Chapter 1: Part One
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.
The door to the costume room on the top floor was still open, even though Madam Minnau had gone to another part of the house. The hair piece was still there on Grandmother Padmé’s side. She picked up the white head that held the basket-like hair with both hands. It was lighter than she expected, but off balance with how long it was.
Someone moved down the hallway from the lift. Korora lost her grip on the head, but juggled it back before it hit the floor. She reached out like Daddy had taught her and felt Jedi Kam reaching back for her.
He reached the door and smiled like he was sorry. “Wasn’t trying to startle you. Is this where the costumes are?”
She pointed to the side with all the hanging boxes with her elbow. She didn’t dare let go of the hair now.
Jedi Kam stepped inside the room and looked at the first hanging box in the gap left between the boxes. “Where’s Acharyan Luke?”
“He’s downstairs with Mommy. I forgot this.” She lifted up the hair and its head.
“Thanks for the warning.” Korora frowned because what she said wasn’t a warning. Jedi Kam’s pale face flushed slightly. “He has missed you and your mommy a lot. Have fun putting your costume together.”
“You too.” Korora carefully carried the head out into the hall. She made it safely back to her bedroom without dropping it or meeting anyone else in the lift and hallway.
Her new purple dress was hanging on a garment stand beside the bed with its blank white mask propped on top. She looked at the hair in her hands. Yes! She had seen it before with this dress. But the white face had had a different dress and wasn’t completely white either. It had red on it.
She set the head on a table by the window. The view was of the terraced gardens on the hill the different wings of the house was built on. The upper flower beds and lawns still had sunlight on them, but the house cast a long shadow over the lower. The nursery window had a view of the lake. She hoped Jacen and Jaina left it closed so they didn’t fall in.
The carved box of toys was against the wall next to the window. The toys that she had left here on the last trip were all there, gifts from the Naberries once they found out about Daddy adopting her. Swoop, her stuffed bantha that had traveled to Byss and back and everywhere they had gone with Mommy and Daddy since, was on the bed next to the mound of pillows.
The bedroom door slid open before Vashalh and Khabarakh, her cousin who guarded Jaina and Jacen. So Korora said his name carefully when she said hello and asked Vashalh how her visit went after he left them.
Vashalh opened her mouth showing off almost all her needle-like teeth. It was good to see her smile. “Our maitrakh is pleased with Maitrakh Jade’s reports on my assignment.”
“Did she think you’d do a bad job?” Korora set the paint styluses pack on the table next to the head.
“My maitrakh worried. I am young to have such an important job,” Vashalh said slowly before she stalked to the table. “That was not here earlier. What is it?” She pointed a talon at the head.
“It’s hair. I found it to go with my costume.”
“And how do we put it on your head?”
“It can’t be that hard. There was lots of hair in the storage room. Do want to wear some? We can go get a different style.”
“This is a human celebration. We are welcome to attend, but we don’t have to dress. Chewbacca was most relieved.” Vashalh sounded happy about that, which couldn’t be right. Before Korora could question her happiness, Vashalh looked at her. “We should try on the dress first and make certain it fits you.”
“Good idea.” Korora sat on the floor and pulled off her boots.
The dress, coat, and neck band fit perfectly. And the dress and coat swished around her legs as she twirled. The mask fit and she could see out of the eye-holes, but it needed red marks on it. Vashalh figured out that Korora’s naturally curly hair could stay in its puffy bun behind her head and the basket hair could go around it. Her clever talons unlatched the hair from the white head, but couldn’t make it lock around Korora’s. “Ow!”
Vashalh snorted, lifted the hair from Korora’s head, and peered at the fasteners in the metal band. “We need Maitrakh Jade’s help with this.”
“Can’t.” Korora rubbed her head where the fasteners had poked it. “She’s having kissy time with Daddy.” Vashalh craned her head back to look at the ceiling. “Comm Artoo,” Korora suggested.
“He’s a droid. They don’t have hair either!”
“He’s smart. He knows stuff.”
Vashalh muttered something in her language. Korora needed to remember to ask Threepio what it meant while they were here. But she activated the comm unit on her wrist. “Artoo, Korora needs your assistance in her bedroom.”
It didn’t take long for Artoo to roll inside. He whistled a question as his dome swiveled at Korora. Recognizing that neither girl understood Binary like Daddy, Artoo projected a holoimage instead. Grandmother Padmé smiled and she was wearing the same purple dress and coat Korora had on and the basket hair was on her head.
Korora clapped her hands. “Yes! Only we can’t get the hair on me, Artoo.” She picked the white mask up off the bed and held it up. “And I need you to show me where the red goes.”
Artoo beeped and changed the holoimage to a younger Grandmother Padmé in a red dress and brown hair coiled in a huge roll around her head and fastened with gold headgear. Her face was painted white with red marks on her lips and cheeks.
“That’s right. We better do it now so it can dry.” Korora set the mask on the floor in front of Artoo and went to the stylus pack.
Vashalh frowned at the holoimage. “That is the mother of the Kher’ary’ush and Mal’ary’ush? You are dressing like her tonight?”
That was what the Noghri called Daddy and Aunt Leia. “Yes and yes.” Korora found red and pulled out that stylus.
“Korora, this is not a good idea. Let’s put different colors on the face and change your hair.”
“No, this is important,” whispered in Korora’s ear. She agreed so she repeated it out loud to Vashalh.
The Noghri shook her head. “The Kher’ary’ush is leaving his mother’s clan for Maitrakh Jade’s clan.”
“Nobody has said anything about clans.”
“Do you want to remind them of all their losses tonight?”
“Grandmother Padmé isn’t lost. Daddy found out about her.” Korora plopped down on the floor in front of the mask.
A sigh whispered in Korora’s ear again. Not from Vashalh, she was across the room. “She’s not the one lost right now. Stubborn girl.”
That didn’t make any sense and it didn’t look like Vashalh had heard it either. “There’s nothing to worry about.” Korora told both Vashalh and the unseen whisperer.
Vashalh crossed her arms in a pose they’d both seen Mommy use. “You have no idea what that means.”
“Yes, I do. Artoo, show me where the red goes.” She tucked the long sleeves under her tummy so they wouldn’t drag across the carpet or the mask while she painted.
Artoo beeped yes and projected a small blue circle on the mask’s left cheek. Korora kept her red marks inside the outline and ignored the unease filling her tummy that she was doing something wrong, something that would make people sad or mad.
The whisper chuckled in her ear. “Stick to it, young one. She needs to see you as Padmé.” The whisper wasn’t reassuring, but Korora continued with her painting.
Artoo’s help made sure the red marks on the cheeks and molded lips were straight and without smears. After the mask was done, Artoo found instructions for the hair for Vashalh. Once it was on Korora’s head, she had to practice walking and swishing the skirts. The extra hair wasn’t too heavy, but it did make her head feel long and she bumped it into stuff behind her.
Vashalh drew the curtains to cover the window. “Are you ready to go down now?”
Korora stopped swishing the skirts and picked up the white and red mask. Hooks on the side went behind her ears and held it on. She checked how she looked in the mirror beside the wardrobe door. She looked like Grandmother Padmé as long as she stood back. But Vashalh’s tone made worry bubble in her tummy again. What if the Noghri was right and nobody liked her costume? Neither Mommy or Daddy let worry or fear stop them from doing something. Korora pulled her shoulders back, turned from the mirror, and marched to the door. “Let’s go.”
They rode the lift down for Artoo. The noise hit as soon as the lift doors slid open, talking and laughing punctuated with high-pitched squeals over softer music. The entrance hall was empty, but the doors to the ballroom were wide open spilling the noise out into the hall. The tall window doors beyond the party guests were open to the south yard. But the crowd of costumed people, so many people, stopped Korora’s progress at the ballroom doors.
Artoo rolled right in instead of hiding behind the wall and checking out the situation like she was doing. Maybe Threepio was right about Artoo’s circuits. Vashalh at least stayed behind her, a solid protection.
The other party to celebrate her birthday didn’t have this many people and they hadn’t come wearing poofy clothes and masks over their faces. Threepio was carrying a drink tray around to different clusters of people, and she recognized Khabarakh standing by one of the window doors. She could pick out others with the Force. Daddy was near a food table wearing the green and white dragon mask and a long green and brown robe and talked to an unmasked Gungan who was taller than Uncle Han.
Aunt Leia was next to Nanna who held baby Anakin in two of her four arms. Aunt Leia wore a red and gold dress with a red mask with gold lips. Four other masked women cooed over baby Anakin.
Jacen and Jaina squealed as they dodged around the dresses and robes chased by two shorter masked people, both wearing animal faces like Daddy. They didn’t have big hair behind their animal masks. The masked adults laughed and swished their clothes out of the twins’ way. The children’s chase headed out the open window doors and onto the south lawn. Chewie stood outside near the large green trees that shaded the lawn. The tall Wookiee raised his long arms over his head and into the leaves as the chase circled him and the tree. He laughed. A taller child in a blue fish face mask threw out their arms veering the chase away from the stone fence at the edge of the lawn.
Korora’s middle seized up. Vashalh was right; she had picked the wrong costume. Mommy’s white didn’t pop out of the rainbow of colors in the ballroom. Daddy didn’t look at the doors. Korora’s tight tummy plummeted to her feet. But they still managed to turn her around and run for the main entrance. The door slid open without having to wait for it. She pounded across the crushed gravel to hide among the slender, white-barked trees whose leaves were all yellow.
“Korora!” Vashalh’s hand gripped her upper arm through the sleeves of the dress and the coat as her low voice broke through Korora’s panic. Korora stopped running. Vashalh let go and rubbed Korora’s arm. “What’s wrong? Why did you not go in?”
“You were right.” She hid her masked face against one of the slender trees. Its trunk wasn’t big enough to hide her whole face, but Vashalh was behind her. Korora could see through the shrubs and vines down to the steps to the lake. “My costume is all wrong.” She wasn’t going to cry but her voice didn’t sound sure of that.
Vashalh moved her hand to Korora’s shoulder. “We can fix it. We can draw more symbols on the mask. No one will know.” Vashalh patted with the palm of her hand.
That was the easiest fix. The whisper who had encouraged her wasn’t saying anything now. It felt like giving up, though she didn’t know what was at stake. She looked down at the lake steps, trying not to decide. A bird flapped as it landed in the tree branches above them. Someone in a white robe moved on the steps to the lake. You could dock a boat there, but Master Minnau didn’t let the boats stay by the steps. He had explained that the boats' hangar bay was by the dock protected by the seawall on the last trip. That’s where the boat they had rode today docked.
The figure didn’t head up the path to the house. It looked like the person sat down on the steps. That wasn’t right; they were supposed to go inside to the party. She had to be hosp-bit-little like at her birthday party. Mommy taught her what to say. She dodged around the tree trunk and went through the flower bed to get to a lower part of the path quickly. Luckily all the flowers were finished blooming so all she had to walk through was leaves. She followed the path to get around the stone fence and then ran down the hillside just growing grass. Then she was at the wide stone steps and open metal gate down to the lake. “Welcome to our home!”
The figure was sitting on the steps and jerked around to look at Korora on the top step. Her hood fell back, and in the safety lights on the stone steps down to the water, the dim lights from the house, Naboo’s moon, and the last of the lingering sunset, Korora saw an orange face framed by a blue and white lekku over her shoulders and outside her robe and montrals that made two points like horns on top of her head. “Fierfek,” the Togruta female said. “I suppose it was too much to hope that Varykino would never change hands.”
Mommy had told her to ignore the words Korora wasn’t old enough to say yet and answer everything else said, but that didn’t make much sense. “This is Daddy’s house. Aren’t you here for the party?”
Vashalh leaped and landed on the step between Korora and the strange Togruta female. Her vibroknife slashed through the air, the tip pointed at the Togruta’s face. “She’s trespassing!”
“What does that mean?” Korora said around Vashalh’s arm thrust back at her. Four flimsi boats with orange lights flickering inside them sat on the step next to the visitor. Threepio had said something about lights on the water was part of the festival which meant the party. The Togruta was here for the party.
“It’s all right, guardian. I mean no harm to your charge or anyone else on this island.” The Togruta leaned back from the vibroblade and smiled kindly at Korora. “It means your father didn’t invite me to the party.”
“But why come?”
“You need to return to the house.” Vashalh growled that at Korora with a slight twist of her neck, so Korora knew that was an instruction for her without the Noghri taking her eyes off the Togruta.
Korora ignored the instruction. The strange female didn’t feel scary; Korora remembered how that felt on Byss. “I wanna know. She went to a lot of trouble.” There was a gondola speeder with its nose pressed against the docking pole next to the steps.
“You need to stay safe,” Vashalh said.
The Togruta sighed. “Children, I have been honoring my dead here at Varykino during this festival for years before you both were born. I will finish this, leave you, and give up another tradition.” Her red lips thinned as her bright blue eyes went sad and her shoulders slumped.
“I am not a child!” Vashalh bit out in a low growl.
“Honor your dead?” Korora asked.
The white markings on her orange skin above her eyes furrowed like eyebrows. “Didn’t anyone explain that the Festival of Outcast Spirits honors the dead, especially the dead without funerary rites?”
“Yes.” Threepio had said that. “But I don’t know what fun-ary rites is.”
“Funerary rites are what is done with the body after the person is one with the Force,” the Togruta answered.
“How does that work with being sad happy for who is gone into the Force?” Korora asked because no one had explained that part.
The white markings bunched even tighter. “Sad happy?”
Daddy hadn’t invited the Togruta, so he hadn’t explained that either. “Momma is one with the Force. Slavers made her go away. Daddy says it’s okay to be sad because I miss her, but I have to be happy too because she’s still with me in the Force and bad people like slavers can’t hurt her any more.”
“Your father is very wise.” A bird landed on the open gate next to Korora. It was mostly white in its plump body, but the feathers on top of its head looked green. It blinked round green eyes at the humanoids while it curled its tail around the metal bars. The Togruta laughed softly. “My friend likes you two.”
“Another trespasser,” Vashalh muttered. “Don’t touch,” was said quickly over her shoulder at Korora.
Korora huffed. “I wasn’t going to.”
The Togruta ignored the vibroblade as she twisted to face the lake. She picked up the first of her flimsi-crafted boats. The light inside it danced as it moved. “Let me finish this and I can leave you to go back to your celebration.”
“Vashalh, she’s just sad about her dead.” Really, the Noghri could put away the vibroblade.
“And I have to make certain you do not end up dead.” The vibroblade didn’t move.
Korora had something to say about that but forgot it when the flimsi boat lifted off the Togruta’s hand and spun in the air. “For my master,” the Togruta said softly with an ache in her voice that scraped over Korora’s skin, “lost and found and lost again. May you have more peace in the Force than you did in life. Be outcast no more.” The flimsi boat floated down to the water, bobbing on the gentle waves as it settled next to the gondola speeder.
Korora grabbed Vashalh’s arm that held her away from the Togruta. “The Force!” she whispered fiercely.
“Not all Force users are good.” Vashalh didn’t move.
“She doesn’t feel like Byss. Turn on her lightsaber.” Daddy said those who used the Dark Side always had red lightsabers.
The Togruta was doing an excellent job of ignoring both of them behind her as she picked up the next flimsi boat. “For my grand-master,” the ache in her voice eased slightly. “I still miss you. Be outcast no more.” The boat landed on the water next to the first one.
Her voice didn’t change for the third boat she held in her hand. “For the Council and the entire Order, who never understood.” The light in the boat flickered as she breathed out heavily. “But they didn’t deserve the Purge. Be outcast no more.”
Daddy said almost all of the Jedi stuff was lost in the Purge except for what got rescued from Byss. Korora shook Vashalh’s rigid arm, but the stranger spoke to her last boat before Korora said anything.
Her voice felt heavier with her sadness as she cradled the last boat. “For my friend, the one who had been like a sister to me, who was taken from the galaxy far too early. So much would be different if you hadn’t. Be outcast no more.” The boat touched down on the water, and the four of them together floated away from the gondola and the land as if they had been pushed. The orange glow from the inner lights reflected back on the dark water. They were pretty and the Togruta standing up and dusting herself off is what yanked Korora’s gaze off the water.
Vashalh shifted her vibroblade so it didn’t cut the taller female. Even though they were on the higher steps, she still towered over them. Korora looked at her belt and two lightsabers one at each hip. Her clothes under her robe looked like an outfit Mommy would wear, rather than Daddy. The Togruta had to be a Jedi Daddy didn’t know about.
Her robe closed over her front as she straightened. “I’ll be going now. Thank you for your hospitality.” The Togruta clasped her hands in front of her and bowed with a sideways lean away from the vibroblade. Korora blinked. No one had ever bowed to her before. The Togruta straightened. “Varykino is in good hands if your father lets you dress as Padmé.”
Vashalh twisted her head to blink at Korora.
Korora’s mouth fell open before she asked. “You know I’m dressed like Grandmother Padmé?”
She smiled. “I remember her wearing that dress many times, but your mask is from when she was Queen of Naboo. You’ll want to get one of those dresses if you want to use the mask next year.” Then she blinked. “Wait, grandmother?”
“Korora,” Daddy called out further up the hill by the house.
Vashalh sighed. “And there is the Kher’ary’ush, looking for you. Will you go to him?”
The Togruta looked puzzled. “The what?”
“She has to see Daddy,” Korora insisted. “She knew Grandmother Padmé and the old Jedi. She has to see Daddy.”
“Korora, what are you two doing out here so early?” Daddy’s voice was closer.
“Yousa sure she’s out here?” A strange voice added.
“She’s not bad, Vashalh,” Korora said firmly. She ducked under Vashalh’s arms as she jumped down the steps ending up next to the Togruta. “That’s me, Korora Jade-Skywalker.” She grabbed the taller female’s slack hand. “Don’t worry, Daddy will like you.”
“Skywalker?” The Togruta’s eyes stared down at her with a white ring around her bright blue irises.
“Yes.” Korora tugged on her slack hand. “Oh, I’m supposed to ask your name to introduce you. What’s your name?”
“Ahsoka,” she said faintly.
Vashalh put her vibroknife away with a huff as Korora headed up the steps, but she had to stop at the top because Ahsoka hadn’t moved yet. “Daddy’s nice,” Korora added. “He’s looking for more Jedi.”
“But I’m not—”
“You might as well give in gracefully.” Vashalh hopped down the steps and then gave Ahsoka a slight shove. “She always gets what she wants and she wants you to see the Kher’ary’ush.”
Ahsoka went up two steps before stopping again. Korora didn’t pull on her again, because Daddy and the Gungan came around the last tree that hid the path up to the house. Daddy was still wearing the krayt dragon mask with a green and brown robe that matched it. They stopped when they saw the group on the steps. Korora felt Ahsoka’s arm shake. “Anakin?” Her voice scraped again.
Daddy lifted up the mask to show his face while the Gungan bounced forward. “Ahsoka? Weesa thought yousa has di!” Korora let go of Ahsoka’s hand and moved next to Daddy and the Gungan swept the Togruta into a hug. He was taller than Ahsoka, but not by much.
Ahsoka hugged him back. “No, I didn’t die, Jar Jar.”
Jar Jar made a strange noise, like a crying laugh as he pulled back and waved an arm at Daddy. “Padmé and Ani has kids! Twins, a boy and a girl. Ganna yousa believe it? Dis is Luke.”
Ahsoka inhaled deeply as she turned to Daddy. Daddy smiled at her, which didn’t look funny with him wearing the dragon mask as a hat. “Hello, Ahsoka Tano. I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m so glad to finally meet my father’s padawan.”
“I didn’t think you were real.” Ahsoka’s voice wobbled. “Not that you weren’t a Force user, but I thought the Rebellion gave you Anakin’s name for rallying purposes. The Hero With No Fear reborn.”
Daddy grinned. “Want to see my medical records? I’ve gotten used to showing them. The truth was hidden a little too well.”
Ahsoka’s worried face shifted into a relieved smile. “It wasn’t that hard to hide it from me. It must have happened after I left the Jedi Order. But I can see Anakin in you.”
“I already know he was taller.” Daddy’s hand rested on Korora’s shoulder. “You’ve already met my daughter, Korora, and Vashalh.” He looked at the Noghri who joined them.
Vashalh crossed her arms like Mommy again. “Korora didn’t listen, Kher’ary’ush.”
Ahsoka covered her mouth and giggled. “She’s a Skywalker alright.”
Korora frowned under her mask. She told Ahsoka that she was a Skywalker; why was it a question now? Daddy didn’t explain the adoption though. “Please join us,” he said instead. “Meet my sister and my wife-to-be. Stay for the wedding.”
“Please no disappearin again,” Jar Jar said.
“I’m not going to disappear, Jar Jar, but I have no right to intrude.”
“You have every right, by knowing my parents and by Jedi lineage,” Daddy said firmly.
“I’m not a Jedi.” Ahsoka sighed. “It’s a long story, but I left the Order.”
“Even better. Help us not make the same mistakes with the New Jedi Order.” He held out his hand. “Please, Ahsoka, come be with the family you have now. Help us remember the family lost to us.”
Ahsoka didn’t say anything, but clasped Daddy’s hand. Jar Jar hooted as he circled around the Togruta and held onto her shoulders. Korora saw something way behind them, a man in Jedi robes leaning against the plant-covered wall at the edge of the island that the gate was part of. He had a blue glow around his whole body and a huge grin on his face. She blinked and he was gone.
The grown-ups led the way back up the path to the house. “So the New Jedi Order is going to allow marriage.” Ahsoka sounded like she was laughing.
“Everyone thinks that’s for me,” Daddy said cheerfully. “But really it’s for Leia and Han.”
The party had moved through the front door with glowing flimsi boxes. Mommy slipped out of the crowd. She was wearing a slim white dress under a see-through white and gold poncho that covered her arms and went all the way to the ground. It was dotted with sparkly metal and stones that matched the ones on her mask. She looked like a walking stellar cloud. “You found them,” she said as she reached the group.
Korora darted forward. “We found Ahsoka, Mommy.” She took hold of Mommy’s hand.
“Ahsoka Tano, my wife-to-be Mara Jade,” Daddy said.
Mommy stretched out her other hand and shook Ahsoka’s. “Welcome, and Luke is not allowed to discuss Jedi history until tomorrow.”
“I wasn’t going to start that tonight.” Daddy laughed.
“Just making sure you don’t scare her away.”
“I don’t scare that easy.” Ahsoka grinned as she shook Mommy’s hand.
Mommy grinned back. “Oh, you’re going to fit in just fine.”
Daddy raised his arm and waved at the crowd that was further away. “Leia!” Korora turned and saw Aunt Leia’s red and gold dress heading toward them.
Mommy bent down so she was level with Korora. “Grandmother Jobal is handing out the lanterns. Why don’t you go get yours and then Daddy and I will help you put it in the water.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Korora slipped through the crowd. A table had been moved to a level space where the front door, the stairs beside the house, and the north terrace path all met. Glowing flimsi boxes were set on it. The oldest woman here with gray hair streaked with brown handed one of the boxes to a tall male in a red mask that seemed to be one big mouth full of teeth. He danced away and Grandmother Jobal turned to Korora. She wore a half-mask like Mommy’s but it was painted a dark blue and didn’t have any sparkles on it. So Korora saw her jaw drop when the wave of sadness hit Korora’s chest and made it hurt.
She had forgotten since Ahsoka and Daddy hadn’t cared she was dressed like Grandmother Padmé. Vashalh’s warning was too late now. “I’m sorry I made you sad, Grandmother Jobal. I’m sorry.” Tears filled her eyes making it hard to see.
“Korora, dear heart, no.” Grandmother Jobal knelt on the ground, cushioning her knees with the skirt of her dark blue dress, and pulled Korora into a warm hug. “No blame, dear heart. I’ll always miss Padmé because she should be with us now. But I am glad.” She held onto Korora’s shoulders and looked at her face with a wavering smile. “The Empire is gone now and people are free to remember Padmé and honor her legacy. And you and your father and your aunt are her legacy. So if you want to dress like Padmé every day of the year, you go right ahead and do so. Remind the whole galaxy.”
Korora wrapped her arms around Grandmother Jobal’s neck and hugged her tight as the ache in her chest eased. Grandmother Jobal hugged her back.
“Is everything all right?” Daddy asked. He had pulled his dragon mask back over his face again.
“Everything is fine, Luke.” They stopped hugging and Daddy helped Grandmother Jobal stand back up while Mommy rested her hand on the back of Korora’s neck. “I was just telling Korora what a fine Amidala she makes. Though the merchant you bought the costume from should have done a better job matching the hair piece to Korora’s own hair.” Grandmother Jobal turned to the table.
A jolt went through Daddy so strongly both Korora and Mommy felt it and turned to him. But before anyone said anything, Grandmother Jobal turned around with a glowing box. “Here you go, dear heart, hold it from the bottom.”
Korora took hold of the glowing box. It was light, made of flimsi, and had a flickering light inside it. It wasn’t shaped like the ones Ahsoka put on the water, but it would float. Mommy took one next and Korora headed down the path with the other costumed people with boxes carrying hers.
“The costume didn’t have a wig when I bought it,” Mommy said behind Korora. “Where did it come from, Luke?”
Korora didn’t turn around.
“In both our defense, I didn’t tell her she couldn’t wear it,” Daddy said.
More people were gathered at the top of the steps to the lake now, watching the lights float away from the island. But they parted when Korora approached with her light. Daddy and Mommy reached her then, and they went down the steps together with Korora between them. Daddy crouched down. He set his box in the water and let his fingers stay in it as the glowing box bobbed away from his hands. “For Biggs Darklighter, be outcast no more.”
She wanted to ask who that was, but it was her turn to let her light go and she had a tremor that it wouldn’t be right. Daddy was still crouched down so she turned to him. “Momma is one with the Force, but she didn’t have a fun-ary rite? Is it okay to do it for her?”
Daddy put his dry hand on her back and Mommy’s hand moved close to his. “That’s perfectly all right. I think she’d like that.”
Korora nodded, squatted, and set the box over the water. Both her hands got wet as she let it go. “For Momma, be outcast no more.” She stood and rubbed her hands on her coat.
Mommy’s poncho shifted up her arms leaving them bare as she gracefully crouched. “For my victims, be outcast no more.” Her glowing box bumped into Korora and Daddy’s.
“Beloved,” Daddy said softly.
Korora twisted to Mommy. “Who is that?”
“A story for when you are older.” Mommy hugged her with one arm before standing. Daddy reached for her and Mommy held his hand. “We need to head inside and feed you.”
Korora’s stomach rumbled, but she watched the lights drifting on the water. Their three boxes were slowly joining the larger group of the other boxes, but the four flimsi boats Ahsoka had put in the water circled around the three. “Look!”
“Frivolous use of the Force,” Mommy said.
“Not mine,” Daddy said as he stood. “I think someone is happy with us.” They watched the circling continue until the boxes and the boats reach the rest of the boxes. “Let’s get out of the way.”
Korora took Mommy and Daddy’s hands so she was between them as they headed up the steps, letting the next person with a glowing box go down to the lake.
Yes, I am continuing to borrow the work Fialleril put into color symbolism in her Tatooine Slave Culture.
Acharyan Luke: True to what I hypothesized in an Author’s Note on My Home Is You Chapter One, Luke has started changing the terminology of the New Jedi Order. Since other people had found a sound alike with Padawan in Sanskrit, I started looking there and found Acharya. So I added a ‘n’ to it to bring it closer to Padawan.
The in universe source of the term was one of the holocrons liberated from Byss had an academic Jedi explaining that the dropping of the term Acharyan was decided by a Jedi Council long ago to fit in better with the Old Republic’s culture as the Jedi’s outreach expanded. The term was still in use among the Guardians of the Whills on Jedha until the Empire destroyed the planet.
The Kher’ary’ush: It has always bothered me that the Noghri gave Leia a fancy title but kept saddling Luke with “Son of Vader.” Language doesn’t work that way. So I took a stab at creating a new Honoghran word that means “Son of the Savior.” Leia’s still the one the Noghri consider in charge of the Vader clan as well as their second Savior, rescuing them from Imperial slavery. And now Vashalh and the Noghri in Leia’s employ have something respectful to call Luke and the New Republic representatives and bureaucrats aren’t constantly reminded of Vader.
To develop Jar Jar Binks’ Gungan Basic dialogue, I used speak like jar jar binks. I’m so thankful for this website because I wasn’t finding any other sources for the differences in Gungan Basic and regular Basic.
And the picture below was one of those serendipity finds that crossed my Tumblr dash as this story gelled together. I have no idea who the artist is, but they cemented that in this AU's future Ahsoka I'm-not-a-Jedi Tano will have her master's oldest grandchild as a padawan.