Introduction and Chapter I
Introduction to the Second Edition
“Is this how the novel really got started?”
“Well, it’s sort of approximately how it happened.”
As everyone knows, the Domus Prime novel in its original form was a huge success. It was something special, bringing a group of new voices to fiction and a style that had never been seen before. From all over the world they gathered, to tell a story of one small world and its people. Who could know how far it would go, and how powerful it would become?
This brings forth the question, if the original story was so good, why would a second edition be needed? And the answer is that a second edition is not needed.
The idea had been tossed around many times before. People suggested that the story should be pulled together, the narration repaired in the earlier sections and the problems with continuity fixed. When a person wrote a story on the spot, without an editor looking over their shoulder, some of the little things that appeared in their writing were truly amazing.
So, one night, I sat down, and started working my way through the novel, to see what additional magic could be drawn from the powerful words written by my co-authors. What you are reading is the result of many hours of work, not just by me, but by the people who first wrote the original story. All I really did was tighten it up a little.
The only big changes you will find are in the first few chapters, which had not been taken as seriously by the authors as the later chapters. Extra scenes and description were added to these so that the reader would have a better understanding of the characters and the situations they found themselves in.
I would like to think that the story has not lost anything after my meddling. And I would hope that you would find it improved a little. As always, the true judgement lies in the hands of the readers, and I have to trust your taste.
I think I’m done rambling, so I’ll let you get on with the story. Enjoy.
1st May 2001
IN THE FAR reaches of the Galaxy, hidden among the millions of other systems in the beautiful spiral arms, there lies a small star. It is just a common G2-type star, bright and yellow-orange, with a radiation level that makes it suitable for humans and similar species to live on its fourth planet. And though at a single glance the star itself does not seem terribly significant in the galactic scheme of things, events are starting that will see this seemingly-unimportant star system become one of the deciding battle grounds where the fate of our universe is decided.
From space, the fourth planet appears blue-green due to the large oceans and forest areas that cover most of its surface. The planet has a subtle tilt to its rotational axis, which results in the pleasant seasons experienced on its surface. The polar regions are covered in ice throughout most of the year, which is 387 standard days long. Deserts are found in many of the sub-equatorial regions, and plate tectonic motions have been observed on the four main continental masses.
The three moons of this planet are responsible for the complex tides and weather systems found there. The largest of the moons is called Nozomi – a name that means “Passion” – and is a deep red in colour. It is also furthest from the planet. The second is Chie, meaning “Wisdom”, blue with liquid water at its surface. However, it has no stable surface structure that would enable it to be colonised. The smallest moon, with least effect on the weather of the planet, is rocky Unmei, which casts silver light and whose name means “Destiny”.
The planet around which these moons circulate is known to its inhabitants as “Domus Prime”, which means in the old language “the first house”.
Although settlements appear spread out across the four continents, there are only five large cities, most importantly the capital city of Ki’irith. Situated on the edge of the Dupromian Ocean, and close to the Emerald mountains, Ki’irith is the main centre of trade and learning on Domus Prime, and it is here that the government and military are primarily based.
Overlooking Ki’irith is the Palace, Fuhenteki Na Shiro, the “timeless castle” of Domus Prime. Officially the residence of the monarch of Domus Prime, it is also the central nucleus of the “Royal Forces”. When seeing the Palace for the first time, the Palace appears much like something from another era with its soaring towers and sprawling grounds, but as one becomes more familiar with the Palace its hidden technology becomes more apparent.
The first stars were just starting to appear in the sky. Nozomi hung high over the Palace, but the other two moons had yet to rise this night. A chill wind was blowing in from the ocean, keeping most indoors.
In a private room of the Palace, a room ornately decorated with heavy embroidered curtains over the high windows, thick carpeting and careful chosen pieces of art, a young woman of nineteen years stood despite the many chairs scattered around the chamber. Her long brown hair was swept back from her gently made-up face and held in place by a delicate silver crown that seemed at odds with the complicated gown she was wearing. Her movements were restricted by her clothing, and from her stance it was obvious that this frustrated her.
“Jester, this is intolerable”, Queen Sailor Coruscant said, turning angrily to face the Court Entertainer, the barest hint of a frown changing her features, “being Queen of all that is Star Wars is simply no fun.”
The man she was addressing was older than she, though his blue-green eyes held an adolescent twinkle. His costume was no less absurd than the Queen’s, a mass of colours and bells. He sat in a relaxed posture, unperturbed by her anger. A slight smirk crossed his face as she catalogues her complaints and frustrations.
“It still does not make any sense”, she declared emphatically. “The councillors keep making me sit in on a ridiculous meetings that are called for fictitious reasons about nothing about all. I waste my time in discussions about meaningless nonsense.”
If the Queen could have walked in anything other than a stately manner, she would have been pacing angrily, throwing her arms up in frustration. As it was, most of her expression was masked by the faint make-up that her handmaidens traditionally painted. Sometimes it seemed to the Queen that Domus Prime had a few too many traditions that she was meant to follow. It was no small wonder that she had any time to talk with her friends at all, considering how much time was wasted following tradition.
“What good is a ruler, if she never really gets to rule anything? In all actuality, if I did not know any better, I would say that I was just some sort of figurehead, that someone else is actually in control of all this.” Admittedly, the handmaidens and the ever-present councillors handled a lot of the day to day management of the planet, but the Queen would have thought that occasionally she would be asked to make a few decisions.
“Not to mention the fact that this make-up is causing my face to break out in pimples!”
The Queen finished dramatically, and was answered by a half-muffled laugh from the darkly robed figure at the back of the room. As a concession to how close this man was to the Queen and Jester, the hood of his cloak was pulled back but in almost all other circumstances he kept his face hidden. This was the Grand Admiral of the Royal Forces of Domus Prime, a man known only as the Riddler whose past was shrouded in mystery.
The Riddler was slightly taller than Jester, with dark hair and very dark brown eyes. He always stood with a military precision that to a casual observer would make him seem nervous but those who knew him understood that he was prepared for whatever would happen. A Dark Jedi, the Riddler’s military experience was extensive, which was one of the reasons why he had been given the position of Grand Admiral despite the fact that he had never served as a member of the Royal Forces before. His Force abilities were a secret kept even from his Queen.
The Queen shot the Riddler a look that could have been translated as “You stay out of this”, and he silently returned the smile that he saw in her eyes. For years the Riddler and Jester had been friends, and the Riddler’s presence on Domus Prime could be traced back to a suggestion made by Jester not long after the coronation of Queen Sailor Coruscant two years previous.
Jester if anything looked more relaxed than he had been earlier. From somewhere in the folds of his clothing he produced a number of brightly coloured balls which he started to juggle.
Confronted with the Queen’s complaints, a lesser man would have protested, would have told the Queen that it was her own fault, perhaps even reminded her that she accepted her position of her own free will.
Instead, Jester stood, focusing his eyes on the Queen and though he continued his juggling, he gave her a gentle smirk. “I see that my plot with the scientist in the dungeon has worked to its full effect”, he said, “perhaps you should remember to be nicer to me from now on.”
As she looked at him, a gleam of some description sparkled in his eyes, and she suddenly became suspicious that he had another plan. Considering that his last plan for her had resulted in a coronation ceremony, it was no wonder that the Queen was more than a little nervous at the thought of Jester plotting against her. She shrugged off her sense of unease, wondering if she would be able to sit down in her complicated clothing.
“Honestly, nothing I do here has any impact. Nothing I say matters, I am nothing more than a puppet ruler. I might as well just declare that all Jedi will from now on carry a blue lightsaber and all Sith or others must use a red so that I know who to cheer for when they duel.” Only the Queen saw the Riddler’s eyes tighten as she mentioned the Sith, and she wondered what that could mean.
Standing between her and the Riddler, Jester put the juggling balls away and somehow produced a rubber chicken from somewhere that neither the Riddler nor the Queen could quite witness. “I prefer to duel with my rubber chicken”, he said, holding it out.
“What an excellent thought”, the Queen said, taking credit for the idea, “Chancellor”, she called to the empty air, “bring back that decree.” She pantomimed scrawling a few amendments to the bottom of the imaginary decree that the pretend chancellor had just handed to her. “Very well Jester, you may duel with a rubber chicken, but no one else.” She handed the piece of paper back to the chancellor, and nodded to him as he bowed to her and left the room. She turned back to Jester, to see him going along with her act and still looking at the door where the ‘chancellor’ had just left.
He turned back to her with a smile, holding the rubber chicken close for a moment before waving it around like a child with a pretend lightsaber. “Thank you, Your Majesty”, he said in such a manner that she had to laugh as he bowed to her. Jester looked speculatively at his rubber chicken in such a manner that she was instantly on guard.
The Queen looked a little nervous, and muttered something about possibly abdicating. “Jester, if I am really nice to you, would you tell me your latest plan?”
“I could tell you my plan”, he said, “but then you would not see the results of it. I have worked for hours preparing the”, he paused here, his eyes narrowing as he realised what he had nearly said, “never mind. I do promise that you won’t get hurt, much.”
The Queen was not sure if such a promise had any real worth, but the Riddler seemed amused at Jester’s antics.
The eyes of all three were drawn to just outside the doorway, where the three guards there had started some sort of strange antics that would have reminded some people of the three stooges. Both the Queen and the Riddler seemed somewhat scandalised, but Jester just shook his head.
“Do they have no military training whatsoever?” the Queen asked. “With protectors such as these, I am in serious trouble.”
“Forgive the guards, Your Majesty”, Jester said. “They are my cousins, I am supposed to be training them as court entertainers. But everyone needs a day job, and I thought that in such company you would be relatively safe”, he made a gesture to the Riddler who nodded in acknowledgment. “I wouldn’t have brought them here at all if it wasn’t for my father’s sister.” He grinned at the Queen. “They are unaware of my plans though, so don’t bother questioning them.”
“They are related to you? That explains a lot”, the Queen muttered too softly for Jester to hear. Aloud she said, “The councillors have informed me that they are holding some sort of grand ball next week, something to celebrate the fact that I have survived being Queen here for two years without serious incident. It is going to be some huge event, with everyone on the planet invited, or so it seems. I told them that you would be willing to organise the preparations, Jester.”
It was a small revenge really, but she had little else to hold to. And though he looked a little disgruntled, they all knew that he was the most suited to this task out of all of them, and he really did know how to set up a fantastic party. That was one of the reasons why he was the Court Entertainer.
He gave a small shrug. “Have they decided on a theme yet? I work better with just a little idea of what my audience wants. I do get choice of caterers though. For such an event, I should get in touch with the head of Jabba’s Royal Caterers, they have a great buffet and formal dining set up.”
“I am certain they will let you do whatever you want, Jester, though if you want I could write something up so no one will interfere with whatever you want to plan. Will you perform your usual stunt?” Jester’s technique as the Court Entertainer of Domus Prime was famous throughout the Galaxy.
“But of course, Your Majesty”, he bowed gracefully, “My tricks are what makes your parties so spectacular. I could hardly not perform at such an important celebration.”
The Queen silently wondered just how important such an event could be. Two years have passed, but how much has been accomplished? Nothing had changed. She sighed inwardly, then took her leave from the two men. It was late, and tomorrow she had a number of unimportant meetings to attend.
As Jester started to walk from the meeting place, the Riddler placed a hand on his arm, causing the Entertainer to turn to his old friend. “Don’t hurt her”, the Grand Admiral said, and Jester saw some unidentifiable emotion flash in his friend’s eyes.
“Of course not.”
Down in the dungeon, the Palace designer Devron Zal sat in deep concentration as he tried to build for himself a lightsaber. A tall man, with short brown hair and unusual grey eyes, Devron was wearing a sleeveless top that showed a number of tattoos on his arms. Most notable was a skull, snake and wings design on his right arm just below his shoulder that bore the words “The Berserker – Too Much Force Is Never Enough”. Although he usually worked on designs of weapons and security devices for the Royal Forces, the lightsaber he was building was intended for personal use.
The dungeon was the home of Devron’s personal quarters, rooms he had chosen for himself despite being offered a better situation elsewhere in the Palace. He enjoyed the privacy that such an unusual base of operations offered, like others, he had come to Domus Prime to escape his past and start over.
Despite having no Force-sensitivity, Devron had long wanted to own a lightsaber, but the Jedi were notoriously strict about insisting that only the Force-sensitive could use the weapons. Devron had never met a Sith before, and he doubted that he would ever meet one who would have been willing to share his weapon’s design specifications. So Devron was trying to build for himself a laser sword, based upon his own notions of how the optics and electronics were supposed to work. As yet, he had not come up with a working prototype, but he was certain that he was getting closer.
Jester smiled as he saw what Devron had made for him. It was a simple-enough device, but he was certain that it truly cause an explosion in the throne room that morning.
“So, do we all get to witness the event, or is it invitation only?” Devron smiled slightly as he connected the power pack to the recharger.
“Unfortunately, it’s a council meeting, and neither of us are on the council, so we’ll just have to stand outside and listen to the results.” Jester sighed ruefully, looking over with interest as Devron put the lightsaber aside and typed a few commands on a nearby terminal. Instantly an image of the throne room appeared, focussed on the Queen’s throne, and after a few more commands were input several other images were shown on the other screens so that all angles of the throne room were captured and displayed.
“Keyhole security”, Devron murmured, going back to his lightsaber, “I’ve found it comes in handy now and then. We can see everything, and yet be out of range of any backlash.”
“What’s the sound like on this system?” Jester went to try and push a button, but Devron slapped his hand out of the way, not trusting the Entertainer with his expensive equipment.
“It’s the best that Domus Prime can afford, which is pretty good. For some reason the Queen almost always approves whatever proposals I make with regards to the Palace security. She’s a little more picky when it comes to spending on the military, but I’m working on her. The latest Star Destroyer designs are out, and I think that when the Riddler sees them I should be able to talk him into helping me convince the Queen that we need a few for the Royal Forces.”
Jester’s eyes had started to glaze over. He picked up the special item, and smiled at the designer. “I’ll be back in a few minutes”, he said, “and we can watch the fun begin.”
The Queen walked towards her throne slowly and cautiously. The guards, who were not in any way related to Jester, had thoroughly scanned the room before her entrance and had detected no life-threatening devices present in the throne room. The council members were already present and had been waiting for her arrival before their meeting could begin.
The Queen sat down, and the council members exploded with laughter. She immediately stood and looked with dismay down at Jester’s whoopee cushion. The Queen’s pale make-up failed to hide the deep blush that covered her face. She bit her lip nervously, not knowing how to react.
Devron looked up in surprise at one of the monitors as the whoopee cushion’s noise reverberated around the throne room and was perfectly echoed by the sound system in the dungeon. As he watched, his hand slipped from the tedious job of putting the crystal into the correct emitter slot, so that when he activated the unfinished lightsaber, nothing happened.
Jester smiled to himself, deciding privately that this would be the last time he would plot against the Queen, especially after she had decided the previous night that he could duel with his rubber chicken, Harold. He watched as the Queen, losing what semblance of control she had left, ran from the throne room fighting to hold back tears. Jester picked up his collection of lightsabers and started juggling them again, concentrating fiercely as he managed to keep all four in the air without slicing off a limb.
Devron turned the lightsaber back off and pulled the crystal free from its casing, determined to try again.
Sitting in his place amongst the council members, the Riddler kept his face expressionless and his eyes calm.
For a long time, the Queen was too embarrassed to leave her chambers, not wanting to face the members of the court after what had happened in the throne room. After two days of seclusion with only one of her handmaidens attending her, the councillors finally seemed to notice the Queen’s absence and send a few messages to her door that were largely ignored. The Riddler had once come to see her, as had Jester, but both had been turned away.
Just as Jester started to feel a little uneasy, sitting in the throne room practicing his juggling act, the main door opened and the Queen entered. She is wearing a most unusual outfit, a white bodysuit with a short black skirt and a matching black collar. A purple bow adorned her chest, and she wore white gloves on her hands. The tall dark blue boots she wore completed the ensemble. Her hair was unbound, and it flowed down to below her knees in ever-changing wave patterns. The most striking difference in her appearance was the absence of all make-up on her face, making her seem more beautiful and innocent than before. A silver tiara adorned her brow. Her eyes belied the serenity of her manner and dress, instead of being the blue of a summer sky in colour they were the deep blue-grey of storm clouds.
Silence was master in the throne room as all present watched and waited for what would happen next.
“I would appreciate it if you would all be so kind as to leave us”, the Queen suggested to the room. One by one, the various advisers, courtiers and handmaidens left silently. Jester moved to follow them, only to be stopped by the Queen’s gentle voice. “Not you Jester, I wish to speak with you alone.”
Jester’s heart sank at the coldness in her voice, and for the first time he considered the possibility of using the lightsabers he juggled with for self-defence. But he did not get the chance to follow that thought very far, for even as he thought it the Queen moved her hand to one side and the lightsabers were thrown against the far wall of the throne room. Jester looked up in surprise at the Queen’s unexpected use of the Force.
The last person to leave the room was Jedi Nay, one of the Queen’s handmaidens, who exchanged a long glance with the Queen before she took her leave and closed the door behind her.
The Queen moved down from her dais with slowly with grace and beauty. Jester, unsure of what to do, started to bow to her, but she shook her head with disgust.
“Jester”, the Queen said in a voice that seemed to echo terribly in the empty throne room, “I have had a most dreadful last few days. I have had to deal with problems with the new handmaidens, a major communications disruption that stopped all messages off world and some rather significant issues needed to be resolved with the local Jedi community. Your little attempt at humour did not improve my situation. And”, she gave a cold smile as she said this, “now I have to punish my close friend for treason.”
Jester’s eyes widened as he realised that it never occurred to him that there would be a price to pay for his prank.
The Queen raised her hands in front of her face, keeping them so that her palms were parallel. There was a flash of concentration in her eyes, and suddenly a blue crystal appeared between them. Jester’s eyes widened at this unexplainable occurrence, and he took a few steps back from the Queen.
With a sigh, the Queen focussed her eyes away from the crystal and a beam of shimmering blue light struck Jester on his chest. As the Queen called forth both magic and the Force, the throne room was bathed in pure white light for a number of seconds.
As the light levels in the room fall back to normal levels it revealed the Queen; her silver tiara still shining brightly with the reflection of the light that had just moments earlier disappeared from the room. The strange crystal she had used had disappeared as quickly as it had appeared between her hands, and there was an air of normality about her that was quickly dispersed as Jester became visible beyond the burst of light that had engulfed him.
A large pale blue crystalline structure surrounded Jester who was frozen in place with a look of absolute terror frozen on his face. He realised that he did not need to breathe in his prison, but this was little consolation when he subsequently realised that he was unable to move, speak, or even think of throwing a rubber chicken.
Trapped in this way, Jester was only able to watch as the Queen picked up his rubber chicken Harold and from some place just beyond his sight brought forth her lightsaber. The Queen sighed reluctantly before decapitating the chicken quickly.
Jester screamed in absolute horror, but no sound could be heard. Only the Queen was able to hear his gibbering thoughts. She did not smile, or give any sign that she had enjoyed what had happened.
“Jester”, she said softly, “you must understand that what has transpired her today was necessary.” Putting her lightsaber away and dropping the two melted pieces of rubber, she slowly walked around the crystal prison, studying her handiwork objectively. “You know”, she murmured, “I think I am beginning to understand why Jabba wanted to keep Han Solo around. You do make a very nice addition to the decor in the throne room.” His thoughts had disintegrated to small whimpering sounds.
The Queen then walked to the door of the throne room to inform Jedi Nay that she was ready for the morning’s meeting to begin. As the various members of the court entered no one made any mention of the large crystal in the centre of the room, and only Jedi Nay and the Queen could hear the psychic screaming of the one within.
Devron watched with interest what was transpiring in the throne room, wishing belatedly that he had thought to record the proceedings. He tried to see how the Queen had managed to trap Jester in such a fashion, but there was no logical way for it to have happened. He had never before seen the Queen’s so-called ‘magical powers’, but now he was willing to admit that the Queen certainly seemed to have abilities that went beyond what was normal even for those who were adept at using the Force. Setting aside his now-working lightsaber, he began working on a new more-efficient droideka design.
The Riddler, sitting in the War Room, heard Jester’s pleas for help, and sent out his thought to his friend, trying to sense what was transpiring. He had half-risen and was moving towards the door when he realised that it was the Queen who had caused Jester’s anguish and stopped, trying to decide what path to take. As in tune with the Force as the Riddler was, he suddenly saw the outcome of this circumstance, and smiled as he moved back to his seat, knowing that Jester would be fine in the end.
Jester could not even close his eyes in his prison, and so he was forced to watch as the Queen conducted the meeting with her usual diplomacy and efficiency. And yet all he could do was think of his poor Harold lying there unnoticed on the floor.
Casting his thoughts back to a Jedi training session he had once overheard and taken to heart, Jester meditated for a time, trying to study the nature of the crystal surrounding him. Focussing his energies, the crystal began to vibrate, shaking with tremendous force and crumbling. As he screamed “Harold!” both psychically and vocally, the prison broke away from Jester. The pieces of the crystal sparkled and disappeared as pieces of light even as Jester fell to the ground.
Looking around him, Jester was surprised to realise that it was night and the throne room was deserted and dark. How long had he been concentrating on the Force?
Dismissing all thoughts of his newfound ability, Jester took up the two pieces of Harold, tears starting to fall as he turned them over in his hands. Despite his anguish, all thoughts of revenge fled as Jester decided that he would have to find someone willing to train him in the ways of the Force and he stood with the intention of finding the Riddler.
The throne room lights flickered once before brightly filling the room with light. Standing in the doorway was Catherine, one of the Queen’s handmaidens. Catherine looked a little like the Queen, in that she was small in stature, with long brown hair and beautiful blue eyes, but her hair was always tied back tightly and she was always simply attired.
Her robes were different from those worn by the other handmaidens, which were all very traditional long gowns. Catherine had been a Jedi before coming to Domus Prime, and she expressed this in her robes, which looked like those of a Jedi, only in blue. She wore a lightsaber strapped to her belt.
Jester was a little surprised to see Catherine, as she normally spent most of her time away from the Palace on special assignment for the Queen. There was something about the lighting in the throne room that make her seem very innocent and yet somehow very mature at the same time, so that he could not make a guess as to what was her age.
Jester held the pieces of Harold closer to his body as Catherine approached him.
She bowed to him, her eyes looking down at the floor rather than meeting his gaze. A faint blush stained her cheeks. “The Queen begs your forgiveness.” Catherine spoke with a relatively deep voice, so softly that he had to strain to hear her.
Anger flared in Jester’s eyes, and was answered by a deepening blush on Catherine’s face. Gently, she held out a hand to Jester, as though asking for something. After a moment, he very reluctantly hands over the two pieces of Harold, his eyes never leaving them as she closes her hand around the rubber.
Catherine then held out her right hand, to help Jester to his feet.
Looking down at the melted rubber pieces in her hand, Catherine tried to see them from all angles. Jester tried to hold back all thoughts of snatching Harold back from her, but he found himself reaching forward.
“Please”, Catherine said distractedly, “Just give me a moment with him.” He notices with surprise that Catherine’s forehead seemed to be glowing softly blue, almost the same colour as the crystal the Queen had used on him earlier that day. She was staring intently at Harold, and after she transferred the pieces to her right hand, she waved her left hand over them, and Harold too started to glow.
Jester blinked, and he realised that Catherine was not glowing at all, she was just smiling at him, holding out Harold in both hands. Somewhat reluctantly, he took back his rubber chicken, then looked up in surprise as he realised that Harold was not only in one piece, he was now restored back to his prime.
Jester hugged his rubber chicken close, grinning at the handmaiden, who nodded slightly to him. Deciding to leave the reunited pair alone for a time, Catherine turned and started to walk out of the throne room.
At a startled noise from Jester, Catherine stopped and smiled politely at the Court Entertainer. She did not wait for what he had to say to her, instead bowing once more. “The Queen is also pleased that you have realised your Jedi powers. She hopes that you will forgive her for pushing you so far, and prays that you will still be her friend despite all that has happened.”
This time Catherine did not stop as she walked from the room, leaving Jester alone with Harold.
Jester smiled to himself, knowing that he had already forgiven the Queen for what had happened, as he knew that he had in some small measure deserved what had been done to him. He suddenly wondered where the Riddler had been throughout all of this, but dismissed the matter as so many more important things had happened that he needed to think about. Harold had been restored and Jester had realised that he had the potential to become a Jedi.
Holding the rubber chicken close, Jester walked over to a window and looked out over the Palace gardens, which were just starting to brighten with the first light of the morning. A new day had begun.