The Ashes and the Fire 3

Why does everything always happen at once? Lord Vader returned late last night and demanded an update on everything, this took a while and he was not in a good mood. I am beginning to wonder if he is ever in a good mood. Maybe the bad moods are his good mood. If this is the case, I sure don’t want to see him really pissed off at someone, especially not me. Of course, it wouldn’t occur to him to come to the palace and deal with all the stuff there, nope instead I get told to high tail it over to his Coruscant residence and bring all the pertinent information with me. I have to say it is almost impossible to get a taxi at that hour of the morning and even harder to get anyone to go there. So by the time I go there I was well and truly riled up.

I have never been to Lord Vader's home before, there was never any need. But time is of the essence at the moment, as we got word that the Emperor will be moving his entire court to Naboo by the end of the week, which is now tomorrow. Apparently this happens twice a year for a couple of months depending on the Emperor’s whims. He likes to be on Naboo for festival week, the only exception being New Year’s for which he and the court are always on Coruscant.
This has meant a lot of mad scrambling and packing and since Lord Vader hasn’t been on planet it meant a large logistical nightmare for me, never having done this before. I was hoping for some help but so far none has shown up. What a surprise.

So, at some Sarlacc forsaken hour it in the morning I was woken by Lord Vader informing me to meet him “Now, Miss Gabriel!” at the given address.

Despite the fact that his house was located as close to the Imperial palace as Prince Xizor's was it felt as though it were as much in the middle of nowhere as one could get on this wretched planet. It was more creepy mansion like than anything else I have seen, and he needs to consult an exterior decorator. It is heavily guarded and I was escorted in by enough Troopers wearing enough fire power to take down a small army. For a man who is the second most powerful in the whole galaxy I think this is over- kill.

The inside of the house is a strange blend of stark, ultra utilitarian furniture that probably cost more for one piece than I make in a year and minimalistic decor, that is to say none. I guess when you are as wealthy as the rumours say lord Vader is you can do what you want, but I found the place grim. Cold and said a lot about its owner. I was led up the main staircase into a fairly large study like room. Sparce furniture, the only exception being the large antique desk which took up space near the ornate windows. The walls were bare and the bookshelves were dusty. The fire place had been sealed with dark coloured bricks. I guessed that Lord Vader wasn’t one to enjoy a good fire or a nice book.

He was standing with his arms folded over his chest looking out of the window. I don’t honestly know why he bothers to buy chairs because he never sits.

“Leave us.” He barked at the guards and as they did he flicked his hand at the door shutting it with the force. It made me jump and that annoyed me even more. I hated it when he did that.

The room was cold and still. The dim lighting made it oppressive. This was not helped by the regular sound of his breathing. I stood there waiting for him to say something. When he didn't, I lost my temper.

What I wanted to say was, “What can I do for you, my lord?” what came out of my mouth was “Is there a reason why you dragged me out of bed to come all the way over here at this ridiculous hour of the morning or did you just miss me?” Too tired to connect my brain to my mouth I suppose. If, as Thrawn said, seduction was an art form, I must assume that so was dying and I was looking for some practice in learning to do it well.

To my surprise there was no internal strangulation or even a marked change in Lord Vader's breathing he just stared out of the window until breaking the silence by saying.

“I see Master Kjestyll’s teachings have not improved your temper any.” He said.

I wasn’t certain how to answer that. “Well, he doesn’t wake me up at three in the morning.” I said with a shrug. “You could have gotten these updates in the morning, why am I here?” I asked.

“Sit.” He said so I did. He hadn’t tried to kill me yet and I wasn’t going to push my luck.

“I take it you have dealt with all the preparations for the move to the retreat?” he asked.

“Yes, as much as I can. There are things which need your approval.” I told him.

He nodded. “It will be taken care of.” He paused. “Naboo is a planet I prefer to avoid but this time the Emperor has insisted that we attend the court and base there for the duration of his stay. " He did not just want to avoid the planet, when he spoke of it, I got the deepest feeling of anger and pain. He hated to go there. "I do not plan to stay on that planet any longer than necessary and if you wish you may accompany me but I shall leave this up to you. The Emperor has taken an interest in you it seems. He does not, as a rule, send one of his best Teräs Käsi instructors to teach just anyone. You will learn much from Master Kjestyll, but not everything. You still have much to learn in the ways of the Force.” He said.

I nodded and felt a little chastised. It annoyed him I was learning from someone else, I could sense that. It annoyed him that the Emperor was interfering but there was something else bothering him as well and I could not put my finger on it. I had never even heard of Teräs Käsi, Master Kjestyll had not once named the skills he was teaching me. I had asked once and been told it was just a mix of various techniques and teachings. I knew that he had been lying to me but under the lie had been a great fear. I never pushed because I always got the sense that I was not supposed to know this but I could never say why. There were so many things going on that I did not understand. They were all around me like little mysteries waiting to be unraveled. As if the Emperor were weaving them all together in a pattern only he saw. I did not like being a string on this loom but I had no idea how to undo the knots already there.

“Should you choose to accompany me on some of my own missions I will be able to further your training in this area.”

“I would enjoy that, lord Vader.” I said and I meant that. It would probably be a good thing to get the hell away from the Imperial court for a while.

He seemed to be seriously thinking about something else and I sensed he was greatly troubled by something. All this chit chat about me and my teaching was avoidance. Finally, after a long silent wait he turned around and picked up a small silver box from the desk. From the box he took a tiny object and handed it to me.

“You are from Tatooine, this should be known to you.” He said.

I looked at the object he had just paid in the palm of my hand. It had been a long time since I had seen one, especially one so intricate. The last time I had one of these in my hands was at the funeral for my mother. A Japor snippet that had been hand carved. They were often used as a talisman against evil, or a good luck charm but in many cases they were often a token for remembering the dead. I don’t know where the tradition came from although I suspect the Sand People had much to do with it. They are a deeply spiritual people although violent. I know that I had seen Sand people wearing such a talisman around their necks from time to time. My father had carved the two we had laid in the grave with my mother. One had borne the symbol for rebirth and the other for a safe journey.
I ran my fingers over the one I now held. It had been made with great care, all the roughness polished silken smooth and the delicate patterns carved with much skill. The small symbol in the center of it surprised me. “Forgiveness.”

“I know what this is.” I said after a long while. There was much sorrow bound into this piece and my heart ached just touching it. I felt him force push at me and I caught flashes of images in my head, the face of a young woman I did not know, extraordinarily beautiful, a lake side, an embrace and many more so many I could not make sense of them. I shook my head, I didn't want to see this. The sheer emotions behind these images physically hurt.

“Stop it!” I said shakily. The images vanished as abruptly as they had intruded.

“There is a memorial to this woman in Theed. I wish you to lay the snippet there.” He said. I waited for an explanation because this was the most unlike Darth Vader behavior I had ever seen and it was worrying me.

I looked at the snippet again. I so wanted to ask ‘why?’ but I knew there would be no explanations.

“It will be done.” I said as he handed me the small silver box to put the snippet in. It was as if once out of his hands he cold no longer bear to touch it. “What was her name?”

“Amidala Naberrie.” He said. “Miss Gabriel, in this matter, I expect the highest level of confidentiality. No one is to know of this. No one.”

I nodded. “I understand.” And now I knew why I had been hauled all the way over here at three in the morning. In this house he knew no one would hear our conversation. At the Palace no place was really safe. Surveillance was everywhere. I was astonished at the level of trust he was giving to me and more than a little scared by it. I could not help but wonder what this woman was to Lord Vader and why there was so much sorrow surrounding her. It made me think about the time he had asked if I had been in love with Jyrki and vice versa. Perhaps at one point in his life Lord Vader had also loved someone. It seemed really hard to imagine this now but it explained a few things.

There was a moment where we said nothing to each other. Connected by more than just a mysterious power I did not yet understand. It was unbearable so I tucked the small box away in my satchel and pulled out the data pads I had prepared.

“I don’t suppose there is any Jawa Juice here?” I asked. “This may take a while.”

No comments: