Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:3:14) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Medcenter).
Farrah Ette, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, Lady Drusilla Rodney, Lord Gaius Rodney, Duke Julius Rodney (death), and Commander Sierra Rodney.

Julius Rodney had been removed from his bed by a team of medical personnel, as they felt it bad for him to remain in bed constantly. He had been placed in a chair beside the window where he could look out at the city of Leiliani. He had hoped he would be able to gaze up at his castle, but unfortunately the pollution obscured his view and prevented him from glimpsing it. Beside him was a small table with an assortment of lavish fruits and cheeses. It was a small gift to inspire him to agree to the difficult and painful process of moving to the chair. Unfortunately none of the wine he had requested had been brought to him as the doctors informed him it would react with the medicine. He sighed, dejectedly and alone, wondering how long he would be forced to stay here. He wanted to go home. At least the small palace girl had been around to visit him and bring him treats like the fruit and cheese. She was a much needed source of respite from the hardship of his recovery and physical therapy.

Visiting Julius Rodney did *not* sound fun. The last visit had been terrible. Sierra still felt so embarrassed that she wanted to stick her head in the ground. The sounds of his heart monitor going crazy while he touched her tummy would haunt her for the rest of her life. "I don't wanna, you can't make me," Sierra sung like an immature child in the speeder on the way to the medcenter. She attempted to sway Julius away from finding the beginnings of her baby bump by purposely wearing a baggy top. Clinging to happy thoughts of their bright future, Sierra swallowed the inevitable. They had a duty to Julius. They had to see him.

At the medcenter, Delaya's new hottest couple was met with HoloNet reporters who shot a range of unfortunate questions as they headed inside together. Sierra was graceful. She parted them like the red sea and answered *nothing*. Following the familiar way up to Julius' suite, Sierra began to feel massively uncomfortable again. She hoped that the next generation could usher in change. She disliked Julius' attitude towards Bruce and Darrus; the heir and the spare. Just as Marcus and Claudius. It was an unfair line of thinking...and fucked up. She stood outside his door, fiddling with the front of her top. Summoning what remaining strength she had from Ewwie's full blown melt down, she stepped into Julius' room. "Father..." She said, trying to sound polite and excited. Beneath her voice, the discomfort rang out.

Claudius knew he had to visit his father, but it pained him to bring Sierra when she so obviously did not wish to participate. "I am sorry, my dear. We will not stay long," he said to her, just before the doors opened and they moved into his suite. He was glad to see that he was out of the bed and sitting up by the window. "Maybe that's a good sign," he optimistically whispered to Sierra, before proceeding deeper into the room. "Father. We just came to check on how you were doing today," he said, with a kind smile, as he moved to take a seat next to him. He was determined to physically block his father's access to his wife. "I am glad to see you up, and it seems you have something far better than hospital food today," he said, before reaching across the old man to grab a piece of cheese. He ate it quickly, as he had not stopped to eat before coming to see him.

Julius face brightened as his oldest son and his wife joined him once again. "Sierra, Claudius ... I am so pleased you came," he informed them, making a point of putting her name first. Before he could react Claudius had found his way into his food, which irritated him to no end. He had gained substantial weight in his old age which had added to the complications of his fall. "How long will you be staying?" he asked, speaking of Delaya rather than the medcenter. Gaius had not let it slip that the couple was planning to move back to Delaya. "I did not realize how bad the view had gotten from down here. I have not spent time in the city much," he said, as he turned to look at the haze outside of the window. Much had changed under his reign as Duke. He had forfeited the natural beauty of the world to maximize the treasury. This was the price his people paid.

It was good to see Julius somewhere besides stuck in his bed. She couldn't imagine that all this down time as of late was good for him. Her eyes showed hopefulness. Maybe it was a good sign. Sierra wanted to see the old man recover more before they departed again. His age was a worrisome factor. You never knew when he would breathe his last breath. Claudius, the protect, had successfully blocked Julius from her. She perched herself in the seat next to her husband. The old man would have to reach far to get to her. Her eyes flickered over the food. Today, her stomach had decided it hated food. As empty as it was, she did not eat. "We're pleased to be here, Father." She said cheerfully. Claudius had improved her mood by acting as a human shield. "We'll stay as long as necessary. Are you feeling better today? Yesterday was ... exciting." Awkward was the right word for it.

She looked out the window. "It won't remain that way forever, Father. With technology advancements, we can clean up the pollutants without breaking the back. When you're on your feet again, maybe we can discuss some options together." The future of the planet would soon rest, in partial, in her hands. This was not something she had faced yet.

"Yes I am feeling better, child," Julius said as he looked towards her. He wanted to touch her stomach again, but unfortunately his son was in the way. "Yes. I would like that. It would be nice if the people could see the castle and be reminded of our majesty," he said, condescendingly as the old Duke was known for. "Perhaps if they would allow me some wine I would feel better," he declared, as he leaned back in the chair and stared sadly at the cup of water he had been given. The cheese and fruit much better with wine. "I was speaking with my wife and we would like to give you a present in honor of your pregnancy," he said, but did not go into greater detail ... *yet*. He enjoyed being cryptic, and he also enjoyed surprises.

Claudius saw his father's eyes move towards his wife, which made him feel justified in placing himself between his two loved ones. "I am glad you are feeling better, father, but you can't have any wine with your medication. I *am* sorry," he said, with a smile, but he could not imagine what it would be like dealing with the old man if he were drunk on top of everything else. It was bad enough dealing with him on pain medication. "We do not need any gifts, father," he said, as he reached out and gave his wife's hand a reassuring squeeze. "If you want to give us a gift then please just follow the doctor's instructions and get well," he said to him, with a firm nod of his head. He knew his father well enough to know his surprises often misfired and would most likely offend his wife. He looked up at her, offering her a reassuring smile of support, as he could only imagine what this was doing to her.

A full recovery was the best thing they could ask for. If Julius was magically healed and had the ability to freely move about, then they all wouldn't be stuck with the big, pink elephant in the room. When was he going to die? Sierra smiled. "I'm glad to hear it." Thankfully, Sierra couldn't read her father-in-law's mind. His eyes said it all. Claudius was saving her. It would be one thing if she was as round as Zara, but she barely had anything there. The idea of a gift from Julius was horrifying. Truly, completely, *horrifying*. She could only imagine what a pregnancy gift from him would entail. Maybe she was finally going to get the formal thank you and uterus week? She had only been joking, but now she feared it was for real. She was ready to object when Claudius stepped in. They were the dream team today. In him taking the lead, she felt better.

"Please. That would be the greatest gift you could give us. I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I want you to be able to meet our son. In order to do that, you have to listen to the doctors." There. Crisis averted. Her eyes met with her husband. She smiled back at him. Her fingers nuzzled their way in between his. Just like that, she felt weightless again. As soon as they had spent adequate time with Julius, she intended to take her husband back to the castle to do unspeakable things. He was being so sweet to her.

"You are very kind," Julius said, as he smiled up at him, before he moved to take a bite of fruit. He followed it up with a cup of water, which did not have the same effect as the wine. "But you two will soon rule this planet and my wife and I wish for you to have a small token to inspire you to do great things," he said, as he shifted again in the chair. He was uncomfortable, as even with his weight and laziness he regularly took walks, albeit brief, around the corridors of his castle. "Where are my granddaughters?" he asked, looking at them disappointedly, as neither Drusilla nor Ewwiekewwieikkie had yet made it this far.

Claudius was still brooding from the loss of Callista, and he had sent Drusilla and Ewwiekewwieikkie back to the castle for safekeeping. "They will be along in the next few days, father. There are some logistical things to work out," he said, vaguely, as he did not want to disturb or involve the man in his affairs. He looked towards his wife, wondering if they had spent enough time with his father. He could not bare to watch his father like this, and it was a painful reminder of the life that was headed in his direction. He would be his father's age by the time Bruce would be an adult. He grimaced slightly as he watched the expression of pain creep upon his father's lips.

The old man did not step down. He was insistent about his gift, which meant that they would receive it no matter what *it* exactly was. Sierra wasn't really afraid of the life that had been paved out for them. Her complete confidence in Claudius led her to believe that he would be a great Duke. As his right hand, she felt that she would do a good job too. The power to change things for the better of the planet would finally rest in their hands. She needn't anything for inspiration. Her inspiration sat beside her, their fingers entangled for eternity. Like Claudius, she preferred Julius not to know the details of their private life. Callista was gone. Sierra suspect that the Rebels had gotten her while Drusilla was brooding over the yacht and not paying proper attention to the girls. What Sierra knew for a fact was that calming Ewwiekewwieikkie down had taken a Herculean effort. "Don't worry. You'll see them soon. It seems like the only way to get things done is to do it ourselves. I'll retrieve them soon," she promised her father-in-law. She wondered how much time had passed since they arrived. It seemed like roughly forever. Sierra didn't want to be here either. The smell of death lingered in the room. It was the greatest reason why Sierra was so insistent on them staying. "We'll have to be off soon, father. Is there anything we can do for you before we go?" She asked kindly, unintentionally potentially exposing herself to tummy grope time.

Claudius suddenly felt an unpleasant feeling emanating from his stomach. "Sierra..." he cried out, before rising from the chair rapidly. His color did not look good and there were droplets of sweat on his forehead. He ran quickly from the room towards the adjoining refresher. He was on his knees in front of the bowl almost as soon as he got in there. The sounds of vomiting emerged from the room as he puked his guts out unpleasantly. Whatever he had eaten must have disagreed with him. He was hanging over the bowl, panting, sweating, and feeling as if he was about to throw up again. "Sierra!" he cried out again, in a panic, before throwing up a mixture of bile and stomach acid into the bowl. He had been completely drained.

Her eyes shot to him as soon as he cried her name the first time. Oh no!! Claudius looked *horrible*. She rose from her seat just as quickly as he did. "What's wro-?!" She began to asked him only to watch him quickly disappear into the refresher. Concerned, she followed after him without a word to Julius. Sierra stood in the doorway when she realized *he* was throwing up. Her first instinct was to reach out and slap the nurse call button on the wall in the bathroom. Refusing to let herself throw up with him, Sierra dropped to her knees beside her husband. Her hands rubbed over his back. "I'm here, it's okay. It's okay." She steadied herself. As the smell of vomit grew in the refresher, she forced herself to push past the nausea. It looked like he was suffering from a bad bout of food poisoning. Being that Sierra was not a medical doctor, she reached out to the professionals first, then worked to be there for Claudius. She turned away from him to gather up paper towels and a plastic cup of water. "There's a nurse coming. I'm right here. Breathe." If it was something from undercooked food, then why wasn't she sharing the bowl with him? Sierra's thoughts were focused on her poor husband as an unfortunate male nurse joined them in the bathroom.

Claudius was fortunate to have a wife who cared so much about him to endure the sight of him vomiting in a hospital bathroom. He sat on the ground reaching towards the toilet to flush it, so that the smell would hopefully subside. He reached quickly for the cup of water, both to rehydrate and clear the awful taste from his mouth. "I'll ... I'll be fine," he said weakly, waving his hand at the nurse to dismiss him. "It's just been too much stress lately, I'm sure," he said, as he finished the cup of water and discarded it. "Can you get me home?" he pleaded with her, as he placed a hand on the bowl and forced himself back to his feat. His stomach hurt and felt as if it was burning, and he incorrectly assumed he had an ulcer. "Father. I am sorry," he said, apologetically towards the old man, who looked concerned for his son despite his own problems. Against the wishes of the nurse he pressed forward, attempting to leave the suite. He was convinced he just needed to lay down, like every incorrect, difficult patient in the annals of medical history.

She watched him, looking increasingly more worried. The nurse wasn't going to get through to him. Sierra was. Helping him back to his feet, Sierra wrapped her arm around his waist. She noted that his body felt hot and sweaty. As much as she wanted to whisk him away and take care of him herself, she worried that there may be more going on than a stomach bug. The family had endured so much lately. It honestly wouldn't surprise her if he was suffering from an ulcer. She gave the nurse a look that said 'I got this'. She let Claudius emerge from Julius' suite, then she put her foot down. "We cannot go home. You're not well, Claudius. If there's something seriously wrong, you're in the best place right now. I'm sorry." Taking advantage of how sick he was, Sierra directed him right into a nearby empty suite. "Tell me where it hurts," she said loudly enough that the nurse who followed would hear her. "You're so warm." She helped him down onto a hospital bed. For the five-hundredth time, she wished she had some medical expertise. "Look over him. Make him well again." Sierra demanded like a noble brat. Her fingers moved through his hair to soothe him.

Claudius had nearly made his escape when his wife had forced him into a hospital bed. He held a hand over his stomach, looking at her with pained eyes. He lay uncomfortably in the bed, wondering what possible misfortune could be next for his family. "I am sorry," he said to her, apologizing for getting sick. Her hand running through his hair did much to sooth him, but the pain in his stomach was causing him to constrict. His hands moved against the sheets, digging in sharply with each sudden stabbing pain. "Why aren't you sick?" he asked, between grit teeth, breathing rapidly as he selfishly looked at her. They had ate virtually every meal together since they had gotten together. "It must be an ulcer," he speculated, as food poisoning seemed unlikely given her undisturbed condition. Whatever it was ... it was ruining his day.

The day was not destined to go any better than that either. Between vomiting and feeling like hell, the doctors decided that Claudius' symptoms did not align with an ulcer. They thought that he had eaten something that needed to be let out *immediately*. The process of pumping one's stomach is unfortunate, horrible, and this writer will not be going into detail on it. All that could be said was that it was absolutely necessary for the man's survival. Sierra was there for the entire ordeal, holding her husband's hand and coaching him through it as if he was in labor. Eventually, his stomach was empty. Droids were left to examine the contents of his stomach to identify what *exactly* had caused him to get so sick. As Sierra stewed on it, she began to feel like this was *another* attempt on the family. She even made lists of everything they had eaten to determine a time when he could have been poisoned. What she did not realize was that one tiny piece of cheese had caused this mess...and others.

For Farrah Rodney, life had been nothing but sour moments. She had failed to kill Julius Rodney on numerous occasions. It had taken her days to talk Gaius into allowing her to attempt to assassinate Claudius. The shot had been there. It was *perfect*.. Until it wasn't. Somehow, a stupid guard had used himself as a human shield. *How loyal*... It only served to infuriate the small girl. The final piece of shit on her shit-filled sundae was finding out Claudius' new wifey had gotten pregnant with a *son*! The news of a new baby boy Rodney had caused her to break the mirror in Gaius' room. In her eyes, everything was falling apart. In a desperate attempt to destroy the Duke, she had caused his fall. Instead of allowing the hospital to heal him of his poisoning, Farrah decided to play on the man's love for drink and cheese. She continued to visit him.

The medcenter was an absolute mess when she arrived. She overheard that Claudius Rodney had eaten something and was not well...and suddenly Farrah was walking on sunshine. Claudius Rodney's body wasn't used to the strong poisons she used on Julius' cheese. She was convinced that he would die before anyone figured out what was going on. With all the chaos going on, Farrah made her way into Julius' room without anyone noticing. She was the most unsuspecting looking girl. In her heart, she realized that it was time to kill Julius. If the cheese had not done the job, then it was her turn to take hold of Gaius' future. He would become the Duke no matter what she needed to do.

Julius Rodney had been assisted back into the bed following his son's unexpected and sudden illness. Everyone was concerned about Claudius and he felt like the forgotten man. He let out a deep sigh as his room emptied as all of the attention went down the hall to where his son was being tended to. He reached for the control to activate his holonet display so that he could watch something. It was *just* out of reach. He let out a groan as he reached and reached, slowly dragging each finger forward until it could touch part of the control. "Almost got it..." he said to himself as he concentrated, but just as his finger reached it, he roughly brushed it aside and it tumbled to the ground. There was no reaching it now. Julius let out a small groan of frustration before slamming his fist down on the table, causing his water to spill and the fruit and cheese to reverberate. It was all he could do. The most powerful man on the planet on paper was stuck in bed.

The small girl stood quietly in the doorway. She watched the powerful man struggle to even reach his controller. Finally, Farrah had him right where she needed him. He couldn't move without support. The machines monitoring his heart had been put on a loop from earlier in the day when Farrah snuck in while the old man slept. She had thought that the cheese would kill him. Like his son, he would vomit himself to death. The fact that it hadn't happened made her wonder what the hell was wrong with his body. A life of drink had done something insane to his innards.

Farrah closed the door behind her loudly enough so that he would notice her. Small as a mouse, sweet as candy, the preteen glided towards his beside. "Duke Julius," she said, sounding concerned. She leaned down to collect his controller. She placed it in one of his old, feeble hands. "Are you okay? There's lots of people outside. I thought something had... h-happened." The little girl choked on her words, forcing her eyes to heat up. "Let me help you." She was still an obedient servant to the old man. She had to hold that act for as long as she could. She grabbed a towel and began to clean up the water he had spilled. The girl was deceivingly gentle. "I'll bring you more cheese tomorrow, okay? That stuff wasn't *that* good anyway. I had the house chef order some really good stuff."

"Huh? Who's there?" Julius asked, as he suddenly perked up at the thought of any visitor at all. "Oh. It's you!" he said, as a wide grin formed upon his tired old lips. "Yes. My son has food poisoning. Apparently they think it's more important than my broken hip. No one cares about me. The focus is on the future," he complained bitterly, as he welcomed her into the room. "Try and get me some wine!" he said, practically begging, as he watched her clean for him. "You are the only one I feel cares about me," he said to her, smiling pleasantly at the young girl, unaware of her true intentions. His mind was clouded by age, limiting his awareness and lowering his guard. He simply did not see her coming ... he did not want to either.

Farrah made her way to his bedside once she had finished cleaning. Visiting him had been her least favorite part of entirely gaining his trust. She hated the old man. He smelled so weird...or maybe that was the medcenter as a whole? "Awww, that's not true! The future isn't possible without the past, right? *I* care about you." She reminded him while placing a small hand on his. "I'll see what I can do about the wine..." The young girl winked. "I think I can sneak some over. No telling though!! I'll get in huge trouble." She did not sit down. She remained standing, looking down at him like this was some sick power game. "Can you come back to the castle soon? I miss you. Duchess Livia is not easy to please these days. I much prefer serving you."

"You would make an old man *very* happy if you succeed," Julius told her, as the happiest smile that had appeared since his arrival at the medcenter crossed his face. He had gone through a difficult process of drying out after first being delivered here, as the doctors would not allow him even some medicinal brandy. "I won't tell a soul," he said, before raising his left hand and touching his index finger to his lips to indicate silence. "I hope I can return to the castle soon. I do not like it here. I miss my bed," he said, in a pout reminiscent of his granddaughter Drusilla, pursing his lips in frustration. "My wife? She hardly even visits me," he bemoaned, as she had all but abandoned him due to the making public of his bastard child. "You are too kind, dear. In time I am sure you will rise to the station of head servant at the castle," he said, winking his left eye with his continued smile.

The man's woes were not her problem. Farrah was callous for the dirty old man who screwed her father over every day that he continued to live. She hated cleaning up after him. He had gotten what he deserved: a chance to slowly waste away in bed. "She's just bitter over Mug. She'll get over herself." Farrah falsely soothed him. The Duke struck a chord deep inside of her while trying to give her something positive to cling onto. You will rise to the station of head servants at the castle. Internally, she cringed. She had imagined herself becoming Gaius' unlikely right hand lady when *he* ruled Delaya. It hurt to see herself still cleaning up after pompous Rodneys several decades from now. She wasn't having any of it. The end began with Julius. And so, she ran her hands over his pillow idly. "Oh my. This pillow is so flat. No wonder you're in such bad spirited, Duke Julius. You must be terribly uncomfortable. Here. Let me fix it." She waited for him to lift his head, then Farrah took the pillow. She began fluffy it in between her hands with the expertise a girl who had spent most of her life as a servant possessed. Her eyes flickered to the monitors. They continued to reflect Julius' vitals from days ago, forever on a loop. Her fingers clung to the pillow roughly. "I will be no station head!" In a flash, anger settled in. She grabbed the pillow and shoved it in his face over his mouth and nose. She was going to suffocate the annoying bastard. "Your family won't miss you, old man." She growled. "I will kill Claudius next and then his wife. I'll kill Marcus and Zara too if that means my father will take the throne. No one will stand in his way." She held the pillow firmly to his face. "You should have eaten more cheese. I'd rather see you die on your own throw up like the pathetic drunk that you are."

"And how old are you?" Julius asked, as he eyes her developing figure. He had a long run of servant girls during his decades in the castle, but he did not think this fruit was yet ripe enough to pluck. However, it did give him something to look forward to should he live long enough to see her grow into maturity. However, that was not to be. At first he was grateful that she was adjusting his pillow as his considerable weight had flattened both the pillow and the mattress beneath him. But then it took a sudden, horrific turn as she placed the pillow over his head and began to suffocate him. He struggled beneath the pillow, but he could not thrash his legs due to the cast. His arms flung wildly and he tried to scream, but all he got for his efforts was a mouthful of pillow. All of his exertion was just making it all the more difficult. And that's when something unexpected happened ... a heart attack. The old Duke's heart virtually exploded in his chest from the fear and shock of what the little servant girl was doing. Whether it was his heart or the suffocation it would take doctors performing an autopsy to decide, but slowly his arms fell down to the bed, lifeless. The grand old Duke of Delaya was no more.

His question only powered her into her decision more. He was a sick man! Horrific images of him touching her in places where only Gaius had plagued her mind. Farrah wouldn't allow for it. The world seemed to have stopped. The old man flailed weakly like a fish out of water. Her cold eyes watched the entire scene transpire. She didn't know that he suffered from a heart attack during the suffocation. Farrah was too wrapped up in hate. She despised the old man who had cast away Gaius like he was nothing. All of his focus should have been placed on him. She blamed the Duke on everything bad that had happened in her life. Her treacherous mother was suddenly *his* fault. Without her, who would have picked up the pieces of Gaius' heart? She held the pillow this face long after he had stopped moving. It took time for her brain to accept the idea that he was truly dead.

After all of her efforts, the Duke of Delaya was laid to rest by a servant. She pulled the pillow away to stare into his blank eyes. "Piece of shit." She placed the pillow underneath his head. He was dead. *Dead*. While chaos still ensued outside and monitors continued to show normal vitals for the Duke, Farrah left. She moved through the medcenter. No one said anything to her. She would leave her present for Gaius to find... Happy birthday, father.

Hours and hours had passed since Claudius was admitted to the medcenter. It took another hour for the medical droids to sift through vomit and determine what had nearly taken his life. For Sierra, there had been no rest. She was close at all times...which included experiencing her husband throwing up way too much. She wished she could trade places with him just to give him a break. Seated beside his hospital bed with a ton of stress weighing down on her shoulders, she worried and worried and worried. This ordeal had only made her more sure that they needed to move back to Delaya and hide.

She was right there when the doctor delivered the results. He stated it so simply: Claudius had eaten poisoned cheese. "*Cheese*?" Sierra repeated. When the heck did he...?! In her mind's eye, she saw them joining Julius. Claudius had eaten from the plate of cheese...!!! Her blue eyes went wide. He wasn't the intended target. "Shit!" She was on her feet and running out of the room like an everyday marathon runner. She couldn't seem to remember if she had actually seen Julius eat any of the cheese or not. She burst into his suite like a damn wrecking ball. What she saw, at first, was and Duke sleeping in an awkward position on his bed. She noticed that his monitors showed good vitals. In search of the cheese, she drew herself closer to the old Duke's bed. On her way, she stepped on something squishy beneath her boot. "What the...?" It was cheese. There were a few cubes of cheese on the floor. She stared at the old man. He wasn't moving. She stared harder. Absolutely no movement. "No, no, no. Not now!" She touched his throat. His body temperature had cooled. His death wasn't recent. Between that and the lack of a pulse Sierra realized...she realized...

That she had already hit the button to summon the doctors. In fact, she hit it a good twenty times. "He's so cold..." She said to one doctor in pure shock. He was *dead*. Sierra stepped back. Warm tears had begun to run down her cheeks. Even the medical personnel knew he was far gone. No one tried to revive him. Sierra could hear herself saying, "Someone get me Gaius Rodney now!"

Gaius Rodney was a man who did not like being summoned, particularly when it was by his cousin's young wife. "What the devil does she want?" he asked of his aide incredulously as he looked up from a datapad. He threw the datapad down to his desk angrily, before rising to his feet and moving swiftly towards the corridor that would lead to Sierra. Whatever she wanted he was convinced she felt it important, but he would find it laughable. Perhaps she would want to review the security measures for her seizing of the planet's natural wonders once again. The insolence, he thought to himself, all the while forcing a polite, diplomatic smile upon his face. He took a soft breath before stepping forward into Duke Julius' suite in the medical center. "You requested my presence, milady," he said, with an obedient nod of his head to the Countess. He did not yet notice the lifeless body of the Duke as he was too enraged to pay particular attention to detail. His fingers dug into his palms slightly ... it took everything he had to politely deal with his cousin's teenage bride.

There was nothing anyone could do. The doctors began to clear out no sooner than they had arrived. Someone would be sent in to retrieve the dead Duke's body in time. Sierra felt like she should stay with him. In her mind, the old man had died alone. She could not get herself to look at him again. Her back faced his body, her eyes staring out the window at the city. Thoughts of how she would bring this news to her exhausted, sick husband already moved through her head. She had wiped the tears away for the presence of Gaius; the cousin no one loved. Upon his arrival, she turned to him. "The Duke is dead." She bluntly reported to him. "Claudius was poisoned by cheese that someone brought to Julius. F-Father may have died the same way. I don't know..." She wanted to drain her spleen all over Gaius. Was it his fault? She felt angry, sad, and worried all at the same time. "I want his body watched. We need a proper autopsy to find out what happened. I just..." Sierra began to cry again, "I don't know how this happened. We were in the room next door. We were so close."

The news that his uncle, the Duke, was dead nearly caused a smile to curl upon his deceptive lips. *Nearly*. The news that his cousin, the heir apparent, and the one man in the way of his ascending the throne had also been poisoned was music to his heart. Farrah had outdone himself. "Oh cousin," he said, sorrowfully, as he stepped towards her. His arm moved around her in a warm embrace, as his hand moved up to her back to pat it reassuringly. "Do not worry. I will see to everything," he whispered into her ear, as he finally allowed the smile to dance upon his face as he looked over her shoulder to the dead man's body. Victory was at hand.

Even Sierra could not see what deception played before her eyes. She cried against Gaius briefly. They shared an embrace that forced Sierra's anger to turn to sorrow. His reassuring words meant that she could excuse herself to see to her husband. She was scared that Julius wasn't the only Rodney that they would lose today. Every minute she spent away from Claudius was a minute that he could be *gone*. She brushed her tears away with her hand. "Thank you, Gaius. I must see to my husband. I'll take care of informing everyone else. Please, don't let this news hit the press until everyone knows." Sierra released him. She quickly left the room with the Duke's dead body to return to Claudius' room. She wanted to migrate in a bear-like fashion. It would be easier than facing the world. Life had changed significantly with the passing of the Duke. Currently, that wasn't at the forefront of her mind. She needed to see her husband recover. He was *everything* to her. With weakness settling into her knees, she plummeted into the bedside seat. She grasped his hand and waited for him to wake again. To reassure herself, she rested her other hand over his heart. *Sigh*. It was still beating.

Claudius was resting comfortably following a day of repeated vomiting that had left him weak and dehydrated. He was blissfully ignorant to the fact that his father was dead ... perhaps even murdered. The sound of the cushion of the seat beside his bed venting air broke the silence of the room and he began to stir. He felt her hand upon his chest, and he thought it a wonderful sensation to wake up to. "Sierra?" He asked her, as his eyes slowly opened. He blinked several times to focus his eyes in the darkness. Her angelic visage soon came into view and his heart began to beat a little more rapidly. Proof of his love for her appeared on his heart monitor in unmistakable fashion.

On the darkest of days, the man before her could make her feel better. How? By the sound of his increasing heart beat on the monitor. Sierra felt warm inside her heart. Without knowing the situation, Claudius provided her the strength she needed. "I'm here," She said softly. Her hand lifted from his. Ever the caretaker, she reached over and grabbed his water. "Drink." She said, guiding the drink close to his face. "You need it. Your body has been through hell and back." Sierra didn't remove the drink until he'd taken a sufficient amount. Right now, anything was something. She set it aside. "I'm coming in," she warned. How many times had they slept together on hospital beds now? She hoped their misfortune would run out soon. She wanted the next time they shared a hospital bed to be over the joyous birth of their son. The petite young girl wrapped her husband up in her arms as soon as she was in bed. She was preparing both of them. Her eyes closed tight. The death of his father was going to hurt him badly. She was so afraid of him dying. She clung to him equally tight. "You scared me today."

Claudius shifted up in the bed slightly so he would not choke while drinking the water. It burned as it ran down his throat where his stomach acids had done their damage during his epic vomiting. "You're clear for landing," he said, like a deck officer, before shifting over to give her more room. She had not been in the bed long before he wrapped his arms around her in a warm embrace. The medcenter was cold and he needed her body warmth. "I am sorry, my love. It must be all the recent stress," he told her, explaining away his illness. "How is father?" He asked, as his thoughts lingered on the reason they had come to Delaya. He hoped his sudden illness had not distressed the old man.

The coolness of his body only scared her further. Julius had been *so* cold. Sierra tried to share all of her body warmth with him. Her body always seemed to run unusually hot. Adjusting slightly, she kicked her boots off the edge of the bed. Her legs entangled with his while stretching long so her feet could warm his. His question forced her to face the truth: it was time to tell him. "There's nothing for you to be sorry about..." She started off. "The doctors have concluded that you don't have a ulcer. You were poisoned..." She could hear her voice crack. "It was the cheese you ate in your father's room. As soon as it was determined, I went to him." She explained, sinking lower into the bed. "And I saw him..." She tried damn hard to steel herself, but had begun to cry again. "He was *gone*." Sierra laid with him, prepared to pick him up when he fell emotionally.

"Poisoned?!" Claudius asked with as much anger he could muster during his weakened state. He found it too much to believe. Danger was *everywhere*. The news that his father was gone fractured him. He had quarreled often with his father, but never did he wish him dead. Not even when his meddling had caused the death of his first wife. He was quiet for a moment. And then he was quiet for a long time. He maintained a stiff upper lip in proper noble fashion, but on the inside he had come unglued. "Does mother know?" He asked her, terrified of the answer. "I must know if he was murdered, Sierra," he said, tightening his grip on her as he clung to dear life. He was Duke now, but he did not care. His family was under attack and they had just been dealt a fatal blow. "Where are the children?" He asked, as his concern nest turned to them. Nowhere seemed safe.

Sierra didn't budge. She kept her arms around him like she thought he might try to jump out of bed and do something rash. Though he didn't make a show externally, she wasn't stupid enough to not see it affecting him. "No, I will tell mother. There's no way of knowing for sure if father was murdered or not. He looked to have gone in his sleep. I have asked Gaius to ensure the body is watched. When the autopsy is complete, we'll know what happened." When he asked about the children, she felt concerned. "They are at the castle but..." That wasn't enough to ensure anyone that they were safe. She reached out of bed towards her chair, snatching her purse off of it. She found her comlink in record time. For the sake of everyone's sanity, she dialed Drusilla. If she didn't pick up, then Sierra was going to run the the castle as quickly as her little legs would carry her. She clung to her husband. Long, *long* days stood in front of them.

"Autopsy? I hate to think of him butchered like that, but I fear it necessary. We *must* know," Claudius said to her, as he tried his best to maintain his composure and focus on his responsibilities. He was the head of the family now. "Can you get me out of here?" He pleaded to her, as he pulled away so she could see the neediness in his eyes. It had been awful day and he did not want to spend a moment longer in this bed than he had to. He also questioned its safety. "I want to be with my family," he explained to her, as he began his attempt to escape the bed.

"I'm busy," Drusilla replied over the comm, still salty over the loss of her yacht. The young noble woman was having her way with the castle while everyone else was at the medical center. A feast just for her had been prepared and she was moving some of the art pieces she liked into her room. If she could not have a yacht then she was determined to have everything else.

"I know. I don't like the idea either..." She sighed, nodding her head slowly in agreement. It was cruel of him to use those damn puppy dog eyes with her. They worked. As concerned as she was for his recovery, she also felt that the medcenter was not safe. She could control everything going in and out of the castle. Reluctant, Sierra decide she would aid in his escape. "Yes. I'll get you home under the condition that you let me baby you...and drink more water." She said, giving him the drink again.

Sierra was massively relieved to hear the spiteful voice of Drusilla. She knew she wasn't getting over the yacht any time soon. That was fine. As long as she was alive, she could be angry. "I know. Is your sister around? Please tell the servants to gather grandmother and take her to the gardens. Papa and I will be home soon." The blonde stopped her husband from rising by himself. Instead, she put her feet back into her boots and left the room while still on the comlink with Drusilla. She retrieved a wheelchair. She brought it bedside, glancing up at him with tired eyes. "Our speeder is in the valet under the medcenter. Instead of having them bring the it up, we'll go to it. That way, we can shield ourselves from those reporters." While she spoke, she shoved bottled water into her purse. It was probably better that Sierra wasn't a nurse.

It was a blessing to him that the children seemed okay. Claudius knew that if it was murder there was no reason to eliminate his father unless they planned to act against the rest of his family as well. "I am *not* going out of here in one of those!" he said, scoffing at the wheelchair, before attempting to walk out under his own power. He took her by the arm, and with her support he slowly made his way down towards where the speeder lay. As they walked through the corridor it struck him that his father lay dead in one of the rooms. Finally in the privacy of the speeder he allowed himself to cry, finally coming to the painful terms that his father was *gone*.

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