SUMMARY: This is seventy-five random but essentially chronological moments from the life of Illyn Leshra (Jaffa Ginborjo) Tammesin, the mother of (Ryseidas) Dormé Tammesin. There is an actual stor...
“Illyn Leshra (Jaffa Ginborjo) Tammesin: A Rose by Any Other Name”
01.) Father: Though she was only just three when the plague of the hive virus struck the city (city-state, if truth be told) of Uriash and the palatial residence of the Duke Raghvin Sargonus Jaffa, decimating much of the local population and all but wiping out the extensive and powerful Jaffa clan and their most loyal retainers, Illyn remembers her father – a tall, stern, patrician man with thickly waving silver hair (once dark and rich as newly turned fecund earth) that would curl in tight little ringlets, in the presence of abundant humidity, piercing blue eyes, and a dominating, hawkish aquiline nose who, despite his status as an extremely wealthy and powerful noble with enormous influence on both the local and planetary economy, government, and law, nevertheless somehow made time, amongst his overflowingly busy schedule, to visit her almost daily in the nursery, whenever he was in residence (and not off in one of the neighboring cities, or Theed, or even off-world, personally seeing to some kind or another of business or opportunity or concern that somehow touched upon the fortunes or desires of the Jaffa clan or the basic well-being and continued profitability of the people of Uriash), if only for a few minutes before her mother or one of the servants would tucked her away to sleep for the night – yet, she cannot reconcile the memory of him, of his visits, with her knowledge of the man’s coldness, so there are days when she wonders if perhaps her memory might be playing tricks on her, though she but needs to close her eyes and concentrate to summon up the rich, musky scent of him, the soft and slippery and heavily jewel-encrusted feel of the fine fabrics he most often wore, the solid strength in his arms, as he held her small body carefully close, the rough tickling of his sideburns against her fragile skin, when she would lean in to plant a child’s loving, trustful kiss on his cheek, before being handed back over to Mother or one of her many /umu/, the trusted nannies and teachers her parents had hired to help watch over her and train her up.
02.) Mother: The memory of her mother, her /ama/, is vague (compared to that of her father), largely limited to feelings/sensations and the somehow known/familiar (yet, for all of that familiarity, not easily pinned down or defined) presence of someone warm, beautiful, kind, and often all but overwhelmingly sad: she knows that her mother, Lesharia, loved her fiercely, but she was often melancholic, given to bouts of weeping – Illyn can remember the taste of her mother’s tears (oddly sweet, for saltwater) far more clearly than she can recall her voice; remember the shallow curve of her sad little smile far better than she can picture the whole of her face; envision the long string of glowing alternating black and white pearls her mother adored and often wore much more clearly than she can call up any real details of form from the only fuzzily remembered darkness of her mother’s silken hair and paleness of her satiny skin – and often the only time Lesharia seemed happy was when one particular friend among the household retainers (a steward of some kind, involved with the household’s safety), with a son only a year and a half or so older than Illyn, would come by, leaving his curly-haired son to play with Illyn while her mother and her playmate’s father would quietly retire to the adjoining room to visit.
03.) Child: No matter how hard she tries, she cannot remember her shadow name – her childhood name, the name traditionally given to a child after birth, to confuse any evil spirits who might seek to gain entry to and to overwhelm the child’s mind and personality and so protect him or her from attempts at possession (though the custom has evolved over time so that the tradition is often less about attempting to protect a child against possession than it is about differentiating between a child and a legal adult who has undergone the customary coming of age ceremony, in which the female or the male members of the family formally bestow a traditional, and usually quite private, blood or seed name, around age of about thirteen for girls and fourteen to fifteen for boys, to mark the child’s maturity), the name one’s family and close friends so often use as a pet name or affectionate nickname, even after a child has long since grown to full maturity – she has tried every single name she has ever come across against herself, to no avail (none of the names ever sound right, none of them spark her awareness, her memory, tingling with rightness and vibrating with that sense of /selfhood /that comes when she hears or reads her legally given name) and no one else seems to know or to care what name her parents may have chosen to call her, as a child, so she grows to adulthood with a certain sense of incompletion, of something vital missing, of having been robbed, stripped of something elemental, cardinal, vital, to that which she is, at her most fundamental, central, inmost self.
04.) Toddler: As a young child, there were many things she did not understand: why her mother was often so very sad; why there was a portrait of a pretty, softly smiling lady who looked like her mother but wasn’t her mother on one of the wall’s of the innermost rooms in her parent’s private suite, surrounded by three smaller portraits of two dark-haired babies and a huge-eyed toddler who sort of looked a little bit like Illyn at that age (even as the two dark-haired babies did) but was, she was quite certain, not truly meant to represent Illyn at all; why her father often scowled when he looked at her mother, when she had been weeping or scribbling feverishly in her old-fashioned paper journals until her hands were all stained with ink; why her parents fought so violently that her father shattered her mother’s favorite necklace, sending pearls spinning off across the room like droplets of water raining down from a smashing stream of rushing downhill water; why her playmate, Edren, and his soft-spoken, gentle father, Lugale (who never failed to bring her a pretty flower or a sweet or some small token, when he visited; who always had a soft smile for her; who often took her mother by the hand and pulled her out to join Illyn and Edren at their games; and who had a baliset – one of those old-fashioned, nine-stringed instruments so common in the region around Uriash, though the rest of Naboo favors lutes, mandolins, citres, and guitars, instead – and sang both beautifully and exceedingly cleverly, sometimes to Illyn and Edren, sometimes only to Lesharia, the words of the songs muffled just enough by the privacy drapes between the rooms that neither Illyn nor Edren could quite make them all out), never came to visit again, after the fight that saw her mother’s pearls scattered and broken; why the pain and sickness of others in the manor in the agonized grips of the sickness brought to Uriash by a careless spacer (newly come to Naboo to trade riches taken from one of the Outer Rim worlds) burned in her as brightly and violently as any fever, yet left her untouched by the plague itself; yet, her father insisted that the Jaffa were descended from a long line of warrior-kings, and her mother had her umu and her ummia both begin training her very early, so she also knew many things – how to listen/comprehend and speak fluently all of the three languages common in the household (Galactic Basic; the traditional Nabooian language so closely related to the languages of Grizmallt, Chandrila, and Alderaan; and the language specific to the Jaffa family, Uriash, and the area immediately surrounding the city-state, most commonly known as Uriashian); how to read (and to type, a little, if not scribe by hand, given how clumsy her small fingers still were at grasping and holding utensils like pens and pencils) both the more standard aurabesh of Galactic Basic and the non-Basic language particular to the people of Naboo as well as the peculiar local dialect of ancient Nabooian (or at least, most people refer to it as a local dialect, even though it’s practically an entirely different language than Nabooian – something that Illyn blames on the fact that the Jaffa and their people supposedly colonized the area that came to be known as Uriash around the same time that the Grizmalltians were colonizing much of the rest of Naboo, with the larger group of people establishing their precedence and, in the process, fostering an attitude that has, unfortunately, led to a wide-spread ignorance of Uriashian customs and language throughout much of the rest of Naboo’s population) known as Uriashian, written as it is in a completely nonstandard cuneiform script bearing no real resemblance at all to aurabesh; how to control her body well enough to be able to master or at least hide most of her emotions; how to hold herself sufficiently still to fade into almost any given background, so that others would take no notice of her; how to get into places she wanted to be and out of places she had no desire to remain, whether others might have necessarily approved of her movements or not; how to protect herself from would-be attackers who would expect no resistance from a child and certainly never think to check a girl-child for the presence of a small holdout knife or stiletto kept carefully tucked up a long sleeve or sheathed in a boot or hidden cleverly among the pins of an elaborate hairdo; how to sense the presence of both well-wishers and evil-wishers by questing out carefully with the mind and senses amongst a crowd; how to separate out truth from falsehood through a combination of constant awareness of the tale told by the language (spoken and otherwise) of individuals and a keenly trained understanding of the driving forces behind such individualized language, gained by a consistent process of taking in all of myriad minutiae available through mere observation; how to sift through the raw data describing a set of circumstances and then accurately judge her own limitations within those circumstances, processing it all within a self-contained compression of elapsed time so short as to arrive seemingly all but instantaneously at the most optimum course of action in response to that situation without ever having to risk herself by attempting to physically test a range of possibly appropriate responses – almost all of which became eminently useful, after the sickness finally ran its course in Uriash and she was left orphaned, virtually alone in the world.
05.) Family: The extremely well-to-do middle class family that volunteered to foster her and her only two surviving relatives – young male cousins, only tenuously related and not much older than her, really, though they both behaved as though they were far older and wiser than she (if in far different ways, the eldest boy, Druthma, being a priggish jerk entirely too full of himself for the possession of a mere four more years of age, and the youngest of the two, Katerol, being kind, sweet, and protective, as though he imagined himself her older brother, though he was actually a little bit less than a year her elder) – made every single danger sense she had scream viciously in warning; unfortunately, though, the social workers in charge of placing her and her cousins were from Theed, not Uriash, and (being, thus, unfamiliar with the training Illyn was undergoing and her oddly adult awareness of others and behavior, the way she could read situations, people, and know how best to respond, know how to recognize it when she was faced with real danger) the anxious adults were far too preoccupied with worries about all of the other orphans and broken families left behind in Uriash and the surrounding countryside by the sickness to take the time to truly listen to the warnings issued by a girl so young that her as yet not wholly formed soft palate almost always caused her words to issue in a half-lisping whisper, and so she did not have to wait long before the seemingly jolly and kind lavishly well off and generous veneer was ripped away to show the coldly calculating, scheming, ambitious, mercilessly greedy, self-centered reality that dwelt at the heart of every member of the small Ginborjo family.
06.) Girl: She’d always been a bright girl, and so it neither took her long to figure out just how petty and cruel her supposed new family was nor how it might be possible for her to not only escape but to bring them to justice, for their neglect and abuse of her and outright cozening of her cousins (in an attempt to win the Jaffa family fortunes for themselves, by raising the boys up to think it natural and imperative that they wed Rusilla and Marrité and no one else, ever, no matter what, placing the boys in lavish quarters near the heart of the manor, very near to where those two lovely but shallow, hateful, selfish, and vain young daughters of the family resided, and sparing very little indeed in the way of books and entertainment or anything else that Druthma or Katerol might fancy, while Illyn found herself unceremoniously banished to a cramped little, informally divided off dormer of an attic room tucked away near the back of the upper wing of the family’s house – huge and grand enough that some would have thought it rated the name of palace rather than mere mansion, though Illyn always knew that it was nowhere near as lavish in furnishings or as rambling in size as the Jaffa residence – dressed mostly in hand-me-downs from the children of the servants and given neither toys nor books to help fill her hours, though the two girls of the family and her distant cousins were spoiled rotten, spared no expense); unfortunately, though, there was simply very little that Illyn could do (without the help of another, preferably an adult) until she was at least able to pass as a child over the age of ten and so appear to be drawing near enough to the age of majority to be trusted out alone, and so she was forced to resign herself to weathering the many insults and wrongs and pains heaped upon her, including suffering the terrible indignity of having to pretend to be much less smart than she truly was, to avoid drawing the wrong kind of notice from the heads of the family, Remilla and Jherumee.
07.) Boy: She quickly comes to realize that, while one of her cousins is a not very bright, easily swayed idiot who thinks only of his own comforts and pleasures and is an easy mark for the witch-like wiles of Rusilla (the oldest of the family’s two girls), the other boy is sweet, polite, soft-spoken, a little bit shy, with a tender, loyal heart and a fully functional conscience – or at least one functional enough to make him her willing friend and ally, her covert spy and protector and agent among the rest of the household, quietly (and mostly secretly) helping her to find ways around the limitations imposed on her by the family’s indifference towards her and selfish greed, getting her access to myriads of books and instructional texts on datapad so she can better herself through the continued acquisition of more and more knowledge and finding ways to bring her little (and occasionally not so little) everyday luxuries to help make her more comfortable and happy than the family would ever care for, sometimes filching objects for her from right under their noses – and, though he unfortunately cannot help her much, when it comes to her plan to eventually expose her supposed new family for the den of monsters it truly is, she nonetheless adores Katerol with a fierce kind of purity, loving him like the older brother he seems determined to act like, with his constant, unstinting offers of aid and protection and shelter and succor from the cruelty and meanness otherwise surrounding her.
08.) Human: The family that has taken her and her two demi-cousins in – its name is Ginborjo, but Illyn is determined to avoid naming them as such, even in her thoughts, unwilling to treat them as if they were truly sentient human beings and, thus, worthy of individual names, instead simply coldly labelling them all the dispersonate family, like the conscienceless, soulless, greedy animals they truly are – may actually believe that it can rob her of her legacy and usurp both the noble name and ancient riches of the Jaffa family by essentially brainwashing her cousins into growing up to be little more than doting husbands (and flashy playthings) to their two girls and denying her both access to her inheritance (as the legal daughter of the Duke Jaffa) and any means to protest the crimes being perpetrated against her, by seeing to it that she is completely helpless, dependent solely on their so-called largesse, kept ignorant of her true station and indeed unknowing of any other facts save that she owes her continued existence to the family and has no real value or use outside of her ability to perform small, menial household tasks: Illyn is far too clever (and, despite her careful act of playing dumb, remembers and understands too much about her real family, the ones stolen from her by the hive virus) and her sole beloved cousin both too honest and too sneaky to ever allow her to grow up truly believing such nonsense about herself; thus, rather than take the easy road of defeat, she instead chooses the arduous pathway to victory and (eventually) true living (not just mere survival), growing up as she knew she must, after first being shoved aside into the attic, by biding her time, meticulously keeping track of every wrong done to her (and, by extension, to her real family), skillfully readying herself for the day when she will be able to escape and claim what she is due not only because of her name and lineage but on account of all that she has been made to suffer, and quietly waiting to be old enough to prove the family wholly (and, for them, catastrophically) wrong in its assumption that she is nothing more than a cowed and helpless female victim.
09.) Animal: This family is more human than animal – caring nothing for the welfare or comfort of others; with the possible exception of the conscienceless, coldly scheming father thinking not at all (beyond the scope of their petty, ambitious schemes) of tomorrow or the consequences that the morrows might bring (especially as a result of their profligate ways, their debauchery, and careless seizing of wealth and pleasure and power/influence over others); fully expecting others (servants, hirelings, machines) to take care of every duty and responsibility that does not in some way bring pleasure and too languorous of movement and jaded of thought to seem to care or even truly realize that they are, thus, in essence completely at the mercy of those other beings – and she is constantly amazed at the fact that the other people around her don’t seem to realize (at least not until it is far too late) just how base, how corrupt, this family truly is.
10.) Shadow: The family is not Nabooian and does not hold with many of the oldest Nabooian customs – the mother was adopted from off-world, from an Outer Rim world where many infants and children were being made orphans by a bloody and protracted battle between five feuding warlords, and the father was born on one of the Five Brothers, his mogul trading family having brought him to Naboo when the father decided to retire to the lovely Mid Rim world (one of many he’d done business with, the one he considered the most beautiful and peaceful) after a hugely successful (and therefore short) career in interplanetary commerce – so neither of their daughters has a shadow name and the family makes no effort to preserve the shadow names of the boys they’ve taken in, either . . . names that Druthma (having perhaps grown tired of the sound of Luinth, the meaning conveyed by a name given to a boy relocated to the Jaffa family residence because a cousin with closer kin ties to her father complained that the child’s non-Jaffa relatives were unfit to raise a boy with even a drop of Jaffa blood in his veins?) eagerly jettison, though Katerol quietly takes pains to preserve them, informing Illyn that his name is Oadyen and encouraging her to call him that whenever possible (whenever a member of the family – or his far too eager to please and to fit in male cousin – might not overhear and make a fuss), even trying to help her rediscover/remember her forgotten shadow name and choosing to call her Varhu a when they cannot find the right name, as a sign that he, at least, understands her need for the name.
11.) Reflection: Aside from the assignment of menial chores, the family does not seem to care what she does, where she goes, how she is doing, indeed, whether she is living or dead, and so there is no one who comes, when she screams herself hoarse trying to fight free of nightmares, no one who cares, when she curls in a small ball of agony in the smallest of the crawlspaces she can find beneath the lowest inhabited levels of the mansion, hiding in the darkness and holding her hands tight, /tight, tight/ over her ears to try to drown out the silence, the psychic echoes from the death-screams clawing their blazing way through her heart, her brain, crying so hard she thinks she’ll never be able to stop and yet shouldn’t have any tears left to shed, and wanting to break things, too, just hear the smash of glass and crystal and see herself amidst (in) the broken shards, a reflection of destruction . . . no one but Katerol, her Oadyen, who gently wipes away her tears and carefully works the knotted fists of her hands loose from around her ears and holds on to her with the kind of loving determination many might mistake for kindness, makes himself a rock for her, and so she clings to him, fiercely, unhesitatingly, unable to think clearly enough to fear the possibility of drowning, wrapped around and weighted down from such a boulder, when the all too present and real fear of suffocation beneath the burden of memory is so perilously close.
12.) Self: It was inevitable that she and Katerol would grow close, inevitable that they should seek shelter from the storm of the family in the increasingly familiar warmth of each other’s presence, each other’s approval, each other’s quiet but firm bolstering of the self with every acknowledgment of the truth of who and what they were (and not what the family merely wanted them to be); yet, in retrospect, she has to wonder if it wasn’t that very closeness, that familiarity, that blinded her to the underlying currents of their relationship, to the sea changes that began occurring with age, approaching maturity, shared growth, and wonder if perhaps what happened, in the end, might not have been avoided, if only she’d paid a little bit more attention and not been so eager to establish her identity as separate from the family (and the nightmare of her memories) by building and reinforcing that selfhood so much through Katerol, through her beloved Oadyen, instead of through her own understanding, her own concept, of herself.
13.) Sibling: Illyn is seven, when a casually cattily cruel remark of Rusilla’s enlightens her, in regards to several mysterious aspects of her limited memory, regarding her parents – apparently, her mother, Lesharia, was not Duke Jaffa’s first wife: his first wife, Ehnduanna Imelda Barashi Jaffa (the woman in the portrait she never could understand, the woman who looked a little like her mother but not enough alike to be a good likeness), was a childhood sweetheart Raghvin wed against the advice of his parents, a young lady from a fairly well-to-do (but in no way politically connected) mercantile family in Uriash, and she bore him three children (two boys, Amarshue and Sharruss, and a girl, Ylexai), all of whom were sickly and died before their second birthday of various ailments that wouldn’t have been fatal in stronger children, before suffering a violent, near doubly fatal miscarriage roughly a third of the way through a fourth pregnancy, with what would have been another daughter (buried unnamed, apparently, as according to local custom, though Ehnduanna insisted that the girl’s name was Resharyn, even going so far as to name her in the suicide note she left behind), after which, on discovering that she was no longer able to bear children, Ehnduanna apparently bided her time until her husband believed she had adjusted to the news before throwing herself from highest tower balcony of the Jaffa ancestral residence, killing herself quite messily; Duke Jaffa wed Lesharia some twenty years later, when a long-time competitor in the textile business and minor noble of a nearby town ran afoul of several bad business deals, all but bankrupting his family, and it was apparently purely a business matter (one that Lesharia wanted no part in but felt obligated to sanction because of her family’s dire straits, in return for which her father apparently conceded to having good grace enough to hang himself in his private library a week before the wedding and not actually during it, so as to not disturb the festivities) – and for days she finds herself bursting into tears at the least little thing, unable to stop imagining what it must have been like, for her mother, to have essentially been sold into a loveless marriage (with her only true friend and ally in the household a steward in charge of the household’s continued safety and harmony), and what it could have been like, for Illyn and for her mother, if only one or two of the children from that first marriage had lived, and been there, to need Lesharia as a mother and to welcome Illyn as a younger sibling, when Lesharia married Duke Jaffa.
14.) Clan: The heads of the family often toy with the notion of getting even more profit out of the Jaffa family by eventually essentially selling Illyn to the highest bidder, by marrying her off to whichever one of the remaining enemies of her true clan is willing to pay the highest price for a young bride unable to protect herself from his fury; yet, so long as she remain physically small and childlike, she is apparently considered too young, yet, to make a suitable enough lure to entice such a monster, and, because her physical growth has always been slow, it is therefore with a particular kind of horror that she regards both the betrayal of her own body, halfway through the year after she’s reached the age of eleven, when she rather abruptly begins to shoot up like a weed and gain the curves of a young woman’s form, and of Katerol’s affections, as he seems driven to madness by the appearance of signs of her incipient womanhood.
15.) Kin: Years later, for many decades, she will remember the words spoken during that strange, nightmarish encounter – “Have you gone mad? What is the matter with you? Let me go!” and his breathless reply, “Is it madness, to love you? Darling – ” and her shocked, incredulous response, as she ineffectually tried to get away from the strong arms and hands keeping her caged far too near to Katerol’s body, “‘Darling’? Mother of Seas, you /are mad! Let go of me – no! For pity’s sake! I am your cousin/!” and his quick (and entirely accurate) retort, “A tie of blood so tenuous I should have been heir to nothing more than our shared last name and any largesse your father or others of the clan might’ve felt generous enough to offer! Surely our closeness matters more than any such trifling small tie of kin!” and her bewildered reply, “Our /‘closeness’/? You’re like a brother to me, for Lady’s sake! You’ve /always been like a brother – acted as my protector and my guide! How could you possibly even think – ”/ and his own bewildered reply, “What, that you might love me back? I have been patient – waited, hoped, prayed for this day to come, and done all that I can to help you, to show you how much I love you, so that, when the day came that you felt ready to leave this place, I would be able to come with you, as your betrothed – ” and her near-panicky interruption, words tumbling forth pell-mell, fear making her forget all of her training, “You’ve helped me admirably! I would not be able to stand against this family and its plots without you! You’ve been an inestimable help to me, but Cousin! For Lady’s sake, come to your senses! I could no more love you than – than – than those two witches could ever love each other! You’re like my /brother/! It would be unnatural!” and his pain-filled, passionately furious response, “‘Unnatural’! I /love you – I’ve risked everything/, to help you – and /this is what you have to say to me? That I am unnatural/?” and her foolish attempt to calm him, patiently but dismissively replying, “Oh, Cousin, do give over! Don’t be so melodramatic! I’ve said I couldn’t have gotten this far without you – this family will pay for the evils it’s done, primarily because your help and support has kept me safe and helped me prepare for the day when I will finally be able to free myself – and you truly have been like a brother to me. I love you well enough, in my way, and – ” and his painfully flat interruption, “In your way. /Your way. So I am nothing but another tool to you, then, something you used, so you could get back at the Ginborjos for their pettiness and greed?”/ and the absolute worst possible response she ever could have given to him, a response so ill-judged that might as well have been purposefully calculated to cause him the maximum amount of pain,/ “Of course you’ve been more than a tool – you’ve been a very helpful shield, too, silly!” and the mischievous grin dropping off her face as his warm eyes went dark as pitch and his face went cold and still and strange and he let go of her, pushing her away form him with a rough, jerky motion, and he whispered, in a voice so distant and detached that he sounded far more like his cousin, Druthma, than his own warm self, /“I see. I have been – mistaken, then. About us. About you. Forgive me. I will . . . rectify my mistakes, then.” – and know, with a sickening certainty that leaves the taste of dry dust and bitter ashes clogging her mouth, that much, if not all, of the ill that followed in her life could have been averted, if only she had been a little more open-minded, a little bit less flippant (in order to try to cover her own panicky fear, at the very thought that someone – anyone! Even her beloved cousin, for whom she gladly would have done anything, short of cold-blooded murder), a little bit more considerate, a little bit truer to her training and a little bit less hasty, in that moment when he came to her, heart in hand, and attempted to declare his love by kissing her as a lover would, not as kin might.
16.) Daughter: The daughters of the house aren’t precisely overwhelmingly beautiful, no matter how irresistibly gorgeous they may paint themselves, in their vanity – one, the younger, is one of those preciously cute girls who grow into oddly elfin fragile adulthood, all long, slim curves and pale skin and thick, raven-black hair waving under its own silken weight with huge dark eyes and sharp features and an upturned nose in a face caught somewhere in that no-man’s-land between triangular, oval, and heart-shaped (and able, through the clever application of makeup, to take on the appearance of any of those three shapes); the other, the elder daughter has skin more like faintly gilded ivory than china-pale porcelain and is more sensuous than fragile in appearance, and is slightly more obviously (if, paradoxically, somewhat less memorably) beautiful, with dark brown hair and huge, seemingly soulful dark eyes over high cheekbones and a slightly turned up nose (somewhat like her sister’s), with a face full enough that it might’ve almost seemed round, if not for the fact that it has been pared down to heart-shaped fineness by exercise and diet, and a body at once lean and yet lush, with more than enough curves to stop strangers in the streets dead in their tracks to stare at her in mindless fascination – but they take care of themselves, know how to dress and act and just what kind of cosmetics and jewelry and perfumes to wear with just what kind and color and cut of clothes to most accentuate the outer physical beauty that they do possess, and they both make a habit of collecting infatuated beaux and leading them around by their noses (much to the sisters’ private amusement), showing neither pity nor even true understanding for the suffering of their (mostly) blindly devoted followers (who are all quite willing and happy to do all manner of things – no matter how degrading or even how illegal – to try to catch the favor of their particular “lady”), and they are entirely merciless in their careful courting of her cousin, once she has so foolishly driven Katerol away, carefully setting things up so that they would seem quite innocent, to him, of both their effect on others and of their seeming cruelty, in stringing so many admirers along, so that he would be encouraged to feel as if he’d wronged them, in his support of Illyn, and come to care for them as he had for Illyn, eventually even coming to believe that he truly was in love with the youngest sister; unfortunately, though, by the time their trap is complete and he has become inexorably snared in their plot, Illyn has already fled the house, and so does not even know of his danger until far after it is already much too late to save him.
17.) Husband: She had not planned to leave until she was thirteen, until she would be able to present her case before the throne as a legal adult; unfortunately, though, her cousin wasn’t the only one who noticed her burgeoning beauty, as she began to look far more like a young lady and less and less like a little girl, and it was a chance few remarks overheard between the heads of the house that led Illyn to accelerate her timetable and make her escape, almost a full year earlier than she’d been planning to do, spooked into running by their notice of her rapidly forming curves and that hateful woman’s request of her husband that he start looking into that list of old enemies of the Jaffa they’d discussed earlier, even though she’d been trying to figure out a way to make amends between herself and Katerol (no, Oadyen, her Oadyen) and desperately disliked the idea of leaving when he was still so angry with her.
18.) Cousin: Just because she did not know about it until it was too late, that does not excuse the fact that she drove her cousin from her straight into the arms of the enemy, of those two damned witches, and that is something Illyn is going to have to live with, something she is never going to be able to fix or to make amends for, no matter how desperately she might like (want, /need/) to be able to do so . . . something that (rightfully so!) will haunt her and be the cause of nightmares for months, years, decades to come.
19.) Trip: It’s easier to stow away on the grain carrier bound for Theed than she ever would have expected, but she misjudges how much water she’ll need for the trip and is nearly delirious with thirst and heat from the inclosed vehicle with its endlessly dusty, musty wheat smells by the time she reaches her destination, and it’s pure dumb luck that saves her from being caught when she finally stumbles out of the vehicle (nearly collapsing in the process) and totters unsteadily away, off into the darkness of the largely mist-shrouded city.
20.) Court: She’s managed to time things right, at least, for the traditional open court sessions at the Palace begin not the morning after her arrival in Theed but the morn after that, leaving her enough time to get herself situated and to rehearse her planned speech a few (dozen) times before she has to think about actually getting to the Palace and securing a place in the queue of citizens who wish to make some kind or another or formal complaint or present a petition or otherwise do something that will in some way call on the judgment of the Royal Court for resolution.
21.) City: King Muruka doesn’t quite laugh at her or call her a liar, but she very clearly implies that she’s a childish fool and that her attempt to secure justice for herself and her family name is pitiably laughable, and she’s so furious at his obvious lack of caring and even more obvious support of the family (who apparently used some of their ill-gotten gains from volunteering to foster the surviving Jaffa children to help to finance his campaign, when he decided to run for the throne) that she comes this close to issuing the man a mortal insult and calling him out for the greedy, power-hungry, bungling bureaucrat he is when she finds herself being abruptly claimed a special case and ward of the city and therefore an issue within the Princess of Theed’s purview before being flanked by official clerks and guards of the Princess and rapidly rushed off to a meeting with the idealistic young politician who’s decided to take her part and pursue her case against the Ginborjos, whether King Muruka approves or not.
22.) Ceremony: Adeé Russe is a bewildering welter of confusing contradictions – on the one hand brash, brusque, boyish, uncomfortable with the trappings of ceremony and the niceties of manner required in what amounts to a royal court headed by herself, and prone to speaking abruptly, with clipped-off precision, words coming out razor apt, rasping off all of the possible fuzzy edges of alternate meaning, instead of with the kind of obviously well-planned, many-layered dance of possibility and shaded meaning so common to politicians, diplomats, dealers of law and justice, the ruling class; yet, on the other hand, kind-hearted, concerned, eager to help others, eager to shepherd and look out for (and after) others not for the sake of power or prestige but rather the joy that comes of truly helping others, loyal to those deserving of devotion and fiercely protective of those proven worthy of her love and admiration, sincere and charismatic and possessing a tremendous, almost naive honor that, in combination with that sincerity and charisma, all but effortlessly binds good people to her, makes them willing to work for her, with her, to help her, guide her, guard her, die for her, if necessary, without a heartbeat’s hesitation – and Illyn knows neither what to think of this girl (this young woman, this young warrior, for all her gawkishish childlike body, thin and small for twelve years of age) who has appointed herself her guardian nor what to believe of the all but fanatically loyal group of aides, advisors, guards, and companions who, having made serving the Princess of Theed their business, now all seem to think that taking care of Illyn falls within the purview of their duty as well.
23.) Storm: She quickly (perhaps too quickly) decides that she doesn’t like Princess Adeé’s young chief aide, Cianus Tammesin – the tall one, with a sense of presence almost as breath-stealingly powerful as Adeé’s and surprisingly light hair and water-colored eyes . . . eyes that seem to follow Illyn everywhere – and not even learning that he’s the one who convinced Adeé to take Illyn’s part is enough to make her like him or to make her feel any less like a hunted animal, every time he lays those far too observant blue eyes on her, so she, at least, is unsurprised by the fact that, whenever they interact for very long, they almost always inevitably end up bickering, with her generally being borderline rude in an attempt to drive him off (or at least make him look away from her) until he finally loses his temper and says something about her horrible manners or provincial ways or some other such remark that she can take offense at, so that they end up arguing until one or the other or both of them finally storm off in a huff.
24.) Joy: Adeé is horrified to learn that Illyn not only cannot remember her shadow name, but has had no one to give her a proper blood name (though she has been bleeding, at irregular intervals, off and on since three months before she made her escape, and so technically quite possibly could legally get herself declared an adult), and so promptly arranges for her own family to hold a ceremony for Illyn (even though she herself is still too young to participate in it): when Tharina Russe, the kind-eyed mother of the Princess of Theed (who looks exactly how Illyn imagines Adeé will look, in another twenty years or so – rangy, athletic, strong in more ways than one, quite commanding, and surprisingly beautiful, with rusty-brown hair and dark eyes and a classic oval face blessed with strong bones and high cheekbones) raises her up out of the water and declares that her blood name is Arcea, among the family of Russe (and given to her in honor of the women of the Jaffa family, whose untimely deaths unfortunately made it impossible for them to ever recognize Illyn as one of them), she cries for the first time since the night after that awful argument, with Katerol, and is shocked to find that her tears are salt-sweet with joy.
25.) Lady: It takes two years of virtually nonstop arguing before she finally figures out that the young man who watches her so closely not only actually likes her but is, in his own awkward way, trying to court her, and she’s so stunned (and so oddly flattered that he’s committed enough to pursuing her and persistent enough in his attempts not to have let her irritability drive him away) that she actually openly demands to know why he’s never said anything to her . . . and just why he isn’t courting her like a real gentleman would a proper lady, according to the old traditions, if he’s that serious about things.
26.) Guardian: Cianus is . . . fiercely determined, Illyn has to give him that, and, when faced with the question of an old-fashioned courtship, promptly and overwhelmingly responds with a flood of traditional courting rituals, from formally begging permission to court her from her “guardian,” the Princess, to showering her with small tokens of his appreciation, from carefully composed (and meticulously handwritten in elaborate, old-style calligraphy) original poetry (mostly surprisingly lovely romantic sonnets) to small gifts of things like rare sweets from both Naboo and off-planet, elaborate lace wraps and fanciful silken scarves and shawls, and pretty broaches and other small items of jewelry (most of it only semi-precious and excluding rings, as according to tradition), and the sheer volume of gifts and overwhelming proof of his regard for her gradually wear her defenses down, until she begins to expect his presence (and ever watchful gaze) and his little presents to her instead of being started and discomfited by all of the attention.
27.) Presence: Illyn is shocked, at first, to discover that she not only likes Cianus (as in admires and respects him as the good person he is), but that she genuinely (and quite selfishly) enjoys his presence – likes being around someone who challenges her, loves rising to the challenges that lie hidden (and, sometimes, not so very hidden) in the give and take of their witty repartee, actually finds herself looking forward to his visits and missing him, when he has to leave her – and isn’t just flattered by his gifts and his constant attention, and she is still trying to come to terms with the idea that she may not just esteem this earnest young man like any other worthy member of the Princess’ court but truly like him when one day (out of the blue) it happens: there is what begins as a fleeting glance and it turns abruptly into a bold and full-on meeting of the eyes, a moment of inescapable gravitational pull and chemistry and something dancing in the charged particles of the air between them as he holds it, and she holds it, does not look away, cannot look away (even though it’s only a glance, just two sets of eyes accidentally meeting from across the distance of a table, neither set willing to look away), and that look holds and it holds and the worlds shrinks in around her until she falls into something like a state of heightened awareness, of hyperactive sensitivity, every single particle of her body feeling as if it has found consciousness, tingling with power, with purpose, each and every cell, molecule, atom, electron, all crackling to life with the built up energy of years of static and potential and feeling nothing, everything suddenly sparking, catching fire, to yield this/, to feeling everything, to no longer merely existing, but /living/, feeling life, love, /everything/, and Cianus smiles at her, a truly dazzling smile, like the kind that will often break through (unexpectedly as the sun bursting in splendor from behind a thick bank of dark clouds in the midst of a rainstorm, to produce a halo of light and arcing pathways of color) eyes shimmering wetly with tears, only he is not crying, he is merely looking at her, looking at her in such a way that she knows he is not merely looking but /seeing/, seeing her and seeing her /true/, and smiling at her, /smiling/, and she suddenly finds herself flooded with emotion, with something she’s never felt before, something she has no name for, and knows, knows all the way down to the pit and pith of her bones, that she is not the same person she was, when she first came to Theed, and does not want to go back to being the same person she was, does not want to ever have to give up who she is now, who she is with this man, this lovely, smiling, overwhelmingly /alive young man, here with her, shaping her, changing her, helping her, giving her room to grow, light to grow, love to grow, and she feels the difference, knows it is there, wants it, cherishes it, loves it, loves . . . O, sweet Mother of Seas, loves Cianus/, /loves him.
28.) Match: The Princess favors the match – Adeé is obviously extremely fond of Cianus and wants him to be happy, and her aloof, somewhat stern manner dissolves the more Illyn proves herself open to Cianus’ attention – and Adeé does not bother to hide either her extreme relief or her tears of joy when the announcement of their formal engagement is finally made, a little over seven months after their little discussion about proper courting etiquette.
29.) Marriage: They wait until Illyn is fifteen before they even set the wedding date, and have been wed less than three months and are still acting like lovesick fools around each other (when Illyn isn’t playfully engaging Cianus in one good-natured bantering exchange or another and he isn’t light-heartedly teasing her back about one thing or another) when disaster strikes, and the magnitude of that disaster is such that, afterwards, she’s fairly certain, in her most bleakly honest hours, that neither she nor their marriage will ever quite fully recover.
30.) Ward: She remembers so little of the attack, at first, that it really has no reality for her past the fact that she knows that she woke up, badly hurt, in a bed in a Healers’ ward, and the former Princess of Theed (having been elected Queen of Naboo not all that long before their marriage) and her shell-shocked husband both insist that it was a specific man who deliberately caused her injuries and who would have killed her, if Cianus hadn’t unexpectedly returned home early that afternoon, instead of staying at work to eat, like he usually did, so there’s an unreality to it all, during much of the first half of her recovery, due to her complete lack of memory of the incident itself, and it makes it surprisingly easy for her to cope, since she has no awful memories to make her suffer nightmares and/or insomnia or doubt or hatred of herself, for not being able to fight back better and get away from her attacker before he could overcome her.
31.) Man: Eventually, though, despite the efforts of her husband to keep at least a part of the truth from her, she learns that the young man who nearly killed her – the man her selfish eldest cousin and those two damned witches somehow tricked or convinced her brother-in-all-but-name to second or approve, so that they chose him to hire to “take care” of Illyn and their little problem (given Adeé’s sound defeat of King Muruka in the latest monarchial election, the determination of the newly crowned Queen Adeé Ashtara Russe to finally see Illyn’s complaint against the Ginborjos legally pursued to a satisfactorily just end, and the rather convenient deaths of Remilla and Jherumee in a supposed boating accident during an unexpected summer squall, not long after the weddings of Rusilla and Marrité with Druthma and Katerol – deaths that will later come to light as murders arranged by Rusilla and Marrité, with Druthma disposing of the bodies by placing them on one of the family’s boats and then deliberately wrecking and capsizing it in the nearest lake, the evening before a bad thunderstorm is due – which shifted the focus of blame from Remilla and Jherumee to Rusilla and Marrité and their husbands) – is familiar to her from somewhere; yet, it isn’t until she’s over halfway through recovery, when one of the Healers treating her lets slip the man’s name and identity by accidentally informing another Healer, within earshot of Illyn, that her would-be assassin, Edren Janren, had, as a young boy, been brought to the Ginborjo home to visit, once, under the pretense of being considered suitable for hiring, only to be dismissed by the heads of the house for supposedly being found rude and unfit in the eyes of the gentle young lady heir of the Jaffa dukedom and clan, and Illyn abruptly remembers that the name of her mother’s sole good friend had been Lugale Janren that she really begins to understand the true magnitude of the horror that’s been done – not just to her, but to others, too, and all in the name of the Jaffa fortune – and it is then that she begins to hate her family name and legacy.
32.) Guilty: There’s simply no way to punish the truly guilty – those witches, brought up to be as greedy and amoral as their parents – without also punishing the dupes, the tools, the fools who were caught up and suckered in by the awful schemes of those horrible sisters, and it isn’t until after Illyn has irrefutably missed one of her menses that she stops feeling guilty and torn over that and starts simply feeling betrayed and angry and vengeful in her terror.
33.) Life: As her body waxes full of life, the memories begin to return in earnest, and her equilibrium and her sanity waver and wane with terrifying swiftness: in one of her more lucid periods, she fiercely argues that there is no way of really knowing the truth (short of genetic testing, the certainty of which Illyn absolutely refuses, in light of the horror it could reveal, since it would certainly not be the baby’s fault even if the child were proven to be the product of her brutal assault and not her loving marriage) and makes Cianus swear to her that he will not allow himself to behave any other way than as he would if the attack had not happened and yet she had still proven to be fertile with new life, as she has; in one of her darkest, most bleakly desperate moments, she tries to kill both herself and the baby by donning garments heavily weighted down with large stones and striding fearlessly into the Solleu River, failing in her aim only because her swollen flesh is too buoyant to sink beneath the water quickly enough for her to drown before a passerby can spot and save her.
34.) Citizen: Cianus is forced to beg help from the Princess, to get quiet, loyal, competent young women to help watch over her, every moment of every hour of the day when he cannot be there to keep an eye on her, and it is solely because of these guardians that she manages not to kill herself or the baby or both, not even when the verdict is passed and her formerly beloved cousin (who, she has long since discovered, she loved far more and much differently than one would a brother and could have been happy with, if only she’d had the sense to give him, to give them, a chance) is sentenced to a traitor’s exile and expunged from all of the records as a natural born citizen of Naboo (save that of the infamous book of exiled traitors, which lists all those who have been banished from Naboo for their crimes and barred from returning, on pain of death) right along with their shared murderously selfish cousin and those two bitch sisters Druthma and Katerol (her poor Oadyen!) so foolishly wed.
35.) Infant: The baby is born, after a hideously painful and difficult labor, too early for a full term if her father were not Cianus, but small and thin and sickly enough that she could’ve passed for premature, and, though the little girl is, according to everyone else, sweet and even-tempered and extremely tractable and adorable and beautiful and eminently lovable, Illyn cannot bring herself to hold the child for much more than a few moments at a time, and she certainly cannot even being to suckle the infant herself, so they are forced to hire a nursing ummeda for the infant immediately, once they leave the Healers’ maternity ward.
36.) Childhood: The girl – Dormé, as she comes to be called, going ever by her childhood name instead of assuming the name Ryseidas, the name legally given to her, at birth, in defiance of the traditional rules for the naming of children – is a truly wonderful and exceptional child, lovely and quick and precociously bright and painfully like Illyn was, as a young girl, and she cannot abide her presence for much more than a few minutes to perhaps an hour at a time (if they are in larger company), and she can tell that her seeming indifference (and increasing near-cruelty) and the increasing absence of the girl’s (supposed) father (as Cianus withdraws more and more from their family, in response to Illyn’s coldness, spending an increasing amount of time away, at work) is doing an incredibly amount of damage to the child’s spirit and self-esteem, but Illyn physically can/not/ make herself do anything else, instead inevitably driving herself to bouts of tears and sickness and violent nightmares every single time she tries to make herself be more of a real mother to the poor girl.
37.) Puppet: The fear is an ache that never subsides, a teeth-clenching, gut-wrenching pain that never sleeps, wraps around her (like a lover) and places itself firmly on her shoulder (like heavy hands, work-calloused and hardened with rage) and demands to be heard, quietly and simply but firmly, leaning close and turning to whisper softly but persistently in her ear, and she’s tired of the endless struggle to turn away (get away, escape), tired of being a puppet forever danced about on such strings, pushed and pulled hither and yon and never settling, never allowed a moment’s true rest, tired of being afraid that this is all her fault (grieving), tired of being afraid that this is something that cannot be fixed (nightmaring), tired of being afraid of her own name, her own nature, her own husband, of fearing that he might hurt her or she might destroy him and not knowing, not being able to tell, which is more likely, which would be worse, which has enough logical basis to truly require guarding against, to really justify all of this soul-swallowing /fear/.
38.) Sleep: Cianus doesn’t try to touch her, unless she invites it, doesn’t try to make her spend more time with him or with Ryseidas (no, Dormé, /Dormé/! Great Lady, let her not, in her fear, forget how vital, how important, a shadow name is, on top of all else she has lost!), but he will not let her sleep alone, for fear of what she might do, in the midst of a nightmare, choosing instead to sleep on a cot rolled into place every night before the door, and that would be fine, that would be wise, except there are some things he has not anticipated, some reactions (some sources of fear) he is not equipped to understand, and when she all but literally throws herself upon him, one night, his hands that will not touch unless invited do not know well enough to push away from such a false (fear-fueled) request, and she nearly manages to throw herself out the window, when he lies in an exhausted, satiated stupor, before he can rouse himself enough to stop her.
39.) Fall: She’s not sure if she gave him permission, consented to let him touch her, or not, not sure if she fought to get away or to make him fall closer, push harder, pin and pierce and Mother of Seas help her, there’s no way of knowing, no way of knowing if the child is from before, when she flung herself at him in a desperate attempt to silence the nightmares, to drive out the cold, to feel something, anything/, even if only for a few moments, or from after, when she strove to fly without wings, the sudden grappling struggle, the painfully hard hands on her, pulling her back, away, down, out of the black frame of the open windows to fall, tumbling, tangled together, onto the bed, her bed, their own, old bed, his fear, his fury, scorching, insistent, ravaging, demanding life where’d thought only to cultivate silence, stillness, death . . . and Great Lady help her, but she can’t remember enough, isn’t sure how it really happened (remembers twisting, heat, wetness, aching agony and want, need, /Goddess – !), and, anyway, how would one ever be able to tell, which act would end in begetting a son?
40.) Treasure: According to both the Healers and the minders, the presence of other children in the house is supposed to help, supposed to bring her and Cianus back together again as a couple by giving them so much of a family that it can no longer be ignored, but all it really does is to give Illyn an excuse to pull further and further away from Cianus and to cement poor Dormé’s bad opinion of herself, for the two boys she and Cianus unabashedly love and spoil (especially the first, the eldest, as if, through an excess of love, they might at last banish the ghosts of that night, the doubts and fears) and their baby girl is the gem of the family and the shining treasure residing at the apple of everyone’s eyes, while Dormé is ignored or treated with casually cold contempt, no matter how hard she tries to please or how exceptional she becomes, and the guilt is such that Illyn often finds herself unable to even bring herself to look upon her firstborn, without fear of being sick over what she’s done to her.
41.) Lover: When he first attacked her, the dark-haired young man snarled something at her (“Vicious little cold-blooded bitch – just like your mother! – promising a man friendship, love, the whole world on a string, so long as it suits your fancy, and then dropping him cold as soon as it’s no longer a sufficient challenge or he’s of no more immediate use to you, caring only for the continuation of your own comforts and be damned to everyone else!”) that doesn’t make any sense to her at all until several years later, when she sadly begins to suspect that her husband might be dealing with her coldness by having an affair with someone he works with, in Adeé Ashtara Russe’s offices (the former Princess of Theed having surprisingly, after only a single term in office as Queen of Naboo, moved on to become a sort of liaison between the Senator of the Chommell Sector and the monarch of Naboo, in essence becoming almost a junior Senator, given her close association with that office) and it suddenly occurs to her that the pearl necklace her mother had so loved had been broken by her father because he had suspected that it might have been the gift of a lover . . . and that the curly-haired boy she’d played with, as a child, might well have been the son of her mother’s real beloved as well as the young man later hired to attack her, twisted by bitterness and rage over the way her father had, in his fury at his wife’s seeming infidelity, destroyed the boy’s life by summarily casting out and ruining his father.
42.) Blood: The Jaffa clan always did things . . . a little bit differently than other noble Nabooian families and those elected government officials who are treated (while serving their terms) as ruling nobles: though the name of their original homeworld has been lost, the fact that the Jaffa (and the loyal retainers brought with them, to Naboo, who became the ancestors of the residents of Uriash) did not hail from Grizmallt (with its colonial ties to Chandrila and Alderaan) is well known, with the tendency of the Jaffa clan to take their duties (and their rights and privileges) as ruling nobles a bit more seriously than other members of the (technically unofficial) hereditary Nabooian aristocracy – essentially holding legal sway and authority over all of their holdings (including both the sizeable city-stake of Uriash and much of the surrounding countryside) by right of blood (a right that could be challenged only by the authority of the monarch of Naboo, and one that was only ever exercised thrice in all of the long written history of Naboo), with democracy entering the picture only in the matter of the ruling Duke or Duchess, that member of the Jaffa clan considered to be the cleverest, most capable, and most charismatic leader and protector among their ranks, chosen by an open vote in family council to replace the prior ruling Duke or Duchess either after death or when the family had established that the previously chosen head of the clan had proven unfit to rule, rather than by having the right pass automatically, by inheritance, from mother or father to eldest child (though, historically speaking, most often the right did go from father or mother to one child or another, if not to a sibling of the Duchess or Duke) – often being credited to this difference in origin; yet, though she admires the fiercely independent nature of her family and her people and a part of her even occasionally thinks that this way (rule by right of merit) is better, in the long run, than more openly democratic forms (wherein the one with the most money or the loudest voice or the brightest/most engaging smile and not necessarily the best qualified may be elected), sometimes Illyn also suspects that the Jaffa (and perhaps also the people of Uriash) may have clung too tightly to the old ways for their own good, and that this form of rule may have contributed to the downfall of the clan (given both the arrogance and the insularity that it bred): this is, in any case, what she tells herself, whenever the questions arises as to why she hasn’t attempted to learn more about her family and her heritage.
43.) Care: She hides in her books, her writing, and her youngest children, using her focus on her children and her continued studies and her scribblings (about her life, about her children, about things as they could have been, in another, kinder universe) as buffers between her and the rest of the world, retreating further and further into her shell and away from the bright, strong young woman (overflowing with potential) who blossomed , so briefly, under Adeé Russe’s care and Cianus Tammesin’s love, and, even though her cowardice shames her, she cannot quite find it within herself to stop running away, stop hiding, from the memory of that young woman.
44.) Same: Dormé resembles Illyn’s mother’s side of the family quite closely – the women were and are all cut from the same cloth, from Illyn’s mother’s grandmother all the way down to Dormé: slim and fine-boned; late to reach their adult growth but eventually possessing slightly greater than average height, with some curves lost to that height, yet still possessing more than sufficient shapeliness to render women speechless, stop men dead in their tracks; with dark hair, dark hair, a (deceptively) fragile oval face with a strong chin, high cheekbones, lushly full mouth meant for smiling (or for kissing), nose long and fine and either straight or else turned ever so slightly and mischievously upwards: but for slight variances of hair color (ranging from medium to dark brown to true black, that shade so dark that it breaks the light up into ghosts of blue and purple iridescence) and eye color (ranging from amber/hazel to darkest brown) and skin tone, minor deviations in height and shape of nose, every single woman (from Nímenna Rhojus to Ylena Nanureen and Lesharia Jaffa to Illyn Tammesin to Dormé herself) could have been easily mistaken for the same woman, if taken all together, as a whole, at approximately the same age (hell, but for the fact that Nímenna’s hair was a medium brown and her eyes nearly amber, while her daughter’s hair was pitch black and her eyes nearly dark enough to match her hair, those two could have been mistaken for twins – a fact that had often led to confusion, on Illyn’s part, back when she was a child and trying to discover who and what her family had been surreptitiously enough not to garner the notice of the Ginborjos) – and a part of Illyn desperately hopes that this means that whatever curse it is that seems to have attached itself to the Jaffa name and family will never be able to touch her daughter, though another (much larger) part of Illyn knows this is a futile wish, given that her inability to love or mother the girl properly has doubtlessly blighted Dormé’s life as thoroughly as any curse might.
45.) Education: Dormé is home-schooled, mainly in the traditions of Uriash (such as Illyn recalls and has been able to research), with additional, more customarily Nabooian classwork conducted almost entirely via one kind or another of computer correspondence, and her education is quite exemplary: Illyn may not be able to bring herself to remain long in the child’s company, but that certainly doesn’t stop her from seeking out and hiring the very best ummia and enka-umu from Uriash, as well as several more regular tutors from among those used by the nobles and the wealthy of Theed, to see to it that the girl is properly trained up and taught how to use her brain, the talents her sensitivity (to that which most of the rest of the galaxy refers to as the energy field of the Force) grants her, and her body (both to be able to protect herself and as a way to let her continually improve upon herself), modelling much of Dormé’s earliest education on the kind of training that Illyn is certain her father would have insisted on, for her, if only he had lived long enough to do so, and, in the process, seeing to it that Dormé receives a much more complete and somewhat esoteric (with a great emphasis on proficiency with weapons and various methods of self-defense) education than any of Illyn’s other children receive.
46.) Brother: All things considered, it’s a bit of a relief (a sop to her bleeding conscience, in any case) to discover that her youngest boy, Ioannes, idolizes his older sister and seems just as willing and ready to do everything in his power to shield and protect and help her as her beloved cousin once was, for Illyn, and she finds herself quietly trying to see to it that the boy is allowed more leniency in his schedule, so that he can better arrange to spend even more time with Dormé.
47.) Money: She truly has no idea why Adeé didn’t run for a second term in office as Queen – she was good at her job and the people loved her so much that Illyn is positive that not even Branlen Marda’s money would have been able to buy him the throne, if only Adeé had chosen to run against him – but things have gone swiftly downhill ever since Branlen was elected King Veruna, and Illyn is beginning to quietly hope that Dormé’s interest in politics means that she will, be the one who ends up turning Veruna out of office when some upstart girl from the Gallo Mountains rumored to be the youngest daughter of farmers pops up out of nowhere and somehow or another manages to get herself elected Princess of Theed.
48.) Sure: Illyn isn’t too sure about this Padmé Naberrie girl who’s challenging Veruna for the throne: she agrees that Veruna needs replacing quite badly (as much as if not more so than King Muruka once had) and admits that the girl originally from the small and isolated mountain village of Ashistagalum certainly has the right kind of credentials for the throne (given that her paternal grandmother, Shelané Tannis, was once the Queen’s First handmaiden, or /aónes dævítru eisharti/, of Queen Madeva – Lataré Nabishu Najaffa – the most famous and beloved Queen of Naboo’s recent history) and seems to have been doing a good job as Princess of Theed (though with less than one of a two-year term in office complete, it’s difficult to really tell, for sure); yet, the girl herself is . . . strange, somehow, lacking utterly in that special shine that lets those sensitive to the flows of power that the people of Naboo deem divine (and which most of the rest of the galaxy insist on calling the Force) recognize others who are like them (others who have seemingly preternatural talents and abilities because of this sensitivity, because the Great Mother has chosen to give to them a part of her infinitely vast power, thereby blessing them and consecrating them to the service of life) and possessing an odd kind of recklessness, an indifference to her personal well-being that speaks to Illyn of fanaticism and, frankly, makes her skin crawl horribly.
49.) Relief: Despite her personal misgivings about Padmé Naberrie, it’s an unabashed relief, to find that Dormé has secretly gone about the process of applying to become one of the new young Queen’s handmaidens, and Illyn shocks Cianus by fighting for her daughter’s right to be accepted into the program (even if she did attempt to technically illegally submit her application without her parents’ consent and writ of approval), desperate to allow her child the chance to get out of this household and into a position where she can be seen for the truly remarkable young woman she is and loved for her own sake, certain that Dormé will be able to find more of a real family among this young Queen Amidala’s handmaidens than she’s ever truly had in her own home, even if she’s still not entirely sure that she likes or even much approve of the new Queen.
50.) Blade: Illyn has seen the girl at practice, and Dormé is grace incarnate with a blade – any kind (/every/ kind) of blade, though she seems to prefer the wakizashi, the short curved sword that customarily accompanies the katana, the longer, single-edged fighting blade typically worn by the Samuuka warriors (the guardsmen, law-enforcers, and soldiers of Uriash, traditionally employed by and answerable to the rule Duke or Duchess of Jaffa and more recently headed by the Najaffa cousins who returned to Uriash after the sentence came down that banished as traitors the last of those who legally born the name Jaffa as their sole surname, when Illyn made it clear that she had no wish to ever try to assume any of the rights and titles or duties associated with the name of Jaffa and would therefore prefer it if the Najaffa family would take responsibility for Uriash instead) – dancing so lightly across the training mats that her intricate moves seem utterly natural and effortless, and, while Illyn prays her daughter will never have need to use such skills in an actual fight, she is nonetheless grimly pleased to know how eminently capable Dormé would be of protecting herself in any such altercation, especially since it seems less and less likely that Queen Amidala’s reign is going to be a peaceful one.
51.) Underground: She is furious when the Trade Federation invades, to the point where, when she discovers that Ioannes is secretly meeting with a group of like-minded individuals who want to do something to disrupt the process by which the Trade Federation will attempt to consolidate power over Naboo, instead of confronting him angrily about his dangerous actions, she instead decides to join the underground rebellion herself, and, in the aftermath of that decision, despite her considerable terror for her little boy, Illyn simply cannot find it within her to deny either Ioannes’ talent for organization or leadership or his choice to eventually go and lead a rebel cell of his own, rather than remaining under her watchful guidance.
52.) Decoy: When her girl is made the new primary decoy for Queen Amidala (to take the place of her mentor, Sabé Dahn, who is to be made interim Senator for Naboo and the Chommell Sector, in place of Palpatine, who has been elected Supreme Chancellor and can therefore no longer serve as a Senator) and her youngest boy is among the heroes of Naboo publically recognized with a medal of honor for his bravery and intelligence in not only helping to organize resistance against the Trade Federation invaders but for his part in the successful attempt to recapture Theed Palace, Illyn begins to feel as if her world is slowly spinning out of control, becoming a place strange and unfamiliar to her, and it isn’t until her baby girl begins to determinedly lobby for her perceived right to profit from the political cachet of her two famous elder siblings that Illyn begins to suspect that the strangeness isn’t so much because of the improbability of the situation but rather a result of the fact that she can clearly no longer be said to be the lone surviving member of the Jaffa clan to have been badly hurt because of the family name and yet nonetheless heroically found a way to carry on with life.
53.) Play: Every now and again, she turns a corner in their home to unexpectedly find Ioannes right there, in front of her, and her heart stutters and leaps in shock, her breath catching painfully in her throat and her pulse thundering in her ears so loudly that it stuns her, that he cannot hear it: she finds herself going away from him, from these surprise encounters, feeling bruised, for, by some vague trick of genetics she cannot even begin to understand, Ioannes looks far less like his either his father or her than he does the child she remembers so well from Uriash, who used to play with her while his soft-spoken father would visit with her mother and occasionally sing . . .
54.) Baby: She resists acknowledging (even in her most private inmost thoughts) how spoiled and horribly like those two witchlike sisters and her eldest, weak, self-serving cousin two of her children are until she’s no longer able to ignore the proof, at least in one case – her baby, Yseultai, having come perilously close to squandering her chance to make something of herself by, in her laziness, nearly getting the weak (and still recovering from injuries taken during the invasion and occupation) Princess Ellie of Theed killed by assassins, and then compounding the error by trying to hide and deny her culpability, in the process of attempting to argue her own blamelessness nearly giving another group of would-be assassins access enough to the Queen to get her killed, apparently not only having been saved from a formal charge of aiding and abetting the criminals because of her sister’s passionate pleading, but given one more (utterly undeserved) chance to make things right and to be a true and loyal and good handmaiden, by rejoining the ranks of the Princess’s handmaidens and serving with true dedication – and Illyn is so devastated by her (self-imposed, in many ways) blindness that she nearly manages to make herself issue an ultimatum of reform to her eldest boy and a real show of actual repentance to her eldest child for the shameful way she has neglected her . . . almost.
55.) Model: The more her Dormé accomplishes and the more her youngest boy and girl both prove themselves determined to model themselves and their lives on Dormé, while her eldest boy becomes more and more like her hated eldest cousin, Druthma, the greater Illyn’s shame grows and the harder it is for her to justify to herself her treatment of her children, even given what Dormé might be (her physical resemblance to Illyn conceivably also betraying a physical resemblance to Edren Janren, whose hair had also been pitch-black and his eyes dark), but it isn’t until her eldest boy, Laborue, casually and cruelly refers to Dormé as the probable spawn of the attempted murderer of his mother in Illyn’s presence, in an attempt to sneer down his nose at his famous older sibling in response to a potential girlfriend’s far too warm regard (in his opinion, anyway) for Dormé, that Illyn is finally pushed over the edge, and the explosion of her scathing fury is such that not even Cianus can be wheedled into attempting to intervene on their boy’s behalf, not even when she threatens to have the boy cut off financially or even cast out of the family entirely if he doesn’t quickly change his ways and prove himself a truly productive member not only of their family but of society as well.
56.) Stranger: Cianus is a virtual stranger to her, and (even though she’s fairly certain that he is no longer seeing someone else, under the cover of his work) she’s not sure if she can salvage her marriage or her family, after so many years of far less than benign neglect, but she finds herself utterly determined to try, and even, eventually, discovers a highly sympathetic (if utterly, strangely, no-nonsense) ally in her youngest child.
57.) Eldest: Her baby is easy enough to win back, but her eldest boy is sulky and intractable, her youngest boy is skittish and untrusting of her sincerity, and Dormé . . . well, Dormé is all but unreachable, in the Palace, and so adroit at sidestepping Illyn’s every attempt to meet, to attempt to reconcile, that she finds herself turning to her husband and drawing him back to her, with her desperation and determination, instead.
58.) Strength: Illyn is well aware of the fact that the handmaidens (be they of a Queen, Senator, or Princess of Theed) draw strength from the familial ties and bonds of love they form amongst themselves, and it is a principle she is certain should apply equally well amongst the families of those brave girls – especially those who are survivors, left behind by daughters or sisters who have, sadly, met their deaths while in the service of their individual sworn lady – and so, in an effort to prove not only to Dormé but to Ioannes, too, the sincerity of her desire to make things right, she goes about organizing first monthly and then tri-weekly and then bi-weekly meetings of various groups of those families, in many cases building on ties already forged between specific families by the bonds formed between specific handmaidens, working hard to try to provide some of the same measure of support and sense of shared strength and purpose among those whose children, whose siblings, risk their lives (or have given their lives) in defense of another.
59.) Sacrifice: So many of the handmaidens are such remarkable young women and have such regretfully short lives that there are times when Illyn finds herself hating the practice, the custom, that encourages such wonderful girls to be willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of some politician, times when she finds herself sitting out by the monument for fallen handmaidens and shaking uncontrollably, half terrified that she might lose Dormé (as so many of these girls have been lost) and half furious that Dormé should be accounted any more expendable than Padmé Amidala, and wishing desperately that there was some other way of doing things, some way that would not leave their most important leaders vulnerable to attack.
60.) First: The first time Dormé is nearly killed in Amidala’s stead (or at least the first time that she’s told of, the first time that things have gone badly enough to result in an injury to Dormé sufficiently serious for the family told), Illyn has a flat out panic attack, collapsing in a shaking (half crying and half hyperventilating) heap and repeating over and over, “I can’t lose her before I’ve ever even had the chance to really have her, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t!” until Cianus gathers up in his arms and rocks her soothingly, stroking her hair and whispering reassurances about how strong and smart Dormé is (much too strong and far too smart to ever let some mere would-be assassin or bounty hunter truly get the better of her) and they won’t ever lose her, until Illyn finally breaks down in wrenching sobs and the blind panic passes, dissolving into a mixture of grief and sick fury at the being (or beings) who’ve caused her daughter harm.
61.) Resemblance: Yseultai looks almost eerily like blonde, blue-eyed version of Dormé, and sometimes it surprises Illyn a little just how much deeper that resemblance seems to be seeping into her baby’s bones, the longer Yseultai works for one of the Princesses of Theed (her services having been in such high demand that she has been shared out amongst several of the young girls elected Princess of Theed by the time Padmé Amidala has finished her second term as Queen of Naboo and moved on to becoming the Senator for the Chommell Sector).
62.) Sign: Yseultai provides much but not all of her information about Dormé, about what goes on at the Palace in the court of the Princess of Theed, and in the Senator’s court, as well, but an increasing amount of information gets sent along to her from Dormé’s own fellow handmaidens (especially that lovely couple, Rabé and Eirtaé, both members of which have been with Padmé Amidala essentially since her first election to the throne), the longer she works at building bridges both to her own family members and to the other families of the handmaidens, and she takes it as an encouraging sign, for surely such a sign of increasing trust and respect can only bode well for her attempts to reconcile with Dormé.
63.) Clear: Something about Obi-Wan Kenobi has always reminded Illyn a little bit of Katerol, at his most loving and gracious, and something about Anakin Skywalker has always made her remember the curly-haired youth who played with her as a child, in Uriash (and grew up to nearly kill her), so she’s always been a little bit puzzled about how close the two young men seem to be and how well they work together, and it makes many things that had never really made a whole lot of sense to her abruptly become quite clear, when Illyn finally learns (through Yseultai and Eirtaé) that the Jedi High Council’s paranoia and fear and dislike of the boy had apparently been so great (when Anakin’s rather spectacular part in winning Naboo’s freedom back from the Trade Federation and Qui-Gon Jinn’s unexpected death during that liberation had essentially left the High Council with no real choice but to allow Anakin to join the Order after all, given that Obi-Wan – the newly famous Sith Killer – was so adamant about fulfilling his promise to his dying Master to train the young boy as a Jedi Knight) that Kenobi and Skywalker had decided it would be necessary for them to provide Anakin with a measure of protection against those Masters, by coming up with ways for Anakin to play up to certain of the High Council’s expectations while at the same time disguising much of the truth of himself and his nature from both the Council (and most of the Order at large) and, by extension, most of the rest of the galaxy, too.
64.) War: The war, when it finally comes, is unbelievably awful – both long quietly dreaded and equally long fought against the coming of – but once it has arrived there is nothing to do but to accept it and try to move past the pain and the horror it represents to find a solution that will let her have both her family again (fully intact) and peace, and she is immensely glad, as the war drags on and more and more attacks occur against Naboo, of the network she’s helped establish, among the families of those who number at least one member as a handmaiden.
65.) Peace: There are things that Cianus still won’t speak to her of and neither one of them is much closer to making any kind of real peace with Dormé and their eldest son still sometimes behaves like a spoilt brat (though this happens with less and less frequency and is followed by more and more convincing displays of true regret and remorse, ever since he met that wonderful girl, Lehari Nhaven – the young foster sister of the unfortunately now deceased handmaiden Etté Zirach – and began to consciously try to change, to be the kind of man she truly deserves to have, so that he might win her heart); yet, all in all, she finds herself happier than she an remember being since . . . well, since before the attack, if she’s perfectly honest with herself, and so it’s that much more of a shock, when word comes that Coruscant itself is under attack and their Senator (and former Queen) is missing.
66.) Troop: She manages to catch Dormé off guard, showing up at the Palace with a ridiculous amount of food and drink and a troop of sensible young men and women recruited from among the noble (and not so noble) households of her and her youngest daughter’s and her virtual daughter-in-law’s friends (including the many friends they’ve made among the families of the other handmaidens), to take over the job of manning all the comms and waiting for word both of the battle (and the attempt to rescue the apparently kidnaped Supreme Chancellor) and of their missing Senator, and to order her daughter and the other frantic handmaidens and handmaiden trainees to eat and to rest, before they all collapse of nervous exhaustion, determinedly loading those young women and teenaged girls down with food and soothing teas and then waving them all off to bed whether they necessarily want to go or not.
67.) Shock: The news of Padmé Amidala’s death is such a shock that, for several long moments, the whole of the universe seems to be holding its breath in stunned wonder, and it’s not until she hears Laborue’s quiet remark, “Frag all, but Dormé is going to find some way to blame herself, for this, even though she wasn’t there and Amidala told her to stay here, with the trainees!” that she remembers how to breathe again, much less speak or move.
68.) Comfort: Her heart aches to try to comfort her eldest child, but given that Dormé is refusing to see even Ioannes (easily the most beloved of her family members), Illyn knows better than to try to do so, just yet, and busies herself with trying to comfort her youngest daughter and as many of the other painfully bewildered and shocked and grieved handmaidens as will let her try to help.
69.) Relationship: Her relationship with the Naberrries has never been particularly strong – she’s never quite been able to completely hide the fact that she considers Padmé Amidala a naive damn fool idealistic crusader likely to get those closest to her hurt or killed and a poor Queen and Senator, compared to the job she wholeheartedly believes her eldest daughter could easily do – but of all people she knows what tragedy is like, and so she goes and she sits with Jobal and Ruwee and offers as much comfort as she possibly can, quietly helping to arrange what little can be arranged, until the body has arrived, and lending Jobal a shoulder to sob on when the reality of their loss finally sinks in past the awful shock of the pronouncement that the youngest Naberrie child has not only been killed but is just another incident of collateral damage from the battle over Coruscant.
70.) Opinion: Illyn has always had an extremely high opinion of that lovely young man, Bendu Master Kenobi, though her opinion of the Jedi’s former Padawan has always been somewhat tentative and uncertain, even after finding out about the deception he and Master Kenobi have been perpetrating/perpetuating against the High Council and the Order, regarding much of Anakin’s basic nature (in part despite of and in part because of her knowledge of the young man’s close friendship with her daughter, Dormé, which has always struck her somehow as being both a good thing and a potentially highly dangerous thing), so Illyn is, on the one hand, stunned by that particular turn of events, while also, at the same time, being completely unsurprised.
71.) System: The cleansing of the Force feels, to her, like a sudden shock to the system, like waking up one day after a lifetime in darkness to suddenly discover that she has eyes that work and light enough to properly see, and she weeps, unabashedly, not caring who might see or what anyone might think of her, too thankful for what has happened for any other thoughts or cares to intrude, at least for a little while.
72.) Order: She can’t decide if she’s truly surprised by the fact that Team Kenobi and Skywalker have chosen to take on Bail Organa as their shared Padawan learner and the first true new recruit for their New Jedi Bendu Order, but she is at least a little worried by the implications of such a move, for she knows that if a man like the Crown Prince of Alderaan is going to be sought out by the newly reformed Order, then that means that people like Dormé and the other handmaidens and other members of the handmaidens’ families are going to be clamoring for a chance to volunteer for such training.
73.) Calm: In a moment of relative calm amidst the various shocks rocking the galaxy, Ioannes tentatively approaches her over the possibility of eventually testing for (and, hopefully, joining) any chapterhouse for the New Jedi Bendu Order that might be established on Naboo, and she shocks him speechless by admitting that she’s seriously considering undergoing the same testing, if only to see if it might be possible for her to fashion her Force-sensitivity into a better tool for protecting her family from any harm that might otherwise befall it.
74.) Truth: The truth of what Sola Naberrie is and what she has done (apprenticing herself to the Sith Lord, Master Sidious) hits everyone like a shockwave – she even finds Laborue sitting pale and trembling, half furious and half terrified that he may have inadvertently said something to her, once or twice, about Dormé’s movements and duties, that may have somehow helped Sola in her dastardly deeds – and, even though the whole things brings up terrible memories for her and she still isn’t what she would consider extremely close to the Naberrie family, Illyn grits her teeth and gathers her courage and makes herself available for the Naberries, hoping that the presence of someone who has gone through similar proceedings (the exile of a family member for crimes so awful as to amount to treason) may, in some way, help.
75.) Talk: She is, quite possibly, one of the absolute last people her eldest child would ever want to know this news, but Illyn’s dogged persistence in trying to rebuild her family and mend her fractured relationship with Dormé has gained her an increasing amount of sympathy among the other handmaidens, and, after Dormé tells her old companions and Eirtaé makes the decision to inform Dormé’s little sister, it’s inevitable that Illyn should discover that Bendu Masters Kenobi and Skywalker have asked Sabé Dahn and Dormé Tammesin to agree to become Naboo and the Chommell Sector’s next Queen and next Senator and to both agree to receive training as full members of the New Jedi Bendu Order, impossible that Illyn should hear such momentous news and know of all that’s been and is being done to reorder and revive both the Jedi Order and the Galactic Republic and not imagine that her girl and that lovely Sabé (a young lady Dormé has always fiercely adored and who has been her greatest ally and mentor among the handmaidens, not to mention one of her closest friends) are, quite possibly, being put into positions where they are being groomed for eventual shots at becoming Consuls of the New Alliance of the Republic, thereby bridging the gap between politician and Jedi Bendu protector, and even less likely that Illyn should know all of this and not act: thus, it is that her eldest child finds herself being faced with an utterly intractably determined visitor, who merely repeats, “We have to talk, child,” over and over again until the girl finally gives up and, exasperated, invites Illyn to come share a light noonday meal with her and to talk just as much as Illyn would like about whatever she’d like . . . an invitation that, at long last, leads to a meeting of minds and a reconciliation (of sorts) between mother and daughter.