Author's note: Well, here it FINALLY is! Part two. I know it has been promised for quite some time now and I do apologize. Real life had decided to grab me by the throat and demand all of my time. It TRIED to kill my creativity as well, but, Thank the Lord, it's still hiding in there somewhere. Please do drop a review if you feel so inclined. I always appreciate them, good, bad or whatever. So please feel free now to read and enjoy
Story Title: The Letter, Part II
The girl was terribly exited. Today was her thirteenth birthday and the palace had been in an uproar all week preparing for the celebration of their beloved princess' Thirteenth. After all, in their custom, as with many other cultures, this birthday symbolized the passage out of childhood into the beginning of adulthood. Alderaan was no exception. As the girl hurried along the corridors to her parents suite, she let her mind wander over all the fun she planned on having tonight. She had chosen to have a small party this afternoon with just her family and close friends but tonight, tonight would be a grand ball for the people. She had chosen to share her birthday ball with a group of other Thirteeners from various orphanages around Alderran. It just hadn't seemed right to the princess that she should have so much done on her behalf while others might have nothing. Needless to say, her parents had agreed with alacrity and privately thanked the gods that they had been graced with the gift of raising such a kind youngling.
She slowed down in the passageway just outside her parents door, smoothing her dress and trying to catch her breath. It wouldn't do to look too anxious; even if she was. Months ago, her parents had promised to share something very important with her on her Thirteenth. She had tried all day to hide her anxiety that perhaps they had forgotten but as soon as she received the summons to join them in their private salon, she knew that it was time.
She tapped lightly on the door and, hearing her father's voice call her to enter, she pushed against the heavy, old-fashioned entry portal and stepped softly into the room. Her mother and father were both seated on a plush divan and looked up at her with smiles as she entered. It always gave the princess a strange thrill every time she entered this inner sanctum of her parents. Here, they were not king and queen, here they were simply...them. It was one of only three places in the palace, indeed, the whole of Alderaan, where that was possible. Her father stood as she reached their side and, stepping forward to lightly grasp her arms, leaned down and kissed her cheeks. She happily kissed him back, enjoying the slight scrape of his mustache and the spicy sweet scent of his cologne. Then she leaned down and accepted her mother's gentle kiss of greeting. She seated herself on the little footstool placed near her mother's side and tried to look calm and composed and, well, adult.
Her father resumed his seat next to her mother and regarded her with a proud glint in his eye. She had grown into a fine young woman. Strong and wise beyond her years. And just as beautiful as her mother had been. Her mother...
Bail caught the eye of his wife and she gave him a speaking look. Yes, it was time.
He turned back to face the expectant eyes of his daughter.
"My dear, you have been admirably patient these past few weeks and I want you to know that your mother and I appreciate your restraint in questioning us about what it is we wished "to share with you, "Bail looked down. Now that the moment was upon him, he felt unsure as to whether he could go through with it or not. He and Ylanna had always agreed that, when the girl was old enough, they would tell her the truth. They had loved them both too much to do them the discourtesy of not allowing this child within their keeping to know of them. But now, he was assailed with doubts. What if she was yet too young to understand the truth? What if she hated them for keeping it from her? What if she asked questions it was impossible to answer?
His thoughts momentarily paralyzed him until he felt a cool hand touch his own. He looked up to find the eyes of his wife, his beloved Ylanna, looking at him calmly and understandingly. She gave him a small smile and he felt his heart begin to calm, his fears subside. It was one of the great mysteries of the universe how she always managed to have that effect. He looked back to the patiently waiting young woman in front of him. His daughter. He sent a silent thank you to the gods for being blessed to have two such extraordinary females in his life. He gave his wife a nod and she rose, gracefully, and went across the room to a desk by the window. She retrieved a long, flat box from within a desk drawer and came back to seat herself beside him once more.
Bail took a deep breath and both of his daughters hands, "Leia, you have been the greatest blessing your mother and I have ever received into our lives. It has given us great joy to watch you these past thirteen years; to watch you grow into the young woman you have become. We are both so very proud of you. Every day we see more and more the promise of the woman you will become. You already show promise of being as great a leader as your mother once was."
Leia, blushing with pleasure and embarrassment at the high praise she had been receiving from her father, had concentrated her gaze upon their linked hands, in an effort to maintain her composure. This comment however, caused her to look up at her father questioningly. Surely he misspoke and meant himself. While her mother was many wonderful things, a leader was not one of them. She had always been most content to leave that area to her husband.
Bail caught that questioning look and knew that the time had come. Holding tightly to his daughter's hands, he spoke gently.
"Leia, my beautiful child, your mother and I have promised to share something with you of great importance. It is also of the greatest importance that what we are about to share with you goes no further than the three of us. This is for your safety and ours and that of many other people you do and do not know."
Leia felt her heart give a leap of excitement at that. What important secret of state could her father possibly wish to impart to her? She listened with everything within her.
"Leia, I know you are aware that the state of our galaxy now is not the way is has always been. Once, there was a time when there was no Emperor, no Imperial Navy, no Rebellion. The galaxy was a much more peaceful place and I represented Alderran in the great Galactic Senate. This was before your grandfather passed away and I inherited his throne."
Leia nodded. She had been well schooled on her history and was well acquainted with the facts of this story.
Her father continued, "The Emperor, as you know, was once the Senator of a planet called Naboo. The last Senator to serve that planet before the time of the Empire was a woman whom I first met when she was serving as the Queen of that planet. Her name was Padme Amidala Naberrie. Queen and Senator Amidala to her people. She was an amazing ruler. In fact, she was elected Queen when she was just a year older than you are now. She managed to successfully stave of an invasion of the Trade Federation on her planet, reunite the two species of her planet that had mistrusted each other for centuries and, as a Senator, fought bravely in the very first battle of the Clone Wars, the great Battle of Geonosis. And she was beautifulas beautiful as you, Leia."
Leia could not quite understand why her father was telling her this story, although she found the story of the young woman to be greatly interesting. But it was her father's look as he said those words as beautiful as you, Leia that caused the strange hollow sensation to open in the pit of her stomach. Leia had always had a knack for reading people, for knowing their mood, their intentions. And that same something that always told her when someone was lying or holding back on something in a meeting told her now that the story her father had just related to her was anything but random and that her life was about to change because of it. As if from a distance, she could hear herself asking her father, "And whatever happened to her, father?"
Bail took a deep breath, reading the tension in the set of his childs squared shoulders. "Senator Amidala died in childbirth at the end of the great Clone Wars. Her husband had died already in one of the last battles of the war. (No need in telling her about that. Not unless it was absolutely necessary.) He had been a valiant warrior, and a good friend. "Bail looked down, swallowing hard as the remembered grief of that time assailed him.
Leias voice shook only slightly as she asked her father the question that had gnawed at her ever since he had begun his strange story, "Father, why are you telling me this?"
Bail looked back up into his daughters pleading eyes, "Because, my dear Leia, that woman and her husband are your true parents."
Leia felt the impact of those words hit her like a fist in her midsection. She heard her father's voice continuing to speak as she stared numbly at the cream colored parchment in her hand, at the words written in Basic across its folded surface. The elegant script forming the words To My Beloved Child seemed almost foreign to her.
Her mother. The letter was from her mother. Her real mother.
Leia looked up then and her eyes locked with the tear-filled ones of her mother's. No, NOT her mother, she had no mother.
Suddenly, Leia couldn't breathe. The room was pulsing around her. She had to get out, get away. She felt as if the very air around her was crushing her down.
She jumped up abruptly from her seat; "I'm sorry, please, I need to be alone," unable to articulate anything else, she turned and ran from the room.
Her father moved jerkily, as if to go after her, but his wife caught his arm, "No, Bail, let her go. Shes going to need some time to absorb this."
He turned his anguished gaze back to the tear-filled ones of his wife, "What if we have done the wrong thing, Ylanna? What if this is too much for her to cope with now?"
Ylanna pulled her husband down beside her upon the divan then took both his hands in her own. She looked into his eyes and smiled. He was such a capable man, sometimes it was easy to take for granted his strength. But even the greatest of men had their weaknesses, and she knew one of her husband's greatest had just flown from their presence like a startled Rak'tha bird.
But the Rak'tha always returned to its nest.
Looking straight into her distraught husband's eyes, she said simply, "It was time and she is strong. She will return when she is ready and we shall be here for her when she does."
He grinned faintly at her, "Ah, my ever sensible wife, however would I manage without you?"
She smiled pertly back at him, "You couldn't."
Leia ran as though there were speeder-mounted stormtroopers behind her. She had no destination in mind, other than the frantic need to get away. She ran until a stitch in her side made her slow to a quick walk. Her blind, headlong flight had taken her out-of-doors and into the lush, formal gardens that surrounded the palace. She paused a moment to get her bearings.
Even if her mind had not, her heart had known exactly where to go.
She found herself in her favorite part of the gardens, the place where she always came when she was troubled or wanted time alone. The verdant arbor was alive with the scent of the large, fragrant white blooms that grew on the climbing vines there. With barely a sound, she wound her way through the footpaths until she came to the arbor. She quickly ducked inside. It was not a true arbor, not in the formal sense of the word, simply a spot where the numerous vines had knotted themselves together to form a sort of natural canopy and walls. A natural and fragrant enclave that Leia had discovered one day all on her own. A secret she kept for when she wanted to be all by herself.
Right now was definitely one of those times.
She sat on the ground, shaking, as the shock of her parents revelations finally caught up with her.
'She was adopted.
How had it happened? Why was she given to her parents? Did she have relatives out there, somewhere, ones she knew nothing of? Who was she, really?
The questions raged in her mind. Leia finally gave way to her uncontrollable emotions and let her tears flow free. She sobbed helplessly.
And today was going to be such as wonderful day.
She reached up to wipe her tears and only then noticed that she still held the letter from her mother in her hand.
She studied it. Did she truly want to know what it said? Would it change her or her life? Leia laughed at herself a little then. You mean any more than its already been changed?
With a resigned sigh, she turned the letter over, broke the seal and started to read.
My dearest and most beloved child,
I am so longing to see you. Every day that goes by brings me one day closer to seeing you. I am so full of curiosity! Who will you look like? Will you resemble me and be dark or as fair and shining as your father? Will you have my temperament or his? (I hope, for your sake, that you have mine, for your father has quite a quick temper at times!) Leia laughed. Well, that was one hope my mother did not have realized. I am definitely my father's daughter when it comes to temper! She read on.
There is so much I am longing to discover about you. I wonder if this is how it is for every parent? It is such a strange and interesting miracle to me to see (and feel!) you moving within me. And it shocked your father quite amusingly the first time he experienced just how hard you can kick! (that is a story I think I shall relate to you later if I have not already).
It is tradition among my people to leave a pre-birth gift for your child to receive on their Coming of Age. For my family, it is usually a letter. It seems somehow much more personal, don't you think? Also, it is good because who knows whether or not I will be there at your Coming of Age? The galaxy is oftimes a cruel and capricious place, if you have not already had experience of this, you soon will. Although my greatest desire is to keep you safe, as I think is every parents, I realize that, as you grow into the adult you will one day be, I cannot keep you from experiencing the pain and difficulties that will come. Or the joy and happiness. My parents could not keep it from me, nor would I have wished them to. As difficult as my life has sometimes been, it has also been wonderful and fulfilling and challenging. I think that, even though no one wishes for trouble or pain, it would be difficult to truly appreciate the peaceful and joyous times without them. The Jedi have a saying, all things must have balance. Whether it is the mysterious Force or something much more mundane, this is very true.
It is my hope that I will be able to help you do that, to find your balance and to be comfortable in it.
I have tried to give you a small, sound bit of advice for your life, if it makes no sense to you, do not worry, you have many years yet to try and understand the maundering advice of your mother. Perhaps your father will be better able to explain it all than I. While quick-tempered, he has had much experience with the vagaries of life and of dealing with the things of which I speak and besides all that, he is much more humorous!
Now for the most important thing. This letter would not be complete if I did not tell you just how much I do love you. Even though I have yet to see you, it makes no difference. You are in my heart as surely as there are stars in the galaxy. One day, when you are a parent yourself, you will understand just what I mean. Until then, know that I love you. Even when we are angry, even when I scold or correct you and when you feel as if I dont understand a thing about you and all you want to do is run away, it will not change the way I feel. You will always and forever be my baby, my precious child. Nothing will ever change that.
I await your arrival anxiously and I know that you will fulfill every dream I have ever had for you.
Until we meet face to face,
Your loving mother
The girl clutched the letter as tears rolled silently, unnoticed and unchecked, down her face. The welter of emotions filling her breast threatened to choke her. She felt a sudden and overwhelming sense of loss for having never known the woman who had so carefully and lovingly wrote this note to a child as yet unborn. Why did she have to die? Why did her father? She looked back down at the letter, recalling what her father, her other father, had told her about them.
Cruel and capricious indeed. Had her mother perhaps known something was going to happen? She was a Queen, a Senator; she must have been quite intelligent. Perhaps she had sensed something. Sometimes Leia could sense when something momentous was going to occur. Maybe her mother had possessed that ability as well.
And her mother, her real mother, had been a queen, just like her now mother. And she had been elected when she was just a year older than I!
It seemed odd to the girl that a queen could be elected, like a Senator or government official but, even so, she had been so young!
Leia wondered if she could ever be like that woman. She tried to imagine what she would have been like and, as she concentrated, an image came to her mind of a beautiful face, dominated by sad, dark eyes and topped by a wealth of dark tresses, much like her own. She felt sad as well and wondered if that imagined woman, her other, real mother had ever smiled or laughed. Was she stubborn, as Leia was herself? There was so much she didn't know, so much she wanted, needed, to know about this person who spoke to her from beyond the grave. Angry suddenly at her lack of knowledge, Leia leapt to her feet and began violently kicking the roots of the sturdy vines around her. BAM!BAM!BAM! Her slippered feet made little noise against the rock-like roots and caused no damage (except to her toes). Her anger departed as suddenly as it had come, leaving her deflated and depressed. She slumped to the ground again and absently began rubbing her abused digits. Sighing deeply, she looked once more at the letter she had let fall to the ground. Picking it up, she stood and began slowly making her way back to the palace. In the fury of her emotions, she had run quite a distance from the palace proper. As she stepped onto the main path and began to walk she resolved her mind to think again about what she had read. Leia had an amazing gift for focusing her mind and analyzing and weighing facts when she wished to and could often work through problems and issues with amazing speed. She set her personal feelings aside for a moment, as she considered what she had just learned.
A Queen. A Senator. Her mother had spent her life leading others and trying to improve the lives of those around her.
As her parents did now.
As, she was sure, even though she knew nothing about him, did her birth father.
Did that not, in some way, extend to her a legacy to follow?
She had always been raised in the knowledge that she would, someday, ascend to Alderaan's throne.
But could she do anything until then? And if so, what?
A Senator. Her mother had been a Senator... just like her father had been until he ascended to the throne.
As she walked and pondered, unbeknownst to herself, she slowly straightened from a somewhat dejected slump to the poker straight, regal posture her mother was continually reminding her was important for a princess. Her steps went from an uncertain shuffle to the firm, assured step that was her custom. Even the tilt of her head bespoke regal, strong, self-assured. As her worried mother watched from the window where she had surreptitiously taken up residence after Leia had left, she let go a small sigh of relief. All would be well. Her daughter was like her parents: strong, resilient, and capable of dealing with anything.
Yes, Leia was very much the child of her parents...
All of them.