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Beyond - Legends Saga - Legends Ἀνάγκη – Necessity beyond Sway | Thrawn, OC, drama/tragedy, pre-ANH to TTT | Epic, e-book available

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Chyntuck, Oct 6, 2014.

  1. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    CheckSix - you could not have picked a better author if you tried! ^:)^ Woohoo! Ayesha is a dream all on her own account and then mix her up with Thrawn and you've got :) [face_sigh] ;)
     
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  2. CheckSix

    CheckSix Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 15, 2015
    And you know how hard to please I am! I'm looking forward to many enjoyable hours of reading backstory.
     
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  3. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and reviewing :)
    This is one of the moments when Thrawn isn't thinking properly and needs someone to put him straight -- but the problem of course is that to him, thinking straight means figuring out how he's going to win. After all this time, Ayesha still doesn't really understand what makes the cogs whir in his head, and she might have opened Pandora's box by mentioning Wayland and the Clone Wars... [face_whistling]

    Thank you :) It's been great fun writing this story to make it fit into the Legends timeline. I'm happy it works out.

    Thank you and welcome to this story [:D] I hope you enjoy the pages and pages and pages (and more pages) of stuff that lead up to this point -- good luck with that ;) And I'll be waiting for your comments!

    Thanks again! Next chapter up as soon as I type up the endnotes.
     
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  4. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Tags: AzureAngel2 Findswoman Gemma K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Mando-Man Mira_Jade Raissa Baiard
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.
    And as usual, a big thanks to Nyota's Heart for beta-reading.

    ----------------------------------------

    Chapter 39: Ghosts

    It was only the next morning, when Thrawn brought to their quarters the crate he had prepared to take with him to the Admonitor, that Ayesha truly understood that he wasn’t planning to be back on Nirauan for more than a few hours at a time, if at all, in the foreseeable future. The box was packed with hundreds of datacards, many of which she identified as holding information recovered from the Listening Post, together with the Emperor’s communications receiver that linked to what Thrawn called Delta Source in the former Imperial Palace. When she saw him wrapping the bust of the Screaming Woman, she went and collected the Lovers and a few of her prized possessions – her Troukree knives, her Alzoc pearl, the holo of Anakin and Padmé – and added them to the parcel, as well as a few spare sketchpads. She noticed in the corner of her eye that the letter she had written to him on homemade paper after they had settled in the Fortress of the Hand was tucked in a corner, unopened. Apparently in the past two-and-a-half years he had never summoned the courage to read it.

    She hurried to the medical wing to say goodbye while Thrawn made a few last comm calls. Unfortunately Doctor Cottle and Irang were in the operating theatre and couldn’t see her, but Captain Niriz assured her that he would pass on her respects and gave her a warm hug. It had been decided that he would assume command of the base while Voss Parck transferred to the Admonitor and Wes Deplat took over the Grey Wolf after being promoted to captain. Rukh gave her the traditional Noghri salute as she left, bowing deeply with his hand splayed to the sides. He still needed to undergo rehabilitation and a final surgery for his throat, but he was confident that he would be back on duty sooner rather than later. She dropped by the Fels’ quarters on the way back – it was obvious that Syal wanted to ask her a myriad questions about the expedition that Soontir had left unanswered, but there was no time – and soon she was back on the Baratta, heading to the Admonitor with her stormtrooper friends, Ashi-Dilza and Thrawn.

    The fleet’s first order of business was to effect repairs on the Star Destroyers. The Grey Wolf’s engineers had managed to fix during the journey home most of the internal damage that she had sustained during the battle with the Far Outsiders, but the starboard wing could only be repaired in the shipyards of New Alzoc. The Admonitor was a different matter – she had very nearly been eviscerated in the final phase of the battle, and entire sections of the ship were sealed off and couldn’t be accessed without a vac suit. The chief engineer came to the Admiral’s quarters after the jump to lightspeed to present his final maintenance and refurbishment plan, and from what he said, Ayesha gathered that they would be spending several weeks in orbit above the Talz colony.

    She accompanied Thrawn when he went planetside for a courtesy visit to the Talz leadership. She didn’t see Reis Azada among the assembled elders, and she insisted that they stop by his kashana before flying back to the Admonitor. The elderly shaman let out a series of delighted chirrups and whistles at the sight of her, and he stood up to give Thrawn a deep, respectful bow, but she couldn’t help but notice how frail he looked. He had lost a lot of weight since she had last seen him and his fur had become wispy white. “I am an old Talz, kookud,” he said affectionately when he caught her eyeing him. “I have resigned my position on the council of elders, and I am now letting the younglings of my community look after me. This is a chore you will not escape. But for now, you must go. The Padshah is impatient to return to his work, and I am told that your stay in our system will last for a full moon cycle. You will have many opportunities to spend time with your neeya.”

    The next morning, at Ashi-Dilza’s insistence, they travelled to the equatorial region of New Alzoc to attend the naming ceremony of the black foal. The youngling truly stood out amidst the White Herd – the other Viezothans had at most a patch of a different colour on their bodies, or sometimes a darker mane – and he seemed a little confused by all the attention he was receiving. Ayesha helped the mares build a snow statue of Matt, and the foal was told that, once the elements eroded the representation of his namesake to the point where it was unrecognizable, his name would officially be Matthia-Ruudi. He watched with an air of deep longing as the rest of the herd gambolled away while his mother pulled him to the foot of the snowman and instructed him to wait there. Fortunately the climate on this part of the planet was much milder than in the Talz settlement, and the winds soon brought along a light drizzle of sleet that began eating away at the statue’s features. It had already been reduced to a stump when the Baratta took off, and Ayesha saw the little foal trot away happily to join his kin.

    The Admonitor felt deserted. Only a fraction of the crew was on board while repairs took place, and had it not been for the engineers and workers roaming the hallways, one would have thought it a ghost ship. Ayesha’s days were exceedingly quiet. Thrawn disappeared to his study every morning as soon as he had checked that the day’s works were on track. He told her that he was catching up on developments that had taken place in the known Galaxy while they were in the far reaches of space and that he needed to study the material he had gathered from the Listening Post in order to decide how best to exploit it, and there was such finality in his tone when he volunteered the information that she took it as a cue not to ask further questions. The room where she used to train with the Hand of Judgement had been blasted away by one of the Far Outsiders’ magma bolts - she shuddered every time she thought of it and silently thanked the Force that she wasn’t staying in that part of the ship anymore – but when she suggested that they go to the barracks’ gym instead, her stormtrooper friends countered that they were far too busy with the assignment Thrawn had given them to have any time to spare.

    “He wants us to establish a large-scale stormtrooper training facility on Grorand,” LaRone explained to her over lunch. “The Grorandhim already have the armour and handheld weapons factories, and Thrawn placed an order for two hundred thousand suits of armour to be ready within a year, plus another two million within a decade.”

    She gave him a puzzled look. “I didn’t know the Grorandhim had so many warriors. Besides, what would armour for them even look like? Where would they fit their spines?”

    “Spine-fitting armour would be stellar,” Grave said with a chuckle. “But these are human armour suits we’re talking about. Where Thrawn’s going to recruit so many Humans is what I don’t know. Unless he’s planning to enforce mass conscription on Imperial-held worlds.”

    “I think he’s going to open talks with the New Republic,” Marcross interjected. “We haven’t received newsflimsies from the Core in forever, but I heard Parck and Deplat say that Admiral Oxtroe is already negotiating a peace agreement with them. If Thrawn can convince them of the immediacy of the threat we’re facing, they might supply the men.”

    Brightwater snorted. “Yeah, sure. The New Republic are going to provide an army of millions to an Imperial Grand Admiral. If that ever happens I’ll eat my helmet.”

    “Still,” Ayesha said after a pause, “it would be a good thing. The Galaxy has seen enough war as it is, and now the Far Outsiders are coming. We need to unite.”

    She hesitated a little to put the question to Thrawn that evening, but curiosity got the better of her and she ended up blurting it out. Thrawn shrugged scornfully. “Betl Oxtroe is trying to place the Emperor’s niece on the throne as a figurehead while the New Republic Provisional Council would do the actual governing. This is a recipe for disaster.”

    “But wouldn’t that be a way to ensure that the Galaxy is actually united?” Ayesha asked.

    “The Emperor’s niece is eleven years old, Ayoo'sha. And the Provisional Council is poisoned every day by the Bothan representative’s machinations. Do you truly believe that a child and a nest of dissent and backstabbing can take on the Far Outsiders? What the Galaxy needs right now is not only unity, it is also strength and leadership. Unfortunately, Betl Oxtroe will not listen to me, despite the fact that I am her superior officer.”

    “Then what are you going to do?”

    “I will put an end to these peace negotiations by any means necessary,” he said coldly. “Then I will take back the known Galaxy in the name of the Empire and I will raise an army so fearsome that the Far Outsiders will think twice before seeking to invade us again.”

    “So instead of conscripting the population of the Unknown Regions, you’ll conscript the population of the worlds held by the New Republic?” she asked heatedly. “They’re sentients with lives and families too, you know, even if they’re not on your side.”

    Thrawn’s face hardened. “This is the one thing you need not worry about, Ayoo’sha. You, and the data I collected from the Listening Post, gave me the solution. I will have an army of men without lives and families. That is all I can say for now.”

    The Grey Wolf completed its repairs a few days later and left to the Grorandhim homeworld, taking along three of the five stormtroopers of the Hand of Judgement. Ayesha traipsed back to her quarters mournfully after saying goodbye to her friends. She had this ominous feeling that her world was about to fall apart again, and she knew in her heart that she wouldn’t be seeing Brightwater, Grave and Marcross again for a long time to come. But she was soon called back to the hangar bay by Thrawn, who asked her to be present for the arrival of the Stromma Council on the Admonitor. She quickly slipped on some clothes more appropriate to the circumstance than the plain grey jumpsuit she was wearing and hurried back to the turbolift, and she was standing at Soontir Fel’s side, just behind Thrawn and Voss Parck, when the Stromma shuttle manoeuvred into the Star Destroyer.

    The two dozen large, greenish-yellow furry aliens that disembarked were quite a sight to behold – they looked like mountains of grass, she thought to herself – but what really caught her attention was their transport. It consisted of a series of interconnected compartments, like wagons, each one ferrying two passengers, and it snaked its way around the hangar bay like a living creature to make space on the landing area. As the Stromma took their places around the meeting table, she realised that each pair was a councillor and his or her conciliator – and she understood that this would be a difficult negotiation.

    By the time the meeting ended two hours later, all the participants, including probably the conciliators themselves, had a raging headache. The Stromma councillors had expressed in no uncertain terms their discontent at the loss of the Fearless Stromma and several smaller ships of their fleet, and they were adamant that Thrawn had been wasting time taking the war to the Far Outsiders, who had not even entered the Galaxy, while they had been busy confining Nuso Esva to the insectoid world of Quethold. They refused to listen to their own people who were stationed aboard the Admonitor and threatened to withdraw from the Empire of the Hand if Thrawn’s forces did not come to their assistance, and some of their comments were so rude that even the conciliators were at a loss how to rephrase them. When they stood up to leave, the atmosphere in the room was so frosty that Thrawn and his senior officers remained seated, and it fell to Lieutenant Prashat to accompany them back to their transport.

    Soontir Fel pinched the bridge of his nose as they walked out. “They’re quite a handful, aren’t they?”

    Captain Parck sighed. “They are. It’s their standard negotiating strategy – demand the impossible in order to obtain what you want. I had to endure hours and hours of this every day when I was running the campaign against Nuso Esva on the Grey Wolf. I can’t always make sense of what they’re up to.”

    Thrawn turned to Ayesha, who was tracing curves on the table with her fingertip. “What do you think, Ayoo’sha?”

    She pondered the question for a moment. “This transport they used to come here... Is that of Stromma design?”

    Parck gave her a puzzled look. “As far as I know, it is, yes. But I have rarely seen it used. The Council usually travel in one of the regular Stromma shuttles.”

    “What do they look like?”

    “Same as their frigates, but smaller. Two ovoid bodies linked by a cylindrical neck.”

    She sank deep in meditation. “I think that they’re divided about what to do. Each councillor travelled here essentially on his own – that compartmentalised transport is designed to prevent them from having a go at each other. They can’t agree on the best course of action now. They’re not happy with Nuso Esva being on Quethold, but they don’t really want to intervene either.” She looked up at Thrawn. “I think they’re looking for a way to walk out on you and let you do the work.”

    “That would almost be a relief, actually,” General Tasse muttered. “If I attend another one of these meetings I think my head will explode.”

    A smile touched Thrawn’s lips. “All in due time, General. We still need their help to plan our campaign, but once we have everything in place they will be welcome to leave. Oristrom is a valued ally of the Empire of the Hand of course, but dealing with its inhabitants can be... tiresome.”

    The remainder of the conversation revolved around technical aspects of the upcoming battle – for all their bluster, the Stromma councillors had brought datacards of holos and readouts captured by spy probes that laid out the details of the system of shields Nuso Esva had established over the Red City of Quethold – and it was nearly dinnertime when Ayesha and Thrawn returned to their quarters. “I need a hot shower,” she said as the door slid shut behind them. “Actually I need a hot bath to get rid of this headache, but I feel bad using up so much water on a spaceship.”

    Thrawn shrugged his uniform jacket off his shoulders. “Indeed, we should be somewhat cautious with the water supply now, given the quantities required by the maintenance crews. But you could go and spend a few days on planet. There is an endless geothermal supply there, very much like on my homeworld – and your shaman friend could probably use the company. The repairs are advancing faster than I anticipated, and we will be leaving to Quethold as soon as they are completed.”

    She eyed him curiously. “How long do you expect we’ll be gone?”

    “No more than two weeks. I believe that I already know how we will attack Nuso Esva’s stronghold and –”

    She interrupted him. “I meant how long do you expect we’ll be in the known Galaxy.”

    Thrawn sighed. “Ayoo’sha, you do not need to come with me to the known Galaxy. As I told you already –”

    “Can we stop having this conversation again and again?” she blurted angrily. “I’m staying with you. How long?”

    The next morning, Quiller flew Ayesha to the Talz settlement. Thrawn had said that his campaign to overthrow the New Republic would last at least a year, and, as much as she didn’t want to admit it to herself, she feared that Reis Azada might not have that long to live. The weather shield dissolved for the Baratta to land and reformed above them, and she saw the shaman waiting for her on the edge of the landing pad.

    The short walk across the town confirmed her concern that his health was failing him. He was treading cautiously on the icy ground, careful not to slip and fall, and by the time they reached his kashana he was shivering, despite the fact that the temperature was mild by New Alzoc standards and that there was no wind. As soon as they were inside, she went to shift the incandescent lava stones to reactivate them, and, once he had settled by the hearth, she placed her fur cape on his shoulders and sat at his side. The Talz wrapped an arm around her to hold her close. There was a long silence.

    “You fear for me,” Reis Azada finally said. “You are worried that I will leave forever.”

    She gave him a sideways look. “Are you reading my mind?”

    The shaman chirped in the Talz equivalent of a chuckle. “You are broadcasting your thoughts, kookud. You have lost many people since I last saw you. I can see their faces as if they were sitting here with you and me.”

    She sighed and huddled against him. “It’s true. I lost many people, more than I can count. People who were dear to me. I don’t want to lose you too.”

    “But I will not be lost, kookud. I will not be one of those lives whose thread was cut by the evils that pervade this Galaxy. I will simply... move on to the other side. I am an old Talz, and you are a young Human. I cannot live forever. I will be waiting for you in the Netherworld of the Force, together with the rest of your loved ones.” He looked around the room, as if examining the people assembled there. “We will all be waiting for you.”

    “Do you believe this? That we find our loved ones in the afterlife?”

    “The Force does not die,” Reis Azada said firmly. “I do not know what awaits us when we pass beyond, but I know that we are never entirely gone.” His four eyes settled on the far corner of the room. “Who was the young man with a scar over his eye?”

    Ayesha looked up at him. “He was Anakin. The one who was inside my head.”

    The Talz placed his paw on her hair. “He is gone now,” he whistled softly. “His darkness is gone. But his memories are still there, and they mingle with your own pain and sorrow.”

    She nodded. “He had a difficult life, neeya. But in the end he was redeemed.”

    “He was. You witnessed it, and now I am seeing it too.” He pointed at another corner of the room. “But the other one was not redeemed. The one with the black markings on his brow and the yellow shine in his eyes, who sought to destroy your beautiful mind. He still haunts you.”

    She shuddered. “Yes. He will haunt me forever.”

    There was another silence. “You must let go of all your ghosts, kookud. They are almost a physical presence, they are occupying your soul and they are not letting you live your life. You must live this life before you are ready to meet me in the next – and now, you have a difficult task ahead of you.”

    She gave him a curious look. “The Padshah needs you more than ever. The darkness is now around him. Surely you have felt it too?”

    “Thrawn?” she spluttered. “But he hasn’t been in contact with any –”

    “I am not saying that his mind was taken by the Dark Side. I am saying that he has this grim determination about him, that he will stop at nothing to achieve his goals. He will manipulate life itself if need be. You cannot allow him to cross that line. It will stain his soul forever.” He tilted his head to gaze at her. “But you already know this. I see it in your thoughts, and I am bothering you with an old Talz’s musings instead of demanding from you what you have come to give me.” He lay back against the cushions and blinked his four eyes playfully. “I am now going to recite for you the long list of household chores that you will perform every day as a gesture of kindness for your neeya.”

    ----------------------------------------------------


    Notes: Shout-out to GrandAdmiralJello, whose fic Fleeting Glory clued me in about the existence of Palpatine's niece Ederlathh Pallopides and by extension Admiral Betl Oxtroe, both of who appear in the Dark Empire Sourcebook (Jello, if you're reading this, this is a not-so-subtle hint to say that I'm still waiting for the next chapter :p ) The upcoming campaign against Nuso Esva on Quethold is Legends material, it's described in Timothy Zahn's short story Crisis of Faith.
     
  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    I enjoyed this - the insights continue into the Stromma. Apparently they give everyone a headache! :p [face_laugh] Loved the reunion with Azada. His warnings and warm soothing manner - :) @};-

    What a great psychological blend of things here: Thrawn's obsessive (and clever) strategizing to win has him treading dangerous moral ground & Ayesha has to rid herself of the "ghosts" of her past. [face_thinking] =D=
     
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  6. CheckSix

    CheckSix Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 15, 2015
    So, since I am so far behind the power curve here, I apologize if I am going all the way back to chapter 1, but I like to be thorough! And if I repeat remarks already posted by others, I hope you will bear with me.

    As I previously posted, I'm usually very wary of female protagonists. Maybe it's the Mary Sue syndrome -- I'm not sure. But when I started reading this -- not on anyone's recommendation, but just out of curiosity (there are a lot of things to read on this forum!), the first thing that struck me was your style. It's fluid, easy-to-read, and has just the right balance of description, dialogue, and internal reveal. I especially like the dialogue, as it seems to have a maturity and realism, but more on that later.

    I wonder if you are an artist, as you seem to have a great knowledge of the subject and insert it into your writing as if the terms were everyday, household words. That is very nicely done.

    This review is only of chapters 1 and 2.

    I like the way you start "in scene" -- entering the story right in the middle of a scenario. That is a personal preference. It brings the reader in right away, and as someone who doesn't know who Thrawn is, I was curious not only about him, but about Ayesha, as well. In fact, for a reader like me, the artistic idea of a blank canvas fit in very well with the fact that these two, for me, are blank canvases.

    I mentioned dialogue. I suppose this is also a personal preference, but there are certain dialectics that I find very effective. One example from your story is when Ayesha says, "Most people wouldn't know a Denahl . . . " and Thrawn's reply (which is the dialectic I admire), "Perhaps I am not most people." Instead of saying, "Maybe I'm not like most people", such seemingly minor changes as using 'perhaps' instead of 'maybe' and omitting the obvious 'like', it gives the speaker a sense of . . . hm, elegance? Good-breeding? Something small that, in my opinion, makes a big difference. Masterful, that she repeats the same line to him in the next chapter. Not sure anyone else caught that, but I certainly did.

    I found the scene where they talk about Vader and the Tatooine Lullaby to be very interesting. At first, I found myself thinking, "Vader would never ask someone to finish singing." But then you mention it's the Tatooine Lullaby, and it moves from implausible to credible. I think inserting Vader, however tangentially, helps establish a connection for readers like me, who don't know either of the mains. It makes it "Star Wars".

    I told myself not to read ahead, to take the story in order, so as not to ruin any plot surprises.

    Chapter 3 and 4 reviews later this week.

    My one and only criticism: you use "twinkle" quite frequently to describe the eyes.
     
  7. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    “The Force does not die,” Reis Azada said firmly. “I do not know what awaits us when we pass beyond, but I know that we are never entirely gone.” His four eyes settled on the far corner of the room. “Who was the young man with a scar over his eye?”

    Ayesha looked up at him. “He was Anakin. The one who was inside my head.”

    The Talz placed his paw on her hair. “He is gone now,” he whistled softly. “His darkness is gone. But his memories are still there, and they mingle with your own pain and sorrow.”

    She nodded. “He had a difficult life, neeya. But in the end he was redeemed.”

    I would like to scream that into Kylo Ren´s face, really. Once again, stunningly written!
     
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  8. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    That makes two of us. Hello?! :rolleyes:
     
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  9. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Getting caught up, after recovering a bit from the upper respiratory creeping crud that has clobbered me this week:

    38: Definitely a beautiful and fitting memorial to Matthias Ruud and his bravery, and a very stirring speech from Thrawn—I especially liked the image of "warrior's fortune" with a Matt-like smile. Very sweet to see so many others memorializing him in their ways as well, from the Grorandhim and their flagship to the black foal's name in the next chapter. But it's definitely interesting to note that, at least in some quarters, the reverence of Matt's memory also includes a hint of resentment toward Thrawn. In particular, I'm wondering about the irate words that Rukh utters after he lays down his sickle before the memorial, and who or what they may have been directed toward—maybe just the Far Outsiders who were the ultimate cause of Matt's death, but I wonder if there's more to it. I guess we shall see. [face_thinking]

    I'm also intrigued, of course, by whatever potentially Death-Star-like "final solution" (!) Thrawn may be plotting, and given how things have gone in the past, it does seem very likely to be something Ayesha doesn't like. Probably something others won't either... [face_nail_biting]

    39: And we begin to see glimpses of said solution here, or at least I think we do. This plan to recruit "an army of men without lives and families" (that was the part that gave me the chills) is a definite red-flag-raiser—helloooo there, Galactic history and all! :eek: I fear that this may be another instance where Thrawn is, to put it lightly, biting off more than he can chew, and it may have even more disastrous implications than any other previous time he's bitten off more than he could chew. If that makes sense.

    Still, there are definite nuggets of awesome here. First, it's cool to see a cameo by Betl Oxtroe and Ederlathh Pallopides, though (and I too hope GrandAdmiralJello will update that story of his sometime in our days). Second: hooray, Reis Azada is back! [face_love] Some nice neeya-kookud quality time will do Ayesha a world of good right now, especially since Reis is probably the only person alive at this point who fully understands the mental plight she's still grappling with. And that is what makes the news that he's probably not long for this Galaxy all the more poignant. [face_crying] What will Ayesha do without someone who fully understands her ghosts (and how to purge them)? His sense that Thrawn may be close to crossing the line to the dark side is very prophetic, and very worrying—even if Thrawn's not a Force-sensitive person himself, Reis is right to point out that his stubborn determination could potentially have horrendous results. Various appendages crossed that Ayesha will be able to play some role in stopping that from happening! [face_nail_biting]
     
  10. GrandAdmiralJello

    GrandAdmiralJello Comms Admin ❉ Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque star 10 Staff Member Administrator

    Registered:
    Nov 28, 2000
    Thanks for the mentions, guys! I've definitely had the story on the backburner and have wondered if I should get back to it, so knowing that you guys are interested is definitely a huge step in getting my act together!
     
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  11. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and reviewing! A few quick replies before the next chapter, starting with CheckSix so that she doesn't have to read all the spoilers about what happens next ;)
    Welcome once again to this story, and thank you for the very kind and detailed review. Unfortunately no, I'm not an artist at all, I'm probably just reasonably good at pretending that I know things I have no real idea about :p and I badgered an artist friend with questions to help me write some aspects of this story. I hope I can maintain the illusion until the end of the story!
    Thanks! I hope that not being familiar with Thrawn's backstory won't make things too complicated for you reading this fic. As you'll see I included endnotes in each chapter and links to the various profics where he appears (of which there are actually not so many), and wherever possible I included a summary in the story itself. In any case, I most highly recommend... well, all of it, really, but in particular the Thrawn Trilogy. Thrawn is just a great villain that I love to hate.
    I am so, so happy that someone picked up on the fact that she returns his own answer to him! I think I must have built the first two chapters around that exchange. Also, I'm glad that you find that the dialogue works. Once more I hope that I was able to maintain the illusion throughout the story, but since I'm not a native speaker, probably not. Nyota's Heart already "fixed" quite a few Thrawn sentences for me, and I'm sure you'll pick out the rest of what needs fixing.
    Oh, there will be a lot of Vader in this story -- one of the major story arcs is actually about him. But until he makes an appearance in the flesh... well, read on ;)
    That's well noted, thanks! As I told you on PM, I'm taking notes for the 'final cut', so that's one of the little things I'll have to look into.
    The Stromma are a pain in the backside [face_laugh] Have you read Crisis of Faith? I just wanted to grab that Council Liaison and shake him. He's soooo obnoxious!
    Thrawn is getting dangerous ideas here -- as we know from TTT. Dangerous ideas that may reactivate the ghosts from Ayesha's past rather than helping her rid herself of them.
    Poor Kylo Ren. Everyone wants to scream in his face. But then he makes it so tempting!
    I hope you're feeling better now [:D]
    Poor Rukh is mostly furious at himself for not having been there when Thrawn needed him. He's such a true believer -- like Ayesha -- that he won't realise Thrawn's betrayal until it's right there in front of him.
    It's a sign of how single-minded Thrawn has become in defeating the YV that he's ready to unleash another round of Clone Wars on the Galaxy to achieve his goal. Of course, this being Thrawn he'll combine his clones with all sorts of clever strategies in order to avoid civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure, but still... and he hasn't even hatched the most sinister part of his plan yet [face_devil]
    Like you, I hope this little exchange will give Jello the motivation he needs to carry on writing. I'm very curious to see what he has in mind for Eddie... [face_thinking] As for Reis Azada... actually, there's someone else who understands, and who will be back soon, but that other someone is frankly unhinged [face_whistling] And don't count Reis Azada out just yet. The old Talz still has some fight left in him, and he will do something for Ayesha... well, just in the next chapter! :)

    Thanks again, everyone! Next chapter up straight away.
     
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  12. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Tags: AzureAngel2 Findswoman Gemma K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Mando-Man Mira_Jade Raissa Baiard
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.
    And as usual, a big thanks to Nyota's Heart for beta-reading.

    ---------------------------

    Chapter 40: The Chimaera

    Reis Azada may have grown older over the past four years, but he hadn’t lost his good nature and high spirits, and he only ever played the role of the ill-tempered elderly uncle for Ayesha’s amusement. He teased her at length about her inability to season properly the dishes she prepared for him and her preference for Human food over Talz food became the subject of a never-ending dispute. They soon settled into the habit of beginning their day with a mock argument on the comparative virtues of caf and snow tea, after which Ayesha took care of the needs of the household. Younglings from the settlement provided them with foodstuffs, and Thrawn had some shipped down from the Admonitor as well, so her main duties were to cook and ensure that the kashana remained clean. The latter was no mean feat, as the shaman was shedding a lot more than when she had first met him, and it was a constant struggle to keep the furniture clear of stray hairs. She helped him comb his fur every morning – he had always been very meticulous in his grooming, but he found it now difficult to reach the middle of his back – and she took the felt mats outside to beat them out in the open. Reis Azada suggested that they ask Thrawn to send a droid for this task, so that she wouldn’t have to stand in the cold. She declined, claiming that it reminded her of her childhood home on Kashyyyk, where many such tasks were performed by her adoptive mother, but the shaman laughed and said that she simply needed a pretext to take a long, hot bath. He laughed even more when she didn’t deny it – she did enjoy turning the washing room into a sauna, and, the tub having been designed for a Talz, she could almost swim in it. Every day, when her chores were completed, she spent a whole hour under the steaming water.

    The highlight of her days was the meditation session they had after lunch. She sat cross-legged in front of the hearth, relishing the warmth that radiated from the lava stones, and the shaman came to settle behind her and laid his paws on her head to pour a sense of peace and serenity into her as she sought to clear her thoughts. She had told him that she had been blanking out, and his reaction almost scared her – it was the first time she detected something that could have been anger in his tone and it took her a while to understand that it was not directed at her, but at those who had damaged her mind. His presence was kind and soothing, and together they battled back the dark memories to the corner of her soul where she hoped to keep them trapped forever.

    Thrawn commed her every morning as she woke up and every evening before she went to sleep. He had an uncanny ability to guess the precise moment when she would get out of bed, and only once did he find himself speaking to the shaman while Ayesha was still dozing. At her insistence, he agreed to stay the night when he came on planet for a meeting with the Talz leadership that happened to coincide with her thirty-sixth birthday. He had made arrangements to stay in the guesthouse, but Reis Azada would have none of it. He surrendered the large, cushy sleeping mat near the hearth to Thrawn and Ayesha and retired to a small annex of his kashana for the night. The next morning, the Chiss was awoken by their whispers and laughter as they argued about caf again.

    Reis Azada had groomed himself on his own that morning, in order not to take up Ayesha’s time with Thrawn. She understood by then that his requests for help with simple tasks also had to do with what he liked to call the privileges of old age, and that he could still take care of himself quite well, but she insisted on performing her chores as usual and took the felt mats outside. Thrawn watched with a hint of amusement as she wrapped herself in her fur cape and carried the bulky bundle away. He turned back towards the hearth to find the Talz shaman staring at the door she had just exited.

    “She is special,” Reis Azada chirped.

    Thrawn suppressed a smile. “Yes. She has that effect on sentients.”

    The Talz let out a chuckle. “I did not mean it in this sense. Well, also in this sense, of course. She could be a youngling of my own flesh and blood. But I was referring to her presence. She is a whirlwind of light, yet she carries such dark memories that another would have succumbed long ago. It is as if the Force has been torn within her.”

    The Chiss’s eyes narrowed imperceptibly. “Are you a Jedi?”

    “I am not. I am merely a shaman. But I can sense it in her. The pain. The contradiction. The light.” He focused his gaze on Thrawn. “As I can sense that you are determined to eliminate this threat that is coming to us, at any cost – even at the cost of your soul.”

    This time there was no mistaking the flash of molten lava in Thrawn’s gaze. “Have a care, Reis Azada. My thoughts are to remain mine and mine alone."

    The Talz bowed his head apologetically. “Padshah, I am not intruding in your mind, if that is your concern. I would not allow myself to do such a thing, even with your permission. I understand how much is at stake. But I cannot ignore the ominous aura around you. You are a changed man.” He paused for a moment, and continued. “Ayesha senses it too. I cannot presume to tell you what to do for your own sake, but I can tell you for hers. You are her anchor to the light. Do not give in to the darkness. It would destroy her.”

    Thrawn stared at him for a moment, as if pondering whether to challenge him on his mind-reading abilities, before he finally relented. “I will do what must be done, for the Galaxy and for Ayesha. I hope that you will refrain from revealing to her that which she does not need to know.” He threw a quick glance at the door to verify that she wasn’t coming back yet. “Is her condition worsening?”

    Reis Azada whistled a sigh. “She is... different. Four years ago, she used her anger to push back at the chaos in her spirit. Now, she seeks healing – but the wounds have accumulated and she cannot handle them all at once. Did she tell you that I can see her ghosts?” Thrawn arched an eyebrow. “I can see them, almost as if they were real. Sometimes I even hear them speak to her. It is quite a cacophony.” He sighed again. “With meditation, she is able to put them away, to keep only the happy memories – all but one. The Kiffar with the black markings and the yellow eyes. He has been present in this room since the day she came here. He is with her at every waking moment. She has focused all her fears on him. She hears him threatening to steal her soul day and night.” He blinked his four eyes at Thrawn and added intently, “Even a minor prod in the right direction may convince her that he is succeeding.”

    There was a silence. “I will not cause that to happen, Reis Azada,” Thrawn said slowly. “This is a solemn oath I make – and if you so wish, I will give her Ork’os to seal it.”

    Ayesha could see that Thrawn was preoccupied when she returned to the kashana, but he didn’t answer her quizzical look and she didn’t press. It was only when LaRone arrived later in the afternoon that she understood that something was amiss. The two men exchanged a few hushed whispers while she prepared lunch, and as soon as they had finished their meal Reis Azada brought a large stone basin and a jug of water and laid them on the floor in front of her chair.

    Before she could react, Thrawn had stripped off his clothes and was kneeling in front of her. He hissed oddly to silence her when she went to protest and set about washing her feet as if he were a mere servant while LaRone and Reis Azada looked on. The ceremony didn’t last for more than a few minutes, but it could as well have been a century –she stared at the floor throughout, and once Thrawn completed the rite and laid his brow on her knees like a supplicant, all she could do was to bow down and touch her head to his to hide her embarrassment. “It is witnessed,” she heard LaRone say. There was a whoosh indicating that the door opened and closed, and she found herself alone with Thrawn.

    It was not lost on her that what had just passed was of great significance, but a myriad questions were bouncing around her brain. “What was that?” she finally whispered.

    Thrawn looked up at her, his eyes shining with a glow that she had never seen before. “It was the Chiss ceremony of Ork’os. I am grateful and honoured that you trusted me enough to allow me to perform it.”

    She let out a small gasp. “The Protection Oath?”

    “The Protection Oath. Should I fail in the task I have assigned to myself, should I fail in my duties to you... Commander LaRone is now sworn to take you under his protection, even if it means protecting you from me.” The glow in his eyes became even more intense, if that were possible. “In short, this means that I cannot allow myself to fail. Be certain that I will not forget it.”

    * * *​

    After the intense anguish of the campaign against the Far Outsiders, the final battle against Nuso Esva almost felt like an afterthought. The alien warlord was holed up in the Red City of Quethold, where he had ingratiated himself to the Queen of the Red with promises of eternal life. The Quesoth were an insectoid species with a planetary government whose seat rotated between three cities, and Nuso Esva had capitalised on the Queen’s ambition to remain in power after her eighteen-year tenure was complete. Thrawn managed to insert a spy into the palace and capture holos of the Quesoth art Nuso Esva had chosen to decorate the quarters that had been allocated to him, and Ayesha had a good laugh when she realised that the pieces on display had been carefully selected, not to match the warlord’s preferences but to deliberately mislead Thrawn. A clever plan crafted by Soontir Fel and Stent enabled the TIE fighters to slip through the gaps in the shields. As Ayesha had predicted, the Stromma Council Liaison, a particularly obnoxious sentient named Nyama, jumped at the chance to walk out and leave the Imperial forces to conduct the war, without ever realising that the opportunity had been presented to him by Thrawn himself once his kind had played their role in the development of the plan. “This went as smoothly as it could after all these years of fighting Nuso Esva, and I shouldn’t have doubted the Admiral for a second,” Parck told her over lunch with a satisfied smile. “That spot of trouble with the Far Outsiders was just a blip on the sensors. He’s back in fighting mode now. He’s strong, he’s focused, he’s determined. He’s the exceptional leader we need. The New Republic don’t stand a chance.”

    She gave him a weak smile, but he did hear her mutter, “Even exceptional leaders should have doubts sometimes.”

    Thrawn intensified his preparations for his return to the known Galaxy as soon as most pending issues in the aftermath of the Battle of Quethold were sorted out. He spent hours analysing the information transmitted by Delta Source and dug into the archives recovered from the Listening Post to find the Emperor’s private encrypt codes in order to contact the Star Destroyer Chimaera on a secure channel. He had chosen the Chimaera to be his flagship in the Imperial fleet, and he explained to Ayesha that, although he was only a captain, Gilad Pellaeon was perhaps the sole Navy officer who could be really trusted.

    “Pellaeon found himself in command of the fleet at Endor after the destruction of the Executor. He was only a commander at the time, but when his superior officer was killed in an explosion caused by a direct hit from one of the Rebels’ ion cannons, he stepped up to the task and directed the battle as well as he could until it became clear that he would not win. He chose to retreat to Annaj rather than throw his forces in some suicidal, all-out assault, and he has been instrumental in keeping the fleet together even since, against the attacks of the Rebellion but also against the ambitions of Moffs and ship commanders whose only concern was to carve out a territory for themselves. However” – and here Thrawn gave Ayesha a hard stare – “you should be aware that he is an old-fashioned Imperial, and so is his crew. I am certain that they have no fondness for aliens, and even less respect for an alien’s lifemate. There will be none of the friendly camaraderie that you are used to aboard the Chimaera. If you insist to come with me, you will be confined to our quarters – for your own safety, but also to facilitate my taking control of the fleet.”

    Ayesha smiled. “I insist. And I’ll be fine in our quarters, as long as you live there with me.”

    A few more days went by, and Ayesha was beginning to wonder about the cause of the delay, when LaRone told her that they were waiting for Rukh, who had finally made a full recovery and was on a mission in the known Galaxy for Thrawn. “That’s all I know,” the stormtrooper said in answer to her barrage of questions. “If I knew the details, I’d be Grand Admiral too, not a measly company commander. Now let’s go and find Quiller. We have some downtime today, and I need help with the finer intricacies of Cheunh syntax.”

    Rukh arrived on the Admonitor on the very same day when Quinlan Vos finally gave a sign of life. According to the transmission that reached the Star Destroyer through the various secret relays that Thrawn had positioned across the Galaxy, the Kiffar had returned his old haunts on Kashyyyk and found the comm device that Rumpy had left behind for him, and he was now expecting his niece to contact him at the earliest opportunity. Ayesha was so overjoyed that she forgot all about the Noghri’s mission and began daydreaming about her upcoming encounter with her uncle. What puzzled her when they loaded their luggage on the Baratta a few days later was to see that Quiller had been sent to Nirauan to fetch one of her Olbio trees. “What do we need that for?” she asked.

    Thrawn shrugged. “We are returning to a part of the Galaxy where there are Jedi, Ayoo’sha.”

    Her perplexity grew to bewilderment. “You aren’t planning on bringing Luke Skywalker on board, are you?”

    He shrugged again. “It is best to be prepared for every contingency.” He gestured towards the boarding ramp. “Come. The time has come to say our goodbyes. It may be a long time before you see Parck, Fel and Prashat again.”

    * * *​

    Captain Pellaeon had expected a standard Lambda-class shuttle to bring the Grand Admiral to the rendezvous coordinates that had been transmitted to him on the edge of Wild Space, but he didn’t show his surprise when a Suwantek TL-1800 manoeuvred into the Chimaera’s hangar bay instead. What did give him pause was the unusual appearance of the passengers who disembarked. A stormtrooper came out first and stood at the foot of the boarding ramp, inspecting the area before gesturing for the Grand Admiral to follow. The tall, blue-skinned man’s eyes glowed so intensely as they swept the hangar bay to take in every detail that the Captain felt a shiver run down his spine, and he straightened himself some more, as if expecting to be reprimanded for any number of reasons. Behind the Admiral came an alien that he identified immediately as a Noghri, and, closing the march, another, middle-sized being wrapped in a vast, hooded cloak that hid every one of its features was pushing a floatpad loaded with crates, luggage and a potted plant. Pellaeon thought that he glimpsed a small, gloved hand under the cloak’s heavy sleeve, but he deferred judgement. Long ago, at the time of his first encounter with Thrawn, the Chimaera had played host to a sentient that could have been Human – until it had turned out that it was Nuso Esva in disguise. This was, no doubt, the Grand Admiral’s manservant, and given Thrawn’s mysterious origins in the Unknown Regions, it was most probably an alien of a species he had never come across in the course of his long career with the Navy.

    The Captain and the Grand Admiral exchanged formal salutes, and, once Thrawn refused that any crewmen assist his manservant with his belongings, Pellaeon led the odd little troupe to the turbolifts. “Let me say that it is both an honour and a relief to have you on board, Sir,” he said as the car started moving. “Since Admiral Oxtroe’s assassination” – he gave the Noghri a pointed look – “it has become increasingly difficult to maintain discipline across the fleet. However, I am confident that, once word of your arrival spreads, the ship captains will fall in line.”

    The red eyes bored into his. “I see that you are not shy to admit your shortcomings, Captain.”

    A faint blush coloured Pellaeon’s cheeks. “As you said yourself, I am merely a captain, Sir. Commanding an entire fleet over hundreds of sectors is well above my pay grade.”

    “Indeed. And I am told that you acquitted yourself of this task quite admirably under the present circumstances.”

    The turbolift came to a halt and the doors opened to reveal a deserted hallway. “Admiral Strage had his private quarters in the luxury entertainment suite,” Pellaeon explained as he led them to the single door at the far end. “It has remained untouched since his passing, but the Chimaera’s maintenance crew are at your service for any adjustments you would like to make.”

    The Noghri remained outside – much like a bodyguard, Pellaeon thought – as they stepped into the suite and let the door swoosh closed behind them. There was a slight change in the twinkle of the Grand Admiral’s eyes at the sight of the gaudy furnishings, but before the Captain could analyse it, a soft, wry voice said, “I think we’ll need a lot of adjustments.”

    Pellaeon spun on his heel to see that the words had been spoken by the being in the cloak, who had pulled back its hood to reveal the face of a young woman with a yellow marking on her left cheekbone. His astonishment was such that he opened his mouth and, for lack of anything to say, closed it again. The woman glared at him haughtily.

    “Yes, Captain, as unusual as this may be on an Imperial Star Destroyer, I am a woman. You may choose to tell your men that the Admiral brought his lifemate on board, or his servant. You can even tell them that I am his pleasure slave, for all I care. But as I will never be seen outside these quarters, the easiest solution may be to say nothing and let me be.” Her face softened a little. “However, since you know of my existence, I should introduce myself. I’m Ayesha Eskari.”

    Pellaeon shook her hand respectfully. “I would never dare speak ill of you to the crew, Ma’am. And if this is your wish, I will not speak of you, period.” He took a step back. “If you will allow me a question... are you the artist who decorated the High Command meeting hall in the Imperial Palace? That extraordinary display of Northern Lights?”

    Ayesha allowed herself a small smile. “Yes. That was my work.”

    “I see. Well, Miss Eskari,” – he gave her a formal bow – “welcome to the Chimaera.”

    --------------------------

    Notes: The Chiss ceremony of Ork'os is something I made up, and the name is (quite transparently) borrowed from Greek όρκος, oath.

    The Battle of Quethold is described in Timothy Zahn's short story Crisis of Faith. That's another one of those T.Z. gems that I recommend unconditionally to everyone.

    Pellaeon's first encounter with Thrawn -- which is actually an indirect encounter, as Pellaeon is on the Chimaera while Thrawn is with Jorj Car'das on the Lost Reef -- takes place in the novel Choices of One.
     
  13. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    I am assured and heartened by Azada's seeming good health and upbeat attitude. His description of Ayesha as a conduit of light [face_love] very apt and on-target. His warning to Thrawn - I hope it equates in the latter's mind with his plans and tactics. [face_thinking] The Protection Oath :cool: - a very intriguing and touching vow.
    What a sweet surprise that Quinlan survived and is soon to reunite with Ayesha.


    Gilad! It was a delight to read his speculations and reactions on Ayesha, and I am pleased as punch he admired the Northern Lights display!
     
    AzureAngel2 and Chyntuck like this.
  14. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you for reading!
    I think of Reis Azada at this stage as one of these elderly people whose body is beginning to decline, but whose mind is still there 100% and who play a bit on that. I mean, what's not to like when your (symbolic) grandchild comes to stay with you and takes care of everything?

    But Thrawn listening to his advice... Hmmm. I don't think that Thrawn ever was much of a listener :(

    Quin will be back very soon, and Pellaeon... Of course he noticed the art in the Northern Lights room! He's not a philistine after all. Plus, if the glow activated while he was in the middle of a meeting, it would be hard to miss :p

    Tags: AzureAngel2 Findswoman Gemma K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Mando-Man Mira_Jade Raissa Baiard
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.
    And as usual, a big thanks to Nyota's Heart for beta-reading.

    --------------------------------------------------------------

    Chapter 41: Killik Twilight

    The Chimaera’s late commanding officer Admiral Horst Strage had been a man with a taste for flash and opulence, and although Ayesha was determined not to burden Thrawn with constant demands, she asked him if they could remove the heavy furniture with gilded frames and red velvet tapestry from the two rooms they would occupy as their private quarters, as soon as possible. Thrawn didn’t even try to argue the point and immediately put in a request for a standard-issue lounge set, dining table and bed. “No wonder Captain Pellaeon didn’t choose to move in here when he was promoted,” she muttered under her breath as a binary loadlifter carried the armchairs away. “No one in their right mind would want to live in... this.”

    Thrawn smiled. “Pellaeon is an old soldier, Ayoo’sha. He would not move here, not because of the furnishings, but because he wants to be with his men.”

    “Like you did on the Admonitor?”

    He sighed. “Indeed, as I did on the Admonitor. How I wish things were the same here. We have been on board for less than a week and I already miss my task force.”

    In addition to the living area and the bedroom, they had reserved another space as a study that they would share, while the remainder of the durasteel partitions in the suite would be taken down to create a meditation chamber for Thrawn, complete with three-dimensional holoprojection system and all necessary terminals to turn it into a secondary bridge at the flip of a switch. Rukh was to stand guard in a small antechamber that would be the main access to their quarters, and her meals would be supplied from the kitchens via a flap in the lounge door. “This is like being a prisoner for real,” she told Thrawn once.

    He looked at her carefully. “I understand that this is not a pleasant situation for you, Ayoo’sha. However –”

    She waved her hand dismissively. “I knew what I was signing up for. Besides, this time, I’m not a prisoner in here” – she tapped her forehead – “so it’s okay.”

    Thrawn’s presence was constantly required on the bridge at this stage of their journey with the Imperial Fleet, so much so that, despite her assurances to the contrary, she would have felt exceedingly lonely had the officer in charge of supervising the renovation of the Grand Admiral’s living and working space not been Meizh Vermel. The major had been Thrawn’s agent on the Chimaera for several years already, and Ayesha observed with fascination as her lifemate subtly manipulated Captain Pellaeon into allocating this task to him. Vermel arrived in their quarters only hours after they boarded the Star Destroyer, and as soon as he had exchanged greetings with them, he turned to Ayesha and asked, “Did you bring holos of them?”

    She smiled and handed him a datacard with holographs and holovids of his children, and she reassured him as best she could that Syal Fel was taking good care of them and that they were happy, but the longing on his face was plain to see. Thrawn, who had been putting away his spare uniforms in the closet, came to stand at his side and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “You will be back on Nirauan soon, Meizh. I need your help to find my bearings in this fleet, but if my plans come to fruition” – he smiled and added, – “and you know that they nearly always come to fruition, you will soon be replaced here and Pellaeon will be none the wiser.”

    Vermel came to receive his instructions every day before Thrawn left, and he was often still around when the Admiral returned from the bridge in the evening. He spoke very highly of Captain Pellaeon, who was, in his view, an outstanding and dedicated commander, but he was less sanguine about the crew itself. Thrawn tended to concur. “Discipline is good, but training and competence are lacking,” they often commented together. “Too many crewmen and officers are young and inexperienced, and even more are convinced that brutality is the solution to keep civilian populations in line. There is no finesse to their approach, no subtlety – and they do not understand that this attitude gives an incentive to even more systems to join the New Republic, if nothing else to avoid Imperial heavy-handedness.”

    “A further issue is the ship captains’ reluctance to take orders from an alien,” Thrawn added after Vermel had left for the night. “Securing the Chimaera’s obedience and loyalty is difficult, but not insurmountable. Keeping the entire fleet in line, on the other hand... I fear that I may have to resort to drastic measures to instil fear in the minds of any officers who might be considering to challenge my authority.”

    The question that had been burning Ayesha’s lips for days burst out of its own accord. “Like you did with Admiral Oxtroe?”

    Thrawn arched an innocent eyebrow. “What did I do with Admiral Oxtroe?”

    Ayesha gave him her I’m-not-stupid glare. “You had her assassinated by Rukh. I can put two and two together, you know.”

    Thrawn pondered her words for a moment. “You are correct,” he said finally. “Admiral Oxtroe chose to go against my explicit orders and pursue her negotiations for a settlement with the Rebellion. This I could not tolerate. Under different circumstances, I would have had her court-martialed and executed for high treason. As things are, I had no choice but to –”

    She raised her hand. “I know, Thrawn. And I understand. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

    The renovation of their living quarters was completed within a few days, soon followed by the study they would be sharing, and Vermel and his crew moved on to the Admiral’s meditation chamber. Ayesha placed the only pieces of decoration she had – her very own sculpts, the Screaming Woman and the Lovers – in two angles of the living area, while her Olbio tree and its ysalamir resident went to a corner of the bedroom. The plain durasteel walls felt bare to her and she would have liked to produce drawings to make them less Imperial, as she said teasingly, but her environment was so limited that she lacked sources of inspiration. She took to browsing the HoloNet on the small workstation that had been established for her to catch up with the art scene of the known Galaxy. She thus found out that Lamtee and Dacco were running a roaring trade of their holopaintings on Zeltros, and she saw with a pang of sorrow that Onion’s pieces were being auctioned on Coruscant, but it was a random news snippet that caught her attention one night as she sat in the study with Thrawn. He was so absorbed in decrypting the latest transmission from Delta Source that he hardly noticed when she jumped from her seat in excitement.

    “They found Killik Twilight!”

    Thrawn finished the paragraph he was reading before looking up. “I beg your pardon?”

    Killik Twilight,” she repeated impatiently. “Ob Khaddor’s moss painting. It’s been found.”

    He gave her a dubious look. “Ayoo’sha, my understanding is that Ob Khaddor was lost, together with all of his works, in the destruction of Alderaan. I do not believe that the painting could have survived –”

    She interrupted him. “I’m not saying that they recovered it from the debris, silly. There was this rumour at the time that it was off-planet when Alderaan was destroyed. And now it’s said that it’s been found and it’s going on auction” – she glanced at her monitor – “at the end of this month in Mos Espa on Tatooine.” Her enthusiasm suddenly vanished. “No, that can’t be right. Tatooine isn’t the sort of place where –”

    Thrawn was only half-listening to her, his eyes glimmering with concentration as he parsed the text displayed on his datapad. “Tatooine, you say? This would explain –” He suddenly picked up his handheld comlink and keyed it on. “Captain, this is the Admiral. Order navigation to set course for Tatooine. We must be there in seven days at most.”

    Ayesha was staring at him perplexedly as he flicked off the little device. “You think it’s the real thing? Killik Twilight? On Tatooine?”

    He gestured towards the transmission he had been studying. “The Rebellion believes it to be the real thing. They are sending a high-ranking official to purchase it and” – he smiled ominously – “if they believe it, we should believe it too. At least, we will believe it until you go to the auction hall and confirm that it is not a copy. I will take things from there.”

    * * *​

    Ayesha stepped out of her hotel and immediately caught sight of Rukh. The Noghri’s face was hidden deep in the cowl of his Jawa robes, but she recognised the distinctive glittering snow crystal bead on the sash around his waist. She twirled one of her short braids around her finger to let him know that she was aware of his presence, pulled down the thin veil that would protect her from the sand but also conceal her features, and made her way to Mawbo’s Performance Hall, where the auction would be held.

    Thrawn had insisted that she study a map of Mos Espa before travelling to the planet, and she had accepted to do it in order to keep his mind at ease, but what was guiding her across the town was the memories of Anakin Skywalker. Every dusty street brought to the surface of her mind images from a childhood that wasn’t her own, and while the orientation they gave her was helpful, there was something definitely eerie about the sensation. She shook her head to clear her thoughts and focus on the task at hand. The assignment Thrawn had given her was simple enough – go to the dance hall where the auction was to be held, ask to see the moss painting in order to authenticate it and, once she was certain that it was truly Killik Twilight, click her comm twice and sit through the proceedings as any casual spectator would. She had accepted enthusiastically, not only to escape from the Chimaera for a few hours, but also because she longed deeply to see Ob Khaddor’s most famous work. She knew it from holos of course, but its reputation was such that laying her eyes on the original, if only for a few minutes, was an opportunity that she couldn’t pass.

    She thought that one of the stormtroopers patrolling the street in front of Mawbo’s Hall gave her a microscopic nod as she walked by. Thrawn hadn’t told her where he would be during the operation, but she knew that he would be there, and the full-body armour and helmet was certainly the most inconspicuous of disguises under the circumstances. She suppressed a smile. She knew that he had brought his Mandalorian suit of armour to the Chimaera, but a bounty hunter in an art auction would stand out like a Wookiee in a Bimm family reunion. The Weequay thug guarding the entrance took away her cloak and gave her a cursory look – she didn’t seem threatening enough to warrant any further attention – and she merely gave him a nod and slipped inside.

    The crowd milling about the entrance hall was so diverse that, on second thought, Thrawn’s Mandalorian guise may have gone unnoticed. There was the usual assortment of Humans and aliens that could be expected in an Outer Rim spaceport such as Mos Espa, but also a variety of more or less shady figures that had been attracted to Tatooine by the rumour that Killik Twilight was among the artefacts on sale. She spotted Thrawn’s official representative, Commander Quenton, who was already standing in line to go through the mirrfield behind which the painting was displayed, together with one of the Chimaera’s technicians. Quenton wasn’t aware of her presence or even of her identity – Rukh had smuggled her out of the Star Destroyer on his personal ship so as not to reveal her existence – and she studiously ignored him, heading instead to the line of booths where the remainder of the goods up for auction was displayed.

    She picked up a bowl of Tatooine sandglass and lifted it into the light, as if to examine it, in order to have a better look at the crowd. Thrawn’s agents were dispersed around the room. The heavy muscle stood out purposefully to attract the attention of bystanders and spies alike, but she also identified a few less conspicuous figures, such as a Kuati aristocrat and her telbun, who wouldn’t have seemed out of place in an art auction if they had only been paying attention to the art. And then, there were those she could pinpoint only because she knew of their existence – the Gotal with shaggy fur and a patched jumpsuit was there solely for her protection, but he was doing such a good job at mingling with the natives that she was confident that he wouldn’t attract any attention. She put down the bowl and went to move on to the next stall when an odd-looking couple caught her attention. She took a step closer for a better look.

    The couple consisted of a Devaronian male and a Twi’lek female who were standing in front of a booth manned by a slender, olive-skinned Human with sad black eyes. Her attention shifted to the seller for a moment – there was something familiar about him – before returning to the two aliens. The Devaronian was throwing furtive glances about as he chatted animatedly with the Human, while the Twi’lek appeared to be enraptured by a holocube that was on display on the table. At some point, the horned alien decided that he’d heard enough, and he pulled his companion away to another stall, this one manned by three Squibs. Ayesha stepped forward purposefully and stopped dead in her tracks.

    The holocube depicted a young boy, no more than ten years old, lifting a racing cup high over his head. His hair was windswept and his face was covered in grime, save for a white patch where he had worn goggles over his bright blue eyes, and he was beaming as if he had won the highest award in the Galaxy. A rush of memories came flooding her mind – the joy, the pride, the sense of achievement – and she had to steady herself against the booth in order not to lose her balance. The olive-skinned seller gave her a concerned look.

    “Are you feeling alright?”

    She gave him a weak smile. “I’m fine, thanks. It’s just the heat, I’m not used to it.” She pointed at the holo. “May I have a look?”

    “Of course.” The seller lifted the cube for her to see. “This was Anakin Skywalker,” he explained. “He was the only Human to ever win the Boonta Eve Race. Now I know that some people find it difficult to believe that a Human could podrace, but –”

    “Oh, I believe it,” she interrupted. “I remember it.”

    He eyed her curiously. “Aren’t you a little young to remember? You don’t seem quite old enough to have been born at the time.”

    “I wasn’t,” she said quickly. “But I was a slave too, and, you know... it was a story people talked about. I heard about it.” The man’s inquisitive look intensified. “You know, he became a Jedi and all that. I was very young of course during the Clone Wars, but he was kind of famous.”

    The seller examined her for a few moments before deciding that it wasn’t any of his business. “Anyway, Anakin was my friend when we were kids. I don’t really want to let go of this holo, but the times are hard, so...” His voice trailed off and he shrugged. “So it will be auctioned today. It’s a very rare piece.”

    She gave him a sympathetic nod. “I’m sure you’ll get a good price for it.” She saw in the corner of her eye that her Gotal bodyguard was standing a few steps away and raised her voice a notch. “I wish I could afford it, but I’m afraid I spent all of my savings on this trip. However, just seeing it made coming all the way to Tatooine worth it. Stories like Anakin’s matter a great deal to those of us who truly understand the meaning of freedom.”

    She smiled and went to walk away. The man held out his hand. “I’m Kitster Banai, by the way.”

    She shook his hand, introduced herself as Ashi Dilza and went to join the queue of sentients waiting to see Killik Twilight. The Devaronian and the Twi’lek were just a few spots in front of her, and in the hour she spent standing in the line, she had plenty of time to study them at her leisure. There was definitely something about them that didn’t add up. She had this nagging feeling that they were in disguise, although she couldn’t quite put her finger on it – there was no disharmony in their features, but their body language was slightly off for beings of their species. Her eyes wandered around the room, taking in the crowd once more. Commander Quenton had come out of the booth and left, and the atmosphere was much more relaxed now. The food stalls were doing a roaring trade of dubious foodstuffs for Humans and aliens alike, and droids weaved their way through the throng, no doubt taking snapshots of the bystanders for whomever they were reporting to. She caught a glimpse of a 3PO model chatting with a fierce-looking Wookiee, and as her gaze returned to the mirrfield, the Twi’lek, who was about to walk in, turned aside, exposing her full profile. The pieces of the puzzle fell together in Ayesha’s mind and she recognised Princess Leia Organa.

    Her mind started racing as she wondered how she could inform Thrawn of this development. As far as she knew, he didn’t expect Organa herself to be there – or rather, Organa Solo, since the princess now went by her married name – but she had been told in no uncertain terms not to contact him unless it were a matter of life and death, and she was fairly certain that this situation didn’t qualify. However, she didn’t have much time to think of it. The last sentients before her came out of the alcove, and she was ushered in.

    And there it was, Killik Twilight in all its glory. No imaging technology in the Galaxy could capture the subtlety of the colours, the myriad nuances from each strand of moss, the minute specks of detail and most importantly the emotion that Ob Khaddor had put in his work. The insectoid Killiks stood in the foreground, their chitin-clad torsos barely twisted so that they could look at the wall of darkness that was conquering the sky above their hive nests in the distance. They might have been hesitating to flee in the face of danger, or considering to turn around and confront it, but it was clear that they had the knowledge that either choice would spell the end of their civilisation. There was such anguish, such sorrow in the scene, such a sense that the coming of the darkness was inevitable, that it was governed by the unyielding laws of necessity, and that its defeat would entail unspeakable sacrifices, that Ayesha felt compelled to step forward. She wanted – she needed to touch the painting, to pay it the tribute it deserved...

    ... And before she had completed the gesture, she found herself expelled from the booth.

    She came to her senses in the midst of the crowd in the entrance hall, with the Gotal and Kitster Banai standing between her and a furious Rodian who was shouting a string of curses at her over their shoulder. She realised as she rubbed her eyes that she had been crying, and, after a mumbled apology, she left the auction venue hurriedly, barely remembering to collect her cloak from the Weequay at the door. Once in the street, she extracted her comlink from her pocket and clicked it twice. She had not performed the detailed authentication that Thrawn had requested of her, but she had no doubt that this was Killik Twilight. An overwhelming sense of longing washed over her as she walked back to her hotel. For the first time in her life, she had seen a piece of art that she wanted to be hers.

    ------------------------------------

    Note: The second part of this chapter follows closely the equivalent scene of Troy Denning's Tatooine Ghost. Credit for the expression "to stand out like a Wookiee in a Bimm family reunion" goes to Raissa Baiard, but I haven't tracked it down in her fics yet ;)
     
  15. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Bravo on the contrast with the observations about the crews of the Admonitor versus the Chimaera - apt and very poignant considering. @};- Excellent tie-in to the events in Tatooine Ghost and great to see Kitster. The painting really pulled Ayesha in as a professional artist and personally. [face_thinking]
     
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  16. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Ayesha stepped out of her hotel and immediately caught sight of Rukh. The Noghri’s face was hidden deep in the cowl of his Jawa robes, but she recognised the distinctive glittering snow crystal bead on the sash around his waist. She twirled one of her short braids around her finger to let him know that she was aware of his presence, pulled down the thin veil that would protect her from the sand but also conceal her features, and made her way to Mawbo’s Performance Hall, where the auction would be held.

    Poor Rukh, being forced to dress up as a Jawa. :D

    It was sure great bumping into an old childhood friend of Ani & that you have achieved a link to "Tatooine Ghost"!
     
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  17. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Catching up yet again...

    40: Reis continues to be an old dear. :) But you're right that despite his considerable age he is still mentally razor-sharp, and I am heartened to see him confronting Thrawn about the darkness that it's only too clear is beginning to creep into his mind. I'm also glad to see him helping Ayesha make real headway with her "ghosts," and it's rather interesting to see that Kiffar featuring so strongly among them ([hl=black]was Paraseel Malki[/hl]?I can't remember). It is notable too how Thrawn seems to be telling Ayesha and Reis slightly different reasons for his performance Ork'os (though you know I enjoy a good alien ceremony), and I'm sure this is one of those situations where he has something up his sleeve. [face_thinking]

    Fun to meet Pellaeon here too, and to see his reaction to Ayesha. As well as her and Thrawn's reactions to their quarters for their stay there—lots of adjustments will indeed be needed! :D

    41: Very interesting news about the long-lost Kilik Twilight (another work in which I sense echoes of Guérnica, as divapilot did earlier on). I bet there is quite a story behind how it ended up on Tatooine (definitely an unexpected place for such a work), and also behind Leia's interest in it—consider my curiosity piqued. It's a bummer that she got booted from the booth before finding out more (she hadn't actually touched the painting yet!), but who knows, maybe she'll have another opportunity or two yet. And as the others have said, it was definitely a nice touch to see the grown-up (older and sadder?) Kitster, and his memento of Anakin. :)
     
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  18. CheckSix

    CheckSix Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 15, 2015
    Here is belated review of chapters 3 and 4.

    Again, let me state once more that I am truly impressed with your style of writing. You don't get bogged down in details (a problem I myself have from time to time!), and there's such a nice flow to each scene. You enter each scene at a good point and end the scene well.

    Chapter 3: Makh's distaste for Thrawn is interesting. Not knowing any background, I am left wondering if his dislike is based solely on the "humanity" issue, the artistic type versus military type, or plain jealousy over seeing his woman in the company of another man. I rather like the ambiguity. It also raises the question of whether or not Makh will play some role in the future. A clear-cut antagonist can be fun, but what's really well done here is that the reader doesn't know if Makh will be trouble or not.

    Chapter 4: This is a very nice scene. It gets some of her family history out without devolving into "heartstrings". And I will say that the revelation of her Wookie upbringing was incredibly well done. Instead of 3d person narrative blurting it out, it comes up naturally in the course of her conversation with Thrawn. I really thought that was brilliant, using the topic of the latest slaver raid to lead into the subject of her family. Brava!

    I found the name "Rumpy" quite endearing and liked Ayeshsa's mention about Wookies' noses and how they don't like anyone to touch them.

    The conversation had some nice turns as well. I particularly liked how, when Ayesha asked Thrawn what insights into her psyche he had gained from looking at her work, he completely turned it around (and in a way that seemed very much the sort of thing a man would do) and said that he gained more insight into what kind of men his superiors were!

    Lastly, as I mentioned above, this chapter ended exceptionally well. The simple, "Do your people keep slaves", and his response that they didn't . . . I found this to be very realistic, and I could picture her in my head, trying to be off-the-cuff and nonchalant, but wanting very much to know his answer.

    Well done. And I look forward to the next chapters.
     
  19. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you once again for reading and reviewing! I'm beginning my replies with CheckSix again, so that she doesn't run into unwanted spoilers for what happens next :)
    Thanks so much for taking the time to leave such a detailed and thoughtful review! As you can imagine a lot of work went into these first chapters, because this story has a fairly long exposition sequence and it was a bit of a challenge to write it without making it boring. I was working on an audio drama for Greek radio at the time when I got started on this, and it definitely influenced the way I wrote it. I was almost tempted to add "exit" at the end of each chapter.
    Well, Makh is something of a moron, albeit a talented one :p Indeed, everything you listed separates him from Thrawn, but being an alien on Coruscant, his only weapon is his bitter snark.
    Thanks [face_blush] I wanted the reveal to come in a way that makes sense for Ayesha. To her, it's obvious that her family are Wookiees and she can't imagine that everyone doesn't "get" it. As a side note, I have a prequel thread of short stories that tell the background to each one of these holos (I've written the first two for now), I'll send you the link once you're past the spoiler stage.
    Hehe. Rumpy is short for Rumpacharet, and it's one of those annoying nicknames older siblings come up with when the little brother is a baby (in this case, because as a cub his butt was bigger than his head) and never give up on.
    I'm so happy the idea of "the sort of thing a man would do" came across in this chapter! I view Thrawn as being a bit traditional when it comes to gender roles (not that there's much about that in Legends, just a few tiny hints here and there if even that), and, well, he's a Chiss and he's also older than Ayesha, so he tends to slip into a slightly patriarchal attitude when he's around her.
    Thanks again!

    Thanks! There's such a contrast in Legends between the Thrawn of Outbound Flight, who is very much at ease with his crew, and the Thrawn of TTT, who is shown to be much more stern (and, in Pellaeon's eyes, needs to gain the loyalty of the Admonitor) that I had to insert an explanation there.

    Rukh having to dress as a Jawa is the least of his problems, when the person he's looking after is Ayesha [face_laugh]

    And Kitster wasn't there just for kicks, as you can imagine. Just scroll down ;)

    To answer your question, yes, the Kiffar that haunts Ayesha is Paraseel Malki. And he's been at the forefront of her mind for a while already, but she wouldn't talk about it and there were no Force-sensitives around to notice -- see part III, chapter 21: Healing. The problem is, of course, that not only can Reis Azada do nothing about it, he won't even be on the Admonitor. As for the reasons Thrawn chose to perform Or'kos... who knows what's going on in his head?
    I think that what they need is a complete renovation [face_laugh] The fact that Admiral Strage was using the luxury entertainment suite as his quarters is from Legends, and I could just imagine it decorated in the worst sort of French Second Empire style.
    The details of the story behind Killik Twilight are the key to the plot in Tatooine Ghost, the long and the short of it being that a Rebel/New Republic spy encryption key is hidden in the frame -- but there's also the fact that, for Leia, it's one of the very few surviving Alderaanian moss paintings (possibly the only one), and for Thrawn it's a priceless work of art. More about it, as well as the holocube, in the next chapter :)

    Thanks again, everyone! Next chapter coming up straight away.
     
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  20. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Tags: AzureAngel2 Findswoman Gemma K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Mando-Man Mira_Jade Raissa Baiard
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.
    And as usual, a big thanks to Nyota's Heart for beta-reading.

    --------------------------------------------------------------

    Chapter 42: The vision

    Killik Twilight had so perturbed Ayesha that she forgot to twist a braid around her finger when she exited Mawbo’s Hall, and she found herself nearly tripping over a Jawa as she approached her hotel. The snow crystal bead on his waist sash jolted her out of her reverie, and she apologised profusely, blaming her absent-mindedness on the searing heat of Tatooine and explaining that she needed to rest. The Jawa simply pushed her aside and went his way, but she spotted him again standing in the street when she finally arrived in her room and looked out the window. It made her smile. Rukh’s uncanny ability to be seemingly present in multiple places at once always amazed her, and for a brief moment she was able to shift her thoughts to Thrawn and his perpetual concern for her safety and well-being. She still wondered, after all this time, if he would be so overprotective of her if he could help her fight back against the ghosts that haunted her mind.

    The dark cloud rushing across the sky was floating in front of her eyes. The black mass ebbed and shifted and flowed, its fumes constantly swirling to shape faces that vanished in a wisp before they were revealed, as if Ob Khaddor were reaching out to her from the shards of Alderaan to warn her of a danger to come, only to be yanked back into the abyss of death and oblivion before he could speak. The image drew her in irresistibly. The painting was coming to life, and it was both exhilarating and terrifying.

    The sweetness of Alderaan’s mountain air brushed her skin as a light breeze carried her to the Killik warriors that she would lead into battle. Her jumpsuit was of the same drab brown as their bodies and she was carrying one of their heavy maces, but when she pointed it towards the enemy it was her father’s ryyk blade. The earth below her feet trembled as millions of mandibles clattered in the equivalent of a war cry, and suddenly they were surging towards the Far Outsiders. Wave upon wave of the insectoid aliens poured down the slopes to take back their hive mounds, and she shut her eyes to block out the deafening crash of armour against chitin. When she opened them, the battle had changed.

    The army they encountered was not the one she had seen. Glittering chrome had replaced the Far Outsiders’ black armour, and the setting was now a dusty arena where laser bolts flew in every direction, deflected by glowing blades that danced and twirled and flew in unison under the direction of a warrior of light. He shone like a beacon amidst the turmoil and the bloodshed, and at one point he turned towards her and gave her an encouraging smile, but the sky was obscured once more when hundreds of ships appeared above them to disgorge their fighters. She wanted to rejoice, to cheer for the men in the white helmets who had come to rescue them, but the sky was dark and she knew that something was wrong, something was terribly wrong...

    A shot from one of the battle droids felled the trooper who was defending her, and blood gurgled out from under his neckpiece, threatening to suffocate him. She knelt at his side, her fingers fumbling for the clasp to remove his helmet, to let him at least see the world with his own eyes before he died... and as the plasteel finally came off, she saw the face of Daric LaRone.

    She let out a howl of pain so strident that the entire arena paused. A voice shouted, “It’s not him, it’s not really him!” and several more troopers rushed to her side. She fought them tooth and nail to keep Daric’s body, to hug him one more time, to tell him how much she loved him – but they wouldn’t give her time, they pulled her on a dropship, and then one of them removed his helmet...

    And it was Daric LaRone again.

    But he was already another. The playful sparkle in his eyes was gone, the ironic smile she so cherished was missing and his face was slack and obedient, as if he had lost his soul. Another trooper took off his helmet, and then another, and another, and she saw more faces, more faces of Daric LaRone – and as she looked up to the black sky, she saw the Emperor’s yellow eyes and she heard his laughter, and she knew that he had played with life itself.

    She turned to Anakin, imploring him for an explanation, for help, but he remained indifferent to her plight, his gaze sweeping the dunes below for the only presence that mattered, the light that surrounded him gone, swallowed by the penumbra that had conquered her thoughts. The dropship pulled up, and up, and up, towards the top of the tallest tower, and suddenly she was in the room of her nightmares, curled up in a corner with an infant on her lap, trying to shelter it from – from no one, for there was no one there, but she knew that he would be coming, that he would steal the child’s mind and that she couldn’t defend it...

    She heard a sigh and a sob and she crawled out of her little corner. She left the baby behind, wrapped in its tiny blanket, and she looked around carefully, ready to go back in if Paraseel Malki were to come. Leia Organa Solo was crouching under the window with tears running on her cheeks, her hands clasped on her bulging belly as if to protect her unborn child. Her clothes were torn and her elaborate braid was unkempt, veiling her face with stray strands of hair. A translucent Anakin towered above her, whispering words of comfort and advice, but the Alderaanian princess wasn’t listening – or maybe she couldn’t hear him. Ayesha took a step towards her, at a loss what to say or do, when the door opened.

    She spun on her heel and fell into a fighting position – she would defend both babies to the death, the one whose care she had been entrusted with, and the one who was still within its mother – but instead of Paraseel Malki, it was Thrawn who walked in. He was his usual military self, with his impeccably pressed uniform and his impassive expression, but his face softened when he saw her. “We must go, Ayoo’sha. Give me our child.”

    Her joy at the sight of her lifemate melted away when she noticed the glimmer in his eyes – the hard, cold glitter they took when he was planning and scheming. “We can’t go, Thrawn,” she pleaded, pointing at Leia. “She’s pregnant, Paraseel Malki is going to –”

    Thrawn raised a hand. “She has failed to protect her children. We will not fail to protect ours. Give me our child, Ayoo’sha, why did you hide her?”

    “I hid her from Paraseel Malki,” she said defensively. “He was going to take her too. He wants to take them all.”

    Thrawn’s lips curved into an ominous smile. “No one – no one, not even some Dark Jedi – can take my child from me. Where is she?” He stepped forward and placed his hands on her shoulders. “Ayoo’sha, where is she?”

    Ayesha crawled back into her hiding place to fetch the baby she had left there, and brought out an infant with black hair and silvery skin. She stood up and cradled it carefully, and she turned to her lifemate...

    And it was Paraseel Malki standing in front of her.

    And then the vision abruptly stopped, leaving her in a darkness so black that she thought all light was gone from the Galaxy. Clawed hands pulled a warm blanket over her, and the discreet shuffle of feet, followed by the swoosh of the door, told her that she was now alone. She opened her eyes to see her pet ysalamir on the Olbio tree branch above her, and as she sat up in her bed, the holocube of little Anakin Skywalker beamed at her from the bedside table. He was offering the Boonta Eve cup to her, as if she deserved it, as if she had somehow earned it...

    An Emdee droid hovered at her side and tried to push her back in bed. Without a second thought, she deactivated it and pulled the brain scanner off her head. She didn’t even pause to wonder how she had found herself back in her quarters on the Chimaera. She went instead to her desk in the study, pulled her sketchpad from the storage compartment and began to draw.

    * * *​

    Thrawn was seething when he returned to the Star Destroyer two days later. “What happened, Ayoo’sha?” he asked as he strode into the study. “I was told that you felt faint at the auction venue, then that Rukh had to bring you back here... and now he informs me that you refuse to eat or rest or sleep. What is it that –”

    She didn’t even look up from her sketchpad. “I had a vision, Qubshi be-khadeeb. I don’t know what it means exactly, but I need to warn you before I forget.”

    The Chiss stopped dead in his tracks. “What do you mean by ‘I had a vision’?”

    “A vision. You know, a Force vision. Anakin gave it to me.” She pointed through the bedroom door at the holocube on the bedside table. “I think it was him, at any rate. I don’t know anyone else who could...” Her voice trailed off. “Did you know that Leia Organa Solo is Anakin’s daughter?”

    By now, Thrawn could barely contain his anger. “Ayoo’sha, are you telling me that a long-dead Sith Lord is still invading your mind to –”

    She cut him off sharply. “He needed to tell me something.”

    “And that would be...?”

    “I told you, I’m not sure,” she said impatiently. “I’m trying to process it, but... Anyway, did you buy Killik Twilight?”

    Her jaw was set in the stubborn angle Thrawn knew all too well and he sat at his desk with a sigh, visibly wondering how to broach the subject again. “The auction ended in something of a mess. The seller decided that he would not accept a bid from the Empire, my men made their move – clumsily, I may add – after which one of the Rebels in the audience tossed a thermal detonator at the painting.”

    Ayesha gasped. “Killik Twilight was destroyed?”

    “It was actually stolen before it could be destroyed. The thief goes by the name of Kitster Banai, if my information is correct.”

    She gave him a radiant smile. “Anakin’s friend?”

    Thrawn arched a perplexed eyebrow. “Is this also something you gathered from your vision?”

    “No, I met him. He was the one selling the holocube you got for me at the auction.” She looked at him and winked. “At least, I imagine it was you who had it bought it for me.” He nodded and she returned to her drawing. “You know, on the one hand I want to return it to Kitster Banai, because it really matters to him... but I also want to keep it. What happens now?”

    “Now you will do me a favour and rest, Ayoo’sha. We will discuss this vision of yours at a later date, but –”

    “I meant about Killik Twilight. Are you still trying to acquire it?”

    He ran a hand through his hair. “A squad is currently pursuing Leia Organa Solo and her husband, who are in turn pursuing Kitster Banai. Hopefully this will end to our advantage, although I must say that the skill and coordination of the Chimaera’s stormtroopers leave much to be desired. Should they fail to recover the painting... well, let us simply say that my men will have undergone a training exercise that would make Commander LaRone proud.”

    He didn’t miss her worried look. “You aren’t planning on transferring Daric to this ship, are you?”

    He arched an eyebrow again. “I would have expected you to rejoice at such an idea.”

    “I would, I would,” she said quickly. “I miss him terribly, but...” She gave a few last pencil strokes to her sketchpad and stood up to show him her work. “This is Paraseel Malki,” she explained.

    Thrawn studied the drawing carefully. It was an accurate portrait of the man he had met at the ambassadors’ reception held by the Emperor, with perhaps a few less wrinkles and with blank, pupil-less eyes. “Yes,” he said finally.

    He was visibly expecting her to say more, but she simply closed her pad and put it away in its compartment. “Is there something you are trying to tell me, Ayoo’sha?”

    She shrugged. “I just want to be sure you’ll recognise him when he comes back.”

    This time Thrawn didn’t even try to hide his bewilderment. “Ayoo’sha, Paraseel Malki is dead. Your Jedi uncle killed him on Coruscant nearly ten years ago. He cannot come back.”

    She shook her head. “He will. I saw it. He’ll come back for me, or for you... or for the children. He always liked children better.”

    Her tone was so cold, so clinical, that Thrawn stood up to come closer and look at her in the eyes. “Ayoo’sha, what children? What are you talking about?”

    “I don’t know. Children. Anakin’s grandchildren. They’ll have the Force, he’ll like it better.”

    “Ayoo’sha...” He tried to compose himself. “Anakin Skywalker does not have any grandchildren.”

    She shrugged again. “No, he doesn’t. But he will.”
     
  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    =D= Chilling and compelling!!!!! The flow is intense and there's a sense of impending threat and urgency conveyed quite superbly! Fascinating warning she gave there, and I'm sure Thrawn is going: huh? What's that about? :D Hopefully Quinlan can help untangle and smooth things out. :)
     
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  22. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Yoicks, what an experience, all from that one painting! Of course, as you mentioned, it's not just any painting. And what a relief that Kitster was able to rescue it before the bomb hit—whew! [face_relieved]

    It's hard to know what to make of all the things Ayesha is seeing in those terrible moments—but I suppose in that regard I'm not too different from her herself. :p All those LaRones, or LaRone-like people in stormtrooper gear... the babies, one Ayesha's and (at least) one Leia's... the possible imminent return of Paraseel Malki... the way Malki, Thrawn, and LaRone are all, in various ways, equated with each other... hmmm. [face_thinking] Is the idea here that [hl=black]something Thrawn is going to do will channel Malki somehow, or turn him (Thrawn) into Malki (or equivalent) somehow[/hl]? And then another very intriguing hint that [hl=black]Thrawn and Ayesha's baby is somehow not totally gone[/hl]?

    I wonder too if the story is entering a bit of New Canon territory too: the army of LaRones seems to be hinting at that "army of men without lives and families" that Thrawn may or may not be planning, which is kind of [hl=black]what the First Order stormtroopers are in TFA[/hl], and there's the question of whether Leia's baby is [hl=black]two, as in Legends, or one, as in TFA[/hl]. [face_thinking]

    Much to think about, and I totally understand if the only possible answer at this point is "[face_whistling]," though, so I'll try to be patient. :D
     
  23. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    “I don’t know. Children. Anakin’s grandchildren. They’ll have the Force, he’ll like it better.”

    “Ayoo’sha...” He tried to compose himself. “Anakin Skywalker does not have any grandchildren.”

    She shrugged again. “No, he doesn’t. But he will.”

    Oh, a foreshadowing of the future it is. Yeah! ^:)^=D= I wonder if this leads to Leia having a boy and Luke getting a baby girl with a very kind woman.

     
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  24. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    PS: Because Rey MUST be Luke´s child. [face_nail_biting]
     
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  25. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    PPS: Like Ren/ Ben is, alas, Leia´s off-spring. :(
     
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