SUMMARY: What if Senator Padmé Amidala had refused to go into hiding on Naboo, during the events of AotC and a scheme were instead hatched that involved sending Dormé Tammesin (the Senator's only...
Author’s Notes: 1.) There are two different non-Basic languages that occasionally come into play, in the speech and thoughts of my Nabooian characters. One is the Gaelic-based Nabooian originally from my You Became to Me series (which is, by the way, closely related to the Gaelic-based languages also spoken on Alderaan, Chandrila, and Grizmallt, in that SW AU series, and so also spoken on these planets in all of my other SW AU work) and the other is the Akkadian-based Uriashian of LJ user cariel and LJ user bloodraven77's various different Dormékin and Dormé/Vader AUs. If the meaning of anything is unclear by context, please ask me what a specific word/phrase means (with example from the text), and I promise I will clarify, though I may occasionally have to ask LJ user cariel for help (as most of my Uriashian has come directly from her)! 2.) Italics are generally used in this story for one of the following reasons: to denote a voice over a comm or other recording of some sort; to convey special (emotional) emphasis on some words; to set off words in another language; to denote a character's thoughts or shared/telepathically overheard thoughts; and/or to signify the words of a Force ghost or spirit or other entity of the Force. 3.) The cast of EU/original characters for this story is essentially the same as for my series You Became to Me (though there will be some eventual unique additions). Please see the posts listed at the bottom of my most recent update on that series for links to my lists of cast characters, handmaidens, Nabooians, etc., at http://polgarawolf. livejournal. com/115467.html for specifics on these casting choices! 4.) I have a journal entry with a running list of costumes/images that work as "illustrations" of such for the story, over at http://polgarawolf. livejournal. com/119841.html and, when the story is completely done, I will likely go back and either create specific entries with links for each chapter or include the proper information on costumes and such for each chapter in that chapter post.
Becoming Love: I, In You
The Rise of the Clone Wars
Preface: In the Aftermath of War: Fateful Questions and Replies
990:04:20 After Ruusan Reformations (24,091 After Republic’s Founding), 10 years and 51 days prior to the Battle of Geonosis (the day of Naboo’s liberation from the Trade Federation)
The universe is complex, constantly shifting and expanding, and, eventually, all paths overlap, all things converge, all things become real.
– Jedi Knight Revan Maloch, from personal notes before the outbreak of the Mandalorian Wars
The figure is young (easily young enough to still be growing into her full adult height), slim, female, brunette, and beautiful in an oddly flower-like fashion, despite the grime and stench of battle clinging to her painted white skin, dark hair, and the long, full, dark maroon-red skirts (of blast-dampening fabric) of the teenager’s battle dress. She sits quietly on the floor at the edge of an anteroom for a makeshift prison, staring fixedly at a place on the floor, perhaps halfway across the relatively small room. Aviné Bakrin and Tioné Skyon – two loyal handmaidens-in-training from the school of potential handmaidens ahead of her, the second such group of ten gathered together for the protection of the recently elected Queen Amidala – both perished in just that spot, only mere hours previously, having obeyed their orders to protect their decoy Queen as if she were the true Queen of Naboo and thrown themselves in between her and the blasters of both traitors and battle droids, buying her enough time to escape with her skin fully intact, the energy-absorbing skirts of her battle dress untested. Every now and again her gaze (also dark, her eyes a color like a bittersweet mixture of equal parts dark chocolate and caramel, a deep, rich, nearly black shade of brown flecked and striated with lighter patches of honey-gold and amber) turns aside, flicking in the direction of another such anteroom in this warren of suites remade as prison cells, to the place where a badly wounded, newly freed Aideé Gardia (a handmaiden-in-training from her own group, the third, barely formed, prior to the invasion, and so hardly trained at all school of potential handmaidens) perished, mere moments after her liberation, having chosen to fling herself recklessly between the figure of the one she took as her Queen and the telltale flash of reflected light from a laser scope aiming for a kill shot.
A force like gravity pulls her gaze steadily towards yet another room in that warren – a cell where the nightmarish figure of a brutally tortured, repeatedly raped, and only borderline (by any stretch of the imagination) sane Yané Cashille had emerged from the darkness of her prison smiling, a hand curved protectively over her still flat stomach, to murmur, “Don’t worry, Milady. My little brother isn’t truly gone. Saché didn’t really kill him. He’s in here, you see, all nice and safe and snugly sound, and shall be for at least another seven and a half months. I’ll let him out when I’m sure he’ll behave.” Yet, because her force of will is strong, she resists turning her eyes in that direction (or in the direction of the neighboring cell, where the badly battered and largely unresponsive, tight-curled, blankly staring form of Saché Dusanka had later been found), instead fixing her gaze on or in the direction of the place where three good and dedicated handmaidens died to preserve her lowly life.
Dormé Tammesin is over a year younger than Queen Padmé Amidala (she is not yet even halfway through her thirteenth year), and, though she has dedicated herself to the service of the Queen, having gone so far even as volunteering to become one of the few expertly trained decoys specifically employed to impersonate the Queen, take her place, in situations of grave danger, the shock of having had three handmaidens – similarly devoted to their young Queen, willing to lay down their lives in her defense – sacrifice themselves for her is almost too much for her to bear. So she sits on the cold and filthy stone floor. And she stares, with wide and determinedly dry (if hot and hard) eyes, in the directions of the three who died, avoiding the neighboring cells of the ones they may still lose (if they have not already).
Her eyes are still dry and her gaze resistant to the steady pull of horror when another form – identically dressed to her own, and also all but identical in shape, form, and flower-like beauty – slips into the room, her tread so soft that it is the feel of her, in the sea of light and love that the Jedi name the Force and the vast majority of the populace of Naboo know as the /criosanna teinedíait/, the living mantle of power of the Great Lady known as Asherah to most Nabooians but Nisaba to the people of Uriash and the students of Uriashian war-crafts. This girl, though like enough to her to seem a twin, to most, is, in fact, nearly two years her elder (only a little shy of a full year older than their Queen), and her wisdom is such that she offers no platitudes concerning the “good” or “valorous” or “righteous” deaths suffered by Aviné, Tioné, or Aideé. Instead, in a soft voice she allows only a hint of her own natural accent (which is much more clipped and precise, with the natural pitch of her voice just enough deeper, fuller, and more naturally melodic than that of their Queen’s to be noticeable, in comparison, when she is not deliberately pitching it so that it issues in as flat and unaccented a manner as possible, thereby minimizing the differences between the tone and timbre and pitch and overall sound of her own voice and those specific to their Queen’s voice) to color, she simply states, “I fear you must find a way to grow accustomed to the burden of such deaths, Dormé, if you wish to remain a decoy.”
Dormé moves as if to stand, startled from her reverie. “Lady Sabé! I – ”
Sabé Dahn – /aónes dævítru eisharti/, first attendant of the divine-elect, Queen Amidala, the living avatar of the Great Lady on this earth – smiles, her beautiful face softening behind its hard white mask to an aspect of patient loving kindness (such as Dormé can often recall seeing her mother, Illyn, direct towards Yseultai, her youngest daughter and the baby of their family), and makes a small stilling gesture with her right hand, instantly causing Dormé to settle back down to her original position on the floor, altering her posture only to direct her gaze up at the Queen’s First and primary decoy, the young woman who has, for reasons Dormé cannot clearly fathom, chosen to make Dormé her special protégé. “No need to stand on ceremony, /m’éadáil oileanach/. I expected you to be here. My opinion of you would suffer, were you not disturbed by their deaths. But this does not mean that you will not need to harden yourself to their necessity. If you truly wish to be a decoy for the /céauntaónîs dævítru eisharti/, if you wish to be called upon to put on the guise of Amidala and place yourself squarely in the line of fire, so that the enemies of Naboo cannot see where the Queen stands hidden among the ranks of the faithful, you must learn how to avoid allowing deaths such as these to wound you so badly as to render you helpless.”
“I live but to serve, m’athron. You are my /enka-uma/,” she declares, momentarily slipping back into her native Uriashian tongue, “my patron and most formidable instructor in these arts. I am a handmaiden and will be a decoy, because of you. If you say I must do this, then I will do it.”
Sabé’s lips quirk in a manner that might almost have been called a wry smile, but for the briefness of the expression. “And to the hells with what it might cost you, I suppose?”
Uncertain where her teacher might be going with this strange turn to the conversation, Dormé shrugs a shoulder slightly. “If needs must, then they must. Héam! Little use bewailing what must be. I will turn away from neither necessity nor duty, just because the road is hard.”
All trace of humor has fled from Sabé’s face by the time Dormé has finished speaking, and her aspect is a mixture of assured triumph and oddly grim certainty as she inclines her head once in sharply approving agreement. “Good. Because your road is about to become a great deal harder, young one, and I fear there is little I can do to help smooth the way for you. The Queen – Asherah keep and preserve her! – wishes to opposes the potential replacement offered to stand for the remainder of Senator Palpatine’s term and has expressed a desire to present me as an alternative candidate for this post. If I am made interim Senator, I will be forced to relocate to Coruscant for no less than one third to one half of each year. I won’t be able to function both as primary decoy and Senator for the Chommell Sector. So. If Her Highness has her wish, in this, then it is my desire that you take my place, as Queen’s First. Of all of us who remain in the Queen’s service, you resemble her most – mentally and spiritually, as well as physically – are most able to easily put on and take off Amidala’s mien, and are the most talented overall both with weapons of offense and defense and with the creativeness of your thoughts. I trust that you will be able to do the most, both to protect yourself and the others of the coterie – including Her Highness! – and to ensure the continued reputation of our Queen as a woman of intelligence, integrity, and empathy. I trust in your ability to truly /become /Amidala, Dormé, more than I trust in that of any other remaining among our numbers. Will you prove me wrong, in that trust?”
She doesn’t even attempt to keep her dismay, at this suggestion, from showing, shaking her head sharply as she scrambles madly to reach her feet and vehemently crying out, “/Acc/! No/, Lady Sabé! /Never! Honor and respect to serve! Heart and soul to serve!” crossing her arms at the wrist above her heart so violently in her haste to make the traditional sign of obeisance that she bruises herself quite painfully, with the heel of her right hand, the snap of her bowing head so swift that she also nearly manages to catch her chin on the fist of her left hand.
Sabé gives her a hard sliver of a smile, all of the warmth in her leached out by sorrowful approval. “/Onóir acus eanach searbheáil/, and Amidala /an uachdar/, then. Beginning tomorrow, we will be starting an accelerated course of training, to further hone your mastery of the Amidala impersonation and your ability to pass judgments, as Queen, if and when necessary, and we will also do everything that can be done to rebuild the handmaiden program, until I am called upon to leave for Coruscant, at which time recruitment and the continued running of the program will fall to you and to Eirtaé and Rabé. I trust you will have no problem, working with them? Rabé may seem sweet, even soft, but in truth she is one of the strongest individuals I know – strong enough to have taken on the task of gentling Eirtaé’s sharper edges, and to be doing a fine job of it, from what I can tell. Eirtaé can still be haughty, at times, I know, and so self-contained as to seem unapproachable, but I would trust her in matters of protocol above all others, and she has strong ties among the traditional nobility that may be of great use to us, not only in recruiting, but in forming alliances, to preserve the Queen’s standing and her safety.”
“Rabé and I seem to understand one another, /m’athron/. Eirtaé . . . she is like enough to my mother that I know how to work around her, if I must, without drawing down her wrath.”
Sabé does not frown, but her slightly flat tone sufficiently reveals her disappointment with this reply to make Dormé have to fight back the urge to duck her head in embarrassment. “Good enough for now, I suppose, though I’d prefer a genuine alliance based on respect and friendship. I advise you to do everything you can to cultivate that understanding with Rabé into as much of a true friendship as you are able, Dormé. You are going to need the support of the other surviving handmaidens, and the best way to do that is to show the others that the rest of the first school is solidly behind you. Win Rabé’s friendship and her respect, and Eirtaé will likely soon be echoing those sentiments. If Yané and Saché recover sufficiently from . . . their trials to return to active duty, they will most likely trust in Rabé’s example enough to follow. The other two survivors of the first school of ten are ones you do not wish to earn the good opinions of.”
Dormé nods grimly, understanding that Sabé is referring to the traitors, Lietté Gaillen and Roché Jodelle, who turned on the Queen and her loyal retainers during the invasion and became two of the four most hated and feared interrogators (torturers!) among the Trade Federation’s lackeys. Those two somehow managed to flee the Palace during the brief battle to win it back from Viceroy Gunray and his toadies, apparently taking a goodly sized chunk of portable wealth (in fine clothes, jewels, artifacts, old-fashioned coinage, and creds) from their so-called Master’s vaults with them. Unless they can somehow persuade the Jedi Order that those two consist of a great enough threat to the stability and safety of the Republic, it is not likely that they will ever be caught and prosecuted for their many crimes, and, given that their ship is reported to have fled in the direction of the Out Rim Territories and the Unknown Regions (perhaps even Wild Space, which lies beyond both of those still largely self-autonomous or lawless colonial regions), it is unfortunately unlikely that this will occur. They are going to have to formally declare the two khiel-streppain and then wait for the two streppoch to become greedy enough to come closer to Nabooian space, before they are going to have a chance of capturing and trying (and executing. Unlike most of the rest of the Republic, Naboo still insists on the right of executing certain kinds of criminals, and treacherous bariritu like those two torturing murderers most definitely number among them! For Yané and Saché alone, they deserve death, and the Lady alone only knows how many others they tortured and killed or helped those other two traitors – mercifully now dead – Essé Seltrin and Rosé Ganesa torture and kill) them. And that means that Lietté and Roché are currently not her problem to worry over. However, that does not necessarily mean that she has no cause to be concerned, not if Sabé wishes her to take control of /all /of the handmaidens who are still living. There is another who was chosen to train as a decoy from the school of handmaidens ahead of Dormé, one who was almost strong enough, politically, to be elected Princess of Theed, in lieu of Padmé Naberrie, and who therefore could have been the one elected Queen, rather than Amidala. “Dané – ”
“Dané Cashille is in no position to try to insist on her promotion, ahead of you, and she knows it,” Sabé interrupts, her voice caught somewhere between a matter of fact briskness and quiet regret. “She can be a fine decoy, true enough, once that red hair of hers is dyed and the green of her eyes disguised, but the attitude she shows for certain actions that she has taken, during the occupation, prove that she lacks the temperament necessary to truly embody Amidala. For now, she will be your primary backup. Unfortunately, she will likely be too occupied with the state of her cousin and Constanoin Cashille’s death to be of much help, at least at first. You will need to try very hard to find at least one or two suitable candidates among the first school of handmaidens we manage to recruit and train up, after this, to take under your wing and mold into possible decoys. You cannot always be the one to go into danger for Her Highness, not when so much of the fate of the handmaiden program is going to be resting squarely on your shoulders.”
“I will remember, /m’athron/,” Dormé promises, seeing the warning in Sabé’s eyes.
“Good. Come along, then,” Sabé nods and gestures for her to fall in, already turning to make her way towards the rooms of council, where certain sensitive records are kept regarding both the Queen’s advisory boards and the handmaiden recruits and recruitment efforts. “The Queen wishes to speak to you in a little less than two hours, but we can at least begin to try to organize a planetary bulletin regarding the need for another two rounds of recruiting, for more handmaidens, in the meantime. Public outrage against the Trade Federation is currently still very high. We can use that to our advantage, in seeking out and recruiting potential candidates who may have otherwise chosen to pursue more local careers, as politicians, arbiters of the law, Healers, and social scientists. I have been talking with Bendu Kenobi about many things, of late, and I am beginning to believe that we need to capitalize on the more spiritual – even religious – overtones of our service to the throne, in order to more fully unify all of the various schools of handmaidens into one overall coterie, with its various members united and holding to an all but identical sense of duty and purpose. If we alter the wording of our vows of service only a little, revert to the older, grander ceremonies of offering and acceptance, expand the circle of joining to include all who have already taken the vows . . . ”
Dormé nods, stretching her legs to keep up with Sabé’s brisk pace, focusing so intently on the words issuing with increasing rapidity from her mentor’s mouth (in order to avoid dwelling on the mixture of curiosity and trepidation attempting to fill her to the point of blotting out of awareness of her surroundings, over the news that the Queen wishes to see her, personally) that it does not even occur to her to wonder at the oddness of Sabé being moved to reconsider how the handmaiden program is currently (and still somewhat haphazardly, due to the swiftness with which it was reinstated, soon after Amidala’s election) organized by discussion with the young Jedi. Though it is strange, she is too occupied with thoughts both of what Sabé wishes of her (of /her/! Not one of the other handmaidens or handmaiden hopefuls, but /Dormé/!) and what the Queen might desire her presence for to truly notice, too busy mentally chiding herself about how it is best to worry about Queen Amidala and what she may or may not wish of her when she is called to audience, and not beforehand. There are too many things that need doing for her to waste any of her time or energy, wondering or fretting about things that may or may not come to pass – witness the enormous trust that Sabé is placing in her, by indicating that she wishes for Dormé to become the Queen’s primary decoy, in her stead!
Thus, she determinedly directs her attention to Sabé, who has put so much trust in her that she dare not fail her in any way, not if she wishes to remain in service (and Lady, but she wishes to remain in service and out of the soul-crushing Tammesin household!) to Amidala. Sabé has seen potential in her for great things, and, though Dormé cannot see that potential herself, it does not mean that Sabé is wrong: it simply means that she must work all the harder to see to it that she not disappoint, does not break that trust. She must not fail and so she will not fail. It is that simple. She is Dormé Tammesin, born Ryseidas Kalikamaya Tammesin, and it was Sabé and Padmé Amidala themselves who spoke for her, at her time of full flowering, and gave her the blood name of Anu’najya. This is her true home; these are her family.
She shall not fail.
Though Naboo has a traditional (if technically unofficial) class of nobility (one ancient enough to have what amounts to different levels of internal rank), the ruling government of Naboo isn’t a monarchy where blood determines right of rule and certain familial dynasties prevail: the gentlebeings of Naboo choose the wisest and most qualified from amongst themselves as their ruler by popular acclaim, traditionally voting once every four years in late in the year, on 9 Relona, followed by a day of confirmation as to the results of the election, and a traditional period of waiting – during which the previous King or Queen may, if being replaced, finish any business on the table and make arrangements to move out of the Palace – before the actual ceremonial day of both inauguration and coronation, at the beginning of Welona. The elected King or Queen then governs at the sufferance of the people, customarily (and usually legally, though this has, at times, changed) for no more than two terms of four years apiece.
The current Queen of Naboo, Amidala, is young and beautiful, barely out of girlhood, certainly not a full-grown woman; yet the people of Naboo chose her as their Queen, a vast majority casting their ballots in her favor, and it is almost certain, given her success in the ousting of the illegal occupying forces of the Trade Federation, that she will be elected for a second term by an even more overwhelming majority . . . if, that is, she manages to survive long enough to reach the time of that election, given the fact that the powerful and quite wealthy Trade Federation is extremely unhappy with the loss both of face and of the planet (having been defeated largely by the trickery of a teenaged girl) and that there it is rumored that there is a second Sith Lord somewhere still living in the galaxy – a Sith Lord whose probable involvement with the Trade Federation’s invasion of Naboo likely means that this surviving Sith is in a rage over the failure of his or her or its plans, as well as being in need of replacing the Sith killed by newly Knight Jedi Bendu Obi-Wan Kenobi in the melting pits below Theed Palace during the process of retaking both the Palace and Naboo from the Neimoidian Viceroy Nute Gunray.
Yet the woman who sits on the throne of Naboo (an ornate, fan-like golden chair on a raised dais fronted by a low, flat-surfaced divider), though certainly young and beautiful, is also serene, aloof, quietly detached from all that surrounds her, as if nothing of what is taking place on the planet (or in the larger galaxy) has any effect on her or can touch her in any way, her white-painted face so still, so mask-like, as to make her seem so far above and beyond all others as to be unapproachable. Amidala is no longer wearing her battle dress, no longer wearing the bare face of Padmé Naberrie, having instead returned to the ornate ceremonial robe proclaiming, though its very design, the Queen’s commitment to maintaining Naboo’s rich cultural history and traditions. It is the same silk-satin cord crimson gown she worn during her confrontation with the Trade Federation’s leader, Nute Gunray, via holographic transmission, only a day prior to the invasion of Naboo, and Dormé notices that the Queen has even reapplied her white fingernail polish (traditional in the small mountain village in which she was born), as well as the Scar of Remembrance (a traditional symbol of remembrance of the days before the Great Time of Peace, brought about by King Jaffa, in essence a vertical line of color through the center of the white-painted lower lip, made more visible by the red coloration of the Queen’s upper lip) dividing her lower lip and the traditional colored twin cheek-spots (both deepest crimson, the same hue of the Scar of Remembrance, in keeping with the color of her robes and the message of that color) of “Balance” and “Symmetry,” completing her costume so that it is a perfect match for that. Dormé is a little surprised, at the show of finery (which must have taken quite a bit of time and effort to change in to), until she realizes that of course the Queen must have needed to record a message about the reclamation of the Palace and the surrender of the Trade Federation’s Viceroy, so that word could easily be gotten out to the whole of the planet about the liberation. Of course she is wearing a ceremonial gown! How better to reassure the people, than by appearing before them in her formal robes of state?
Wide-shouldered – with double sleeves (the inner being closely fitted all the way down to a point just past the wrist and the long outer sleeves being increasingly full, with their elongated bottoms trailing to a point roughly level with the tops of the Queen’s knees and trimmed with more gold embroidery and dark, shed and then carefully gathered potoilli fur), a double collar fitted high (the outer, notched V collar reaching roughly to her chin and the inner, more closely cut collar reaching only about two-thirds of the way up her neck), and a double-layered shawl-like piece (the top layer of which extends down over the tops of the shoulders, while the bottom layer does not fall past the upper layer in back, though extending to a sharp point in front, with the bottom roughly equal to Queen’s breastbone and the vast majority of it hidden by a long, heavily gold-embroidered double tabard) and long double tabards (the upper layer of which comes to a point like a slender sword, with the lower layer flaring a bit wider before eventually tapering to a second, far sharper, longer point), hand-stitched both with decorative, traditionally Nabooian accents and with the traditional symbol taken by the Queen, as was her right, at her coronation, symbolizing her both her reign and the whole of Naboo, planet and peoples, while under her leadership (a symbol based on a traditional, stylized rendition of a water lily), and trimmed with more dark potoilli fur – and the traditional blood-red hue that symbolizes both royal authority and the courageous daughters and sons of Naboo, fallen in times past in defense of that authority, with a series of seven illuminated sein jewels above the wide, potoilli-furred, floor-skimming hem of the robe’s bell-shaped skirt, the gown resembles an inverted lily, and this, in addition to the ornate gold and crimson headdress with its elaborate accompanying hairstyle – combining an escoffiate headpiece with gold faceframes (edged with an elaborate patterned inlay of lacelike beading, made up of thousands of tiny crimson rubies) to border and draw attention to Amidala’s pale, flower-like face, the white paint on it contrasting richly with the darkness of her hair, carefully arranged over a padded, tubular, circular frame extending both through and past the headdress itself, with the famous blood-red Jewel of Zenda dangling down on her forehead – effortlessly combines to send a powerful message to viewers.
In this ceremonial robe of state, Amidala is an image of majesty, strength, honesty, and beauty, and it is impossible to ignore, much less avoid responding to, the symbolism of her garb. It has been said by others (individuals largely ignorant of Nabooian culture and symbolism) that the Queen favors theatrical paint and ornate dress, cloaking herself in trappings and makeup that disguise her true appearance while lending her an aura of larger-than-life splendor and beauty, and that Amidala is a chameleon of sorts, masking herself to the world at large and finding companionship almost exclusively with a cadre of handmaidens who are always either with her or in close proximity to her. But this is not necessarily so, though it is, in a manner of speaking, true enough, if only to a certain point. The Queen carries the whole of Naboo within her person – in a very real way, the elected monarch of Naboo is Naboo, the entirety of Naboo – and so she is constantly garbed in as much of the living culture, ancient traditions, and history of Naboo as is humanly possible. It is a great weight for such a slender girl to carry, but it is a burden she bears up beneath with such seemingly effortless grace and enormous fortitude that it is impossible (or at least Dormé certainly finds it impossible) to gaze on Amidala and not feel at least a somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer force of power and presence and lively intelligence and bright warmth and loving compassion of the woman. The handmaidens have taken to calling Padmé Amidala “a living flame of a woman,” and it is a title that Dormé believes to be richly deserved.
“Please. There’s no need for ceremony. You may approach the throne,” Amidala quietly but firmly insists, gesturing with her right hand to bring Dormé’s obeisance up short and guide her over do her side. “Do you know why you have been called here, Dormé?”
“Milady, Lady Sabé indicated that you wish to speak to me about a possible assignment,” she replies, walking past the two high-backed chairs that have been placed to obliquely flank the throne (at a distance of perhaps five long paces), for the use of the handmaidens whose presence is considered necessary for all public engagements – which, due to their emptiness, Dormé can only assume means that the Queen intends this to be a private meeting – coming to a halt roughly a pace and a half to the front and right of the Queen, near where her raised divider that frames the throne (and, incidentally, provides an excellent source of potential cover, should anyone attempt to take a shot at the seated monarch) ends.
“I hesitate to add to the burden of responsibility you are carrying, given the vast increase in duties I fully expect you will soon be facing,” is Amidala’s measure response, her certainty that Sabé will become the interim Senator filling Dormé with a warm glow of happiness and pride for the advancement of her mentor, even as her openly less formal tone – indicated by the abandonment of the royal plurality – fills her with a mingled sense both of lack of worthiness and unadulterated awe, that the Queen should be treated her as one so near an equal, “but Sabé tells me that, of all the surviving handmaidens who kept faith with us, you are the most suited for this task, as well as being the one strong enough, sufficiently intelligent, and flexible enough to take Sabé’s place, as my primary decoy, and I trust Sabé’s judgment implicitly – in fact, I would and I do trust her judgment over your own belief in yourself. Come. Walk with me, /searbhânuasal/. I wish you to see a thing, before I ask for your agreement.”
“Yes, Milady!” Dormé has to restrain herself from either adding one of the customary declarations of loyalty (great grace to serve, honor to serve, honor and respect to serve, heart and soul to serve, pride and pleasure to serve, privilege to serve, etc., all expressions meant to convey a sense of moral rightness in serving one’s Queen or King), though a slight twitch of the Queen’s painted lips assures her that Amidala sees her so clearly, so completely (despite her surprising lack of strength in that which the Jedi call the Force), that she knows Dormé’s instinct is to offer yet another obeisance.
Almost none of the Queen’s formal wear is restrictive of movement in the sense that it might limit her stride – Sabé quite firmly insisted on either full skirts or else skirts wide enough to allow a full range of motion, either by nature of their cut or due to the presence of pleats, given the possibility that the Queen or one of her decoys might one day have great need to be able to run or to otherwise move very quickly in such clothing without fear of being hobbled by a narrow skirt – but the gown and headdress are both weighty, cumbersome things, and so Amidala must stand slowly and move with deliberation, to keep from overbalancing or otherwise appearing clumsy, though this does not make her anything less than graceful, as she rises with eerie grace and glides away from the throne, circling behind it to head for the passageways that lead into the interior of the Palace, where private suites are kept not only for the handmaidens and the Queen herself but for dignitaries visiting the Palace. Dormé instinctively falls in, approximately a pace behind and half a pace to the right, until Amidala turns her head slightly and raises one carefully molded eyebrow, at which point she hurries to fall in by the Queen’s side, almost close enough to accidentally brush against the trailing edges of her sleeves. They have been walking silently for nearly five minutes without seeing anyone and she is beginning to wonder where everyone is when the Queen raises that eyebrow yet again, quietly noting, “The Palace is locked down and Jedi Bendu Kenobi has taken it upon himself to personally help comb the hallways, searching for any traitors or enemies we may have missed. This section was one of the first to be cleared.”
Feeling rather foolish for not thinking of that, herself, but a great deal more at ease, with that question attended to, Dormé inclines her head in understanding and continues to shadow the Queen. Perhaps because Amidala has mentioned the valorous Sith Killer (as he is already being called by many), she soon recognizes where it is that they must be heading. Daring greatly, she asks, “Is this not where the boy was taken, to sleep?”
Amidala inclines her head in agreement. “It is for his sake that I wished to speak to you. Obi-Wan seems to think that the High Council may reverse their earlier ruling on Anakin’s fate and allow him to be taught by the Temple, now that he has demonstrated his ability in such a . . . spectacularly public manner. Master Jinn was convinced that the boy is the Chosen One of many ancient prophecies regarding the bringing of balance to the Force – he made it quite clear that he regarded Anakin as some sort of messianic figure destined to save the galaxy by bringing balance to the Force – and, while Obi-Wan has not yet made up his mind regarding this possibility, he freely admits that he promised his Master that he would teach the boy himself, when Master Jinn lay dying, to help ease his concerns for the child’s welfare. And he cares for the boy, in his own way, though Anakin’s unbridled, untaught strength also concerns him a great deal. I offered to let Obi-Wan and Anakin remain here, if the High Council attempts to refuse to allow Obi-Wan to apprentice him, but Obi-Wan insists that the Council cannot refuse to allow a Knight to take a specific youngling to Padawan if there is already a demonstrable bond between them, and he says that they share such a bond, because of Qui-Gon. He says they may end up in virtual exile from the Courscanti Temple, but that Alderaan would likely welcome them, and that the environment of that specific chapterhouse would be better for a boy like Anakin in any case. Either way, the High Council is likely to raise a fuss, if I or any of the other handmaidens, pilots, or guards he had cause to meet, during our time together, attempt to remain in contact, as it might lead to the fostering of an attachment dangerous to the boy’s control, as a Jedi. This Council has already stated that Anakin is far too attached to his mother to likely be able to easily learn how to let go of that bond, if he can even learn to do so at all: I think it entirely possible that the Council Masters would bellow like a herd of rancors in heat, were they to suspect that Anakin is also becoming attached to myself, or Sabé, or Ric Olie, or Captain Panaka, or one of the others the boy has actually physically met. I will/ not/ be kept from conversing with Obi-Wan, but I am not willing to knowingly make things more difficult for him and Anakin with their High Council. If refraining from remaining in contact with the boy will somehow help to smooth their way, then that is what I will do. But I and the gentlebeings of Naboo owe Anakin Skywalker a debt, and it would be dishonorable to simply cut all ties with him. This is why I have asked you here, Dormé, in hopes that you may agree to do what I and the others who know Anakin may not.”
It takes Dormé a few moments to realize what it is that her Queen is indirectly asking of her, not because Amidala’s explanation has been too cryptic but rather because her attention has been so thoroughly captured by the many rapid shifts of emotion in her Queen’s voice and on her face that she has been distracted by her own attempts to make sense of them all. Clearly, Amidala is thoroughly unimpressed by the Jedi Order’s ruling High Council and its namursanen and was not only unimpressed but actually quite negatively impressed by Master Jinn, despite his part in the freeing of Naboo from the Trade Federation. Just as clearly (if not even more so), the Queen finds the notion of a need to balance the Force preposterous (an opinion that Dormé certainly shares!), and the idea that the fate of the whole galaxy might be decided by this supposed act of balancing and therefore rests squarely in the hands of a former slave boy barely ten years of age ludicrous to the point of offense. Yet, it is even more obvious that Amidala is not only impressed by but deeply respectful of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and there is something in the way she holds herself, when she speaks his name (a name that she speaks as easily as if she has known the young Jedi Bendu for years, rather than a scant days) that speaks of something deeper, something much more powerful, than even admiration or highly honored regard. Though Anakin Skywalker is the one who made it possible for the Queen’s ship to made it to Coruscant, to report the invasion of their planet to the Senate, and he is also the one most responsible for winning the struggle against the Trade Federation’s droid armies at a surprisingly low cost (in terms both of lives, suffering, and damaged/destroyed equipment), it is Obi-Wan from whom she refuses to be fully separated, Obi-Wan whose opinions and wisdom she obviously places great value in, and Obi-Wan whose name the speaking of which causes the feel of her to flood with energy and warmth, making her dark brown eyes dance and shine and the way in which she holds herself shift, someone, from that of an untouchable Queen to that of a very approachable young woman. And that shift in the overall sense Dormé has of her is one that (now that she is not so thoroughly distracted by her anxiety about this very meeting and her determination to work past that worry and prove herself capable of doing and becoming what her mentor needs of her) both calls to mind and illuminates (in a highly revealing fashion!) a very similar shift that had occurred (all but unnoticed, at the time, though quite obvious, in retrospect) in Sabé, when she spoke the name of Bendu Kenobi. And so Dormé just stands for a few moments, mouth hanging slightly open, slackened with shock, as she realizes that both her Queen and her mentor – the Queen’s best friend, someone so close to her that, even in Dormé’s short time in the Queen’s service, she has heard rumors that there is more to their relationship than mere friendship – have spoken of this not yet formally Knighted Jedi (whom they both name Bendu, according to the old ways, as a sign of their enormous respect for him) as a woman in love might speak of her husband to be, before it finally occurs to her that Amidala is waiting expectantly on a response to her obliquely framed request. Her mouth snaps shut and she firmly places this startling realization aside for later consideration (when the Queen is not waiting on her and she has time enough to think through what this strange development could mean, both in terms of her responsibility to her mentor and her duty to her Queen and for those two remarkable young women, themselves) to incline her head rapidly, hoping to show her understanding, and then quickly adds, “I think I understand, Milady, and I believe that I can do as you wish, in this matter. But would it not be best if I not know the boy?”
“Seeing him this once surely cannot make you a true friend and therefore potentially a dangerous attachment, even in the High Council’s eyes, though it can let you know a bit more about who it is you may be willing to eventually befriend at a distance, for the preservation of Naboo’s honor. Come. This is the suite. I do not believe he will wake if you do not tread softly – Obi-Wan seems to have induced the boy to sleep at least partially through compulsion – but it would be wise to keep your voice down, if you have aught to say,” Amidala replies, gesturing imperiously towards the nearest door.
Dormé takes care to tread lightly as she follows Amidala into the suite and through the two rooms it takes to reach the bedroom, which thankfully has enough natural lighting that they will not need to try to turn on the lights and risk waking the boy, thus. She does not quite tiptoe, but she is careful to watch her step, to avoid bumping into anything that might make a jarring noise, as she continues to follow Amidala around to the bed, refraining from looking too closely at the small shape under the covers of the large bed – even though she is extremely curious about this Anakin Skywalker boy, having somehow managed to miss ever being introduced to him, in the haste and bustle of the various preparations to launch all of the components of the Queen’s devious plan to capture the Viceroy and so retake both Theed and the whole of Naboo, though she heard quite a bit about the Tatooine former slave boy and even spotted him a few times, in and around the camp, usually in the company of either one or another of the two Jedi or an R2-unit – until after Amidala has come to a stop and so forced her to come to a stop, as well, near the head of the bed on the left side (when facing the foot of the bad squarely on).
When Dormé finally does look down, her first thought is of Ioannes, her youngest brother (who is only a little older than the Skywalker boy, from what she’s heard) and the only one of her three siblings who really seems to care for her at all or to believe that she truly is a full member of the Tammesin family (and to hell with whom her father might or might not be!). She loves Ioannes fiercely – the only thing difficult about leaving home, to enter the service of the Queen, was the fact that she also had to leave Ioannes behind – and, when she discovered that her little brother helped to organize and then essentially led one of the many rebellious groups who made it their mission both to disrupt the Trade Federation’s consolidation of power over Naboo and to organize serious resistance against the Viceroy, his lackeys, and the turncoats aiding them, she’d been so proud of him that she’d felt in danger of bursting with pride and joy and love. Anakin Skywalker doesn’t truly resemble Ioannes – her little brother is also the only one of her siblings who shares her coloration, dark-haired and dark-eyed (though his eyes are an odd mix of hazel-brown and green, with occasional blue flecks, rather than simply dark) and naturally fair-skinned – being darker-complected (and not just from the sun. She can tell the difference between a mere tan and the natural pigmentation of a being’s skin, and this boy’s skin is a natural dark gold), rather small for his age, and apparently possessed of a tousled mop of sun-bleached amber-gold hair. She cannot see his eyes, of course, but she’s heard that they are blue – another difference, and a rather large one, considering that it is her other two siblings, Laborue and Yseultai, who both inherited the golden hair and blue eyes of their father, Cianus – and, logically, if anything, this boy should remind her of her eldest brother; yet, somehow, all she can see when she looks at Anakin is Ioannes. Perhaps it is the generous shape of the mouth, perhaps the blunt nose with its slight upward tilt, or perhaps it’s just that this small boy (even while sleeping) somehow radiates the same kind of fierce protectiveness and willingness to help others and sheer goodness of character that Ioannes has in spades. For whatever reason, though, from the moment Dormé looks upon Anakin Skywalker’s sleeping form, she is well and truly hooked, utterly unable to ever imagine refusing the honor of being the one to correspond with this boy and so become his friend.
“I will do it, Highness,” she eventually whispers, after gazing quietly at the sleeping boy for several long minutes, conscious that Amidala is waiting to know her response.
“Good. You will have the thanks of Naboo and of your Queen, for this, Dormé.”
Her impulse is to reply that she will need none but his, but she merely inclines her head, instead, allowing herself to be led back out of the suite and then dismissed for the night, already thinking of what she might say, in her first communication to Anakin, whenever he eventually attempts to contact the Queen or one of the other Nabooians he met, when she explains why it is that she’s the one who’s going to be corresponding with him . . .