The Lambda Shuttle Kwai
gently touched down on the secure landing platform that had been
constructed on the grounds of Admiral Claudius Rodney's estate on
Esseles. Although a native of the planet Delaya, the Imperial
Security Bureau had insisted he move his family to the Ringali Shell
to give the appearance that all was well. In fact, it was far from
that. Rebel attacks had been increasing in number and severity. The
insurgency was growing and Imperial patrols were a regular fixture
on the grounds of his estate. The once untouched landscape had been
marred by a hideous eyesore in the form of a perimeter fence.
Almost initially after the ramp
touched down on the surface of Esseles, Claudius walked down its
cold surface. He was home, but this particular piece of land held no
particular piece of significance for him. About the only thing he
liked about it was how far away he was from his parents. Honestly,
he had no idea how his daughters would react. Would they support him
or would they feel he was replacing their mother? Jelena only had
brief memories of her and Drusilla died during childbirth and never
truly met her mother. As for Ewwiekewwieikkie, she had lost her
biological mother years before his wife died. Nervous, he stepped
towards the entrance of his estate. He patiently waited for Htaere
and he could not even begin to imagine what she was feeling at the
Htaere followed after him, moving a
bit slower as she was busy taking in a whole new world in wide-eyed
wonderment. The floor length lavender skirt she wore retreated into
a fitted bodice with darker purple and white embroidered swirled
designs. The strapless top of the bodice exposed her elegant
shoulders, draped with a beaded collar of sorts. She was veiled with
a smaller version of the headgear worn when she arrived on the Warspite and sported the usual array of arm and wristbands,
anklets and bracelets. A service droid followed behind her carrying
her luggage. She drew up beside the Admiral and made the effort to
pull her attentions from the alien landscape to focus on him.
Claudius' head nervously turned
towards her and he attempted to form a reassuring a smile. "Are you
ready?" he asked her, not wanting to rush her into an uncomfortable
It would go unnoticed behind her
veil, but she reciprocated with a pleasant smile, unaware of what
lay ahead but willing to go forth blindly at his prodding. She
Claudius inhaled deeply and slid his
keycard into the access panel. The door snapped upwards with the
familiar hiss of the pneumatic pressure releasing breaking the
uncomfortable silence. He stepped forward into his estate and
proceeded into the large and expansive living area. A series of
panoramic windows provided breathtaking views of the river valley
below. The room was lavishly furnished and decorated with numerous
items of significance in Alderaanian culture. The centerpiece of the
room was the ancient crest of House Rodney featuring a soaring
thranta with the motto "Those who stop to rest on their laurels end
up lying on thorns."
Claudius looked around the room
before glancing in the direction of the stairwell leading up to
their personal rooms. "Girls," he shouted loudly, but not in a
commanding tone, "I am home, and I would like you all to come down
here. There's someone I'd like you to meet."
Htaere's grey eyes shifted about the
room curiously, drawn to the thranta almost immediately. Her gaze
flickered to the stair where the Admiral addressed people out of
view. She watched, blinking curiously.
The patter of footsteps soon could
be heard in the hallway above. The sound was not unlike a herd of
wild animals, and they could be just as dangerous. The first down
the stairs was his youngest daughter, Drusilla. She had pushed her
way passed the others just in case there was some reward waiting to
be claimed. At only fourteen years of age she was the daughter whose
presence was most easily made loud. Raised in the absence of her
mother she had become spoiled by a single father with severe guilt
issues. He had did his best to raise her, but a career in the
military often left her in the care of his parents ... whose own
efforts at spoiling her far exceeded her own. The officers under the
Admiral would define her as a 'brat,' but none would dare venture it
because the Admiral would surely have them thrown out the airlock if
Drusilla demanded it.
Ewwiekewwieikkie was the next down
the stairs. A blue-furred Squib from the planet Skor II she had been
adopted by the Admiral following the Battle of Skor II. Her parents
had once provided him a home during his time as an Ambassador years
before the wars. During the Confederate occupation they were
brutally executed for their links to the government. To this day
Claudius was not sure of she saw her parents' death, he was not
about to ask her and she certainly had not volunteered the
information. If one could get passed the oddity of her mouse-like
ears one would immediately become enthralled by her oversized eyes
and her seeming unending smile. For a woman whose life had become so
tragically, she always managed to go through life with a smile.
The last down the stairs was Jelena.
She was the child most like her father. She had his air of elegance
and refinement about her and was blessed to have shared some moments
with her mother, which made a lifelong impact. She was not thrilled
by her new housing on Esseles. She was supposed to be on Alderaan
right now studying at the University. She wanted to follow in her
father's footsteps and become a diplomat and her close friendship
with Princess Leia of Alderaan would serve her well, but she
supported her father and was well aware of the position the Empire
had placed her in. Life had been busy and chaotic for Jelena over
the past several months, but neither she or her sisters had any idea
just how complicated all of their lives were about to get.
Htaere studied them keenly behind
the safety of her veil. She was surprised to see that they weren't
all that much younger then she, and it occurred to her for the first
time that Claudius Rodney was essentially twice her age. Her
tutelage in the ways of diplomacy and etiquette kept her appearance
calm and poise, though inside she felt an odd stirring as if she was
on display. While being a showpiece to be judged was a regular part
of her life, for the first time, she felt nervous at the prospect of
being measured up by these strangers.
"Girls," Claudius announced,
deciding it better to get right to the point, like removing a
bandage, "This is Lady Htaere Ka`a Sha`ar from the Hapes
Consortium. My parents and hers have arranged a marriage between us
and after some discussion ... we have agreed." He swallowed
nervously and smiled in their direction. He then planted his feet
and prepared to weather the storm that was sure to come.
It was no surprise that Drusilla was
the first child to react. She scrutinized Htaere with her eyes as if
she were an object on display at a store for her to buy. "So you're
going to be my new mommy?" Drusilla questioned in her usual
obnoxious tone, "Well, then ... what did you buy me? You brought
your new stepchildren presents from Hapes of course."
The question took her back, but she
recovered quickly, stowing it as a normal custom for children from
Delaya. Dainty fingers moved to the reinforced hem of her veil,
lifting it away from her face and back off the very front of the
rainbow gem encrusted tiara she wore. She eyed them evenly,
particularly the apparent mouthiest of the bunch. Her smile was
subtle but it made the point. Her accent was elegant, putting a
phonological slant to her words. "Perhaps today you are fortunate
enough that the people of Arabanth have sent a thought puzzle."
Glistening grey pools shifted to the quieter two and she bowed
respectfully to them. "It is an honor" she remarked sincerely.
"I don't like puzzles and I don't
think I like you," Drusilla responded angrily. She glared up at
Htare and folded her arms before grunting in frustration, "Hmph."
Ewwiekewwieikkie smiled widely at
Htaere and gave her the ancient Squib sign of approval. She raised
her right arm towards her and stuck her thumb upwards. She was not
invested as much in this as the others and clearly was the kindest
soul in the lot. "Welcomes to the families," she announced proudly.
Htaere regarded the arrogant child
if for only a moment, astounded at what was "acceptable" behavior
before fixing a grateful smile to the non-human in the group. "Thank
you" she replied quietly, chin dipping in reverence. The most
welcoming of the group, she felt the most connected in the handful
of moments she'd known her, and in farthest recesses of her mind
wondered if she too, had ever felt simply tolerated, if that.
Jelena had remained silent. She was
not pleased but one of the few lessons her mother told her was never
to say nothing if you had nothing nice to say. This woman her father
was marrying was less than ten years her senior. On some level it
disgusted her and on another level it made her want to cry, but she
inherited her father's stiff upper lip. She tried to smile, but
could only manage to nod her head. She had to be at least half her
father's age and was young enough to be his daughter. This was not
the man she believed her father to be. Saying she was disappointed
would be a dramatic understatement.
Claudius shook his head in
disapproval at Drusilla, but he would rather face a squadron of
X-wings than his youngest daughter's rage. His attention turned to
Jelena, whose opinion was of great importance to him. "Well," he
asked of Jelena, "I have heard from two of my daughters, and I
eagerly await to hear from the third."
"It is your life, father," Jelena
said in a normal tone, unchanging her demeanor, "Do with it as you
In the face of undiluted opinions,
Htaere turned to the Admiral and offered quietly "Perhaps you can
show me to me quarters. I will leave you to your family to retire
for the evening."
This evening did not go the way he
had planned in the least. He sighed and looked at Jelena with a
sense of disappointment equal to her own. He reached out with his
hand and took Htaere's hand into his own. He smiled at her, fully
intending to get through this. He led her passed his daughters and
up the stairs where each of them had their own room. He came to a
stop in front of the guest room, where it was proper for Htaere to
stay until their marriage became official. He stood by the door
hoping she had not been wounded too badly.
She felt their eyes boring into her
as the ascended. Stepping into the guest room she was relieved to no
longer be subject to their unyielding scrutiny. She looked about the
room before a smile brushed across her lips. "This is lovely. Thank
you" she said. The droid placed her luggage down at the foot of her
bed before vacating the room. Wearily she removed the tiara and veil
frame from her head, setting it on a table carefully before opening
her suitcases. She began to remove her wardrobe, in all its colorful
and regal splendor. Her eyes lifted momentarily to the door that
opened onto her own private balcony and she made a mental note to
check it out first.
"I am beginning to think there are
too many women with issues in my life," he said to himself as he
walked towards his bedroom, "I've gotta get myself some 'guy'