Monday, November 27, 2017

Upcoming Works

This is a list of stories I'm working on, hope to work on soon, and am developing ideas for. Keep in mind that this list can and will change depending on what I'm interested in at any given time and what else is going on in my life.

Currently Working On:

Star Wars Sequel Trilogy

Babes In Toyland (Alternative Universe - 1980's/Fantasy) - 8-year-old Barbara Beatrix "BB" Dameron (never call her Babs!) loves visiting her brother Poe where he works at Skywalker's Department Store. He's worried that the store may shut down if Leia Walker-Solo, it's owner, is pressured by nasty Alexander Snoke, who owns the First Order Mall. After meeting her brother's friends Rose, Finn, and Rey, Henry the security officer and his big dog Chewbacca, and the kindly old man who manages the toy department, she falls asleep and dreams that she's in Toyland, where nursery rhyme characters come to life. Leia Hubbard may be thrown out of her shoe by mean old Barnaby Snoke unless BB and all her new fairy tale friends can bring the tin soldiers to life to stop him!

Coming Up Next:

Star Wars Sequel Trilogy

Fairy and Folk Tales

Molly Whuppie (Brave Molly)


Resistance Kids: The Last Good Cop (Alternative Universe - 1950's) - Rey is the first student at Luke's new police school, but he's wondering if he should give up teaching after the destruction of his previous school. Meanwhile, the First Order Gang is back on the street, including Ben Solo, and they're gunning for blood...and for Finn to rejoin them. Then Poe's beloved sports car blows to bits in front of his eyes, and Hank vanishes and his business is ransacked.

Star Wars Original Trilogy


Original Snow Queen-Inspired Action/Fantasy - Set in the three years between New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, and my first story set within the regular Star Wars universe. Han, Chewie, Leia, and Luke are on a diplomatic mission to buy supplies from a snow planet that's remained neutral in the battle between the Empire and Rebellion. Leia's hoping to sway them to the Alliance's side. Unlike Hoth, this planet is inhabited, mainly by criminals and nasty goblins. It's queen is a shrewd magician with her own ice-based powers. The goblins, determined to make mischief, get slivers of a Force-sensitive crystal in Luke's eyes and heart. It turns him into the opposite of his usual self...making him cold and distant to his two best friends. Leia, Han, and Chewie have to dodge the planet's shadier citizens and a summer witch with her own plans in order to free Luke from the goblins' spell and find out just what the Snow Queen is up to.

Tales of the Gold Wookie (Alternative Universe 1930's Adventure) - It's 1939. Layla and Luke Skylark are fresh out of the University of Arizona and ready to change the world. She's an archaeologist; he's a reporter. While Luke is content to be an intern for world-weary veteran crime reporter Benton Kennally, Layla is far more ambitious. She wants to find lost treasures for her idol, museum owner Marta Mothma. Her current obsession is rescuing the (reportedly magical) lost royal jewels of the Kingdom of Alderaan from nasty General Tarkin and the Empire.

Luke convinces her to hire Harry Solomon, a pilot with a dilapidated plane who runs his own charter service, to take them to where the treasures were last seen. Layla's not happy with the idea at first. Harry is rude, arrogant, and only cares about getting his share of the treasure. Not to mention, some of his former bosses make Tarkin look like a kitten. Tarkin has his own formidable underling, the corrupt industrialist Derek Vader. After Kennally gets into trouble with Vader, Luke insists on bringing along venerable old Asian archaeology professor Takamashi Yoda as their guide.

Fairy and Folk Tales

Robin Hood

Remember WENN


Once Upon a Time In the Land of WENN (Alternative Universe Fantasy/Fairy Tale) - Even when Elizabeth and the others leave Port Harbor, looking for the Emerald Talisman, trouble follows. Lady Gloria Redmond has no desire to even discuss the magic that caused her so much grief. There's also the evil candy witch Pavla Nemcova, who has both Jeff Singer and Sir Victor Comstock in her grasp, to contend with.

In Development: 

Star Wars Original Trilogy


Dark Medieval Fantasy (Han/Leia based fantasy) - Inspired by this Tumblr post. Leia is in search of her missing brother Luke, who was in training to be a wizard before their parents were killed and he was kidnapped. He's not the only one who has disappeared. The queen is dying. Her greedy, power-hungry adviser Palapatine is taking over the throne. The queen once had a son, Prince Hannel, but he vanished and is presumed dead. It's rumored that Palapatine is really a dark sorcerer who worked some terrible enchantment on the missing prince.

Leia finds a man imprisoned in a dungeon in a remote corner of the kingdom. The bedraggled man with the auburn hair had once worn fine robes, but now has no idea who he is. All Leia knows is he's insufferably stubborn, an excellent shot with a bow and arrow, and is always accompanied by an enormous Wookie wolf. The two are eventually joined by an eccentric old wizard and a mysterious unicorn with sad blue eyes as they try to find out who the silent man is and avenge Leia's family. 

Superhero Story (Alternative Universe 1970's Superhero/Action Fantasy) - Leah O'Malley is an intern in corrupt Coruscant City by day in 1977. By night, she's Force Girl, a superheroine who is a member of the Rebel League, a society of superheroes and vigilantes who fight the regime of the evil Mayor Palapatine and the devious Chief of Police/super villain Derek Veder. Lucas Weston is a geeky college kid and major comics fan who discovers that the owner of a local book store/comics shop was once The Negotiator, a great World War II/Golden Era superhero...and that Lucas is the inheritor of a superheroic dynasty. Lucas seeks help from Harris Arietta, a carpenter and handyman whose dog Chewbacca always rides with him and acts as a Team Pet.

Fairy and Folk Tales

The Miller's Son and the Cat

Star Wars Sequel Trilogy


Hello Leia! (Alternative Universe - Musical-Inspired) - Leia Solo-Levi is the best-known matchmaker in New York City in 1907.  She's hired by her ex-husband Harold Solo to find a match for their son Benjamin, who can't make up his mind between the severe police chief's daughter and anarchic son of one of New York's richest men. What she wants is to re-marry her husband, but he has his eyes on a woman in town. Meanwhile, she engineers a meeting between Harold's clerks Poe and Finn and two cute girls in Manhattan, Rey and Rose. They all come together at Harmonia Gardens, the restaurant owned by Leia's brother Luke, for a most memorable evening. 

Fairy and Folk Tales

The Water of Life - Queen Leia, in mourning for her lost brother and her husband, who was kidnapped by a wicked wizard, is dying. She tells her son Prince Ben and her adopted children Hux and Poe that whichever of them finds Luke, who alone has the water that can restore her, will rule her lands when she passes on. Hux and Ben are determined to find the water first...but it's kind Poe who proves that a gentle heart and good nature can triumph over the strongest evil.

Remember WENN 


Captain Victor, Man of Power (Alternative Universe Superhero/Action) - Set directly after the first season episode "There But Before Grace." Tired of dealing with (and being run all over by) sponsors and confused about his feelings for Betty and Grace Cavendish, Victor Comstock imagines himself as one of those new superheroes that have become popular with the kids, Jeff as his sidekick, Betty as the new girl reporter on the block, C.J as a scientist, Ceila as the daughter of a missing scientist and Victor's other sidekick, Hilary as a snooty actress-turned-society-reporter, Mackie as their boss, and Grace as a Dragon Lady-type villaness.

The Best Radio Christmas Pageant Ever - A kind of "missing scene" story set during the early first season. Victor wants to present the story of the Nativity on the airwaves, but the kids starring in the show are unruly, Hilary wants a bigger role, the sponsor is turning the show into a commercial, and Ceila will have nothing to do with it. And there's reports of a major snowstorm heading for Pittsburgh...

On the Edge of the Precipice Series

The Fox and the Falcon - Betty finds herself head over heels involved in espionage when the true leader of the spy ring becomes known...and Victor Comstock returns with startling news...

Remember WENN Fairy Tale Series

Hilary's Story: Beauty and the Beast - Wrap-around segments set day after fourth-season episode "You've Met Your Match." Story based around third and fourth season. Angry at Scott and Jeff for their behavior the night before and in the past few months in general, Betty and Hilary concoct the story of two sisters who discover that the beastly owner and manager of a dilapidated theater may not be what they appear on the outside...or even inside...

Mr. Eldridge and Gertie's Story: The Man Who Minded the House - Set after and based around the fourth season episode "Work Shift." Mr. Eldridge recalls the story of how a man and a woman (him and Gertie) learn that the grass isn't always greener in someone else's work area when he takes over her household duties and she works in the fields.

Story Ideas: 

Star Wars Prequel Trilogy


The Road to Coruscant (Mid 20th Century Alternative Universe) - Ben Kenobi and Anakin Walker are singers taking their vaudeville act on the road. Anakin is forever coming up with moneymaking schemes that get them into a few little problems with the law, to the annoyance of Martin Windu, their long-suffering manager. They have no problems romancing the ladies, either...until they encounter beautiful, elegant dancer Patricia Amidala. Patricia, a genuine noblewoman, is in a heap of trouble with the nasty Count Dooku and Lord Palpatine. Anakin says it's up to them to get her out of it. Ben...wishes they could just go home to Los Angeles, but Anakin is his best friend, so he does it anyway.

Fairy and Folk Tales

Swan Lake

Star Wars Original Trilogy

Han Solo, Galactic Private Eye (Alternative Universe) - Han is a laid-back private eye in his dilapidated ship, with his wookie partner Chewbacca by his side. Old Ben Kenobi, who sometimes gives him work, finds him a doozy - help his friend Luke Skywalker find Leia Organa, the daughter of a prince, who was carrying some very vital information to Alderaan when she was kidnapped by a nasty war lord. (Haven't decided if this one is going to stay in the Star Wars universe, or be moved elsewhere.)

Western (Alternative Universe Western Adventure) - It's 1867 in the untamed plains of Coruscant, Idaho. Former homesteader Luke Walters longs to be a sheriff, like his late daddy Anthony was before him. He may get his chance at an apprenticeship when the current sheriff, Ol' Ben MacKenner, deputizes him to help rescue rancher's daughter Leia Ortez from the bandits who have raided and burned her home. They also get more dubious assistance from Harry Solo, a shady gunrunner, and his partner, Native American warrior Chewbacca.

The Music Han

Star Wars Sequel Trilogy


The Wizard of Oz (Alternative Universe Fantasy-Wizard of Oz-inspired) - Rachel "Rey" Gale lives with her Aunt Leah and Uncle Harry and their two farmhands on a farm outside of Jakkuson, Kansas in 1939. She feels like her life is as gray as the world around her, especially after the nasty man who runs the First Order Manor near-by threatens to take her beloved Westie Terrier BeeBee to the pound and her grouchy cousin demands his share of the farm. A tornado whisks Rey and BeeBee over the rainbow and into the land of Oz. Oz is under the tyrannical rule of the Warlock of the West and his apprentice. Queen Leia was imprisoned in her own magic bubble and banished to the lands of the South, where she amasses an army to stop him. She once ruled with her husband and her wizard brother, but her husband vanished after he was attacked by her son, and her brother is hiding in the Emerald City. Rey has to go to the Emerald City to find the Wizard Skywalker, with the help of a cowardly lion-soldier, a scarecrow who had once worked for the queen, and the Tin Smuggler, who seems to know a lot more about the queen and the Warlock of the West and his apprentice than he'll let on...

Remember WENN

Maltese Falcon Film Noir Spoof II (Alternative Universe Film Noir/Mystery) - Wrap-around set during the late third or early fourth seasons. Hilary and Scott give two different sides of the tale of a dame who may or may not have gotten a private eye involved with smuggling and murder.

Ceila Short Story - Missing scene set during the first season episode "A Capitol Idea." Ceila says good-bye to the station after she's hired by the guy who wanted her to promote Blondie cartoons.

Fairy Tale Series

Jeff's Story - Aladdin and His Magic Lamp
C.J's Story - Jack and the Beanstalk
Victor's Story - King Arthur
Ceila's Story - Goldielocks and the Three Bears
Mackie's Story
Eugenia and Mr. Foley's Story

Original Children's Short Stories

Stories based after childhood memories, including:

Painting someone else's fence.
Little kids running through other people's yards when Mom and Dad aren't looking.
Beach frolics - walking home from the beach.

Introduction - Beauties and the Frogs

This was originally intended to be two fanfics. I'd noticed that there seemed to be no Beauty and the Beast-type stories online written around the one Star Wars couple the fairy tale would, in fact, have suited - Han Solo and Princess Leia. I also wanted to do The Frog Prince for Finn and Rey. When I realized how similar the two stories are, I brought them together for my second Sequel Trilogy-based fantasy novella.

And then I thought...why not bring along other characters? I'd been wanting to do more with some of the other Resistance members, like Snap and Jess, as well as Hux and Mitaka of the First Order. (Incidentally, I believe that the First Order members are villains, and are supposed to be villains in the movies. They will be played as such here, including Kylo Ren.)

Which is why Queen Leia now has a trio of adopted daughters who join her in solving the mystery of Deckard Manor and it's amphibian inhabitants who look like frogs..but walk and think like men.

Beauties and the Frogs, Part 1

Beauties and the Frogs
Rating: PG (fantasy violence)
Pairings: Han/Leia, Finn/Rey, Poe/Rose, Snap/Kaydel
Disclaimer: The franchise belongs to George Lucas and the Walt Disney Company. I just got back into this fandom after more than a decade away and decided I wanted to play, too.

Once upon a time, King Han Solo and his adored Queen Leia ruled in a shining palace in the Kingdom of Alderaan, which had been Leia's ancestral home for generations. Leia's brother Sir Luke of the Skywalkers was a wizard-knight, the member of their royal Jedi Guards, who kept the kingdom safe from foreign invaders. Their only unhappiness was the loss of their son, Prince Benjamin. The young man had run away from Millennium Palace one cold, cruel night, leaving his training with his uncle without so much as a word to anyone.

The King, Queen, and knight sent out many search parties, seeking the boy here and there, in every nook and cranny. He could not be found. The young man had simply vanished into thin air, without leaving a trace. The strong-willed queen and her loyal husband never gave up hope that her son would return to her, even as others believed him to be dead, or fallen to evil magic.

A few years later, Alderaan fell under attack by vicious invaders from the north. The First Order Clan had risen out of the ashes of the old Kingdom of the Empire, with armies that were stronger and more vicious than their predecessors. It was said that their leader, the ancient warlock King Snoke, was no less than the devil himself, and that his army was composed of children and young people cruelly snatched from their homes and transformed into mindless beasts.

Sir Luke and his Jedi Guards valiantly fought these vicious invaders, but they were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. Luke's powers, strong though they were, were not enough to defeat Snoke and his vicious black-garbed hoard, the Knights of Ren. Kylo Ren was the most cruel of all Snoke's knights, cutting the guilty and the innocent to the ground without mercy.

King Han declared that he and his manservant Chewbacca would seek help in the other kingdoms to drive away this new menace. The day he left, he kissed his wife's brow as they stood together on the marble steps of the Millennium Palace. “I'll be back as soon as I can, with more guards to aid Luke, including magic-users.”

Leia pulled him closer, snuggling into his warm chest one last time. “I love you, my dear sheep herder.” She ran her fingers through his shaggy mane of silver-white hair. Her adored husband was still an attractive man, with a ruggedly tanned face and noble chin slashed by a jagged scar. His hazel eyes, with their gold flecks, always seemed to twinkle with mischief.

Han kissed her tenderly. “I know.” Chewbacca finally had to drag his master from his wife's arms and onto their fine steeds, Falcon and Malla. Leia watched her beloved Han ride into the woods for as long as he was visible.

It took Han years of persuasion, coaxing, and searching to find kingdoms willing to send armies that would ride against the First Order Clan. Few wished to gain the enmity of the wicked Snoke and his terrible black magic. The former monarch finally gathered three fine princes from outlying kingdoms who would lead their armies to victory.

This will be a wonderful adventure!” Prince Temmin of the Wexley prairies, often called “Snap” by his close friends and family, announced. He was a plump, merry lad, with a soft brown beard and round countenance that belay his vast strength and witty nature.

Prince Poe of the tiny jungle Kingdom of Yavin nodded. “My parents were friends and allies of Alderaan for many years. We may not have the resources of the larger kingdoms, but we're willing to stand up to those who threaten us.” Poe may have been smaller in stature, but he was strong and handsome, with tousled sable curls and flashing brown eyes that won him as many admirers as his outspoken nature.

Prince Finn of the cloudy mountain kingdom of Bespin blushed behind them. His uncle, King Lando, had been a good friend of King Han's in his younger years. The king was too old and frail to fight and sent his nephew in his stead. “I'm not sure I should have agreed to this,” the dark-skinned youth fretted. “Bespin was briefly part of the First Order Clan, before we learned that they destroy each kingdom they invade, burning the villages and poisoning the land until it lays fallow. I was a human member of their army, but I couldn't stand the killing and stealing. I would rather help people than hurt them.” Finn had a kind smile in a wide, open face, with soft eyes like hot cocoa.

You'll do fine, my boy.” Han patted his shoulder as their horses rode close. He had grown fond of all three young men during their journey, but Finn most of all had become as close as a son to him. “You'll find yourself a good sweetheart in our kingdom, and your uncle will send aid for us shortly after.”

Chewbacca, who towered over the others, threw his arms around the boy. “Me lad Lando, he no be raisin' bad children. Ye knew ye had to flee such madness. Ye have better hearts than any of the idiots who follow Snoke,” he growled beneath his thick, dark beard and mass of black hair braided with beads and pearls.

When will we arrive at the Millennium Palace?” Snap craned his thick neck, as if he could see around the many trees on their path.

Soon.” The king gave them the same lopsided grin that had sent many a female heart racing. “I've ridden home along this path for many a year. I know my way.”

But hours later, even he was becoming concerned. The path was becoming narrower, the shadows longer and deeper. The molten glow of a deep red sunset melded with the brilliant red and gold of the leaves on the trees overhead. Poe's beloved mount, a beautiful orange, black, and white painted pony, nuzzled his master's hand. “What is it, Bee Bee?”

Finn shuddered as the wind picked up, rustling the remaining crimson leaves. “Your Majesty, I feel darkness coming nearer and nearer. Terrible creatures live in these woods. If they find us, they'll take our lives, or worse.”

Enough.” The King stopped alongside Finn, next to a glassy lake by a decaying old mansion. “We'll give our horses a drink, then Chewie can take them to the stables at the mansion. Perhaps there's someone home who could give us shelter for the night.”

Chewbacca got close to his master. “I don' be likin' this, sir. That manor is fallin' apart. Besides, I be feelin' how Finn feels. I can smell them in the shadows, I can.”

Han pulled back as the sound of splintering trees and screeching howls reached their ears. The King drew a long arrow from the richly engraved quiver on his back. “Caution, my lads! Your weapons!”

Each quickly withdrew a sword from a scabbard on his hip. Finn had just reached for his blade when a black creature, garbed in white, leaped out from the trees. “Snoke's demon army!” He ducked away as a set of razor-sharp demon claws nearly took off his head. “They were once men, until Snoke and his dark magic got a hold of them. Now they're his mindless slaves, who do nothing but fight for him.”

The King shot as many demons as he could, but they kept coming, their hairy bodies dripping with saliva and sweat. “We have to get to the house.”

There were too many of them. For every demon the five attacked, four more took their place. The five men were outnumbered and overwhelmed. Even the King, long Alderaan's finest archer, couldn't pierce their thick hides. The demons finally surrounded them and grabbed their arms, relieving them of their swords and bows. The horses, frightened by these terrifying monsters, took off into the forest.

Snoke.” Han, his wrists bound with thick vines, lunged for the white figure of the black wizard strode into view. “You still look like a ghoul from the stories I read Benjamin as a child.” The evil dark wizard was all skin and bones, dead-white wrinkles and jagged red veins. His rusty velvet and silk robes hung off him like a shroud over his painfully thin frame. Sharp, bony fingers clutched a long cane with a single red crystal globe on the end.

Snoke managed to smirk. “Yet even at your age, you think you're the gallant prince.”

My wife still thinks so.” The King of Alderaan matched Snoke's villanous smirk with his lazy one. “At least I can walk into town without my face scaring children.”

We can change that, Father.” Han's almond-shaped eyes flicked up towards the long shadow of his missing son. The lanky young man had his mother's smoky brown eyes and father's strong chin and towering presence. His smirk, however, was bitter and malicious as his father's was laughing. He wore fine armor made of heavy black crystal that made him even more intimidating. “You were going to replace me. You brought these useless fools from the outlying kingdoms to take my rightful place on the throne!”

No, Ben!” Han's hazel eyes were pleading. “They're not replacements! We want you to come home. Your mother and uncle and I are worried sick about you!”

Home?” The young man snorted. “Home, where only Uncle Luke and his dusty books pay the slightest attention to me? Home, where my poor, scared uncle refuses to teach me the dark magic? Magic that could be faster and more powerful...”

And more harmful!” Han ground out. “You know why Luke didn't want to teach you that. Black magic kills people, son. It destroyed your mother's kingdom and your grandparents' lives and marriage.”

No, Father, you're wrong! You were always wrong. You never believed me. Never listened to me. Never paid attention to a single thing I did or said. Never loved me.” The three youths and the furry-bearded giant yelped angrily as the man in the black armor grabbed a handful of the king's silver hair and whipped his head back. “You'll pay for taking my throne from me! You and these silly idiots!”

Ben,” Han choked, “'re my son...”

My name,” the young man hissed, “is Kylo Ren.”

Snoke waved his crooked fingers over the blood-red stone on his cane, causing it to with an unearthly light. “Perhaps we can teach the former ruler of Alderaan a lesson in respect.”

Punish them!” Kylo Ren whined to Snoke petulantly. “Make them all pay for taking my kingdom from me!” He stomped on the ground like a spoiled child. “I want them to pay!”

Poe leaned over Snap with a small grin. “What a baby!” Snap snickered. Finn just nudged Poe, hoping his concerned look would encourage him to stop his witty rejoinders.

Kylo Ren slapped Poe hard across his tanned cheekbone, leaving a flaming red welt. “There! Perhaps you won't be so pretty to all the girls in the kingdoms now!”

Snoke stroked his narrow chin. “An excellent idea, my apprentice.” He lifted the king's chin with his crystal ball. “You're a striking, intelligent, and witty man, Your Majesty.” He drew the ball's light down the king's chin, letting it flow in circles on his throat. “But what if you weren't so handsome or brilliant? How would your dear wife feel about you then?”

She wouldn't care!” Han tried to shout. The princes and Chewbacca all stared at him in horror. His gruff voice had come out as a frog's scratchy croak, overlaid with human words. “What have you done to me?” Snoke's fingers trailed across his cheek, leaving his tanned skin covered in warts and slime.

You are no longer the ruler of this land, Solo. You will never return to your throne and your pretty little queen. My apprentice and I are far more suited to govern Alderaan than a former thief and smuggler.” The three princes all lunged at once, but a red light from Kylo Ren's own jagged sword, with its ruby ball on the hilt, froze them in their tracks. “First they will watch what I turn you into...and then, you'll watch what I'll do with them.”

No!” Han croaked, struggling as hard as he could. “Let my servant and the boys go!”

As the scarlet beams writhed around the horrified king, then the young men and the giant, their shrieks of anguish and pain were eventually replaced by the croaks of frogs and toads...and the shadow of a great hairy beast and four enormous green amphibians darting into the brush.

Beauties and the Frogs, Part 2

The King was gone for nearly a decade. Queen Leia continued to hold out against Snoke's siege alone. Her brother Luke mostly retreated to his tower rooms, his guards lost and magic spent. As time went on, the First Order Clan blocked the entrance to the kingdom, making it nearly impossible for supplies to enter or leave the country. As a result, the citizens found it harder and harder to get food, and for several years, the country was starving.

After two years of constant war, the First Order Clan finally began to let up on the blockades. They never removed them, but more and more supply carts were finding ways to get through. The damage, however, had been done. The country was in dire straits, with many people still without food. Villages had been burned in the fighting; families were separated. Orphanages were filled with children with no guardians to take care of them.

Lonely for their family and guilt-ridden over the loss of life in their country, Leia and Luke took in three girls from orphanages and raised them as their own daughters. Rey was small and feisty, with wavy chestnut hair and flashing hazel eyes that reminded Leia so much of Han. She was practical and had a fierce temper, but she could also be kind and nurturing. Jessika, with her exotic Asian looks and long silky black hair, was thoughtful and strong-willed. Pretty Kaydel, with her hair like flowing gold and big fawn eyes, possessed a keen wit and sweet temper that contrasted with Rey's stormier moods.

The girls swore that they would always be sisters and take care of each other and Mother Leia and Father Luke. With all of the servants but the old family retainers Clarence and Arthur having fled in the war or joined the services, the trio did much of the work in keeping up Millennium Palace themselves. Luke, who loved mechanics, taught Jessika and Rey how to fix broken clocks and other machines. Rey helped Arthur tend to the gardens. Leia's roses gave way to fruit and vegetables, which proved to be hardier and more useful for food and to sell at market. Kaydel mended their clothing, helped their old cook Maz in the kitchen, and kept her sisters and guardians laughing with her jokes, funny remarks, and spirited dances.

One day in early March, eight years after Leia took the girls in, news came to the Palace of supply wagons that had managed to break through the blockades. Luke took it upon himself to ride to Coruscant City and inspect them. “I'll bring you each back a gift,” he insisted. “Something special.”

Tools!” exclaimed Jessika.

Ribbon trim for the dress I'm working on,” Kaydel added.

A new book to read.” Leia smiled at her brother. “I've gone through all the books in the library twice!”

Luke put an arm around Rey. He loved all of the girls, but she was his favorite. He was teaching her his white magic spells, hoping to someday train her to take over as head of the Jedi Guards. “What about you, my Rey of sunshine? Would you like a new spell book, or some new seeds, or perhaps a new dress?”

A rose.” Rey sighed. “Not only is it too early for roses, but we took out our rose bushes to plant the vegetable garden. They're my favorite flowers. I never saw them in the Jakku Home for Girls.”

He gave her a hug. “I'll bring you the most beautiful rose in the whole kingdom.” He gathered his sister and the other girls into his arms. “I'm going to miss my ladies. You'll be in my thoughts every step of the way.”

We'll miss you too, Father.” Rey gave Luke's whiskery chin a kiss.

He laughed, finally letting them go. “You'd better get along.” Leia helped him onto his old horse X-Wing. “It's getting dark. Please be careful, brother. Avoid the woods. I don't hold with the stories about evil spirits living there, but riders have been attacked by wolves.”

I will.” The quartet of women waved at the gray-bearded man in the sober dark robes until he disappeared from sight.

A few weeks later, Rey was taking a basket of cabbages to the kitchen when she noticed Leia admiring the portrait of the handsome man with a golden crown over his thick silver locks and boy with the big ears and dark hair in the main hall. The man held the boy's hand and gave him such a fond look, he could only be the child's father or guardian. “Mother,” Rey began, “who are the people in that picture? Every time you pass it, you look like you're going to cry.”

The man is my husband, Han. The boy was my son Benjamin.” Leia blinked back the tears that threatened to wash over her large brown eyes. “Han traveled to other neighboring kingdoms to gain their aid in pushing back Snoke. He vanished after leaving Bespin. That was ten years ago tomorrow. Ben...he ran away from home, more than fifteen years ago. I haven't seen either of them since.” Leia ran her hand over the rough canvas, as if she could step into the painting and hold her beloved Han one more time, or kiss her little son on the cheek.

Rey put her basket aside and threw her arms around Leia. “I'm so sorry, Mother. You must miss them terribly.” She hated to see the sorrow on her mother's still-beautiful face, with its full crimson lips and soft white skin. Her long gray hair was wound into a heavy plait bound around her head like a crown.

I do. More than anything.” Leia's eyes strayed to the bright hazel ones on the silver-haired king. “I was told that Han was killed by brigands on the road, but I know that can't be true. He's alive. I can feel it.”

Jessika and I could look for him and Ben and bring them home,” Rey insisted.

No, Rey.” Leia patted her hand. “I need all three of you tomorrow. We're having an audience in the main parlor with King Snoke of the First Order Clan. He says he wants to talk to me about making a treaty that would end the blockades for good. You and Jessika will have to wash your faces, and I want you all to wear your good clothes.”

That old crone?” Rey wrinkled her nose. “I'd rather have a party for my cabbages.”

A smile played on Leia's lips. “I agree that it would be far more interesting than listening to him drone on about how wonderful his soldiers and wars are. However, we need to remove those blockades. Many of our citizens, especially in the outlying villages, are in desperate need of food. He specifically requested meeting the three of you as well. Something about a surprise for the four of us.”

I can only imagine what his idea of a surprise is!” Rey gathered her basket. “He'll probably be marrying us to toads!”

Leia put her arm around the girl. “Perhaps that wouldn't be so bad. Toads can be very charming creatures, when you stay away from their slimy skin.”

Rey stuck out her tongue. “I'd rather marry a cabbage than court a toad!”

At this rate, you may end up marrying the cabbage.” Leia lead her daughter and her basket away. “Let's round up your sisters and see if we can find something appropriate for the three of you to wear.”

King Snoke arrived the next day, just in time for afternoon tea. Leia wore her finest gown, a purple brocade that had faded to a soft lavender, trimmed with ruffles on the pale-blue stomacher. Kaydel and Maz had covered the worn spots with elegant dove gray bows. Clarence nestled her mother's diamond tiara in her thick gray braids.

Snoke sported a velvet and silk suit of all black, from his lace jabot to the thick breeches and floor-length coat. His dapper costume made the Queen look like a ragged peasant pretending to be an aristocrat. A bony hand covered in silk gloves took Leia's. “Your Majesty.” He brushed his thin lips over her pale knuckles. “It's delightful to meet you at last.” He held a jagged cane made of ruby-red crystal, with a small ball on the end, in his other hand.

Leia curtsied. “Your Majesty. Welcome to our kingdom.” She lead him to a soft, slightly worn mauve armchair. “I'm sorry about the state of the Palace. What with the blockades and the difficulty in getting many goods, we've had to make do with what we have.”

That's one of the things I'm here to discuss.” Snoke leaned back in the armchair with a satisfied expression, as if he owned it. “I'm getting on in years, Your Majesty. It's time for my apprentices to find brides, and for me to take a companion.” His shining dark eyes roved over her round, curvy figure. “You're still a very handsome woman, for one of your age and figure.”

Thank you.” Leia's perfectly calm expression belied the fire in her belly. She itched to throw this walking skeleton out of her home as quickly as possible. “You mentioned apprentices. I didn't know you'd taken in help.”

They're all excellent youths from some of the best families in the First Order lands. I trained them myself. I'm especially fond of Kylo Ren. He's going places, that young man. He's actually quite familiar to you.” Clarence came out with the tea things and helped Leia into her own chair. “Perhaps I'll consider lifting the blockades, if you consider marrying your young ladies to my gentlemen.”

That will depend on what my girls say.” Leia nodded as Clarence poured her tea. “I refuse to force them into unwanted unions for political reasons.”

Perhaps they'll change their minds when they see my boys.” Snoke called over his shoulder. “Gentlmen, you may come in now. Her Majesty wishes to inspect you.”

Leia shot out of her seat as the trio stepped in. The tallest of the three was her son Benjamin. She was certain of it. His heavy black hair was longer and wavier, his nose and chin now as strong as his father's, but with his mother's pale countenance and liquid-dark eyes. His sullen expression held none of its parents' determination or kindness. The brown orbs were as hard as amber.

Her heart leaped when he smirked. It was just like his father's, though with a tilt to the upper lip that made it more cruel than lazy. “Hello, Mother,” he began calmly. “It's good to see you again. I've come to claim my throne, and perhaps a bride for myself and my two companions.”

The two young men on either side of him were, other than their sober but well-made clothing, as unalike as two humans could be. The taller of the two shared Benjamin's pale skin and hard amber eyes, but his short, straight hair was the brilliant orange of an autumn pumpkin. Everything about him, from his aquiline nose to his perfectly polished boots, was harsh angles and straight lines. There wasn't a hint of softness in his person, especially around the cruel, cold pink lips.

The youth on Ben's right was much shorter, with skittish little eyes and short black hair plastered to his head. His gray breeches and short coat belay his youth, compared to his two companions. His face rather resembled a frightened mouse, with a slightly twitchy nose and long, oval ears.

The red-head bowed deeply before her. “My name is Lord Armitage Hux, my queen, son of Lord Brendol Hux of the Arkansis region. My father fought against you in the Empire Wars. He spoke highly of your strong mind and battle tactics.”

I...I'm Dopheld Mitaka,” the smaller boy managed to stammer. “Of the Mitakas of Coruscant City. My parents once saw you and your husband and brother ride through the main street, after you liberated Coruscant. It was...really grand, they said.”

Leia went to her son and hugged him. “Where have you been? Why didn't you write us, or at least give us some message? I've missed you so much, and so has your uncle!”

Ben continued to stare coldly at his mother. “My name,” he hissed, “is Kylo Ren. Ben was a weak, silly fool. I've learned about power now, Mother.” He played with the dark red cane at his side, the one with the small crystal ball on the handle. “Uncle Luke was wrong. The dark magic is so much more powerful and useful than the light. Perhaps I'll show you someday.”

Leia withdrew her arms. “Yes,” she said shortly, “someday.”

Clarence came in with the three girls as Leia pulled away from her wayward son. Each were dressed in their very best frocks for the occasion, Rey in yellow brocade, Jessica in a faded blue satin, and Kaydel in a pink velvet with a lace fichu. Their simple gowns still looked plain and worn next to the young men's fine dark suits, with their furs and lace collars and brass buttons.

These are my girls.” Leia nodded as they each curtsied in turn. “This is Rey,” she curtsied awkwardly, nearly ended up on the floor, “Jessika, “ she settled for a more mannish bow, “and Kaydel.” Kay's curtsy was far more elegant than that of her sister's, executed perfectly.

Snoke grinned a wide, nasty smile on seeing the trio. His eyes fell on Rey, whom Ben was looking over as if she were a cow in a stockyard. “You, girl. Princess Rey, have you ever taken lessons in magic? There's something of a...feeling...about you.”

Yes, I have,” Rey replied stiffly. She didn't like this pasty-faced man, with his skeletal face and intimidating airs. She wouldn't let him intimidate her in her own home! “My father, Sir Luke, is teaching me.”

You should learn black magic.” Kylo grabbed her hand. “I could teach you.”

Rey yanked it away as if stung. “I don't want to learn black magic! I want to heal people, help things grow, not do harm.”

Snoke waved his hand dismissively. “You young people run along, spend some time together. Get to know one another.”

Leia nodded. “Girls, take the boys and show them the palace.” Her lips turned up in a knowing smile. “But boys, please keep your hands to yourselves. My brother and I have taught our daughters how to defend themselves if a suitor becomes too familiar.”

Hux bowed before her like a puppet on a string. “We wouldn't dream of it, Your Majesty. We were raised to be gentlemen.” His eyes flickered over to Kylo Ren. “Or some of us were.”

Kylo glared at him. “What was that, Armie?”

Armitage reached for him. “Don't call me that!”

Snoke cleared his throat loudly. “Gentlemen, please!”

Rey grabbed Kylo Ren's arm. “Why don't I show you my garden? I'm very proud of it.” She steered him away before any damage was done.

Kylo looked disappointed when she almost dragged him over to the vegetable gardens. “I thought this was the flower garden! Where's the hyacinths, and the early snowdrops, and the crocus? Where's Mother's rose bushes? What's with all the dirt?”

Rey straightened a seedling packet on a stick. “There's still some early spring flowers by the main house, but we had to take out most of them. There simply wasn't room. With no supplies coming in, we had to grow our own vegetables, far more than the old walled in kitchen garden could provide.”

Don't you ever get bored out here?” Kylo wrinkled his aristocratic nose. “They're not even growing yet! I'd rather deal with things that come up right away. I never understood Mother's interest, either. Seedlings take too long to grow.”

That's not true!” Rey raked away leaves, revealing tiny green shoots coming up through the ground. “Here's the cabbages!” She pulled more away, bringing out little straight pale-green stalks. “And the beans!” She grinned as she pulled away more, showing pretty little flowering plants. “And the strawberries. They're my favorite. When they come up, the first thing we always do is make a strawberry tart. I'm glad we're able to get flour from a local mill and eggs from our own hens, and Father Luke is good friends with a dairy farmer in Dantoonie Village.”

Kylo gave her a small, slightly wistful smile. “Maz always made the best strawberry tarts in the kingdom.”

She still does!” Rey raked the leaves back into place. “There! Now they'll be covered in case of another spring storm.” She waved her hand over the leaves, letting a golden glow settle over them. “And that will aid their growing process.”

You are a magician.” Kylo took her hand. “I felt it the moment you stepped in the room. Why don't you come with us? You could learn some real magic. Snoke is the master of the dark arts. He taught me everything he knows. Far more than scaredy-cat Uncle Luke ever did.”

Rey snatched her hand away. “The Dark Arts cause more harm than good. I'd rather heal plants, not destroy the lives of innocents people.” She wiped her hand on her skirt. “And Father isn't a coward! He just prefers his towers and teaching to leading the guards now.

Uncle Luke never understood.” Kylo narrowed his eyes. “Power is what matters. If you have power, you can have anything you want, do anything you want.”

She glared at him. “Maybe I don't want everything. Maybe all I want is my garden and my nice, slow healing magic. I've enjoyed learning from Father Luke. He's never been anything but good to me!” The girl threw her hands on her hips. “And maybe I want nothing to do with you, even if you are something close to my brother. You abandoned your parents, for what? An ugly old man?”

They never cared about me!” Kylo's fingers gripped his red cane. “Mother loves you more than she ever did me! Snoke took me in, showed me power.” He poked his stick at the dirt. “If you had that power, you could make these plants bloom whenever you wanted. You are a naive child!”

And you are an idiot and a spoiled brat!” Rey's fists were clenched. “I don't need to show you the gardens. You already know this castle, anyway. I'm going to find Mother.” She stormed off, leaving him sputtering among the mounds of soil.

The other young men weren't doing much better. Hux only sniffed at Jessika's workshop, with its dirty tools and grimy clockwork and gears. “I have people who do this type of work for me,” he sniffed. He held a wrench with the tips of his fingers. “I'm going to take over my father's military command someday and lead the armies of the First Order Clan to greatness. Don't you find it terribly dull to spend all your time playing with toys?”

Jessika's upper half had disappeared under a carriage. “Don't you find it terribly dull to stand around all day, pushing papers around? I'd rather learn a trade than sit behind a chair and do nothing to earn my bread.”

Hux's face was almost the same color as his hair. “I'll have you know that I work very hard....”

At sitting and giving commands to your troops.” Jessika emerged from the carriage, dirt smeared on her cheek. She wiped her hands on a calico cloth. “Talk to me when you can do something besides give orders and be colder than a block of ice.” She finally took off for the parlor, Hux following in annoyance and frustration.

In the eastern wing of the Palace, Mitaka was completely baffled by Kaydel's gaiety. He watched, wide-eyed, as she sang a cheerful tune, dancing around the hallways in her blue dress. “You look at me like you've never seen someone dance before!”

You're kind of silly.” Mitaka blushed. “Don't you ever take anything seriously?”

Kaydel laughed. “Don't you ever have any fun?” She tried to pull him into her dance, but all he did was trip over his feet. “You're not around the other boys or that horrid old crone now. You can dance as much as you want!”

King Snoke isn't horrid! He's a great ruler!” Mitaka nearly fell over a table. Kaydel managed to catch the antique vase before it ended up on the floor. “I'm so sorry,” he whimpered. “I'll make it up to you. Really! I didn't mean to trip!”

Oh, stop it!” She grabbed her arm away before he could attempt to kiss it. “I'm not going to hurt you.”

Oh, thank you!” Mitaka's eyes showed desperation, not love. “I'll do anything for you!”

What you need to do is calm down.” Kaydel brushed herself off. “That's not love. That's slavery.”

The other boys like it when I do things for them,” the smaller boy whimpered, clinging to her arm. “If I don't, they get terribly angry with me. Kylo Ren might even try to choke me!”

Kaydel pried his hand off her arm. “Then they're terrible friends!”

Kylo Ren made his way down the hall at that moment, his pale face as dark and angry as the storm cloud gathering overhead. “This is why I left home in the first place,” he muttered. “Come on, Dopheld. We're going to find Snoke and leave this place, before we're further insulted.”

Snoke and Leia had adjourned to her office. She'd once shared it with her husband. His messy desk was still pushed up against hers, the papers still scattered around its surfaces. Han always did insist when Clarence wanted to clean up that his desk was an organized mess, and he knew where everything was, thank you. The books on his shelves were shoved in any old way, making a jarring contrast to Leia's perfectly organized and arrayed volumes.

I want to come to the point.” Snoke turned to a huge map of the kingdom pinned to the back wall. The remaining blockades were outlined in dark red. “I'm willing to release your people and allow the supply wagons through, if you agree to join our kingdoms. Even with all your financial troubles, Alderaan is still rich in many resources. The First Order Clan is growing. We've annexed many fine kingdoms...”

Forced them into your clan, you mean,” Leia snapped. “I've heard the rumors of what you and your so-called Knights of Ren do to countries that don't automatically bend to your will. Hosnia alone was reduced to ashes after they refused to join you.”

And I'm sure you don't want that to happen to your fair country.” He lifted the red cane. The light from the ball at the end clenched Leia's throat, causing her to gasp. “Now, my dear. You will tell the princesses that they are to wed my apprentices. Then you will sign the paperwork that will officially sanctify the union of the First Order Clan and the Kingdom of Alderaan.”

No!” Leia managed to choke. “This has ruled it...for generations...”

Oh, you'll still rule it.” He smirked. “I could use such a fine underling. Your people like you. They'll obey you.”

But” Leia's knees were buckling. She would have dropped to the floor if the three First Order apprentices hadn't burst into the room.

Snoke, we want to leave...” Kylo stepped back, his brown eyes shocked at the sight before him. “What are you doing to Mother?”

The ancient magician once again waved his cane. The light vanished, releasing her. She rubbed hard at her throat. “How dare you threaten me in my own home,” she hissed. “I want you out of this house. Now! Before I call the guards!”

Now now, Your Majesty, I only wanted you to listen.” Snoke grabbed her arm, ignoring the angry glare from her son. “You are a very stubborn woman.”

Leia struggled. “I have some magic of my own, Snoke. If you try to harm me or my daughters...”

What, you'll call that ineffectual brother of yours?” Snoke's sneer twisted his mouth until it was nearly demonic. “Or your dead husband?”
Han isn't dead!” Leia pushed him away as Kylo Ren stepped up to her. “I don't know where he is, but he's not dead. He's still alive. I can feel it!”

Don't be silly, woman,” Snoke chided. “Your husband was killed by brigands years ago. Oh yes, we heard about the king's unfortunate demise. You have to face facts. Your country is starving. You must either accept my proposal, or thousands will die.”

Mother!” The three girls hurried into the room, Rey leading them with a big smile. “Father Luke's home! Arthur saw him on the road while he was chopping wood in the forest. He should be here any minute.”

Kylo Ren coughed. “Perhaps we should be moving along, then. It's obvious Mother doesn't want to save the kingdom.”

Give me a chance to think this over.” Leia glared at her son. “This is a lot to take in. Including my own flesh and blood's betrayal.”

Not betrayal, Mother,” Kylo scoffed. “I just chose the right side.”

Snoke and his apprentices were gathering their cloaks to leave as Clarence came in with Luke on his heels. “Announcing His Excellency, Sir Skywalker.” The tall, thin servant gave Leia a rare grin as she went right to his arms. “Or, as you already know, your brother.”

Father!” Rey lead the other girls over to their adoptive parent. He opened his arms wider to let all of them in. “I'm so glad you're home! I missed you.”

I missed you too, my ray of sunshine.” Luke's warm smile under his bear didn't quite reach his ears. “I'm so glad to see all of you! I thought of all of you every day I was away.”

Kaydel grinned. “Did you bring us gifts, Father?”

I did what I could.” Luke's shaky smile fell. “The supply wagons had been mostly stripped by thieves before I could get at them. I did find some things I thought you ladies would like in town, though.”

He pulled his brown satchel from under his simple tan cloak. “Here's the latest book on warfare for my sister.” He handed Leia a leather-bound volume. “And ribbons in all colors of the rainbow for my future actress.” Kaydel gave him a kiss on his cheek before she took the lengths of satin. “And for my brilliant inventor,” he pulled out a bag, “all the tools I could find.” Jessika threw her arms around him and hugged him hard.

What about me, Father?” Rey looked up at him with shining eyes. “Did you get my rose?”

Luke shook his head. “They didn't have any real roses in town. Not at this time of year.” He pulled out a rose made of gold, with red enamel petals and green stems. “But I did find this one at a small shop.”

Thank you, Father!” Rey took it, but she saw the sad look on his face as he handed it to her. “What is it, Father? Something's wrong.”

He frowned. “Girls...on my way home, I stopped by the old Deckard Manor in Corellia to give my horse a drink and rest a while. When I was looking for something to eat, the rose slipped out of my bag and fell in the lake. It was too deep and too cold for me to go after it, and I couldn't make it appear with my magic. I thought I lost it, until the frog came along.”

Leia looked up from thumbing through her book. “A frog?”

Not just any frog. The biggest frog I'd ever seen.” Luke pulled his hands wide apart to show how big. “He was covered in warts and mucus and had the slimy brown skin, but his arms were thicker than a frog, and he walked on two long legs, like a human. He was quite well-spoken, too.” His eyes dropped to the floor. “He said he'd get the rose back if I gave him something in return.”

Snoke snorted. “A frog monster? Now really, Sir Skywalker, do you expect us to believe that?”

Father wouldn't lie!” Rey yelled right at Snoke's ugly face. “If he says there's a frog monster, then there is one!”

Leia put her book aside. “What did he want?”

Luke's blue eyes locked with her brown ones. “He wanted one of my daughters to live with him and his master for a year. Otherwise,” he turned from Leia, “I would have to stay as his master's prisoner.”

I'll go, Father.” Rey took his hand. “It was my rose that caused the trouble.”

No, Rey, I won't allow it. Not alone. I'll go with you.” Leia turned to Clarence. “I want you to pack our bags. We're going to be away for a while.”

Mother, please!” Kylo Ren's mouth dropped open. “You're not going to obey some...some frog thing, are you?”

Half-men, half-frogs are not something you see every day.” The queen started towards her room. “Clarence, set out our day dresses and cloaks. There isn't time to make the appropriate travel outfits. Luke, where is this lake?”

Just outside of Deckard Manor, on the edge of Alderaan and Corellia.” He frowned. “Leia...there's some kind of magic there. I felt it. I don't think the frog itself or the manor are evil...but there is evil there.” He looked thoughtful. “And something familiar. I thought I saw a flash of silver-gray in one of the windows. It was as if I knew the person...or whatever it was.”

Then this is the perfect time to investigate,” Leia insisted. She then turned apologetically to Snoke. “I'm afraid we'll have to discuss the blockades another time. Perhaps you could return in a few months and talk to my brother.”
Luke nodded. “I'd love a chance to question you all about how you're managing to keep these blockades going when you've lost thousands of your own men and tons of resources to these invasions.”

Snoke stood stiffly as his apprentices hurried in. “I think you're making a mistake, Your Majesty. There's nothing in those woods or that manor except for myths and legends.”

Mother, can't we all go?” Jessika grinned. “It sounds like a grand adventure!”

Kaydel was already starting for her room. “Anything is better than hanging around here! And I'll have someone new to dance for!”

But they're girls!” Kylo Ren began. “Barely children! What if these creatures are monsters?”

Ben, stop acting like they're a bouquet of dainty violets from the garden. I taught them all how to defend themselves, and Luke has trained Rey in the magical arts.” The queen turned to her daughters with a smile. “Yes, we'll all go.” She put an arm around Luke. “But if there's the slightest hint of evil around the manor, we'll leave.”

That seems fair.” Luke gave her a hug. “Just be careful, sister. You don't know what's out there.”

I'll be fine.” Leia let him go to glare at her son. “Ben, you'll always be my child. I love you, but it's obvious that you love your master and your magic more. You and your companions are not fit suitors for my daughters. Come, girls.” She lead the three young women to the bedrooms. “Let's prepare for our journey.”

Mother!” Kylo started after her, but Snoke took his arm.

Let her go, my boy.” Snoke showed his a smile filled with sharp teeth. “We'll bide our time.”

Master Snoke, Princess Jessika was impossible!” Hux complained. “An ill-mannered hoyden, completely inappropriate for the son of one of your greatest generals.”

Mitaka wrinkled his nose. “The little blond was so silly. All she ever did was dance and laugh!”

Kylo Ren made a face. “I offered to teach Princess Rey the dark arts, and she turned me down. She is a pretty chit, but too naive and sharp-tongued for my liking.”

Don't worry, gentlemen.” Snoke's grin continued to spread as he watched the four women retreat down the hall. “You'll rule Alderaan, whether you wed Queen Leia's spoiled wenches or not. I have plans for this land in their absence.”

Kylo Ren narrowed his eyes. “But if they figure out that my father...”

They won't. The spell we cast is too strong.” Snoke's laughter was deeper than you might think for such a withered creature, soft but threatening. “Who could ever learn to love frogs?”