I strode towards the staircase leading to the third floor, my mind going over the preparations that needed to be done to accommodate the new guests.
I turned to see Alice leading the otherworlders in the same direction I was heading.
“Are you also heading to dinner?” Skywalker asked as they came closer.
I nodded slightly. “Am I correct to assume that you are settling in well?”
“The bunks are similar to the barracks we usually sleep in. Feels almost like home.” a man with a tattoo of a disjointed five on the right side of his forehead stated.
I gave a small smile. “I will take that as a good thing, trooper…?”
“Fives, ma’am.” He smirked and winked.
I blinked quickly, then narrowed my eyes. It had been centuries since someone had flirted with me, and I wasn’t entirely sure that that was what Fives had been doing. I cleared my throat. “Of course. It will take me some time to remember your names. It has been a while since we have had guests.”
We continued up the steps and entered the first room on the left side of the hallway. Delia and Mary were waiting by the closest table.
“There are four tables, four chairs each. Sit with who you like, but I would request that you don’t move tables after sitting down.” Delia instructed.
I glanced at the group and noticed that Delia’s neutral mask made some of the men uncomfortable. I sighed internally, it has been too long since we have had guests.
“Thank you, Delia. Have you eaten yet?” I moved towards the table to the left of the table nearest to the door, in an attempt to get her to stop staring at them.
“Not yet, my lady.”
I hummed, gracefully sitting down. “I would like for you to eat with us then.”
She looked like she was about to argue when I raised an eyebrow at her. She sighed. “Yes, my lady.”
She, Mary and Alice sat at the table farthest from the door and looked uncomfortable.
The troopers broke into two groups and were talking with each other as they slid into chairs. The Jedi sat with me and glanced around.
“If you don’t mind me saying, but this is quite a large dining room for you and your staff.” Kenobi said, raising his eyebrows.
I gave a small smile. “There is a smaller dining room that we usually use down the hall.”
“What’s for dinner?” Skywalker rubbed his hands together.
“I believe it is rabbit stew, Greg went hunting earlier.”
“And Greg is…?” Kenobi inquired.
“Greg is my groundskeeper.” I answered. “He usually eats in his house or outside.”
“How much staff do you have, if I may ask?” Kenobi glanced back at Delia, Mary and Alice.
“There are five currently under my care, and all are on my staff. Delia is my head maid, with Mary and Alice working as maids under her. Greg is my groundskeeper and Charlie is my cook.” I nodded at Charlie, who was setting bowls of stew in front of everyone.
Kenobi frowned. “So few for such a large home?”
I chuckled, absentmindedly stirring my stew. “Yes, there is not much to be done. Greg hunts for meat and cares for the animals we keep, Charlie cooks and cares for the farm on the ground floor. Mary and Alice clean and occasionally help me with potions or crafting. Delia makes sure we stay organized, keeping inventory of what we have, what we can sell to passing merchants who are willing to trade with us and ensuring we have enough to last the winter.”
Skywalker glances up from where he is leaning over his bowl and practically shoveling food in his mouth. “Do you pay them?”
I frowned at him and paused before speaking. “I don’t understand what you are trying to insinuate, Knight Skywalker.”
He chewed and swallowed before responding. “You say they are under your care, but are they free to do as they wish? Can they leave when they want or are they kept here under fear for their ‘safety’?” He lifted a hand to mime the quotations.
My eyes narrowed in anger and I set down my spoon. “You dare suggest that I keep slaves?” I spoke in an even tone that did little to hide my rage. “You think I am like those…monsters who take away the freedom of those they claim to protect?”
At this point, the room is silent and Delia, Alice and Mary have anger shown on their faces.
“Lady Idraho, I assure you Anakin meant no disrespect.” Kenobi tried to interrupt, but I held up a hand.
“Do not defend one who has control over his own actions, Master Kenobi.” I stated and stood. “If you believe my staff to be slaves, then I urge you to ask them and gather evidence before you imply what you have no knowledge of. Excuse me.” I swept out of the dining room and down the staircase to the second floor. I turned the corner and continued down the hall.
My thoughts were on a rampage through my mind. How dare this human accuse me of slavery, did he not know his own history?
I entered my room and continued to the balcony. Once there, I leaned on the railing and breathed heavily as I tried to calm the emotions roaring through my body.
Perhaps as one from the sky, his particular kind of human did not know of the history of this land. Yes, he must have spent his life in the sky and knew not of the actions of his fellow humans. I would speak with Kenobi about this, if these people are to stay, they must know our customs.
I spent the next hour or so calming myself, not wanting to leave my room unstable. Once I had regained control of my emotions, I strode out of the room. I returned to the third floor but moved past the other rooms without looking at them. I paused for half a second before walking through the vines covering the doorway of the last room. My feet sank slightly into the dark green carpet and a smile grew on my face.
There were three tables with filled plant pots and a large flower bed that decorated the room. There were also two small barrels in the room, one was at the end of the room closest to the doorway and had four sea pickles giving off light, while the other barrel had a lily pad floating on the surface of the water.
I moved over to the lily pad barrel and let a finger gently trace the veins of the pad. “There is no need to linger outside the room, Master Kenobi.” I stated, not looking up.
“I didn’t want to disturb you, Lady Idraho.” He used a hand to hold some vines back as he entered the room.
I hummed absentmindedly, took a few steps and looked out one of the windows.
After a few moments of silence, Kenobi moved to stand beside me and also looked out the window. “I must admit that I’m at a bit of a loss. Usually I can fix Anakin’s mistakes, but this situation appears to be different.”
I turn my head and gaze at him. “Knight Skywalker seems to take advantage of that, Master Kenobi.” I return my gaze to look outside. “This situation is between him and I, and your interfering helps none.”
He looks down for a minute, then nods. “It appears so. I apologize if my actions have caused unrest.”
I let out a small chuckle. “Your actions have caused naught but another view of the young Knight.”
Kenobi brows furrowed and he looked at me. “Oh?”
I nod, glancing at him. “You care for him but you have sheltered him, Master Kenobi. Both of you know that you are more adept in political situations and he uses you as a crutch in said situations. Which is a logical response if you always, as you said, fix his mistakes.”
Kenobi sighed. “What would you have me do?”
I turned my body to face him and met his gaze. “Urge him to atone for his actions and allow him to face the repercussions on his own. You will not be at his side forever.”
He thought for a moment then nodded slowly. “A wise action, Lady Idraho.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Indeed.” I motion for him to follow me, then walk to the barrel holding the sea pickles. “Do you recognize this particular flora, Master Kenobi?”
He shook his head, leaning forward to better see in the barrel.
“These are sea pickles. They are found at the bottom of the ocean or on coral reefs. They can survive out of water, but there is a consequence. Once out of water, they stop producing light.” I state, gazing at the plant.
Kenobi looked at me, confused.
“Perhaps Knight Skywalker is similar. Politics do not make him shine, but nevertheless he will survive.” I met Kenobi’s gaze again.
He chuckled. “He won’t be pleased to be compared to a plant.”
I smiled and huffed. “Then prompt the young man to learn more about plants. There are many that, even I, would not take offence to being compared to.”
Kenobi shook his head, still smiling. “I will take your word for it, my lady. I will take my leave.” He nodded to me and walked back through the vines.
I watched him go. He was unlike any human I had met, and yet he was so similar. Perhaps any human had the potential to be like him, but none took to it as he had.
I stayed in my garden for several hours, examining and caring for the plants within its walls. But I knew I could not stay for much longer without calling my actions ‘hiding’.
I sighed, knowing it was time to brave the halls and the possible interactions they held. I brushed off the skirt of my dress and walked through the vines.
I made it to the base of the staircase from the third floor to the second floor before encountering anyone. I had just turned left, when I heard a voice behind me.
I turned to see trooper Fives with two other troopers. “Fives, who are your companions?”
“This is Echo and Tup.”
Echo had a blue hand-print on the left side of his chest-plate while Tup had the tattoo of a teardrop under his right eye and his hair pulled into a bun.
“A pleasure to meet you both.” I gave a small smile.
“Likewise, my lady.” Echo nodded back.
“So, I’ve got a question for ya.” Fives grinned.
I raised my eyebrows. “I shall try to answer.”
“Why do you have a boxing ring in your home?”
I chuckled. “Come with me, gentlemen.” I led the way down the hall a little ways and we entered the room. “I am not quite sure what a boxing ring is, but this is the arena room.”
In the middle of the room, raised on stone, was a fenced-in square. There was a balcony around the perimeter towards the top of the room, which the ladder next to the doorway led to.
I led the men to the stairs leading to the gates into the ring. “During my father’s time, there was a monthly fighting competition held here. Young men would fight for bragging rights, the favor of a lady or just to expel energy.”
“Were there more people living here, in your father’s time?” Tup asked, looking around the room.
I smiled, nodding. “The bunk rooms were full and there were small houses all around the mansion. Back then, there was an entire town surrounding the mansion. Humans were known but not a threat.”
“What happened?” Echo asked quietly, frowning.
My face fell. “A war. The humans decided that they wanted the land that the dark elf’s lived on and that negotiations with ‘savages’ were absurd. They gathered their armies and attacked the cities first.” I began to slowly walk around the arena. “They only killed the people. They didn’t want to ruin the land that they claimed. Bodies were piled and burned, while artifacts once treasured and revered were broken, sold or used against us.”
“But the mansion still stands?” Fives grimaced.
I sighed. “Yes. My father took the warriors of the town and went out to face the human army, while my mother gathered the others, builders, healers and ranchers. The people converged their power and returned the wood of the buildings back into trees. They created a shield around the mansion and hid within.” I swallowed, preparing my voice for what I was about to say. “My father barely made it back, but he unintentionally led the army here. The power of the dark elves held that day, the humans retreating. My father passed before the sunset, and my mother used her sorrow to protect the mansion as the people fled. When the humans returned, the mansion looked empty, so they left. It was only decades later that they came back to find me as Mistress of the Mansion.”
Silence fell over the room and I glanced over to see the men shuffling uncomfortably. I huffed quietly and gave a small smile. “Do not worry yourselves over a reminiscing old elf. Feel free to use this room to train, fight or gather. I will take my leave.” I nodded to them and walked down the hall.
Once on the other side of the mansion, I allowed myself to stagger and lean against the wall. Since when did I so easily tell humans of the history of dark elves? A tear rolled down my cheek and I closed my eyes. Was it time for them to know or was it simply because I had become lonely? Either way, I should at least attempt to contain the sorrow I had locked away for centuries. It was unseemly for a lady to cry in front of guests.