This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
The entire Capital was on edge and, for what felt like the millionth time, Neva couldn’t help but wish she were back on Naboo. Far above Coruscant there was a battle ongoing; one that could very well decide the war. It had come out of nowhere. The Capital itself had been catapulted to the forefront of the war the instant the Chancellor was abducted.
Of course, there had been an immediate call to battle. The best of the Republic’s Army had been recalled to combat the threat; both clones and Jedi. Many of those Jedi, having distinguished themselves throughout the course of the war, were revered throughout the galaxy as Heroes, which was as it should be in Neva’s opinion. But she couldn’t believe the way the Holonet was regarding them! It was completely dehumanizing, the way some of the networks were treating the battle. It was sickening. Some were all but narrating and commentating on every move they could pick up on, every bit of action as though it was a sporting event. It was barbaric how exciting some people seemed to think the battle was. And it was agonizing for those on the planet’s surface who were hoping, praying that the ones they cared about in the battle would come home.
And then it happened. Word came that Obi-wan Kenobi and his former apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, having been recalled as well, had been in the process of storming the Flagship of the Separatist Army, the Invisible Hand. If the Holonet was to be believed, reports were coming in that the assault had failed, and the two Jedi killed.
All at once, Neva couldn’t breath. It was as though her heart had stopped, or rather, was being pulverized within her chest. It was all she could do to remain standing as pain and grief coursed through her at the sound of her Jedi’s name. Padme Amidala was in no better shape where she sat a short way off with her closest handmaidens, Sabe and Dorme. The instant those words had been uttered, the Former Queen had gone deathly pale, her hands trembling uncontrollably within Sabe’s. Neva had grown close to the Senator since coming to the Capital, their shared experiences within Naboo’s political arenas providing an initial bond that had strengthened to friendship in the two years Neva had been on the Capital.
Two years previous, Neva had been poised to take the Throne as Naboo’s newly elected Queen. She had been one of the longest reigning Princesses in Theed’s history, having spent twelve years in office. She had effectively been the sole Mayor of Naboo for seven of those years and had been a member of the Royal Advisory Council for three; she had been entirely content where she was. Once, when she was far younger, she’d had ambitions to be Queen, and had only narrowly lost out to Jamillia in the previous election. She had realized then that her position as it was was more than enough for her.
Though she was from one of the smaller, river-side cities, she had come to love Theed, and understood it intimately. It was part of what made her such a good Princess. It also made her the trusted and preferred candidate after Jamillia had abruptly stepped down under whispers of corruption and Separatist sympathies. It was then that Neva Amalia had been thrust into the limelight. Everything happened in fast-forward. She was nominated by the Council as Regent, and since she was still technically a Princess of Theed, she was also a candidate for Queen.
Like many youths aspiring to hold public office, Neva spent time in the Legislative Youth Program and then in the Apprentice Legislature, though she had been somewhat older than most members when she joined. It had ended up being a relatively brief membership. Ultimately she had withdrawn from the organization upon being presented with the opportunity to become the Princess of Theed. That was shortly after she turned sixteen, just after Queen Amidala had been elected. There had also been another reason for her withdrawal from the programme; it was the small, simple fact that Neva hadn’t quite had the same political aspirations as other members of the programme. She had never truly aspired to be more than a Princess of Theed. She had been absolutely terrified of becoming the Monarch. Sure she had always submitted herself for nomination when elections came around for the position of Queen, but that was because it was expected of her. But despite submitting herself for election, she had been pushed to the side as a candidate for her entire political career. Yet, in that whirlwind election, she had been chosen to replace Jamillia as Queen of Naboo.
She hadn’t wanted it. Not in the slightest.
In the weeks leading up to the election, she had quickly learned that running Theed and running the System were two monumentally different tasks. She had come to know the different factions, guilds and committees that occupied Theed thoroughly, and she knew how they all fit together; how they meshed, cooperated, clashed, fought and disagreed. She had been working closely with them for over a decade, after all. Her problem had become that, while she had a similar working knowledge of how the System ran, it wasn’t quite extensive enough, nor did she have the enthusiasm, or the blind idealism, she’d once had when she first became a Princess that would have helped her adapt. The politics rampant within the System were far more complicated and convoluted than her City. Plus there was the War and the Separatist movement to worry about. She had tried desperately to apply the knowledge she had to a completely different political creature, and it hadn’t quite worked. It certainly hadn’t helped that she was tired of politics and tired of political life.
Neva had been planning to withhold her name from the next Election and possibly retire once her current term as Princess of Theed ran out. As it was, not only was she one of the longest ruling Princesses, she was also one of the oldest Princesses to still hold office. At just over twenty-seven standard years old, most of her contemporaries had either gone onto different posts or had retired from public office entirely. Neva was tired, and the Clone Wars hadn’t been an easy reality to live with. The atmosphere on Naboo had changed, especially in the Capital. Neva had known she was needed, that her system needed strong leadership to make it through to the end of the wars and she did have some experience on that front. When Jamillia abdicated, Neva had been at least a decade older than her opponents for the Monarchy and had been serving as Princess for nearly as long as the youngest had been alive. In the current political climate, that had been a rather desirable trait. But she was so sick of the violence and the unrest and the constant anxiety that permeated the atmosphere around her. Neva was a stereotypical citizen of Naboo; the thought of what gripped the rest of the galaxy dismayed her, and the thought of her system being pulled into it nearly broke her heart. She was ready to leave it all behind and move on with her life. She longed for something quieter, something peaceful.
She hadn’t quite gotten that either.
Even Jamillia couldn’t have known of the conflict that built during the transition period. Neva hadn’t officially been Regent for more than a day before the petitions had started pouring in. Many factions had attempted, sometimes rather aggressively, to get legislation they wanted put through before the new monarch was elected, many to do with the Wars. It quickly got to the to the point where Neva had submitted a proposal to suspend any new legislation from being passed until after the election. That had earned her few friends. The council had accepted her motion with enthusiasm, for the most part. A couple of the Ministers hadn’t particularly liked the idea, but they at least saw the wisdom in it, lending their support as well.
The interest groups, on the other hand, had a wider range of, sometimes troublesome, reactions. The petitions that Neva had been trying to staunch were the kind that served only limited groups to the detriment of others. In many cases there had been little real purpose to the proposed legislation beyond trying to garner the support of Naboo’s most influential politicians. They would all wait, and likely would. Some petitioners had been disappointed, despondent and even baffled at why the council could possibly support such a motion. Others had been more understanding and even outright accepting. But others still had been positively livid. The representatives of the Mining Guilds, for instance, had made a positively dreadful racket, vehemently expressing their outrage at the council denying them a chance to ‘speak up for and promote the interests of Naboo,’ as they had put it. It was far more troubling.
The proposal Naboo’s Spice Miners had been pushing had aimed to limit the use of several major ports to local and commercial use only; a move that would effectively bar the steady flow of refugees from the core and newly Separatist worlds. It was a contentious issue between Naboo’s administration and the Guilds. Even Senator Amidala had been pulled into that conflict. The assassination attempt against the Senator the year previous had nearly been pinned to the Spice Miners, they were so vocal with their resentment. It had been completely lost on them that prevailing polls had shown that many of Naboo’s citizens approved of allowing the influx of refugees to take shelter on their world and, indeed, had welcomed those displaced by the wars with great charity and compassion. Yet postponing any direct attention to the petition had inevitably created a tense situation, and it had gotten to the point where Neva wouldn’t have put any sort of violent actions past them, even assassinations. Well, she hadn’t been wrong on that account. Threats, warnings and even death threats had begun appearing before the day had even ended.
That hadn’t been the worst of it, though. There had also been far quieter and even more concerning undercurrents to some of the complaints coming from the representatives, and not just those within the Miner’s Guild; undercurrents that were distinctly Separatist. Two of the petitions had even hinted at some sort of Separatist endgame. It had apparently been concerning enough that the Jedi Council on Coruscant had caught wind of it. The very day she had halted new legislation pending the election of the new Queen, a Jedi had appeared in the Throne Room, requesting an audience with the Regent and the Council.
It had taken a surprising amount of restraint for Neva not to let her bewilderment show. It wasn’t just a Jedi, but an incredibly familiar Jedi. It had only taken her a moment to place where she had seen his face before. Obi-wan Kenobi had been all over the Holonet even then, at the beginning of the Wars; the Negotiator, as he was now known. More than that, she had recognized him from the aftermath of the Blockade. He had been one of the two Jedi sent to aid Naboo during the crisis, and the only one to survive the battle that liberated them. He was practically worshipped as a hero in some parts of the system, Theed especially.
She could still picture his entrance into the Throne Room perfectly, even if some of the finer details had become a little fuzzy. He had come before them with his hood down, his hands enfolded in his sleeves the way many Jedi at ease did. He did not quite look the larger than life warrior the Holonet made him out to be, nor was he as tall as she remembered him. But his unassuming appearance did nothing to detract from the poise or power he exuded. His bearded face was gentle and his expression kind, while his blue-grey eyes showed a keen intelligence. He was certainly pleasing enough to look at, she had noted absently. She had been so embarrassed then that she had even allowed herself to think such a thought.
Of course, considering everything that followed, she was really shouldn’t have been surprised. The initial signs of attraction had been there from the beginning. Her heart had even begun beating a tiny bit faster the moment he had appeared. She had ignored it then, and really, she should have kept ignoring it, as should’ve Obi-wan. She had been somewhat underwhelmed by him that day in some respects, as had he, apparently, but that hadn’t stopped things from evolving at a whirlwind pace.
Before the election had even taken place, she had realized she was falling in love with him. And apparently he had also been falling in love with her. Fate had conspired to throw them at each other. It felt like the few quiet moments she had to herself in those few dozen days leading up to the election she was constantly thrust into his company. First it was morning encounters in the garden, then the odd walk through the city. As she looked back on it, it really did seem like fate had taken the reins in those few hectic weeks. He had been investigating the Separatist whispers and she had been fighting an internal battle over whether or not to withdraw from the election. He had calmed her mind and provided advice, and she had used her knowledge of Theed’s political map to help him as best she could with his investigation. Neither had expected to develop feelings for the other.
It was that love that ultimately led her to where she was; standing off to the side in the private apartments of Naboo’s Senator, waiting anxiously to hear what had become of the Jedi. Padme had no idea that Neva’s connection to Obi-wan was anything more than casual acquaintance. It was something that gnawed at Neva. After the assassination attempt that almost claimed her life, Neva had finally decided to retire from politics. She had always intended to pursue her dream of taking over her parents’ dressmaking shop in the River City of Fara, a little way north of Theed. Instead, she had been asked by Senator Amidala personally to come to Coruscant to serve as an Aide as well as, essentially, the Chamberlain of her Coruscant Residence and even an informal Stylist.
She had eventually accepted, thanks in no small part to the feelings that had developed between her and her Jedi. Not only had Obi-wan Kenobi saved her life that day in Theed, but he had also stolen her heart. Though they had admitted they could never really be together, the need for some sort of proximity had become overwhelming for the former Princess, hence her acceptance of Amidala’s offer. The guilt of that secret, though, plagued her, especially considering the similarities to the Senator’s romantic attachment.
It was impossible for Padme to hide her attachment to Anakin Skywalker from everyone, especially those closest to her, and while Neva wasn’t exactly a confidant, she saw enough interaction between the two that suggested they were more than friends. And when she had inadvertently discovered Padme’s pregnancy… well, Neva wasn’t the only one in love with a Jedi, it seemed.
It also meant that they had both quite possibly just lost someone they loved.
So, it was no small relief to the two of them when the news broke that Obi-wan and Anakin were not dead, but had successfully rescued the Chancellor. It took an incredible amount of effort for Neva not to sag in relief as the details were related over the Holonet, taking a tight grip on her green skirts to help control herself. Across the way, where she sat between her two closest confidants, Padme did sag, looking for all the world like she was about to faint. Yet before the story had even finished broadcasting, she was back to her usual composed self, flying about in preparation to venture down to the Primary Senate Building to welcome back the Chancellor, or at least that was the reasoning she gave. Neva had no doubt it was to see with her own eyes that her Jedi was alive and well.
Sadly, Neva didn’t have quite so good an excuse.
So, as Padme and her handmaidens whisked out of the apartment, Neva was left alone with her thoughts. It had taken every ounce of strength to keep her composure in the others’ company. Now that she was alone, she couldn’t hold it in any longer.
Collapsing onto the couch Padme had recently vacated, Neva couldn’t do anything but sob in relief that her Jedi was all right… and despair that they were forced to remain apart.
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