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memento mori

Chapter Text

Once there were many of us.

My father wanted me to be Queen. I suppose I must have wanted it too. It is hard to know for sure, now. After what has happened. After what is left. It is hard to put it into words—like trying to catch the lakewater in your hands. When you close your fist, its cool wetness is nothing more than memory. But I must try. For my newborn granddaughter, I must try.
My father wanted me to be Queen, but Naboo did not. Instead they chose a tiny slip of a girl from a family even older and more wealthy than my own. As some sort of symbolic gesture, I was offered a place as one of the new Queen’s handmaidens. I wanted to say no, but my father answered first.
Yes. She accepts. It will be a privilege to have a Silva at the side of our new Queen. You do my family a very great honor, Captain Panaka.
Of course it was my family’s name—my great-grandmother’s legacy—that provided me with the invitation at all. After all, my hair was pale as the morning sun reflecting off the still, blue waters of Lake Varykino, and the new Queen had long braids of dark brown.

When I came to Theed, for the first time in my life, I could not smell the rotten sweetness of water. I wondered if my great-grandmother had missed it as well. When she sat on the throne wearing the Scar of Remembrance, did her thoughts turn to the Lake Country where she could walk down the stairs of our palazzo into the green-blue of Lake Varykino?
It was impossible to tell for sure what this new Queen was thinking on her own throne.
She is so young, I thought as I bowed deeply as my father had taught me. I counted to five in my head before I stood to face her once more. So young, and so solemn.
You are the Silva daughter, she said to me. Her voice was deep and strong. Her eyes were cool and distant. One would never know that in summers, I had seen this girl-queen laughing with her family and diving like a Gungun into the lake at the palazzo across from my own. Everyone knows queens may not smile. The Scar of Remembrance does not allow such frivolities. I knew enough to play along.
I am, my Queen. I am Eirtaé. I am to be your handmaid.

And so her handmaid I became.

What can I say of the time I spent with her? Nothing, but that it was too short. Shorter even than it should have been, for I spent much time in quiet jealousy that she was, in the end, the wiser, braver, better girl. I always stood out, even while cloaked and hooded. I was so tall and so fair, a Sando aqua monster in a school of Faa fish. I tried to stay away from the other girls, but in the end, after the Invasion, I found myself with friends. You don’t fight and die for a girl you don’t love. And we all loved her. When she stood there in that filmy white gown, wearing the Scar and the twin spots of Balance and Symmetry that we had painted on her small face, when she smiled at the Jedi and laughed with the little boy who wore the desert on him until the very end, how could we not? After that, my planet wanted her to reign for life, and her children after that, and their children after that. It was a policy unheard of, but such was our love. She, of course, said no.
How can I accept such an offer, generous though it is, she asked me that night, after the celebration in the streets had quieted some and the scent of water lilies had faded from the air.
You must also have your chance, Eirtaé. And another after you. You would make a wonderful Queen.
In the dark, I felt a hot tear slide into my pale hair.
Thank you, Majesty. That is what I said. How could I follow in your footsteps? I could never be Queen of Naboo after knowing you. That is what my heart whispered. That is what I knew to be the truth.

It was best when we were just six teenage girls together. When we left the Palace at Theed and came to Lake Varykino. Sometimes we stayed with her family. More often we stayed with mine. We laughed until our stomachs hurt. Rabé made us all hold our breath with her daring leaps from the palazzo balconies into the water. Sabé told us stories about the Jedi and the Gunguns that we were all fairly certain she had made up, but we all listened to anyway. Sometimes Yané could be persuaded to sing an old water-song that we'd known from our cradles and we whispered the words along with her. We braided our hair, practicing new styles for our return. We made up policies that protected the weak and brought harmony to the galaxies: policies that would never work but that she believed in anyway. We swam in the lake under the cold light of the three moons: Ohma D’un was our favorite. Her face was pale blue and sad, and her name was like a song. In that way, she reminded me of the Queen.

Ohma D’un still waxes and wanes, but my queen is gone and I am an old woman now. I have heard it said that we all must die. Even queens before their time. Gone too are so many of my friends. I have walked beside the funeral boat of Queen Padmé Amidala. I have dressed Sabé and Rabé for their own boats. I have sung mourning songs for Saché and Yané, for Cordé and Dormé and for others who I did not know.
I am the last. My children have never known the smell of lakewater. They do not even know how to swim. They have never seen my family’s palazzo. Only my oldest was born on Naboo. My children have grown up on Rebel bases with toy blasters and practical roughspun clothing. They do not know the meaning of the Scar of Remembrance. They have never seen it smile. They do know the name Padmé Amidala. They know the word democracy. They know what it is we are fighting for. We all pass into the stars in the end, but what we leave behind lives on.

My father wanted me to be Queen. The universe did not.
How much better to be a handmaid when one serves such a Queen as I did.