Summary: Rabé mourns the loss of her son after the destruction of the Empire.
A/N: This takes place betweenThe Empire II: The Vader Dynasty and The Empire III: The Empire Falls
Midnight, our sons and daughters
Were cut down and taken from us
Hear their heartbeat
We hear their heartbeat
In the wind, we hear their laughter
In the rain, we see their tears
Hear their heartbeat
We hear their heartbeat…
Rabé’s footsteps were soft, barely audible, as they smothered the grass beneath her soft boots. Her expression, stoic but gentle, accentuated the silent reverence that lingered about her as she approached the shrine dedicated to the fallen emperor’s eldest daughter, Aené Vader. Though she held no fond thoughts for the Vaders, she, like the other members of the Resistance, believed this shrine represented more than just the loss of one innocent life. It was about the fine lines that defined right and wrong, the subtle differences between a war hero and a criminal.
It was for this reason that the shrine and mausoleum dedicated to Aené Vader was never touched even in the destruction unleashed on the imperial palace on Liberation Day. Even during the reconstruction of the grand imperial palace, no one dared to touch it.
Despite the dark era that was the Vader Dynasty, there were some things that even the civilian populace could not ignore. Even now, fresh flowers were laid down in Aené’s memory, while sacred candles and perfumed sticks were lit. But Princess Aené’s memory wasn’t the only reason that Rabé found herself in this place.
Though it had been years since she felt the heady rush of battle or tasted the bitter sweetness of victory, as soon as Rabé set foot into the sacred garden, the older woman’s thoughts were lost to the past. Rabé could still remember the rivers of Naboo flowing black with the ashes of the dead who had fallen prey to the Vader’s tyrannical rule. Rabé remembered the stench of fear and death that lingered in the air whenever the Vader’s spoke of enforcing their rule and later the mockery when they spoke of trying to mend the damage done.
She also remembered the streets flooded with angry civilians who shouted and demanded the emperor and his family turn themselves over to the Resistance. She also recalled the fear she felt for their children, the innocent ones who were certain to suffer for their parents crimes.
Rabé could still hear her friend speaking to her in hushed tones about the children that the empress protected from her husband, who had gone mad with bloodlust. She also recalled how through Empress Dormé’s indirect intervention, her own son was saved from a disease that had ravaged his heart. Had it not been for the empress’s declaration that the empire would cover all costs pertaining to paediatric care, it was certain their son—then only a youngling—would have joined Vader’s eldest offspring in death. The boy survived and with his healing came a new understanding that Rabé had never appreciated in the past. Though it didn’t stop her—or her husband and later their son—from serving in the Resistance, Rabé found she could no longer hate the former handmaiden. While she would never understand the reasons for Dormé’s actions—why she so blindly supported her husband’s madness and bloodlust—Rabé knew that Dormé wasn’t as guilty as she once believed.
Today wasn’t the anniversary of the unborn princess’s passing, but that wasn’t the reason that Rabé came here. Today marked the eve of the empire’s demise, and unknowingly at the time, their son’s as well. So many lives had been lost to save and protect so many more.
A chill ran down her spine at the memory of that fateful night when they broke through the barricades of the outer regions of the palace that were meant to keep the rioting civilians out and the frightened royal family in. In the end, even this wasn’t enough and as the memories returned to the elder woman she instinctively tightened the cloak she wore around her petite form. Rabé could still smell the stench of burned flesh and hear the deafening screams of comrades and enemies alike that fought and died for the ideals and masters they served. Their son would become one of many who did not live to see the victory that shortly followed.
Rabé knew the moment she agreed to support the rebellion that she would have to make sacrifices. She just never expected the price paid would not be her life, but their son’s. New tears collected in her eyes at the memory and silently she whispered the boy’s name as she approached the shrine to rest the flowers before the mausoleums entrance. It was tradition to leave blooms of crimson before the memorial dedicated to the unborn baby. The Naboo believed red was the colour of life, of blood, of innocence and of harmony. It was commonly believed that it also the avatar colour of the great goddess, with Idaceae as her sacred blossom.
Idaceae were the most commonly chosen flower given in memory of princess Aené’s and even now one could not enter the gates leading to the fallen princess’s resting place without noticing its lingering scent. At one time, there were only a few of these plants lingering in the water that passed throughout the memorial’s grounds. Now the entire region was covered with the blood-red water flower. For the religious, it was considered sacred, holy even. To Rabé, it was a silent reminder of all who had lived and died under the Vader’s rule, both the innocent and the guilty.
Rabé lit the candles which decorated the beautiful mausoleum before withdrawing two perfumed prayer sticks from her small satchel. Placing the small sticks into one of the candles soft wax, she lit them both, watching as it turned a deep red while white smoke began to stem from it filling the region with the soft scent of rare desert spices. It brought back memories of another sort and for a moment, she could almost hear her grandfather uttering ancient prayers to the goddess. As a priest, it was his duty to ask for her protection and guidance during funeral rites to ensure the fallen would not become lost during their journey to harmony. He once told her that perfumed burning sticks were believed to distract the nightmares, beasts who served the god of death. It was meant to trick them into believing their master was near so they would become docile and let the souls of the dead pass to the realms of Harmony. It was yet another myth that Rabé outgrew, but the tradition was hard to break.
In silence, she let her thoughts wander as she breathed in the soft scent of spices that exuded from the scented sticks with arms wrapped tightly around her. This wasn’t just for the memory of her son or of Aené, but for all the mothers who had lost children. Whether it was the Rebel fighters or the enemies she had killed to end the reign of tyranny. Once more, Rabé brought to mind the former empress, but it wasn’t her tyranny or her kindness she recalled, rather it was the fact that Dormé had struggled for so long and so hard to have a children of her own, only to be forced to give them up.
It only occurred to Rabé then just how much the empress must have loved them and how hard it had to have been to put aside her own desires to protect them from facing a punishment that was not theirs to suffer. It was the first time Rabé truly regarded Dormé as a mother; it was also the first time she found herself shedding tears for a woman she once called a traitor and sworn enemy. Losing her only son was painful and hard enough. Rabé could only imagine how hard it must have been for Dormé, who not only lost her unborn daughter in death, but later her future children to ensure their safety. She secretly hoped that one day Dormé would be reunited with her family once more.
The sound of approaching footsteps brought Rabé’s thoughts back to the present. Quickly, she wiped away her tears. As absurd as she knew it was, the former Rebel did not want anyone to know just who she was shedding tears for.
As she passed the gardener who arrived to tend to the beautiful shrine and approached the gates, Rabé found herself pausing unexpectedly to look over her shoulder one last time to the statues and mausoleum behind her. It was then that Rabé noticed she was being watched by a precocious blonde haired little girl with laughing eyes and a freckled nose.
Stunned, she could only stare as the phantom child smiled kindly at her before silently disappearing into one of the waterfalls that decorated the memorial. Furrowing her brow, she glanced back to the gardener, wondering if he saw the little girl too, but the elderly man was too busy tending to the crimson blooms to pay her any heed. Glancing back once more, Rabé saw nothing but the waterfalls and the flowers; it was as though the little girl had never been there at all.
Shaking her head, she smiled to herself convinced that it was nothing more than just the sun playing tricks with the shadows of the trees nearby. But a part of her knew better and because of this, Rabé’s thoughts were immediately filled with peace and a sense of hope that in the end, everything would end as it should.