by Catriona Campbell Boyle
It was warm. A comfortable liquid warmth which cradled her body within its fluid folds, which muffled and filtered the sounds for his sensitive ears. There was a steady, thrumming beat, muted murmurs and comforting words and, occasionally, the sound she sought most, the sound which years later she would recall only in forgotten dreams: the sound of her mother's laughter.
She opened her eyes as another's skin lightly brushed against her arm and saw only darkness: a pleasant, familiar friend who, together with the warmth, created her environment. She closed her eyes once more, curled tighter to herself and placed her thumb in her mouth.
Again there was movement beside her and she was pulled from drifting slumber as he neighbour squirmed and kicked, upsetting her cosy crib. Reluctantly, she opened her eyes again and watched as the darkness faded and light appeared. A dazzling, painful light which pierced her pupils with its brilliant sharpness.
This is light, the whisper told her. This is pain.
She back away, hands out before her as she tried to block the glare, but her foot caught on rough ground and she fell and buried her face in the dirt. Then there were more sounds, the squawking calls of carrion birds which echoed above her. She twisted around and watched in horror as two black feathered creatures winged from the flames of the light and swooped down toward her.
Screaming, she scrambled to her feet and ran. Ran to the darkness which re-emerged before her. There she would comfort, there she would find security, there she would be safe once more, there...
And Leia Organa opened her eyes to the dim light of the cabin, a hitch of breath caught in her lungs, and her cry of fear was expelled only as a sigh of relief. She sat up, swung her legs out from under the coverlet and perched on the edge of the bunk as she attempted to make sense of the disturbing nightmare, but already the images were fading from her grasp. She was left only with the feeling that, although she had been the dreamer, like an actress she had merely played another's part - she had dreamed she had been someone else.
Leia shook herself from the thoughts and reached for her robe. She pulled it on, fastened it, and then padded from her cabin through the ship to the cockpit. There she found Chewbacca watching the dawn of the Tatooine suns.
"Any word from Lando?" she questioned as she slid into Han's chair and pulled her legs under her. Sitting here made her feel close to him, as though she could somehow touch him across the desert distance, through the carbonite and tell him she was there
The Wookiee shook his head and grumbled out a reply.
Leia nodded her understanding of the Wookiee's words. There had been no word from Lando for over three days - since he had volunteered to first approach Jabba the Hutt at his gangster's palace. His thoughts had been to attempt to win Han back through a game of Sabacc, though Jabba was a notoriously clever player.
The Princess turned her gaze to the creeping sunlight as it chased back the shadows of night, as the desert's bland vista emerged into day. Tatooine.
It was a planet she had never before set foot on, but it was a planet which, nonetheless, seemed to hold some power over her destiny, her life. One action on her part, the sending of Artoo Detoo here with the message for Obi-Wan Kenobi, had set the feet of two young men on paths which they might never otherwise have walked. How right it had felt when she had received Lando and Chewie's communiqué telling her Han was on Tatooine.
Tatooine, the name which had ended months of waiting and worrying. Tatooine, where she could seek out Han and return him to his path. Tatooine, where she could seek out Luke's memory and find some meaning for his death and the empty road ahead that he would never tread
"We'll give him until tomorrow noon, as agreed," Leia told Chewbacca, her eyes remaining on the sea of dunes beyond the cockpit. "If we don't hear from him, we'll try the bounty hunter ruse."
She rose from the pilot's chair. Tomorrow was for Han. Today belonged to Luke. "Have Threepio and Artoo loaded the landspeeder?"
Chewbacca rose from his own chair and followed the Princess through the ship, telling her of his thoughts on her trip and the possible foolishness of it. He knew she wouldn't understand the exact meanings of his words, but she would pick up his feelings.
"I'll be fine, Chewie," Leia assured him. "I'll be armed. I've got food and water. I've got the homing pin you gave me and I've got the droids with me to make sure I don't get lost."
The Wookiee grumbled some more.
Leia hesitated at the door of her cabin. "You're needed here in case Lando tries to contact us. Besides, I need to see the farm and I need... want to be alone when I do. If I leave now, I'll make it back before suns down." She punched the stud at the side of the door and it slid open. "Please, tell Threepio I'll be with them in a moment." She disappeared into the cabin before the Wookiee could argue further.
* * *
Threepio piloted the speeder over the desert terrain and, lost in thought, Leia had watched the sand speed past in a blur of yellows and golds. It had taken a whistle from Artoo, in back, and Threepio's words, "We're here, Your Highness," to draw her attention. Now, she stood a short distance from a burned out farmstead as the droids remained with the speeder behind her.
Cautiously, she stepped forward toward the ruined domed entrance. Would she find something of Luke here, or was she merely chasing a ghost which her mind refused to release? She peered into the dome and saw blackened, sand coated, stairs leading downwards. Mindful that there might be predators lurking in the shadows, she drew her blaster before venturing down.
Soon she found herself in an open, sunken courtyard. It was crumbling in on itself and rubble lay in assorted piles on the floor of the yard. The walls were smoke black and a faint, acrid tinge remained to irritate the lining of her nose. She holstered her blaster and carefully picked her way through the farm, searching for something of her friend, looking for something other than the images created for her by Luke's own tales of his childhood, looking for something of substance.
She stood in what she imagined was the main living area. A wrecked holo-player lay twisted beside a charred sofa, contorted and melted plastics lay in solid puddles on the floor beneath a burned shelf.
What did you expect to find here? She asked herself. Did you expect to find him here, alive? Did you expect to feel him here? Did you expect some lingering presence which would tell you he did not suffer?
She crossed the room to the shelf and crouched down. There she picked up a small piece of plastic and turned it in her hands. It was opaque now, though she knew it had once been a clear holo image. Had it been of Luke? His Aunt? Uncle?
Yes. She answered her own questions. She had expected, she had wanted, to feel him here. To feel that something remained of her friend. Something other than this emptiness, this charred relic of his childhood. When she was a teenager, a young friend had died in a speeder accident and, with her parents, she had visited the youth's family. As the grownups had conversed in quiet whispers of condolences, Leia had left the group and found herself in the young man's bedroom. The room had felt so alive, as though the boy was somehow still there. There was no weeping, no grief. Instead, the room had been sunny and warm.
However, Luke was not here. Perhaps that was due to the fire which had raged through the homestead, erasing from the structure the memory of those who had lived here. Perhaps it was because Luke had not died here...
... that she could not find him.
She dropped the ruined holo and wiped her hands on her trousers, then turned from the room. The next door led to a bedroom and here a smile rose on her lips. The bed was an almost unrecognisable black heap, what other furniture there had been had crumpled to ashes and twisted empty frames, but sitting in a corner, barely touched by heat was the model of a T-16 Skyhopper. This had been Luke’s room!
Quickly stepping over the rubble, she reached the model and lifted it from its resting place. If she had expected some sudden sense of Luke being with her, of no longer being alone here, then she was sorely disappointed. The model was cold metal and plastics, nothing else, but she clasped it to her and held it tight. A toy, an object of Luke’s dreams and aspirations, something of his she could keep and remember him by, something to replace her holos of him lost on Hoth.
As fresh tears for her friend prickled at her eyes, she left the room and continued through the farm, now unsure of her reasons for being here. She had not found Luke, she had merely found something which once belonged to him. She had not found the peace of his childhood, only the darkness of his childhood’s end. Why had she based so many unfounded expectations on this place which held nothing for her?
The neighbouring room, the last room, was also a bedroom. It was larger than Luke’s with sunken holes inn the walls which could only have been closets. There was the same rubble here, the same soot and ash, and she turned to leave.
The glint of light which caught her eye came from the end closet. Leia, her curiosity kindled, peeked into the built-in wardrobe. The light had come from a hole in the ceiling and a chunk of masonry lay at her feet. It was nothing. She shifted her feet and her shoes scratched against metal. Glancing down she saw a metallic glimmer from the floor. She crouched, put the T-16 model down, and scraped at the soot and sand with her hands. She uncovered a plate of what could only be hull heat-shielding set into the floor.
Sitting back on her heels, she surveyed the closet, noting where the drawers and hanger would once have been. If she had guessed correctly, the plate would have been hidden under the carefully constructed set of drawers. Smiling, with a growing sense of that she had finally found something, she placed her fingers around the edge of the plate and pulled. It didn’t budge. She rummaged around in her pocket and withdrew a small hydro-driver. She placed it at the edge of the plate and worked it under, then twisted. The plate popped up from the floor.
Leia shifted it to the side and peered into the small hole it had covered and at the items it had hidden. Reaching in, Leia lifted out the first: a small holo-cube. She smiled at the picture. It showed a young woman cradling two infants, one blond, one dark, both sleeping. She peered at the babies, at the blonde child: could that be Luke? Then who was the other babe? It was an intriguing scene, but after a minute or so Leia placed it to the side feeling a trifle guilty at prying into a private moment.
The remaining items were a collection of old papers and letters all dated twenty-one years earlier and Leia read their contents with a growing sense of disquiet. She learned of Luke’s parents, and of their tragedy. She learned of Luke’s sibling - a twin girl, separated from him and spirited across the galaxy to a life of privilege on Alderaan. And Leia’s carefully crafted background crumpled around her as the words sank deep and as she suddenly realised just who the other child was.
They had joked with Han about their birth dates being so close, about Leia being a day older than Luke. It wasn’t strictly true. Leia had been born in the closing hours of the night, Luke in the early hours of morning. In truth there was only sixteen minutes between them. Twins.
She had to kneel on the chair to reach over the table top. The paints and paper were strewn over its polished surface, and, tired of the brushes, she had tossed them to the side and now shovelled up the tick paint with her hands and spread the bright colours over the paper with her palms. She had paint on her face, her clothes and in her hair.
She turned and giggled, a huge grin breaking out at the arrival of her other. “Look,” she told the woman, holding up her small hands. “I painted!”
Her mother laughed, lightly. “You certainly did.” She scooped the little girl up and carried her to the bathroom….
The brief memory had been vivid, powerful with its simple images. It had been so long since she had thought of her mother, her birth-mother, so long since she remembered she was Princess Organa only through adoption. She lifted the holo once more and studied the young woman - her mother - and the children.
“No.” The whisper was not a denial of her find, it was the sudden realization of her loss. This was why she had to come here, some part of her knew her heritage, some part which had hidden and waited until now, until it was too late to share the knowledge with her family, her brother. She touched the holo-cube, stroked the cool plastic of the baby boy’s head and recalled the young man. “My brother.”
There was no anger, no malice directed toward those who had separated them, who had deprived them of each other for reason’s the documents did not disclose. In time, Leia knew she would discover those reasons as surely as she had discovered this place. Now she only felt deep regret, loss and the loneliness of renewed grief.
She closed her eyes, leaned against the wall, held the picture in her hands and quietly wept.
* * *
After washing the old soot and the smell of the farm from her body and changing into clean clothes, Leia joined Chewbacca sitting behind the holo-game board for a cool drink. She placed the T-16 model onto the board, relaxed into the acceleration couch and sipped her drink.
“Lando?” She eventually questioned the Wookiee. Chewbacca threw a glance at Threepio as the droid trotted through the compartment . He shook his head and murmured out his own question.
“Then it looks like we’ll have to go in after all.” She gazed into her cup. “It sounds wrong, but I’m hoping Han is still in the carbonite. It could complicate things if Jabba’s seen fit to release him for his own entertainment.” It was also a chilling thought, Han had suffered so much on Bespin at Vader’s hands without similar from the Hutt.
Chewie directed his words at Threepio who came scurrying back into the passenger area, then he repeated his question to the Princess and gestured at the toy.
Leia glanced at the protocol droid as Threepio translated. “Chewbacca is asking about Master Luke. He asked if you found anything at the farm.”
Leia lifted the sky hopper. “It was Luke’s.”
Chewbacca shook his head and rumbled again, his tone deeper, a little annoyed with her lack of response, her refusal to acknowledge the meaning behind his question.
“He says, that is not what he asked,” Threepio provided, a little apologetically.
Leia studied the Wookiee for a moment at first not wanting to share her knowledge, her pain. Wanting only to keep it for her own, nurture it and guard it jealously from prying outsiders. It was hers and it seemed it was all she had left - they were gone, all gone and only the pain remained. However, Chewbacca was her lover’s friend, her friend, and he had been Luke’s friend. She placed her hand in her pocket, drew out the small holo-cube and the folded documents and handed them to Chewbacca.
“…my brother,” she told him quietly, simply as he studied the picture. “But, he wasn’t there. There was nothing of him there.” There was a hitch in her words, a heavy sadness.
Chewbacca shifted his weight closer to the princess and drew her into a gentle embrace as she explained her find at the farm and answered his questions of surprise. He understood her feelings, had understood her desire to seek out her friend at his home. He shared her loss and disappointment. She had lost a friend, only to discover she had also lost her brother, her family.
However, there was a new day approaching and Chewbacca was painfully aware of the trials the Princess had yet to face in the coming hours. There would be new problems and difficulties for her to deal with as they waited to hear from Lando Calrissian, as they planned to release their other friend from his frozen prison. Leia had to lay Skywalker to rest if she wished to recover Han. The new day would require all their strength and resolve. There would be time again, after Han was returned, to remember those lost.
He held her for a long while , accepting her grief and giving whatever comfort he could, before reluctantly releasing her from his embrace. He quietly chuffed at her. This time Leia needed no translation from Threepio for she understood the Wookiee’s meaning. Silently she nodded and rose from the couch. Leaving Luke’s toy sitting on the board, she returned to her cabin to rest, to prepare her mind for the next day’s activities.
Today had been for Luke. Tomorrow was for Han.
To be continued....
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