The stone from Padmé’s grave site sat in my pocket. I resisted the urge to play with it by clasping my hands behind my back. I had met up with Lord Vader in the Mid Rim near the planet of Ando. He was on his way to talk to a Bothan informant who lived somewhere in the area on an asteroid. Void Station, this spy’s home was called. It did not sound appealing to me and I was not happy to be pulled away from Naboo. In a short time we would all be back on Coruscant and I did not want to think about this move. I liked Naboo too much and I did not want to leave its softness and its lush green beauty. The thought of heading back to the Imperial City and all its noise, glittering durasteel buildings and bright lights made me sad.
I had not actually seen Lord Vader face to mask, so to speak, since visiting Padmé’s grave and had been almost dreading this particular meeting. I had arrived and was shown to my quarters by an officer I didn’t know and whose name I did not learn. I was to stay on board ship for two days while Lord Vader made this short visit to Void Station. Catch up on tings I guessed. As usual Lord Vader was not very specific. I was glad to get to spend some time with him but by the same token I worried about it. I had some time to refresh myself. I changed clothes because the ship was, as always, too cold for my tastes. Since I had no uniform, I wore a long skirt and long sleeved top, over which I wore a sleeveless long coat. It kept me warm at least.
I waited for Lord Vader in one of the conference rooms. I was too edgy to sit so I stood in front of the view port with my hands clasped behind my back and stared out into the inky space. We were far enough away from Ando that all I could see of it was a small bluish ball surrounded by its sun. I knew from studying the maps and star charts of the region that Roon was not too far away but you needed to be on the other side of the ship to be able to see it if it was actually visible from here at all. I liked knowing where I was.
I did not need to turn around when the door opened to know Lord Vader had entered the room, the sound of his mechanical breathing was tell tale sign enough, that and the ripple of the force that made all the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I did not have time to turn around to face him before he had stridden across the room and was standing at my side. He folded his arms and gazed to the same spot I had.
“The planet Ando. Two moons, single sun. It has water on ninety-five percent of its surface and a population of eight hundred and fifty million inhabitants.” Lord Vader said coolly. It never ceased to amaze me that he could spout off these facts about almost every world he encountered.
I looked up at him. I could not imagine a planet mostly covered in so much water. We had both come from a planet where water was so scarce people would kill just for a cup of it. I said nothing, there did not seem to be much to say. The correspondence and important matters had already been delivered to him. I went back to staring out of the window until Lord Vader broke the silence.
“You went to Theed?” he asked after a very long while.
I nodded. “yes.”
“You did as I asked?” he continued to stare out of the window.
I went to answer but hesitated just enough that he turned to look at me.
“Yes and no.” I said, feeling the heat of his gaze.
“The place where you wished me to lay the Chullpah was too crowded and there was no place to bury it as tradition dictates.” I said. Thinking about the very public place where the statue was situated. He remained silent but watched me intently. I continued. “So I went to her grave and I buried the snippet there. It lies under the stones, to the east as tradition dictates. I spoke the words of passage. Her spirit should know your message.” I said.
The air rippled and I shuddered.
“Where is this place?” he asked after a long pause.
So I told him, describing the journey I had taken to reach the site of Amidala’s grave. When I was done I reached into my pocket and pulled out the stone I had with me. The other one sat on my bedside table in the house on Theed.
“I brought you this.” I said.
I went to hand it to him but instead of letting me drop it in his open palm he took my hand, with the stone in his. He wrapped his large gloved hand about mine so that my own fingers curled around the stone and gripped it tightly. His hold was strong, almost painful and I resisted struggling because I knew that was futile.
“Show me.” He demanded.
“My lord, I don’t…I can’t…” I protested. I knew what it was he wanted but I needed to be relaxed and calm to even consider doing what he was asking. I tried to pull away from him but he did not let go of my hand, instead he increased the pressure and repeated the demand.
I took a very deep breath and pulled into play all the relaxation techniques that Master Kjestyll had been teaching me. Lord Vader did not interrupt or speak but I was more than aware of his hold which trapped my small hand in his. I struggled to push this to the back of my mind and I let go of my nervousness and my fear. I thought only about that day, that trip. When I was relaxed enough the images came and flowed about me. I felt him connect with my mind rather than intrude. I showed him everything I could, the lake, the garden, the sunlight up on the grave stone, Sola and her smile, me burying the Chullpah, the longing and the sadness and the desire to stay in this small sacred place. The images were chaotic and my thoughts disorganised. I could not edit or sift through them, I did not have that skill so he felt everything I had felt, saw all I had seen, knew all that I knew and when I was done I pulled away from his grasp as fast as I could. I did not want this contact, it burned. He did not try to stop me. This sharing of images mind to mind was intimate and personal and I didn’t know how to cope with it and the mess that usually accompanied it.
I held the stone out to him with a trembling hand. The air was thick with tension. I thought he was going to slap my hand away or worse, hit me but instead he turned his back to me without doing anything. I sensed rather than knew that he was in conflict and what I had shared with him had only made this worse. I did not understand why he had given me this task or why he had wanted to share it in such an intimate and chaotic manner especially when it only served to make him angrier than he usually was.
“Leave me.” He said his voice was rough. The room filled with emotions I did not understand. He was overwhelmed by grief and loss, fighting back the desire to be violent. Raw and unchecked, I experienced these things as though they were a physical force. All my defences were down, so everything he felt poured into me and it made me unsteady on my feet. I did not, could not move. He spun around to face me, towering over me. The sadness I had felt, swiftly being channelled into anger. I understood that trick. Anger was easier to cope with than grief. I did not understand his grief at all and because I had opened my mind to him I had left myself vulnerable to his emotions. Everything that whirled through the room I felt and it was far too much to deal with. I did not have the tools or the talent to cope. I felt gutted and raw.
“I shall not ask you again, girl. Leave, now!” his voice was a low snarl, his anger building up like an oncoming storm when it exploded it would be deadly.
I wanted to say something, anything that would break this terrible aching sadness that had wrapped itself around me, inside of me but my survival instinct told me that leaving would be the best and the smartest thing I could do. I backed away from him without turning around and never taking my eyes from his facemask. I placed the stone on the desk and left the room without a word. I felt as though my heart was breaking and I did not know why.
Blindly, I made my way back the quarters I had been assigned and once the door behind me had closed I slid gracelessly to the floor, buried my face in my hands and wept uncontrollably. I had no idea why I was crying or for whom. I ached from this bitter pain, deep in my gut. The last time I had felt this way was when my mother had died. Then the grief had, at first, left me empty and angry and only after a long time had passed, did the sadness come and only then had I wept. It was bewildering to go through these emotions again especially since this time they were not even mine. It was as though I was grieving for him because he could not. All that sorrow it had to go somewhere. It was a terrible experience. If he lived with that day in day out no wonder he was in such an awful mood all the time. He never let go of his pain. It fuelled him, it made him strong but it also tore him apart.