Sorry for the freaking long delay. I have no excuses... Actually I have a few, but they're not great. They’re all related either to the book that came out in March or the book I’m trying to finish by May 7. When I was feeling like writing fanfic tonight,. Kateydidnt convinced me to write on this. I hope you enjoy and thanks for the nomination! ***** It was highly unusual for Leia to call on a thane without inviting the rest of the council. She had never been particularly close to them, so had no desire to meet with them in social gatherings. She was well-trained enough to recognize their use and place and usually left it at that. She did know that matters of foreign relations were best left to Selrieen, who had been an ambassador in the days when Palpatine was a mere senator. She could ask Antilles about education policies and expect a fair and unbiased opinion from the man who had been a university professor before his appointment. She had never asked for a private meeting with Verlaine. The man's family had known Breha's for years, so he served honorably, but he was a man who followed the letter of the law more than the spirit of the law. Under normal circumstances, Leia found herself wishing the man had an imagination. Tonight, however, she needed facts and figures and Thane Verlaine was the man to supply them. She ushered him into her father's office to underline the importance of this meeting and made sure that he was offered something to drink before she signaled for all servants, aides and guards to leave. "I was wondering how long it would be before you sought my wisdom," he commented dryly. "Not long enough," Leia responded. "If it were up to me, I would spend my entire life waiting for a situation in which I needed your expertise." "It took your father three months," he reminisced. "Then again, those were more troubled times." She could not imagine circumstances more troubled than ones in which the regent of a planet was arrested for treason and espionage. Then again, she had been born just after the first Empire Day and that meant the horrors of the Clone Wars were mere hearsay. She did not think, however, that her current plight was any less desperate than what the Republic loyalists had faced in the early days of the Empire. "What questions do you wish to have answered?" the older man prompted gently. She was momentarily grateful that he did not presume to know her mind. He could have started advising her on what he thought the pertinent issues were the moment that he was shown into Father's office. Instead, he waited on her and showed respect for her own needs. "Is there a precedent for this?" "Oh, many," he assured her. "Two thousand years ago, the throne was vacant because the king abdicated and there was a schism between the factions who wanted to choose the next ruler. As the king had acted before naming an heir, it became a matter for the elected representatives of each colony to nominate a successor. Some even say that this was when Naboo and Alderaan shared the most in common where their systems of government are concerned. Some five hundred years ago, the throne was vacant for a total of three years, four months and thirteen days while the family was held hostage off-world. As you know, the Jedi were able to secure their release by diplomatic means while the Twelve-Days War ousted the usurpers who attempted to establish an oligarchy int he place of the monarchy." She had endeavored to keep her expression neutral, but something must have shown in her face because he paused for a moment. When she did not ask him to stop, he uttered one final anecdote. "In the last century, the Jedi were called upon once more because of the question of ascendancy." She knew that story well. Her parents' families were contenders for the title of rightful ruler and rather than start another war over something so simple, they had asked for the intervention of the Republic's peacekeepers. Jorus C'baoth had led the delegation and determined in the end that the house of Antilles was to claim the throne. Of course, her parents had fallen in love without consideration for the rules of ascendancy, so the next heir to the throne was both an Organa and an Antilles. As he said, there was a precedent for an empty throne, but that had not been precisely what she meant. "Can you think of any instance in which the ruler has been prosecuted for capitol crimes?" "Thankfully, no," he breathed. "I still have faith that when justice is done, your father will return to us because he is not the traitor they believe him to be. No one who has ever worked with him could think otherwise." "I appreciate that," Leia assured him, "but you mentioned the Twelve-Days War and the hostage situation that caused the two-year vacancy." "I did," he confirmed. "As it is now, the ruler was not at fault for his absence." She nodded to signal that she was still taking everything he said into account, but required further clarification. "At what point do we consider filling the vacancy?" His expression had been neutral, but now it seemed to be overshadowed with weariness. "A valid question, Your Highness," he conceded. "I am certain that you do not mean to stage a coup." "I am the heir to the throne," Leia reminded him with a hint of acid in her tone. "My ascendance would be an inheritance, not a coup." "And it would be a move that your father would support," he amended. "I'm sure of it." "I ask because we know not how long it will be before justice is satisfied," Leia explained, her voice more steady now. "The trial could take months, years even. There are powers that I cannot exercise as a second-in-command and if it comes to the point where Alderaan needs its ruler, I cannot ask my father to intervene." "Which is where the thanes would step in," he replied without hesitation. "Until your coronation, your father is regent. In your father's absence, his advisors act as regents. If you come of age during this time, the need for a regent of any kind will be eliminated." That time was still one year hence. Leia could not fathom being bereft of her father for such a long time. She could not live on this knife's edge for another year and she felt an equal aversion to her father languishing in a Vader-controlled prison until she came of age. "Are there any circumstances under which those guidelines would be altered?" she asked as delicately as possible. That gave him immediate pause, but he did not look surprised by the inquiry. He merely seemed to be considering the best way to frame his response. He reached for the glass of wine that had yet to be touched and took a long sip to either stall or give himself a bit of courage. "If a verdict is handed down and the sentence would put him in absentia until past your nineteenth birthday, the council of thanes would be within its rights to overrule tradition. By their order, you could be crowned as soon as a majority vote was reached." Leia immediately wished that she had a drink herself, but she steadied her nerves by breathing deeply and clenching her hands into fists. "May Taia will that it never come to that," she murmured. "May Taia will it," Verlaine echoed. “Did you have any other questions, Your Highness?” “No,” Leia said quickly. “You have rendered me a great service tonight and I thank you for that.” He rose and bowed deeply as if she were his queen instead of the nervous young woman who had yet to earn that title. “I am ever at your service, Your Highness,” he vowed. She could only hope that her treasury advisor would have tidings that made her feel less alarmed.