Chapter Fifteen --Whispers

"Itís not me Sosha, itís the bab..." -- Padme Amidala

Nearly seven months after the Accords of Peace were signed, Padme Amidala collapsed without warning while walking to her bedroom late one night on Coruscant.

Two of her four handmaidens, Dascheí and Sosha were by her side within a moment, helping her slowly to her feet as the senator cried hysterically, even as they attempted to calm her down.

"It was just a light fall, míLady, you do appear fine ..." Sosha started in a soothing tone.

"Itís not me Sosha, itís the bab---," Padme stopped short, realizing her mistake. Both Sosha and Dascheís eyes went wide and both begin babbling at their mistress of how wonderful it was.

Padme pressed her finger to her lips and pulled both handmaidens into her bedroom. In her lowest of voices she said firmly.

"No one knows, no one can know, may I trust both of you with this secret?"

Solemnly, both girls nodded quickly and Padme squeezed each one of each of their hands in friendship. They helped her into bed and attended to her needs before leaving the darkened chamber.

Sosha returned to her own quarters and Dascheí did likewise, but it as a long time before the second handmaiden closed her eyes to sleep.

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On Ryloth, Count Dooku had finished paying his respects to a graveyard full of Twilek pilots who had died during the Clone Wars. The event had been well-publicized, and for a weekís time Ryloth had been prominent among planets, an unprecdented event.

Now Dooku walked solemnly along the coast on the private land of Jedi Knight Spotic Lero, who had returned to his home world following Genosis to act as a governement liason to consult on military affairs should war ever come near Ryloth.

Lero spoke now of the fear his people had initially felt upon hearing of Dookuís visit and how that fear had seemed to melt away during the past few days.

"Fear is a powerful weapon, Jedi Lero," Dooku was saying, while turning his gaze out to sea. "Your oceans are truly beautiful, are they not?"

"Beautiful, but deadly, Count Dooku," Lero replied. "Elements in the salt water react badly with Twilek flesh. Submergence in it for more than few moments time causes irreparable damage and eventually death."

"A frightening prospect, Jedi Lero, I do not mean to insult, but you seem terribly exhausted, do you wish to return to your homestead?"

Lero smiled, his head-tails twitching subtly as he did. "You may no longer serve the Force, Count Dooku, but your insight is true. I have worked almost non-stop for the past year, first with the war effort, now coordinating Rylothís rebirth. A night of sleep would do me well. Come, the path back is this way."

Dooku put a firm hand on the otherís shoulder and stopped him in his tracks.

"Actually, I know a quicker way, Jedi Lero," Dookuís voice grew soft and dreamy. "Turn around, there is a secret entrance just beyond those breakers that will take you straight to your living quarters."

At full strength, Spotic Lero would never have fallen for anothe Jediís mind trick, but he was nowhere near full strength now. Nor did he believe Dooku still in use of the Force, and his guard was down.

As Dooku watched from behind, Lero walked blindly into the choppy waters ahead, not stopping when the salt burned at his flesh like acid, continuing on until the larger waves knocked him from his feet, and the waterís chemicals seared his flesh again and again.

When Dooku returned to his solar sailer two hours later, the message he found filled his dark heart with glee.