A/N: Warning! This story will be slightly AU. However, the only details that have been changed so far are tiny and, as long as you skip this prologue, you can probably overlook it, which is why I didn't mention it in the summary. One of the AU bits in this chapter changes/mentions-possible-changes to Cordé's situation in AotC—wanted to mention that specifically just so you know that I know that Cordé is not Sabé. :D Also, this story WILL BE SLOW MOVING. If you want something that jumps right into the Phantom Menace and glides right through, you should probably (much as I hate to say it) look somewhere else. Also, I read somewhere that there are actually 13 handmaidens, so there will be thirteen handmaidens although I will only really focus on the main five. This all being said, if I haven't scared you off, I hope you enjoy it and please review!
To Save the Queen
I was ten years old when I first saw her.
I sat in the attic of the orphanage, watching the hustle and bustle of the royal palace. It had been a long day and I was hiding from the Matron who was sure to scold me and put me in a time out if she found me. I had retreated to the attic window in an attempt to avoid that stupid corner for as long as possible.
I leaned against the window and watched the palace longingly. People in bright clothes kept scurrying in and out, carrying flowers and strangely shaped packages. A number of guards stood at the main entrance, surveying everything with a watchful eye. Everyone at the palace looked important and busy. Everyone looked like they belonged.
A lump grew in my throat. I ignored it as best I could and kept staring out the window. My eyes burned and everything blurred. I blinked rapidly and kept staring at the palace. My eyelids grew heavier and heavier until they finally drifted shut.
And that was when I saw her.
She was tiny and dark-haired like me. She, too, was trying not to cry.
"Hello," she whispered when she saw me. "Who are you?"
"I'm Sabé. Who are you?"
"I'm—" confusion crossed her face before being replaced by pure terror. "I don't know who I am. I don't—" she stared at me, blinking rapidly to keep her tears at bay. "All I know is that I'm important. And so are you. But I can't remember anything else except for fire and explosions and people screaming and I—" she faltered.
For a moment we just stared at one another.
Then she whispered, "I think I'm dead."
"That's—" I paused awkwardly. I knew I should say something. You didn't hear someone tell you that they were dead and then not say anything. But how was I supposed to comfort a dead girl who hadn't gone to the Peaceful Lands yet?
"It hurt. I remember it hurting so much. And everyone was scared and I was scared but I was trying to get everyone out, everyone away, everyone safe but people were screaming and there were loud noises and there was fire. So, so, so much fire. I think I burned up. I think we got trapped and I think I burned up!" She was horrified and tears were spilling down her cheeks.
Now I really had to say something.
"Well, you're here now," I offered feebly. "That's something, right? There aren't any loud explosions here and no one's screaming and it's just me and you and—" I looked around for the first time, "A lot of whiteness and nothing."
Because, as far as my eyes could see, everything was white and empty. It was like we were sitting in the middle of a canvas that hadn't been painted on yet.
"I—I guess." She nodded slowly as if to convince herself it was true. Her tears slowed. "Yes, that's—that's something. And I remember that I'm important and you're important and that this was supposed to happen and—well, that's something too."
"What do you mean?" I asked, frowning.
"I don't know. But I think…" she studied me thoughtfully. "I think we're similar, you and me, and I think that means something. But I don't know…"
The white world shook and we exchanged alarmed looks.
"I think you have to go," she suggested.
"Sabé, wake up!"
The world shook again and she seemed to be fading away.
"Will I see you again?" I asked. I didn't want to leave her behind. I didn't want her to be alone in the whiteness.
"I don't know. I hope so."
"Me too," I agreed.
My eyes snapped open to see the Matron scowling at me.
"Stars, girl! Are you deaf? I've been trying to wake you up for five minutes!" she scolded.
I felt my cheeks heat up and I struggled to find a reply.
"Well, never mind! Someone is here to see you and is saying something about you applying to some organization? I don't know." The Matron shrugged dismissively. "But it seems as though the organization is interested in interviewing you for something. Just come downstairs and talk to her yourself. And then," her eyes narrowed, "we're going to have a talk about what happened earlier."
With that, the Matron bustled off.
Reluctantly, I tore myself away from the attic window and followed her downstairs.
The second time I saw her I was twelve.
It had been after a full day of training at the Academy. The Academy was where girls from all over Naboo came to learn how to protect people. Most of us were hoping to one day work as handmaidens to important political figures. Perhaps even to a Queen, should a Queen be elected.
I was exhausted after spending all day running up and down stairs, doing push-ups, doing sit-ups, completing obstacle courses and sitting through lectures about security protocols, weapons safety, history, math, literature, politics, popular culture... Madame Winn was a brutal task master and at the end of every day everything ached, including my brain. As usual, I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
And then I saw her again.
We once again sat in sea of white. She was still tiny and dark haired, like me. This time, though, she looked more confident.
She smiled when she saw me. "Hi, Sabé."
"Hi," I cautiously replied.
"Do you remember me? We talked a couple of years ago, right before Madame Winn interviewed you and invited you into the Academy," she prompted me.
I nodded slowly. "I remember."
I'd had nightmares about being lost in a maze of white and about fire and explosions and people screaming and dying for weeks afterward. I wasn't about to forget the girl who had brought them on any time soon.
"Well, I remembered why I'm here," she said brightly.
I smiled. "Well, that must be a relief, to finally remember something."
"It is. It really, really is," she agreed with a wide smile. "Do you want to hear it? Because it has to do with you, too."
"Sure," I agreed, not only because I was curious but because it was obvious that she was dying to tell me about it.
"Well, I am dead." Her smile lost some of its brightness, but she rallied quickly. "But I'm not supposed to be. See, Naboo was never supposed to be attacked and bombed and nearly destroyed. And the Galaxy's not meant to be at war with itself. That's a mistake. An imbalance, I think they called it." She shrugged. "I'm not really sure, exactly. The details are still a little fuzzy."
"What do you mean?" I asked slowly. "Naboo's not at war and neither is the Galaxy."
"No, not yet," she agreed. "See, you're from the past. Or," she frowned, "I'm from the future. Or something like that. I don't know. But I'm here to help make sure that your present doesn't happen like my past did so that my present and your future, which is a really awful place, never happens. Do you get it?"
"Sort of..." I answered. "You're here to change the past while it's still the present so you can save the Galaxy and prevent the imbalance of—well, whatever it is that's imbalanced—in order to save the future. But what do I have to do with it?"
"Well, you're Sabé Reccen, right?" she asked.
"You die," she said.
I felt like she had just bashed me over the head with something heavy.
"Well, not yet," she continued, waving her hand impatiently. "Not until you're eighteen. You die so that the Queen doesn't have to which is a very noble way to go, I will give you that. But you're not actually supposed to die then. You're not supposed to die when you're twenty-five trying to protect the Queen either, which is what would happen if you didn't die at eighteen. So, that's where I come in."
I gaped at her. I died when I was eighteen years old? Only six years from now? I only had six years to live?
"I'm here to make sure you live," she announced brightly.
"You're—what?" I stared at her in disbelief.
"If you live, things will be different. Trust me."
Did I have a choice?
"So," she continued breezily, "When you're eighteen, there's going to come a time when Captain Panaka—you'll probably meet him sometime soon—is going to have some worries about an assassination attempt on the Queen by some extremist activists. When you leave the palace to address the protestors outside the palace, drop your purse when you reach the third stair and bend down to pick it up, okay? You got that?"
"I—" My head spun. "I—yes. Yes, I've got it. Extremist Activists, Addressing Protestors, drop purse on the third stair and bend to pick it up. Got it. Wait," I shook my head. "What Queen?"
"Great!" the other girl said brightly, "Now, when you're twenty-five, Captain Typho—you won't meet him for a while yet, I don't think— is going to be worried so you're going to be on a ship while the Queen flies to vote down some Military Creation Treatise or something. When you land—and this is going to be embarrassing, but you have to do it—walk very, very quickly down the ramp and, when you're halfway down, pretend to trip and then fall off the ramp. If you can, roll underneath it."
"Uh, yeah. Okay." I didn't think I'd ever been so confused in my life.
"Now repeat both of those for me."
Feeling overwhelmed, I did as she said. And then I repeated it again. And again. And again. And again.
"Okay. I think you'll survive," she finally said, looking satisfied. "Now," here, she bit her lip and slanted a look at me.
"I've—well, I know some things. About your time. And, I'm not—you're not allowed to remember any of it. Because it could—I don't know, but it's not allowed. Imbalance and all that." She shrugged.
"Who told you all of this anyway?" I demanded.
"I'm not really sure who they were exactly, but they were Jedi. I know that much." She shrugged again. "It doesn't really matter who told me, just that they did. Do you want me to tell you too?"
"I thought you said I'm not allowed to remember it."
"You're not. But if I tell you it all—everything—you might…you'd be able to… to feel it almost. You wouldn't have any good, concrete memory of it, but you might—occasionally—have, well, not premonitions, but—I don't know. Almost premonitions, maybe? About what's a good idea and what's a bad idea and who to trust and who not to trust. You wouldn't know why. You wouldn't remember and you'd never be able to know what came from your own instinct and what came from me. But it'd still be there. Do you want me to tell you?"
Head spinning, I said yes.
Next thing I knew, I was sitting bolt upright in bed, gasping for breath. The morning sun streamed through the windows.