Once upon a time, below stars, a woman was a queen, long ago. A queen, a kingmaker and a breaker of empires.
In these long ago times, the galaxy was a different place. Stars walked among mortals.
And so, when war came to Naboo -- and make no mistake, war did come to Naboo, droids clanking down the streets of Theed and the whole planet drowning under injustice of it -- the Queen took to the skies to plead for relief and help for her people. She took the guise of her decoy, her most loyal handmaiden, for she was wise and in truth Naboo's most loyal handmaiden herself.
As the Queen travelled the galaxy, the war raged on Naboo. The war raged on Naboo and the waters remember.
When the Queen returned, she brought back three stars, one old and soon to die, one young and soon to fall, one bright and shining still.
The Queen won her war and the stars lost one of their number while winning their battle. At last Naboo breathed free again, above wave and below wave joined in celebration, even as the Queen wept to see what her world had become while she was gone.
After the celebration came mourning and in the palace gardens they dug the Queen's Pond to hold her tears. The Queen had been fair and wise before the war, but after the war, she was never quite the same. Fairer, perhaps, or wiser, but always grieving for the Naboo that had been.
Time came when she renounced her Queenship. She renounced her Queenship but remains to this day Naboo's most loyal handmaiden, for all that forever more part of her heart belongs to the stars.
She sleeps beneath the waters of Naboo to this day.
That was a nice thought, Ahsoka said to herself. If only Padmé could come back. The galaxy needed her, now more than ever. Dark times needed light and hope more than happy times. Not that Ahsoka could remember the last time the galaxy had had happy times. She'd been barely a youngling when the Occupation of Naboo had happened.
She'd never intended to end up on Naboo, but the cargo ship she'd been travelling had suffered 'damage in transit' and had had to land on the nearest planet to give the hyperdrive a chance to cool down. That was why she was now taking a guided tour through the gardens of the Naboo Royal Palace.
The Force had its reasons reason knew not.
Ahsoka finished the tour. Padmé wasn't mentioned again, not as a legend. She was mentioned, just once, as a recent historical figure. It was hard to explain the blaster scorch marks on parts of the outer wall without mentioning the Trade Federation Occupation, after all.
The tour over, Ahsoka dragged herself to the seedy underbelly of the city of Theed. While she was on Naboo, she might as well get in touch with Sabé. From everything she knew about Sabé -- and they'd been more than passing acquaintances before the Temple bombing -- Sabé was probably already knee-deep in sabotaging Palpatine's regime from the inside of his seat of power.
She knew Sabé as well as she thought she did.
Sabé had changed the colour of her hair. Instead of a deep brown, it was now a soft purple that reminded Ahsoka of Riyo. She'd cut it short too, nothing like Padmé's long flowing locks. Which was the point, Ahsoka supposed. Sabé's face still looked like Padmé's, but at least with her new hair Ahsoka could look at her without being reminded of a dead woman.
Ahsoka held out her hand. "Kina."
"Madaé," Sabé said, taking Ahsoka's hand.
Introductions of who they were currently pretending to be made, they ordered a drink and found a quiet table with a good view of the door to talk at. Or not talk at, as the case may have been. Ahsoka didn't know how to broach the subject and Sabé kept startling every time the waiters came too close.
"We can go somewhere else, if you want." Ahsoka put a hand on her arm.
Sabé shook her head. "If we are being watched here, we will be watched everywhere. Have you been to Ykobar?"
"Not lately," Ahsoka said. She'd never been, but she figured Kina might have. "But I have been to Alderaan."
"How is our mutual friend?"
From there on the conversation turned to Bail and the Rebellion. Sabé had not been in contact with him, but she'd been in contact with Senator Mothma. Both of them wanted to renew contact but Mothma had been on Chandrila when the Empire had risen and Bail on Coruscant. One of the first thing the Emperor had done had been to forbid Senators from interplanetary travel, for their own safety 'in these troubled times'.
As if he wasn't the reason times were troubled in the first place.
When Ahsoka and Sabé separated they each carried a message and a commlink, who to Bail, who to Mothma.
Ahsoka boarded the ship that brought her to Naboo right before it departed again. They'd picked up new crew, a young Gungan with tales of her own.
Above wave, they say her name was Peace.
When the King beyond the stars said he would not help her in her war, she told him he would be King no longer. And he was not.
In his place, she raised up her right hand, a man she knew of old. He rules the stars of the night sky still.
There was a Queen. Her name was Treachery.
On Dantoine, she found a cave system while chasing down a maintenance droid gone rogue.
On Alderaan, she went to see Bail. The few months since the start of the Empire had aged him. It was hard to tell with Humans but it was obvious. His hair was much greyer than it had been the last time she'd seen him, not three months ago.
His daughter had grown, too. She pulled enthusiastically at Ahsoka's lekku when she came over to talk to Bail. Ahsoka pulled her fingers off delicately. The child was so small, she barely looked like Bail at all.
"Sorry about Leia," Bail said, voice tired and as fond as his smile. "She's hanging onto everything, right now."
Leia smiled, wide and bright, like Anakin might have smiled, before the war. Ahsoka bopped her nose. Leia giggled.
"I was on Naboo," Ahsoka said. "I met a mutual friend who gave me a message for you from another mutual friend."
"You can speak plainly," Bail said.
Ahsoka nodded. "Sabé gave me a message for you from Mon Mothma."
"Is Sabé well?" Bail asked as he held out a hand.
"She is." Ahsoka reached out to pass him the chip. Leia grabbed at it. Ahsoka felt a tug against her fingers.
The pull grew more insistent and Leia's hand remained inches from it. Leia frowned. "Baba. Bababababababa. Baba!"
"Leia, no." Bail pulled his daughter away from Ahsoka.
"Babaaaaaaaaaaaa --" Leia devolved into bawling. Ahsoka sensed nothing from her except frustrated curiosity.
Bail sighed. He rummaged through a pocket for a toy which he gave to Leia. She put it in her mouth. Leia refused to let go of trying to get at the chip. Bail began telling her a story.
The Alderaan Senator had a wife and they could not have children. It was a great secret wound in their heart. They resolved they would adopt, should a suitable child ever present herself.
The other Senator had a Jedi and when she had children, she gifted one to her dear friend.
She could not raise her child herself, but the child deserved to be raised by the best of people, to learn about freedom and democracy to love the Republic and justice and peace more than life itself.
As for Alderaan, a suitable child had presented herself. She was hope for the galaxy.
Bail took the chip. "Thank you. Did Sabé say anything else?"
Ahsoka told Bail everything Sabé had told her, finishing with, "She also asked me if I'd been to Ykobar recently."
There was an awkward pause as she waited for Bail to speak.
"Well," he finally said, "have you?"
"Not recently." She had no reason to go there. There was nothing but trees there.
"Maybe you should."
That was, more or less, the end of that conversation.
Ahsoka spent the rest of her stay on Alderaan teaching Leia mental blockers and how to disappear in the Force. Once she was done, she used the Force to pushthe command to always have her shields up at Leia, somewhere deep in her psyche where she wouldn't be able to find it until she was much older.
The galaxy was no longer safe for any Force-sensitive children. Maybe it never had been.
Still. Somewhere in the back of Ahsoka's mind, she kept the thought of going to Ykobar, sometime soon. She had never known Sabé to waste words, why would it be any different?
She left Alderaan on a Corellian transport headed for Pantora. She spent a week in Pantora reconnecting with Riyo and passing on Bail's message. It saddened her a bit that the message came with a secure comm line, because that meant there would be no more message carrying to take her to Riyo's side. Then again, she was not a Jedi anymore, she did not needed excuses to visit her friends.
Or her lovers. And if she wanted to spend a whole day watching the way the orange of her skin complimented the blue of Riyo's, she could. Same with spending all night doing nothing more than talking.
"Did I ever tell you," Riyo asked one evening, the setting sun outlining the delicate edges of her profile, "that I distrusted Padmé when first I met her? The Naboo have a somewhat unfair reputation on Pantora."
It was grand, it was beautiful and it was not long for the world. Far ashore a storm was brewing.
The sea is not cruel but it is the sea and a great fool xe who thinks it kind.
The Kermor rose from the sea, waves made flesh. It came to the city, mane flowing in the wind and hooves clip-clopping upon the ground. Each of its steps left behind an imprint of saltwater.
To those living in the city by the sea, it spoke these words: "Go. Leave this place. The sea is coming to these streets. A storm comes to the city. I will take you if you stay."
And the Kermor did.
The seastorm came to the city. Those who had left lived. Those who had stayed the Kermor took to the watery depths. More fool xe who thinks the waters kind.
(On Naboo they tell you there was a queen. Do not believe them. The Naboo lie.)
Riyo nodded. "All Pantorans stories end on a lie. That's how stories are, here."
From Pantora, Ahsoka went back to Naboo. She found Sabé in a different bar of the same quarter of the city. Sabé's hair was much longer and red like the blood of a dying star.
Sabé accepted the comms from Bail and Riyo. Her and Ahsoka talked in half-hidden words of the affairs of the Rebellion.
Ahsoka asked Sabé the story of the Kermor. "The Naboo lie, I'm told."
Sabé smiled and began to speak.
It was ruled by a Queen as just and fair as she was beautiful. She was dark of skin and even darker of hair; the very night sky paled before her beauty. When she sat in judgement the very air itself held its breath and the very sea stood still, in awe of her cleverness and wisdom.
One day it came to pass that a storm was brewing at sea.
The storm took a physical shape and Kermor it became. To the city the Kermor came, sea salt and brine in its footsteps. It whispered salvation and seduction to those who lived in the city by the sea.
It came across the Queen -- or she came across it -- and fell so deeply in love with the justice of her heart that it resolved she would not die by storm. The Queen would not live while her people died. She argued and argued with the Kermor and the storm.
Finish the story? What need? You already know how it ends.
The teeth in Sabé's smile was answer enough.
Ahsoka flew to Ykobar on a hunk of junk crewed by her friend Chewbacca. He was looking for a permanent crewmate, but she'd been clear she couldn't stay that long -- the Empire was after her, even if it didn't know it, she could stay nowhere permanently.
She travelled with him awhile -- until he found a crewmate or they arrived in Ykobar, she had told him. Whichever came first.
On Cxobuh, she stayed inside the ship, trying not to freeze her montrals off. Chewbacca with a man who could have been Rex's father, if Rex had not been a clone. Force above, she had forgotten how fast clones aged.
On Ashare, she had to crawl through the air ducts while the endless rain pattered against the hull of the ship.
That night, she heard Champion talk to himself in the dead of night.
There's this city, right, built above the sea. It's not Kamino. That's important, it's not Kamino. You get that? It's not Kamino.
So there's a storm coming. The storm made itself a human form, like a queen from a foreign world. Or an angel from Ykobar.
She said to the people she would free them from slavery under cover of storm.
And she did.
The planet was not Kamino, the people were not clones, but I can say this: the Kermor is on Ykobar. You must understand. It was not Kamino, they were not clones, but she is on Ykobar.
On Sperix, she basked in the light of the three suns, warming her lekku in the soft heat.
On Ykobar, Chewbacca left Champion and Ahsoka behind as he departed for Kessel.
Champion and Ahsoka awkwardly parted ways. She suspected they were looking for the same thing, but one never reached absolution or freedom any way but alone. Other people helped, but ultimately it was a personal choice.
She didn't know what she was looking for. Then, she heard two mothers telling their child a story...
She was given water to ease her thirst, food to ease her hunger, medicine to ease her wounds and solitude to ease her grief.
She walked out into the forest and has not been seen since. She's still out there, though. Where would this story be, if she wasn't?
The tale still goes on and is only just beginning.
Either she was right and she wouldn't need anything else. Or she was wrong and she still wouldn't.
In this part of Ykobar the plants of the forests were a deep pink-ish purple that was faintly bioluminescent. In places the purple deepened into a dark blue that reminded Ahsoka unpleasantly of Umbara. The air smelled different, though. On Umbara it had been dry, too dry, so dry as to make her feel like she was breathing glass shards. Here the air was as humid as the marshes of Naboo.
She kept going, moving ever deeper in the darkness of the forest.
Someone was pointing a loaded blaster at her head. She ducked to the floor and rolled away before jumping to her feet, lightsabre at the ready. She whirled, but she still couldn't see who was threatening her. "Show yourself!"
"Heyia, Commander." The voice and the face emerging from the trees belonged to a dead man.
"In the flesh." He waggled bio-robotic fingers at her, but the blaster in his other hand didn't waver. "Mostly."
She shut off her lightsabre and ran over to hug him. He staggered back under her weight. She was taller than she'd been the last time she'd hugged a clone, so it was awkward for a moment.
"Why are you here?" Fives asked.
"Believe it or not, I think Senator Amidala's still alive and she's hiding out here," Ahsoka said.
"Really?" Fives stretched out the last syllable unpleasantly as he took a step back and raised his blaster again.
"Yes," Ahsoka said. "I know it sounds crazy, but the whole galaxy thinks you're dead too."
Fives nodded. He tapped out a message on the vambrace of the arm holding the blaster at her head. The blaster never wavered. Something buzzed tinnily in his ear in reply. He lowered the blaster.
"Follow me," he said.
Ahsoka nodded and followed.
Fives led her even deeper into the forest. They passed between the roots of a tree and did not emerge on the other side, instead continuing their way below the ground.
Ahsoka tried to make conversation with Fives as they walked, but he remained stubbornly quiet. Eventually, he seemed to relent and began speaking.
A girl and boy fell in love. He was a general, she was a diplomat. The general was an oddity in his army, a man with his own face and his own fate -- not that anyone knew yet what a rarity freedom of choice was. The diplomat had spoken far and wide on the fate of soldiers. After all, what you do with war heroes when the war's over?
So when it came to pass that one of the faceless soldiers found out, through accident and wit, about the fate that faced his brothers and he, he went to the diplomat. He told her what he'd found.
She did not believe him, but she believed he was sincere in his belief and she trusted his judgement. She hid him, even from her general.
When the general thought to end the war at any cost -- to himself or to the galaxy -- worlds burned. The faceless soldiers' fate would have been sealed, but out of the fire stepped the diplomat and the general's brother.
They fought the general. The diplomat fell first. She was no soldier and she loved the general, more than he loved himself.
But the soldier she had saved, the one she had hidden and yet never believed, was there in the fire as well. When she fell and the brothers fought, he had healed her as best as he knew how.
The brother returned form the fight, alone. The general had fallen to the flames.
Truth be told, they're running still.
At last they reached a door, a great metal thing embedded in the flesh of the tree, roots growing over the hinges. Two people stood on either side of it. They had blasters at their hips and magnalances on the wall right next to them. They were wearing armour, including helmets that hid their faces. They were tossing a ball between each of them. The one on the left tossed the ball at Fives.
Fives caught it. "What's this, then? Disregard for authority? In my Rebellion?"
"More likely than you think," the one who'd tossed the ball said.
At the same time, the other one said, "It's not yourRebellion."
"Yeah," Fives said, voice gone soft. "I know."
Ahsoka realised, suddenly, that all three of them had the same voice and were the same height. Clones. Fives lived with brothers and she could not feel happier for him.
"Whose Rebellion is it, then?" she asked. It wasn't Riyo's. It wasn't Bail's and she would be very surprised if it was Mothma's.
"The Kermor," the clone on the right said.
"Who's that?" She had a pretty good idea, but she didn't quite want to let herself believe.
"You'll see," Fives said and opened the door.
She followed him in.
She wasn't surprised to see the inside of the place behind the door was staffed by clones. She was surprised to see how little some of them looked like clones. If she hadn't been double-checking with the Force, some of them would never have registered as clones.
Fives put a hand on her arm and guided her through. In the back of the room was another door. Behind that door was what was best described as a waiting room, tabloids, datapads and all the rest. He gestured for her to sit down. She did.
"The Kermor is off-base right now, but she'll be back soon." He sat opposite her, crossed his legs and picked up one of the datapads.
She did the same. Whoever had had her datapad last had been reading a book on myths and legends of Ykobar. She began to read.
It had begun as a seed, as trees do. As trees also do it had grown, branches reaching for the sky and roots digging ever deeper in the soil.
Seasons passed and the tree grew. It grew and grew and grew. When the weather turned to freezing, the tree was too big to freeze and lived through the winter. It has lived through every winter since.
It lived through the summer, roots too deep to dry out. It has lived through every summer cycle since that first summer cycle.
The tree has kept growing ever since. Its roots circle the planet, its branches touch the stars and its trunk houses revolution. The tree offers shelter to all, the forgotten, the downtrodden, the guilty, the damned, those who never had a choice. It offers them shelter, revolution and freedom.
The tale still goes on and is only just beginning.
Fives uncrossed his legs. His boot hit the floor with a dull thud.
Ahsoka looked up.
There, in the doorway, stood Padmé.
Ahsoka bolted to her feet and rushed over to hug her.
"Don't," Padmé said, stopping Ahsoka right in front of her. Her voice was off, coarse and rough. "I'm still fragile from..." She trailed off. "I'm still fragile."
"Who hurt you? Does Anakin know?" Ahsoka refused to let herself hope Skyguy was here.
"He knows," Padmé said.
Ahsoka nodded. That was the end of that conversation, then.
Behind Padmé, Champion waved hesitantly at Ahsoka.
"Padmé, what's going on here?" Ahsoka gestured and Padmé and the clones.
Up close, Padmé's throat was a mess of scar tissue and she had dark circles under her eyes that almost made her look like an Adna.
Padmé staggered. Ahsoka reached for her to support her, even as Fives rushed to her side. They carried her over to a seat.
"Thank you," Padmé said. She leaned back in the seat, her hands in her lap. "Ahsoka. The galaxy thinks me dead and the clones no more than puppets to Palpatine. These are both wrong. I am helping clones to be free again. It is my only revenge on the Emperor."
"Why?" Ahsoka asked. "Why is this your only revenge? You're Padmé Naberrie Amidala. You could do so much more! You brought down a Chancellor, once."
"With democracy." Padmé looked away. "There isn't much of that left."
"Then bring it back!" Never before has Ahsoka been so acutely aware of how young she is.
"Me and what army?"
"Us," Fives said. "We've brought down a Republic already -- and that was when we didn't have our minds. How much harder can bringing down an Empire be?"
"I refuse to risk you and your brothers," Padmé said. "You have lost enough and this war would need more than an army -- it would need pangalactic, secure communication lines, galaxy-wide insurrection --"
"About that," Ahsoka said. She handed Padmé her own comm chip, with lines to Bail, Riyo and Mothma.
Padmé took the chip. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Fire seemed to bloom beneath her skin. "Yes. Let us kill and Empire."
They sheltered within the Worldtree, its beating heart of revolution.
These were dark times for the galaxy.
The general's army was made of stars, each one unique, each one the same as its brothers. The stars lit up the night as they fought. Far above they're shining still.
The tale goes on and is only just beginning.
They say this a true story.
There used to be a lot of us clones back in those days. I wasn't old enough to see any of this. Last clone, me.
About half the clones got their minds back after Order 66. A lot of them didn't make it. You still committed murder if you were the murder weapon and not the murder, you know?
Of those who did make, more than a few threw away their chains and became other people.
Nobody rises to absolute power without resistance and that time was no different. When it was time to act, the clones where everywhere. Of course they had taken to the fight.
What do you do with war heroes when the war's over?
It was grand, it was beautiful and it was not long for the universe. Far away among the stars a storm was brewing.
The night is not cruel but it is the night and a great fool xe who thinks it kind.
The Kermor rose from the stars, night made flesh. It came to the empire, hair like a banner of night and every face the same.
To those living in the empire of lies, it spoke these words: "Go. Leave this place. The night is coming to these worlds. A storm comes to the empire. I will take you if you stay."
And the Kermor did.
The nightstorm came to the empire. Those who had left lived. Those who had stayed the Kermor took to the starry depths. More fool xe who thinks the stars kind.
(On Tatooine they tell you there was a boy. Do not believe them. She was a girl from Alderaan.)
Long ago, on Alderaan, was a Senator who was not yet Queen.
Her mother was queen of Alderaan and the woman who had sired her had been queen of another world once. The woman who had birthed the Senator returned one day when the Senator was only just barely a Senator.
"Child of mine, hope of the galaxy," she said. "Your light is needed. Fight by my side. Return the worlds to democracy at my side."
"You are no mother of mine," the Senator said. "You did not raise me. Your cause, however, is just and those who fight for it fight bravely. I will join you."
With her mother, her father and the woman who bore her, the Senator brought the fight to the Emperor. First, she was taught ancient and lost Jedi arts. She had an army, men with the same face, would-be robots made of flesh who made themselves into people.
In the end, the Emperor and his rancour were powerful foes but empty shells.
The Senator to the galaxy restored democracy and a justice long lost. To her family, she restored unity and a brother long lost.
She brought with her motes of stardust and a handful of stars, her daughter among them. The king beyond the night had stars of his own, fallen that they might be but stars still nevertheless.
If stardust has ever proved anything, it is that even the greatest moon might be brought down by a few.
And so it came to pass the Kingmaker became Kingbreaker.
A woman sleeps between stars. She is a queen. Her name is Peace.