Tenel Ka looked at herself in the mirror. She looked like a princess. Her hair was arranged in a series of braids and twists on her heard with a tiara pinned in the center. It looked like a crystal ship floating on a sea of fire. It wasn't her tiara; hers was probably being tried on by one of Yfra's minions. The dress she'd chosen was white and regale. It was supposed touched the ground but it showed off the crystal and pearl slippers nicely. She sighed and went to ask Astrata's opinion. She passed Jacen. He was pale but resting. There was nothing she could do until she reached home.
"What do you think?" She asked the woman in the pilot's seat. Astrata turned and smiled.
"You look very dignified and you finished just in time. We're here." She hit a button and they came into normal space. Tenel Ka took a deep breath, so it begins.
"He went with Tenel Ka?" Jaina asked. "Just like that. No permission from Mom and Dad, no packing or goodbyes?"
"Not exactly." Luke replied. "I'm afraid all I can say right now is that Tenel Ka's family was murdered and the murderers came here. They tried to kill her too and Jacen got caught in the middle. His only safe exit was with her. We've apprehended the murders but they had hidden poison in their teeth. They did not want to be questioned."
"So he's on Dathomir?" Han asked. Luke was trying to tell Han and Leia what he'd told Jaina and Lowie. But he hadn't told the friends this part.
"No. Hapes. Tenel Ka is Isolder and Teneniel Djo's daughter, Princess of Hapes."
"Oh." Leia gasped realizing what that meant. "Luke " she was unsure what to say. Her son was in possible danger but friends had died.
"Official word should hit the holos in a couple of hours." He swallowed. "Leia, Han, Jacen was hurt. It didn't look bad and his life force was strong but that ship was his only safe exit. I'm sure Tenel Ka will call as soon as she reaches Hapes."
"But Luke," Han's cold stare gave even the Jedi Master goose bumps. "There will be assassins waiting for her. And my son is caught in the middle."
"I know Han. If there were anyway I could have stopped them I would have but there was just no way. Tionne is taking things over here and I'm already gone. Jacen will be ok."
"Stop by Coruscant." Han said.
"That would take time " Luke hated to play this game with Han but he knew he could handle things better. Han wasn't a Jedi and it was his son in danger. He couldn't risk it. Han clicked off the transmission in anger.
"If you're not letting him go, I'm going."
"It'll be sort of an uncle thing." Kyp smiled.
"Ah-rgh uh." Jacen slowly came to. Where was he? A bacta tank somewhere. He could feel the tingling liquid healing and energizing his cells. He reached out with the Force to feel it better. Soon he felt himself being pulled out. He wondered where he was but the doctors gave him no clue and he wasn't sure he should ask. Jaina could probably tell by some of the equipment Jacen thought. He was handed an absorbent cloth and left in closet sized room with nothing in it. Where were his clothes? He just had on medical thing that left his legs and every thing above his waist bare. He shrugged and stared to dry some of the moisture out of his hair. Knock knock.
"Uh, come in ?" He really wanted to know what was going on. He felt alive and awake but the site that met him when the door opened made him think he'd died or was dreaming.
"Uh yeah. Yes. Sure." He couldn't help staring. "Where am I?" He meant who are you and what have you done with the real Tenel Ka. She was gorgeous. Well she was always nice but the dress, the hair, the crown
"One of my homes. Friend Jacen... Jacen I have not completely been honest with you. I am not just a Dathomirian warrior, I am I have another home and almost another identity. My father is was Prince Isolder." She struggled with the words.
"Please let me finish. I was raised both here, Hapes, and on Dathomir, the home of my mother. Those who were shooting at us were assassins sent to kill me to make sure I could not claim the throne. A trusted ally of the family betrayed us and murdered my family. Astrata came to warn me and bring me here. I am sorry you got involved Jacen. I am also sorry I was not honest with you but I wanted no special treatment or attention because of my family." By the time she had finished Jacen was quite speechless. He didn't know where to begin. She was a princess? Her family is dead? He was on Hapes?
"Tenel Ka I'm sorry about your family." That was dull he told himself. Here she was, princess or not, and her family had been murdered. "No big deal about the princess thing." he shrugged. "I just wish I knew what they did with my clothes."
"Ah. Aha. I will have them brought to you."
"Um, do my parents know I'm here?"
"Not yet. I wanted to wait until you were healed. I must go now; after you are dressed we'll tell your parents and Master Skywalker what is going on." She turned to leave.
"Tenel Ka." He called. She turned back to him.
"Are you ok? I mean this has got to be pretty hard on you and well I just don't know what I'd do if I were you."
"Jacen my friend, there is very little that can be done right now, all I can do is make sure it is done well. Be at peace, I will be fine." With that she left quickly so he would not see the tears that forced themselves from her eyes.
Right now more than anything she wanted to see her parents again, to have them look at her with their proud, approving eyes. But she knew she would never see them again. So she wiped the tears away, stood up straight and walked forward. She told a med technician to have Jacen's clothes delivered to him and told Astrata to prepare a secure signal to Coruscant.
She then went into a room set aside for her, closed the door and let the tears come again. She wished she could be in her special place in the Palace of Fountains but Yfra controlled that Palace right now. They were in Astarta's retreat. A sort of summer home/business center/medical research facility but it was away from the Royal Court. A rapping came at her door. She composed herself as much as she could and called,
"Hi, uh, the com transmission is ready." Jacen said. He ran his hand through his unruly brown hair nervously. Tenel Ka was grateful for the familiar stance and walked up to him and put both arms around him.
"Thank You." She whispered. He gingerly returned her hug and wondered why he was being thanked. It only added to his confusion. He decided it didn't matter and that this was nice enough a place to spend eternity. Tenel Ka seemed to think so too but they both knew there were things to be done.
"Time to go Princess." He said quietly. She had always hated being called that and dreaded her friends saying it but somehow he managed to say it just right. They released each other and went to the com unit.
"Now the fun begins." Jacen muttered. His parents were going to go nuts!
"Uncle Luke left to get Jacen without us!" Jaina cried beyond annoyed. Anakin nodded.
"That's what dad was grumbling. Uncle Luke left without him too. Jaina, he was real mad. I think you better forget about going after them. Uncle Luke is a Jedi knight, you'd probably just get in the way." Anakin advised. Lowie roared, drowning out Jaina's "Hmph!"
"I gotta go Jaya. Don't worry, Jacen will be back safe and sound soon enough." His image faded away. Jaina turned to Lowie who was threatening to squash MTD for saying, "He's right you know, you'd only be in Master Luke's way."
"I guess we're staying here then." She pouted. "Did he say Tenel Ka was a princess?"
"What do you advise we do next?" Tenel Ka asked Astarta. Jacen was falling asleep curled up in a chair in the corner.
"We need to make our case in front of the court. You are the heir Tenel Ka but Yfra will attack your youth. She will try to use your Jedi training against you, she might say you've spent too much time away or you've been alienated or you are a pawn of the New Republic or any number of things. We'll have to go over every possible attack she could come up with. Meanwhile she'll being trying to off us without it being too obvious."
"Could we prove she assassinated my parents and grandmother?"
"It would be my word against hers, she's surly covered up all the evidence. Everyone knows she's done it but no one can prove it."
"Well then I will simply have to win the support of the court."
"It won't be that easy." Astarta shook her head.
"I have never spoken before the court. It is time to show them who I am." Tenel Ka had studied the Royal Court as a child and watched her parents deal with the screaming ambassadors and forced to chat politely with some of them at state dinners but things were different now. Astarta tried to rehearse for the many ways Yfra would try to discredit her and Tenel Ka realized the importance of knowing an enemy's attacks and tactics but she wanted to charge in.
Jacen found it extremely boring. Why couldn't everyone just recognize Tenel Ka (Ta'Chume Djo, he found her full name slightly more interesting) as the heir and next Queen? He knew it was more complicated but he had no problems with it. He found himself, at times, wishing Uncle Luke would arrive soon. He knew it would take another day before the Jedi came to retrieve him.
"I have spoke with the court!" Astarta interrupted his dreamy thoughts bringing him fully awake.
"They will meet in ten days to here your claim." Great, Jacen thought I'll have to wait forever to know if she wins if she survives. Tenel Ka nodded to acknowledge and Astarta left.
"When does Master Skywalker arrive?" The warrior Princess (not Xena) asked although she knew the answer.
"Tomorrow." He said gloomily.
"That is for the best. You will be a lot safer back on Yavin IV and you will not have to listen to all this boring court protocol or fall asleep in that old chair."
"What? Oh no, I'll have to leave my chair! Please let me just stay a few more days!" He flung himself on the chair and faked sobs of grief. Normally a stunt like this was followed by silence and then a disapproving groan from his sister. But this time Tenel Ka giggled. It didn't seem right, the warrior girl he'd known or the princess he'd just met, giggling. It was a short, light, happy giggle.
"Jacen my friend I will miss you. I don't know when I will have time to call or if I will be able to go back but I will."
"You don't think will you have to give up being a Jedi?"
"No. I may not be able to come and train at the academy but I will never give up my training." He knew by the look in her granite gray eyes that she meant it.
"Well, when you queen the bean, let me know." He smiled.
"Queen the bean?"
"It's from some old faerie story. You see there was a frog and a princess but the frog was really a prince under a spell "
"Do you think they'll shoot at as us?" Kyp asked excitedly. He gave Luke a smile he'd picked up from Han.
"Don't get you hopes up." Luke replied. "Tenel Ka gave us a code to transmit so her people will direct us where to land. We should be blasting out of here before Yfra's people can do anything."
"Then maybe they'll shoot at us when we're leaving." Luke knew Kyp didn't want a fight more then he did, the 'boy' had killed more then enough for several lifetimes.
He entered normal space and sent the code. An instant later, text instructions directed him to a landing pad in a forest. Then a single masked guide took them to an underground railway. They surfaced and re-entered the tunnels many times to avoid anyone tracking the Jedi. Astarta had advised against the whole idea but Tenel Ka knew Jacen had to be safe. Finally they entered Astarta's retreat.
"Uncle Luke! Uncle Kyp!" Jacen called.
"Jacen, how are you?" Kyp asked. "I hope they're feeding you well."
"Of course. Hey Tenel Ka, they're here. This is my Dad's friend Kyp. Kyp this is Tenel Ka."
"Hello." Kyp smiled.
"Tenel Ka, how are things in the Royal Court?" Luke asked.
"We do not know yet. I will make my claim in ten days. After that, it could take many weeks."
"Until then you have to hold off against assassins." Luke nodded.
"Yes." Tenel Ka said. "I do not know when or if I will be able to return to the academy."
"Of course." Luke said unemotionally. "You will always be welcome." The Princess nodded. She turned to Jacen. He ran his hand through his hair and then hugged her. It was a quick hug because they were in front of Luke and Kyp. "Time to go froggy." She whispered, quoting his story. He gave her a lopsided grin and left with his 'uncles'. She watched him go. She felt more alone then ever. Her parents, her entire family, were dead and Jacen was no longer there for comfort.
"Weakling!" She chided herself. "You've had your cry now stop it." But she couldn't. Her whole world had collapsed. She forced herself to brush away her tears and stop shaking. She was a Dathomirian warrior, she would not cry again.
"I know it's hard sometimes Tenel Ka, being part of two so different worlds. But they aren't always a different as we think. Sometimes this world will test your strength as much Dathomir will." ~Isolder
"Being strong on the inside is as important as being string on the outside. No, it is more important Tenel Ka, because without inner strength a warrior would crumble at the blow of a misplaced word. Sometimes weak people with strong minds can fight longer and harder then whole armies of trained warriors. If you can master both kinds of strength then you will be a true warrior."
"My parents are still with me." She realized. "And they want me be strong, to beat Yfra, and to be of both worlds."
[Ten days later, a call to Jacen]
"I think you'll do great." He smiled.
"Thank you for your confidence." She replied. "I hope the Royal Court will be as kind."
"Well, if they see what I'm seeing and hear what I've heard, they'd have to be rocks not recognize your claim." She gave him the beginnings of a smile. She had never heard the court compared to rocks before. Pigs, wolves, dragons, and sharks, but never rocks. They must be very jagged rocks, she decided.
"With so many supporting Yfra, they may well be rocks." She told him.
"The New Republic council can be like that. Sometimes no matter how right my mom or one of the other councilors is, they'll be rocks. Won't move or see reason, just sit there with a smug determined look. But the council has never heard you and neither has the court, boy are they in for a surprise! May the Force Be With You and bring you home soon." He bowed his head slightly.
"Thank you, my friend." She also bowed her head slightly but now it was time to go.
As she entered the chambers only one thing was on Princess Tenel Ka Ta' Chume Djo's mind: her new relationship with Jacen Solo. She had been afraid that her heritage might change things between her and her friends, but that was not what had changed things with Jacen. It had been the time together when she had needed his friendship and he gave it unchanged by the knowledge of her true identity. At least that fear could be put at ease.
"Princess Tenel Ka Ta' Chume Djo." Astarta introduced. Tenel Ka sent a piecing gaze across the Court.
"I come before you to ask you, the Royal Court of the Hapes Cluster, (Tenel Ka though that was stupid, didn't they know who they were?) to recognize my claim to the throne. I am the daughter of King Isolder (even though he was known as prince) and Queen Teneniel Djo, I am the rightful and lawful heir to this throne." So far she had told them nothing they didn't already know. One of the Ambassadors stood up.
"I am the Speaker of the Royal Court. We recognize you as the lawful heir to the throne." Some of the Ambassadors scowled. "However we do not recognize you as the right choice to rule this vast cluster of planets."
"That is irrelevant." Tenel Ka directed her gaze mostly at the scowling councilors. "The Law requires that I assume the thrown. The succession is clear. That alone should dissolve any opposition. However I will here your arguments and expose any misconceptions."
"It is our concern that you are yet to young to rule." The speaker began.
"There have been younger." Tenel Ka responded. "And I have been trained well, my parents and the Queen Mother made sure I would be capable of ruling when the need arose."
"Young rulers are sometimes easily influenced or manipulated by advisers."
"If you are going to be concerned about how I am influenced by advisors, I would have thought you would be concerned that I would not listen them. My mother taught me the importance of inner strength and knowledge as well as physical strength. I have never been easily swayed by others."
"You say you have been well trained to rule but a good potion of your time has been spent away training to be a warrior and Jedi."
"Yes. That is part of my training. I once thought that the two worlds of my parents had nothing in common but my father told me that they were not as different as I thought. He said that his worlds would try my strength as much as the wild Dathomir. The way a warrior thinks is often parallel to how a ruler must think. My Jedi training is equally valuable. Jedi are trained at mediating, something a ruler of the Hapes Cluster must do often. A Jedi must be patient and so must a ruler. And both prepare me for any battle diplomatic, political, mental, or physical I will need to fight as a person and as a ruler." Tenel Ka kept her gaze steadily cutting across the room. No one would accuse her of being weak.
"Is it not true that you enrolled in the Jedi academy as only 'Tenel Ka of Dathomir'?"
"It is true."
"Because I did not want to be treated differently."
"Surely the Jedi would not pamper or discriminate against you."
"The instructors would see me only as a student but the students are still learning. You can not expect all who have Jedi potential to be fair and objective when they start out."
"You often embrace your Dathomirian heritage, but not you Hapian."
"It is true that I have not always appreciated my status here because of the life that came with it but I embrace it now. I am equally proud to be Hapian and Dathomirian."
"The Court has heard your claim and will consider it." The Speaker began to sit down.
"As I have heard you concerns. I am sorry you had them and will even more sorry if you continue to have them because I am the lawful heir and have not heard a reason why I should not take the throne. I do not wish to rule because I wish to have power. I do not wish to rule because I think I will enjoy it. I do wish my parents were still here to rule and I could continue my Jedi training. But this cannot be. I will to rule because it is my duty, because I shutter to think what would happen to my people if I let someone else take the throne, because my parents worked hard and I wish to protect and continue their work." Tenel Ka burned her icy stare across the Court once more and left.
Silence filled the room after Jaina clicked of the holo. She, Lowie, and Jacen had been given leave of their classes to watch Tenel Ka address the Royal Court.
"Wow." Jaina finally said. Lowie grumbled a surprised woof.
"Master Lowbacca wishes to express his awe as well, and I must say I believe Mistress Tenel Ka presented herself quite well."
"Legally they have to come up with a damn good reason she can't be Queen and prove it." Jacen said. "Its illegally that we have to worry about. Yfra's gonna be mad."