Return of the Aurors
Chapter 2: Dursley's Palace
By Anne B. Walsh
As before, dialogue not mine.
Ron Solo tried to push himself up off the floor, but his arms wouldn’t take his weight.
Whatever I drank last night, it wasn’t worth this.
Someone’s hands closed around his and helped him turn over. "Just relax for a moment," an electronic voice buzzed near his ear. "You’re free of the carbonite."
The carbonite... I remember now... how long was I frozen? He moaned aloud, trying to remember how to speak.
"You have hibernation sickness," the voice went on.
Good, I’d hate to feel like this if I was well. Ron managed to get his hand up near his face, or he thought he had. "I can’t see," he croaked.
"Your eyesight will return in time," the other assured him.
"Where am I?" He was sure of the answer, but needed to know anyway.
No surprise. Ron reached out to find the speaker, and touched an Ubese breather helmet. He must be from the Alliance, nobody else would have come after me here. "Who are you?"
The helmet moved under his hand. "Someone who loves you," murmured a new voice, one he knew, even half-dead and blind.
Ron felt her come into his arms, but only for a moment. "I gotta get you out of here," she said, pulling away, helping him stand up.
A deep, nasty chuckle rolled through the room.
"What’s that?" Ron asked, turning his head to try to find the source of the sound.
Another chuckle followed the first.
Ron’s heart sank. "I know that laugh," he said.
The shunk of a curtain being pulled aside, and sudden heat on his face, which he thought must correspond to light. The jabber of alien laughter, and centermost in it, Dursley the Hutt.
"Hey, Dursley," Ron said, clinging to Neenie. "Look, Dursley, I was just on my way to pay you back, but I got a little sidetracked. It’s not my fault." If I can just keep him talking, maybe she can get away...
"It’s too late for that, Solo," the Hutt rumbled in his own language. "You may have been a good smuggler, but now you’re bantha fodder."
"Look," Ron tried once more.
"Take him away!" Dursley roared.
Strong hands fastened around Ron’s arms, yanking him away from Neenie. "Dursley, I’ll pay you triple," he shouted. "You’re throwing away a fortune here! Don’t be a fool!"
Dursley just laughed again. "Bring her to me," he commanded.
Ron tried to fight, but nothing worked the way it should, and by the time the guards manhandled him through a door and slammed it shut behind him, he was grateful just to be standing.
Then something growled.
Great. Getting eaten is one of the very few ways this day could get worse.
Another growl followed the first, and suddenly made sense — they weren’t just growls, they were words, words in one of the other languages he’d learned to understand knocking around the galaxy for all these years... and in a voice he knew, as well...
"Hairy?" he called out, praying he was right. "Hairy, is that you?"
An excited roar, and something large and furry slammed into him. Ron stumbled backwards, still upright only because Hairy’s arms were around him. "Wait," he got out. "I can’t see, pal. What’s going on?"
Hairy started explaining, loudly and at length. Ron had to stop him partway through. "Drake? Drake’s crazy. He can’t even take care of himself, much less rescue anybody."
Hairy insisted that on the contrary, Drake both could and was.
"An... Auror Knight?" Ron groaned. "I’m out of it a little while, everybody gets delusions of grandeur."
Hairy compared Ron’s current condition to a couple of unflattering things, then pulled his friend close and started grooming him with one big paw.
"I’m all right, pal." Ron wondered just how much worse things would have to get for him to stop lying. "I’m all right."
He shut his eyes — not that it made any real difference, but it was what he was used to doing when he slept — and fell into a strange, uneasy dream.
He stood in the main entranceway to Dursley’s palace, a passage he’d walked many times. The big main door was rising. Beyond it stood a figure, silhouetted against the bright Quidditchine sunlight. Ron squinted.
That’s funny. Why’s he wearing a robe? Looks like what old Dunobi used to wear. He snorted. Must be in keeping with his new personality. Auror Knight, indeed.
Drake entered the palace, his face serene. A pair of identical Gamorreans growled at him, barring his way with crossed halberds, but Drake raised his hand to each of them in turn, and they stepped back, looking confused.
How’d he do that?
Ory Goila, the Twi’lek majordomo, appeared at the other end of the tunnel and hurried up to Drake. "I must speak with Dursley," Drake said to him.
Ory shook his head.
"You will take me to Dursley now," said Drake calmly, looking into the Twi’lek’s strange eyes.
Ory’s eyes glazed slightly. "I will take you to Dursley now," he repeated in his own language.
Drake smiled as Ory turned to lead him to Dursley’s throne room. "You serve your master well," he said. "And you will be rewarded."
Ron followed them, confusion warring with sudden hope.
Maybe the new title Drake was claiming wasn’t so ridiculous after all.
That slimy, bug-eating, spice-stealing, slug...
If Ron had been physically present in the throne room, he wasn’t sure even his weakness would have stopped him from trying to throttle Dursley. Princess Neenie, now chained to Dursley by a necklace-like collar, wore just enough to preserve her modesty. She looked damned good in it, Ron had to admit.
But I don’t want her showing it off to the whole world. And she doesn’t either. She hates this, I can see it. Hang on, love, we’ll get out of this.
"At last!" cried another familiar voice, and Ron looked up in surprise. Threelo the droid peered out from behind Dursley’s bulk. "Master Drake’s come to rescue me!"
I wouldn’t bet on it, Goldie. Then Ron recalled what Drake had done in the hallway. Well, maybe I wouldn’t bet against it either. But I still have a bad feeling about this...
Ory had just finished telling Dursley who had come to see him. "I told you not to admit him," growled the Hutt.
"I must be allowed to speak," said Drake to Ory.
"He must be allowed to speak," Ory repeated in Huttese.
Dursley bellowed and clobbered Ory, shoving him away. "You fool!" the Hutt roared in his own language. "He’s using an old Auror mind trick."
Drake fixed his eyes on the Hutt. "You will bring Captain Solo and the Wookiee to me," he commanded.
Dursley sneered, one of the few expressions the large, slimy face could manage. "Your mind powers will not work on me, boy."
"Nevertheless, I’m taking Captain Solo and his friends." Drake had to be upset that his plan hadn’t worked, but Ron could see no signs of it. "You can either profit by this, or be destroyed. It’s your choice. But I warn you not to underestimate my powers."
Dursley howled with laughter. Threelo poked his head out again. "Master Drake," he babbled, "you’re standing on..."
"There will be no bargain, young Auror," Dursley rumbled before the droid could finish. "I will enjoy watching you die."
Drake’s hand snapped up and caught a blaster — which had flown, by itself, from the holster of the nearest guard.
All right, that’s useful, Ron admitted. Now listen to the droid and get off the damned —
"Boscka!" Dursley bellowed, and the grate dropped from Drake’s feet, spilling into the pit both the young Auror Knight and the hapless guard who’d been trying to get his blaster back.
"See the Auror, see the Auror!" Dursley shouted, laughing, as his dais rolled forward to cover the new hole in the floor. Neenie tried to pull away, but a guard put a hand on her shoulder —
Luna! Ron stared as he recognized the woman. Great big reunion here, isn’t it?
Roars and screams from below pulled his attention. Neenie’s all right — sort of — for the moment. Drake’s where the action is.
He hurried towards the grate still in place before Dursley’s dais, hoping to get a view around everyone’s heads —
And suddenly he was in the pit, facing Dursley’s favorite large, hairy, and far-too-many-legged pet, which was in the process of swallowing the guard who’d fallen into the pit with Drake.
Come on, Drake, fight the damn thing. Hell of a way to end a rescue attempt, getting eaten by a rancomantula.
Drake seemed to think so himself. As the rancomantula grabbed for him, he dashed away and snatched up a long, straight arm bone.
Don’t hit it, that’ll just make it mad...
But Drake didn’t try to hit it. In fact, he let it pick him up, barely fighting at all —
What’s he doing?
At the last second, the Auror wedged the long bone into the rancomantula’s mandibles, and fell to the ground as it bellowed in pain.
Oh. I guess that works.
Drake squeezed himself into a crevice as the rancomantula flailed around the cave, smashing into another wall and causing a minor avalanche. Ron watched his eyes move around, then suddenly light up as they lit on something. Following his friend’s line of sight, he felt his first real hope since Drake had fallen into this place. That’s the way, Drake! That’s thinking!
Drake had spotted the door control that led to the rancomantula’s holding cave.
But the beast wasn’t finished with him yet. A hairy hand reached into the crevice, trying to get a grip on Drake. Drake fumbled a rock up and smashed it down on a long furry finger, dashing past the rancomantula as it howled once again. He slammed his hand onto the door panel, the door shot upwards, he darted through —
And was stopped by heavy bars only a few meters from where he’d started.
Ron swore again, cursing the situation, the rancomantula, and Drake’s stupidity as the Auror Knight wasted time furiously shaking the bars. Leave those alone, kid, they’re not going to move! Find something you can kill this thing with!
Drake spun back to confront the rancomantula, now pain-maddened and readier than ever for the kill. Ron flattened himself against the wall, though he suspected that, not really being there, he didn’t count. The rancomantula stuck its head through the doorway.
Nice try, Drake. Shame it had to end this way.
Drake was fumbling on the floor, picking up a skull from one of the rancomantula’s earlier kills — he hefted it, then threw it —
It impacted squarely on the twin of the door control he’d used a moment before.
The door fell with a crash, crushing the rancomantula beneath it.
Ron stared, his mouth hanging open, as Drake sagged against the bars, panting.
Did he —
I don’t believe it.
He’s either the luckiest or the smartest little bastard going.
A thankful sigh from above, followed quickly by a pained gasp, reminded him of the other people around he cared about. A thought brought him back to the main level of the throne room, where Dursley, his usually puce skin reddening in anger, was roaring at his guards. "Bring me Solo and the Wookiee," he commanded, dragging Neenie back towards him by her chain. "They will all suffer for this outrage."
Aw, great. At least I got to watch the thing happen that I get to suffer for.
Ron felt a pull from the direction of his body. Hairy must be trying to wake him up.
Might as well not give him too much trouble about it.
One thought stayed with him as he fell through light into darkness.
Hey, if we gotta suffer, at least we’re suffering together.
"Drake!" Ron turned his head towards his friend out of reflex, even though he still couldn’t see a damned thing.
"Are you all right?"
"Fine. Together again, huh?"
"Wouldn’t miss it."
"How’re we doing?" Ron disregarded Hairy’s muttered answer to this, as it was both unhelpful and quite obscene.
"The same as always." As usual, Drake sounded far too cheerful.
"That bad, huh? Where’s Neenie?"
"I’m here," said a testy voice, followed by a small vocalized shudder of disgust. Ron clenched his teeth over what he knew must be happening. Just let me get my hands on your rubbery hide, Dursley...
Dursley bellowed something Ron couldn’t follow, but Threelo’s prissy voice translated. The golden droid sounded distinctly worried.
Of course, he always sounds like that.
"Oh dear. His High Exaltedness, the great Dursley the Hutt, has decreed that you are to be terminated immediately."
On second thought, maybe this time he’s got reason.
"Good," Ron said aloud. "I hate long waits."
"You will therefore be taken to the Dune Sea and cast into the pit of Carkoon, the nesting place of the all-powerful Sarlacc."
"Doesn’t sound so bad," Ron said nonchalantly to Drake and Hairy.
"In his belly, you will find a new definition of pain and suffering, as you are slowly digested over a thousand years."
Definitely reason. "On second thought, let’s pass on that, huh?" Ron said.
Hairy agreed emphatically.
"You should have bargained, Dursley," Drake said confidently. "This was the last mistake you’ll ever make."
Dursley cackled evilly, and hands turned Ron roughly and shoved him hard to start him walking.
I am going to get the twins when this is over, vowed the small part of Ron Solo that was still Ron Weasley.
"I think my eyes are getting better," Ron said, blinking as he stared out over the desert of Quidditchine. "Instead of a big dark blur, I see a big light blur."
Drake chuckled beside him. "There’s nothing to see," he said. "I used to live here, you know."
"You’re going to die here, you know. Convenient."
"Just stick close to Hairy and Luna," said Drake, again with his new confidence in his voice. "I’ve taken care of everything."
"Oh," said Ron. "Great."
His mind wandered, and he seemed to fly beside the skiff they rode on, up to Dursley’s huge sail barge, where Neenie stared out a window at them. Sorry about this, Princess, he wanted to tell her. This was never where I meant us to end up...
Suddenly, Neenie disappeared.
What — where’d she go?
He was inside the sail barge. Dursley had pulled Neenie’s chain tight, and was holding her close to him, caressing her with his slimy hands. "Soon you will learn to appreciate me," he told the struggling princess.
Ron forced himself to turn away, knowing he could do nothing. Several feet away, a small crash coincided with a droid’s whistle of surprise and annoyance.
Might as well go see what that is.
"Emtoo! What are you doing here?" Threelo demanded of his counterpart.
Emtoo beeped at him.
"Well, I can see you’re serving drinks, but this place is dangerous. They’re going to execute Master Drake and, if we’re not careful, us too!"
Emtoo whistled a singsong response.
"Hmm. I wish I had your confidence," Threelo said worriedly, turning to look out a window.
A hand shook Ron’s arm, and he roused. He was back in his body, on the skiff. It had stopped.
Guess this is it.
"Victims of the almighty Sarlacc," Threelo’s voice echoed over an amplifier system. "His Excellency hopes that you will die honorably. But should any of you wish to beg for mercy, the great Dursley the Hutt will now listen to your pleas."
Ron blinked several times, and was suddenly able to distinguish the sail barge from the surrounding desert. "Threelo," he shouted back, finding a golden smudge high up which ought to be the protocol droid, "you tell that slimy piece of..." He edited for Neenie’s sake. "...worm-ridden filth he’ll get no such pleasure from us. Right?"
Hairy howled in agreement.
"Dursley!" Drake called. "This is your last chance. Free us, or die."
Under Dursley’s wild laughter, light footsteps caught Ron’s ear. Luna’s, he guessed — he knew she was one of the guards on the skiff with them, but there were at least three others, and not even Drake Skywalker, Auror Knight, could deal with them without a weapon...
"Move him into position," Dursley ordered in Huttese.
Ron kept his eyes on the upper deck of the sail barge, and suddenly spotted a little dark blot near Threelo. Is that Emtoo-Betoo? What’s she doing?
"Put him in," the Hutt crime lord shouted.