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Armored in Silk

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Leia could feel the sweat beginning to soak through her heavy white silk gown, under her breasts and armpits. Some enterprising HoloNet reporter with the latest cameras would probably zoom in on that for the gossip rags. She could see the headlines already: SENATOR LEIA SWEATS THE SMALL STUFF AT SENATE MEETING. There'd probably be a crack about the hairstyle after the lede.

Well, she couldn't blame them for the latter. She'd always hated most of the traditional Alderaani hairstyles, and there were so many pins holding her buns in place that she was half-afraid they'd explode in a cloud of needles if she moved wrong, like some threatened fairytale creature. She’d have the mother of all headaches later.

Relax, she told herself, it's just a comment on the trade bill. Not even a very big trade bill. She'd attended senate meetings before—with her father, of course—and she'd already survived being introduced to the Emperor, who thankfully would not be in attendance.

There was nothing to worry about. She had to speak to the Senate for the first time, and better about this than something more sensitive.

The com chimed, and she smoothed down her skirts for the hundredth time, took a deep breath, and pressed the door control. It slid open with a hiss, revealing Senator Mon Mothma of Chandrila, also in white, as calm and regal as Leia wished she could be. Her antiperspirant probably worked perfectly, Leia thought.

"Senator Mothma," she said, inclining her head as she'd been taught for so many years. "Please come in. Is there a problem?” There had better not be a problem, not with less than an hour to open. “Did the Malastarean delegation push through the alterations to Clause 6.2 after all?"

“Everything is fine.” Mothma smiled. “I only came to wish you well.”

“Sorry. I’m a little nervous.” Leia tried to force her shoulders to relax. “Would you like—” She looked around. “I’m afraid I don’t have anything to offer you but water.”

“Please, Leia,” said Mothma, laying a hand on Leia’s shoulder. “Relax. I must return to my delegation, but I wanted to tell you that you will do fine. Your father has utmost confidence in you, as do I; I’m sure if he could be here himself he would tell you the same thing.”

Her father had, earlier, over the comlink, but somehow without his comforting, steady presence in the room with her, it hadn’t helped much.

“Thank you.”

“I brought you a small gift.” Mothma produced a soft package from under her arm and held it out. “It once belonged to a very good friend of mine—and your father’s—someone I think would have liked you a great deal. I haven’t worn it in years, and it never really suited me. I would like you to have it.”

“Senator, thank you. I—” The package was heavier than it looked, with something hard in the center of it. “I don’t know what to say.”

Mothma leaned over and tapped Leia’s datapad where it lay beside her chair. “Say whatever you have prepared on that. Say it the way you would say it to me, or your father, with all the spirit and heart you have in you.”

The package unwrapped to reveal the dull, pearlescent shimmer of silk, shinier and lighter to the touch than the vine-silk of Leia’s own gown. Unfolded, it proved to be a cloak, which although white, was entirely unlike Mothma’s stiffly structured, high-collared Chandrilan robes of state. Perhaps it would be more precise to call it a robe, for it had wide ruched sleeves. It clasped in front with a large brooch with the dull sheen of ivory and the fine grain of wood, carved with intricate knotwork, and below the clasp the fabric was delicately etched into transparent floral patterns.

It was beautiful.

A faint, vaguely familiar scent of dried herbs rose up as she shook the folds out. Her eyes watered a little, and she blinked it away, holding the cloak up so that it hung loosely from her hands, catching the light. It was beautiful, if an unfamiliar beauty. She felt as though her hands were reluctant to set it aside: the silk slipped through her hands like cool water, soothing and calming, almost hypnotizing.

Alderaani formal wear tended to be simple in its cut and ornamentation, allowing the richness of the fabrics and the quality of the construction to stand alone. This was from another culture, one that prided itself on intricate details and elaborate patterns. Ought she to wear it? Would her aunts gasp in outrage at the violation of tradition?

After a moment of examination, Leia found the release for the clasp, and settled the cloak around her shoulders, burrowing her arms through the voluminous sleeves, and examined her reflection as best she could in the shuttered windowscreen of the senatorial pod. The subtlety of the transparent floral patterns was lost against her white gown—it must have been meant to be worn over something more colorful—but Leia found herself relieved that it would not mark her as rebelling too much against Alderaani tradition. It was a gift, anyway, and it would be rude not to wear it.

She stood up straighter, squaring her shoulders, and the silk settled around her, brushing against her hands like a reassuring touch. Her palms had stopped sweating, and despite the extra layer she felt, if anything, cooler.

The rest of the delegation would arrive at any moment. Leia took a deep breath, picked up her datapad, and began to review her speech again.

It is in the interest of the whole Empire to support and nurture the development of her burgeoning economies…