The Rodney family filed into a Coruscant sky taxi at Cantham House,
dressed in their regal best for the formal occasion at the Imperial
Palace. An honor troop of the Alderaanian Guard lined the landing
platform as Claudius Rodney, his wife, and three children, settled into
the speeder. A moment later the vehicle sped off at breakneck speed
through the bustling air traffic that filled the Coruscant skyline. The
trip seemed to take no time and within moments they were on queue in a
busy line of transports that were dropping off some of the finest young
women in the Core Worlds.
Admiral Claudius Rodney was the first to disembark the taxi, dressed
in his Imperial Navy uniform to reinforce his position in the hierarchy
to the gathered dignitaries. He had never been to the Imperial Palace
before and his eyes went wide as he took in every sculpture and ornate
crafting that lined the corridor leading from the landing platform to
the grand foyer where the receiving line would be held. He turned to
look at Htaere, with all the enthusiasm of a young child about to go to
the toy store.
Htaere descended from the transport carefully, elegantly lifting the
front of her skirt to keep from tripping. She donned the more
traditional garb of Hapes ... an ornate strapless shell top, plummeting
skirt that hung about her hips below her belly chain, vast array of
sparkling jewelry including anklets, bracelets, arm bands, an elaborate
chandelier style tiered necklace and lastly, an intricate and stunning
crown of sorts, complete with the extensive frame work that supported
the quadrilateral triangular veil that left her face concealed with a
light gauzy material. She flashed a smile to Claudius, that he may have
seen through the utterly sheer veil before waiting for the rest of the
family to disembark.
The Ladies Jelena and Drusilla Rodney were the next to disembark the
speeder, looking lovely in very ostentatious dresses of Republic
Classical design that were still popular in the Alderaan system. A tiara
was perched on Jelena's head that signified her ascension into
adulthood, which made the younger Drusilla very envious. Following the
duo was the much older Ewwiekewwieikkie, who was wearing a white dress
that complimented her vibrant blue fur. Many eyes turned at the Squib
and several sneers were visible. None of those gathered could rightfully
understand 'its' purpose here this evening.
Claudius was too pleased with himself to notice any of the sneers
being given at his adopted Squib daughter and he pleasantly gathered
them before leading them down the corridor to the grand foyer. A large
bas relief depicting an ancient battle from the Sith Wars was to their
right, but very few were privy to significance. He rubbed his hands
together excitedly as they approached the end of the corridor, no one
sure what to expect.
Htaere's eyes took in the crowd studying them here and there. While
she knew none of them by name or rank, it was easily discernable those
who came to watch, and those who came to be watched. Occasionally her
pools narrowed at the reactions of some as the family moved further into
the palace, her skepticism and disgust concealed beneath her veil,
As they entered the grand foyer an impressive sight came before them.
In the lower level there were hundreds of dignitaries from every
influential human family in the Core Worlds. Beverages and small
portions of delicacies were being served by a staff comprised almost
entirely of alien slaves. There was a long, curved ramp that gradually
made itself up to the throne where The Emperor was seated, flanked by
his Royal Guards and ghastly looking advisors.
The gnarled face of Grand Vizier Sate Pestage suddenly appeared in
front of them, his hooked, nose protruding from beneath his lavish red
and purple robe. "Lord Rodney!" he exclaimed as he looked over the
officer whom he had, from time to time, conversed with over the holonet.
"It is ... an honor ... to finally meet you in person," he said, making
the necessary small talk. Truthfully he was less than pleased with the
man's performance and would have rather he not been invited. "A lovely
wife you have taken for yourself," he said as his eyes sized up the
Hapan beauty. He took her hand into his and his gnarled lips gradually
descended to place a toxic kiss upon her hand.
It was only on account of her impeccable training that Htaere did not
recoil in disgust and snatch her hand away. Whoever this fellow was, she
would not dishonor Claudius' chance for high-end pomp and circumstance.
Letting the old man greet her in such a chauvinistic fashion, Htaere
made the effort to pretend to be flattered by the gesture.
Admiral Rodney found back the urge to cringe for Htaere, but the man
could wave his finger and send them all to a very dark place from there
could never return. "You honor us, Grand Vizier," he said, taking a step
backward before descending to give a graceful bow at his waist. His
attention turned to the line where he could make out several old friends
whom he hoped he could speak with in the reception to follow.
Jelena Rodney forced a smile onto her face as she took her place in
the line. She could make out the Emperor in the distance ... just a
figure in a dark cloak at the moment. The two guards perched on either
side of his throne were an impressive sight and she swallowed nervously,
doubting whether or not she could actually go through with this. The
blue and yellow dress that she wore had cost her father nearly a month's
salary, but it was well worth it. She turned to look at Htaere for moral
support as the line slowly shuffled forward, brining her closer to her
doom. She kept repeating to herself that this would allow her to go to
college and that it would all be worth it.
Htaere remained rigid and unwavering. Accustomed to the charades of
the Hapan courts, Htaere melded into the tapestry of the elitist social
function, much to her chagrin. From behind the safety of her veil, she
studied the various crowds gathered, noting them all human. In fact,
Ewwie was the only non-human not carrying a tray. Slowly her study
panned across the entire room, seeking out even one exception to the
rule to prove her wrong. Involuntarily she cast a glance back to Ewwie
before looking to Claudius.
"Food!" Ewwiekewwieikkie announced as a tray of food carried by a Mon
Calamari walked by. The eager young Squib took a handful of the snacks
and began filling them into her mouth, acting as if she were starving. "Mmm,"
she said, rubbing her belly with grease covered hands, leaving a nasty
grease stain upon the white silken fabric of her gown.
Shaking the confusion away, Htaere instead refocused on the immediate
family. Noting Jelena's gaze, she placed a reassuring hand on her
shoulder. "Do not fret, you will do wonderfully," she offered.
Drusilla turned to look at Htaere, completely envious by the events
that were transpiring here tonight. "You realize of course when I come
of age it will be a much lavish ceremony," she said with an emphatic nod
of her head. Her eyes glared up at her sister, wishing she were the
oldest child and the direct beneficiary of their family's wealth and
By now the family had reached the middle section of the line and
Claudius' palms were starting to sweat and become somewhat clammy. For
more than two decades he had admired Palpatine, first as a strong
Supreme Chancellor, and then as his Emperor. However, never before had
he come this close to the man. His eyes widened as they reached the top
of the precession, finally able to get a glimpse of the man's disfigured
face and piercing yellow eyes beneath that darkened hood.
Still taking in the scenery from an ever changing perspective in the
procession, Htaere's eyes came to rest on the ancient and haggard
appearance of 'the' Emperor, the very center of Claudius' obsession and
strive. She let him have his moment, basking in the glow of the
superiority he had put on a pedestal so long ago. Remaining quiet and to
the side, she played the appropriate part of the silent accessory.
The time had come and the way was cleared for Claudius and his family
to take center stage in front of the Emperor. Claudius stood behind
Jelena silently and placed both hands upon his daughter's slender
shoulders very proudly. Glimmers of liquid began to form in each of his
brown eyes as he was taken over by the pride he had for her. This was a
shining moment for his family.
The Emperor looked at the family with piercing yellow eyes, noting
the man was one of his officers. An Imperial Advisor whispered in his
ears that the ageless man silently nodded in response. A pale, boney
finger emerged from beneath the robe, before curling back to him. "Come
closer, my child," he said in a voice that seemed to ooze from those
shriveled lips. "Let us ... look at you..." he continued, each word
gnarled in a way that would make an ordinary person's hair stand on end.
Jelena was silent for a moment before stepping forward before the
Emperor. She lifted her dress off the ground and gently bent at the
knees in a proper curtsy, which Drusilla and Ewwiekewwieikkie mimicked
perfectly behind her. "Your Majesty," she said in a quiet, demure voice
as she stood in front of to be examined.
Inwardly, Htaere could not help but breathe a sigh of relief as even
Ewwie flawlessly executed the very simple concepts they had worked on
with oh so many forks. With such a matter of concern out of the way,
Htaere had not conjured any other social hurdles for the family, and
thankfully so. Pleased with the girls' display and genuflection, she
waited patiently, smiling at them beneath her veil for a job well done.
The Emperor reached out with his rough flesh to tease at Jelena's
warm hand, simply because he could. He realized it would make the young
woman uncomfortable, but such was his prerogative. "You have a lovely
child, Lord Rodney," he informed him, in a complimentary tone, his eyes
darting from the woman to the man. With that the most powerful man in
the galaxy bestowed his blessing and almost immediately lost interested
and moved to the next family.
Jelena began descending the ramp after meeting the Emperor, not
saying a word. She was still in horror that the man had touched her. How
could such a sick, disheveled old man cause so much turmoil in the
galaxy, she wondered silently to herself. It took every fiber of her
being for the smile to remain upon her young, tender lips.
"He spoke to me!" Claudius exclaimed to Htaere as they descended down
towards the level where the reception was being held. The man was
grinning from ear to ear and could not have been happier. Things really
seemed to be looking up for him.
Htaere smiled, breathing a sigh that the moment was over.
"Congratulations are indeed in order for you both for your stellar
representation," she complimented them both quietly as they moved away
from the Emperor's dais.
"Hey, you! Go in the back and get a serving tray!" an usher yelled
unceremoniously at Ewwiekewwieikkie, believing her to be one of the
slaves passing out beverages at the affair. The dimwitted young Squib
tilted her head at the man, not entirely sure what he was meaning. "Me
eat whole tray of food?" she finally asked, sounding quite excited about
the prospect of the idea. "No, you moron! You serve the food!" he said,
as he moved forward, preparing to backhand the creature.
Htaere's attention snapped in Ewwie's direction. "I beg your pardon,
sir, she is a member of our family" she stated firmly, doing all she
could to keep the edge of anger from her tone. Slipping away from
Claudius in his fog of delusion and oblivious euphoria, Htaere shifted
to stand next to Ewwie and placing a hand on her shoulder.
Claudius' finally realized what had happened and immediately sprung
into action, glaring angrily at the usher. The obviously embarrassed and
confused man began to slink off towards the other end of the foyer.
Feeling terrible, he moved next to Htaere and Ewwie and knelt down to
publicly give the young Squib a hug. There was numerous gasps from the
crowd, and several whispered derogatory comments, but the man did not
"He offer me whole tray of food!" Ewwie said, oblivious as to what
had happened, but gladly received the hug and gave a very firm one in
return. Her golden eyes scanned the room, wondering from where her food
"That's your beloved New Order..." Jelena whispered to her father, so
as not to make a scene. She felt terrible at what had happened to her
sister, but was grateful the young woman did not seem to understand what
"Perhaps we can move out to the terrace and get some fresh air and
refreshments, let everyone relax now that the climactic moment is over,
yes?" Htaere offered the group quietly, likewise eager to be scarce amid
the ever growing detectable bits of hostility directed towards them.
If looks could kill, Jelena would be vaporized by the look her father
gave her when she openly questioned the New Order in the heart of the
Imperial Palace. Realizing Htaere was right, he ushed his family out
onto a nearby terrace. The air was cold that night and there seemed to
be an ill wind upon the sky. He was embarrassed by what had happened,
and said nothing, instead looking out at the skyline to calm himself.
With the group on edge, Htaere remained silent, letting each person
digest the events their own way. The only person she did approach was
Ewwie, kneeling down and lifting her veil to smile at the Squibb. "I am
very very proud of you for doing so well," she spoke quietly to her,
beaming. "You were perfect. Very many forks and trinkets when we return
for doing such a wonderful job."
"But where is my tray of food?" Ewwie asked Htaere as she looked up
at Htaere, feeling quite hungry. She did not like to be told there was
food coming, and then have there be no food. She shook her head
"I will see if I can find her something to eat," the unexpected voice
of Drusilla Rodney announced. The young girl was not without heart and
she would be damned if she was going to be embarrassed at such an
affair. While she agreed the creature was at times a moron, she
nevertheless was part of the family. To that end she left the terrace to
try and find something sizable for the Squib to consume.
It caught Htaere by surprise but she nodded to Drusilla before
looking to Ewwie again. "Just a moment longer, OK?" With that she stood
up and moved to Claudius, standing behind him and letting him have a few
minutes with his thoughts. "Would you care for some tea, Claudius?" she
asked quietly, leaving her veil up, for now.
Claudius felt his chest begin to tighten and a shrill pain go down
his left arm. His throat began to tighten and it felt as if he could not
get much air. He looked at Htaere helplessly, as he tiredly sat down on
a bench on the balcony. The stress of preparing for the day, the attack
on Ewwiekewwieikkie, and Jelena's attack on the New Order had proved to
be too much for him. He swallowed, his left hand moving to his collar to
attempt to allow more air to pass into his system.
Her brow knit, Htaere hurried over to him, staring at him intently.
"Claudius? Are you alright?" Her head snapped over to Jelena. "Summon a
medic, quickly!" she whispered so as not to draw even more attention to
them then they already had. Taking a quick seat next to him, Htaere gave
his hand a squeeze. "Take deep breaths," she advised him quietly.
Jelena's anger suddenly turned to fear as she burst from the terrace
to attempt to find some help in the calmest of manners. She felt
terrible for what she had said, even if she did believe it.
Claudius struggled to breath, panting more like an animal than a
human. "I will..." he struggled to speak as the tightness in his chest
became slightly more painful. "...be fine," he said, completing his
thoughts through painful, labored breaths. He squeezed her hand as best
he could, but felt himself becoming gradually weaker.
"Claudius, focus on me," Htaere instructed sternly. "Focus on my
voice. A medic will arrive shortly, but you must concentrate on deep
breaths. Would you prefer to lay down?"
"You are...you are worrying...for...for...nothing..." Claudius
stammered as he was having a difficult time speaking. The man's
complexion began to grow more pale and a level of cold sweat began to
form on his forehead. His breathing still erratic.
Jelena soon returned accompanied by a 2-1B medical droid who quickly
began attending to the Admiral. "Is there a history of heart disease in
the family?" the droid asked to no one in particular as it began to
check the man's vitals. He did not like what he was seeing, and quickly
filled a hypospray with a clear liquid and before anything could be said
he injected the man.
Htaere glanced to Jelena to substantiate any answer before shrugging.
"Not...that we are aware of," she replied, moving away from Claudius to
allow the droid unhindered access. Edgey and uncertain, she folded her
hands in front of her and tried to be patient as the droid worked.
Drusilla Rodney returned with a tray of food, but immediately dropped
it when she saw what had happened to her father. "What has happened?"
she asked in a hushed, panicked tone as she looked from her father to
Ewwiekewwieikkie dove to the ground when the tray was dropped and on
her hands and knees she began piling as much of the food into her mouth
as she could possibly fit. "Thank you, Dru!" she said with a mouth full
Claudius' breathing gradually began to slow as the chemical coursed
through his veins and began to ease the tension on his heart. The droid,
which was monitoring every step of the process swiveled its head towards
Htaere. "You must minimize his stress levels over the coming weeks," the
droid insisted, before turning back to the patient.
Htaere felt her shoulders slump in near defeat. "Perhaps you can ask
him for me how to actually do that? Because none of us has been able to
manage such a thing so far," she frowned back towards the droid.
"I am not programmed to practice psychology. Only medicine," the
droid replied to Htaere, while continuing to maintain a steady reading
on Claudius. "Enough. I am fine," he insisted as he slowly attempted to
stand up. He was wobbly at first, but refused the assistance of the
droid. "Let us get back to the embassy before we cause more of a scene,"
he pleaded with Htaere, and trying not to notice his daughter eating off
Htaere nodded, adjusting her veil to lower it back over her face
before moving to his side and offering her arm for assistance. "Of
course. The droid said you need to minimize stress, Claudius, therefore
you need rest," she reasoned.
"If we had listened to droids we would now be ruled by the
Confederacy," Claudius was quick to point out as the family made their
way back to landing platform. He was embarrassed that his health had
caused them to miss part of the reception, but the important part of the
evening had gone off without a hitch. He was proud that his family had
come together for this event, but it was clear to him that he still had
a long way to go to bring Jelena back into the fold.
Loading everyone into the speeder, Htaere slumped relaxed against the
back of the seat, relieved the whole incident was coming to completion.
Unwilling to get into a debate with Claudius about droids and such
things, she simply gazed out of the viewport, eager to throw herself
across the bed in their chambers and sleep in tomorrow morning.
The Coruscant air taxi made its way through the night sky of
Coruscant, leaving the trappings of palace life behind. It had been a
pleasant evening, considering, and the middle-aged Admiral was eager to
get some rest. "I have arranged for us to stay on another couple of
days," Claudius informed Htaere as he took her hand into his own and
held onto it dearly.
"There is no work to be done here, my dear," Claudius said, as he
leaned his head against her shoulder. He let out a tired yawn as he felt
himself wanting to go to sleep right there in the speeder.
"Disgusting," Drusilla Rodney said as she watched the two cuddle,
folding her arms in front of her chest and shaking her head
"Look! Look!" Ewwiekewwieikkie said as she held up a goblet in front
of their faces for them all to see. "Pretty!" she announced, having
stolen at least one bauble from their time at the palace.
"That is good to know, Claudius," Htaere replied quietly, smiling
tiredly. "Then we can enjoy the various districts," she thought aloud,
the prospect brightening. Shaking her head at Ewwie's pilfered item, she
gave Claudius' hand another squeeze. "Feeling any better?"
"Much better. Whatever that droid gave me really seems to be
working," Claudius said as the taxi arrived back at Cantham House. He
was the first ouf of the vehicle and then one at a time began helping
the women in his life out of the speeder. "But I would like to get some
rest," he added, nodding to the lead member of the Alderaanian Guard
before walking in to their suite.
"I could not agree more," Htaere murmured in response, making her way
up the embassy steps. She waited patiently for Claudius should he need
assistance, already envisioning herself curled up under the blankets and
drifting off in deep slumber.
As Claudius entered their bed chambers, he immediately began to
undress. "My little girl is grown up..." he confided in Htaere, sounding
rather melancholy about the whole ordeal. "I never thought I would see
the day when she would be presented before the Emperor..." he continued,
still beaming with pride.