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Saga - Legends Between the Porch and the Altar (OC Challenge; tie-in to The Book of Gand)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Findswoman , Jun 28, 2016.

  1. Findswoman

    Findswoman Fanfic and Pancakes and Waffles Mod (in Pink) star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014
    Author: Findswoman
    Title: Between the Porch and the Altar
    Era: Saga (Legends), early Imperial Era. Ties in to The Book of Gand.
    Characters: OCs; some oblique mentions of others
    Genre: Short story; drama, introspection
    Rating: PG-13 for depictions of the aftereffects of violence; blood; mutilation; suicide (but not of the main character)
    Summary: A Gand Findswoman struggles to carry on during the Imperial invasion of her homeworld.
    Notes: For the Spring 2016 OC Revolution challenge, initiated by leiamoody:
    Many thanks, as usual, to Kahara for her perceptive and supportive beta-reading. @};-
    This story has been translated into French by @yahiko and may be read in French here.

    Between the Porch and the Altar

    Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say: “Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thy heritage to reproach . . .”
    —Joel 2:17 (JPS 1917)

    In the Great Temple of Gand, which floated serenely on its own pocket colony above the north pole of that eternally mysterious gas giant, all was desolate, mournful, uncertain. The halls that once echoed with the footfalls of Findsmen’s boots and rang with the sound of Findsmen’s chanting now merely rustled weakly with weeping and prayer—or had fallen silent altogether.

    For the invaders had come: the mammalian, Human invaders in the gigantic wedge-shaped ships, who had driven the Sacred Visionary Mists from the skies and then boasted to the monarch, the magnates, and the merchants that their gray metal boxes could track missing beings and objects better than the mystical talent of the Findsmen.

    In one of those silent hallways, bounded by a statue of Trynfor the Holy Madman at one end and by one of Isthien the Sacred Healer at the other, a wall-lamp cast its flickering blue-gray light upon a bundle of robes huddled against the cold stone wall: the hunched form of a young Findswoman.

    Long ago the Mists had shown her everything that would come to her homeworld: the spindly hovering probe droids, the immense, bladelike wedges piercing and dispersing the Mists of Gand, the plasteel soldiers marching rank on rank through the Sacred Capital. They had warned her of the grief and distress that would come over her and her fellow Findsmen.

    And now They were scattered, and would show her no more.

    She could do nothing now but sit there, with her head bowed, her shoulders hunched, and the golden light of her compound eyes buried in her arms and knees, and think of those past visions. She did not know how long she had been sitting. Perhaps it had been days. Or perhaps weeks; it no longer mattered. Had the invaders’ hideous atmosphere-modification devices had sapped away time itself along with the Mists? Perhaps so; without Them, there was no longer any difference between hours, seasons, revolutions, eons.

    Again and again she strained to catch some wisp of intuition from the Sacred Visionary Mists of her world. Again and again her mystical senses poured themselves out to Them like a lost gree-graak chick crying for its mother. “How long?” she asked Them, again and again—how long till she would know what would become of herself, her fellow Findsmen, her homeworld, the Galaxy? It was a physical as well as a mental effort that sapped the energy from her slight frame.

    But it was all to no avail, for the Mists were too weakened to show her anything. All her meditative powers were useless now. All the hours she had spent drilling them, under the supervision of her Findsmasters, had gone for naught.

    (She thought of those Findsmasters: the kind, stooped elder with the friendly eyes, the stately Findslady revered by all, even the oversized old oaf who never stopped complaining about his students. She had seen them, too, crouched in the temple’s labyrinthine halls; she had knelt beside each of them, offering words and gestures of comfort, offering prayers and healing chants. Only one of them had replied to her. But there was a fourth, too, who was at once Findsmaster, zaviir, tarnuur, promised one . . . and where now was the flash of his proud silver eyes, the grip of his claws? Oh, for the simplest Mist Query, the simplest Ritual of Wayseeking to hunt him down!)

    At least there was still Stillness of the Fog, the Findsman’s calming discipline. Even if the Mists of Gand had been weakened, perhaps she could at least commune with her own Inner Mists this way—as well as rest from the exertion of her futile meditations.

    There were six levels of Stillness of the Fog, ranging from simple relaxation at the first level to the temporary shutdown of vital functions at the sixth—the feigned-death state known also as Mortal Stillness. One by one, as the hours passed, she engaged each of them. Like rippling pond waters or churning fogs calming to stillness, her Inner Mists first settled themselves into the simple relaxation, then into the slightly deeper relaxation. Next came the transition to the sleeplike trance, then the coma-like trance. For those hours the only motion in that hallway had been that of the flickering lamp.

    At last she concentrated her Inner Mists into the core of her lungs, building toward the final, vital mystical effort that would propel her into the death-like trance of Mortal Stillness. She drew a deep breath in, filling her lungs as she recited the mystical formulas in her mind. Then she exhaled sharply, crumpling to the ground in an amorphous heap of robes.

    But was not blue-gray haze before her the light of the hall lamp? Was that not the statue of Trynfor looming upside down in one facet of her compound eyes, the statue of Isthien in another? Was not her heart still beating? Were even her Inner Mists too weak to cross over into the realm of Mortal Stillness?

    And was not a voice speaking to her?

    “Findslady Telfien!”

    Her name, her long-silent name! At its sound she pulled herself up and blinked her nictitating membranes. Crouched before her was a female Temple servant in the customary slate-blue uniform—one she recognized, who had shown her kindness in the past—with her hands spread in a pleading gesture.

    “Please come! There is one who is calling for you!”

    “Telfien shall come.” And she rose and walked with the servant down the hallway, in the direction of the statue of Trynfor.

    * * *​

    Telfien walked with the servant through the halls of the Great Temple. All was as the Mists had first shown her. Proud Findsmen, erudite Findsmasters, eminent Elders, and fledgling apprentices sat crouched in degenerate grief in the temple hallways, just as she herself had done: bent over, trembling, weeping, praying, striking their breasts, clawing their clothing. And just as she herself had, they had stopped in their places out of sheer hopelessness and fatigue. Without the Mists, there was no longer any use in making it all the way to their wonted teaching rooms, meditation chambers, chapels, or garden haunts.

    She went over to offer them help and comfort, but the servant pulled her gently away.

    Further on, her antennae twitched at a toxic chemical scent wafting from a group of apprentices who sat particularly still, leaning against each other and against a support column. The chitin plates of their hands, feet, and faces were warped, peeling, and corroded; Telfien recognized the effects of poison distilled from the bruugaan tree. Just beyond that, an elder Findsman in ceremonial garb was slumped against the archway leading to the Temple’s main sanctum. His head hung limply, in sleeplike calm, above a gaping, blackened hole in his thorax. Telfien noticed the half-molten barrel of an energy weapon peeking from the hole and realized what had happened: he had set his blaster to overload quietly within the inner pocket of his robes.

    But again the servant hurried her on with impatient claw-taps on her shoulder.

    At last they came to the gateway that led out to the Temple gardens. The servant led Telfien outside onto a broad, arched portico, into a night that was an unnaturally solid, mistless black.


    A figure in Findsman’s robes sat against one of the columns, writhing and groaning in violent pain as brown blood oozed copiously from a wound in his shoulder. Telfien could not see much of his face, for his head was thrown back and to the side at a peculiar and uncomfortable-looking angle. Another healing servant, this one male, sat beside him and was applying bacta pads to the wound, but it seemed to be doing little good. A large shockstaff lay on the ground a little ways off, its once-sharp tip bent and blunted. Farther away two of the white plasteel invaders lay piled on top of each other, motionless.

    “A squadron of the . . . invaders managed to get into the garden,” the servant accompanying Telfien explained. “He went against them . . . he eliminated two of them, as you see, but one of the others—”

    She stopped suddenly. The wounded Findsman was now sitting upright, looking directly at Telfien through glassy, delirious silver eyes. The Findswoman started at the sight of those eyes, for there was something familiar about them—but they shone from a face whose plates were so scraped, gashed, and dislodged as to be unrecognizable.

    “Telf—” he began. The name was instantly swallowed up in another paroxysm of groans, prompting the healing servant to redouble his efforts with the bacta. “Sacred scion . . . you are here . . .”

    “Y-yes, yes, she is . . .” Those eyes, that face . . . could it be . . . but it couldn’t be . . . or could it?

    “By the ancient power that dwells within you . . . h-help this Gand!”

    Telfien looked down at her hands. She knew what he wanted her to do; she had known since she had first seen him. Would it even be possible with the Mists in such a weakened state, with herself in such a weakened state? But she had to try. A Gand life depended on it.

    “Telfien shall do her best.”

    The healing servant with the bacta made room for her as she knelt beside the Findsman, placed her hands gently over his wound, and channeled all that remained of her intuitive energy toward it. Minutes passed. He continued to twitch and writhe—was it working?—and was he really—? But it was no use wondering that now. All she could do was ensure her hold on him would not slip, despite her own flagging energy.

    More minutes passed. Perhaps, against all odds, it was finally having some effect: he was calmer now, the blood flow was slowing, new tissue was beginning to regenerate. She would give it a little longer, till it was almost healed, and then—

    Without moving her hands from their place over his wound, she leaned in close to his face and whispered a single, questioning name.

    He twitched and ground his outer mandibles. “Yes?” he growled. “What do you want to know about that befoggèd traitorous upstart?”

    Telfien started at these words but remained as calm as she could. “Apologies—Telfien merely wondered—”

    “You mistook this Gand”—he reared up and tapped his chest with his claws—“for him, didn’t you?”

    “Apologies again—now if Telfien may ask you kindly to remain still—”

    “It would certainly not be the first time someone has had that misconception,” the Findsman grumbled as he relaxed again onto the flagstones of the porch. Telfien resumed her pressure on his wound. “But he, he shall suffer, that Uncanny One . . . because of his treachery Gand has no more Guardian to protect her secrets from the invader . . . his power joined with yours”—he thrust a claw at Telfien—“would have saved his people and his Mists . . . oh, but those who reject their homeworld will be rejected by their homeworld—you shall see! YOU—SHALL—SEE!”

    With these last words he sprang up with surprising energy and vehemence, causing Telfien to tumble to the ground. Then he stormed off into the temple. The two healing servants hurried after him; the gate shut with a crash.

    Only Telfien remained behind on the stony ground, immobile from the pure shock of what she had heard. The dire words of the wounded Findsman (whose wound was not yet fully healed!) still reverberated through her whole being: her mind and soul, but also her lungs, her heart, her deepest core.

    Traitorous—upstart—suffer—treachery—reject—rejected—YOU SHALL SEE!

    Their relentless ring seemed to freeze her blood in its very path and to strangle her internal organs, constricting the motion of her blood and breath till they stopped altogether. The nictitating membranes of her eyes flickered and closed; her limbs and head flopped limply to the side.

    And Telfien recognized the feeling and abandoned herself to it: Mortal Stillness had come at last.

    * * *

    Some time later, two Imperial stormtroopers happened upon what looked like a body lying on the Temple portico.

    “Hey, this isn’t the same one!” expostulated the first, prodding the immobile, robed form with a plasteel boot.

    “You’re right, it’s not.” His comrade seemed equally bewildered.

    “Where’d the other one go?”

    “No idea. But who cares? Look at that.” He prodded with his boot at the green brocaded sash that encircled the presumed corpse’s waist. “Wouldn’t that make a nice gift for Moff Waddsley?”

    “Oh yeah! She can wear it with her green Deyor gown!” He dropped to his knees and began clumsily to unwrap the sash, which he then stuffed into one of his supply pouches.

    “Just make sure you give it to a laundry droid when we get back shipboard. Get the ammonia smell out, y’know.”

    “Yeah, sure.”

    Giving the body one last kick, they walked off. ¶

    I’ve had the verse from Joel in mind as a potential fic prompt for a while now, and leiamoody ’s challenge was the perfect opportunity to use it. Those priests weeping between the porch and the altar are themselves undergoing a period of forced inactivity, after all.

    The Gand ability to shut down all bodily functions and feign death has been established in canon; Zuckuss does so in Slave Ship (I think it is) in order to fool Bossk. In my fanon, this is a Findsman ability and specifically an extreme extension of the calming discipline of Stillness of the Fog. It will go in my fanon post eventually, I promise. :p

    All the characters in this story are also in The Book of Gand. Trynfor and Isthien are two renowned Finsdmen of ancient times who are mentioned there as well.

    My fanon posts on Gand terms and techniques and on Gand flora and fauna should explain many of the names and terms encountered in this story. In fact, those posts will need to be updated with new material that I’ve introduced here! You are, of course, welcome to ask me any questions you may have about anything you see here.

    The image of the Findsmen in the Temple hallways who committed suicide in protest against the Empire was inspired by a similar scene in TrakNar ’s 2012 vignette “The Changing of the Gand.” Indeed, the whole notion of writing about the Imperial occupation of Gand is at least partially indebted to her story too.

    The comparison of Telfien’s plea to the Mists to the cry of the gree-graak chick for its mother was inspired by this anonymous medieval Judeo-Spanish poem:
    In the Hebrew version of the poem, the dove cries out “Avi!” (my father).

    Yes, bruugaan is named (rather unoriginally) after brugmansia, and I imagine it being similar in its appearance and its effects.

    Deyor (a play on Dior) is borrowed from Chyntuck ’s mahvelous fanon post on GFFA fashion houses, luxury products, and cosmetics.

    What exactly is it that Telfien is doing to the wounded Findsman? If you’ve been following The Book of Gand, you may have a guess . . .

    Wookieepedia links:
    laundry droid:
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2019
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb and riveting response to the challenge. =D=
  3. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    A very great story showing more about Telfien and her powers
    Ewok Poet, Kahara and Findswoman like this.
  4. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Nov 30, 2005
    Beautifully written. The contrast between Telfien's gentle, compassionate ways and the brusque, uncaring stormtroopers who come in to take and destroy is heartbreaking. They kick her again just 'cause.

    The quote at the beginning is perfect, and this is an excellent twist on the prompt of someone who is usually busy but finds themselves doing nothing,
  5. whiskers

    whiskers Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 19, 2005
    Oh, the Empire. Never a good sign when they show up. I especially loved this line:

    I also liked Telfien's struggle to heal the injured Gand with the Force, and her finally succeeding.

    Great response to the challenge!
  6. leiamoody

    leiamoody Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Nov 8, 2005
  7. Findswoman

    Findswoman Fanfic and Pancakes and Waffles Mod (in Pink) star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014
    Thank you so much, and thanks for stopping by to read! :)

    Thank you, and I'm so glad you have been enjoying reading about Telfien. She's been with me for years now, and I'm very partial to her, so it always makes me glad when others like her too. :)

    Thank you so much for that compliment. :) It's true; just because she's there and just because they can because she's lying there in a death-like state. And the added irony here is that these are the people who subscribe to the notion of Humans as superior to all other species—but they're not setting such a good example, are they? :p

    Thanks. :) As mentioned in the notes above, that verse has been floating around in my head as a potential fic prompt for a while now, specifically as a prompt for a story about Empire-occupied Gand, since their plight always seemed so similar to those of those displaced priests at the beginning of that exilic period. And thanks to leiamoody 's excellent challenge prompt, I finally got the chance to do so!

    Yep, it's definitely never a good sign when the Empire appears on the scene. :( I am glad you like that passage—one thing I'm hinting at here is that the Empire believes not only in the superiority of Humans but also in that of technology. In other words, in desentientizing (that's a GFFA version of "dehumanizing" :p ) everything as much as they can, which is as hurtful to a place like Gand as the Human supremacy is. (Now yes, it is established that Findsmen have no problem using technology to assist them—energy weapons and the like are AOK. But certainly they draw the line at using for the actual process of finding of things and beings, since they have their "weirdly effective" mystical techniques for that.)

    Thanks! Well, she at least manages to mostly heal him; he jumps up in anger and storms off before she can finish, but apparently he's at least now OK enough to do that. Her ability to heal him fully was never in question—it would have happened had he not jumped up and run off. What was uncertain here was her ability to achieve the feigned-death state of Mortal Stillness given that she no longer has her homeworld's Mists assisting her. The shock of the wounded Findsman's harsh words is what finally pushes her into that state (which is albeit a state she was trying to reach anyway).

    Thank you so much—those are incredible compliments and it's an honor to receive them from you. @};- I like your interpretation and I don't think you're maligning anyone; it's one I hadn't thought of myself, but it definitely fits. As established in her backstory in The Book of Gand, Telfien has a very prodigious Mist talent that starts out very chaotic and uncontrolled, in ways that can be as hard on her as on those around her. By the time of this story she's a full-fledged Findswoman and in full control of her powers, but she's still experiencing how prodigious power can sometimes be a burden and a curse as well as a blessing. And that certainly can be a Cassandra-like feeling: she is forced to see the horrible things that will happen in the future but can't do anything (or can do very little) to stop them. :(

    And most importantly, leiamoody, thank you for coming up with this fantastic challenge! =D= I have you to thank for the fact that these little years-old disconnected ideas of mine have finally come together in story form. @};-
  8. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Dec 19, 2010
    I loved the rich detail of the story, your characters clearly inhabit a well-researched and complex society. I enjoyed the parallels between the loss of Telfien's connection to the Mists and the grief of the Gand following their invasion. I haven't read The Book of Gand so I'm sure there was plenty of other interesting stuff I didn't pick up on, but even as a standalone story this was great!
  9. Findswoman

    Findswoman Fanfic and Pancakes and Waffles Mod (in Pink) star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014
    Thank you so much for reading and commenting, gaarastar58! :) I'm glad you enjoyed this; it's a story of a sort that I've been wanting to write for almost as long as I've been developing my fanon on the Gand. Without the Mists all the Gand (mostly the Findsmen, but really everyone) are pretty much lost; what the Empire sees as a visibility-ruining annoyance is as essential to their life, physical and spiritual, as the sun is to ours. But it's just like the Empire to totally disregard that, alas! :( You definitely don't need to know all the events of The Book of Gand to get what's happening in this story, though some of the characters, both mentioned and otherwise, will certainly look familiar to those who have. (Granted, though, it was a bit challenging for me to try to write this in a spoiler-free manner, since it technically is intended to take place either after or close to the end of The Book of Gand.)

    Thanks again—wonderful to see you here! @};-
  10. Kahara

    Kahara Chosen One star 4

    Mar 3, 2001
    You have a real gift for writing powerful moments of loss, tragedy, and courage in a way that can be physically felt by the reader. I knew from the start that this was going to be one of those stories, but it still knocked me for a loop.

    The use of sound here is really effective; it really enhances the sense of wrongness. I remember you mentioned that this drew on the same part of Joel as the title, which is super nifty. Throughout this story, there's a feeling of ending, of the world that Telfien moves through being abandoned and haunted by ghosts of a sort. This picture of the place that was so serene in BOG is just haunting -- as is what follows. I think one of the real standout things about this story is that Telfien's reactions and the atmosphere of the Temple around her both bring such a realistic sense of the utter shock and numbness that people experience in the face of huge catastrophes.

    The idea of the Empire just casually swatting away the Mists that are so central to life on Gand is disturbing, and chillingly plausible. The ecology enthusiast in me is appalled, worrying at the damage that could do to local plant and animal life. Sounds potentially devastating if most life on the planet is adapted to constant humidity. But the psychological effect on the Gand people is almost unimaginable -- it is pretty much like they've woken up to find the alien ships from Independence Day blotting out the sun. :eek: And the reactions of Telfien and her peers show that clearly. They haven't just lost a familiar part of their world, but also the connection to a central part of their being.

    Ouch. :( Telfien really got the short end of the stick in the precognition department. Oodles of terrifying visions and no way to know how to prevent them from all coming true. That's some quality nightmare fuel.

    It has to be doubly awful to find that the stable, reliable points in your world (even if some of them are crotchety and difficult) are completely at a loss. Also, of course, Telfien is persistently searching for this silver-eyed friend of hers amid the confusion -- which becomes important later. Once Telfien is pulled out of her incomplete trance and goes to help, we see how things have become even worse than she realized. The suicides of the apprentices and the Findsman are gut-wrenching to imagine, especially given that normally the mentors among them are so careful in guiding and caring for the younger Findsman trainees. :( One can't really tell which deaths happened first, but either way it's just incredibly sad to think of that happening -- and that Telfien is seeing all of this in the place that has been her home for years. (In an awful sort of way, I was rather relieved that Telfien did not seem to recognize anyone familiar among the dead. But then, she's not in the clearest state of mind and isn't referring to most people by name at this point.)

    I love that Telfien is still willing to help, even when everything is turned upside down. We already know that it has taken just about everything she has to get up and go looking for this patient when she seems to be just as devastated as everyone else. But she does her best anyway, and that's an amazing character moment.

    There's something particularly tragic about this character who has such a vendetta clinging to it instead of letting go. It's not as though things haven't changed so much that former problems look small by comparison. And yet one ends up feeling bad for him, since he is at least in some deluded sense well-meaning. He never meant for his world to end up in such dire straits, and now he's caught in a tide of destruction along with everyone else.

    Even though it's a temporary coma, the slip into nothingness here is a heart-stopping moment. The news that sparks that reaction seems to come as a massive shock to her system, beyond all of the horror that she has already witnessed. We don't know yet why this Uncanny One would be a traitor, but it seems that Telfien must have some reason to know that it could be true.

    The scene of the stormtroopers at the end is yet another wrenching moment, since we know Telfien and what kind of person she is -- whereas they don't care to comprehend that she's a person at all. Though the Great Temple of Gand seems to be dying away in a fading-out sort of way earlier, the presence of the invaders suddenly makes the wreckage even more appalling. They're entirely shallow and self-centered, and it's a staggering contrast against all that came before. (Side note, but the overall atmosphere of this story reminds me of the death of the Forest Spirit in Princess Mononoke. And this scene especially so, because of the evil being done for simple greed -- no concern over the loss of wonder and mystery, or for the catastrophic toll in lives taken in the process.)

    Overall, I think this is one of your best so far. Very moving and the atmosphere is perfect. @};-
  11. Findswoman

    Findswoman Fanfic and Pancakes and Waffles Mod (in Pink) star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014
    I'm long overdue in responding to this wonderful comment, and I apologize:

    That is quite a compliment coming from someone whose stories are among the most beautifully written and emotionally moving things I've read here. Thank you so much, and thank you also for the role you played in this story's genesis. @};-

    Thanks, and yes, it does, and that's the part of the quote that in a way most specifically connects to the challenge theme: those priests are sitting around doing nothing but weeping instead of doing their priestly duties. They're in a similar position to Telfien, really.

    That is indeed what I was going for: this kind of devastation steals language, steals thought. The stealing of the Mists (see below) is kind of emblematic of that, in a way—well, they're emblematic of each other, really.

    That totally is something they could do—if they can destroy a whole planet with a superlaser, certainly taking out something like the atmospheric clouds or mists would be child's play. [face_nail_biting] There would almost certainly be untellable damage to the ecosystem and to the plant and animal life (including to the Gand themselves, most likely) that would compound the psychological devastation something really dreadful. The Mists are their physical and spiritual lifeblood—I've always felt like Gand spirituality is in some ways intimately connected with Gand physicality, though it's not always easy to articulate what I mean—and those befoggèd invading mammalian oxy-breathers went and swatted them away just because they made it hard for them to see. :(

    That is indeed probably one of the occupational hazards of the sacred seer business. leiamoody 's comparison to Cassandra was apt: Cassandra foretold a disastrous situation but the disbelief of those around her made it impossible to do anything about; Telfien has also foretold disaster but this time is hampered first and foremost by her own inability to do anything to avert it.

    It does, and I have no doubt that you know exactly who all those hinted-at-but-unnamed characters are. ;)

    I hadn't really thought about whether the elder or younger Findsmen's deaths happened first, but it is indeed horrific and devastating either way, and it's an example of the way a disaster like this can level things out so much (in every sense of the world) that time itself becomes irrelevant. And it goes on from there, because now the care and guidance of those elder Findsmen toward their students has become irrelevant too, as have (at least partly) their names, as you go on to observe.

    Yep—it's a combination of that with the whole quality of leveling mentioned above, and in this context it may even be regarded as a drastic, universalized form of the "name reduction" that's an established Gand concept. I confess too that another part of it was just me trying to minimize any possible spoilers for BOG. :p

    I always have admired people in RL who have not let their rougher experiences take away their kindness and good-heartedness, and that's what I tried to express with Telfien here. By this point she's endured a lot both good and bad, but none of it has turned her jaded or hardboiled or misanthropic. Her meek, gentle heart is still there under it all, and it spurs her to do what she can to help.

    He's the opposite of the type I just described in the paragraph above: he has let bad experience turn him jaded, but one can tell that he was sort of like that from the start anyway. But indeed, how can one not feel bad for him? None of this was his fault. Telfien knows that, even though what he says shocks her so much.

    By the way, this side character's identity is meant to be a bit ambiguous. If you know BOG, there are a couple of possibilities for him (though there is one who might be called the prime candidate). If you don't, it's no big deal, because he also can be regarded as just one of the various unnamed characters in the halls of the temple.

    That it is, and indeed she would, perhaps better than anyone; she knows him very well, as is suggested by her thoughts about him earlier on. And perhaps, paradoxically, that's precisely why it comes as such a shock to her. (Yes, I am beating about the bush here, mainly because I haven't yet fully worked out all the backstory behind this and am just trying to keep things as open as I can for now. :p )

    In that scene one gets to see just what kind of people it was who whisked the Mists away and thrust their "metal boxes" in the face of an entire planet—totally shallow, with an inflated sense of their own superiority and no regard for the sentience or beauty of those whose homeworld they have invaded. To them, the comatose form lying before them is not even a being—it's something for them to ravage and plunder. Note too that they're doing what they're doing to gain a pretty accessory for their moff—they're acting out of a perverted and warped sense of beauty that's diametrically opposed to the true beauty of the being they're plundering and the surrounding beauty of Gand.

    And that is a beautiful film—thanks so much for reminding me of it. Many of the same issues at work here indeed.

    Thank you very kindly for that; I'm immensely flattered to hear that from one of those whose story judgment I trust the most. And thank you, indeed, for everything. @};-
    Ewok Poet, Kahara and leiamoody like this.
  12. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Jul 31, 2014
    I agree with Kahara that this is one of your best so far, which - once again - puts me in horrible shame of having taken unforgivably long time to review it. On my first attempt to comment, I was writing in a text file and I lost comments to this, Sith's Mary Formal thread and Diva's H/L *somehow*. On the second attempt to comment, I closed the browser. The third time around, I pressed F5 and when I figured out what was going on, I pressed stop, but the screen froze. The fourth time was the equivalent of the second time. This story just didn't want me to comment on it, so...what can I say other than "I hope that this time it will work"?

    Let's get the thing I had said in private somewhere, too - I'm intrigued by how you imagine Gand as a gas giant with pocket colonies surrounding it - are they captured asteroids, natural moons, or entirely artificial bodies? In some way, your perception of Gand (which I understand was described this way in some sources, but not all of them) is similar to Duros, but not quite. Bespin, but not quite. So, whenever you can do so, I'm requesting a ridiculously detailed Fanon Thread post on this.

    On to the actual story.

    Telfien, for whom we already know that she's pretty strong from everything seen in The Book of Gand, appears to mirror the whole world's mood at first - it appears that there is no such thing as the higher power and that the Humans with their advanced technology, have "proven" something shocking - that mists were never real, that they were a placebo of some sorts.

    The story's title shows the eternal struggle between the secular and the divine, but Telfien's placement at the very beginning, too, hints another dilemma - she is sitting between somebody who was implied to have used his powers to benefit himself AND somebody who was implied to have used her powers to benefit the others. And these two struggles are contributing to the general order vs. disorder struggle that seems to be destroying both Telfien's own and the overall community's harmony. Until one has found the peace, the balance and the true calling - all that is left there is the cold, cold wall. The wall is blank, the wall is nothingness, thus giving the abstract dimension to the challenge if this was not complex enough already!

    But further on, we see that Telfien was the girl who yelled "wolf" - she saw all this long before it happened, so maybe, maybe, there is nothing to the Mists after all and her gift is real, regardless. However, it seems that our heroine is at least somewhat aware of the cruel game the invaders may or may not be playing in order to destabilise her people, deep inside. While it remains ambiguous if that was indeed their plan - just like all the theological works are left for the reader to decypher, it has always been a dichotomy, in a way.

    And this is where I make the wackiest comparison possible - this story and Space Jam, out of all things, have A LOT in common - invaders from space, loss of faith in one's abilities and...well.

    Here is where Telfien is overwhelmed by the fear of the sick invaders:

    ...just like the Looney Tunes were scared of the Moonstars.

    ...and this is where the smaller players see the big players fail. (Also - hehe - I recognise them all!)

    Here's her "miracle potion" aka the water from the above mentioned movie. The power has and it will always been WITHIN her, not on the outside. Her people had an understanding of the Force that was remarkably different from the offworlders'. They have lived more or less isolated, their culture was self-deprecating and, while they were recognising what they were capable of to a certain extent, they were not giving themselves enough credit.

    Once she has tapped into the living Force/the Inner Mists - she was called for help! See? It works!

    And now this story's mood goes downhill - just when Telfien could and should realise that it was in her all along, she is taken away from her inner world and taken to the harsh reality, that has a chaotic, maddening air to it. It's no accident that she's going towards the statue of somebody who was called the "mad" - she needs to balance that side with the glimpse of the other one that she had just been shown and the sights she sees among self-mutilating apprentices (did they dissolve their own exoskeletons?) and the Findsmaster who killed himself in a silent, yet grotesque way are like the reverse workings of the "mad" side - the non-secular Gands are destroying themselves, because their self-deprecating culture works in a way where they might not be fit for fight and where they rely on an abstract component for the answers, having been distressed by the events that took place.

    The wounded Findsman who went against the Stormtroopers is somewhat of a mystery to me - he is certainly not the Uncanny One, but I have a couple of guesses on who he may be, especially given the similiarities. The things he points out are implying that Telfien is thought to be blamed for some of the things the Uncanny One did - albeit it remains unclear which ones; but it's very clear that he is now gone and that he has been disowned.

    And, ironically, she appears to have placed a Findsman's mark on this character, thinking he was Zuckuss - sent him a spark of energy so strong that it may have contributed to what happens next, in a certain way! Now, what I wonder is how much of a well-known thing this was and how much the original instance of that contributed to anything that led up to this!

    But did she really cause all of this to happen? No. In the moment when all the good in her was denied, she managed to use the powers she no longer believed she had in order to heal this being, despite him vowing to revenge her. This is where the giving, "healer" side penetrates into the "mad", irrational side and helps her find what she did not see before she witnessed all of this gore, destruction, death and insults.

    And all of the above happened when she stepped from the altar to the porch - from the way she is expected to see it (and, apparently, sacrifice herself for?) to the real world, where the practical ways to use what she knows would help her survive - something all Gands could use.

    The end of the story leaves me eager for what is the next thing to happen in the BOG - it's clear that this was Telfien's symbolic death just like it was the symbolic death of her homeworld the way she knew her and everything she believed in, the way she was told to believe in - now awaiting for the symbolic rebirth of all of it and for what she is about to do, given that this will certainly lead to her not belonging anywhere anymore, at some point, if not the moment she wakes up from her Mortal Stillness. And the struggle to belong, the multiple, metaphorical deaths are my kind of a thing - so, yes, please. Do give us more.

    And the Imperials taking her precious sash away and kicking her just add insult to injury - they can barely tell one Gand from another, too! :(

    Overall, this is a magnificent experiment on how beliefs are not universally seen, how the same thing may be interpreted in so many ways and used for both good and bad. And the idea of having just a symbolic death and not an actual one once whatever was connecting the being to the belief appears to be gone is a curious one, too. My interpretation may be super-bizarre and I'm aware of it, but upon this most recent read, the story comforted me and I saw hope in it, despite its utter blackness.

    I think you deserve an applause! =D==D==D=
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  13. Findswoman

    Findswoman Fanfic and Pancakes and Waffles Mod (in Pink) star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014
    Thanks for that fantastic review, Ewok Poet, and thanks for persevering through all those technical setbacks, F5s, etc.—for my own part, I have to say it was more than worth the wait. :cool: Now I too have to apologize for taking such an excessively long time to reply; it's largely because you came up with so many different and very thought-provoking angles on the story that I hadn't even thought of (which, as I've said often before, I love it when readers do), and I wanted to make sure I had the time to digest and understand everything properly so I could write a response that wouldn't sound too half-baked. So, now, here goes:

    Wow, thanks, that's quite a compliment! I have to say, if I may, that I'm pretty proud of it myself. :p Again, I'm really sorry you had to go through all that trouble and all those technical difficulties.

    Yes, similar-but-not-quite to those two worlds is not a bad way of describing it—and I actually will probably have to emend the "gas giant" part of this story, because that's not totally 100% it either, at least in my fanon (and because the geology doesn't quite mesh with something I'm about to do in BOG). I would indeed be glad to do a fanon post on this topic when my thoughts thereon are a little more well formed, but for now I guess I'd say that I envision Gand as kind of a cross between a regular rock-based planet and a gas giant—some of the colonies are very high buttes or tepui, some of them are captured asteroid type bodies in geosynchronous orbit, and there are a few orbital space stations (which, according to official lore, is where they prefer most outworld visitors to stay). Hope that helps for now!

    Ah, that's what those Humans think they have done, and that's what they think! I most certainly don't think they've done it, though, not really, nor do I think they really got rid of the real Mists. And indeed you get to that point further down. :)

    Now I like that interpretation of the statues of Isthien and Trynfor, because in certain ways the dichotomy and counterpartship (to coin a word) between those two characters (and character types) is a central theme in BOG—one can see it (or, at least, I'm hoping one can see it) at work in the two main characters of BOG. So naturally it would continue to echo into this story as well, and in such a way that it colors the whole world around our heroine. And in what you say about the wall, you're getting at an interesting possible difference between this story and BOG as concerns the nature of the middle ground or meeting point between those two characters/types. In BOG that meeting point is mystical, luminous, awesome, otherworldly; in this story, it is bleak and blank, as befits the hopeless situation in which Telfien and her people now find themselves.

    These Human invaders are such boorish oafs that they may not even have seen it in such subtle terms—but that internal destabilization of course is always going to be an outcome of such a horrendous and all-encompassing disaster, and Telfien and her fellow Findsmen and Findswomen (well, those who have not sccumbed utterly to despair) certainly are capable of seeing it.

    I'm going to have to take your word for it on this one. :p But yes, the fear is at this point sapping her physically as well as emotionally, mentally, etc.

    I figured you might! :D Those are of course there as bit of an Easter egg for those who have read BOG. But not only that: you may by now have noticed that one of them, perhaps the most important one, appears namelessly in two other shorter Gand stories of mine in addition to this one.

    Yes, you're right on about this! The Mists are not unreal, and they have not been banished for good—they are part of each and every Gand, just the way the atmospheric mists were part of what made the planet Gand such a unique place. This same idea comes up in the riddle scene of BOG chapter 7—but you are absolutely correct to observe that it is something that became rather heavily buried under the pervasive ethic of self-deprecation and in her people's very idiosyncratic understanding of the Force. And now, in the face of grave disaster, is perhaps its chance to shine forth. Strange how that works sometimes!

    Yep, she's definitely walking toward the madness there, and the choice of the statue was conscious (though you articulated it here a lot more clearly than my brain did when it was blatting this all down). That kind of suicidal hopelessness makes sense as a very unfortunate but very natural corollary to the whole ethic of self-deprecation; to fight back would be a way of asserting one's individuality in a most unbecoming way, so the only legitimate way to protest is to take oneself out of the picture altogether. (The same theme is central to the story by Trak linked to above.)

    And yes, the bruugaan is basically causing their chitin to disintegrate; that too was inspired bartly by the description of the two self-immolated Findsmen in Trak's tale.

    Your guesses about the wounded Findsman are almost certainly correct. :D As to what he says to Telfien, this too is an area where I kept things somewhat nebulous (!) so that I don't lock myself into one story direction too early, given that I have yet to work this all out in ful—but yes, you're not wrong to detect that hint of blame.

    Ah, now that is an interesting interpretation indeed. :D Once chapter 18 (i.e., the very next chapter) of BOG is up, what she's doing might become somewhat clearer. ;)

    Answering that question, as best I can:
    Findsman's Mark is a standard enough Findsman technique that is learned by most advanced apprentices. The reason the occurrence of it in that particular chapter is so strange is simply that it was being performed by someone without formal training in the ways of the Findsman.

    Now, there's no reason that Telfien wouldn't be perhaps also trying to place a Mark on this wounded Gand (in addition to whatever else she's doing), particularly if she thinks he might be Zuckuss—another thing I didn't think of at first, but that would certainly work! In any case, she's certainly powerful enough that any mystical technique performed by her would have powerful effects on others with sensitivity to the Mists.

    Because she never reached the point of fully denying the good that was in her. She knew at least that goodness remained, even if her powers might not, and she knows that she is bound by that goodness to help save this life in any way she can. The madman and the healer combine in her harmoniously.

    Another interpretation that I had not thought of in quite those terms, but it does work and it does fit with the title quite nicely! The fact that the official lore is that some Gands (notably Zuckuss, among others) did take their talents into the wider Galaxy already implies that there had to be some way of transforming those powers into a form that could be carried far away from the physical mists of Gand. And I guess this story ended up exploring that, in its way.

    Oh, ask and thou shalt receive, though be prepared to be patient, because that may be many chapters from now. As outlined in the notes at the end of the story, Mortal Stillness is a riff on the official lore about the Gand ability to temporarily shut down the body and play dead, though it turned out to make a good counterpart to the motif of multiple deaths and rebirths that is such a central theme in your stories, so I guess I'm pretty proud of myself for managing to get it in there—you are welcome regard it as an homage if you like. :D On the subject of rebirth: although I haven't yet worked out any details about it at all, I promise I will find some way of having that rebirth happen, both on Telfien's personal level and on the level of her homeworld. Because I'm a sap that way. :p

    That scene is of course intended to be a complete, absolute foil to everything before: these oafish yahoos are the people who overran this world of mystery, beauty, and depth! But I hope it has also shown that such types can't ultimately win, in a way, even if it's just the readers' hearts that are being won over.

    Well, thank you. @};- As for the dual interpretations, I suppose some of that goes back to the motif of counterpartship/dichotomy/etc. alluded to above: the madman and the healer are interpretable as different aspects of each other, and they can unite within the same being. And as for the symbolic death rather than an actual one: well, that could be related to the notion that the connection between being and belief hasn't really been severed and can't really be—it's just undergoing some change, is all. That's a hopeful thought indeed, and you know it wouldn't be a Finds story if it wasn't totally without hope at the end—because, as mentioned before, I'm a sap! :D

    Well, thank you! In true Gand fashion, I shall take a bow with hands cupped over my heart. :D And thank you, ma'am, for your amazing review, in-depth analysis, thought-provoking interpretations, etc., which are themselves a huge enrichment to this story. @};-
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  14. Kurisan

    Kurisan Jedi Master star 4

    Apr 26, 2016
    Oh, Findswoman, I’m so glad I looked at this. I’ve had several goes at “The Book of Gand”, but it’s just so looong for internet consumption. After reading this, I’m galvanized to give it another shot!

    I loved this short piece for several reasons.

    Firstly, writing from an alien POV can be a tricky balancing act. You need to make it thoroughly inhuman, or there’s no point – they just come across as overly emotional (or non-emotional) humans. On the other hand, if it goes too much the other way, it becomes impossible for the human reader to understand or empathize with. I think you struck a perfect balance with Telfien. Not too dissimilar to Tolkein’s Elves – was the name a deliberate acknowledgement of this? – but stacked with rich details to make the Gand race stand out as different.

    And that’s the second reason. In just this short piece you inject so many rich details about the Gand race, their society, the floating city. I don’t know how much of this is your own imagination, or how much you’ve drawn from EU books (and I’m resisting looking it all up on Wookipeedia), but it all seems so convincing.

    Thirdly, as you’ll know from reading my stuff, I usually like to keep descriptions to a minimum, let the reader’s imagination do the work, and move the story on at a lightning pace. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the art of stopping and “smelling the flowers”. In your opening stanza you painted a rich lyrical picture, not just of your character or the location and society she is from, but also the anguish of the moment. It read to me like a long Japanese haiku. I don’t know if you’re aware, but where English poetry often follows a timeline, telling a kind of story, with a flow to its structure, haiku is all about capturing a fleeting moment, the emotions that are contained in that moment, and holding it for an eternity: The falling cherry blossom leaf. The frog leaping across the pond.

    Nothing really happens in your opening stanza, it is capturing and holding onto that moment of anguish. This feeds back into your excellent grip on the viewpoint of a Gand: To us humans time is so clearly demarked into the past (that which has happened, the known), and the future (the unknown, the potential). But what of a Gand that can see the future as if it has already happened? Would they not view time in a very different way? This moment of anguish could be happening (from a human point of view) before the actual event, after it, or at any point on the theoretical timeline. It’s a “memory”, as real now as at any point. The Gand might almost lift themselves off the timeline and exist in a kind of eternal floating stillness. This is reflected well in your style.

    Finally, I like how you introduced the religious aspect. Sci-fi for so long seemed to assume religion would die out as technology progresses, something we see as very unlikely if the 21st Century is anything to go by. It got trendy for a while to have fanaticism alongside technology as kind of ideological adversaries, but what you have done here resonates well in the SW galaxy: The two can exist alongside each other and often intertwine. Where does the one stop and the other start?

    So, overall, you hit so many aspects so well in this short piece I feel confident in saying this was of a quality I think many people would be happy to pay money for. Yes, professional-level writing. I feel lucky to have been able to read this here for free.

    Thanks for sharing this. You should be proud.

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  15. Findswoman

    Findswoman Fanfic and Pancakes and Waffles Mod (in Pink) star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014
    Oh, Kurisan, thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and for this absolutely fantastic comment. It made pretty much my week! :D

    Don't feel bad, I know it's awfully long—I have trouble catching up with multipage stories on the forums, too. But if it helps at all, an ebook is in preparation thanks to the peachy keen technical and graphical skills of Ewok Poet, and if you like I can give you a heads-up when that is available.

    Thanks, and I so agree with what you say about writing aliens—they really do have to be actually alien (otherwise why write them). I believe, in an odd way, that if they're written well that way that will ultimately lead to their being more believable—a bit of a paradox, I know, but you probably get what I mean. :p One reason I have always felt drawn to the Gand is because they really seem like some of the most alien races the GFFA has to offer, both culturally, with the complex rules around naming and self-reference, and physically, with the insectoid physiology and the ammoniac atmosphere.

    As it turns out, Telfien's name does have some Tolkienic inspiration, even if the resemblance to the actual name of the author was mostly coincidence. The inspiration for the -ien ending (which, as you'll see in BOG, I've made a common one for Gand female names) came from Lúthien (and some of the place names, like Lórien and Ithilien). At that point I mainly just came up with the name because it sounded pretty, but later on I learned that telfien is some kind of inflected form of the word that means "loss" in Maltese. And that, of course, seemed very fitting in its way too.

    The EU lore on the Gand was my starting point for the way I portray them in BOG and related works (like this one), though I have expanded on it a good bit as well (and for some details on that, have a look at my Fanon Thread posts). The Book of Gand has its origins in things I wrote almost 15 years ago, so much of my lore on the Gand has been percolating in my head for about that long. I have always tried to do my worldbuilding in a way that harmonized with the lore that was already there. (And feel free to look up any of it in Wookieepedia—I won't be offended, indeed, I'll be flattered! If it's not there, it'll be in the abovementioned fanon post. :D )

    Wow, that's quite a compliment! I guess I kind of did approach this story in terms of capturing a particular moment and a particular feeling and reveling in their tragic beauty. And I kind of was approaching parts of it as though they were poetry of sorts, particularly that opening paragraph you mention and some of the descriptions of Telfien's grief, etc. So I'm glad to hear you found that effective—thanks! And ditto the descriptions; sometimes I feel like I get bogged down in them, so I'm glad you felt those worked well too.

    And of course even though I sometimes find it hard to resist writing "smelling the flowers"-type prose, I am known to quite enjoy a good fast-moving story from time to time, too—and you do have quite a talent in that direction! :)

    That is a very good point, and I hadn't thought about it quite those terms before—yes, the ability to intuit "possible futures" would most certainly have implications for how one perceives time. Future and past and present all kind of come together in sort of kairos fashion, which of course hearkens back to the whole notion of capturing one specific moment. And perhaps in a way this also relates back to the way the Gand are portrayed in official GFFA lore: they have always been kind of off by themselves in their own far corner of the Galaxy doing their own thing, they've been pretty much outside all the major Galactic conflicts, and the Yuuzhan Vong (for example) don't seem to have to touched them at all. So in a way they do exist in eternal floating stillness—and that's one of the things that just makes them so cool!

    Ever since I first read about the Gand and their spirituality, I got the impression that that spirituality was, in some way, organic to the species—as in, it's very closely linked to the very fact of being Gand. (I borrowed that turn of phrase from something Kahara once said to me, and I still haven't found a better way of putting it. :p ) And yes, as a result of that, their spiritual/intuitive and empirical/technological existences are constantly spilling and flowing into each other—just the same way as past, present, and future all flow into each other, as alluded to above. It all fits!

    Findshusband says I should say, "I can charge you if you like." :p ;) Just teasing, Kuri. Thank you so much for that wonderful compliment, which is very much appreciated. And I am rather proud of this story, if I do say so myself. Thank you for taking a chance on it. :)
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  16. Kurisan

    Kurisan Jedi Master star 4

    Apr 26, 2016
    No problemo. I meant every word.[face_love]
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  17. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Jul 11, 2014
    Here's another long-overdue review, and being so late to the party I really don't have much to add to what everyone has already said. This story is absolutely heartrending in and of itself, but also through the throwbacks to BoG (for which I also owe you a review!). A devastated Telfien crouching in a corner is something we already saw over there, and the back-to-square-one element is a real kick in the gut.

    I also liked how this story recalled Box of Visions, albeit in a less direct narrative way. This is one of those events that Telfien will carry with her all her life, and I am curious to know if the events depicted here are something that Glockel will eventually find out about.

    Like Kuri, I can say only one thing: you should be proud!
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  18. Findswoman

    Findswoman Fanfic and Pancakes and Waffles Mod (in Pink) star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014

    Thank you so much for reading and reviewing—it's great, as usual, to have you here. :) I totally hadn't thought about it before, but you're right, what Telfien is doing here is basically just like what she's doing back in chapter 13, when she's crouching in the greenhouse after escaping from the goons who killed her parents. And indeed here too she finds herself a similar position of hopelessness and powerlessness. The difference, of course, is that in this case help and comfort aren't going to come so quickly.

    I definitely did mean for this story to flesh out the events recalled in "Box of Visions," and for the events recounted here to be among those Telfien is recalling in that story. Indeed, Glockel's experience in that story means she has already unwittingly seen some flashes from those events, and being inquisitive sort that she is, she will no doubt be asking Telfien about what she saw. And Telfien will probably tell her about it (though she might leave out a thing or two)—but only because Glockel asked. This is by no means the sort of thing Telfien would want to tell most people about on her own initiative.

    Thanks once again for the kind words—I'm glad you enjoyed this. @};-
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  19. Findswoman

    Findswoman Fanfic and Pancakes and Waffles Mod (in Pink) star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014
    Just stopping in to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who nominated “Between the Porch and The Altar” in not just one but two categories in the 2017 Fanfic Awards—Best One-Shot and Best Drama. What a wonderful surprise that was—thank you all for being such a wonderfully supportive and perceptive bunch of readers! @};-
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