The small reception afterwards was held in a warmly decorated room. There were delicate finger foods and drinks served by silent, aloof wait staff. The chatter amongst the attendees was appropriately muted and sombre. I declined the offer of food but took a glass of what tasted a lot like ice-wine and sipped it politely. A few of the Chiss glanced at me and there were hushed whispers as I walked past them but no one came near me and no spoke to me either. I didn’t belong here and it painfully obvious. Eventually Aristocra Chaf’orm’bintrano took pity on me came over to where I stood gazing at a live-time view screen of the outside world.
“It was a ... lovely... ceremony.” I said for lack of anything else to talk about.
“I am grateful you feel we have honoured him appropriately.” The Aristocra replied, looking around the room, “You must forgive my people; they are not used to outsiders and are very wary of humans who return our dead.”
“There is nothing to forgive, Aristocra I understand.” I said quietly.
“I want to thank you for all that you have done. The information on the disks you delivered to me is most... invaluable and will be of great use. I am also grateful to you for bringing Mitth’raw’nuruodo’s body home. We may not appear to be a caring race but we honour our fallen just the same. He served his people well in his time.”
I nodded. “More than most will ever know I suspect.”
The Aristocra raised his eyebrows in slight surprise at my forward statement, “Indeed.”
“What will happen to him now?” I asked suddenly.
“As we speak his body is being cremated and his ashes will be scattered in space, as you can imagine burial is difficult on this planet.”
I had to swallow down the sharp sting of grief that washed through me, “How fitting an end for a man who had stars in his blood.”
“You certainly do have a way with words.” The Aristocra said quietly, regarding me for a long moment before asking. “If you do not mind me asking, what will you do now?”
“I have one last task to complete for Mitth’raw’nuruodo and then, well, then I do not know but I have a friend waiting for me to return, perhaps I can begin again working with him.” I answered with a slight shrug. I knew Ged would be there for me as he had promised and it was a small comfort in time that felt bleak and empty but I wasn’t sure I was ready to return to the Empire’s service or what was left of it, not yet at least.
“One last task?” The Aristocra raised an eyebrow, “I would have thought there would be no more business to conclude and traditionally once the body of the deceased is brought home for the remembrance ceremony it signifies the end of anything unfinished.”
“Well, Thrawn never did anything the traditional way.” I retorted more sharply than I had intended to, forgetting my manners for a moment. The Aristocra let it slide.
“If I may inquire, what it is you must do?” He asked, genuinely interested.
This open curiosity was not, according to everything Thrawn had ever told me about his people, a trait usually common in the Chiss, it made me regard the man standing at my side with new eyes. “I am to travel to the planet of Hjal.”
The Aristocra raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Hjal?” He asked. “That is home to one of the colonies of Mathäd’antass’Iyantha, is it not?”
I smiled at hearing the formal use of their name. “Yes. It is.”
He paused to consider this information for a moment. “That is most unusual, why, if I may ask yet another personal question, would he send you there?”
I faltered trying to answer the question diplomatically, “We…I have family there, people who will need to be told what has happened to him if they do not already know. I also have a data packet to deliver. I think he planned it this way so I would end up in a place where I would not be alone or considered an outsider, a place where I could grieve in peace. ” I answered not knowing how else to describe what Navaari was to me.
“Family?” He asked taken aback. “He, you belonged to a clan there?
I nodded. “It is a very long story Aristocra and it is not all mine to tell.”
He regarded me quietly for a long moment then nodded more to himself than to me, “There were whispers that he had strong connections to the Mathäd’antass’Iyantha here but he never spoke of it to anyone that I was ever aware of. It would explain a great deal about a great many things surrounding him and his ideals.” He said more to himself than to me, then he returned his gaze to me and continued, suddenly understanding a piece of the puzzle I was to him, “And it explains your name. You did not give a Basic name when you were asked to identify yourself but one that had Chiss syntax and yet was not a Chiss name. You must be a remarkable woman to have been adopted into a clan of the Mathäd’antass’Iyantha.”
“Being remarkable had very little to do with it.” I replied with a shrug. Using my Dantassi name had been something Thrawn’s instructions had been very clear about and although I hadn’t understood why I had done as he had suggested. As with almost everything else he seemed to have mapped out how things would fall into play. Why should this be any different?
The Aristocra was silent for a moment and then said, “You are free to leave Csilla whenever you wish but I would very much appreciate it if you would share my evening meal with me. I have not met many of your kind and my experiences have been less than stellar. Humans are remarkable in their wide range of emotions and temperaments most of which we Chiss find unpleasant. You have been a rare gift, with your knowledge of our manners and customs and I should very much like to learn a little more about you as well as your time with the Mathäd’antass’Iyantha if you would acquiesce to this small request it would please me greatly.”
What he was asking was an immense honour and I could not turn it down. I felt almost as if the future of something great depended upon it so I nodded. “I would like that very much Aristocra. Thank you”
“Then I shall make the necessary arrangements. Now I am afraid I must leave you, I have unavoidable business to attend to and forgive me for saying this but you do look as though you could use some rest.”
He was not wrong in his assessment and I gratefully accepted the escort back to the guest quarters where I was staying. I showered and then I decided to lie down but I couldn’t sleep or still my mind instead I lay there pondering everything that had happened. It felt as though a lifetime had passed and I had lost track of time since I had been given the news of Thrawn’s death. The days had blurred together strangely but now that the memorial service was over his death felt final, not real, but final. Now I was facing my life without him and it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other, living from breath to breath and moving forward because there could be no going back but I would never be the same. I discovered that I had no more tears to cry, at least not now. I didn’t know what to think but I knew how I felt and I was inexplicably furious at Thrawn.
He had made all of these plans for his death knowing it would happen because I had told him over and over again. He had known and yet he hadn’t done a damn thing to prevent it, instead he had simply made all the right arrangements to get me to cart his body to his home world, planning meticulously each step of the way. The instructions he had left for me had been clear and very precise yet somehow cold and devoid of anything personal. I suppose he that while he had known of his death the exact timing was not anything he could foresee. If he had left me any personal messages of love or farewell I hadn’t found them and I was grateful for it. All the instructions he did leave made me feel like a puppet and I hated him for it. I wondered how he could have done this to me and then I wondered if he had ever really cared for me at all or if our time together had all been some convoluted elaborate ruse to get me to be a part in some greater scheme he had mapped out. I had no answers only far too many questions.
I would be glad to leave here and be with Navaari. On Hjal I could express my emotions freely, whatever they might be, and there was a support network there for me. Maybe one day I would take Ged up on his offer but for now all I wanted to do was hide from the galaxy, hide from my pain and grief and be with people who would keep my life simple and expect nothing from me. Until then I was trapped on a planet far from anything familiar with a people who saw me as utterly alien and treated me as though I were both dangerous and beneath them. I lay on the bed, sad, bewildered and angry, staring at the ornate ceiling until I was sent for to dine with the Aristocra.
It was a nice meal and I tried very hard not let my emotions leak out. I was surprised when he broke with standard Chiss protocol to talk with me while we ate and the discussion all throughout the meal was lively and interesting. He asked me a great many questions about the Core worlds and my life and he seemed genuinely curious about the fall of the Empire and all the events which had led up to it. I did my best to fill him in without getting too bogged down in the details. I also tried to be as impartial as I could but it was hard not to spit some anger when speaking of how the rebellion had managed to unhinge everything I had known.
In turn he told me about some of his earliest encounters with humans and learned how Thrawn had captured a smuggler’s ship that had somehow found its way into Chiss space.
“Dubrak Qennto, the captain of the ship, was not a man I would like to spend much time with ever again. I found him rude and abrupt. His greed ruled him and he was a most disagreeable example of humanity. His first mate and I believe also his, how do you say...girl-friend; Maris Ferasi was far too idealistic to be entangled with such a rough man. I believe she was rather attracted to Mitth’raw’nuruodo which also might also have caused some friction.”
“Really.” I said flatly. “Thrawn failed to mention that.”
The Aristocra smiled. “It was a many years ago, I’m sure Mitth’raw’nuruodo had long forgotten about it, he had many other things on his mind at the time. The only member of the crew who seemed to be in any way truly interested in us was a young man by the name of Jorj Car’das. He was instrumental in teaching Mitth’raw’nuruodo basic and he was able to somewhat learn our language although I must admit it was painful to listen to him sometimes.
“Jorj Car’das?” I smiled at the name.
“You know this man?”
I shook my head, “By name only I’m afraid. He is a well known smuggler with a reputation for being quite ruthless, the other two I’ve never heard of.”
“Given their personalities I am not very surprised. They did not seem too interested in much beyond their own needs and comforts. They were our first real contact with your kind though and for us they are known as the Visitors. It is through them that we learned basic although most Chiss choose not to study it, some have, finding it of use every now and then. Mitth’raw’nuruodo was one of these people and I see his foresight served him well, as it always did.”
“Yes, if there was one thing Thrawn excelled at it was thinking many steps ahead.” I agreed.
“It was a gift of his, I think. I have not seen too many others who have been able to do what he could with such accuracy.”
“You sound as though you admire him but he was an exile to you and your people.”
The Aristocra looked at me for a moment and then he smiled. “Is that so strange?” He asked. “He was a brilliant man but he was unconventional and he disregarded our rules. While I am capable of admiring his skills in the areas of tactical and strategic thought I am also honour bound to uphold the laws of my people. He broke the law in such a blatant manner that it could not be forgiven or ignored. Now I have a better understand of why and that makes my admiration for him all the more great.”
“He was one of the very few people who dared to go against the wishes of Emperor Palpatine. I think he enjoyed the jax and mouse games but he didn’t like court life very much although he was also very good at it.” I said.
“No, I do not imagine he would enjoy it much, he never had much patience when it came to political intrigue although, yes, he played it well enough when it suited his purpose. Whatever else he was, first and foremost, he belonged in space. We knew this about him from a very early age which was why he was chosen to join house Nuruodo as a merit adoptive. Had he not been exiled he would have added to the house bloodline with a suitable marriage and eventually offspring.” The Aristocra then smiled, “Perhaps this is another reason he wished to leave Chiss society. Arranged marriages are not always to the liking of the people involved and he was never one to do something just because he was ordered to. For many love plays a significant role when it comes to choosing a bond-mate and not all arranged parings ever have that aspect.”
I gave an uncomfortable shrug. “This is not a topic he discussed with me much. In fact, he rarely spoke about his life before working for the Empire. Although he did teach me much about the Chiss in general I know very little about his life here.” I said by way of an answer, “And I don’t think that love ever influenced anything he ever did. I am quite sure that had it been required, had he not been exiled, he would have complied with your traditions in this matter.” I had trouble keeping the sudden flare of bitterness out of my voice and shut up before it got the better of me.
The Aristocra raised both eyebrows at my words. “I would not presume to know better but I think both he and I would disagree with you on this point. That you are here, that he taught you so very much about us and our ways speaks volumes. I think he must have cared a great deal for you.”
I clenched my teeth, still angry. “Well if he did, Aristocra, he had a funny way of showing it.”
There was a lengthy moment of weighted silence and then the Aristocra sat back in his chair. “Perhaps if I might ask, how did the two of you meet?”
I was surprised at his question and for a moment I wasn’t sure how to answer but then, because he had asked, I told him about my very first meeting with Thrawn on the balcony at the Imperial Palace. It seemed a lifetime ago. He listened without interruption, prompting further memories and stories from me as though by hearing my accounts of Thrawn’s life in Empire somehow gave him a much better understanding of the man his people had chosen to exile. He smiled when I was done.
He seemed to weigh his next words with great care before speaking, “There were several women here who found him attractive, you know, who vied for his attentions and affections. Young, handsome and in a position of authority, he was a very desirable candidate for marriage but he refused them all. I am sure, as with all young men, he had dalliances on occasion but he was discrete if that was the case and nothing further ever happened as a result. We, who watched his career with great interest, assumed it was because he was concentrating on that career and when the time was right he would accept a mate and breed but of course that did not happen.” He paused, “I now understand that he was looking for something extraordinary, someone who could both learn from him and teach him much at the same time, someone who complimented his personality instead of blandly standing at his side. I believe he found it in you.”
I gave him a slight smile. “He always told me that I was a complication he didn’t need in his life.”
“And he was probably right about that yet here you are. From all that you have told me you were closer to him than anyone else.” He said mildly, “And I for one am grateful.”
I had to swallow down the sudden tears that sprang to my eyes and I was thankful that the Aristocra ignored it when I brushed them away discretely. I didn’t really know how to answer what he had just said so instead I gave him a polite nod and smiled, relieved when the wait staff returned to clear the dinner plates allowing me to change the direction of the conversation in a less difficult direction. When I commented on the various paintings that decorated the walls the Aristocra seemed only too happy to discuss them at great length taking delight in the fact that I enjoyed art and even understood a little about it. When the desert came I found myself liking this man who did not match the short description that had been on the data disk Thrawn had left for me. Over tea he asked me, finally, about my time with the Dantassi.
“They are a people of great mystery for us.” He explained. “An intriguing dichotomy of wildly primitive mingled with technologically advanced. They do not have much time for us, I’m afraid. They see the Chiss as soft, weak because we chose to hide from the ice rather than learn to live with it.”
I smiled. It was a strangely apt description. “What would you like to know Aristocra?” I asked.
“Everything you can and are allowed to tell me.” He replied.
So I did as he had asked and I told him as much about my experiences with the Dantassi as I dared beginning with my first encounter with one on my father’s ship, to my naming on Myrkr and then my first encounter with Navaari without revealing Thrawn’s story or giving any of the Dantassi secrets away. He listened intently only interrupting to ask a question or get me to clarify some detail. When I was done he smiled a little and let the silence between us settle for a few moments.
He sat and regarded me with an expression I couldn’t read for a long time before he spoke. “Mitth’raw’nuruodo did indeed choose well when he requested that you be the one to return his body. You are the perfect bait.”
My eyebrows shot up. “Bait?”
He gave me another enigmatic smile, “Yes. If he intended to prove that not all outsiders, not all aliens are barbarians then he has accomplished his mission. How could I resist you? You are, as I said, the perfect bait.”
I didn’t know what to say to this. Had Thrawn been grooming me all these years just for this? I would never know. It was probably a good thing he was dead because in that moment I wanted to kill him myself. “I’m sorry Aristocra,” I said trying to get a grip on my anger, “If I have offended I meant no...”
He cut me off with a slight hand gesture. “Please, you misunderstand me.” He folded his elegant hands on the table and paused for a moment. “We are a terribly remote race of peoples and we eschew contact with other alien races as a matter of course. It makes us appear xenophobic and cold both of which we are. We teach our children the value of all things strategic and logical. This makes us insular and I wonder some days about the wisdom in such a way of life but it is incredibly difficult to get the Chiss people to change their ways or see things from a different perspective. We feel very superior to the rest of the galaxy and I fear sometimes this will one day be our undoing. When Mitth’raw’nuruodo was a young man, still living here, he questioned these things as well. He felt that what we considered our strengths to be were also our greatest weaknesses. It was the opinions of those who out ranked him at the time that he was wrong. So he found a way to escape the chains we placed up on him.”
He paused for a second and then said, “We felt that no one could learn our customs, our language to our great satisfaction. Yet here you are. An alien who has not only mastered our very difficult tongue to speak it beautifully, eloquently even, but one who has also been adopted into an offshoot of the ancient Chiss society that we ourselves are shunned from. Thus he has proven us wrong. We are not the perfect race and if we could open ourselves up a little we would perhaps learn a great deal more about our galaxy and all of its various peoples and in turn learn more about ourselves.” He stopped and regarded me for a long silent moment. “I know that he had Chiss working with him and for him somewhere out in what you call the Outer Rim but they are considered renegades. They have sided with an Exile and are seen as also being exiled but perhaps things will change and maybe one day the knowledge they have gained will be of great use and we shall have need of them. Perhaps even, at some point we will allow outsiders to live among us. I know now that it is possible for a non Chiss to learn our ways so perhaps it is possible for the Chiss to learn how to become less rigid in these ways as well. Certainly I see that possibility when I sit here and converse with you.”
I just watched him not knowing what to say. I had taught many of the Chiss warriors he had called renegades how to speak basic, some of them I even counted among my friends.
The Aristocra continued, “As I said before you must be a remarkable woman. I can see why Mitth’raw’nuruodo would desire you to be his companion. He chose well and I am deeply saddened by your loss. He was a most resourceful man and had he not gone against our basic rule of non aggression he might very well have gone on to be a great military leader of our people, instead he became a great leader to yours. His ability to adapt, accept and learn from all things new and different astounds even me. If he were alive today, and still you and I had managed to meet and speak as we are, knowing what I now do I, for one, would welcome him back without question. I think that we will need men such as him and we will suffer for our own lack of vision. I think his death is one of our greatest losses but of course I can only say this here in private to you. He was a remarkable man and the galaxy is a lesser place because of his death.” I detected a note of regret in the Aristocra’s voice and once more the ache of loss overwhelmed me.
I nodded sadly, “Yes he was, although he was also greatly under utilised by my people as well. The Chiss are not the only ones who have issues with alien races and in the end he was betrayed by someone he thought of as trustworthy.”
“Did you know his murderer?”
I nodded as words chocked in my throat. “Yes, I suppose I did, though not as well as I might have liked and he is also dead.”
“Such a betrayal must cut you deeply.” He replied, “It is a sad ending to what was a rather unique career for a man we exiled and one whom your Emperor desired to have work for him.”
I could only nod slightly in agreement. “Indeed.”
Perhaps it was my sorrow or maybe he was just tired of talking about Thrawn but whatever the reason the conversation drifted to small mundane things and when the evening was over I declined a tour of the great library in favour of finishing the last of the tasks Thrawn had given me.
All I wanted to do was leave, go to Hjal to be with Navaari and An'jast’a, to be somewhere safe with people who loved me unconditionally. The Aristocra did not protest and made certain that my ship was refueled and well stocked for the long journey across the galaxy. I packed up the few things I had with me from the guest quarters and was escorted by two silent Chiss to the landing bay where the Aristocra was waiting for me.
“Your ship is ready. I hope and trust you will find everything in order.” He said politely.
“I am quite sure I will.” I told him. “Your people have a reputation for being exacting.”
He smiled and then much to my surprise he switched to Basic and said. “I do have one question to ask you.”
“Why did you not ask to use my core name? I was under the impression that your kind did not like our rather long complicated names?”
I smiled. “And I was under the impression that the Chiss did not offer the informality of such an honour to non family members or outsiders until a deep bond of friendship has been formed. I was waiting for you to offer as is your custom, is it not?”
“Yes, yes of course.” The Aristocra nodded with a sigh, “He taught you so very well. Your manners are indeed perfect, how could I ever resist?” He said with an expression that bordered on sad and then he switched back to his native language so that everyone nearby and listening could understand him, “Know this, you are welcome here, Akiana’myshk’apavjäska, should you decide to come again to our world or our territories. You and your kin would be granted all the privileges afforded an honoured visitor, you would be my personal guest under my protection and it would honour me greatly if you were to address me by my core name. I hope that you will take these words to heart and that you will return one day.”
I was so surprised at these words I didn’t know what to say. I gave him a small bow instead, it seemed fitting.
The Aristocra placed a hand on my shoulder and I could have sworn I heard someone gasp from behind me, “Perhaps next time when you visit it will be under much better circumstances and we will have more time for discussion. I hope that your sorrow will have eased and the loss you feel now will have lessened. I have greatly enjoyed your company and I hope the feeling is mutual.”
“Thank you.” I replied touching his hand lightly with my fingertips. He had just given me a great honour and I wasn’t sure why but I was grateful none the less. “Thank you for everything. Until the next time we meet may you know only serenity and peace.”
He smiled at my use of very traditional parting words, “The same blessing upon you also.” He inclined his head slightly and I returned the gesture then I boarded my ship. It was time to leave and I did not want to over stay my welcome.
So, I left the planet, just as I had arrived, with an escort of Chiss making sure I did not deviate while in their space. I made sure to follow their instructions to the letter and when they turned around at the edge of Chiss territory I was not sad to see them go. It was a little unnerving to have a fighter escort that was purported by Thrawn to be even better that the Imperials.
The journey from Csilla to Hjal was very long and meant jumping hyperspace lanes more than once. I considered stopping at Nirauan to pick up some of my things but in the end decide not to. I wasn’t moving to Hjal, I was just visiting. I knew that the base would be in turmoil over the Grand Admiral’s death and I didn’t want or need to be in the middle of it all. I was quite certain that either Ged or Captain Pellaeon would fill them all in and I would return eventually to get my stuff although what I would do next was anyone’s guess. I was sure that Voss would not throw anything of mine or Thrawn’s away but it occurred to me it might happen. It seemed like such a strange thing to worry about in the midst of all that had happened but it was still my home, in a way, and many of my favourite books were there. However, the few things I considered truly precious were with me. I kept them on my ship. Thrawn’s letters, my Dantassi clothes and mask were all here.
Perhaps another person would have spent the time re reading the letters from their loved one but I couldn’t bear to even look at them. It would have torn me apart to touch these letters, to feel his presence and read his words knowing he was gone forever. I just wasn’t ready for that yet. Instead, I spent a lot of time in the cockpit just staring out into space. On a small ship there was nowhere to escape from one’s own self and I had a lot of time to think and to mourn. By the time I reached Hjal over four weeks had passed since I had left Csilla but it felt like years.
Several hours before entering the planet’s atmosphere I sent a message to Navaari using the comm he had once given me and let him know I would be arriving soon. When I finally landed on Hjal it felt surreal. Thrawn had been dead for well over a month and I was utterly wrung out. I had gone from denial of his death to finally understanding that he was gone. I wasn’t sure how to move beyond this point. Each day I woke up the same way, I lay with my eyes still closed trying to bring to mind his face, his voice, his scent and his touch but these memories slipped away from me and all I could call to mind were fragments of the whole.
I remembered how I had felt after Lord Vader’s death and now, while I could recall those feelings they seemed muted and distant somehow. I wondered if I would ever feel that way about Thrawn’s death but doubted it. I had known only pain and loss when Lord Vader had died, it had hurt and I had grieved the loss terribly but I had never been angry at him for dying. As I sat thinking about Thrawn’s death I wondered if I would ever be free of the hurt and as much as I tried to center myself and let all the grief go I could not. There was, it seemed a huge difference between stillness and emptiness. I could not center, I could not find stillness and underneath the empty place his death had left I was surprised to discover that more than anything else I was just incredibly angry with him. This was an emotion I didn’t really know how to cope with very well so it festered.
Once I was safely on the planet’s surface, I changed into the appropriate clothes and slipped on my mask, it was the start of spring on the planet so bad weather was to be expected. Navaari was there to meet the ship when I landed and for a moment I stood in the open hatchway and just stared at him. I had no idea how I was going to give him the news of Thrawn’s death. Fortunately for me I didn’t have to because the weather interfered.
“Quickly, we do not have much time before we are not being able to travel!” Navaari yelled above the howling winds. “There is a big blow coming in from the south. It will be bad so hurry up.”
I smiled at his gruffness. It was familiar and oddly comforting.
The weather was terrible. I had arrived right at the edge of a massive storm front. There was no time to waste with sad stories or explanations as to why I had come on such short notice. I shut the ship up and waded through the snow drifts to where he stood. Navaari hugged me fiercely but let me go quickly so that we could get back on the sled to head to the enclave before the weather became too bad to travel in. I lost myself to the swaying rhythms of the sled as we sped to the only place I could feel safe. When we finally arrived at the enclave I was cold and exhausted. He saw this right away. I never could hide anything from him.
“An'jast’a is visiting her daughter in the neighbouring clan so she is not here or else she would have made supper for you. Go inside put the kettle on for tea and get warm, I am taking care of the sled and the wolves. I will not be long, we will have lots of time to speak and there is much to speak about.”
I didn’t argue with him. I hoisted my pack and trudged my way inside. I was looking forward to a hot shower and a cup of tea not necessarily in that order.
On autopilot I opened the front door and dumped my pack on the floor then shrugged out of my heavy winter clothing, hung it up in the closet, slipped off my boots and then took off my mask which I put inside the satchel where I kept it and hung that up with my coat. Then I made my way to the kitchen to put the kettle on for tea, I waited until the water had boiled and then poured it into the tea pot savouring the scent of the tea as it mingled with the boiling water. This was such a familiar action that for a second I almost forgot why I had come here so that when the memory of why came rushing back it brought with it an ache so painful I stopped breathing to try and get past it.
While the tea brewed I decided to go and shower then change into something more comfortable. I picked up my pack and headed to the room Navaari kept just for me. I had clothes here, I had a home here and somewhere deep in my exhausted, grief riddled brain I was grateful. I trudged across the dimly lit living room lost in thought to my bedroom. I dumped my pack on the bed and rifled through it for toiletries and clean underwear, then stood in front of the closet trying to decide what to wear when I heard the front door open and close I smiled because it meant Navaari had finished with the sled and the hounds.
“I’m just going to shower and then get changed because I smell worse than a bantha. I made tea already!” I yelled, when he didn’t answer I assumed he was already in the kitchen.
I stood under the powerful stream of water which was little too hot and leaned my forehead against the wall. I was beyond tired but the water felt good. Suddenly a rush of emotion swept through me again but this time I didn’t stop the tears. The crying jags always took me by surprise but I had learned to just go with them and let the grief pass through me. I waited until I was done sobbing and then finished my shower. Wrapped in big fluffy towels I made my way back to my bedroom and changed into the most comfortable dress I could find.
I felt a little more human but I was utterly exhausted. In the full length mirror I stared at the reflection of the person I had become. I had lost so much weight that the dress I was wearing hung loose on me instead of fitting as it once had. I now looked ill, wasted away and the dark circles about my eyes were not helping matters. I towel dried my hair but left it down. I did not know this girl in the mirror. She looked like a broken doll. With a sigh I turned away from the dreadful reflection and turned my attention to the little packet that Thrawn had requested I give to Navaari and wondered if this contained more than just the instructions on what to do that mine had held. Perhaps he had left some sort of message for us both knowing that it would be better if I were not alone to hear his final words. I picked it up and stared at it but there were no memories, no insights and no sensations that he had even touched the thing let alone left any words of comfort behind. Disgusted I tossed it back on the bed and decided it could wait, first I wanted a cup of tea and then, if Navaari had not already been told, somehow I had to break the awful news of Thrawn’s death to him and I wasn’t looking forward to it one bit.
I wrapped a warm shawl around my shoulders and then because I couldn’t put it off any longer I made my way to the living room which was now cozy and cheerful with a fire in the fireplace and candlelight dancing against the walls, Navaari’s way of welcoming me home.
I looked up and saw Navaari vanishing into the kitchen, “Hey, did you pour the tea?” I yelled, “Don’t put too much milk in it like you usua....” and then I stopped dead in my tracks as Thrawn, or a man that looked an awful lot like him, got up from the chair in the shadows of the corner of the room and stepped into the light.
“Hullo A’myshk’a.” He said.