Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Rescue of Captain Solo; Or, How the Resistance Defeated the First Order Once Again - A Star Wars Short

Rating: PG (violence)
Pairings: Han/Leia
Disclaimer: The franchise belongs to George Lucas and the Walt Disney Company. I just got back into this fandom in January after more than a decade away and decided I wanted to play, too.Notes: 

This started out as set in the actual Star Wars universe...but then I realized how much it resembled old-time serials and melodramas of the early 20th century. Somewhere in the three or so hours I worked on it, it became a homage to the blood-and-thunder adventures that inspired everything from Scooby Doo to Indiana Jones. It's supposed to be set between about 1910 and 1924, hense the use of the word “negro” for Finn. No offense is intended; it's a reflection of the time. 
He awoke in...wait. Where the hell was he? Rough wood scraped his back, cut into his leather jacket. Cold metal pinned him down to something cylindrical. What he should have been was dead.
The last thing Henry Solo remembered was the cold steel of the heirloom garnet-handled knife that belonged to his son Benjamin before it was plunged into his chest. He was The Executioner now, or Kylo Ren, the Knight of Ren. The masked terror who tracked down those who got in the way of his boss, the notorious crime lord Ebeneezer Snoke. Snoke was rumored to have some kind of magic powers, powers that could control the mind or see the future. Henry wouldn't have believed in such nonsense...if his own son, wife, and brother-in-law didn't posses those powers, too.
He just hoped the kids got away. The negro kid Finn Finnegan, who ran out on the First Order Company, and the little immigrant street girl Rey. He wondered if Luke ever trained Rey. She was brilliant with mechanics, damn good with firearms, feisty as hell, and knew English swear words even he wasn't familiar with. Charles, his long-time partner, probably got them to Luke. At least he hoped he did. Leia still most of that map to her brother's hideout.
Henry tried to struggle, but not only were the chains around his arms and wrists too tight, but his chest felt like it was on fire. The wound had probably been cleaned, but not much else.“Leia's going to kill me about the shirt,” he muttered. “That's the third one I've gone through since I got back.”
“Don't try to free yourself.” He looked up to see Lord Armitage Hux – was that really the snide little bastard's name? - striding over. His coppery red hair was slicked back under his gray bowler hat with enough grease to keep his boat the Falcon going for the next six years. The wool suit and cape were probably made by some fancy tailor. He straightened his pearl-gray gloves. “The chains are too tight. Besides, there's nowhere to go.” A marmalade-orange cat rubbed at his heels. He scooped it up, scratching it between the ears.
Henry ignored the young British noble's snooty tones. “Look, you little bastard, I thought your bosses wanted me dead. What am I doing here, besides getting splinters in my backside?”
“The same thing our supreme leader told us you were used for many times in the last thirty years.” He leaned his unsmiling, narrow face into Henry's. “You, chap, are bait.”
As Henry focused, he began to realize where he was. “The Starkiller Saw Mills.” He glared at him. “The place you're using as a front for your criminal operations. I thought we got rid of it.”
“Not all of it.” He waved his hands. Ten men in black and white helmets and protective suits loaded priceless artifacts into hollowed-out logs. “We did manage to save these. The Supreme Leader will be very interested in these old Jedi swords and spell books.”
Henry glared at him. “They belong in a museum, kid!”
“So do you.” He smirked as the door was flung open, allowing two more men to drag in a third. “Ahh, it looks like you're going to have some company, Captain Solo.”
Henry's eyes widened when he saw whom the goons were hauling around. “Poe! What did you do to that poor man?”
Leia's best pilot should have been in one of those damn new flying machines, not being dragged around like a sack of potatoes. His face was a mass of bruises, some already turning deep shades of purple, and bloodied cuts. Hux yanked off his leather flight helmet and grabbed him by a handful of shiny black curls.
“And here's the other official bait.” He pulled the handsome man's face up to his. “You just can't stay away from this place, can you?”
Poe gave him a small, cocky grin. “Maybe I just like the look of your skinny puss.” Henry couldn't help grinning himself as they flung Poe onto the log.
The younger pilot looked up with his own wide brown eyes as the goons bound him to the other side. “Captain Solo! You...we all thought you were dead! All except Mrs. Solo and Professor Walker.”
Henry gave him his own famous lopsided grin. “I'm tough, kid. It would take a lot more than some hundred-year-old knife in the belly to take me down.”
“How touching.” As Hux turned from them to the lever on the end of the conveyor belt, Henry finally had the time to notice that some of the men didn't seem quite...normal. At least two were far shorter than average, one much taller. He swore he saw the hint of dark skin under the helmet of another. And as he looked up, he noticed three figures climbing around in the rafters. One definitely had a blue-bladed knife between her even white teeth.
“Where's my son? Where's Benjamin?” Henry demanded, hoping to distract them from the trio on the ceiling.
Hux was busy attending to his pearl cuff links. “Kylo Ren was called away. Very secret business, very hush-hush. He did so want to be here for your final demise, but when Snoke calls, you obey.”
“Too bad he didn't decide to stay with the Resistance.” Poe looked up from his struggles on the log. “We're free to go wherever we want, whenever we want. We're not trained lap dogs like you, Ren, and Miss Phasma.” He smirked. “Where is Miss Phasma, anyway? I heard from a reliable source that she took a very unpleasant plunge into the sewers downtown.”
“She's taking a bath.” Hux wrinkled his porcelain nose. “I told her not to come out or get into uniform until I could stand the smell of her.”
Henry nudged Poe with the ball of his foot. “I knew that was a great idea, getting rid of her down there.”
Poe tried to crane his neck upwards. “Finn told me he and Charles had help. That was you?”
“Leia, Luke, Charles, and I got stuck in the sewers once.” Henry lay back, at least as well as he could without getting six splinters in his back. “We were escaping their old man's hideout. It's kind of a long story.”
“Enough of this!” Hux reached for the lever. “Where's your current hideout? Where's Professor Walker?”
“Why don't you ask my kid?” Henry gave him the nastiest look he could muster. “He'd know more than me. I have no idea. They didn't have the full map.”
Poe's glare bored into Hux. “You won't get me to talk. You already know that. You tried almost a week ago.”
“If we can't get you to talk...” Hux pushed the lever. “Oh dear. I seem to have accidentally pushed the lever. What will you two do now?”
“We'll get out of this!” Poe flailed wildly as the log followed the rest of its similar brethren down the conveyor belt, towards a sharp circular saw. Henry saw the sun as it glinted off the massive machine.
Hux pushed the lever further back. The conveyor belt nearly leaped ahead, moving twice as fast. “I don't think either of you will escape this time. Captain Solo, you may have survived being stabbed, but you certainly won't get through being sliced neatly in half. Nor will you, Commander Damerez.”
“That's what you think.” One of the smaller goons let a black leather-clad fist loose in Hux's face. “Maybe the cavalry's arrived.” Another kicked aside two of his men. The trio on the ceiling had literally fallen onto the ones loading the logs, leaving them in a pile on the floor.
“Professor Walker!” Poe grinned as the hood pulled off his helmet, revealing thick gray-yellow hair and a longish gray beard that framed soft blue eyes. “When did you get in?”
“Just this morning.” Luke patted the brown-haired girl who emerged from the pile on her shoulder. “Thanks to Rey here. She's going to be my new assistant. I could use someone to help me with my work.”
“Rey, I'm glad you got a new job, but could someone shut this thing off?” Poe yanked at his bound wrists. “We're going to be sawdust in a minute!”
Rey and Luke lunged for the lever at the same time. Hux went after Luke; the ginger cat nipped at Rey's heels. Hux and Luke were fighting for Luke's green-bladed knife when Rey swept the cat into her arms.
“Here,” she yelled, tossing the cat at Hux. “She likes me better n' you!” The cat's weight sent Hux back several feet, distracting him long enough for Luke to clip him in the shoulder.
Luke looked up as another short hood reached for the lever. He didn't have much luck with it. “Artie, are you ok?” The man's finger's flew. “It's stuck?” He and Rey both went to help as more Resistance officers flooded into the mill.
It took Rey, Luke, Finn, and the other short hood to finally pull the lever back...just as the teeth of the saw was about to slice into Poe's leg. “Could you have cut it any closer?” The young pilot called, puffing hard.
“Yeah.” Henry's eyes were wide. “Few more seconds, and that cut would have been too close!”
The two smallest figures jumped for the logs. Poe grinned as Finn came on one side. The shortest hood pulled off her helmet, revealing his little sister Beatrice's wild mane of strawberry-blond curls and big brown eyes.
“Big brother!” She threw her arms around him. “I knew we'd find you! We followed that bad man with the kitty cat, and then we knew you were here!”
Finn was already unlocking Poe's chains. “BeaBea, I missed your brother too, but for now, you really have to let him go. I can't get all the chains off if you're sitting on him.”
“Oooh!” She jumped away. “Sorry, Mr. Finnie.”
Henry frowned at the small figure who unlocked his chains. “Who are you?”
The hood reached over and took off his helmet. He'd never been so happy to see the still-beautiful face of his wife Leia in all his life. She took his leathery hands in her soft, if aged, ones. “Someone who loves you, Sheep Herder.”
“That's my wife.” He winced as she and big, hairy Charles helped him off the log. “She's still the toughest cop in the city. Even when she's Chief of Police.”
“Did you think we'd leave you to certain doom?” Leia put her arms around him. “You know we'll always come for you.”
Luke came over to him as Rey bounced over to Poe. “Hey, Henry.” The gray-haired scholar put his arm around his shoulder and gave him a one-armed hug. “I thought I'd never see you again.”
“Yeah, I could say the same about you. Where have you been for thirty years?”
“A secluded cabin in the Adirondacks. Rey's the one who found me.” He gave Henry one of his sunny smiles. “You owe her one, Senior. She's the one who convinced me to come back.” He sighed, his sky-blue eyes grown haunted. “I should never have left. Even after the police academy burned down. Even after the rumors about my powers...”
“It's water under the bridge now, kid.” Henry tried to chuckle, but he ended up wincing.
“You're both going to the hospital.” Leia turned to the tall golden-haired man in the threadbare gold suit with one red sleeve behind her. “Clarence, please call for an ambulance. These men are going to need medical attention.”
“And don't you say no.” Rey punched Poe's shoulder lightly. He rubbed it and gave her a look. “You look like you just fought Jack Johnson in the ninth round.”
Finn nodded. “I told you the First Order Company doesn't mess around. You need to start listening.”
Poe tried for his own lopsided smirk. “Since when was that any fun?”
Beatrice wrapped her arms around her brother's leg. “Big brother, the bad man with the kitty cat got away.”
“Figures.” Finn rolled his eyes. “I knew we should have kept an eye on the walls. Every First Order business has a secret exit for narrow escapes when the cops arrive. He's probably half-way to Snoke by now.”
Leia smiled as Finn and Rey helped Poe out, with him leaning on both. “I think they're all going to be fine members of the Resistance force someday.”
Henry grinned. “I think they already are.” He gasped and put a hand over his chest. “But I think I need to get moving, before I don't live to see them take on Hux the next time.”
Luke nodded. “I'll make sure the artifacts get to the Kenobi Museum in Coruscant City.”
“Right.” Leia finally gave Henry a kiss as Luke headed for the cars. “I love you, Sheep Herder.”
Henry nodded. “I know.”
They looked up as wild whooping was heard in the windows. Rey and Finn cheered. Poe had his hand over Beatrice's eyes while trying to wolf-whistle with his split lip. Artie's gave them a goofy grin.
Henry laughed. “How about we save the rest of this for when I'm recovered?”
“Too bad I'll have to wait that long.” She put her arms around him. “Let's go home.”

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Introduction - Princess Leia and the Merman

My original plan for this month was to get started on the 30's story...but then, in the middle of the night about three weeks ago, I was thinking about "Princess Elena and the Trolls" and that I still had princesses rescuing princes on the brain. Well...does princesses rescuing merman smugglers count? This is kind of a blending of several ideas I had, including the Little Merman story and the medieval story.

I love stories that turn convention on its ear and has the girl rescue the boy, which is probably one of the reasons I love Star Wars so much. Princess Leia Organa is very good at coming to the aid of her men...including a certain prince of a smuggler who drives her crazy...

Princess Leia and the Merman, Part 1

Princess Leia and the Merman
Rating: PG (violence; language)
Pairings: Han/Leia
Disclaimer: The franchise belongs to George Lucas and the Walt Disney Company. I just got back into this fandom in January after more than a decade away and decided I wanted to play, too.

Once upon a time, a princess named Leia lived in a beautiful kingdom by the sea named Naboo. She longed for a life of adventure as a sailor, like her twin brother Luke had been. Luke had explored the ocean on the vessel Twin Sunset...until the boat and its cargo and crew were lost in a storm two years before. She loved her father, King Anakin of Naboo, but she wished he'd stop treating her like a piece of sea glass, and she missed Luke terribly. She knew in her heart that he was alive. Father may have given up on him, but she hadn't.

She loved the sea, knew every inch of a boat, just as well as her brother. She could swim like a fish and swear like the officers on her brother's boat. The sailors in her father's navy considered her to be one of their own. She preferred being out on the ocean, speaking out for her fellow sailors' rights, than being trapped in some dusty court.

Leia was Anakin's favorite, and in his eyes, she could do no wrong, but even he thought it was time his daughter settled down. He said as much to her as he lead her down the hall to Naberrie Castle's ballroom.

Leia,” he began, “I know you claim you're not ready to get married, but Baron Lando Calarissian is the head of the Bespin silver mining colony. They say he's a very wealthy man. We need that alliance with Bespin. Our army will protect their interests, and we could use that silver. Ever since we lost the Twin Sunset three years ago, our treasury has been...unstable.” He frowned. “And we all miss your brother. He was my heir, and I loved him. I already lost your mother. You're all I have left.”

Leia wasn't paying him any mind. She almost seemed to be looking for someone. “I'm sure the Baron is very nice, Father,” she said, “but I already have someone I'm interested in.”

You do? Whom?”

I don't know his name.” She scanned the many familiar faces in the crowd. “He's been at every ball we've held for the past six months. I've danced with him many times. He's told me so many things even I didn't know about the ocean, and fish, and sharks, and even mermaids.”

Anakin snorted. “Mermaids? That's just fairy stories.”

That's what I said, too.” She lifted her white tulle skirts that billowed like foam around her sea-blue satin shoes. “He says they're real. He's seen them. Of course,” she added, “I told him he was crazy, and we ended up getting into an argument...but that was actually almost fun. Most men here never argue with me. They just agree with everything I say to get on your good side.”

Anakin chuckled. “I'm surprised you let him get a word in edgewise. I know how you can get when you're discussing your beliefs.”

Leia took a drink the family's butler Cedric handed her. “Thank you.” She stirred the cool chocolate drink with a spoon. “That's the strange thing, Father. He talks about the sea and the animals and traveling, but he hasn't said a word about himself. I don't know who he is, or what he does. When I ask, he either changes the subject or runs out the door.” She looked thoughtful. “And he won't go near the ocean, for all his talk about it.” She sipped her chocolate. “I won't let him run tonight! I'll find out what's going on.”

Meanwhile, your date for the evening has arrived.” Anakin looked up as Cedric announced the Baron. “Come on. You'll like him. I've had long conversations about boat races and the latest models of boats with him, and he discusses fashion with the women of the court like he's a designer.”

Baron Calarissian was a tall man, with dark curly hair, a neatly trimmed mustache, and soft coffee-colored skin. He wore a sky-blue uniform trimmed with gold braiding, with navy trousers and the most dashing cape. He swished over to them and took her hand, kissing it softly.

Hello, Your Majesty. This must be your daughter, Leia.” He smiled, showing off blinding white teeth. “She's more beautiful than all of the goddesses of the heavens.”

Leia curtsied before him. “Thank you, Baron.”

Anakin coughed. “Well, yes, I'm going to leave you two to get acquainted. Besides, Leia, I see your godfather, Bail of Alderaan. Probably wants me to sign some peace treaty.”

Lando gave her that dazzling smile again. “Would you like to dance, Your Highness?”

Yes, Baron. I'd enjoy that.”

The Baron was a very good dancer, as light as a feather on his toes. “Is something troubling you?” he asked after the third time Leia tripped over her hem. “Your mind doesn't seem to be on the music. Am I really such boring company?”
It's not you. It's just someone I met a few months ago. He's been coming to our castle ever since, but I haven't seen him tonight.” He took her hand, but she barely noticed. “Baron, do you believe in mermaids?”

Lando chuckled. “I've never seen one, but since I've heard they're amazing beauties with voices like angels, I wouldn't complain if I met one.”

I don't know if I'd want to. The stories say merpeople use their voices to lure ships into rocks and drag humans down to the sea.”

The baron grinned. “Then it would be a beautiful way to go.”

Still...” She sighed. “I wonder...”

That was when she saw him descending the gilded staircase. Tonight, he wore a fine black silk vest and cream-colored blouse. The buttons were made from abalone, the flowing red-brown mane pulled back by a circle of frosted sea glass. The tight navy trousers with blood-red stripes amply showed off his long legs. A weatherproof oilskin bag was slung on his hip. A heavy gold collar clung to his strong neck. He had a chiseled jawline, with a distinct scar on his chin.

The tall man tried to hide the wince when he strutted up to Leia and Lando. “I told you I'd come back, Your Worship. I have for six months. Wouldn't miss your old man's parties for anything.”

Lando was giving the man a strange look. “Who might you be?”

He gave him a half-grin. “Han Solo, sir.” He bowed before Leia. “Glad to see you again, Your Worship. Is your old man still trying to marry you off?”

Lando's smile became tighter. “I was dancing with her first.”

Then give the next guy a turn.” Han took Leia's hand and walked her to balcony that overlooked the garden.

The moment they got outside, Leia yanked her hand out of his. “What are you doing?”

Taking you out to spend time with a real man.” He sat down, still smirking. “Who was he, anyway? Looked like a jellyfish to me.”

Lando is a good man.” Leia glared at him. “You have no right to talk. You won't even tell me who you are and what you do.”

I'm Han Solo. Isn't that enough?”

She turned away. The sea roared, lapping against the sparkling beach. Twilight was falling. There would be a full moon tonight, a good, solid moon. A moon like that can make people do strange things. Old Maz, the lady who sold seashells and told fortunes by the beach, said that when the moon was full, the mer-creatures came out to play, to lure, to dance.

He looked out at the rising moon. “I came to say good-bye. This is my last night here. I have a friend I have to get back to.”

That got her attention. She swirled around, her velvet brown eyes surprised. “You're leaving? How will I find you? Will I ever see you again?”

He smiled at her, a big, playful grin. “Maybe in your dreams.”

Han had such beautiful eyes, large and hazel-green, with gold flecks. She just wished they weren't placed over that cocky smirk of his. “You can be so infuriating. I wouldn't dream about you if they gave me all the pearls in ever oyster in the entire Naboo Sea!”

So you say.” He slowly took her hands as a muffled waltz struck up in the ballroom. “Hey, Your Highnessness, wanna dance?”

He didn't give her a chance to reply. They slowly moved to the dreamy music. She leaned on his chest, her mind swirling in time with the song. Who was this man? There was something about him that didn't feel...normal. It was all such a mystery. She wanted to know more. He challenged her in a way that no man had before. She lay her head on his shoulder, wishing there was a way the song could last forever.

They were so caught up in the moment, they didn't even realize the music had ended, or that they were now in the ballroom. It wasn't until she heard applause that Leia knew there was anyone else around them and saw the crowd laughing and sighing. Han nudged her. “Looks like we won the door prize, Your Worship. Better take a bow.”

She rolled her eyes but did what he suggested, curtsying for the crowd with flourish. He gave the assembled guests a small, awkward bow and wave. He finally lead her away, back towards the patio looking out at the gardens and the beach. “Sure did the old fi...feet in. Sometimes, I forget I have these darn things.” He kept up the smile, but it was tight and unconvincing. “I really need to get to the beach, and I really need to talk to your dad.”

I could walk you there.”

Sorry, sweetheart, but this isn't a job for princesses.” He took her hand, rubbing it gently. His hazel eyes softened as they gazed intently into her warm brown ones.

She frowned. “Stop that.”

Stop what?”

Stop that. My hands are sweaty.”

So are mine.” He had both hands now, running his rough fingers over the delicate knuckles. “What are you afraid of?”

I'm not afraid of anything!” She looked away. “I'm a princess. I'm expected to marry someone noble and respectful. You act like a scoundrel.”

He lifted her chin to meet his own face. “Scoundrel? I like the sound of that.”

I don't! I...” She couldn't resist anymore. His soft, gruff voice was compelling and soothing. “I think there's something about you...when you talk...”

He ignored that. “You're trembling.”

I'm not trembling.” She moved in closer. “Ok, hotshot, I...”

She never finished her sentiment. They were about to kiss when she saw the moon out of the corner of her eyes. It was full and high and perfectly round and white, looking like she could reach out and touch it. The moment its light fell on them, Han let out a yell of pain.

Han?” She put her arms around him tightly. “Are you all right?”

No...yes...” He pushed her arms aside and stumbled to his feet. “I have to talk to your dad. It's important.”

She grabbed his arm. “Han, please. Stay. If your legs hurt, I could get the palace doctor to look at them.”

His eyes looked for all the world like he wanted to, was even considering it...but then she heard laughter. Big, booming laughter that floated out over the water like a cannon. “Thanks, but I can't. I have to get back to Chew...my friend.” He kissed her forehead and gently stroked her neck, then ducked away, pushing through the crowd.

She tried to follow him, but King Anakin blocked her way. “Where have you been?” He touched her neck. “What happened to your pearl necklace? The one your mother and I gave you for your last birthday?”

Leia's fingers went to her now-bare neck. “I don't know. The clasp must have broken.” She was already making her way towards the front entrance. “Father, the man who ran through, his name is Han Solo. I need to talk to him.”

So do we.” His face looked grave. “We have reason to believe he's a thief. Valuables have gone missing from the palace for the last three nights. Several of our guests have complained about jewelry and cufflinks and purses being stolen. We thought they were lost, but someone saw him taking the silver spoons from the table and stuffing them in his bag.”

Father, perhaps he's poor. He may have a family he needs to sell that for.”

That's no excuse. He broke the law. Not to mention, half the nobles in the kingdom no longer think we're trustworthy because we allowed a thief to take whatever he wants for months on end.”

His daughter gave him her most innocent smile. “I could help you, Father. I know these grounds as well as your men, maybe better. I could figure out where he went.”

Anakin was already directing her towards the hall that lead to the bedrooms. “Oh no. You're going to tell your guests that you aren't feeling well, then go to your room. We'll discuss this in the morning.”

She yanked her arm away...but then gave him an exaggerated sigh. “Very well, Father. I am feeling a bit sleepy.”

Good.” He gently put a hand on her shoulder. “Leia, this is for your own good. You'll find a better man than a criminal.”

She curtsied before him. “Yes, Father.” She started towards the hall...but the moment he turned to his men, she darted in the opposite direction. She had to find out what happened to Han. Why did he run from her? Why was he stealing? Who was his mysterious employer?

As she stepped onto the staircase that descended into the front garden, she saw the top of a reddish-brown head limping towards the shoreline. She followed him, taking off her dance slippers for easier traction in the grainy sand. The trailing tulle skirts of her white ball gown tripped her up as she hurried along.

Han stood on the edge of the beach. Leia hid behind a beach plum bush, watching as the largest, ugliest creature she'd ever seen waddle out of the waves. Rolls and rolls of fat sloshed over slimy, wrinkled mud-brown skin and large yellow eyes. It didn't have legs, though it did have a thick cigar of a tail. A long chain of gold links dangled in its stout fingers. It looked like an enormous version of the slugs Leia often saw in Father's garden.

Jabba, I have the goods.” Han held out the purse to the slug-like monster. “I brought you what you asked for. Now, about giving me an immortal soul and releasing my best friend...”

The creature inspected every piece of jewelry and every spoon in the bag, including her pearl necklace. “Very good. Very nice merchandise, Solo. Very good quality. However, there's one treasure missing. Where's the girl?”

Han shook his head. “No girl. The jewels should be more than enough to pay off my debts and free Chewie.”

Jabba poked a sausage-like finger at him. “Why do you think I let you keep your voice while you were on land? You were supposed to bring the girl to the water and drown her. I must have King Anakin's daughter's immortal soul. I already have her brother's.”

Han wobbled away from the water that lapped at his feet. His knees shook. The moon was just about at its full height. “I'm not killing her. Not now.” He looked at his booted feet. “I can't hurt her.”

Jabba's hoots boomed over the waves. “You love her. You fell in love with a human.”

The auburn-haired man glared at him. Leia's breath caught in her throat. “So what?”

The slug-thing kept hooting. “You're no more human than I am. You're just a petty sea-crook. You can't even walk on land without feeling like you're running on sharp knives.”

Han gave him his infamous lazy grin. “Now, Jabba, that hurt. If you give me one more chance with Her Worship, I'll forget you even said it.”

Nothing doing, Solo.” He started towards Han with the chain. “You told me you'd get the girl, and you didn't. I can't give you an immortal soul if you didn't earn it.”

Jabba, I'll pay you triple, just as soon as I get back to the castle! You're throwing away a fortune!” Han was caught between the slug and the water. Jabba's fat hand shot out, shoving him head over heels into the moonlit sea.

No!” Leia burst out of her hiding place. “Don't touch him, you piece of overgrown lard!” She reached for a sharp piece of driftwood.

The moonlight wreathed around the lower half of Han's body as he tried to get on his elbows. “Leia, run! Tell...your dad...Jabba will...” His vocal chords stiffened, and his throat became raw. “He...wants...to...” Slender legs melted together, forming a long navy fish tail ringed with red stripes. A white light emerged from his mouth, flowing into a lavender shell in the slug's hand.

Leia's eyes widened. “Han?” She staggered into the water. His hand reached for her hand, putting it against her smaller one. Was he so different, now? Part of him was still like her. “You didn't want me to know you're a merman.” He shook his head.

Jabba moved far faster in the sea than he did on land. He was easily able to block Han from the shocked princess. “Ahh, the fairest sea-flower in all the coastal kingdoms has come for her precious lover. As you can see, you're too late.”

Leia glared at him, drawing the sharp piece of driftwood up to his chest. “I order you to release him at once!”

Jabba chuckled the girl's chin. She shoved his hand away. “Feisty and gorgeous. No wonder Solo was so determined to protect you.”

Leia raised her chin in the most royal manner she could manage. “I can protect myself, thank you.”

The sea slug was not expecting this short human girl to stab him in the arm with her very sharp stick. Nor could he have predicted Han biting hard on the tip of his tail. The merman immediately regretted that. Jabba tasted like the old rubber shoes he sometimes found in garbage heaps near the surface. Leia had to stifle her giggles at his sour expression.

The moment the slug started nursing his sore tail, Han grabbed Leia's hand and propelled her across the water, towards the sheltered cove on the edge of the Naboo peninsula. “Han,” she gasped as they swam at a blistering pace, “Old Maz lives near the cove. She might be able to make you human again.” He nodded, giving her a far gentler and more genuine smile than his flirty smirks at the ball.

They were half-way to the cove when Leia heard the laughter again. Han nudged at her, trying to move her along. “I can't swim any faster!” Her lungs were burning and her legs were cramping as it was. “I don't have the tail for it!”

His strong arm wrapped around her waist. Han gave her another genuine, soft smile as he sped easily over the waves. Somewhere in Leia's bosom, her heart turned into mush.

The cove was one of her favorite places. It was hidden at the edge of Theed Town by the sand dunes and tall grasses that had been planted to prevent erosion. She and Luke used to explore the cove when they were younger. She knew every rock and beach plum bush and cave.

She was breathing heavily when they finally floated to the nearest rock. Han lifted her onto the rough granite as easily as if she were a child, then pulled himself onto the rock next to her. “Thank you.” She smiled as he kissed her hand. “Turning into a merman seems to have improved your manners.”

Her palm ran down his tail. It was beautiful, smooth as a piece of sea glass on the beach. His fin was gossamer red that glimmered like rubies. “I can't believe this is real. You're really a merman.” He grinned mischievously and splashed a little water on her with his tail to prove it was real. She laughed. “Oh, so you want to play?” She splashed him back. They continued their little water war for the next few minutes, until they were out of breath and Leia was laughing so hard, tears ran down her cheeks.

Han was fascinated by her tears. He trailed his fingers down their tracks, even licked one finger to see what they tasted like. “What? Haven't you ever seen someone cry before?” He shook his head. “Why won't you talk to me? You haven't said a word since you turn...since it happened.” She realized, even as she spoke, that he didn't need to. His soft hazel eyes told her everything. “Han,” she whispered as he pulled her closer, still holding her head, “I...”

Black starlight shot between them, just as they were about to kiss. The dusty black mass threw Leia hard into the rock and Han back into the waters of the cove. Pain exploded in her temple as her head met the jagged stone.

She managed to get on her elbow long enough to see Han surrounded by five mermen with silvery shark-like tails, pointing tridents at him. Each had chains looped under their arms. The merman tried to bite Jabba again, but one of the guards shoved a length of sail cloth in his mouth. The remaining shark-men threw chains around Han's arms, wrists, and chest. “No,” she panted, “he's not your servant!”

That's where you're wrong, Little Beauty.” The defeated look on Han's face as Jabba snapped the leash on his collar broke Leia's heart. “He belongs to me. Soon, so will you.” The round yellow eyes roamed up...and around...her, resting on her considerable bust line. “You'll look lovely in nothing but seashells.”

You can stop using me for a model right now.” She rubbed her head. “I'm not going with you, and Han isn't, either.”

Come to the wreck of the SS Alderaan, ten miles off the coast of Naboo, if you want to see him again.”

Leia ignored Han shaking his head. “I'll come,” she puffed. “I won't leave him.”


We shall see.” Jabba shot another blast of black magic in her direction. The last thing Leia saw was the forlorn expression on the merman's face before she finally passed out. 

Princess Leia and the Merman, Part 2

Han was hauled like a crate of cargo to the underwater cart owned by Boba Fett, Jabba's most feared lieutenant. It was he who ensnared Han and his spotted dogfish partner Chewbacca while they were trying to flee to the Alderaan Reefs. Chewie was being held at Jabba's ship palace as extra incentive for his friend to do the fat sea slug's bidding.

If he still had legs, he'd be kicking himself with them. He had to break out and find Leia. If he could warn her somehow without talking to her, she could warn her father. The king would come and smack Jabba's wrinkly rear, and he could go back to his old life.

If I want to now. Scrounging through old shipwrecks, singing to lure innocent humans to their deaths, doing the dirty work for monsters like Jabba...what kind of life was that? He'd enjoyed being on land, walking on two feet, mingling with the humans. Being part of their world. Leia and her family had treated him with nothing but kindness. They gave him food and drink and seemed to respect him...or at least they had, until they figured out he was just some mer-ruffian. If he could just get back on land, he'd make it up to them somehow. He'd never lure another human to their death ever again.

Two of Jabba's tiger shark guards shoved him into what had once been the ship's brig. Jabba had refitted it into a dungeon for holding prisoners and the occasional mermaid being ransomed for her father's wealth. Small, barred portholes shut out what little light penetrated the deep waters. The room was empty except for a warped wooden bunk and grimy chains.

Han thought he was alone...but then, he heard the snuffle. Two wide spot-covered fins reached out and hugged him so tightly, he gasped for breath for a moment. Chewie! The brown and cream-spotted dogfish nudged and patted him playfully. I missed you too, buddy.

He looked up as a mermaid swam to the bars, carrying a tarnished brass plate of plankton and seaweed. “Here's your dinner,” she croaked. She wasn't exactly what you would call a blushing sea anemone. Her fin looked like a great white shark took a bite out of it; her reddish black tail was rusty. She had pasty skin and black eyes that were little more than craters in a white sea. The keys to the brig dangled on a belt on her waist, just out of reach.

The hungry merman managed to crack open a few plankton before Chewie ate the rest of their meal in one gulp and whimpered that he wanted more. Dogfish ate a lot. Jabba hadn't been feeding him nearly enough to keep his belly from grumbling.

Han patted his friend on the back, then gave the mermaid one of his toothy grins that sent the heart of every female in the Naboo Sea racing. She ignored him. He winked at her. She didn't even turn around. He slowly stretched his long arms and tail across the floor, letting his red fin “accidentally” brush her black one. She slapped his tail away. He pulled the sea glass ring off his hair and put it on her wrist. It would make such a nice bracelet! She threw it in his face.

Ok. Time for Plan B. The moment she turned away, he tried to reach for the ring of keys around her waist. Whenever she turned back around, he'd yank his hand in and look as innocent as possible.

The moment Boba Fett popped his head in, he managed to get the keys off her waist. He slid one key into the hole. No click. The second went in less easily. Still no click. Chewie growled in the background to hurry. Fett and his mermaid friend would be coming back any minute.

It was just his luck that they returned the moment he heard that tell-tale “click.” Fett came at him with his gun-like mechanical trident, only to be met by Han grabbing at his helmet. Chewie swished his tail as hard as he could, knocking the mermaid into Fett.

The dogfish and the merman sped down the hall, trying to make his way to the nearest open window. Chewie found the huge porthole at the tail end of the ship. He was just able to sprint through it. Han could see the light at the end of the passage. He'd make it! He'd see Leia again! He'd be able to warn King Anakin about Jabba! He'd...

His tail never made it out of the porthole. A pair of powerful shark jaws bit into his fin and yanked him back. Boba Fett, surrounded by two very ugly shark men, thrust their rock crystal tridents in his face. The featureless shark man threw the chain leash back on Han's collar and clapped his wrists in irons.

Jabba reclined in an enormous golden chair, among the treasures that came with the wreck. The sea slug chose to live in the deteriorating vessel because, for all its warping wood and tarnished trim, what remained was still quite intimidating.

Solo,” he hooted as Fett and the mermaid shoved Han into the throne room, “what have you done this time?”

He flirted with me, or tried to.” The mermaid's croak dripped with contempt. “Bribed me, too.”

Fett tugged harder at the chain. “The dogfish got away, but we snatched Solo before he made it out.”

Jabba snorted. “Forget the dogfish.” The corpulent slug waved them away. “Leave us. I can deal with my slaves.”

Fett handed him the leash and bowed before him, then left with the mermaid. Jabba yanked hard at the chain, forcing Han to the floor on his hands and tail. “Even without your voice, you think you can bring all the little mermaids swimming into your hands with your charm and good looks.” He attached the chain to the side of his throne, then glided to a shelf behind it. The captive merman tried to pry the collar off his neck while Jabba went through the glass bottles, looking for just the right potion.

For you see, Jabba was a wicked sea warlock. He mixed nasty potions and evil-smelling drugs to keep his minions helpless and make his rivals and those who displeased him conveniently die, disappear, or change their appearance in such a way that they'd go mad from looking at themselves. His shipwreck palace was filled with traps and mazes that could ensnare even the most innocent of merfolk.

Ahh, here it is!” He brought a sickly green bottle as the bound merman tried to draw back. “Let's see how many mermaids you'll attract when you're too ugly to look at.” Thick, stubby fingers wrapped around Han's cheeks, forcing his lips open. Dark green liquid gushed into his throat.

Jabba's booming guffaws filled the air as the merman choked and reared back...and the shadow of a monster replaced him. The rotund warlock stroked the Beast's jagged skin, whispering to it. “Calm yourself. When the girl comes, you'll be ready.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

When Leia awoke, the sun was just starting to peek over the hills behind the castle. Her head still ached, and her limbs were stiff and sore. She forced herself to her feet. Maz. Maz would know what to do. The elderly beachcomber knew everything about the sea and the supernatural beings who were said to live there. She was the one who used to tell stories of merfolk and monsters to Leia and Luke when they were children.

It was said that Maz was a sea witch and a seer. She could see in the future, transform herself into anything. She knew everything that went on in Naboo and in the waters below it. According to the rumors, her potions and magical shells could stop the very tides, calm a storm at sea...or allow a human to breathe underwater.

Maz lived on the outskirts of Naboo, in a shack nestled between dunes. The elderly woman had a small store in town where she told fortunes and sold jewelry and intricate boxes and bags made from shells, quartz, and sea glass. Thankfully, she was at home today. Leia could see her bustling around in her one room, stringing quartz beads together for earrings.

Maz?” Her small knuckles pounded on the intricate door, probably taken from a shipwreck. “Maz, please, it's Leia. I need your help! It's a matter of life or death!”

The door opened, and Leia found herself staring into a pair of owlish dark eyes, blinking under enormous round spectacles. “Well, child, come in!” The elderly woman shooed her inside. “There's no need to disrupt the neighborhood. You're lucky I always get up before dawn.”

Maz moved aside two cartons of wire and string and shells from a battered old chair. “You can't stay here long.” The old woman was quite spry for her age, moving easily from her work bench to a wide shelf made from driftwood. “Princess Leia of Naboo, what were you thinking, running off like that?”

I was following someone,” Leia said obstinately. “He's the reason I'm here. Maz, those stories...the ones about the mermaids and the underwater witches and warlocks...”

Maz put up a tiny, wrinkled red hand. “Say no more. I know. You fell in love with the merman who stole the jewels from your father's guests. There's men searching all over the kingdom for both of you.”

I'll go back to Father and tell him everything,” Leia explained. “But first, I have to get Han back.”

The older witch flung open the top of a heavy trunk. “You do know the risk involved,” said a disembodied voice from inside the wooden box. Maz leaned so far in, she looked like the trunk was trying to eat her.

I know Han Solo well. He's a merman, to be more specific, a male siren, and a scavenger. He lures ships to their doom, then scavenges the contents and sells them to wealthy sea magicians like Jabba. He ran from his boss after losing one of his shipments. Jabba hates it when merfolk double-cross him.” Her sprightly voice darkened. “I've seen the visions. Jabba is a strong black magic warlock. He cast a nasty spell on Solo. He's not the merman you knew at the ball.”

I have to find him, Maz.” She leaned over the trunk. “Jabba was treating him like a dog on a leash. Naboo outlawed slavery almost a century ago for a reason.”

Ocean dwellers don't fall under your father's jurisdiction.” Maz finally popped out from the trunk, holding a necklace made of quartz beads and three small spiral seashells. Leia could see, even with the morning sun shining against them, that they each glowed faintly, one pink, one sea-green, and one blue. “This will allow you to breathe underwater for twenty-four hours, starting the moment you dive in. You have to be out before the light in the last shell fades, otherwise you'll die. Your human lungs aren't equipped to be in the ocean for long.”

Thank you, Maz.” Leia pulled the trinket around her neck.

The older woman rubbed the bracelet, softly chanting in an ancient language Leia didn't recognize. “Jabba is a warlock. His powers are not unlike mine, but far darker. He creates violent storms that wreck wealthy boats on his reefs. His merfolk salvage the treasures on board and lure the survivors to their deaths.” Maz nodded towards the reefs. “He needs human souls. His magic feeds on them...and your family has some of the strongest souls on land. He wants to get on land himself. The stronger the souls, the stronger his magic will be.”

The princess' brown eyes lit with angry fire. “Luke's ship...Jabba did it. He created that storm. It was out of nowhere.” Her slender fingers gripped the necklace tightly. “He killed my brother and his crew.”

A small red hand took Leia's before she could leave. “One more thing. Beware of the maze. Jabba sends his enemies into it, and even some of his friends, to search for their heart's desire. There's monsters there that will tear you to ribbons. Traps that can suck out your blood in an instant. No one who goes in ever comes out.”

Then I guess I'll be the first.” She gave Maz a small hug. “Thanks again. I owe you at least two days worth of shopping at your store.”

Remember,” Maz called over her shoulder as the girl headed across the dunes, “see with your heart, not your eyes! Don't let the magic trick you!”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Baron Lando Calarissian saw Leia hiking to the docks in her stocking feet. The poor girl looked like she'd been wrung out. Her white and blue ball gown was ripped and wrinkled. One of her hair buns had come out entirely. The porcelain cheeks were streaked with sand, and sand and salt coated her arms and legs. A pair of once-white satin dancing pumps dangled from her cramped fingers.

Leia!” He hurried over to her the moment she strode onto the docks. He'd traded his fine cape and suit for a simpler white and navy sailor's outfit. “Where have you been? Half the island out looking for you and that thief.”

Han's not a thief!” Lando stepped back at her vehement tone. “He's in trouble. I have to save him.”

Not in the state you're in, Your Highness.” Lando linked his arm with hers. “Why don't you come to my yacht, The Lady Luck? I'll give you something to drink, and then we can just take you back to your father...”

I'm not going back to Father. Not right now.” She crossed her arms. “I want to borrow your boat.”

Lando gave her his most charming grin. “It's all yours, my lady. Whatever you wish, it'll be granted.”

Take me to the reefs ten miles off Naboo. The one where the SS Alderaan went down.”

The charming grin fell quickly. “What? That's a ship graveyard! Those reefs tear out the bottom of your boat before you have the chance to say 'men overboard!'”

I have to go there.” She was already striding past him, down the dock. “A warlock is holding Han in one of the wrecks. I think he's the one who created those strange storms that have been sinking ships, including my brother's.”

Warlocks?” Lando had to rush to catch up with her. “Your Highness, I don't want you to get hurt. Going into the ships' graveyard is suicide. Besides, warlocks are fairy tales.”

The young woman turned towards the nearest boat. “If you won't help me, I'll find someone who will.”

The Baron sighed. “All right. I can't let you go running off on some leaky tub. Your father would cut out my spleen, or worse. I'll take you there...but after I do, I'm going to tell your father what's going on.”

She nodded. “Please do. I want Father to know what's going on. Tell him about the ships and the storms. Tell him I know what happened to my brother.”

But in the meantime,” Lando offered her his arm, “shall we?”


Though her smile didn't quite reach her eyes, she did take his arm. “Of course.”