The Lady Jelena Rodney sat quietly at the dining room table at the
Rodney Estate on Esseles. Her brown hair was down loosely, as she had
not taken the time to do anything with it. There was no glamorous dress
or any attempt to look ladylike. The young woman was instead wearing an
Alderaan University shirt, where she felt she belonged, rather that
sitting in a virtual prison on a planet she was barely allowed to see.
She had not spoken much since the incident with her father the other
day. A glass of blue milk sat in front of her, barely touched. The
reception on Coruscant was now two days away, and she had been crying
every night since the announcement. The Empire was becoming more and
more evil in her eyes, and the last thing she wanted was to spend time
with the man she was coming to blame for it all.
Htaere smiled across the area rug in one of the fancy parlors towards
the blue furred Squib. From behind her back, she produced yet another
fork, elaborate and strange, it looked like a ladder of sorts. "Ok Ewwie,
this one is from Maires. Ready for this assessment?" she asked
hopefully. This technique had been Htaere's only chance of getting the
Squib to modify at least certain behaviors, via positive reinforcement.
The reward of choice; forks collected from countless star systems across
Ewwiekewwieikkie beamed with delight as she looked at the fork,
almost hopping in the air with excitement as she examined the beautiful
specimen. "I been trying good," she explained to Htaere, boasting about
her earlier success in the training ... though really she had only
understood a small fraction of what Htaere had been able to teach her.
The young woman's golden eyes locked on the fork, as she excitedly
clapped in sheer delight. "What you want bargain this time?" she asked,
her tongue slowly sliding from her mouth to lick at her lips as she
imagined the trinkets to come.
"Remember the rules. Noooo touching," Htaere began, holding the fork
out so Ewwie could get a good long look at it. "Nooooo noises...just
silence, right?" She signaled a house droid, who rolled passed them
wearing a long hooded robe. "Ok, the big important man walks by and we
curtsy. Go ahead," she motioned for Ewwie to take a shot at a curtsy.
"Mmm..." Ewwiekewwieikkie murmured as she bit down on her lower lip,
trying her hardest not to say anything. It was perhaps the longest she
had remained quiet in her life. She even seemed to talk in her sleep.
She dropped down slowly, bending her knees, and pulling up her skirt as
she curtsied to the serving droid. "Mmm..." she murmured again as she
looked towards the shiny new fork.
Htaere laughed, clapping her hands and bouncing a bit as well. This
had truly been an undertaking. "Oh very good!" she laughed, handing the
fork over to Ewwie. "Let us rest for a moment, and then we shall do it
one more time, just like so, ok?" She smiled to the Squib, feeling
hopeful that they just might be able to pull this off.
Ewiekewwieikkie snatched the fork from Htaere's hand and thrust it in
the air victoriously. She began jumping in the air excitedly in a
victory dance. "Yay! Yay! Yay!" she cheered excitedly as she admired her
prize. It was perhaps the nicest fork in her collection. When her dance
was done, she cradled it against her chest happily, loving it.
Jelena heard Ewwie's cheering from the kitchen and shook her head,
wondering why they were going through all the trouble. She got up from
her chair and marched into the room, looking towards Htaere. "You've got
her performing like a circus animal," she said disappointedly, shaking
her head at the grim scene. She had grown up with the Squib and perhaps
she more than anyone understood her. "She's smarter than everyone gives
her credit for you know," she said, as she walked over to her adopted
sister and gave her a reassuring pat on the head.
The mirth drowned from Htaere's face as she frowned reluctantly, eyes
flickering over to Jelena. "This is fact," she conceded. "But under the
circumstances, there is no other choice. Claudius insists she
participate, though I have my...concerns," she admitted letting her
voice trail off, silently recalling Ithor yet again, as she had so many
times. She lifted a hand to brush at a temple, masking the dismay
"It seems like a lot of trouble for something that's not even going
to happen," Jelena commented as she folded her arms in front of her
chest, and flashed a pouty expression at Htaere. "I'm not going to do
it," she insisted, as she dramatically threw herself down on the sofa
and her attention fixated on Imperial Holovision. She had no time for
"It is what your father wishes," the heiress replied quietly. "You
will not consider his sacrafice and career long enough to humor him?"
"After what they did to you you want me to go bow and wave to the
Emperor?" Jelena defiantly replied with a twinge of anger, remembering
the attack against Htaere vividly. "My father is a misguided ... fool,"
she said, hurting as she said the word, and wishing she could take it
back, but the damage was done. She sunk into herself, her chin braced
firmly against her chest as she looked down at the floor awkwardly. "I
shouldn't...shouldn't have said that..." she stuttered uncomfortably,
wondering what had happened to her once loving family. She believed
things would have been different had her mother lived, but she would not
share that with Htaere.
Htaere said nothing at first, regarding the protest quietly. Finally
she answered in a low tone. "I do not wish to participate either, but it
means the world to Claudius, thus I shall oblige him in this, regardless
of my personal feelings on the matter." The idea did more then make the
bile rise in her throat but she had been trained from youth to do what
was required of her.
Jelena sighed as she looked towards Ewwwie, who seemed to be in a
world of happiness with her forks. "Look. I can't be bought with jewelry
... or silverware," she said, referencing her two sisters as she looked
towards Htaere. "If this means so much to him ... get him to give me
what I really want," she demanded, as she sensed an opportunity. "Get
him to enroll me in Alderaan University next semester and I'll do it,"
she insisted, hoping the beautiful young Hapan could work her charms on
her father so she could get off of this rock.
"I suppose I can, but is it not perhaps a better opportunity if you
were to make the request in person?" Htaere shifted to an elegant chair
and took a seat, carefully smoothing her dress as she settled. "It has
been some time since you spoke. You may enjoy the moment," she
Jelena shook her head at Htaere as a familiar tear started to form in
her right eye. "He doesn't even listen to me anymore," she complained as
she started to cry, taking in a sharp inhale as she tried to steady
herself. "He will listen to you though. He feels awful about what
happened to you. He'll listen to you!" she repeated desperately, as she
looked to Htaere with pathetic, helpless eyes.
Ewwiekewwieikkie ran towards Jelena when she started to cry and
plopped on the sofa next to her. The blue-furred creature gave her a
loving hug, as she was not quite sure what was wrong. "Don't cry,
Jelly," she said as she looked over her younger 'sister.' "Here. Fork!"
she said cheerfully, as she offered up her newfound trinket to Jelena.
Htaere's grey eyes dropped to her lap momentarily as she drew a deep
breath. "Very well, I shall speak with him. But I implore you to do the
same," she yielded.
"He is not the man that raised me," Jelena explained with a wealth of
sorrow as she considered the events of the past several months. "You've
seen the bombings first hand. You know what's going on all around us.
The Empire is not the way the galaxy should be governed," she said to
Htaere, becoming more forceful and expanding upon the conversations she
had shared with Parka.
"Jelena!" Htaere's eyes widened harshly. "You cannot say such
things," she warned, reducing her voice to a whisper. "They will hear
you," she admonished her in near silence before shaking her head. "And
believe me when I say, their suspicion is not something you want to
"I don't care who hears anymore," Jelena said, as she pushed Ewwie
aside and stood up from the sofa. "Please. Get him to agree," she
implored Htaere, before she turned to climb up the stairs to her room.
She wanted nothing more than to get out there and live her own life, far
away from this stupid war that was ruining what chance she had.
Several hours transpired before Admiral Claudius Rodney's shuttle
would arrive on the landing pad. There seemed to be a spring in his step
as the Empire had actually managed to score some victories, but the real
energy seemed to come from the impending joy of his audience with the
Emperor. He believed Ewwiekewwieikkie as making progress, and that
pleased, and although Jelena had protested attending the ceremony, he
felt she would ultimately come to the right decision. "I'm home," he
announced loudly, as he stepped over the threshold and entered the
estate. His hands immediately went to his tunic and he began unfasten
it, removing it quickly and hanging it upon a rack that had been
positioned near the door.
"In here," Htaere called, moving the box of forks from her lap where
she flipped through them debating what else she could try to impress
upon Ewwie in the last 48 hours. Setting it on the floor, she got to her
feet and moved to the central foyer of the estate, working up a beaming
smile. "Hello Claudius, how was your day?"
Claudius felt a warmness flow through him whenever Htaere was around
and a loving smile immediately came upon his lips when he saw her.
Before speaking, he leaned in to place the softest of kisses upon her
lips, closing his eyes to savor it for the briefest of moments. "Things
are going very well," he said, sound more optimistic than he had in the
past. "What progress here?" he asked, referring to the training of his
adopted Squib daughter. He was more concerned with her behavior than he
was with convincing Jelena to attend.
Htaere bubbled for a moment, shoulders hunching excitedly. "Doing
well, I believe she should do fine," she offered. She did not finish
voicing her concerns about Ewwie's success in carrying through. "We have
just a bit more to review but I believe she is as ready as she will ever
be," she nodded slightly. Shifting slightly, Htaere braced for a far
more sensitive topic. "Claudius, there is one thing that remains in need
of address..." she began carefully.
Claudius sighed with relief at Htaere's optimism, but his mood
quickly changed when Htaere mentioned the other subject. His face sunk
slightly as he tilted his head, not quite sure what to expect. "It
sounds like I am going to need to sit down," he said to her as moved to
nearly chair, and quickly situated himself upon it. His brown eyes
scanned her cautiously, as his folded uncomfortably in his lap. "Yes?"
he asked deliberately, hoping that it would not be anything too
Htaere resisted the urge to wring her fingers nervously. "Well, it is
about Jelena and her...'willful' participation," she continued.
"And...well, there is a request on the table...for said participation."
Claudius clapped his hands together loudly in victory the moment he
heard Htaere utter those words. "Hah! I knew it!" he boasted, a strong
grin coming upon his middle-aged face. He was well aware that each
member of his family had a price, whether it was Drusilla and jewelry or
Ewwiekewwieikkie and shiny baubles. Jelena was a prideful woman, but
even she too had a price it turned out. "Very well, my dear. What does
she want?" he asked, realizing whatever price it was would be fair to
secure their day with the Emperor.
Htaere partially chuckled before forging forward. "Enrollment at
Alderaan University next semester," she decided to just lay it out
"Ugh..." Claudius groaned uncomfortably as the smile immediately
faded from his face. "Why couldn't it have been jewelry?" he asked
Htaere, rhetorically as he lowered his head, silently thinking about how
best to handle this. After what had happened between the ISB and Htaere,
he was hesitant to go to COMPNOR to request his daughter be able to
"It really is a reasonable request, Claudius," she replied. "She does
not want to stay here forever and I do not blame her in that regard. All
of her friends are already fast into their courses of study," Htaere
reasoned, taking a seat nearby and leaning on the arm rest of the
upholstered chair enthusiastically.
Claudius closed his eyes and brought his left hand up to his face,
pressing his thumb and forefinger against his eyelids and pressed down
firmly, feeling the beginning of a headache coming on. He sighed
tremendously, before removing his hand and fixating his gaze upon his
wife once more. "Of course it is a reasonable request. Of course I want
her to go..." he said, remembering how excited he was when he left his
home on Delaya to attend Alderaan University. He credited it with making
him the man he was today. "It is just we live in such unreasonable times
and it is difficult for me get permission for such things," he
explained, but fully realized how ridiculous it was that he needed
'permission' t allow his daughter to go off to school.
Full pert lips pressed slightly. "I am not one to give ultimatums,
Claudius," she started quietly, "but you have only 48 hours to bring
such to fruition." She mulled it over for a few moments. "And I do
believe she is not bluffing in her unwillingness to go along with this."
"Why can it never be easy?" a weakened Claudius asked her, though he
knew he would have no answer. He was fully prepared to have Major Kiley
drag her from the estate kicking and screaming and throw her aboard the
shuttle, willing or unwilling. "I will make it happen ... somehow," he
promised Htaere, though at the moment he was unsure of just how he would
accomplish such a feat.
"Promise?" Htaere canted her head curiously.
"I promise," Claudius said, feeling quite like a child in having to
make the promise. He stood up from his seat and walked to the stairs,
looking up at them apprehensively. It was ridiculous that he was
terrified of a teenage girl, but that was exactly the case. He turned
looking to Htaere for approval. "I'll tell her tomorrow..." he said,
procrastinating until after he could make the necessary arrangements.
"For now ... we should get to bed," he said with a tired nod, as he
began to slowly ascend the staircase.
Following after him, Htaere smiled up at his back, several steps
behind him. "Claudius," she called up over at him.
Claudius reached the top of the stairs when he heard her call out to
him, and he stopped, grabbed hold of the railing, and turned to look
down at her. "Yes, my love?" he asked her, still mentally preparing
himself for the challenge of squaring off with COMPNOR tomorrow.
Upon reaching the top of the stare, Htaere smiled warmly, eyes
glinting over her older husband. "Thank you," she murmured quietly
before stretching up on her tip toes to leave a tender kiss on his aged
lips. A tired yet appreciative smile, and a pat on his belly and she
continued past him. "You are a gem, Claudius."