The Valassian body was now healed. Darana was pleased. She hated relying on her human body...it seemed frail...somehow weak to her. She smiled baring her fangs to the world. Once more she felt strong and powerful. Ready for the fight to come. Fiery red eyes had snapped the challenge to the leaders of the Rose supporters. "Rose is Dead and I have Matthews. Deal with me!" She had told them. It was a twist they had not expected and Darana counted on that. They had no idea what they were about to be hit with. She entered her office and began to assume a combat stance. She had not sensed anyone's presence, nor did the house or security register any alerts or intrusions. Slowly the person in her chair turned their attention away from the window to her. A smile crept across Darana's face as she relaxed her stance, "Hello My Lady." "Darana," Raven rose from the seat and smiled as she did only to her few close friends, not often enough. "It is good to see you." Her head dipped taking in the style of dress and motion as she came around the desk. A quick grin at odds with her formality came and went. "You seem to be pleased today, the House is functioning smoothly? You have an hour or two free?" Darana shook her head, "I'm sorry. I have little time right now. Serris was kidnapped and we have just located her." She paused her voice trailing off. It was good to see Raven again and they had so much to catch up on. "It's been too long. Look...if you're up for a fight...we could use the help and it would provide some time for us to talk." "Of course. I'll call Wilder from the air, or meet you en route." She stopped, fingers stroking the cool surface of the desk reflexively to still her inner doubts. Perhaps it would be best they didn't discuss... Her mind shied away, and came to rest on Darana's features, above her own. "That is, how far away is she being held?" Immediately Darana was concerned for the Princess. Of Course, there must have been a reason for her to show up on her doorstep unannounced like that. More likely that it wasn't just a surprise visit on the Lady Palpatine's part. Darana's brows furrowed, Her voice was low and quiet as she spoke, "Rendezvous is half a day's travel...The meet takes place tomorrow mid day....Raven," She started, "Is there something..." She paused, not wanting to intrude upon the other woman's privacy. "Of course not." She made certain to say the words while holding Darana's gaze. A mild lie, not really a lie at all. But she did need help. It could keep. She swung around to pick up her cloak and settle it over her shoulders with fluffing motions. Darana deserved better than that, she knew, and turned back. "Nothing terrible at least. Possibly even good, I don't know yet. But the servitors can watch the children until Sam returns. She's spending the night in the capital." Her face softened slightly. "I didn't know about Serris, I'm sorry. You know if she has been hurt, you have my utmost cooperation, and assurances punishment will be exacted." Darana bowed her head slightly. Grateful that Raven had not withheld the truth. The two of them knew each other far better than that. "Thank you My Lady." She rose and caught Raven's gaze once more, "I will do everything within my power should you deem the," she paused, looking for an appropriate word for an unknown circumstance,"'event' less than acceptable." Raven shook her head and smiled. "Serris is yours, I know you take care of your own, I'd only like to help. You'll want to arrive early to scout the location, and set up your people." Darana nodded, "I have already sent an advance team to scout the area." She moves aside allowing Raven to pass by her. "We are mobilizing to get our strike teams in position early. Before Major Rose's supporters notice the." Almost forgetting why she had returned to her office in the first place, Darana paused and grabbed the comm link off of her desk. She turned and grinned at Raven, "Can't forget this." Raven chuckled, and stood in the door. "No you cannot. And I can show you my latest baby pictures on the way." She had almost forgotten that Raven had triplets. "They must be what...three or four at least by now? You also said Sam was back? Is that true?" Darana thought back to the trouble she and Raven had gotten into over and because of Sam. In fact it was Samantha Connelly who had 'captured' Darana and turned her over to the Alliance. Not that Sam hadn't done the right thing...the Emperor had ordered Sam to be in the Alliance and Darana and Raven had tried to get her out and out and put her into a boarding school. It had back fired and at the last minute the sixteen year old Sam pulled Darana onto the Alliance shuttle and took her prisoner. Raven led the way through the hall in step with Darana's controlled grace. "Three, and yes. She's been helping me take care of them. They seem to respond to her..." And Sam responded to them. It was a problem, her sister was old enough to have children of her own. Sam wasn't a lesbian, of that she was certain, but Sam's near fanatical quiet avoidance of men in any romantic fashion, any emotional fashion at all, was bothering her. Far more than it did Sam. Darana led the way to the waiting craft, while she relayed the latest stories from Sam on her sons. In so many ways it was easier to let Sam mother them than to touch the small lives with her own. And hard to reach out after so long alone with herself. The trip up to the Topaz would be relatively short as the Star Destroyer awaited her arrival just outside the planets orbit. So Darana settled into the shuttles seat and quietly listened as Raven related the most recent trials of raising three strong willed force sensitives. There was a hint of sadness behind her words. Darana noted Raven's continued use of "we" and wondered to whom the we referred..her late husband, Lord Vordis, now missing in Action and presumed dead, or to Samantha. Or perhaps Darana read more into the statement than was there. She doubted it though, there was much the Emperor's daughter had to keep locked away. As they navigated the planetary security systems, Raven excused herself to make arrangements for her own household in the next few days. Cancellation of appearances and meetings, rescheduling those that were the most pressing, delegating a proxy to those that required it. Recording holomessages of regret to be sent out. As she keyed the last for transmission she reflected not for the first time on very different her life had become. ********** The Bridge of the Topaz bustled with quiet efficiency as the crew performed final system's checks before the jump to hyperspace. Darana gave the order to get underway and left the bridge. It was best not to interfere with her personnel.i They knew thief jobs and they knew them well. It was her turn to sit and wait and patience was not one of her better virtues. "I hate this." She told Raven on their way to her quarters, "The wait, it's awful. But," She smiled, "it will give us a chance to talk. So what was it you came to see me about?" "Advice. A second opinion. I don't know which yet. It is... complicated. And not something I can discuss with many." Raven stepped past a trio of officers into the turbolift and clasped her hands loosely, they were cold. "I'm not certain I can discuss it with anyone, it is a little frightening." Darana hit the button for the residence level and waited for the doors to close before turning to Raven. "That seems to be the way our lives go these days. I will what I can for you." Raven smiled, "I never doubted that. But it isn't quite so easy. I keep wondering how secure the Topaz really is. I can't seem to help it. Daniel and (Kyra?) showed that our enemies can reach us no matter where we are. Even the Palace. But the Palace is such an obvious target. I don't know. I don't know... I'm procrastinating. When will you hear from your advance teams?" "We haven't had a major breach of security since those times...They were," Darana paused, "interesting to say the least. It's not like you to procrastinate Raven." She stepped through the door and headed down the hall. "But still if you prefer..."She switched from vocalized communications to the Telepathic touch that now came so naturally to her,
Raven nodded, carefully arranging her thoughts behind her shields before replying and followed Darana into the hall. In an agony of indecision Raven speeded up. Darana picked her pace up, falling into the smooth gate Raven now set. If he was even a force user at all, he could be rebel or have rebel sympathies. It could also be he simply wanted his life to be calm and quiet, not harried by the life of an Imperial Royal. Darana furrowed her brows as she reached the door to her quarters. She feared that if the man in question were a Force User or a Rebel Sympathizer then it was possible Raven was be being used. Darana did not want to see Raven hurt that way. Darana became very concerned. Raven was right, it wasn't as easy as that. We have not discussed the Force. I haven't even told him who I am.> But he knew, and she knew, that he'd seen past her mind tricks and let her sit at his table anyway. Inside the quarters, Raven unhooked her cloak and draped it in her lap to sit, collapse, into one of the seats. "Darana, Anelis ordered me killed once before. Eventually she'll find out. I've tried to keep it quiet but secrets don't last. And it wasn't like this with Vordis. You were married, what was it like?" She considered the question. It seemed like eons ago, a different life time altogether, when she had been married. She closed her eye remembering, reliving it. The little things came to her first, the way he would dip his head just before he laughed or the certain way he would hold his fork. Then the larger things their escape from the Coruscant the night of the coup, the way he had protected her when the mercenaries captured her on Avalon. The way she had come to care for him. It was all there locked away. "It was...bitter sweet..." her voice trailed off, "At first it was convenient for both of us....but then...well when the Emperor ordered me into the Alliance...I truly cared for him." Darana sat in a chair next to Raven's. "Times were openly dangerous then, not like they are now where it is all covert and politic. It was better that he left with his family." She was unable to meet Raven's eyes, lost in memories and emotion. She had never truly admitted to anyone how painful the loss of her husband had been for her. Bittersweet, that she understood for the things she had lost and not thought about in years, but did now. The taste of the breeze on her face and sound of her mother's voice across the water. Her son. Wincing at the pain her eyes jerked open and she breathed deeply. Darana was the closest friend she had, perhaps the only friend, she laid her cloak across the table and rose to fetch drinks. Darana agreed. Darana laughed at the irony as she accepted the glass of blood from Raven."Here's to Life." "And vengeance." She touched her glass to Darana's and sat back to sip. Darana nodded, "Vengeance." It was a nice avoidance Raven had managed. Most likely he was at the very least a sensitive. Raven doubted that would be a problem, and now that she could think clearly again it was only a matter of deciding how to minimize and maximize results in her favor. Still, he had to know who she was, why HAD he let her stay in his life this far, rather than disappear. She nodded and continued sipping evenly. She had avoided mentioning Kylie or Rachel, Rachel, Darana knew, did not belong there and Kylie, well that was a different matter altogether. she reached for Raven's glass and went to refresh their drinks. Without the glass Raven regarded Darana's retreating back speculatively. Darana's heart skipped a beat. Not sure how to reply, She smiled to herself as she poured the amber liquid into Raven's glass, it was more complicated than that, but it was true. She turned and held Raven's gaze, There was no easy way to reply to that. The Emperor and the Third Circle demanded loyalty and obedience, and it was likely to be true. For several minutes Raven drank and considered her options, letting the alcohol warm her. The wisest course would be to stop now, do nothing to make Darana's prediction come true. But as usual, it wasn't as easy as that. "Have you spoken to Sam since her return to Coruscant?" Darana settled herself back down into the chair and smiled uneasily, "No I haven't. I wasn't aware she had returned." She stared down at the glass she held, She asked, almost afraid to hear the answer. Raven adjusted her angle towards Darana. "Oh yes. Several months ago. She's enrolled in classes and of course, the children take up a lot of her time. I know she hasn't been out very much beyond those occasions. This evening at the Capital will be the first in a long while. A bit of a surprise actually. I hope it does her some good, Wilder will have a report ready when I return." Darana nodded, trying to calm her thoughts. "Of course, it will be good for her to get out." Sam was no longer the sixteen year old ward full of questions and surprises. She was older and most likely more cynical now. The Jedi had done little to help the young girl. Darana doubted Hawkwood's death and Dral's disappearance helped matters any either. She stopped, trying to remember the history and yet not wanting to remember either.It was all so difficult and confusing now. Sam had touched everyone's life back then. It was never easy where she was concerned. That was probably why the Emperor had ordered his ward into the Alliance all those years ago. Darana nodded, not taking her eyes off the glass, "She deserves that much." She sipped at the blood, for a bit. Darana went on considering the possibilities, finally she shhrugged and looked up at Raven. It showed in her eyes how much this meant to her. Darana sighed and finsihed her drink, I don't know either, she may not even agree but I will try to persuade her. At least *you* can reassure her there are no yeti loose in your halls...> Darana chuckled. Baron Blacky had provided some interesting amusements. Raven smiled with satisfaction. Soon they would have the exchange completed and be on their way home. Sam would listen and eventually give in, and there would be one less loose end to deal with.
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