He found her that evening, alone on the balcony she had frequented in Naboo's better days. Tears streaked her cheeks, yet she made no sound. A strong one, she was. Too bad that very strength would make her so... intractable to his purposes. Palpatine moved from the shadows to join her.
"Don't grieve, Your Majesty. He isn't dead."
She didn't start and he conceded her another point. Most others tended to startle when he used his Force abilities to seemingly appear from nowhere. Amidala, on the other hand, refused to look at him.
"I hold you responsible, Senator, for my husband's demise. And how you can say he still is lives is beyond me. Obi-Wan told me he fell into the caldera. No one could survive such a fall," she responded, her voice cold and devoid of her obvious pain.
"Ah, but I was there. Indeed, I brought him from the pit. He lies in a healing trance at the moment. However... " He paused, relishing her rising hope he so desired to dash. "There are many injuries which require more than these primitive conditions allow."
"You lie, Senator. For some perverse reason, you wish to inflict injury on me. How can I believe you? All you have ever done is lie... I should have known--"
"Enough! I will no longer tolerate your attitude. I am the Emperor. Since you seem to have sensed certain things I will tell you that I am indeed more." He pulled up the cloak's hood, turning to give her full view of his shadowy visage above the Sith clasp he wore beneath his chin. "In the past, others have know me as Darth Sidious, Sith Master."
Amidala stiffened and a grim smile flitted across his face as he sensed her understanding of just what he had been responsible for. For a moment, he reveled in her fear and hatred, then she closed herself off. Amazing, how well she could shield herself. Had his new apprentice taught her such a technique? Somehow he doubted it. More likely, that annoyance Kenobi had done it to keep him from probing her mind.
"Regardless of this, I have saved your husband. Go to him. He lies unconscious on the caldera lip. Just ask Kenobi where he left him. Oh, and I have something else for you," he said, reaching into the sleeve of his robe. "I doubt your healers can do much to reattach this, but perhaps I am wrong."
He held out his grisly trophy... Ani's right hand, still clutching his lightsaber. Amidala's hand trembled as she reached out to take it and as she focused on the horrific thing she held, Palpatine faded away, back into the shadows.
His parting words before he left chilled her more than anything else he'd said. "Oh, and once he's in better shape, see to it you do your part. Get yourself with child. I need fresh blood if the Sith are to survive." With a parting cackle, he disappeared.
She wanted to scream, shout, fall on her knees and sob, but she did none of those things. By sheer force of will, she went back inside her room, fully expecting to see Palpatine's loathsome face again. A fever of anger nearly overcame her. With an oath, she laid Ani's hand on the table, then ran out, calling for Obi-Wan and her handmaidens.
"Amidala, what is it?" He emerged from his room, bleary eyed and rumpled, something she'd never seen him before in all the years she'd known him.
"Palpatine just visited me--"
"What?" Sabe' blurted out as she joined them.
"He says Ani's still alive. Said you would know where he was, Obi-Wan."
Obi-Wan frowned. "I saw him fall..."
"The... Emperor... told me he got him out somehow, then left him where you and he were last." She wrung her hands, wanting to rush off to see if the nasty creature had lied about that as well.
"Though I doubt it much, I'll gladly go with you. We should take the shuttle, it has a temporary med bay." He straightened, determination lighting his eyes. "If there's anything I can do, Amidala..."
"Just help me find him, Obi-Wan. That's all I ask."
She didn't speak of the other things Palpatine had told her. Her only focus at the moment remained on Anakin. Somehow, some way, he must be alive. If he died...
They found him exactly where Palpatine had said he would be, laying in a bloody, smoldering mass beside the large rock he and Obi-Wan had occupied scant hours before. Miraculously, he still lived, though the sound of his labored breathing made Amidala bite her fist as tears welled in her eyes yet again.
Acting as a team, Esme' and six Naboo men moved Anakin carefully into the shuttle as it hovered beside the narrow caldera lip. Esme' placed a portable respirator over his burned and lacerated face, giving him a super-oxygenated mixture to breath. As she moved to clean him a bit, she spoke over her shoulder to Amidala.
"I fear he's burned more than just the outside, Your Majesty. If he was indeed near enough to the lava to scorch his skin and clothes like this, I'm certain he's damaged his lungs as well." She paused, turning to face Amidala. "Our facilities aren't sophisticated enough to repair everything. If I had the old hospital up and running..."
"Do what you can, Esme'. That's all I can ask. Anything more... Palpatine intimated he'd finish what we couldn't accomplish."
In some ways, Amidala was glad Obi-Wan was busy piloting the shuttle. She felt oddly reticent about sharing what Palpatine had told her with the Jedi knight. Perhaps later, but at the moment, she didn't want to add to his burden. Already she sensed he blamed himself for Ani's... accident. As so often lately, she determined she would let things take care of themselves. If it became necessary, she would tell him, just not now.
Obi-Wan managed to find a functioning bacta tank in the old hospital and with the help of the survivors, they moved it into one of the Palace's lower rooms. Esme' had it up and running in a short time, and after repairing Ani's hand with the assistance of a med droid, placed into the bacta. She continued to fuss over the controls, worriedly looking at his vital signs.
"What's wrong, Esme'?" Amidala asked.
"He fighting the anesthesia to keep him out while he's in the tank."
"Perhaps I can help," Obi-Wan said from behind them.
"More than the medicine?" Esme' seemed skeptical.
Obi-Wan gave a weak smile. "I can see if our bond still holds. If it does, I can try to ease him into a more natural healing state."
Amidala reached out to take his hand. "Anything you can do is appreciated, Obi-Wan."
He nodded, then closed his eyes and reached out to the Force for Anakin.
You must heal. Don't fight it. You're in a bacta tank right now...
Is Am there?
Tell her... I love her... I'm sorry...
She knows, Ani... Now, rest... Forget...
Reluctantly, he released the bond, aware Anakin had at last relaxed into a true healing trance. All any of them could do now was to wait.