Chapter 26: After the anger comes the calm.

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Ella flew aimlessly for some moments, fast and into the wind, sometimes low, letting the salt spray off the ocean below close enough to chill, and then sometimes high, into the setting sun, letting the last of its heat warm her skin and happily blind her by its yellow light.

Often, she looked for the swarm, willing to engage them, desperate to throw herself into the maw of the galaxy and to test fate again, to see if she was strong enough to survive, to provoke in her the same feeling that had ruled her in the previous battle, a cold detachment that had her act without thought yet with full, certain confidence that it was right. She craved that certainty again, but try as she might, her anger could not invoke it.

Finally, she found a suitable place for her solace. A mountain rose from the far side of the channel, marked by terraces that were populated with trees and greenery. So high was it that she could enjoy the sun for some length of time whilst the rest of the ocean fell into night below.

Ella guided the speeder in after first surveying the area from afar. It was a place she knew. It was a place that Tayre and her had kept secret from others: a small plateau, high up on the sunlit face of the mountain, where the trees had grown undisturbed for centuries and the animals were so immune from human contact as to be half tame.

She landed close to the ancient cairn that had been built by the earliest of Farsalt's settlers in a time from which no records were left. From that cairn, she took three large flat stones and placed them end up in the earth. Then, retreating to a suitable distance, she drew her blaster and flicked the switch from stun to kill.

She aimed the gun at the first stone and took a breath. Her finger twitched the trigger. She imagined the face of Governor Mazier on its calcite surface, or the expressionless helm of a stormtrooper. And above it all she imagined Valsum's cry of defiance as the order of his execution had been given.

But the blaster wouldn't fire. She couldn't bring herself to shoot.

It wasn't right. It wasn't enough to satisfy her.

With a sweep of her arm she hurled the blaster into the nearby grass with a scream of pain and frustration–


The three stones fell backward, the nearest broken into two pieces.

Ella gasped. There was no way she could have done that!

She sank to her knees at the speeder's side and wept. She had never understood how important the old wookie had been to her, or even Lady Jish, with her lectures of a galaxy before the Empire and all her lessons of self control. It had all seemed rather silly. The thoughts of her friends drove the anger from her and made her wish for a time that she now knew was gone forever.

After the anger comes the calm: that was another of Lady Jish's lessons. And in the calm, perception is that much clearer.

After some time she glanced up, aware of a presence. One of Farsalt's birds had landed on the stick of her speeder, only an arm's length away. It watched her with its head tilted to one side and its dark eye upon her.

And it wasn't alone. Nearby, more birds watched her, and one of the reptiles too. She had attracted an audience of fauna.

The bird hopped down and stared at her sidelong, now no more than a hand's length from her face. Suddenly it looked to her right, over her shoulder, and gave its high-pitched quick alarm call.

Ella turned.

Above her, to the east, a glittering cascade of white fire was racing across the atmosphere, breaking into lines and burning up.

Within just a few seconds the fires dimmed and the spectacle vanished.

Yet Ella was left with a feeling of dread.

The ancients amongst cultures across the galaxy believed that portents could be seen in the heavens and stars. And Ella was certain she had just witnessed a portent of her own.

She watched for several long minutes, but there was nothing more to see save the stars in the night sky.

Feeling vulnerable, she retrieved her blaster and holstered it. Then she turned on her communication interface, with the intent of sending her location to Tayre.

Instead, she received reports of a narrowly averted planet wide catastrophe that had only just been prevented by the actions of Captain Pina and the Reaver intercepting an out of control capital ship that was travelling fast enough to desolate the continent on impact.

Now feeling more vulnerable than ever, she sent her position to Tayre.

"Ella, stay where you are," the princess responded. Her voice was steady and her words slow. Ella knew that meant she was trying to hide something. "We'll be with you very soon," Tayre concluded.

"Who is "we?"" she replied.

"I've got a security team from the palace with me," Tayre answered. "Just stay where you are and we'll be with you in five minutes."

Something in the back of Ella's mind triggered a nervous caution. "I'll come out and meet you," she replied. "It will be quicker that way."

She mounted her speeder and waited for Tayre's answer.

It came a second later, hesitant and unconvinced.

"No. Wait where you are. I've got your position ."

Ella stamped her feet into the pedals in frustration, sighed, and waited.


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Ella can't bring herself to pull the trigger as her immediate hatred cools, and her eerie experience on the plateau leaves her puzzled. Finding a way to deal with the grief that Ella has just been exposed to is hard to get right for an author as everyone has their own way of dealing with bad news: but I hoped here it illustrated an important point in her character, as she throws the gun away.

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