Korora loved Naboo much more than Coruscant. When she had been so scared and sad and trapped, her dreams had sent her there and had shown her hope with Mommy and Daddy being there too. Coruscant was noisy and nobody had time to take her to outside places where it was safe to play. All of Naboo was safe to play outside. They had found that out when they visited the planet five months before. And they had found Daddy’s family here and the meadow (Mommy had called it a meadow) from her dreams. So she loved Naboo, even now when the green leaves had shifted to reds, yellows, and browns and the wind off the lake had a sharper bite to it.
Her jacket kept her warm. She jogged behind Mommy and Vashalh followed to guard the rear as they headed down the street to the lake docks. Colorful awnings butted up to the buildings and protected all kinds of things to buy, but the tables and awnings made the narrow streets of the lake town even thinner to get through with all the stuff and the shoppers. She had been to and through countless markets traveling with Mommy on so many worlds while Daddy worked for the military. She knew not to touch and to stay with Mommy and Vashalh.
She wasn’t hungry so the fruits and vegetables stacked in green, red, orange, and purple piles didn’t entice her hands. The smell of sweet bread swirled through the street from the ovens under another awning, and the hungry shoppers gathered around its table. There were toys at the house—presents from Daddy’s family—so she didn’t need to look at the tables with toys. The boxes and boats made of flimsi made her curious. What could they be for and why were so many different sellers offering them? But Mommy wasn’t slowing down to ask, so Korora couldn’t.
They turned a corner and someone lurched into her path.
Korora squeaked as she stepped back. Vashalh wrapped a blue-scaled arm around Korora’s chest, pulling her against the Noghri’s front. Her free hand pointed a vibroblade as long as Korora’s forearm at the figure in their path.
The mannequin with a blank white face didn’t move again.
Vashalh let out a huff of air right in Korora’s ear as she let go and sheathed the vibroblade under her tunic. “The merchant is careless with her stock.”
Korora looked at the awning and tables they stood next to. The bright red cloth above protected floating columns of faces. They all seemed to be the same white shape with molded noses and lips and blank spaces for eyes, but paint, shimmer, fabrics, and feathers made each one different and otherworldly. They hung on chains attached to the awning’s supports, but from further away they looked like floating that she had seen Daddy, Mommy, and Jedi Kam do with the Force.
Those fantastic faces didn’t hold Korora’s attention. She turned back to the mannequin in front of her. It was as tall as she was and wore a purple dress under a darker purple velvet coat with huge drapey sleeves. The high collar of the coat was even with a neck band made of thin wires of bronzium. The dress and coat would probably fit her. She saw a glimmer of blue on the shoulders, but she blinked and it was gone.
The blank face reminded her of something important, but she couldn’t remember. Was it something Artoo had shown her? That was a long time ago since the droid had been busy with Daddy. Her eyebrows scrunched together as she stared at the pretty clothes. They looked like they’d swish like the gowns Mommy had tried on for going to the opera with Daddy.
Mommy returned to them and stopped at the front table under the awning. Soft, shiny, and poofy material draped the table. Korora realized there were more dressed mannequins in between the mask columns and guarding the corners of the seller’s space. They were Mommy’s size, and the outfits were more decorated than the purple outfit in front of her.
“Problem, Vashalh?” Mommy asked.
Vashalh waved at the purple mannequin. “We were ambushed, Maitrakh Jade.”
Mommy came round the dress and looked at it. “I’m glad you two didn’t damage it.”
Something whispered in her ear that she needed this dress. It was important to get this dress. Daddy said it was important to listen to your feelings. “Mommy, can I have it?”
Mommy’s green eyes scrunched with confusion. “But you already have a fancy dress for the wedding, remember?”
“No, not for the wedding.”
The dark-skinned human woman behind the table leaned over the piles of fabric. “You need masks for the Festival of Outcast Spirits?” Her white teeth flashed as she grinned and gestured at the mannequin in the path. “I call that one ‘Little Senator.’ It will fit. The dress has adjustable fasteners in the back. It hasn’t been popular this year. The Festival is tonight; I’ll give you a good deal.”
Korora widened her eyes to plead with Mommy. The lady said one of Mommy’s favorite words. “Please, Mommy, please. It’s a deal.”
Mommy sighed, but her lips twitched with a smirk. “Why don’t you find these deals with Daddy?”
“He’s not here.” She looked around. Daddy was meeting them on Naboo, but she thought it was at Varykino not here.
Now Mommy smiled. “Yes, that’s true.” She looked back at the seller and started negoting.
It was fun to watch Mommy work. They didn’t get to usually ‘cause the people Mommy worked with didn’t like kids, so Korora had to stay with Vashalh during Mommy’s meetings. Mommy turned down costumes for her and Vashalh. The seller gave a number. Mommy pointed out the mask wasn’t decorated and gave a lower number. The seller agreed and picked up the mannequin. The dress and mask were sealed in a clear flat package that Korora could wrap her arms around and hugged to her chest after Mommy paid.
Mommy hurried them through the rest of the street market down to the lake. Most of the tables were full of the masks and costumes. “You’re only getting that one, Korora,” Mommy said firmly.
“Yes, ma’am.” She squeezed the package harder. The top of the hard mask butted against her chin.
The street they walked on ended on a street running between the buildings and a metal fence. Beyond the fence, the lake stretched out to the hills of the other shore, a mass of green against the blue sky. The gaps in the fence led to stone steps down to the water if the metal ramps to the boats weren’t attached. Varykino’s boat waited at the end of one ramp. A pale human man, older than both Daddy and Uncle Han, with a bushy black beard with white streaks in it waved at them from the boat.
Korora waved back at Master Minnau and jogged down the ramp, making the metal rattle. She didn’t jump into the boat since it had rocked and scared Daddy when she had done that on the last trip. Vashalh moved with dainty steps and accepted Master Minnau’s hand to step into the boat. Mommy didn’t need any help as she got in. Korora claimed one of the front seats closest to the pointy front of the boat, so she could pretend to fly over the water when the boat moved.
“Welcome back, milady,” Master Minnau said to Mommy. “I hope you’ve had a pleasant trip back to Naboo.”
“It has been. This is Vashalh clan Khim’bar, she is Korora’s security detail. Vashalh this is Kun Minnau, one of the caretakers of Varykino.”
Vashalh bowed her head deeply at Master Minnau before she eased into the second front seat next to Korora.
He nodded back. “Security detail already. And she’s too young for politics.” He shook his head as he retracted the ramp from the stone wall. The boat moved slowly away from the land but picked up speed as the water expanded out around them.
Korora squinted her eyes against the sunlight bouncing off the waves and grinned into the wind as it caressed her face and hair. The boat wasn’t going at top speed. Vashalh’s clawed hands gripped the armrests of her seat. So Korora decided not to yell go faster when she saw that.
Master Minnau talked to Mommy who sat next to the pilot station. “My boy Ric is waiting for the other party with the bigger boat. It’s good practice for ferrying your wedding guests next week.”
“So the officials wouldn’t even consider a temporary landing pad next to the house?”
“No, milady, they want to preserve the character of the Lake Country.”
“That reminds me to comm Antilles.” Mommy needed to talk to Uncle Wedge? Korora twisted in her seat to look back at the adults. Mommy smirked. “I’ll be diplomatic and ask if the Rogues all need a personal threat from the bride.”
“Ric can’t wait to meet them, milady. He’s wild about flying.”
“I want us welcome to return to Naboo after the Rogues have stayed.”
Korora turned back to the front. The outcrop of the island Varykino sat on grew larger. The round fat towers with their sky-blue roofs were recognizable first, but the red roofs of the block-shaped parts of the house joined them soon. The leafy vine that grew on the side facing the lake was red against the pale tan the buildings were painted. The leaves had been green when they had come here before. Korora hugged her dress tighter. The tree that shaded the south terrace on the right of the house was still green and trimmed neatly into a round shape that matched the dome roofs. The smaller trees on the left terrace were colored in shades of orange and yellow instead.
The boat slowed along the water wall until they slipped through the space between it and the house. It pushed up against tall poles that lined the edge of the stone and whined as Master Minnau engaged the boat locks to hold it in place. The space between this dock and the boat was tiny, so the ramp didn’t extend. Mommy grabbed hold of one of the poles, stepped out of the boat first, and held her hand out for Korora. She tucked the dress package under her free arm before grabbing Mommy’s hand. They climbed the stone stairs on the outside of the house together with Vashalh behind them. The purple flowers that covered the railing and the rocks the house was built on weren’t blooming like last time. Those green leaves were now turning yellow.
The stone staircase ended on the north terrace and yard in front of the main entrance to the house. It was still shaded by the trees that leaves were turning yellow and orange, but hadn’t fallen off yet. Two short blocky towers guarded this door. Mommy didn’t waste any time outside. The door slid open before them and soon their shoes clicked against the red and white patterned floor.
Madam Minnau met them inside the entrance hall. She was older than Mommy but younger than Aunt Sola and wore a turban that matched her blue dress and covered all her hair. “Milady, the cargo delivery droid brought your luggage from the spaceport about an hour ago. And the shop in Theed delivered your wedding gown yesterday. I believe I got it all set up in the proper rooms.”
“Sorry it took us so long to get out of the spaceport. The people I work with can be so needy.” Mommy held out her hand to Vashalh. “This is Vashalh clan Khim’bar, Korora’s security detail.” Vashalh stepped forward and bowed her head deeply. “This is Madam Nandi Minnau. She’s the housekeeper here, so if you need anything, see her. You do have them rooming together?”
Madam Minnau smiled. “I put you two in a set of bedrooms that share a refresher on the second floor, on the other side of the main bedroom, since the Solo children would need the nursery. I moved all your toys to the new room, Mistress Korora.”
“Thank you, Madam Minnau.” Korora hugged her dress again with the mask out so it could see the beautiful entrance hall. She would share toys with the twins, but some of them were for bigger kids.
“I have prepared the rooms in the west wing’s second floor for everyone arriving today. The Solos have the suite next to the nursery. Chewbacca the Wookiee, Kam Solusar, and the Solos’ security detail have the rest of the rooms on that floor. The Naberries all fit on the third floor of the same wing. They commed—” Madam Minnau’s gaze fell on the mask and her eyes widened. “Oh, you are celebrating the Festival of Outcast Spirits! Your instructions didn’t say, but we have plenty of food and drinks, milady. And costumes too; we kept many in storage from the last time Senator Amidala hosted a celebration here.” Her hands fluttered in her excitement.
“The Naberries?” Mommy started with a questioning tone.
But Madam Minnau didn’t slow down. “They said they would arrive after the observance but they can do it here with you and Amidala’s grandchildren! We’ll need floating lanterns. I’ll send Kun over for some. We’ll do the family proud this Festival and your wedding, milady. Have no worries. I’ll get started on the food and get the costumes out of storage too.” The turbaned woman whirled, marched down the entrance hall, and quickly disappeared through a door at the end.
Mommy looked down at Vashalh and Korora. They both looked up at her. “Did I just agree to a party tonight?”
Korora jumped. “Party! Party! Party!” Parties were the best, especially when people brought her presents.
“Madam Minnau is acting like you agreed, Maitrakh Jade. The merchant also said the Festival was tonight,” Vashalh said.
“What did I miss since I was so focused on the wedding logistics?”
Mommy didn’t sound happy about a party. Korora stopped jumping and squeezed the package tighter. “I can’t wear the dress?”
Mommy sighed. “Everybody will be coming here straight off a ship, Korora. The last thing they’ll want to do is have a dress up party.”
Mommy sighed again, but her eyes were far away. Before Korora could call her back, the entrance hall door slid open again. “What why question are you foisting off on me?”
“DADDY!” Korora hurled herself at the blond-haired man dressed in black leading everyone else into the house. Daddy laughed and caught her and her dress as he continued walking. Korora kissed his cheek and remembered the important part. “Mommy doesn’t want to have the party Madam Minnau wants to have tonight so I can wear this.” She tried to thrust the package in front of Daddy’s face, but it was stuck between them.
“You’ve corrupted the kid, Leia.” Uncle Han said as he set a squirming Jaina on the patterned floor. “The whole family’s together; it must be a formal occasion.”
Daddy continued walking to Mommy while he kissed Korora on the cheek. He swung her back to the floor before wrapping his arms around Mommy and kissing her on the lips. “Been distracted and missed something?” He asked when they separated. His left hand rested on the belt of Mommy’s trousers.
“I missed the details on a festival tonight, though spirits are more your line, Farmboy.”
“Oh, the Festival of Outcast Spirits is tonight.” Threepio carried an open bag filled with stuff the twins and baby Anakin might need. “It is a planet-local celebration among the Naboo to honor the dead that did not have proper funerary rites performed.”
Jacen demanded that Chewbacca set him down. Then the twins rushed to Korora and wrapped her in tiny hugs with shouts of “Kor, Kor!” They were fifteen months old now and walking but couldn’t say her whole name.
Threepio continued explaining over their voices. “The belief is that their souls have not joined the Many Waters of the planet and have chosen this night to disturb the living. When twilight falls, the participants will don masks and costumes to hide their identities. Food will be left out to be consumed during the revelry. After darkness falls, lanterns constructed to float on the water are lit to show the spirits the way to the Many Waters.”
Artoo rolled past Jedi Kam, Cakhmaim, Mobvekhar, Nanna the nanny droid, and around Aunt Leia holding baby Anakin and whistled at Threepio when he reached him.
The taller droid tilted to look at Artoo. “My duties for Princess Leia include researching all local customs that could be useful in diplomatic outreach. However, I did neglect to calculate the local dates with this trip, Master Luke.”
“It’s all right, Threepio,” Daddy said without letting go of Mommy. “We have all been concentrating on the wedding.”
“That is true.” Threepio waved his free arm at Korora. “Mistress Korora’s costume is typical, albeit under-decorated.”
“It’s pretty, Threepio.” Korora waved her package at everyone.
“Purple,” Jania said happily.
“That’s not the problem, Korora.” Mommy gestured at the door Madam Minnau went through. “I believe Madam Minnau can pull it together for all of us plus the Naberries, but should we put her through it?”
“If the Naberries are observant, participating will help keep tensions at bay.” Aunt Leia looked thoughtful as she propped baby Anakin against her shoulder.
Daddy turned from Mommy to face his sister. “I don’t think you have to worry about that, Leia. You are a politician who had kids. They’re in awe of you.”
“Do we have to go back ‘cross the water and buy outfits?” Uncle Han jerked his thumb over his shoulder.
“Boat, boat, boat,” Jania and Jacen chanted.
“Madam Minnau said there were costumes stored here from the last time,” Mommy said.
Chewbacca said something quietly with his growls.
Daddy answered. “I’ll find out.”
“There was nothing in my database that indicated offworlders were required to participate,” Threepio added.
“Luke can find that out.” Aunt Leia marched up to Mommy. “I want to see your wedding dress, if it’s here.”
“It’s upstairs,” Mommy said.
Daddy saluted Aunt Leia and headed the same way Madame Minnau had gone. Artoo rolled behind him. Everyone else followed Mommy up the stairs. This time the doors had hololabels. Korora didn’t remember those on the last trip. But the last trip was just her, Mommy, Daddy, and Artoo. Everybody was coming to the wedding and most of them were staying here too. Names made sense. She darted ahead of the slow adults and found her name on a door.
Uncle Han and Chewie got Jacen and Jania to go into the nursery with them, Threepio, and Nanna. Aunt Leia followed Mommy to the double doors at the end of the hallway, next to Korora’s room.
Vashalh tapped Korora’s shoulder. “I will take your costume to your room and open it.”
“Thank you.” Korora handed her the package and followed Aunt Leia into Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom.
There was a tall gray crate that came up to Mommy’s chin in the center of the sitting room. “I guess we don’t want to get it out of the closet if something is wrong with it.” Mommy said as she keyed in a code.
“Or they figured you’ll have to show it off as everyone arrives.” Aunt Leia swayed and rubbed baby Anakin’s back.
The crate beeped and the top and sides slid down into each other until they all went into the bottom. Inside a white headless mannequin wore the blue dress Mommy had picked out in Theed.
It was a deep teal blue gown with puffy sleeves that didn’t cover the shoulders. The collar wrapped around the neck and attached to the top of the dress that hugged tight around the chest and back. The sleeves hooked on under the arms and despite the mannequin wearing it, Korora didn’t understand how Mommy was going to be able to move her arms in those sleeves.
Tiny silver branches outlined the edges of the top and sleeves and then came down the side of the dress, pointing to the silver crescent moon in the middle of the belt. More branches decorated the hips under the belt but stopped before a new set of silver branches outlined a long arrow down the skirt until it reached the floor.
“Mara, it’s gorgeous.” Aunt Leia walked all the way around the dress. “Blue?”
“Blue is the color worn at weddings on Tatooine.” Mommy tilted her head as her green eyes stared at Aunt Leia. “You didn’t know Tatooine is a culture that assigns symbolic meaning to colors?”
“Luke never said.” Aunt Leia frowned. “Nor has Threepio, for that matter.”
“I only wanted to look at blue gowns. We finally figured out that was from Luke through the Force bond and he was so embarrassed. I don’t have a problem with blue, but I couldn’t get out of him who teased him about his culture of origin so badly that he lumped all us Core Worlders under ‘won’t understand it’ and gave up explaining.”
Aunt Leia’s lips moved to one side as she thought hard. “I don’t think it was Han. Not because he wouldn’t tease Luke; he made it his mission to right after the first Death Star. But he’s bad at keeping what he teases Luke with away from me. So that leaves three contenders.”
Both Mommy and Aunt Leia looked at the door before looking at the dress again. “I’m thinking hair up,” Mommy said, “with all the embellishments on the collar. I’d rather not have my hair caught in them.”
Aunt Leia nodded as she circled around the dress again. Daddy entered the room. “The Naberries are thrilled to bring their celebration here. Aunt Sola didn’t want to make us uncomfortable. I’m so glad you thought of it, beloved.”
“What about the children?” Aunt Leia asked.
“Korora’s old enough to participate,” Daddy said.
Korora jumped up and down behind the dress. Mommy saw her though, and pulled her back with her to the sofa.
“Jacen and Jania, no one expects us to put them in masks, but it’s up to you and Han. We have enough people to keep them out of the lake.”
“It’s too cold to swim,” Korora said.
“That’s right, so you better stay out of the lake too.”
Korora nodded at Mommy’s serious face.
Daddy held out his left hand. “Come on. Let Mommy and Aunt Leia have big girl time while we find costumes for me and Mommy to wear tonight.”
Mommy nodded. “Go help Daddy find something pretty.”
“Okay.” Korora took hold of his hand and they headed down the hall to the turbolift. She looked down at the red jumpsuit she was wearing. “What does red mean?”
Daddy wrinkled his nose. “Mommy told you about that.”
“She was telling Aunt Leia actually. Is it a secret?”
“Only from Hutts and slavers.” The bad men who made Momma go away and put Korora in the box were slavers. She’d always remember that. Daddy kept talking. “It’s a secret way of talking for those who know the meanings. And a way for non-Force sensitives to touch the Force.”
She liked a secret way to talk. They should teach Vashalh too. But he hadn’t answered the question. “What does red mean? Is it bad?”
The lift stopped on the top floor. “None of the colors are bad. Red is the color of bedrock. It means strength, stability, and survival.” They walked into the hallway. But Daddy stopped and knelt so he was as tall as she was. “You can wear whatever colors you want to, okay?”
“Okay.” She wasn’t sure she was strong as rock yet. Maybe when she got bigger. “What does black mean?” It had to mean something; it was Daddy’s favorite color after all.
Daddy’s mouth quirked up on one side. “Freedom.”
“From the Empire?”
“And other things, but that’s a story for when you’re older.” He stood and they headed down the hall again. These doors didn’t look like bedroom doors.
“Why is blue for weddings?”
“Blue is the color of water. Without water there is no life, so it became the color of new life. A wedding is two people joining together to make a new family so you wear blue for good luck.”
They stopped at a door that was open. Madam Minnau was inside a narrow room. She tapped a keypad and the wall on the left slid apart, showing tall boxes about as wide as Korora’s hand hanging from a rod. The cabinet was as long as the room. “Greetings, milord. Come to have first pick?” She faced them with a grin and waved at the boxes.
“Yes, picking for me and Mara with Korora’s supervision.” Daddy went inside the room and pushed the boxes away from the hallway door. Korora moved inside to see the front of the first box. It was clear and they saw a mask with a nose longer than a Calibop’s beak set against black and gold fabric.
“Next,” Korora said firmly like Mommy.
Daddy chuckled and pushed that box out of the way. The next mask had bright blue swirls painted around the eyes, and it matched the bright blue fabric behind it. “Pass, we’ve got blue for the wedding,” he said.
“Because blue is water and water is life!” Korora wanted to show she had listened.
“That’s right,” Daddy said as he looked at the third box. It looked filled with gold.
Madam Minnau looked puzzled. “Is that a Jedi belief, milord?”
“Tatooine actually. Why?”
“It sounds like how we view the Many Waters. Water is life here on Naboo too.”
Daddy nodded. “I need to pick up materials on Naboo’s religions this trip. I’m curious about other similarities.”
Korora didn’t want to talk about Daddy’s Jedi work right now. There was a party to get ready for. She patted the cabinet door on the opposite wall. “More costumes in here?”
“Not for the Festival of Outcast Spirits.” Madam Minnau frowned as she looked at Daddy. “They are outfits milady Amidala wore in the Senate.” She opened the doors, revealing more hanging boxes behind them but also shelves of heads with elaborate hairdos on them. Shelves closer to the floor held shoes.
“My mother’s clothes are here?” Daddy asked.
“Some. The Naberries hid them here after Queen Apailana’s assassination, but the Empire never really erased Amidala from Naboo.” Madame Minnau wiped her hands on her skirt. “I don’t want to burden you this trip, but your lady to be and the Princess should probably go through them.”
Daddy looked confused. “The styles she wore as a Senator aren’t in style anymore.”
“Mementos, milord.” Madam Minnau smiled. “Something for your daughters to cherish.”
Korora ignored the grown-ups as she stared at the blank white head with brown hair pulled back into a golden cone-shaped basket. It looked like a basket because the hair was braided under the wires. She remembered Artoo showing her a holoimage of Grandmother Padmé with her hair like that in a purple dress like Korora’s costume. Daddy and Madam Minnau had stopped talking, so she could ask her question. “What does purple mean?”
Daddy moved a costume box aside. “Purple couldn’t be made by anything on Tatooine. It came from offworld and was very expensive, so it stands for offworlders now.” He moved another box and gasped as he stared at the next costume.
“What is it, Daddy?” Korora jumped to his side. The costume colors were green and brown, but instead of a white humanoid face this mask was green with a long toothy snout and tiny connected half-circles carved into it making a scale pattern except in the center. That was an off-white color from the end of the snout, between the eyes, and to the top edge of the mask and carved with spikes. Two horns curled out of that white above the eye holes and two more came out the green sides over the cheeks.
Daddy stared at the mask like it would bite him. “Daddy?” Korora asked.
He blinked and looked down at her. “Sorry, it’s a krayt dragon from Tatooine. I didn’t expect to see this here.”
Madam Minnau stepped next to him, looking into the cabinet from over Korora’s head. “Oh, good we still have that one. It was your father’s.”
“My father’s?” Daddy turned to the older woman and his blue eyes widened. “I thought they, my parents, spent most of their time together on Coruscant.”
“I suppose they did. Milady Amidala didn’t come home to Naboo often once the Clone Wars were underway. What happened here wasn’t a full battle; Naboo was spared those. But some Separatist was doing something here to support their cause and Anakin Skywalker was sent to stop it. His apprentice was ill after it was done, so milady Amidala brought them here while she recuperated.”
“My father had a padawan?” Daddy looked huffy, but he quickly deflated. “No reason to tell me about her if she died in the Purge.”
Madam Minnau’s smile dropped away. “I am sorry, milord.”
“It’s all right, Madam Minnau.” Daddy lifted the box with the dragon off the rod holding it up. “Making peace with the past is an ongoing process.”
Korora stopped listening to talk about the past. Daddy was getting over his sad without her help. And the costume behind the dragon sparkled. The fabric was mostly white with lacy gold accents and stones that reflected the light. The mask reminded her of the glittering crowns and jewelry that had been worn when Mommy and Daddy had taken her to the Opera. The mask was designed to cover the top of the face leaving the mouth and chin exposed and was covered in clear stones. A huge clear stone sat in the center of the white forehead with smaller stones radiating out from it, like a star burst. Two more star bursts dangled on each side of the mask over the ears and next to the swirl on the mask edge. The holes for the eyes had stones outlining them until they fanned out and made thin wings. Stones on wires above the golden lace top mask edge radiated out like starlight.
“Daddy.” She grabbed his tabard under his belt and tugged. “Daddy.”
“It’s not nice to pull people’s clothes.”
She let go to point. “That one for Mommy.”
“I think it’s fancier than what Mommy wants.” Daddy frowned at the box.
Korora frowned right back at him. “She said pretty. And that’s why I have to pick.”
Madam Minnau laughed. “How about you show milady the mask and get her approval?” She opened the clear lid of the hanging box and pulled out the mask.
“Gently, Akku,” Daddy said.
Korora grasped the half-mask on the white that covered the cheekbones with both hands. It was more beautiful close up. The long wires from the top of the mask made it big but not heavy. “I’m showing Mommy.”
“She’s still down in our bedroom.” Daddy stared at the costume box he held and the white one inside the cabinet as he puzzled out how to carry them both.
She left him to it.
The second floor hallway was quiet now. Which was good because she didn’t want to bump into anyone and drop Mommy’s mask. She felt Mommy ahead at the end of the hall, but the sitting room was empty and Mommy’s wedding dress was back in the box. She wasn’t as good as Mommy and Daddy at finding each other, but she was getting better. “Mommy?”
The door behind the couch flared brightly. Korora tiptoed up to it, and it slid open unlocked. Mommy lay in the bed on her side with her back to the door. Korora’s chest squeezed. The only time she had seen Mommy in bed during daytime was on Byss when she had been so sick. She couldn’t be sick now, with the wedding and the party! But all that came out of her tight throat was an anguished “Mommy!”
Mommy rolled onto her back and sat up. “Korora?” She had changed into a baggy black undertunic that slid off her freckled shoulders. “Where’s Daddy?”
Korora rushed to the bed, dropping the mask on the soft mattress away from Mommy’s feet. “Don’t be sick again. Nobody’s making you sick on Naboo.” She grabbed the sheets and blanket and squeezed her hands tight.
“Oh, Kor.” Mommy held her arms out inviting a hug.
Korora clambered onto the bed and Mommy’s lap and clung to her front.
“It’s all right.” Mommy leaned back against the headboard and patted Korora’s back. “I’m not sick. I’m just resting.”
“You don’t rest.”
Mommy’s chest jiggled as she chuckled. “I like to make people think that, but it’s not true. You probably need to rest too, to stay awake through the party.”
“No, I don’t. I’m not sick.” She pulled back to look at Mommy’s face. It was her normal pale, not the same white like before on Byss.
The bedroom door slid open before Daddy. He held a costume box in each hand by its hook. “What’s wrong? You hate the mask?”
“I haven’t seen it yet.”
“Mommy’s sick again!” Korora wailed over Mommy’s voice.
Daddy propped the boxes against the wall before coming to the bed. He moved the sparkly mask to the bedside table and sat on the edge next to Mommy. “Kor-akku, you have to think through your fear. We told you when Mommy was sick before. You don’t think we’d tell you now if it was true?”
That made sense. Lots of things made sense when Daddy explained them. “So Mommy’s not sick. I don’t want you to be sick.” Korora hugged Mommy hard.
“And I don’t want to be sick. So wonderful, agreement.” Mommy pressed a kiss on Korora’s head to show she wasn’t as grumpy as her words sounded. “What did you pick for me?”
Korora let go of Mommy and reached for the mask. Her arm wasn’t long enough. Daddy passed it to her and slipped his arm behind Mommy’s back. Korora grabbed it and held it up.
Mommy’s green eyes widened. “That is… sparkly and big.”
“The rest of it is just as sparkly.” Daddy’s face scrunched up like he was trying not to laugh. He kissed Mommy’s bare shoulder.
“You said you wanted a pretty one. This was the prettiest.” Korora turned the mask carefully in her hands and put it on Mommy’s face. She grinned as she held it in place. The gems around the eye-holes made Mommy’s green eyes sparkle too.
“Korora, this is Aunt Leia’s first time meeting the Naberries. She should be the sparkly one.” Mommy reached for the mask swirl on her cheek and hit the dangling starbursts made of jewels instead.
“But you said.” Korora’s lower lip poked out.
“I was talking about your daddy.”
Daddy rested his face on Mommy’s shoulder and snickered.
Mommy tried to turn her head to look at him, but couldn’t without the mask slipping. Korora grabbed it with both hands to keep it on. Mommy sighed and held it too. “What did you pick?”
“Grandfather Anakin’s dragon,” Korora answered for him.
“Will that fit you?”
“Madam Minnau says she has sewing supplies.” Daddy lifted his head. “Let me take that. Mommy will sparkle tonight.”
“Yes, I will.”
Korora passed the mask to Daddy who got up off the bed and put it on the dresser. She slid off Mommy’s lap to watch him carry it across the room. “Is dragons why we don’t go to Tatooine?”
Daddy looked surprised. “You want to go to Tatooine?”
“It’s on my wall too.”
“We should have guessed that,” Mommy said.
“We should have,” Daddy agreed. “Krayt dragons are dangerous but easily avoided. It’s a place that makes me sad and it’s hard to remember I have to be happy too there.”
“Plus we have been really busy lately,” Mommy said.
“I know.” Korora wondered when it was time to leave Naboo if she’d go with Daddy or if he still had duties with the military.
“We’ll keep it in mind for the next family trip.” As he returned to the bed, Daddy pulled a package of paint styluses out of his belt pouch and handed them to Korora. “Madam Minnau said those would work on your mask if you wanted to decorate it.”
Korora cooed as she took the small clear box. The fake face needed colors, important colors, that she couldn’t remember.
Daddy sat back in his spot on the bed and curled his arm around Mommy’s back. She leaned against him. It had been a long time since they were all together. “My father had a padawan. He brought her here during the Clone Wars.”
“The Naberries didn’t say anything about a padawan.”
“Maybe they thought I already knew.” He brought his other arm up and took Mommy’s hand.
Korora had to get her costume ready. She scooted off the edge of the bed with the paint styluses box.
“Where are you going?” Daddy asked.
“Color my mask. You want kissy time with Mommy.”
“Shield better,” Mommy said in a low voice.
“I want to spend time with Mommy,” Daddy said, “but if you need help?”
“I’ll get Vashalh to help me.” She continued through their sitting room and into the hallway.
Nobody was there, but she heard a voice in her ear. “You need the hair piece.”
The doors to Mommy and Daddy’s room clicked locked behind her. She rode down the lift all by herself, she could go back up by herself too. She slipped the styluses in her jacket pocket as she walked down the hallway.