Monday, February 19, 2018

Finn and the First Order Princess: A Star Wars Sequel Trilogy Fairy Tale

This short fairy tale is based after the Hans Christian Anderson story The Swineherd. The original story ended with the princess thrown out of her kingdom and the prince going home with no one. I once again took an idea from the Mr. Piper version of this story "The Proud Princess" and let the prince have a girl who really appreciated him. The princess in that story wasn't punished for being such a brat, I decided to amend Anderson's original ending for Phasma's character and let the punishment fit the crime, so to speak. 

Rating: G
Pairings: Finn/Rose
Disclaimer: The franchise belongs to George Lucas and the Walt Disney Company.

Once upon a time, in the Kingdom of Atch-To, lived a young prince named Finn. He was the adopted son of the gentle King Luke and the Princess Leia and Prince Han, his sister and her husband. On a visit to the neighboring Empire of the First Order, Finn happened to see a tall, beautiful woman marching in bright, shiny silver armor with the rest of her men.

She's the Princess Phasma,” his closest friend and guard Poe explained. “She's the only daughter of King Snoke, and the commander of his armies. It's said she prefers to live with her troops than in his castle, and would rather have armor and weapons of battle than fine silks and jewels.”

I've never seen anyone so lovely,” Finn murmured. The princess was tall and strong, with short hair of the palest gold and eyes the deep azure of the waters that surrounded Atch-To. “And she's a commander?”

No less than the head of the armies of First Order,” said Rey, Finn's adopted sister. “Her brother Hux commands from Starkiller Castle. She's good friends with Leia and Han's son Prince Benjamin, too.”

I wonder,” Finn mused dreamily, “if Ben could arrange for us to meet?”

Rey made a face. “I don't think she's your type, Finn. I've heard she cares about nothing but battle and strategy.”

But Finn was determined to have an audience with the lovely Princess Phasma. After he returned to Atch-To, he sent his steward, Brennan Brixby the Eighth (or “BB,” as the royal family called him), to bring two gifts to Starkiller Castle.

What are they?” Phasma demanded of the little orange-haired man. “Well? Show me!”

Your Highness,” said little Brennan, “Prince Finn of Atch-To wishes to court you. He's hoping you'll find his presents for you to be to your liking. The Kingdom of Atch-To is not nearly as wealthy as the Kingdom of the First Order, but these are two of their greatest treasures.” And with this, Brennan handed her a cage with a nightingale and a long white box.

Phasma opened the box greedily. Her adopted brother General Hux and Prince Benjamin, the envoy from Atch-To, looked over her shoulder. She made a face at the contents. “A rose? Just a single, boring flower? We can get these anywhere!” Brennan winced as she threw the rose back at him. “And a silly old bird? What good would that do me? Roses and birds can't win battles, or attack your enemies. They don't help with battle strategy or lead your men into a fight. Tell him I want nothing to do with him or his useless gifts.”

Finn was not one to be deterred. He rubbed mud on his face and dressed in old clothes and a cap he borrowed from Prince Han, who had been a peasant thief before he married Leia. He made his way to the Kingdom of the First Order and presented himself at the court.

Do you have some work open for a simple peasant?” He asked General Hux, Phasma's brother. He was as tall as his sister, with brilliant red hair that was slicked back to a harsh shine. His slender nose was constantly in the air, and the look on his face said clearly that he was far better than this dirty interloper.

Hux sniffed. “We need a new swineherd. The previous one just left to marry his sweetheart in Arkansis Village. I think you'll do.”

So Finn was now in charge of the pigs in the courtyard. He lived in a tiny room over the stables with the other servants. During the day, he tended to the pigs in the sty near the horse corrals. At night, he worked on carving a strong and intricate staff that he hoped Phasma would find far more pleasing.

Finn was a kind young man by nature, and he made quite a few friends around the farm yard. His closest friend was a girl named Rose. She worked in the stables, tending to the horses. Two days after he arrived, he found her crying in one of the stalls as she raked the hay.

He could never resist someone in need. Rose looked up when the dark hand rested on her shoulder. “Hey there, miss. Are you all right?”

No,” she sobbed. “My sister Paige was just conscripted into the army. I don't want to see her go away! She's the only relative I have left. The First Order destroyed our village and killed many people. We had no choice but to work here...and now, I'm all alone.”

No, you're not.” Finn gave her his brilliant smile. “I don't know anybody here. Maybe you could help me.”

Rose nodded as she wiped her eyes on her sleeve. “Well, all right. It'll take my mind off everything, if nothing else.”

From then on, he spent any time he wasn't with the pigs with Rose and the horses. It was she who introduced him to the other stable hands, including three children who showed him their toys made to look like legendary kings and queens and knights. She taught him how to cook his own dinner, clean up after animals, and make sure that they were eating all right and that their young were fed.

He had just fed the pigs their slop one morning when he saw Phasma stride across the yard. She was followed by several members of the First Order Army, including her brother Hux and Prince Benjamin of Atch-To. Rose and the stable hands had just brought out five of the most beautiful thoroughbreds the Emperor Snoke owned for them to ride on parade in Finalizer Village.

Phasma got on her horse first, pulling him out hard with the reigns. She spoke loud and harsh to him, threatening him with dark and angry tones. Finn winced when she cracked the whip at the creature. It reared up, forcing everyone around it to flee.

Stupid whelp!” Phasma lashed at it again. “Your next stop is the glue factory!”

No!” Rose rushed out, trying to block the horse. “It's not his fault, Your Highness! You frightened him!”

Finn saw the look in Phasma's eyes. That look was angry enough to kill, or at least turn Rose and the horse into glue without the factory. He was about to rush to Rose's aid when the girl turned back to the snorting animal behind her.

Poor boy,” she murmured gently. “Did the princess scare you? Is there something wrong with you? Let me check your hooves.” It pulled up each leg obediently. “Oh, dear. You have a rock in your left shoe. Let me get it out. That'll feel better.”

Phasma was stomping her foot harder than her horse. “What's taking so long?”

This is a delicate procedure, Your Highness.” Rose dug at the large stone until it popped out of the horse's hoof. “There you go, boy.” She lead him to the impatient princess. “He should be happier now. But please,” she took her riding crop, “don't beat him! No one likes to be beaten, including animals.”

You're lucky I don't beat you for showing me up like that.” She pushed Rose aside. “Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to meet my troops outside of Finalizer Village.”

Finn watched her as she and her brother and Prince Benjamin rode off into town. “She's the one who ought to be whipped for the way she treated that horse!” He said angrily. “You can be arrested in the Kingdom of Atch-To for abusing animals.”

Rose sighed. “Unfortunately, she does that all the time. I've known servants who were fired – or even attacked themselves – for trying to tattle on her. Phasma doesn't care about anyone but herself. Her father taught her too well, I'm afraid.”

Finn was beginning to have second thoughts about courting Phasma. Her stunning outsides didn't seem to match the arrogance and haughtiness in her heart. Poe and Rey had been right about her from the beginning. It was time someone taught her a lesson.

That night, he finished the staff. It was the most beautiful object he'd ever made. He didn't have Rey or his father Luke's skills with wood carving, but he thought it came out very well. The staff was carved with intricate symbols of the First Order Army, including the ghost that Phasma was often compared to. The handle was a strip of supple leather he got off the tanner in exchange for several smaller carvings for his children.

The next morning, as soon as he'd finished with the pigs, he set up a dummy made of wood and straw near their enclosure. While the pigs ate their breakfast of corn and scraps, Finn practiced with the staff. He did the most elaborate moves he could, hoping that Phasma would notice him.

Indeed, just a few minutes after he started, she came through the barnyard with her brother Hux and their friend Prince Benjamin. “Swineherd,” she said haughtily, “that's a magnificent weapon you have there.”

Thank you.” Finn bowed before her. “I made it myself, Your Highness.”

I want that weapon.” Phasma put out her hand. “Name your price.”

Only one.” Finn's wide grin spread across his face. “I want a hundred kisses from you.”

Phasma made a face. “I'd rather kiss the pigs.”

Finn pulled back, tossing the staff between his hands. “Then you don't get it. Rules are rules, Your Highness.”

It's not that important, sister.” Hux tried to pull her back. “He's just a common swineherd. His lips are probably filthy, and he reeks of his porcine charges. Let's get along to inspect the troops. We're late as it is.”

Benjamin squinted. “You know, swineherd, there's something familiar about you. I've seen you before. What kingdom are you from, originally?”

Oh, here and there.” Finn pulled his cap lower over his eyes. “My offer still stands. Ten kisses for this fine staff.”

Oh, very well.” Phasma, who was very tall for a princess, had to lean over to kiss Finn, but she did do it. Her brother glared icicles at her, while Prince Benjamin looked the pig keeper over, trying to figure out where he'd seen him before.

Phasma!” Emperor Snoke, dressed in his fine gold robes, made his way around the muddy yard just as Finn reached his hundredth kiss. “What are you doing, making love to peasant swineherds in my courtyard?”

He had something I wanted, Father.” Phasma grabbed the staff from him. “There! I hope you're happy.”

I am.” Finn bowed before them, sweeping off his cap...but he turned to Prince Benjamin first. “You were right, Your Highness. You do know me. I'm Prince Finn of Atch-To, your own adopted cousin.”

I thought I knew you!” Benjamin frowned. “What are you doing here? I thought you were studying with your tutor at home with Rey and Poe.”

Finn shrugged. “I thought I was in love...but it was with the wrong person.” He turned to Phasma. “From the moment I first laid eyes on you, I thought you were a stunning goddess, above reproach. You refused my gifts, so I thought I'd come here and woo you in this way.”

You're a prince?” Phasma's blue eyes widened slightly. “Well, that's not something I expected. If you're still interested, I accept your proposal of marriage.”

The young swineherd's large chocolate brown eyes darkened. “No, Phasma. I have no intention of marrying you now. I know what you're really like. I've seen you abuse the animals in the yard and run for cover at the first sign of danger to your person. The only person you care about is you. I gave you the rose and nightingale because I thought you were beautiful...but real beauty is in the heart, not a pretty face.”

He marched off to the stalls and came back with Rose on his arm. “You did help me in one way. I found the girl I want to court here. She's brave, honest, loyal, and a real friend.”

Finn?” Rose's round face was screwed up in shock. “What's going on?”

I'm a prince, Rose.” He took her hand gently. “I'm sorry I lied to you. I do like you. I saw how you saved that poor horse from being beaten yesterday. You're kind and faithful, and you're certainly no coward!” He gave her his brilliant wide smile. “Come back with me to the Kingdom of Atch-To. I want to introduce you to my father and the rest of my family. My Uncle Han has a whole stable of horses from when he raced them in his younger years. We could ride together, and you'd never have to muck another stall as long as you lived.” He chuckled. “Unless you wanted to.”

Rose took his hand. “I love my job...but not the people I work with. I accept your offer, Your Highness.”

Wonderful!” Snoke hissed. “Now we'll need a new stable hand and swineherd!” The old Emperor turned angrily on his daughter. “As for you, young lady, you're stepping down from your post as commander of my armies this very minute! There are at least six other men who are just as competent as you.”

Phasma narrowed her eyes. “You'll regret this, Father.” But she said nothing else, nor made another move against him.

So, Finn took Rose back to Atch-To. King Luke was delighted that his adopted son had brought such a sweet and charming young woman home with him. Ignoring some grumbles from his court about Rose's peasant status, he encouraged their courtship, and several years later, gave the bride away at their wedding. Princess Rose became good friends with both horse-loving Poe and practical Princess Rey. Indeed, the four were seldom seen without each other, often going for rides on their favorite horses through the countryside, happily racing each other or leaping over fences.

As for Princess Phasma, she never again commanded an army. Her father made her the new stable master. She spent the rest of her days mucking stalls, tending to horses who barely tolerated her, and wondering what would have happened if she'd only accepted Prince Finn's simple gifts from the start.

The End

Friday, February 16, 2018

Brave Rey: A Star Wars Sequel Trilogy Fairy Tale

One of my favorite female-centric fairy tales is the Scottish/British Isles folk tale Molly Whuppie, about a young girl who outwits a giant and wins the hands of three princes for herself and her sisters. The idea of her rescuing a member of the royal court along with the king's artifacts comes from an early 60's Canadian kids' show, Mr. Piper, which did a short animated version of this story called "Brave Molly." (It also gave this story its title.) Rey may be "nobody," but she's as clever and brave as any warrior who ever lived...and she'll need all her resources to rescue the missing Lord Luke Skywalker from the evil Giant Snoke and his unhappy protege Kylo Ren!

Rating: PG
Pairings: Rey/Poe, Finn/Rose, Han/Leia, Snap/Kaydel
Disclaimer: The franchise belongs to George Lucas and the Walt Disney Company.

Once upon a time, there were three young women named Rey, Kaydel, and Rose who lived together in a small cottage in the D'Qar Woods, on the borders of the Kingdom of the First Order. They weren't sisters, but were as close as real sisters could be. Gentle and lovable Kaydel tended to their clothes, cooked their food, and amused her sisters with her ready wit and lovely voice. Sweet Rose kept their house in order and repaired anything in the cottage that was broken. Spirited and clever Rey watched over their gardens and studied the old books on great knights she bought from an old traveling priest. She practiced with her bow and arrow and sword every day.

It came to pass that D'Qar was invaded by the Giant Snoke and his Knights of Ren and the Kingdom of the First Order. The wicked giant and his family raised the taxes, destroyed many towns, and demanded that every family turn over their relics and heirlooms. Rey had no desire to do any such thing.

This would be a good time to seek our fortunes elsewhere, sisters.” Rey was already packing her satchel when the announcement came. “We have nothing we can give this horrible creature. We've sold most of our valuables to pay for his taxes as it is.”

I agree.” Rose gathered their last remaining fruit and bread from their cupboards. “I heard he and his armies leveled the Kingdom of Hosnia when they refused to pay him.”

Kaydel brought out their woolen wraps. “We'll need these. It'll be getting cold soon.”

The trio departed from their cottage less than an hour later. They hiked for days across the D'Qur forest and over the salty Crait Mountains, to a dark castle on the edge of the hill. By this time, they were tired and hungry. They'd eaten the last of their food the day before. It was Rey who knocked on the back door of the massive old fortress.

Hello?” The trio were quite surprised when a short old man in ragged, dirty silk robes opened the door. “May I help you?” His long silver hair and thick beard and mustache were unkempt, and there were heavy gold bands around his neck and wrists.

We...we're seeking shelter for the night.” Rey nodded at Rose and Kaydel. “My sisters and I have been traveling for weeks, and we've run out of food. We thought we might rest here and perhaps borrow some supplies.”

The older man sighed. “You can stay here, but not for long. My master will be home soon. He's a giant, and he eats most humans, especially the younger ones.”

Rey couldn't help feeling sorry for the old gentleman. His bright blue eyes held indescribable sadness. “My name is Rey,” she said as he directed them to a large, heavy table in the kitchen. “And this is Rose and Kaydel, my sisters of the heart. What's yours?” She noticed that his right hand was covered by a black glove and seemed to move more stiffly than the left, almost as if it was made of metal. A beautiful old ring with a royal crest glittered dully on his middle finger.

Luke,” he said, as if he hadn't heard that name in a long time. “I'm Luke.” He gave Rey a wan smile. “I have a sister, Leia. I haven't seen her in so long...”

Oh!” Rose handed Luke a rag from her pocket as tears sprang from his eyes. She had a very kind heart and couldn't stand to see anyone in pain. “You poor man. I know how you feel. My real sister died years ago, before I came to live with Kaydel and Rey. I miss her so much sometimes.”

Thank you.” Luke dabbed at his eyes, but quickly handed Rose her cloth. “I need to get you girls fed now, before my master returns.”

They'd no sooner finished their greenish milk and soft oat cakes than they heard stomping and yelling outside the kitchen door. Luke started hurrying them towards the back. “That's my master! He can't find you here! If he does, he'll eat you for dinner!”

Wait!” Rey frowned at his collar and cuffs. “That collar...that's a slave collar, isn't it? You're a slave here. We could help you. Help you get back to your sister and your family.”

I'll be all right, lasses.” He flung open the door. “You must save yourselves!”

What's this?” They were too late. Luke had barely gotten them across the threshold when the door was flung open. “Hiding something from me, Slave.” The girls gasped at the massive man before them. He was tall, his head hitting the ceiling, and very old and dried. But his limbs were strong and hard for his age, and presence was towering. “You know all humans must be brought to me immediately!” He swatted the old gray-haired man to the ground, leaving him groaning on the floor. “You useless creature! I ought to skin you alive and have you for my next meal!”

No! Leave him alone!” Rey threw herself over him, and the other girls threw themselves over her. “He was only helping us out!”

Rose nodded. “Rey's right. What did he ever do to you?”

Please,” Luke begged. “They're only young girls. Let them go. They won't harm you. I swear it.”

I think we could use them for slaves, Master Snoke.” The slim, finely dressed red-haired youth on one side was almost as tall as the giant. “They might work well in the kitchen and chopping wood.”

The blond girl on his other side was even taller and more muscular. Her muscles seemed to bulge in her intricate silver armor. “They're too thin for such work, Hux,” she sniffed. “I say we have them for supper.”

If you try it,” Rey snapped, “I'll come back and haunt your digestive system forever!”

To everyone's surprise, the Giant Snoke doubled over laughing. “I like that little one's spirit.” He turned to the taller of the two boys, a muscular lad with thick, wavy dark hair and icy brown eyes. “Kylo, take these lassies to your room. They'll sleep in the bed on the other side tonight.” His hand waved at the girl. “Phasma, you bring their things.”

Rey frowned as she and her sisters helped their new friend to his feet. “What about Luke?” She placed her hand on the older man's shoulder. “Do you promise not to cause further harm to him?”

He's a slave. He obeys my command.” The giant only laughed as Rey glared harder at him. “All right, little one. I won't lay a hand on him while you're here.”

Kylo and Phasma lead them to one of the largest rooms in the entire castle. The Giant set the girls in one bed, giving them braided straw necklaces and gold necklaces to his apprentices. “You sleep here.” He set the girls in the bed to his right. “And you sleep here.” He nodded at the bed to his left. “I hope you'll all have pleasant dreams tonight, children!”

Rey gathered her sisters in a corner, while the other three dressed in an adjoining room. “I don't trust them.” She nodded at the changing room. “The giant's planning something.”

Well, at least he gave us a place to sleep for the night and these pretty necklaces,” Kaydel insisted brightly.

I agree with Rey.” Rose shook her head. “There's something going on here.”

Ben strode out first, wearing nothing more than black silk sleeping trousers. “I know something you three don't know.”

After they'd blushed and turned from his rather muscular chest, Rey managed to stammer “What's that?”

First of all, I am a prince.” Kylo smirked. “And that giant is going to help me take over my parents' kingdom.” He crossed his arms. “As long as I bring him humans to eat and keep the treasures of the kingdom hidden. You girls are going to be his first meal.”

Rey thought fast. “You know,” she started as the other two came out in fine silk nightclothes, “those gold necklaces look much too heavy. Why don't you wear these straw ones instead?”

Hux laughed. “Those things? They're just ordinary straw.”

No!” Rey grinned and took hers off. “They're magic! If you wear them and wish on them, you'll have your fondest dream in the morning.”

Phasma raised an eyebrow. “That sounds a little ridiculous to me.”

Wait!” Kylo yanked the straw rope off Rey's neck and turned it over in his hand. “Is this true? I thought the Giant Snoke said he and I were to have all the magic in the kingdom. He said we shared it equally.”

Kaydel gave him a little smirk. “Well, most people do say that you can never trust a giant.”

I don't like this.” Hux frowned. “Can we trust you?”

Of course!” Rose gave him her most charming smile. “We're innocent peasant girls.”

That right. We wouldn't lie.” Rey took the gold necklace off Kylo and put the straw on. “I think it looks very fetching myself.”

So, that's how the three apprentices of the Giant Snoke ended up with the straw necklaces, and the three lassies ended up with the gold. In the middle of the night, Rey woke her sisters and managed to get them out a window. They climbed down a vine, then sneaked across the shadowy courtyard and across the narrow moat.

I wish we didn't have to leave Luke.” Rose shivered as they hurried off towards the Crait Mountains. “He was so nice to us, and they treated him so badly.”

I didn't want to leave him, either.” Rey wrung out her wrap, which was wet from the moat. “And not just because I'm afraid of what they'll do to him. Did you see his ring, and the way he held himself like a nobleman? I think he may be a member of one of the royal families.”

Kaydel nodded. “He's probably a king or prince being held against his will. Ooh, that really means we have to go after him! There may be a kingdom out there that needs him badly, and they might even give us a reward for finding him.”

We'll have to tell someone where he is in the next kingdom we come across.” Rey poured the water out of her boots. “For right now, let's move on, before the giant discovers our little trick.”

As soon as the sun rose the next morning, the Giant Snoke came into the room with his heavy staff and his magic. He beat the humans in the straw necklaces with his least until they began crying out in pain. Kylo thew the blanket off them, wailing that he was being murdered. Hux curled up in a ball. Phasma held a pillow, ready to spring out and beat their attacker senseless.

Snoke vowed that he'd find those girls and wallop them into jelly on the spot! But the girls couldn't be found. They had hitched a ride with an old gypsy woman named Maz Kantana, who took them through the green fields of Takodana to the beautiful mountain Kingdom of Naboo.

Maz let them right off at the gates of Two Suns Palace. “King Han and Queen Leia are good and just rulers,” she told them. “They're kind to all people, including us gypsies. Han was a gypsy himself once, before he helped rescue the queen from an evil sorcerer and she took him as her husband.”

Thank you, Mistress Maz.” Rey reached into her pocket. “I should give you something for driving us...”

The old woman put up a hand. “I only ask one thing. Tell the King and Queen what you saw at the Giant's castle, especially the part about the old man. I think it'll help them more than you or they know.”

But how will we get in to see the king and queen?” Rose blushed. “We're peasants.”

Leave that to me.” Maz winked at them. “I've been friends with the king and his manservant for a very long time.”

Indeed, it seemed like no time at all before Rey, Rose, and Kaydel were brought into the royal family's audience chamber. Though it was beautifully furnished and lavishly appointed, Rey thought the king and queen were even more attractive. Queen Leia was the most beautiful older woman the girls had ever seen, with her strong royal bearing and fine, delicate features. King Han sat behind a desk on the other side that was as messy as his wife's was perfectly organized. His face was craggy and lined with sorrow, but it remained handsome and rugged, with twinkly hazel eyes and deeply tanned skin.

Maz told us you bring us news from D'Qar.” Leia smiled and nodded at three seats set up in front of the desks. “She says you came from the Giant's castle there.”

That we do, Your Majesty.” Rey couldn't help squirming in her seat under the queen's steady gaze. She handed her the three gold necklaces. “We're pretty sure he was going to kill us and eat us. We just barely escaped.”

That's right.” Rose nodded. “If Kylo hadn't believed what Rey said about the necklaces being magic...”

Han and Leia exchanged looks of sadness and shock. “Kylo? You saw Kylo Ren?” Leia asked in a strained voice.

Yes, Your Majesty.” Kaydel tried keep her tone even under the queen's steady gaze. “He was one of the Giant's apprentices. He was going to let the Giant eat us!”

Rey saw the king and queen exchange another sad look. “And there's more. He said that he was a prince, and that he was going to take over his parents' kingdom...and the giant would help him do it.”

Leia pulled her chair closer to them. “Did you see anyone else there?”

Yes!” Rose burst out. “The giant had a poor old man chained up in the kitchen. He wore gold bands on his wrists and neck. Snoke said he was a slave. He told us his name was Luke.”

We think he was a prince, or a king, or someone royal.” Kaydel continued. “He wore a ring with what looked like a royal crest on his gloved hand, and he carried himself like a nobleman. Like you do, Your Majesty.”

He had really pretty blue eyes,” Rey added. “They were so sad, they broke my heart. His hair was long and gray and wild, and he had a thick beard. His clothes were in tatters, but they were made of fine silk cloth, like they'd been good clothes once upon a time.”

Luke said he had a sister.” Kaydel's big brown eyes widened. “Her name was Leia. And your name is Leia. So you...”

Yes, I am. Luke is my twin brother.” Leia choked back a sob as Han went to her side and rubbed her back. “We thought we'd lost him. I couldn't...feel him...anymore...”

Han looked up, his own eyes gravely serious. “You're right that he's nobility. His actual title is Lord Luke of the Skywalking Clan, the third in command of Naboo. He's the greatest wizard and knightu who ever lived.” He wrapped his arms tenderly around Leia. “Until Snoke and his armies leveled his new wizard's school. His apprentices were fed to the giant, but we had no idea what happened to him.”

I have some strong magical ability of my own.” Leia dabbed at her eyes with an embroidered handkerchief. “Luke and I used to be so close, we could use our magic to feel each other's hearts beat.” She leaned into Han, even as her eyes held the girls' sorrowful faces. “All I knew was that he was taken to the giant's castle. That was when I lost track of him.”

Do you think they did something to his magic?” Rey frowned. “He didn't seem like a powerful wizard or knight when we were there. We thought he was just a nice old man.”

The queen nodded. “When Luke vanished, his blue-bladed sword and all the ancient texts of his wizard order vanished with him. Those are some of Naboo's most sacred relics.” Her eyes became thoughtful. “The gold cuffs. That's what it is. The dark gold from the Crait Mountains inhibits a wizard's powers. That's why he can't use his powers or contact me, why he seemed so frail to you girls. The Giant stripped him of his magic.”

Mother?” A dark, tousled head popped in. “Are you all right? We heard there were visitors...”

Leia smiled. “Yes, it's fine, Poe. In fact, I'd like for you boys to come in.” Three handsome youths trooped through the door, each of them dressed in the fine robes of royalty. “These are our wards, adopted when other kingdoms were attacked and left barren. Prince Temmin,” the strong youth with the mustache bowed, “Prince Finn,” the dark skinned boy gave them a gentle smile, “and Prince Poe.” He was the one with the curly hair who had addressed Leia. He smiled at Rey, who blushed. In D'Qar, they could get into trouble for looking at royalty, but things seemed to be different in Naboo. “These are friends of your father's old gypsy clan.”

Are you gypsies?” Finn looked absolutely amazed. “I heard they travel everywhere and tell the most wonderful stories! Or so Papa Han says.”

No, we're not. We're from D'Qar.” Rose grinned at him. “I've heard of you! You were taken in by the king and queen when they found out you were being used as a slave for the Kingdom of the First Order. You were very brave to leave that behind.”

Now it was Finn who blushed. “Thank you. I think you're brave too, coming all this way.”

Boys,” Leia said more seriously, “these girls found out what happened to your Uncle Luke.”

They did?” Poe's face darkened. “What happened to him? Did you see him? We were told after the Battle of the Crait Mountains that he was dead.”

He's not dead.” Rey shook her head. “He's a prisoner of the Giant Snoke and his apprentices.”

Poe squeezed his mother's hand. “Just like you suspected, Mama.” He frowned. “I'd take my battalion after him, but they were decimated the last time they went after Snoke. What his men and Ben...Kylo Ren didn't destroy, he crushed on the rocks and ate bones and all.”

We can't send a whole army.” Han took Poe's shoulder. “I'd like nothing more than to do that myself, son, but Snoke would expect that. We don't need to lose more troops to that monster.” He turned to the confused girls behind him. “Kylo Ren's real name is Prince Benjamin of the Solo Clan. He's our son, and our only child by birth. He ran away when Snoke promised him more power than we or his uncle were ever able to give him.”

Kaydel made a face. “That's not surprising. He practically bragged about it when we were there.”

He wants to take over the kingdom!” Rose wailed. “He thinks the Giant will help him.”

We need to send someone in to rescue Luke, Ben, and the magic artifacts. One person will be able to get around Snoke faster and more nimbly than a large group.” Leia sighed. “I just don't know who would be willing to take on that kind of a mission. It will be terribly dangerous. You girls saw what Snoke is like. He's killed hundreds of troops with a wave of his hand and has destroyed whole kingdoms by stepping on them.”

Rey stepped up to the king and queen. “Your Majesties, I'll rescue Lord Luke and Prince Ben and bring your treasures back.”

Rose had calmed herself enough to exchange blushes with Finn. Temmin was mouthing something to Kaydel that made her giggle. “I'll do it,” Rey went on, “on one condition. That my sisters are allowed to court your wards...and his Lordship trains me as part of his wizard order.”

Leia quirked an eyebrow, but Han was already grinning. “A most unusual request.” Her husband nudged her, waving a hand at their sons. Poe couldn't take his eyes off Rey. Finn had timidly gone over to Rose, and the two were holding a stammering conversation. Kaydel laughed at some joke of Temmin's. “But seeing how the young people are already getting along so well, I think it's one I'll accept. Besides, it'll be good for Luke to return to teaching after the defeat at Crait. We could use some more magic warriors.”

Rey left the next morning. Maz drove her back to the Giant's domain. This time, she had nothing but her staff and some dried meat for the journey. It was past nightfall when they arrived. This time, she went right to the back kitchen door. Her eyes widened when Luke let her in. His gentle face was badly bruised and battered, and he picked up the pan for her porridge stiffly, as if his arm pained him.

“I can't let you stay long.” Luke rubbed his arm. “The Giant Snoke and his apprentices are sleeping upstairs. The Giant and Kylo Ren beat me when they found out you escaped. I don't know what they'll do if they catch you here a second time.”

I'm here to get you and your sword and books out!” Rey pushed her plate aside. “Do you know where they're keeping them?”

My blue sword hangs over the Giant's bed. It once belonged to my father King Anakin and it was passed on to me.” Luke frowned. “Rey, I wish you'd leave. You seem like a nice girl, and I don't want you to get hurt like I was.”

No, Your Lordship. Someone has to defeat this Giant. He can't just go around snatching books and swords and wizards whenever he feels like it!” The girl reached for her staff. “I'll be all right. And this time, I won't let him know that you were involved.”

Rey crept up the rocky, winding staircase to the Giant's room. It was so stuffed full of odd assorted objects he'd stolen from the kingdoms he'd attacked, thrown every which way on many bookshelves, she could barely move around! It took a few minutes to find Luke's blue sword over Snoke's bed. The brilliant sapphire blade glittered dully in the room's dim light.

It was fortunate that Snoke was snoring fit to raise the dead. The ugly creature slept so deeply, he didn't hear her staff thudding against the wall when she used it to knock the sword down. Unfortunately, it dropped onto the hard floor with a very loud bang. Kylo Ren stormed into the room, just as she'd scooped the sword into her hand.

You!” She couldn't help blushing at the sight of his muscular – and very naked – chest. Her embarrassment ended quickly when he grabbed at the sword. “You're a thief! I knew it! Snoke! Guards!”

Oh no, you don't!” Rey snatched one of the Giant's tent-sized tunics from a pile of clothes. She threw it over Ren's head before dashing out the door and back down the stairs.

Six knights in armor met her as she swept across the main hall, but she pushed them back with the blazing blue sword. The magic seemed to glow with a life of its own as she swung it around. She was glad the sword knew what it was doing, because she'd never used a weapon besides her staff in her entire life. The girl sprinted for the main entrance before they could pull up the drawbridge.

Maz met her at the foot of the hill. “I got it!” Rey beamed as she held out the beautiful weapon. “I got Luke's sword!” She slid it into the finely engraved leather scabbard. “I didn't have the chance to get the books or Luke out before Kylo Ren sounded the alarm. I'll go back for them tomorrow.”

You be careful, Rey of D'Qar.” Maz moved over as she climbed into the cart. “The Giant won't be so forgiving. He and his apprentices will be more alert next time.”

Rey gave her a lopsided grin. “Don't worry, Maz. I'll find a way.”

Indeed, the castle grounds were crawling with soldiers when the girl returned that night. It took much longer to hide in the shadows, ducking behind trees and bushes whenever one looked her way. The moon was big and white over the sky when she knocked on the back door.

Rey!” Luke looked much worse for the wear. His gentle face was a mass of plum-colored bruises, and he barely moved his gloved hand. “You can't stay here! You have to leave. Every guard in the entire kingdom is searching for you!”

There's no way I'm leaving. Not without you and those books.” Luke gave Rey her porridge. “You have to tell me where they are.”

They're in Snoke's room. The ancient leather-bound texts on the top of the largest bookshelf.” The old wizard looked thoughtful. “I'll give you my cloak. I'm not much taller than you are. You could disguise yourself as me, at least until you get in his room.”

Rey gulped the last of her snack. “But what about you?”

I'll be all right. They won't kill me, anyway. Snoke is holding me for ransom.” He swept the dirty dishes into a pail of water. “He's using me to force my sister and brother-in-law to surrender their kingdom to him.”

Not anymore.” Rey took the cloak and pulled it over her head and swung a burlap sack over her shoulder. “I'll be back for you, even if I can't do it tonight.”

The halls were far busier than they had been the evening before. Guards, trolls, and orcs patrolled every staircase and passageway. They barely gave Rey a second glance. She even managed to glide past Hux and Phasma easily.

Snoke's bedroom was guarded by six orcs. Kylo Ren himself snored in a smaller bed placed next to his master's. The black-haired apprentice slept right next to the bookshelf Luke had described. Rey could see the sacred texts resting on the very top shelf, their old leather stained and worn. She nimbly climbed the bookshelf, making sure not to knock any books onto the floor or the slumbering apprentice under her.

She'd just dropped the books into the burlap sack when Kylo Ren's big brown eye popped open. “What's going on here?” He whined. “Can't a man get any sleep?”

Sorry, master.” Rey tried to make her voice sound more like Luke's gruff tenor. “I was taking some older books down to the library.”

In the middle of the night?” The tall youth squinted at her. “Wait. There's something about you. Something familiar. You don't sound at all like my uncle.”

We all sound pretty odd in the middle of the night, nephew.” She hauled the sack over her shoulder. “Well, I'd better be getting along. I have to wake up early to start breakfast. I'll see you tomorrow.”

Oh no, you don't.” He grabbed her arm and pulled down her hood. “I knew it! You're very brave, young Rey. It's too bad Snoke wants to eat you. We might be able to use your talents here.”
I'd never work for a giant!” Rey yanked her arm from his grasp. “I'm not like you. I'd never betray my kingdom and family for power.”

Kylo Ren narrowed his dark eyes. “In that case, I'm going to have to let my master eat you.”

Oh no, you don't!” She used the sword to swiftly knock down more books from the shelf, letting them fall onto Kylo Ren. The girl ducked out the window, climbing down a thick flowering vine on the side of the castle. By the time Snoke was sending his best warriors into the kingdom to capture the thief, Rey was half-way down the mountain.

Maz, I got them!” Rey set the sack in her cart, then leaped onto the front seat. “I got the sacred wizard texts!”

Then let's get out of here.” Maz shook the reins. “Snoke will be mad as a hornet that you escaped him a second time.”

I have to go back there tomorrow.” The girl watched as the mountain vanished into the horizon. “I can't leave poor Lord Luke. I'm afraid of what they'll do to him. That was his cape I borrowed.”

There may be an easier way.” Maz nodded in the back. “There should be an invisibility spell in one of those texts. I don't know how well it'll work for someone who's untrained in magic, but it should last long enough to get you past the guards.”

The next night, Rey cast the spell Maz mentioned right after the old woman let her off at the gate. To her delight, it worked! Neither the guards nor the trolls and giants stationed around the moat saw her, and she walked out in plain sight. Even Phasma, who stood at the ready while the rest of her knights snored away, didn't see her as she ducked into the bushes and tip-toed around to the kitchen door.

Luke!” She banged on the back door. “Luke, let me in! It's Rey! I'm here to rescue...”

The person who flung open the door wasn't Luke. Kylo Ren stood, pale and sober, on the other side. Of course, her invisibility magic chose just that moment to flicker back in.

Hello, peasant girl.” Ren crossed his arms. “Expecting my dear uncle, were you? He's not here. Snoke has him in his room, bound in a burlap sack. He intends to kill him and drain his remaining magic after Mother and Father pay him the ransom – their entire kingdom.”

Rey reached for the sword she carried on her hip. “And you're going to turn me over to him.”

No.” Ren's smirk looked a great deal like his father's. “Actually, I want you to help me get rid of him.” He shrugged. “I'm tired of dealing with a giant and feeding his appetite, both for humans and power. I'd rather rule this vast wealthy kingdom than the tiny one my parents have.”

Rey made a face. “Your parents wanted you to come home.”

They don't need me there.” Kylo Ren's big dark eyes narrowed dangerously. “They have those little idiots they adopted. They're far more interested in picking up random cast-offs from the street than in taking care of their own son.”

Well, maybe if their own son cared more about his parents and less about power, they'd treat you better!” Rey finally burst out.

Do you know why I betrayed my uncle to Snoke?” Kylo snapped angrily. “He banished me! Thought I was going to kill him, because Snoke had offered me power in his land. Snoke destroyed his wizard's school, but I helped him.” He sighed, his face falling. “I really can't go back. Not anymore. Not after the things I've done.”

The girl made a face. “If you help me get your uncle out of here, I'll tell your parents you want to rule your kingdom separately, but are willing to make a treaty.”

No!” He took her hand. “If I let Uncle go, you'll have to stay. I'll need someone to help me rule. You may be a nobody, but you're obviously brave and clever. We could use more of that here.”

Rey gave him a smile. “If you get me under the bed, I'll help you get rid of the Giant.”

I can't resist that sweet smile of yours.” Kylo Ren gave her his cloak. “Put this on. I'll tell them you're a Knight of Ren.”

He brought her to the Giant Snoke's room. It was surrounded by no less than ten guards this time. Three stood around the windows, including Phasma. Rey dove under the Giant's bed as Kylo rushed over to Phasma, who stood with the rest of her men.

General,” he said angrily, “I saw that girl creeping around downstairs! She must be trying to get up here and rescue the wizard! I'll show you where I saw her!”

The moment Ren lead them out, Rey sprang into action. Kylo Ren pointed out a window, claiming he'd seen the girl run out the window. She rolled the bag away from the corner and tugged it off Luke, then cut the gold cuffs off his wrists with the sword.

Are you up to moving?” Her arms went around his waist as she helped him to his feet. “We have to get out of here.”

I can try.” Luke stumbled, but he did stand. “I'd just woken up and made breakfast this morning when Hux and Kylo Ren came down, asking a million questions about if I'd seen you and how you got in. I tried to tell them I knew nothing about you or what you were doing, but they didn't believe it.” Luke rubbed around his scratched and reddened neck. “Snoke tried to choke me into talking. When that didn't work, he said he'd have me for his breakfast tomorrow, whether he got my sister's kingdom or not, and dumped me in that sack.”

Well, I'm not going to let you stay here.” Rey got him to the window. “Come on. I have your book. We'll use the invisibility spell to get you out.”

A cold hand yanked her back as Luke let out a yelp. “You'll be going nowhere, little one!” Snoke's growl could be heard for miles. “I'll put you into that sack and have you for supper, along with this dried up old bean.”

Rey looked at Luke, then grinned. “I'd love to go back in that sack. In fact, we both would. Right, Luke?”

He raised an eyebrow at her nod, but finally gave Snoke a small smile of his own. “That's right. I cast a spell on that sack when I was in there. You wouldn't believe the things that are in there now!”

Snoke's eyes glittered. “Gold? Jewels? More humans for lunch?”

Piles of gold!” Rey nodded. “If you'll get into the sack, you'll see for yourself!”

And humans,” Luke added quickly. “Much fatter and smaller than me. They won't be able to escape so easily.”

All right!” Snoke grabbed the sack. “Help me in! I want to see it for myself.” He waved his bony finger in Rey's face. “But no tricks now, girl!”

Oh, no.” Rey turned around and grinned at Luke when Snoke's back was turned. He winked at her.

Rey and Luke helped the massive man into the sack. Luke used his powers to seal it up as tight as he could. The moment he was in the sack, Rey grabbed Luke's hand and pulled him out the window.

This time, Hux and several of his guards saw them as they dashed across the lawn to the drawbridge. “Close the bridge!” The red-haired general demanded. “Stop her! Kill her!”

I can handle this!” Luke sent blue beams over the trolls and orcs, turning them all into harmless puppies and kittens. “That ought to hold them long enough to get us out of here.”

Rey held the blue sword on Hux. “You will open that bridge and let us go, or this sword will go down that skinny gullet of yours.”

You won't get away with this!” Hux snapped. He still did as he was told. The general did not want to deal with the sharp end of what he'd heard was the most deadly weapon in the entire Force Kingdoms.

We already are.” She grabbed Luke's hand. “Come on! We have to get out of here, before Snoke gets free.”

Luke gave her his gentle smile. “I have a better way, little one.” He waved his hand. The same blue light surrounded them before they vanished from the main road.

Queen Leia and King Han were overjoyed to have their brother and dear friend back. Luke made Rey his newest apprentice, teaching her everything he knew about magic and fighting. She eventually became the Lady Rey, one of Naboo's greatest magical warriors. Rose and Kaydel did court Prince Finn and Temmin respectively. Poe so admired Rey's strength and cleverness that after she finished her training, he announced their courtship.

As for Snoke, Kylo Ren, Phasma, Hux, and several of their soldiers found him in the sack in his room. Not realizing it was him, they beat the sack as hard as they could. By the time they realized who was in it, it was too late. Snoke was near death, and passed away a few days later.

Kylo Ren did take over the Kingdom of the First Order, with Phasma as his head general and Hux as his adviser. Though First Order and Naboo went to battle many times, Naboo always got the best of the deal. It was lead by Lady Rey, who may not have been the strongest or tallest warrior in Naboo's army, but was certainly the bravest and cleverest...and Kylo Ren knew that, no matter how hard he tried, he'd never get the best of that smart little nobody.

The End