Disclaimer: I do not own Star Wars at all. None of it. Though I do have a lot of their books… No infringement is intended.
Well…I'm back. Did any of you miss me? Better not answer that one…! I'm assuming I'm wanted, since I had 1,000+ pageviews on Part One (Thanks so much).
Chapter One: Divulgence
Peace; barely in the Empire Proper 2 weeks, and the decades-long war, a complete shift in ideals and concepts, was finally over, thanks to Illyana's intervention. Pellaeon felt a weight lifted, from the second he had put his finger to the datapad, confirming the Peace Agreement. Terms had been settled and defined, borders agreed, trade disputed, but finally, peace settled comfortably across the two. The New Republic was still confronting the brush wars that had erupted, but thanks to the Caamas Document provided, it was finally beginning to die out.
Completed in a conspicuously plain conference room aboard the Chimaera, numerous dignitaries from both sides were present. President Gavrison took the datapad, pressing his thumb print beside Pellaeon's in agreement with the terms. A collective sighed was released as the datapad was placed down, the holorecorders following this momentous occasion and broadcasting them across the entire galaxy.
Finally, it reached the small hands of Illyana, the officially unrecognised ruler of the Imperial Remnant, and a small smile crossed her face as she pressed her print into the scanner. Though she was not an actual official, she had acted as a fair and just representative who, despite her young age, displayed all the signs of a competent leader.
Pellaeon watched her; dressed in what he could only guess to be state robes of wherever she had came from. It was shocking that someone of her appearance was even present. Faces, from both sides of the dispute he recognised, all of them seasoned and aged in this conflict, and here she had emerged, a phoenix from the ashes, seeking a fair agreement, not vengeance for her parents. He was certain she would make a fine leader.
Not that the Empire itself was completely in agreement. The remaining moffs continued to question Illyana's right to rule, whilst others continued to cast doubts upon her competence. Though, he reflected, he wouldn't believe that a 13 year old would be able to serve as a ruler if he hadn't seen her skills, or known her parents.
The ceremony broke up without great note, a divide still quite apparent in the room, the drab uniforms of the Imperials so far removed from the motley collection of aliens and humans that represented the New Republic. Dania stood in the middle, resting against the wall, turning her head slowly, as if she was looking around. Turning back to his conversation, he didn't notice the route of one obstacle Illyana would not expect.
"So you're the child of Dania Laquila?"
Illyana turned to the direction of the voice, face passive. A strong female, her presence apparent; even without sight. Illyana felt the confidence, the experience of this older woman, from just a single line of speech. It could really only be one person. She could feel the strength of her emotions, the power that flowed from her, contained because it had not yet been tapped. A strong ally, or a dangerous enemy; it was depending on how Illyana could handle her.
"Councillor Leia Organa Solo, I presume?" Illyana inclined her head; the infamous princess of Alderaan was something of an enigma to her, strong and defiant in the face of overwhelming odds. Yes, she had been indirectly responsible for her father's death; but one had to respect one's enemies if one had any respect at all. "I am Dania's child, Illyana, Official Ruler of the Empire of the Hand. It is a privilege to be present."
Silence from the other; it seemed as if she was being measured against something by Leia. The room itself had fallen oddly quiet, as if dreading and anticipating such a confrontation between them both.
"You're a child, how is it you came to be here?" Leia used a probing, respectful voice, neither patronising nor snide, though the words themselves could be taken in offence. Illyana felt it a fair question. After all, everyone present had been deep into the Imperial/Republic war, it was only fair of her to question Illyana's right to enter and draw it to a close. For a child to enter one of the most fiercely argued debates in the Galaxy's history, and end it, meant that Illyana herself would immediately be held accountable for her actions. Out of fear, or reverence, questions would be asked.
"Forgive my impertinence, but you yourself were not much older than I am when you appeared at the Senate for the first time." Illyana looked straight ahead of her, hoping she had accurately judged the direction of Leia's voice. Conversations around them seemed to have dropped away, all attention now on their tableau, turning the pressure on Illyana up that much further.
"I was present with my father." Leia's voice sounded amused at her retort. Illyana allowed a small smile to her face as she sipped at the glass in her hand, considering how next to broach this subject. It was clear her parents would be a sore point for the New Republic, and it would take her a damn long time to shake away the negative propaganda that had turned them into monstrous warlords.
"Unfortunately, I haven't the luxury of having a parent's personal guidance. My guardians would never have let me return to the Empire proper if they did not think me ready." Tentatively, she spoke. It would not do to reveal too much of her life to those present, not when she couldn't be certain of where their alliances lay. But so long as she kept the location of the Hand of Thrawn a secret, there ought to be no problems should the alliance turn sour on her.
"Ready for what?" A trap set in exchange for Leia's, and the elder woman fell into it. Truly, the elder woman deserved her reputation of a shrewd mind. Not totally focussed on her own goals, but open to the ambitions of others against her.
A worthy leader of the New Republic. She was not too proud to admit that perhaps her father could have met his match with Leia against him, and the resources on her side to defy him. She asked all the right questions, thought in a clear, concise manner; yes, she would make a good ally. As well as aiding her onto the Noghri home world Honoghr.
"Who can say? I have a purpose, and I intend to fulfil it, whatever it may be. But do not concern yourself; I am not a warrior leader. I intend to turn the Empire into a more benevolent organisation, after the fashion my father created in the Unknown Regions." Illyana's voice carried overtones of assurance, calming whatever fears the experienced Leia would pick up. In her position, Illyana was fairly certain that she would be aware of the threat she would pose.
"You have been living in the Unknown Regions?" Slight surprise laced Leia's tone; was the unknown such a worry to the people of the New Republic? But perhaps it was justified, with the threat the Ssri-ruuk had posed, back in the Republic's infancy, and with their experience of Thrawn. Idly, Illyana considered how the New Republic would deal with the knowledge of the Chiss Ascendancy when it came through.
"Ever since the Battle of Bilbringi. My mother had me taken by my guardian, Staliae, to the High Tower, the base of his operations in the Unknown Regions. I was adopted, in much the same way as you, into a family there, with the Admiral Parck to watch over my education." A heartfelt appeal to Leia, yes, the parallels between them were somewhat uncanny. And yet the differences were also uncanny.
"You're not what I expected for the child of Grand Admiral Thrawn." Leia spoke after a silence, her judgement perhaps re-evaluated. For the second time that day, a collective sigh was released; despite no longer being president, Leia still held a degree of influence, and if the new leader of the Empire could not at least earn her respect, it would be a very difficult peace to keep.
Illyana hoped that comparisons between her and her father would not occur; but it seemed that everyone in the Galaxy proper had already tainted her with his reputation. Sensing a probable trap, Illyana again responded carefully, only too aware of how closely she would be judged for her words.
"His intentions are misunderstood…but that is not a conversation for today. It is a day of celebration, of the ending of a conflict; it would be pointless to keep encircling issues of the past. It does not matter what divided us before, but what unites us now." She rose her glass again, to the whole room, and drank.
A stunned silence held sway over the people, until a reply was echoed around.
"Here, Here!" Leia mirrored Illyana, to thunderous applause.
Her request to go to Honoghr had been accepted, and in a few moments, their shuttle would rendezvous with Leia's in the atmosphere over the now flourishing planet. Nervousness overcame Illyana again; this was facing the past head on, smashing into it. After all, this had been the first planet she had visited in any official capacity, never letting go of her father's gloved hand, terrified of tripping and losing her decorum. Memories were especially strong since she had replayed the datapad, reliving her parent's experiences, trying to picture exactly what the Empire had been like in its heyday.
She would never recapture that lost magnificence, but would she ever want to? The suppression of billions of lives, the brutality and the cruelty of some of the members of the elite were unthinkable. To allow and organisation such a the House of Dolls to exist, to force women into such behaviour…She did not yet know how her parents had conceived her, but she knew, deep down, it would not have occurred whilst Dania had still been a Doll. Little more than a whore.
Returning to the present, she tried to prepare for the meeting with the Noghri Maitrakh. Feelings would undoubtedly be negative, against her father and therefore her. And how would she ever know where to find the datachip? She focussed on her memories, what had taken place that day? There had been a meeting of all the major heads of families, and there had been the debacle of the Noghri who had been interrogated by Leia.
It wouldn't be hard to find, otherwise she might never have found it. Perhaps it would be more apparent when they reached the surface. Something caught her attention, and she turned her head towards the door.
"I remember a day, very much like this one, when we both went down to Honoghr." Illyana heard footsteps approach, and addressed Pellaeon outright, before he could even draw breath to speak to her. "So much has changed since then…"
"Things will continue to change, Ma'am. It's the only certainty." Pellaeon completed his entry, and sat down beside Illyana. Her hand felt his near hers, resting on the arm, body heat radiating, beating heart like a drum.
"Please call me Illyana, Commander. You're no lackey to my family, and you never have been." She smiled; Pellaeon suddenly wondered if it was possible that she could know. But that would impossible, it was conducted in utter secrecy, no one could ever have known how close Dania and he had been.
Dania, who lay stone-cold in the Chimaera's morgue, as Thrawn had done; awaiting transportation to the sanctuary where Thrawn had been laid to rest. It was painful, finally she would be reunited with the one she had loved, but who could never love her back. He knew that feeling well, too well.
She's at peace, where Flim and Disra and all the others who have sought to displace her can't touch her. She's with her ally, her idol, her god. She's where she's always wanted to be. He comforted himself with this knowledge, unsure whether to mourn for her or be joyous.
The conman had, days previously, confessed his part in Disra's plan, hired to act as the esteemed and thoroughly dead Grand Admiral Thrawn. He had merely considered it a high-stakes job, having fallen on hard times, and having no way out. By the time he realised how deeply involved he was, there was no way he could have escaped.
It was a hauntingly familiar story. All whilst Flim had been interrogated, Pellaeon was instead seeing Dania, telling him how she had met Thrawn, how she had only wanted a debut with a person of rank, and had been manipulated by Thrawn into being an ally for a long time. Flim had admitted to contacting Dania on her personal communication, and hadn't been able to speak when he had been shown the note she had left behind.
"Forgive me, I had no idea I could have convinced her to do such a deed…"
Dania would not have wanted him punished; circumstances had gone against him. He had attempted to back down, but like Dania, would have only walked into an early death. Pellaeon had granted clemency, so long as he testified against Disra.
"Illyana, you will be in a great deal of danger on the surface. The Noghri still have a great deal of bitterness against the Empire. Stay behind me as much as you can, and I'll make sure nothing will happen to you." He touched her elbow, a small smile on his face. It was really the least he could do.
"Leia would not dare let anything happen. If she does, it will be seen as an assault against the peace. To the galaxy, I am merely a child, and I intend to manipulate that as much as I can." Illyana carefully reached forwards, strapping a holster to her hip nonetheless, adjusting her jacket as she stood up. She seemed to look at him questioningly.
"As you wish, Illyana." He sighed. He had promised to tell Illyana, but…there was too much going on. It was inappropriate for him to put another burden on her shoulders. He both envied her abilities; to have such potential and skill, and yet constantly be expected to live up to impossible goals. Even Leia had confessed to have expected her to be a clone of her father. And she had had to walk alone, with no equals for fair comparison.
"Commander, is something-?" She asked, her voice delicately addressing his hesitancy. Her attention to the subtleties of the tones of his voice was astounding. Though perhaps it ought not to surprise him, after all, a balance had to be struck. Illyana had clearly found ways of combating the problems of being blind.
"No, Illyana. Nothing of importance." He watched as her hand flicked, and a white cane extended in her hand. Carefully stepping forward, she began to walk, tapping the floor before her. She was a brave creature. Watching her, he realised he'd fallen behind, and rushed to return to her side.
A thousand sensations demanded attention as she stood inside the hall, soaking up the atmosphere, reliving the memories of her first exploration on a planet. The scent of the old wood, the packed floor beneath her feet, the almost holy presence that existed within the room.
It could have been a hall from a hundred million different species in the entire galaxy, but this one was special. This was the place her father had chosen to take her for the first time, her first official appearance before Imperial citizens. Since that day, she had been to many planets, but this one was always the one that was fresh in her mind, a special, hidden place that only she coveted as much. Not for the Noghri, and not for the land, but just for the significance of its presence in her past. She could almost feel her hand held in the leather softness of her father's grip, his comforting strength nearby…
"I did not expect to be allowed to remain here alone; I have to admit, Commander." Illyana stood very precisely in the middle of the Dukha, the saucer-like chandelier allowing the pinpricks of thousands of tiny stars to illuminate her. Pellaeon looked around, wondering where to start. Pellaeon thought the effect beautiful, even if it was unintentional. She truly was her mother's daughter.
"The Councillor was as good as her word. I was concerned when you were approached at first." He was referring to the incident when they had first landed. Leia had descended, and then indicated for Illyana and Pellaeon to follow her. The gather Noghri had immediately surged forwards in uproar, recognising the two from their scents.
"Yes, it was somewhat uncomfortable to have my weapon taken without realising it. But I suppose they had to be certain I was not hostile. After all, I could be seen as a threat to them." Illyana had protested her innocence to the knowledge of their manipulation, and promised a policy of non-interference with them again. They had also insisted that she never return to their homeworld when she found what it was she was looking for.
"They recognised us both though, and we have been granted this starting point." Pellaeon said, a hint of hope in his voice. He had seen the capabilities of the Noghri, and knew it was good fortune to have escaped them with their lives. Truly vengeful Noghri would not even have allowed them to run for their lives.
"It is our final point also, Commander. Nothing on this planet is as secure as this, their ancestral meeting place. The datachip is in here somewhere, and we must solve where." She said sadly; often she had relived this time, another of her special moments with her father, standing still beside him as he held the convocation with the Noghri Dynasts.
"Have you had any luck yet?" The doors were flung open, and Leia entered. "The Noghri have been unable to locate anything that may have been bought here when the Grand Admiral was last here, I'm afraid." Footsteps followed her; Illyana cocked her head to try to decide where the two Noghri were going. They approached the easternmost wall, and set down whatever it was they were carrying, and began to work.
"We have not been able to think of anything longstanding that may have survived the decade, either." Pellaeon sighed. This would not be as easy as he had first hoped it would be. But he would find what it was Illyana wanted; his loyalty now sifting from her parents to their child. Her skilful handling of the negotiations had impressed him enough to earn his unwavering loyalty.
They continued to scrape at the wall, whatever it was they were doing; Illyana frowned, trying to figure out what it was that made them work at the wall. Surely they would not repair it when their Overlord was present? A hunch was niggling at her to investigate it further.
"Illyana?" Pellaeon and Leia turned to look at Illyana, wondering what could have distracted the usually focused woman. Head cocked, Illyana was listening intently, but not to them. Carefully walking towards them, Illyana began to speak.
"Tell me, Councillor Organa-Solo, what is decorating the walls in here?" Pellaeon glanced around; why would the primitive etchings be of any interest to Illyana? He caught himself before he spoke; it was primitive, yes, and not particularly pleasing to humans, but wasn't this essentially the art of the Noghri?
"Mainly the family trees of the Noghri." Leia replied in a confident voice. How very appropriate, for Thrawn to have hidden the chip in the illustration of the Noghri's history-picture… Would Leia perhaps cotton on to what Illyana had discovered?
"Is there any history? The major events that have occurred to the Noghri people?" Illyana asked quickly, a small smile on her face. "Is the Convocation my father called illustrated? That will be where the chip is hidden. "
Pellaeon and Leia scanned the image together, working in opposite directions in order to pinpoint the specific image. Working away from the destruction of the land, and the coming of Darth Vader, to the swapping of the Overlord, to the third convocation called…
"I can see it. It's basic, but it's present. You're standing beside the High Throne, where the Grand Admiral is seated, you have your hands clasped in front of you. There's a …" Pellaeon peered closely; something was held in the illustrated Illyana's arms, something that had not been present on the actual day. Leia also looked closely, and then carefully prised it off. The Noghri paid no attention to this part of their past anymore, preferring to move on from the dark days in which they served the tyrannical Empire.
"Is this what you have been looking for?" Leia handed it back to Illyana, who still stood under the saucer, silver light making her appear even more supernatural, her skin paler than ever. She looked ghostly, and she looked more like a child than she had ever seen. "I hope you find in it what you're looking for."
Like herself, she had been forced to grow up much too quickly; she did not regret that she had been put on a path she could now not deviate from, but she regretted the loss of time. Yes, they had been on opposite sides, they may have once been enemies, but they also had a future to build together. A bright future, if her sensations proved correct.
"Thank you, Councillor Organa-Solo. You are as noble as I have been told."
"Perhaps. But I think we had better return to the shuttle, before the Noghri take offence at your act of vandalism…"
There. It is over. The obligatory Starter Chapter is over….
Hope I haven't turned you all off yet .
MsvDA: I'm glad you're pleased with the story; I'm rereading it and a little shocked myself. Couldn't believe I wrote it, in all honesty. I hope you like where this is going, believe me when I say there are plenty of surprises, shocks and tears before its over…
Neila Nuruodo: I'm going to get my grammar obsessed friend to check over it, and re-upload it soon…The plot will remain is just my dreadful grammar and spelling. .
You have to see so much more yet…so very much more.
Dania and Illyana still have a lot to share…