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The Princess and the Nerfherder

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When Bail Antilles was eleven years old, his parents took him into Aldera for the great flower festival. He’d never been to the city before, though he’d heard stories about it, and his cousin Lenal, who was four years older than Bail and had visited the city three whole times, was always bragging about everything he’d seen there.

Bail had expected the city to be beautiful, and it was: all gleaming, soaring white structures and streets strewn with pink and red and white and yellow petals. And there were so many people! But there was one person he would remember more than everything else he saw that day.

Princess Breha was only a girl his age, but she looked like one of the spirits come out to walk among mortals. She was dressed like a flower herself, bright and sun-kissed, and she looked right at him and smiled as her hovercar paraded past.

He didn’t actually talk to her that day. And it would be years before he saw her again. But the memory of the flower goddess stayed in his mind.


The Antilles family farm wasn’t especially large, but it was prosperous. Everyone in the surrounding villages knew that the Antilles nerfs were among the finest on Alderaan. And Bail was proud of that. He even liked his work, although he wouldn’t admit it to any of his friends.

His favorite season was summer, when the nerfs were taken to pasture in the high mountain passes, and he could lie back in the grass and watch them with one eye and the clouds with the other. Up in the mountains, the air was wild and the water cold and sweet, and anything was possible.

One summer, when Bail was sixteen years old and more eager than usual to disappear into the mountains, where his parents couldn’t continue asking inconvenient questions about his plans for schooling in the next year, a girl wandered into his green little valley.

He was nearly asleep, lulled by the sun and the sound of flowing water, when she appeared, and at first he thought she was a dream. Until she came and stood right over him, blocking the sun with her shade, and said, “Hey. Wake up.”

Bail sat up with a start. “Oh,” he said, “I thought you were – ” And he stopped, because there really was no way to finish that sentence without embarrassing himself.

He didn’t recognize her then. The girl was pretty, but she was unquestionably human, and the princess he remembered was a wild flower spirit in human form. So he thought nothing of saying, “Why did you have to interrupt my nap?”

She laughed at him. “You shouldn’t be sleeping, silly,” she said. “Your nerfs will get away.”

Bail shrugged. “If they do, they won’t go far.”

“Huh,” she said. “I didn’t realize nerfherding was that easy.”

“It isn’t always,” he said, heaving himself up off the ground at last. Standing, he was much taller than her. “What are you doing here, anyway? My family owns these pastures.”

She waved an airy hand. “Oh, I’m just out for a walk today. Exploring, you know. It’s so beautiful up here.”

Bail watched her for a moment. She had dark hair and warm skin and she was dressed in the current fashion of Aldera: clothing meant to look like the style of the mountains, but instantly recognizable to someone actually from the mountains. For one thing, Bail had never seen anyone in his village or any of the surrounding villages actually wearing such an impractical vest.

“Well, since you’ve come to my home,” Bail said gallantly, “I suppose I should show you around.”

She laughed again, delighted, and together they explored the meadow. They dipped their feet in the stream, still frigid with snowmelt, and rolled down the hill like children until they were covered in grass stains. The girl even plaited a flower crown for one of the nerfs, and it was promptly eaten.

Just as the sun was beginning to fall, the girl said, a bit reluctantly, “I should probably get back. But this was fun. Thanks for sharing your meadow with me.”

“Oh, of course,” said Bail, and then nearly cursed himself for a fool. “Wait!”

She looked back and smiled. “What?” she said.

“You never told me your name,” Bail mumbled, rubbing self-consciously at the back of his neck.

“It’s Breha,” she said, grinning, and then she was dashing off across the grass, far too fast for him to follow, even if he hadn’t been rooted to the ground.


For most of his life, Bail had assumed he would always be a nerfherder. It was what his family had done for generations, and he liked it. He knew his parents had other hopes for him, of course. His test scores had been more than impressive, and they frequently encouraged – sometimes even nagged – him to pursue school in Aldera. But he hadn’t really thought about it before.

After that day in the meadow, he thought about it. Lenal teased him mercilessly, insisting that Bail had a crush, that he was hopelessly in love with the princess.

Bail didn’t think he was. He hadn’t really wanted to kiss the girl in the meadow, or do any of the other things his friends were always talking about doing with their dates. He just wanted to talk with her, and spend another day splashing water at one another and looking for pictures in the clouds.

She didn’t come back the next day, or the next, or the next. He didn’t really expect her to come back at all. She was the princess. It was practically ridiculous to think that she’d visited his family’s mountain pastures even once.

But five days after the first time she appeared in his meadow, there she was again. This time, she was wearing a flowing gown that she’d hiked up around her knees, and her legs were splattered with mud.

“I went walking in the stream,” she said, beaming at him.

“Your Highness,” said Bail, sketching an awkward bow.

Breha scowled at him. “Ugh,” she said eloquently. “If I wanted that, I’d have stayed in the palace.”

Bail was so surprised that he laughed before he could stop himself.

“Don’t you like the palace?” he said.

Breha threw herself down on the grass with abandon, stretching her legs and arms as far as they could go and breathing in a long, appreciative breath. The sun was nearly directly overhead, but she didn’t close her eyes. Bits of grass and flowers dotted her hair.

For the first time, Bail was reminded of his thoughts that day at the flower festival. She looked like a mountain spirit in human form.

“I don’t dislike it,” she said, absently patting the grass beside her, until Bail gave in and stretched out on the ground himself, closing his eyes against the sun.

“It’s just frustrating right now,” Breha said. “Mother’s called her Council, you know, to decide the ‘Immigration Question’ – ” Bail could hear the capital letters along with the disgust in her voice “ – and the place is full of sycophants and bigots and people who don’t care in the least about anyone but themselves.”

Bail turned on his side to stare at her. “That’s…that’s a pretty bleak outlook, isn’t it?”

She shrugged. “Maybe. Mother always says I don’t have the patience for politics, but she thinks I’ll grow into it.” She snorted, and turned to face him as well. “I don’t know. I can do it, when I have to. I know how to be proper and polite and steely and how to shut down political rhetoric. I just get so tired of this debate. It’s like none of them actually care about the refugees, about what happens to them.”

“Maybe they don’t,” said Bail. “But maybe they’re just afraid. A lot of people in the villages think that the refugees will be coming to take their jobs and their livelihoods. And…I don’t think that’s true. But nobody in Aldera’s really addressed those fears. Sometimes I think they don’t spend much time thinking about us at all. But if the Queen would just assure people that it wouldn’t be that way, I really think most people would be open to increasing immigration. Alderaan has a long history of welcoming people and celebrating diversity and I think – ”

Breha cut him off with a warm laugh, but she sounded so delighted that he couldn’t be angry. “You should be a politician,” she said. “You’d be good at it, and you’d actually care about people.”

She meant it mostly as a joke. He was certain she did. But he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

They spent the rest of the day talking about policies and laws and the field of political debate. Breha was better informed than him about most things, but she always listened to his ideas and took them seriously. And she never once implied that his opinions were less valid because he hadn’t been educated in Aldera.

He’d expected her to at least imply it, and he told her so.

“You’re smart,” she said, shifting a bit, though he couldn’t be sure if she was uncomfortable with the conversation, or just the ground she was laying on. “You’ve obviously thought about this, and you care. Besides, I think everyone deserves respect.”

“That’s not what they usually think of us, in the city,” he said. “Nerfherder’s an insult, you know.”

Breha scowled. “Well, I don’t think it is,” she snapped. “I happen to be very good friends with a nerfherder.”

The warm glow of those words stayed with him for weeks, but what she’d said about him as a politician stayed even longer.


He went to the Aldera Academy of Public Service on a full scholarship. His parents were ecstatic. Lenal still teased him about his crush, but Bail ignored him.

He was twenty years old when he started at the Academy, three years older than most of the students there. He was the only one from the mountains.

In his second term, seven months after he’d first moved to the city, Breha Organa sat down beside him in his Statecraft in the Galactic Republic seminar.

“Hello,” she said, giving him a cheeky grin. “Fancy meeting you here.”

Bail ignored the strange and even envious looks from the rest of his classmates, and grinned back at her in turn.


He was never actually sure when they went on their first date. They did nearly everything together. They studied together. They went for walks through the city, or, over the term breaks, they hiked up to the mountains together. They saw performances together. Breha loved musical theater, and Bail, to her horror, had never before seen a show, so she made it her mission to introduce him to everything. They went to museums together, and lectures, and demonstrations in the city square. Once, she even brought him to the palace, where Bail spent three excruciating hours feeling more awkward than he ever had in his life and trying not to cough or breathe too loudly or touch anything.

“Are we dating?” Breha said to him one afternoon in the Academy’s library. She didn’t look up from the datareader in front of her.

“I – What?” Bail spluttered, letting his own datapad drop to the table with a clatter.

“Are we dating?” she repeated, just as nonchalant as before. “Because my mother keeps asking, and I want to know what I should tell her.”

He blinked. He stared at her. He opened and closed his mouth. Finally, he managed, “Do you…want to be?”

“I think so,” said Breha, looking up for the first time. “I love talking to you, and we have fun together, and I like the person I am with you.”

“But?” he asked, because there was definitely a but in there somewhere.

“But I don’t – I don’t know. I don’t think you’ll want to date me.”

“Why not?” he asked, honestly incredulous. He hadn’t thought much about dating anyone, but now that she mentioned it, he couldn’t imagine himself dating anyone else.

“Because,” she said, meeting his eyes unflinchingly, “I don’t want to have sex with you.”

Bail was surprised enough that he answered automatically. “Oh thank the spirits!” he said.

Breha stared at him for a moment, her eyes wide and unblinking, and then she laughed. “In that case,” she said, “I think we’re perfect for each other. I’ll tell my mother she can stop trying to set me up.”

And that was that.


They graduated from the Academy together, but Bail was hardly thinking about that. He was caught up in his campaign for District Representative, and he skipped his own commencement ceremony to debate the incumbent for three hours about the importance of traditional livelihoods to the economies of the mountain districts. Breha showed up after the debate was over, a sparkle in her eye and a piece of flimsi in a protective envelope in her hand.

“I picked up your diploma, Representative Antilles,” she said.

Bail groaned. “The election hasn’t even happened yet,” he said.

She shrugged. “Everyone’s saying you destroyed him in the debate. I’m not worried.”

And she was right. At the age of twenty-three, Bail Antilles’ political career had begun.


Breha Organa proposed to him the day after he lost the election for Supreme Chancellor to Senator Palpatine of Naboo. She did so over hyperspace holocall, at seven in the morning his time, which meant it must have been just after three in the morning for her. She still looked bright and wide awake, though.

“I’m sorry you lost,” she said. “You’d have made a wonderful Chancellor.”

“Thank you,” he said. “But I’m sure Chancellor Palpatine will do an admirable job.”

“We’ll see,” she said. “But that’s not what I called about.”


“I’ve been thinking,” she said, reaching up to toy with her hair, the only nervous habit she really had. “We should get married.”

“Oh,” said Bail.

“Oh? What does that mean?” she laughed. “Have I shocked you speechless?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time,” he said fondly. “But yes, of course I’ll marry you.”


He finished out that Senate session, and returned home to Alderaan. There would have to be a big state wedding, of course, and neither Breha nor Bail was looking forward to it.

But before that was the small, outdoor ceremony in the mountains. Breha wore the traditional blue, and Bail wore the kilt and nerfskin vest of the mountain herders. They blessed themselves in the stream and danced barefoot in the grass, inviting the benedictions of all the spirits. The sun set, and all the guests went home, leaving the new couple alone in the field beneath the blazing stars.

“Well,” said Breha, a teasing glint to her smile, “what should we do now?”

“It’s a perfect night for stargazing,” said Bail, and together they lay, hand in hand, watching the universe wheel above them until they both fell asleep.