come to bring peace and order to the
region, but he had failed to win the hearts and minds of the people
as his superiors had hoped. Now an all out civil war loomed on
Ralltiir and he held himself responsible. He looked over towards the
waiter again who was prepared to pounce down upon them the moment
his guest arrived. He again smiled politely feeling awkward about
having arrived so early, but he missed Htaere and rushed away from
the Warspite as soon as possible to meet with her.
Htaere waltzed regally across the threshold, her appearance glorious
and glittering. Steely orbs flickered about curiously, taking in the
dining establishment thoroughly before focusing her thoughts to the
slew of hosts and hostesses at the door, greeting dinner guests with
superlative manners and ushering them to reserved tables. A few
words exchanged and one of the young men in formal attire hosting
hurried to the designated table, Htaere in tow. As soon as he came
into view, her eyes settled on him evenly, taking in a less then
confident appearance. She could not help but smile, as their visits
were few and far between. She nodded to him, grinning childishly.
"Claudius, it is good to see you" she remarked as she drew up to his
table, the host untucking her chair for her promptly.
from his seat as Htaere as approached, as a gentleman should. He
remained standing until she had been comfortably seated and then
joined her at the table. He smiled through the arrangement of
complex flowers and candles at her, like a little child peering
through some hedges at a girl next door. "It is good to see you
again," he said politely, "I am sorry my work has kept me away for
so long. I trust your trip here was a pleasant one?"
She smoothed her dress and tucked her feet daintily up under her
chair, crossing them at the ankles. "I did, thank you. I am glad you
could come to visit, if only for a short while. Things are going
nervously at her comment. Things were going far from well, but he
would not let it spoil their evening. "Let us talk of something more
pleasant," he said with a warm tone, "Like the wonderful meal we
will soon be sharing."
"Alright. Have you a recommendation?" she asked, eyes skimming the
menu in front of her. "Jelena is not here to tell me what to order"
she commented rather absently.
"The locals seem
to like the Karkan ribenes, but one can get very messy eating
them..." Claudius expressed to her with some concern.
"Messy?" Htaere's brow furrowed. At long last, she folded the menu
and set it down in front of her, smiling across the table. "I will
leave the choice to you. I will have what you order for me..but
perhaps not so messy" she conceded.
Claudius nodded to
the waiter who hurried over toward the table. "Are you ready,
Milord?" he asked eagerly. "Yes," Claudius replied, "We will start
with an order of Neonan red cheese ... and for the main course we
will both have the dindras. And to drink I would like a bottle of
Whyrren's Reserve." The waiter nodded politely, collected the menus,
and hurried back into the kitchen. Claudius then returned his
attention to Htaere, "You look lovely tonight."
"Thank you Claudius. You are a handsome man as you are..." she
paused to evaluate him a moment before continuing "...yet you have
not looked well the last few times I have seen you. Perhaps you can
take some time. I can arrange for a day at the spa for you" she
Claudius began before silencing himself as the waiter returned to
pour the Whyrren's Reserve and provide order of cheese. He smiled
politely at her until the waiter retreated and he once again felt
free to talk, "I intended to take some leave time with you. I would
like for you to come to Delaya with me. I think it is time for you
to finally meet the rest of my family."
"Oh, that is good to hear. You might consider taking Jelena with us
so that she may visit?" she asked thoughtfully.
added as he took a sip of the beverage, "The entire family will be
She nodded, thinking carefully before speaking. "Claudius, I do not
approve of your father's badgering of our union because he is
unsatisfied with the gender of his grandchildren" she stated,
delicately, but firmly.
"That is not why I
am doing this," Claudius responded quickly to her. "He has his
reasons and I have my own," he explained to her, "They are not the
believe you" she said whole-heartedly. Another moment of inward
thinking and she asked her question rather bluntly. "Do you even
want more children?"
and stared blankly into the candle that burned brightly in the
center of the table. He lost himself in the moment as he thought
about her question. It was unexpected, but inevitable. "The last
time I had a child things did not go as I hoped," he said to her
softly, "But I believe that if people gave up and stopped trying
whenever things did not work out ... nothing would ever get done."
He paused for a moment and refocused, "So yes ... I would like to
have more children if the situation presented itself."
Observing the momentary change in mood, already piled on top his
forlorn appearance, she made a very warm smile across the table. "Do
not be sad Claudius" she said. "I apologize for my question. I
should not have asked" she chided herself. "This is a time for
happiness. The night is lovely, the food and drink are good. Perhaps
after dinner we should like to take a walk or peruse the botanical
gardens. It would be very therapuetic for that which troubles us."
"Major Kiley told
me walks about town with you could be quite ... harrowing," Claudius
replied with a warm smile, as he tried to lighten the mood.
very much enjoyed it. I would like to return to the common markets
again. I believe I would be safe if perhaps I was not accompanied by
your soldiers. They are targets, not I" she asked, nearly pleading
in a roundabout sort of way.
very quiet ... very quickly. He dared not tell her that her
relationship with him had made her one of the prime targets in the
region. He smiled nervously and nodded at her again, "Yes ...
perhaps you're right."
Under the impression he was buying her argument, she let it go. For
the first time, she found herself with a conversation topic. The
seperation had left her feeling clueless as to what they had in
common that could be shared in a liesure manner. She dug for topics
and decided to pursue personal knowledge yet again, though more on a
general level. "So, your dossier does not list your hobbies, likes
and dislikes. I know a great deal about your accomplishments, but
not you as a person. Perhaps I should invest more time and energy in
knowing this side of you, if you care to share" she beamed, sipping
the Whyrren's tastefully.
"Well, I was
something of a shockball player in my youth," Claudius said proudly,
beaming from ear to ear, "In fact I was a member of the team at my
school for several years."
have never seen a shockball game" she confessed. "Now that you have
enlightened me, I shall have to watch one on the holovid next time I
find one on...and with a cold ale for the full effect, as I am
told" she recounted from one of the household servents. She
distinctly remembered him "demonstrating" the proper way to watch
sports, by reclining, feet up on some piece of furniture and a cold
brew in hand.
Claudius began to
laugh at her observation, his cheeks reddening as he smiled across
the table at her, "Somehow I can't imagine you with a cold ale."
"Hapans make a very good ale" she replied. "Good with shockball
maybe" she remarked, eyebrows lifting. "So..what else can you tell
me about Claudius Rodney." She lowered her voice and grinned. "I am
willing to pay top credit for any information you can provide on
"Who is Claudius
Rodney?" Claudius repeated to her as he entered a state of inner
contemplation, "Hmm. That's a good one." He paused for a moment,
taking a bite out of his dinner before it got too cold. "I just try
to be the best person that I can. I have been blessed with all of
the advantages in this life. I was born with more credits than I
could hope to spend in a lifetime and was a member of the nobility
before I was in my first diaper. I went to school ... worked hard.
Served my homeworld as an Ambassador. When the war came ... I like
so many ... chose to serve. Again I was blessed ... I survived
whereas many did not. In between all that I was fortunate to have a
family. Things could have worked out better, but I believe that
everything happens for a reason. And here I am now in this new
assignment with the most beautiful woman in the galaxy. It appears
that I am still blessed."
"You flatter me so" she smirked before her expression became a bit
more serious. "The people who work for you respect you tremendously.
That speaks for your character" she commented.
"They are good
people," Claudius replied after taking the final bites from his
dinner. "Did you want desert?" he asked, "Or did you want to go on
She held up a hand "Thank you, no on the dessert. I am quite
satiated. We can walk, if you are willing to take the alleged risk"
one corner of her mouth lifted in a daring grin.
"Let's sneak out
then," Claudius said with a smile, "Kerrie will have a heart attack,
but she'll understand later." He stood from the table and took her
hand as he began his way out of the restaurant and into the unknown.
Htaere reveled in the impulsivity as it had been since her
adolescent that she'd done anything that deviated from the straight
and narrow. With her free hand, she lifted the front of her dress
just a bit to permit free movement without the hem interfering.
"More site-seeing then?" she pondered, gaze panning over the scene
beyond the doors of the restaurant.
Htaere behind the restaurant away from the prying eyes of Major
Kiley and the military speeder that had been arranged to take them
home. Behind the restaurant an Ikas-Adno 22-B Nightfalcon speeder
bike, which Claudius only used when he needed to get away from it
all. It was a passion he developed in his youth on Alderaan when he
felt a need to escape and go to the Castle Lands. He had not used it
in years, when he would take his wife to the Castle Lands on their
anniversary to celebrate where they first met.
Claudius hopped on
the speeder bike and placed his hands firmly on the throttle.
Revving the engine he looked over his shoulder at Htaere. "Now it's
time to find out if you trust me," he said with a smile, "Hop on."
Htaere's expression registered nothing short of stupor, her face
taken over by childlike wonderment, shadowed closely with adult
apprehension. Large grey eyes blinked, taking the vehicle in before
looking to his face. After a handful of heartbeats, contemplating
whether she should give in to reason or let loose with wreckless
abandon, the wild hair got the best of her and she nudged away any
rational thought with a shrug and a bit of a nervous chuckle and
said "..ok." She stepped towards the bike, paused a moment as she
decided how best to mount the thing, collecting her dress somewhat
neatly and climbing on behind him. She hesitated another moment
before reaching up and plucking the elaborate headress off of her,
tossing it to the ground. She grinned, quite pleased with herself
and the newfound potential for a rebellious streak. "Ok, I think I
am ready" she nodded up at him.
Claudius told her as he throttled down and send the speeder bike
soaring down the alleyway on its path out of the city and into the
mountainous terrain in the general direction of his estate.
Had she waited any longer to grab on, she would have been left
behind. Her arms slipped around him, clinging tightly against the
wind lashing their clothes and faces. And still she sported a smile,
the experience new and note-worthy. She could feel her face chill in
the cool evening air and it was all the more hype for the moment,
and a complete contrast to the heat coming off the engine. The
sensory mix only served to convince her further to test out one of
these toys at any given chance.
navigating the speeder bike at breakneck speed through the forests
of Esseles as he brought her up into the backwoods. "I hope I know
where I'm going," he thought to himself as he increased the
throttle. Finally they arrived at their destination. The sound of a
small waterfall filled the night sky. It ran over a cliff into a
hidden pool of water surrounded by ageless trees in a small
clearing. The only light was provided by the planet's moon that
shone brightly and was reflecting in the secluded pool. Claudius
climbed off the bike and smiled at her and then walked down the
trail the short distance to the body of water and took a seat on a
large rock, not minding that it was wet and covered in moss.
Gathering up the lengthy dress, weighted with such extensive
embroidery, she climbed off the bike as well with some degree of
manuevering, and drifted after him, taking in the environment in
near bliss, a passive and utterly content expression coming over her
face. She inhaled deeply, thriving on the smells of the native
flora, the clean water and slight musk of such a fertile and humid
environment. Finally she forced herself to look down to him, the
remnants of her smile still lingering in the form of slightly
upturned lips."This is a beautiful place, and a good choice. Is this
a private engagement or may I sit as well?"
"I do not want you
to ruin such an elegant dress," Claudius said to her with a smile,
"Perhaps I could impose upon you to sit on my lap to avoid the
expense of a new one."
She had to giggle "You are silly Claudius" she remarked, but
grateful for the little bit of attention she was afforded at the
expense of his employ, she obliged him. Smoothing the back of her
dress, she had a seat across the top of his thighs, settling in
comfortably.She took the liberty of getting a bit more cozey,
slipping her arms around his neck and hugging him to her slightly so
that she could easily rest her head on his and watch the shimmers
and ripples in the water.
his head down, pressing his nose gently against hers. He smiled at
her nervously for a moment before breaking the quiet moment. "You
are very beautiful," Claudius said truthfully. "You deserve to live
a long and happy life," he added, "Do you think I can make you
such a position, he would feel the surface and warmth of the gem in
her forehead. "I do not deserve anything. It is my job to make *you*
happy. That is what I was sent for" she answered, referring to her
position in his life as if she were a secretary.
Claudius was a
logical man and responded in the best way he could, "You cannot do
your ... job ... unless you are happy. Because I could never
be happy knowing you were not." He kept his face dangerously close
to hers, "Will you be happy?"
"Are you asking me in reference to yourself?"
"I just need to
know, Htaere," Claudius said honestly, "In doing your job ...
will you be happy?"
"Yes Claudius" she conceded with a small smile. "You make me happy."
Claudius said and moves his face slightly forward. His eyes closed
as he gently placed his lips upon hers.
Htaere's eyes widened at first, completely knocked over by the
unprecedented display. Just as quickly, she recovered, and found her
own eyelids sinking, letting the tender moment linger. The very feel
of his mouth on hers caused a swarm of butterflies in her stomach,
and she felt as she did when she was a young teenager, delving into
the emotional rewards of physical contact.
Claudius broke the
kiss after a moment and looked at Htaere with a deep sense of
longing. His cheeks reddened and his breathing became a bit labored.
He swallowed nervously and reached beneath her into his pocket. He
grunted in frustration as he forced a small box out of is pocket,
which was quite a difficult task to accomplish when seated. His eyes
focused on her face, illuminated by the moonlight. "I was going to
bring this up in the restaurant," he said before looking around,
"but I've always believed in the magic of the moonlight." He paused
and opened the small box revealing a small ring with a white gold
band and a diamond. It was not pretentious at all. "Will you marry
me?" Claudius asked her with a heavy breath, "Not for me. Not for my
father. Not for your mother. Not even for you, but for us."
Htaere's cloudy grey eyes glassed over, looking at
the ring intently before her gaze lifted to the older man's face.
"Is this what
you really want, Claudius? Not because your father
wants it, not because you feel obligated. Will you be happy?"
"Life is too
precious a gift to horde it for ourselves, Htaere," Claudius
explained, "It is meant to be shared ... and I wish to share my life
All of her extensive tutelage in diplomacy and her cheeks were still
a bit blushed. She managed a firm smile and cradled his face in her
hands. "Yes, Claudius, I will marry you" she said finally, eyes
locked onto his and lost within the depths.
With all the
delicate care in the world Claudius removed the ring from its small
package. His hand trembled as he nervously slid it daintily onto the
ring finger of her left hand. When it was on he looked at it for a
moment, almost in disbelief. He then turned his attention back to
her and placed another tender kiss upon her lips. He did not think
it possible, but once again he was deeply in love.
The second kiss was as tender and sweet as the first, if not more
so. She reciprocated with more vigor this time, venturing to press
her lips to his with the slightest touch of pressure. When she
withdrew, she admired him, his face still cupped in her hands. Her
lips went through the motion of smiling, but she was too intently
preoccupied with him for the action to have been voluntary. She
leaned forward and placed another small kiss on his forehead, one on
his chin, one at each corner of his mouth, and let her thumbs raise
to his eyes to gently guide the lids closed so she could place a
small peck over each eye. When she was done, she hugged him to her
again and rocked him gently. "My beloved Claudius" she mumbled
quietly, staring off into nothingness.