Log:New Alderaan: A Way Forward
Glinting in the Chandrilan sky like a graceful thranta sailing against the backdrop of Alderaanian blue, the long, slender shape of a YT-1500 transport eventually wended its way through the traffic pattern to settle down on the spaceport proper. There had been no formal announcement of her arrival. There was no one from the university or the museum to greet her. In fact, there had been only mere whispers of her intentions, which may or may not have preceeded her arrival on the planet: she would find the young Lady Teraan, and she was not at all pleased.
In physical build, Lady Anessa was not physically imposing. She was not tall or strong. In fact, her biggest claims to fame was that she was smart and titled-- traits that quite a few of her Alderaanian brethren shared. At present, though, the sheer fact that she was angry added some measure of intimidation to the march of her steps as she descended the ramp of her ship with her long hair and golden cloak fluttering in the wake of another ship's engine wash.
"Lady Anessa," a worried, robotic voice calls after her. It was hard to gender the droid, if one was even interested in such things. Vaguely masculine, perhaps, was the best descriptor.
The lady stops at the bottom of the ramp and turns around, tilting her head. "What is it, Zee?"
"Professor Faresh has just sent you a message over the holonet asking when you will be returning to Pamarthe," the butler droid announces.
Anessa waves a hand dismissively at the droid, letting out a heavy sigh. "Send him my apologizes, but inform him that I've had an urgent family matter arise that requires my attention. Tell him I wish him the best and congratulations in advance on his discoveries." She turns to continue, but draws up short, looking back. "And Zee, tell him not to dig under the southern archway without repulsors in place. The structure is too unstable."
"Very good, Mistress," the butler announces before turning to disappear from view.
And so, Lady Anessa departed her ship, walking across the spaceport terminal in the directions of the hangars. All of the information she had gathered in such a short time had led her back to one person, on this planet, and she needed answers. The petite noble found Alderaanian flag, an without announcing her presence or intentions ahead of time, she stalked towards Hangar 5.
The hangar was a large and covered structure. Set apart from many by its size, it was the kind of 'big thing' a rich Alderaanian would buy. Ice blue and white colored streamers mark it as Alderaanian, giving it the distinct pleasure of being the only such structure in sight; an easy find indeed. The main doors were cracked open showing morning light through the openings and within the interior. The place was not unguarded, for a female in ornate armor and the colors of House Alde stood outside speaking with a droid. This is Lady Kiko Alde, a famed Knight of Alderaan, and Aryn's protector for many, many years. She has long, straight and finely brushed dark hair with fair features and a scrutinizing stare of a soldier. She's well armed, dangerous, and watching the approach of Lady Anessa.
It dawns on Kiko that the girl is Panteer. Auspicious is the first word that comes to mind; then curious. Kiko cuts the conversation with the droid short and steps in front of Anessa's path to prevent her from gaining access to the Princess Aryn's hangar. A gloved hand rests on the grip of her shotgun, but she does not blindly brandish firearms to intimidate. Her cape is brushed aside to show she has the means to harm, but her restraint communicates it's not her first choice.
"Mother's blessing, kinsman.." Kiko hails, raising her free hand to gesture the fair Lady to stop. "You stand before a restricted area. May I inquire for the reason of this unscheduled visit?" A strong gust sets Kiko's blue cape to favor one side of her frame, the fluttering material noisily shifting and snapping slightly.
And so it began. Anessa was not a fighter, nor was she a diplomat. She was an academic, and that meant that, at times, she got carried away in her temper. Panic and anger had driven her this far, this fast. The loss of her family. The destruction of her home. The disappearance of the last remaining Teraan that she could get word of, too young to survive in the galaxy alone, and /taken/ by...
"I'm here to see Lady Aryn Cortess." The words are spoken bluntly, the rage thinly veiled behind an otherwise polite facade. There is no smile, however, and the emotion churns her dark, chocolate eyes. Almost as an afterthought, she seemed to realize that introductions were in order, and she raised her hands slightly in front of her, peacefully open and slightly parted. The thranta clasp at her neck glinted faintly in the sun. The way the cape fell behind her shoulders, it was clear that she was unarmed. Well, mostly clear.
"My name is Lady Anessa Panteer. It's my understanding that Lady Aryn has information about what happened on Delaya in my absence, and may be holding a member of House Teraan, to whom my family has sworn fealty." There's a pause, then. A faint crack in the anger that shows more.. shows.. pain. "I need to know why."
Kiko takes a step forward, her boot and armor heavy to make the action punctuate the brief silence between them and make it seem menacing. However, before Kiko could say what she intended, an accented voice spoke from the confines of the hangar that harbored more neutrality than it should.
"Let her pass in peace, Lady Kiko. She is doing her duty."
Kiko takes a measured breath to further force restraint to obey. "Yes, Highness," Kiko responds kindly and pivots. One arm is raised to guide her cape from hindering the path (thanks to the wind blowing on it.) "You may proceed, my Lady."
The interior of the hangar was just as large as the outside hinted. Three ships rest on landing berths, the third the smallest of the affairs because it is but a fighter. Aryn Cole is not found near any of them, but seated at a table off to one side and beneath the loft of a walkway that led to an apartment above. Breakfast was served at the table Aryn sat, with a modest selection of various foods, and at the end of the table, different chilled beverages.
Aryn was alone at the table, but not alone in the hangar. A cushioned seating arrangement adjacent to the table, where a holo playing the morning line-up of animated series, plays quietly with a young, dark-haired Teraan girl tiredly snoozing, and laid out upon the couch, covered by a blanket and sleeping. A single, small bare foot sticks out from under the blanket and hangs off the edge of the couch in a cute way only kids could emulate with their innocence.
Aryn makes a 'quiet gesture' with her finger over her pursed lips after her eyes have met with Anessa's. When the Doctor has come close enough, Aryn shares, "It is the first sleep she has experienced since Delaya. Mother bless her, she must be exhausted."
Surely the tightening of her throat as Anessa swallowed wasn't visible, was it? She managed to force herself not to take a step back in retreat when the Knight took a step closer, but it wasn't that the imposing gesture didn't shake her. She would endure whatever was about to befall her for the sake of her family.
And then the voice reaches the lady's ears, carried from the darkened confines of the hangar that she couldn't make out through the glare of the morning sun, and it's as if it was a sudden, unexpected reprieve from the executioner's axe. A soft sigh blows past Anessa's lips, a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding until that moment, and she offers a slow, grateful nod to Kiko.
"May the Father protect you," the petite noble, dressed entirely in blue and gold, offers sincerely as she moves past. Her own cape was whipping in that same wind, her hair carried up behind her, dancing around her shoulders, but they settled as she passed through the hangar's entrance, taking a blinking moment to let her eyes adjust to the change in light. It doesn't take long, however, for her to disregard the ships, her gaze sweeping in a singular mission. They linger on the child, covered and sleeping, and then rise to Aryn, confusion, anger, and hurt all mixed together in her eyes. And yet she nods at the gesture, approaching with more subtlety and grace than the march that had carried her from her ship.
At first, it's evident that Anessa has no idea where to begin. Though utterly unprepared, she may have been expecting to find the child locked in a cage. Was she expecting to free her with her bare hands? Some amount of the weight of that fear is shed like a heavy cloak, her anger, for the moment, replaced with worry.
"What /happened/?" she whispers in sincere concern for all involved in her tone. She shakes her head, her eyes fixed on Aryn, watching for her reaction.
The entourage of Alderaanian nobility has an intruder in their midst. She comes from the outside, both physically and metaphorically, neither Alderaanian nor noble, ferried to the hangar by a speeder that accelerates and winds between the hangars making up this section of Hanna City's spaceport before angling towards the terminal across the tarmac. The bright day illuminates her figure from the outside, highlighting the cream of her attire underneath the dark brown robe that engulfls most of her form and leaves only a window open at the front. Its hem whips and kicks, flowing around her legs and the brown leather boots that tap against the duracrete in definitive rhythm. She carries an accessory today too big to be hidden on her person.
Most might not be able to name the hallikset, but they'd surely recognize a musical instrument when they see one. The broad-bodied, long-necked thing is slung across her shoulders and back, with a band that pinches in against her robe and her tunic as it rides from right shoulder towards her left side. The pace of her entry is one that is relaxed, and the natural gait itself betrays she has no sense of the mounting tension that is beginning to build in the hangar from the current situation unfolding. Her dark hair is bound backwards, but not up, letting the long tresses spill about her shoulders even as they're swept into banded tendrils along the sides before formulating a bound tail at the back. It keeps her face unobscured, and those features, noble in their angles even if she is not in title, contort to produce the curiosity beginning to take hold in her mind.
She slows as she approaches, familiar with only three of the four gathered. She would have slowed even if Lady Kiko Alde hadn't turned to regard her with a look she can't quite discern beyond its intensity. Her gaze flicks from woman to woman, until finally lighting on the sleeping Avlin Teraan on the couch not far off. For now, she halts entirely, maintaing a respectful distance that is as unintrusive as she can be now that she's walked into whatever events are transpiring. She's not sure if this is what Lady Alde intended, for Kiko turns back to fix her focus on the pair of women clearly talking with one another and Chani Tahn does the same. Given the whispered nature of their conversation, she is not privy to what words exchange between them. She wonders if that's a situation meant to be respectful of the sleeping girl, or if the nature of the words being exchanged either requires secrecy or carries more power with the ominous atmosphere that can come from the hushed, forceful tones capable in such low volume.
Aryn is dressed elegantly in green and bronze, though her cape is not fastened about her shoulders, it does rest on the back of her chair. Only a curved, cylindrical hilt is attached to her belt, and this comes in view as Aryn rises with the arrival of Lady Anessa. Aryn wears gloves over her hands and seeks Anessa's hands in a gesture of friendship and peace, though Aryn's eyes convey the emotion she tries to keep at bay. It is difficult. "A great many things have transpired, my Lady. I trust you have the time to speak, and sit, and hear of it all. Mother give us all grace, for I have nothing that is easy to share. My heart is heavy with despair." Aryn's bearing breaks a bit as she pulls her hands back and looks up, trying to keep her tears at bay despite one trailing down her cheek.
She gestures to the table like a good hostess, "Please, find what comfort can be found.. a drink, perhaps?" Aryn tucked her blonde back and glanced over toward the entrance again when a familiar presence stepped into view: Chani. Aryn lifts her hand to wave her in. Kiko, who stood with Chani, glances over and says. "It is good to see you. Forgive my stony stare; I weather despair poorly, and I fear we all hurt." It had been the most Kiko had said to anyone, but the genuine tone was there and she managed a small, reassuring look.
"Lady Anessa, this is Chani Tahn of the Naboo, my companion and close friend," Aryn introduces before finally sitting down and collecting herself.
Where to begin.
"I suppose I could sum up all that has happened with one name: Lana Panteer."
Trepidation surrounds Anessa like a cloud. Unsure of who to trust, she nevertheless found herself in the den of her.. not enemies, but certainly not good friends. Her entire life, she'd been shown how Leia Organa had repeatedly turned her back on her own people. She'd listened to others curse her for focusing on others while the refugees from her own homeworld, a world that she had /let/ be destroyed in front of her, suffered time and time again.
But turning her back on offered friendship wasn't the way of House Panteer. Not the House Panteer that she had been raised in. And so her hands reach out, after only the very faintest hesitation, to take those offered to her. Her own are bare, clinging gently to the gloved digits, and offer a reassuring squeeze in return. There's a rush of pain in her eyes as she watches Aryn that hits the stony wall of her composure and stops there, going no further. She watches that tear, offering a small, understanding nod. "As is mine," she whispers back, her voice trembling.
Soon, however, she's turning to face the new arrival that she hadn't noticed, before. Some of the walls in her eyes come back up, glassy eyes blinking and hardening, though the small, albeit sad, smile that touches the corners of her lips is pleasant enough. "It's an honor to meet you," she offers in greeting before she moves, finally shifting to take a seat at the table, though she doesn't reach for any refreshment. Her hands fold into her lap, her posture stiff and proper, ankles crossed at the floor.
"So my.. sources.. have alluded. Before you begin, I should preface this, my Lady, with one caveat-- Lady Teraan's safety is of paramount importance to me, but it isn't my only reason for coming. When I returned to Delaya, I found my parents..." Anessa's heart seems to stop, for a moment, as a lump swelled in her throat. ".. missing. If..." That slight tremolo returns to her otherwise soft soprano. "If you know anything, I would be grateful if you could include it in your retelling."
What small smile Chani offers Kiko is reserved. At the heart of it is reassurance, but also the understanding that some things can't be assuaged by mere feelings of hope. She neglects offering some physical gesture of support. Kiko does not seem like the kind of woman one touches out of nowhere and without announcement well in advance. "There's no need to apologize." The best she can offer is empathy, because the full breadth of understanding escapes her. She does know what it's like to see a planet burn, but no Naboo could claim to have suffered more than the people of Alderaan, who have had so much taken from them. Her attention is diverted from Kiko at the Princess' beckoning, and with a gentle, hair-shifting nod to Kiko, Chani advances forward.
The hangar is open enough that her footfalls don't catch in the acoustics. Not to her ears, at least. She keeps them soft, anyway, ensuring her steps are light to avoid any kind of disturbance that might rouse the sleeping child from her slumber. An introduction is made, though Chani is able to glean only that this Lady Anessa seems to be someone from Alderaan given her title and the familiarity with which she and Aryn engage one another. Hands pressing against the tops of her thighs, Chani bows forward in respectful posturing, loose hair tickling her cheeks and a more prominent view of the hallikset on her back being provided by the degree her body angles. She rises a moment after. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Lady Anessa." Her tone is light, quiet, and quick to silence after the greeting.
Though she had her suspicions, the confirmation about the subject of this meeting comes with Aryn's words. Chani feels distinctly out of place because of it, and her full mouth parts to begin forming the words that will excuse herself from such a situation. She doesn't belong in present company when there are such matters to discuss, because she has no place in them. She wonders if that feeling is motivated by the sensitive and terrible nature of such a topic, though, and before she can formulate any kind of excuse to part, Lady Anessa's words interject into the silence and Chani's mouth gently slips shut. Though she remains, she doesn't join them at the table. Instead, her dark irises set themselves on Lady Anessa as she explains the nature of this visit, and Chani begins to suspect the sensitivity of this meeting is growing by the moment. A Lady's missing parents? There are few situations where such a thing could be construed, by any means, as good.
Aryn's alarm at the missing Panteer parents shows itself on her face, and she leans forward at the table invested all at once. "Oh, Anessa, my heart aches for you. If there is something I might do to help aid you in finding them, simply say so and I will see it done." This served as both confirmation and resolution that Aryn did not know Anessa's family was affected, but she was willing to help regardless.
"I received word through New Republic channels that a distress signal was sent out through one of Princess Leia's old encrypted channels. A plea for help. When we arrived in Leilani City, the Teraan palace was razed. Lana's banner replaced the ashen and burned Teraan emblazon, and the loyal lay strewn and stripped of possession and worth. The Duke.. and Duchess Teraan.." Aryn trails off and shakes her head, confirming their passing. "And the children.."
"Mother willing there was one Knight who had not forsaken his vows; the First Sword saw to the protection of Avlin and had stowed her in the vaults beneath the keep awaiting help. The Rist.. deployed their assassins: A free company loots the palace, and one name was chanted amidst this violence."
"Panteer. Panteer. Panteer."
"Chani here, Kiko, and many others volunteered to brave the assassins and soldiers to see to Avlin's rescue. It was clear Lana meant for her to parish in the flames. She is what remains of that House. We managed to escape before Lana arrived with her army. I believe she intends to force fealty and support her own rise. Knowing the reputation of your father, I daresay this is not the vision he had in mind for your House. I wonder if his absence is tied to defying her. Your father does not lack for courage."
Anessa's eyes dip gratefully into her nod of understanding. She would get no further, concrete information about them during this visit. Her heart sank into a bottomless pit, but the sad smile that lingered on her lips said enough. She would mourn and curse and search later. "Thank you."
Then, the lady falls into listening, her brown eyes affixed on Aryn's, and as the story unfolds, it seems almost as though she was taking physical blows from the words. At one point, she caught her lips hanging open in shock and closed them quickly. Goosebumps raced across her skin. The sound of her house name being chanted, in Aryn's voice, so low and ominous. She could hear it. Being shouted by an angry, vicious mob. Being used as a battle cry, to seize power. To murder her friends. Her name. Her.. family?
It's too much. The otherwise stony wall she'd tried to keep up cracks, and a couple of her own tears fall down her cheeks, which she quickly reaches up to wipe away. "My father would /never/ stand for this. And neither will I," she says, her voice hard, despite the tears. "That woman is /not/ a Panteer, and if I find out that she's so much as touched my parents, I will put a dagger through her throat myself."
Anessa's eyes shift back to the sleeping child, and there they linger for a long moment, sadness filling them. The pain that Avlin must feel. The pain that she herself felt. Slowly, her eyes close, and she takes that moment to /let/ herself feel. To let the tears fall. Take in a deep breath, and look up again, back at Aryn.
"What can I do?"
Aryn offers tissues after snagging her own. Mother save them, Aryn is crying too. She dabs her eyes and quietly follows Anessa's cue to look over the slumbering child. For now, Avlin's face is serene and neutral. Sleep took her away from this world, thankfully. Aryn's breath is taken distinctly slow, quivering a bit as she tries to empathize with the youth, but cannot for the sheer weight of all that trauma.
"The Father demands justice, but we must be patient. The call is tempting; to set right what was wrong, but we see only what Lana has intended and not what has passed unseen beneath the surface." Kiko walks by and arrives near the child. She crouches down and very gently adjusts the girl's blanket, tucking in the errant foot! Then a finger, bared free from her glove with a quiet tug, traces along her fair sleeping face to tuck her dark strands back. Kiko places a soft kiss to the girl's crown, then sits down in front of the couch upon the floor, to stay with her as she slept. Avlin's hand emerged from the blanket, and her arm curled around Kiko's shoulder to drape down her chest. The tired response from Avlin had Kiko's expression softening further. She brought her hand up to hold the smaller one, her thumb rubbing along her small dainty knuckles as she slept.
"For now, I think, we shield Lady Avlin until her protector can mend and rejoin her. Ser Lars is still in the hospital recovering. We can spend time looking into your parents disappearance at least. Were you accosted when you returned to your home?"
Anessa wanted to bristle physically, protectively as she watched Kiko approach Avlin, but she couldn't. Despite everything that had happened, her instincts told her only to trust herself and that little Lady Teraan was too precious to risk with another living soul. But those instincts were misplaced. Intellectually, she understood that. Not only was the concern unwarranted towards those that had risked their lives to rescue her, she could do no better, herself. As brilliant a man as her father had always been, as elegant and well-spoken as her mother always been, neither of them had taught her how to fight with more than her words. Avlin was safer, here. She knew that.
That moment of concern passed as a soft breath through her lips, watching the two of them interact peacefully. This was the way it was supposed to be. Avlin was safe, and she could.. what? "Thank you," she whispered softly as she reached and took a tissue, dabbing at her eyes and her cheeks, sniffingly gently.
She listened to that explanation, and she wanted nothing more than to jump up right at that moment, take Aryn's hand, and drag her back to her ship so the two could start looking right away. But this wasn't the way of things. They weren't children. As much as her mind was filled by how much she wanted her mother and father, she wasn't a child.
"No, thankfully, but the place was practically in ruins," she explains. "Things were broken. Missing. Ransacked. I checked with our closest friends that I could find, and they knew nothing." She shakes her head. "I don't even know where to begin. Everything was coming in so quickly, I didn't even have a chance to try to straighten. I weas searching, and when I heard that you might have been involved..." Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
"I'm sorry, Aryn. I didn't know what to think. Or who to trust."
"I trust your estate possesses some form of security surveillance. There might be some chance we can salvage answers from the ruin, and find a better direction to search," Aryn says. She sets the tissues aside and finally takes in a deep breath, releasing it a moment later to help her control the emotions that had been threatening to break loose. Aryn seemed a bit more in control now.
"I have a vessel we can take to remain anonymous. With any luck, we might be able to find some others willing to help." Should the populace be wholly against the Panteer regime and unwilling to follow Lana. Aryn tucks her hair back again and rises up to walk along the table to the beverages. It's there she prepares a glass of some cider for herself. "I understand your trepidation, Anessa. Truly. There are a great many questions about this vestigial Princess of old. That said, I am under no expectation that you trust me without cause. I ask, only that, you permit me a chance to prove I am worthy of your trust."
"Yes. I think it does." Now she was kicking herself. Why hadn't she thought of surveillance? Because she was too busy being a distraught daughter to think rationally. Anessa could peace together ruins of ancient civilizations, but she was somehow incapable of remembering that her family kept recordings of the entire exterior of their home. And..
"Droids. There were droids. Maybe. My father sent Zee with me-- our old family butler droid. But there might be others, if they're still there." The brown haired woman's hands come up to attempt to rub some of the stress out of her temples, but it was no use, really. Where would they have /gone?/ No message. No note.
When her eyes do lift again, they follow Aryn around the table. "I need to make a public statement," she blurts out. "I need them to know that Lana doesn't speak for my family, that House Panteer doesn't stand with her and would /never/ condone such unprovoked violence-- that whoever she is, she's a blemish to our family name. You /know/ that we've never agreed with the choices that Princess Leia made, that House Teraan stayed and protected our interests. But whatever she says her title is, what Lana's doing-- the way she's doing it-- is treason. She will destroy /everything/ we hold dear."
Unable to sit still any longer, Anessa stands as well, pacing a bit. Her dress swishes around her feet as she walks, and the faint tapping of her heels clicks against the hard floor of the hangar. Clasping her hands in front of her, a posture that makes her seem even more stick-tin than she normally does, she turns to face Aryn, her expression grave.
"Lady Aryn," she begins, more gently than before, "our families have been friends, and I regret to admit that I don't know more about you. Maybe, when there's time, you can tell me your story. /You/ don't owe me anything." There's a small shake of her head. "Least of all trust. But for risking yourselves, rescuing Lady Teraan and keeping her safe, you have mine, at least until I see reason to doubt. I'm beyond words that you would help me, and I'll be in your debt." There's a small, tense, and sad smile that follows that. She'd chosen her words carefully, and she meant every one of them.
"To speak out against Lana will make you an enemy of the state. She will spend resources to find you. Courageous, Lady Anessa, but a more subtle approach is required. History, as we well know, is contrived by the victor. Their truth becomes the truth, and those lacking the fortitude, or the resources, to survive her will kneel. You will need something more than words to weaken her position. That can begin at your estate; the surveillance and droid memory cores. There must be something we can find..."
Aryn poured another glass for Anessa, something to take the edge from nerves and maybe help her relax a bit. Aryn carried it to her and remained by her side. "Speak not of debts, Lady Anessa. Our purpose, much as it has been for years now, is to survive. If I owe you nothing, then I make it the same for you. We are in this together, regardless of how we feel about the past, because it is the /now/ which we must contend with; Alderaan endures, and we will make it so." Aryn lifted her own cup then and sipped from it. Her gaze grew distant, and her mindseye retraced all the violence and war she had lived through up to this point. One question rang true as she thought of her closest friend and mentor, now departed and resting peaceful: What would Leia do?
Politics. How Anessa /hated/ politics. It was so much easier to dig up old relics of politics long since forgotten and peace them together than it was to play the games of the here and now. "And enemy of /who's/ state?" she asks softly as she stops pacing and reaches to take the proffered beverage, returning a reluctant though grateful smile. "The only state that concerns me is sleeping, there, on that couch. The others don't have a state. They have an insurrection." She was /so/ bitter. A pause, though, as she begins to lift the cup. "Thank you."
A long sip is taken from the glass. A calming sip, contemplating everything that had been said. The potential of everything that was yet to be said. For someone that spent all of their time buried in the past, the possibilities of the future were almost overwhelming. Aryn spoke like a leader, about Alderaan as a whole, not about houses and loyalties. It didn't go unnoticed.
"She'll be Duchess, now." It's a quiet observation, as Anessa's glass is lowered again to cradle in front of her. A moment of silence hangs in the air, and then her eyes shift to the other woman. "I.. heard a rumor.. about your title changing as well." It's not said lightly. There's a heaviness to the words, as if she understood, at least intellectually, what that meant. But, she lets that statement hang without pressing it any further, watching Aryn curiously.
"A fair statement," Aryn intones with a knowing nod. "I push for caution is all, but you must do what you /feel/ is necessary. Perhaps your message will inspire others to do the same. /She/," Aryn gestures toward the sleeping Duchess, "will need time to process. Death is such a finality, a concept youth struggle with. Mother bless her, she still speaks of kin as if they are waiting for her back home. It breaks my heart." Aryn shakes her head again, her eyes watering once more. Her emotions are held back by a timed drink, healthier this time.
"She is," Aryn answers ('she'll be Duchess, now'), "..and wholly unprepared for the arena that awaits her. A regent will need be appointed, and Avlin is to become a ward, at least till her coming of age." Aryn sips again, letting the statement hang on silence for consideration.
When Anessa spoke of the rumor about Aryn, the blonde nodded her head to silently confirm it. "It is true. I attended Princess Leia till she passed, and was mentored by her. The task she laid before me was not one I envied. The title is a burden that must be shared. She said that I must reunite Alderaan, but it is not a duty for one person. To be united infers /we all/ must want it. I serve that vision, faithfully. Leia died with many regrets, but she spoke with hope when she tasked me this cause. I dare not let her down, even passed on as she is."
The mention of appointing a regent brings another heavy sigh from the darker haired Alderaanian. Everything felt like /so/ much, all of a sudden. Days ago, she was blissfully ignorant of all of this, enjoying her research on a remote rim world.
"If my mother were here, she would leap at the opportunity. It would be like giving her the daughter she'd always wanted," Anessa muses darkly, though the humor is enough to touch the corners of her eyes. "I'd always preferred going on archaeological digs and doing research with my father. My mother might have resorted to bludgeoning me to get me to court, if it hadn't been so unladylike."
There's a moment's consideration to those last statements, though, before she speaks. "That's quite a burden to put on any one person, to be certain," Anessa agrees. "And there aren't many that would be able to accomplish it. Princess Leia along them, unfortunately." A small smile touches her lips, again. "I would say, though, that she taught you well. We may not have agreed with her actions, but she had the bearing of a leader. As do you. Maybe..." A small, contemplative shrug. "Maybe, once we get through all of this, we can talk more about your ideas. My father has long wanted unity. Maybe there's a middle ground that can be found." A pause, then.
"In any case, I wish you all the Mother's grace and Father's protection on that endeavor. Princess."
Rather than stand around like some awkward statue with nothing to say about the current situation, Chani has moved away from the pair speaking at the table and towards the couch on which Avlin sleeps and which Kiko sits in front of. She, too, has come to a seated position, legs crossed, hallikset slipped over her shoulder so that she may brace it against the arm rest of the couch from its lateral side. Rather than disturb their conversation or Avlin's sleep with idle plucking at the instrument, Chani instead seems almost as if she, too, is asleep. Her hands rest on her knees, mostly hidden by the sleeves of her tunic and the wider sleeves of her robes. Her breathing is slow, methodical, and quiet. So quiet and slow that there's almost no movement from it.
Her eyes are closed, too, further promoting the idea that perhaps she's restorted to a nap. But her posture proves otherwise. Her shoulders rest back, her back is straight, and there's something altogether poised about her position, albeit graceful and relaxed all the same. Her lips are parted just enough to hint at the white teeth beyond, and if one were to cast a particularly discerning eye at her, they might see the most subtle of movements of them outwards, indicative of every exhale that leaves her. She may not have anything to say, but her idle time certainly is not wasted. Chani meditates, reviewing the many events in the recent few days and the ones ahead that she has yet to face.
"I would say the daughter your mother always wanted stands beside me now. I think it would only be that duty would compel her to raise the little Lady over there. Much like duty compelled you to seek me out. Her lessons were not lost on you. A child's burden is identifying what qualities we deem best about our parents and carrying them forward. I see only a true Panteer here this day. Times like these push us to the precipice of finding out who we are meant to be. We must determine if we are decisive enough to take that first step." Aryn sips from her glass then looks to Anessa and smiles. "You already have."
The cup Aryn holds is set back on the tableside and Aryn takes her more natural stance as an observer by clasping her hands over her lower back. Kiko is seated with her back to the couch 'shielding' the slumbering child Duchess whose arm has snaked around the elder's neck to hold her like she might her guardian, the one filled with stuffing and looking like a bear. The day approaches mid-morning, and Aryn has cried twice now! It has been a heavy day wrought with emotions, uncertainties, and dangerous foes. They all quietly searched for a way forward.
"I would like that," Aryn says in an appreciative tone. The use of Princess was not missed. It carried with it the weight of expectations! One Princess had failed their people, and another must take her place. Aryn gulped quietly, suddenly sheepish of the proverbial mountain she must ascend. Even her thumbs began to twirl idly at her back, a nervous tick of idle contemplation that surfaced each time she realized how daunting it all was.
The Cophrigin Echo is a medium transport of organic Calamari design. Emerging from its open main ramp is a gentleman in the pale grey armor of a heavy dragoon, a decorative green half-cape worn over his left shoulder, and an elaborate sword and sheath hanging from his belt at the right side. Ban offered aloud in a measured baritone, "Do I intrude upon your Highness?" He offers A short bow from the waist, green eyes regarding each of the women present in turn, beginning with Aryn and the unknown Anessa, then shifting to Kiko, the meditative musician, and the sleeping orphan.
Anessa's eyes grow glassy, welling at their bottoms as quick as if she'd been physically struck by the other woman, but it isn't physical pain that once more threatens to spill tears over her cheeks. The unexpected words cut straight to her core, the weight and fear of her loss rekindled, and the swell of her own heart at the compliments pushes her own insecurities up into her eyes. She'd opened her lips to say something, changed her mind, and swallowed them nearly immediately. Instead, she blinks the tears back and takes a breath, nodding appreciatively. "You're too kind," she says at last. Those walls were still there. They didn't hide much, but they were all she had, at the moment, to keep her standing.
Seemingly taking Aryn's lead, Anessa also moved towards the table, taking a last sip of her cider before setting the lass back down. Her dress she wore barely brushed the floor as she walked, each of her steps clicking against the hard surface. She stepped beside Aryn once more, watching her expression, and reached out to touch her upper arm gently. Her cool fingers were friendly, reassuring. "You're going to do great things," she says, nodding slightly over towards the couch. "You already have."
It's the arrival of Ban, however, that brings a bit more formality back to Anessa's posture. Her hands return to fold in front of her, and though she smiles gently at the man's arrival, she shakes her head. "Actually, I think I'm the one intruding," she offers politely. "I think I've distracted the Princess enough, and I should probably let her tend to her other duties."
Although deep in her meditation, Chani is not withdrawn from her surroundings. Lord Ban Iskender's presence does not go unnoticed, and when his voice queries the Alderaanian Princess, Chani's eyes open to take in the armored man as he approaches them. When his gaze sweeps across her, her chin inclines half an inch down, offering, from her position, a gesture of respect and acknowledgment that doesn't require her to move from her meditative pose. Chani glances towards Lady Anessa and Princess Cole after, partly to see and not just hear the next exchange words, and partly because the Lady Anessa seems to be of the mind to leave. Chani's hands leave her knees and her legs unfolded into a more loose configuration that allows her to rise from the ground.
After all, if a noble lady is about to leave their presence, Chani won't disrespect her by remaining seated. Her breathing takes on a more active pacing, enough so that there's movement of the garments around her shoulders and chest in the process. Her hands slip up to adjust both tunic and robes, not fussing so much as ensuring they are not tangled from the contortions necessary to rise from where she'd been seated. Her full height is as meager as Aryn's, and what glimpses of her hands have been available have painted a small woman exists beneath the shape-hiding, loose garments that mimic Aryn's in some mild, distant semblance.
Aryn does not answer the well-wish of doing great things, not until Anessa confirms that she already has. "Were it possible to do more,.." She intones, genuinely wishing more could have been done for their present situation.
At the appearance of the Dragoon Captain, Aryn glances his way and the idle motion of her thumbs cease. Her gaze tracks his approach to them and her chin tips up slightly when his question is spoken. She answers first by shaking her head no, then by speaking, "Not at all, my Lord. I am glad to see you." Aryn turns her gaze to Anessa. "Lady Anessa, this is Lord Ban Iskender, Captain of the Vice-Royal Dragoons and as some have begun to call him, the Green Knight." Aryn smiles and gestures to Anessa then. "This is Lady Anessa Panteer, of the /true/ House Panteer. Duty brought the Lady to us. She wanted to see to Lady Avlin's safety."
Aryn gestured to Ban then. "The Captain led the team into the palace to find Avlin. Maybe he can answer other questions you might have concerning that evening, my Lady."
Aryn looks past the pair toward Chani. A pang of guilt surfaced in Aryn's stomach at having involved the Naboo native in what was the single most violent affair Alderaan had suffered in a while. Chani's meditative state reminded Aryn that perhaps she should look into doing the same at some point. Some thought is given to location, maybe the fountain gardens. It would give Avlin a chance to get out of the hangar..Aryn's stare grows heavy as she is temporarily claimed by her thoughts.
Ban Iskender offers a second short bow of the head and shoulders, this time to Anessa as she is introduced. "Of the true Panteer. Very good," he voices, tone even and steady. "It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance, Lady Anessa. Aught I might answer in service need only be asked." Chani is greeted, "Mistress," in turn.
Anessa watches quietly as Aryn performs the introductions, her jaw moving in an ever so slight signal of frustration at the mention of the 'true' house. The fact that it even need be clarified was enough to stoke the flames of loathing, again. How long would she endure that torment, now? For how many generations would her family have to explain that they weren't /those/ Panteers?
Still, civility remains in the lady's expression, and Anessa takes hold of the side of her skirt to dip into a polite curtsey, her eyes dipping to the floor. "The pleasure is mine, my Lord," she answers once she's straightened again. "You have my /deepest/ gratitude for what you've done.. what you've all done." Her gaze sweeps up and around at the others. "I'm sorry that I wasn't here to help, myself."
Returning her gaze to Ban, Anessa nods slightly. "My father, Count Navar Panteer, was close to the Teraan family. When I heard about the distress call from Lady Avlin, I came as soon as I could, but I... I've lost contact with my father and my mother," she explains. "I don't know if they were swept up in the moment. I can't imagine they've taken up hiding. My home looked like it was ransacked, and my father is.. well.. known to be more passionate and prone to follow his instincts than I am." She raises a hand to motion, slightly, towards Aryn.
"Lady.. excuse me.. Princess Aryn.. has agreed to help me find them. I'm woefully ignorant of what's been happening. I've been away at University on Agamar, and went straight from there to an archaeological dig on Pamarthe. I'm just now being told that /my/ family name is being used to stoke an insurrection and I..." Once more, she looks around the room, a hand coming up to her chest. "I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am."
It comes to her, completely unbidden, in a way she isn't prepared for it. Watching Lady Anessa Panteer apologize for things beyond her control conjures up a single name that will forever taint the history of the Naboo. "I'm sorry for Sheev Palpatine." She blurts it out before she can think better of it, and before all eyes turn on her out of both extreme curiosity and extreme perplexion, Chani continues by carrying on the thought. "Lady Anessa, you can't apologize for something that's not your fault. You didn't order these things to be done. You didn't march into the palace. You didn't commit atrocities. Apologizing for it is taking the blame for it, and everything about you being here shows that you don't deserve to be blamed for this at all." Now she's quiet.
She hopes it doesn't last long. The last thing she wants is some awkward silence descending on the crowd. Save for the brief introductions made, this is the most that she's talked since arriving, but nothing has quite provoked her to speak like the noble woman's apology. "I don't blame you for what happened." Chani's gaze turns towards the sleeping youth on the couch. "I don't think that she would blame you, either." It lingers, for a moment, before returning to Anessa. "Don't blame yourself, either. All we can do now is move forward."
Chani's statement earns an approving nod from Aryn who echoes what she has said before. "The only way is forward," Turning to regard the group once more, focus renewed. "I believe our path takes us back to Leilani City, particularly the Lady's estate. We," Aryn gestured between Anessa and herself, "..believe there may be clues to the Count's disappearance within the security surveillance recordings. Furthermore, droids patrol the estate, and there may be information stored in their data core should the culprits have forgotten to remove them."
Looking to Ban, Aryn speaks a bit further. "Lady Anessa feels compelled to speak out against Lana. A statement denouncing these deeds and drawing a line between the two. What thoughts do you have toward such a strategy, Lord Ban?"
Ban Iskender stands from his bow, and rests one hand on the pommel of his sword to steady the weapon throughout the movement, preventing any unseemly clattering. Chani's words are followed by a short nod. "Indeed. The.. Pretender has drawn more than one august name into her infamy. Blame is not yours, though the desire to see such cleansed does you credit," he opines evenly to Anessa, before nodding in further agreement with Aryn. "I daresay the first consideration ought be Lady Anessa's personal safety. Striking at those true heirs to the Panteer name could follow shortly, and even apart from her wretched allies of Rist, the Lady and her catspaw are as dangerous as they are dishonored." A drawn breath. "With that said, I would support a venture to Delaya toward the described purpose."
She couldn't speak for the rest of the eyes in attendance, but Anessa's eyes definitely swing over towards Chani, locking on what had otherwise been an entirely silent young woman. The outburst brings a small, vaguely confused tilt of her head, at first. She understood all of the components, of course. The young woman was from Naboo, and so was Palpatine. But how could she be sorry...
Just as Anessa is getting there, herself, the young Jedi lays it out in plain Basic for her, and she finds herself sufficiently dressed down enough that a faint blush touches her cheeks. Her lips purse, almost flattening a small, warm smile. "Thank you," she says softly, once she's sure the other woman is finished. "You're absolutely right. It's just difficult, right now, to see so many suffering. To feel so close to it, and so helpless."
Her gaze swings back to Aryn, nodding in agreement with her, before returning to Ban. "I appreciate the understanding, from all of you, given your proximity to this," she says warmly, though she seems taken aback by the mention of her own safety. "/My/ safety? I.." But, that stuns her response for a moment, leaving her simply shaking her head in surprise. "My safety is secondary to finding my parents, and not something that any of you need to be concerning yourselves with. There are /far/ more..." She shakes her head again, as if everything was just catching up to her. "The /Princess/ can't come," she blurts out, looking over at Aryn. "I'm sorry, your Highness, but Lord Ban is right. If they're that dangerous, I can't drag you back into that."
"I'd say the Princess is perhaps the most qualified at going," Chani offers, without as much enthusiasm as her prior interjection into the conversation. She feels, in no small way, unqualified to add to the conversation when it comes to the battle plans of Lords and Ladies, but she also feels connected to this. "The Princess is, save perhaps Lord Iskender, the most capable person in this room when it comes to the protection of others, including herself. She has been able to not only defend herself when accosted, but me, too. If your plan is to return to your estates to look for evidence, then the Princess' presence only improves your chances. Not only of success, but of not being in danger you cannot escape."
"I hold out hope that we will discover the truth behind all this and find your parents, my Lady. To that, and Chani's point, I must insist on going. /This/ is a team effort, and we must watch out for each other. /Her/," Aryn nods toward the stirring Duchess who has sat up to rub her tired eyes, " survival will depend upon our success. For now, I think we all need time to center ourselves for what lay ahead. I cannot speak for the others but.." Aryn sighs out loud, and heavily, with a slight humorous laugh, "..my nerves are shot. Our conversation today helped me, though. I am glad you have come, Lady Anessa, I--"-- "ANESSA!" Yells Avlin, who slides off the couch and runs to the Panteer woman full force. Avlin's small arms wrap around the Lady, squeezing her tight. Emotional waves spread their tide from the child for those attuned enough to feel it, and when the dark haired child looked up, she had tears in her eyes.
"I believe I have said what need be heard," Aryn clarifies, pulling her glove to lightly touch the youth's head and dote over her hair.
"Lady Anessa, your concern speaks well to your quality, but Mistress Chani is quite correct: there are but a handful of folk in all the galaxy who can oppose this Pretender's talents so well as those present, now," Ban voices in assent with the junior Jedi. Another slow, dignified nod of assent as Aryn speaks, but as Avlin awakes, the gentleman chooses not to speak any further, letting further business wait for the future.
"Be that as it may," Anessa starts, her voice firming when her chocolate eyes swing back over to Chani. She'd known-- or at least, reacquainted-- herself with Aryn for all of a few hours, and she was already protective over the woman, if not the title. But, she silences herself when Ban and Aryn speak, and she lets out a soft breath. This was not a fight she was going to win. She hadn't come here to make things worse. She hadn't come to drag them all back into danger. She just wanted to /stop/ all of the violence, find her parents, and...
Thoughts entirely derailed by the sound of her name being called, Anessa's eyes lock on the sight of the girl and she swoops down just in time to catch her in her arms, pulling her into a tight hug and pressing her hand to the back of her neck. Another wave of emotion radiates from her, as well, as the tears fall down her cheeks. "Hey Tookie," she whispers, enjoying that moment for a while before the two finally lean back and Anessa reaches her thumb up to wipe Avlin's tears.
Anessa's smile grows as she wipes her own tears, as well. "I'm sorry I couldn't get here, sooner. I'm so glad you're okay." She sniffs again, nodding. "I've missed you." And then she's looking up at Aryn, smiling. "Thank you.. again."
Aryn pulls her glove back on and smiles back, her own tears surfacing again. Three times now she's cried today, Mother help her. Aryn grabs the box of tissue and offers it for Anessa before taking one herself. "Take what time you need, Lady Anessa. My lodgings are yours. Should you need anything, please let me know." Aryn dips her head respectfully before turning back to the table and the chair which she'd draped her cape over. She draws the cape up and dons it by fastening the dark green fabric over her shoulders. She uses the tissue she claimed from earlier to dry her eyes, and takes a moment to find her center again. Meditation was definitely in order!