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Beyond - Legends In Dreams We Dwell (Allana/OC, AU, short story - Wistful Piano & Much Ado About Nothing Challenges)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by ViariSkywalker, Apr 12, 2021.

  1. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Title: In Dreams We Dwell
    Author: ViariSkywalker
    Timeframe: 59 ABY
    Characters: Allana Djo Solo/Darth Festus (OC), Darth Ferrus (OC), other OCs, Ben Skywalker
    Genre: AU, dark romance, drama, introspection, angst, short story

    Summary:
    After finishing up an assignment on the idyllic planet Kurin, Jedi Knight Allana Djo finds herself attending a lavish masquerade ball… and dealing with a dangerous uninvited guest.

    Notes:
    Strap in, friends, I’ve got some notes for you. (Or you know, skip past them and enjoy!)

    This fic is pulling double duty as a response to two mini-games challenges. The first is @devilinthedetails' Much Ado About Nothing Challenge, which not only provided me with the perfect quote, but also inspired me to write a masquerade ball in the first place. (As soon as I remembered that there had been a masquerade in the play, I couldn’t help thinking “what if?” with a certain OTP of mine…) My quote for the challenge was Benedick’s line: “Suffer love! A good ephitet! I do suffer love indeed for I love thee against my will.” (Which is just so Darth Festus, it hurts.)

    This is also a response to @Pandora's Pretty, Dreamy, Yet Wistfully Sad Classical Piano Challenge. My song was “Metamorphosis One” (included under the spoiler tag below), which ended up being perfectly suited to this complicated pairing of mine. I love the combination of darkness and wistful beauty in this piece. I listened to it on repeat – and listened to multiple versions, as well as the rest of the Metamorphosis series – while writing this story. I don’t know if it’s the type of song that would actually be playing at a fancy masquerade ball, but it’s what I listened to as I wrote that scene. Also, “metamorphosis”? Pretty much the perfect word to describe the transformation of Dorian Starskip into Darth Festus. Seriously. The perfect word.

    For some background on this original pairing, plus links to other stories in this ‘verse, see below:

    I’m so glad you asked. ;)

    This is the pairing of Allana Djo Solo (from the old EU/Legends canon) and Darth Festus (an original character and not-quite-former Sith Lord who first appeared in Enter the Foreign).

    Wait, is this Allana as in Jacen & Tenel Ka’s daughter?


    Yep! [face_love]

    Right, so what AU rabbit hole have we tumbled down exactly?


    This is the world of Enter the Foreign (I don’t have a cool name for it, so we’ll just call it the EtF-verse for now.) It branches off from Legends canon early on in the Legacy of the Force book series and heads for parts unknown. Darth Caedus rises to power but is eventually defeated, leaving the galaxy ripe for conquest by Darth Krayt’s One Sith, who have been chilling on Korriban in the interim. This AU ignores most of LotF and all of Fate of the Jedi. The NJO and Legacy comics are cool, and I draw ideas and characters liberally from both of those sources.

    Also, EtF has a time-travelling/universe-hopping Anakin Skywalker in it. You know, to make things interesting.

    Wait, what?


    Seriously, don’t even worry about it, it’s not super important to this particular story. (But do come on over and join the wild ride that is EtF, because it’s actually still in-progress, and things are getting good. [face_mischief]) But yeah, it’s not necessary to understand all the Allana/Festus stuff.

    And who is Darth Festus? I’m so confused.


    Darth Festus and his fraternal twin brother, Darth Ferrus, are OCs who first showed up in EtF as secondary antagonists. These young Sith Lords were once Jedi children before being kidnapped and turned to the dark side. I explored their backstory in a couple of more recent fics, linked below.

    Basically, Darth Festus was a nice, quietly snarky kid who suffered horrific torture at the hands of a Sith scientist and ultimately went through a pretty extreme transformation to become a rather creepy and murderous Sith Lord. Eight years after EtF, he and his brother are on their own, making their way as bounty hunters and sometimes working for assorted crime syndicates. Whatever pays the bills, am I right?

    Okay, but why Allana/Festus?


    Because I like a challenge?

    Let’s just say the idea for this sort of clobbered me over the head last year, and now I can’t let it go. I’ve had it in my head for years that Festus developed a weird thing for Allana after their fight on Vjun (shown in EtF), but I never considered the idea of actually pairing them together until I started working on EtF again last summer. It’s been a trip, I tell ya.

    I could probably say a lot more about the how and the why of this ship, but I think I’ll try to let the story speak for itself. ;)

    Other fics that deal directly with this ship are: Where the Waves Shatter, What If This Storm Ends?, and Forces of Gravity.

    What do you mean by “dark romance”?


    [face_mischief]


    And here’s the amazing “Metamorphosis One” that helped inspire this story:

    If you're interested in reading more!

    Enter the Foreign – An AU set in 51 ABY, in which Anakin Skywalker winds up in the future, meets his grandkids (including Ben Skywalker and Allana Djo Solo), and gets involved in their struggle against Darth Krayt’s Sith Empire. (in-progress; epic-length; stars several ECs and a lot of OCs)

    The Lands of the Dead – 8 years before the events of EtF, the Starskip twins are captured by the Sith and must fight to survive. (Set over a 6-year period, from 43-49 ABY; short story, approx. 13,500 words)

    Where the Waves Shatter – 3 years after EtF, Darth Festus has his long-awaited rematch with Allana Djo. (vignette, 54 ABY)

    What If This Storm Ends? – Five times Darth Festus definitely wasn't in love with a Jedi princess, and one time she definitely wasn't in love with him. (Set over an 18-year period, from 43-61 ABY; one-shot)

    Forces of Gravity – 4 years after EtF, Darth Festus and Allana Djo cross paths again when he and his brother are sent to kill a criminal informant that she’s protecting. (55 ABY; one-shot)

    Here There Be Monsters – During his Sith training, fourteen-year-old Dorian Starskip encounters monsters on Korriban, including a disgraced Sith Lord who was once a Jedi. (Set during the events of TLotD, 47 ABY, vignette)

    HK-47 and the Super Evil Chaos Twins of Evil – Darth Ferrus asks his brother to buy a maintenance droid for their ship, but Darth Festus has a slightly different idea. (52-53 ABY; vignette; humor/crack!fic)

    Disclaimer:
    I don’t own Star Wars. If I did, Allana would still be canon, and the Super Evil Chaos Twins of Evil would also be canon, because why not? [face_batting]

    Many thanks to @Gabri_Jade and @Mira_Jade for all of their insightful comments and suggestions, and for being so incredibly supportive as I rambled on endlessly about this story, trying to figure out what it was meant to be. [face_love][:D]

    This will be a short story in two parts.

    ~~

    In Dreams We Dwell


    Part One: Reflection



    Allana Djo stares in surprise at the handmaiden in her doorway, then down at the swath of gauzy, lilac-colored material draped across the girl’s outstretched arms. “It’s lovely,” the young Jedi Knight says carefully, “but I really don’t require any compensation for—”

    “Oh, you mistake me, Your Highness!” The handmaiden’s sincerity shines through the Force, and Allana bites back the urge to correct her for using that particular form of address. She’s already explained to everyone who will listen that she’s no longer the Chume’da, nor an heir to the Hapan throne in any way, shape, or form. They just don’t really seem to care about her protests here on monarchy-obsessed Kurin. “Her Majesty requests that you stay for the Royal Masquerade tomorrow evening, as thanks for your service to the people of Kurin, and to show our support for and appreciation of the Jedi Order.”

    Allana folds her hands in front of her. “I am honored, but I’m expected back at the Temple tomorrow.”

    The handmaiden’s grin widens, and Allana thinks she detects a hint of mischief in it. “Her Majesty already took the liberty of contacting Master Skywalker. It’s all been arranged.”

    Oh, really?
    “Even so,” Allana says gently, “I should contact Master Skywalker myself.” She glances down again at the fabric in the girl’s arms. “So this is…?”

    “Oh!” The handmaiden lifts one arm above her head, holding up a hanger. The gauzy material tumbles almost to the floor. “This is your gown! Her Majesty took the liberty of selecting this as well. She assumed you wouldn’t have brought any formalwear.”

    “She assumed correctly,” Allana says with a smile as she reaches out a hand toward the dress. She hesitates a moment. “May I?”

    “Certainly, Your Highness!”

    Allana withholds a sigh. “You really don’t need to call me that. I was exiled from Hapes when I was a little girl. ‘Allana’ is fine, really.”

    The look of horror on the young handmaiden’s face is so exaggerated, Allana nearly laughs. “I wouldn’t dare, Your High— I mean, my lady.”

    I guess it’s better than being called “Master Jedi” all the time.


    “I can take that,” she tells the girl as she reaches for the dress.

    “Would you like me to help you with it, my lady? If you require any alterations, I can make sure they’re finished before tomorrow evening.”

    An odd tightness in her chest as she remembers watching her mother stand for a gown fitting: serious and quiet and the most beautiful sight a four-year-old girl could imagine. “Sure. Please, come in.”

    Allana takes the dress from the young handmaiden, then watches in awe as the girl glides effortlessly about the room, moving furniture to create a wide-open space in front of one of the suite’s larger mirrors. Then Allana looks down at the gown in her hands.

    She holds it up to get a better look, realizing as she does that it’s sleeveless and has only one shoulder. The bodice is made of two different but equally diaphanous materials. In front, it’s the same airy, pale purple material as the skirt, ruched at an angle and gathered at the left shoulder in a way that’s alluring while also appealing to Allana’s own sense of modesty. In back – Force help her – it’s almost completely sheer down to the waistband, save for a bit of purple embroidery that resembles curling vines and flower petals, or maybe delicate butterfly wings. The sheer backside extends around the left side of the waist, under the gown’s only shoulder, and continues slightly around the front toward the center.

    The skirt is full-length and lighter than air, creating a slender silhouette as it widens slightly and gradually toward the hem; and as she plays around with the folds of the dress, she discovers it has a slit along the left side that will probably hit mid-thigh.

    Definitely not like the little girl dresses I wore on Hapes,
    she thinks with a wry grin. She looks over at the handmaiden, who is still busy rearranging the room.

    “I’m sorry,” Allana says, “I never asked your name?”

    The girl glances up from her work with a smile. “It’s Maritte, my lady.” She gestures toward the center of the circle she’s created. “If you would like to change into the dress, I can fit it for you here.”

    Allana goes to the fresher to change, marveling at how light the gown is and how soft it feels against her skin. Not that her usual clothes are uncomfortable. The reborn Jedi Order doesn’t really have a strict dress code, and she often wears the same sorts of tunics and pants that are typical for women on any number of worlds, in addition to the more traditional Jedi robes. But there’s definitely a difference in quality, and she’d be lying if she said that wearing this elegant gown didn’t make her yearn in some way for the pretty dresses of her youth.

    She returns to the main room of the suite, joining Maritte in front of the mirror. “My lady,” the girl says with a small gasp, “you look lovely.”

    Allana examines her reflection, trying to objectively assess her appearance. It’s been a while since she’s really done so. She still kind of wishes she were a little taller, or that she didn’t have quite so many freckles, or that her jawline wasn’t so angular and distinct, as she’d heard several Hapan noblewomen describe it; but she’s older now, and she’s been through enough to know that the superficial details of her appearance aren’t all that important. And besides, she does look pretty good in this dress. That helps.

    Maritte sets to work pinning the gown, taking what was already a beautiful silhouette and making it look ever better. Allana marvels at the deftness of her fingers as she measures and tucks and pins with both speed and precision. Hardly any time seems to have passed before Maritte stands next to Allana, nodding happily at their reflections in the mirror.

    “All finished, my lady!” She turns to Allana, hands outstretched. “I can help you out of it, and then I’ll bring it back in the morning to make sure everything fits properly.”

    Allana allows the girl to help her out of the dress, missing it already as she pulls her own clothes back on. “Thank you for this,” she says. “It’s been so long since I wore a dress. I appreciate the help.”

    “Oh, think nothing of it, my lady. It was my pleasure.” Maritte slips the gown inside a garment bag and lays it over one arm. “You’re going to be the loveliest girl— I mean, lady, at the ball.” She bows her head and smiles. “Please let me know if you need anything else.”

    And with that, the young handmaiden glides out of the room and down the hall, leaving Allana once more alone in the guest suite.

    She spends the rest of the day catching up on some reading she’d promised Tahiri she would do, then running through a less rigorous version of her typical exercise routine in the gardens. Having been up since dawn for the treaty negotiation, she’s exhausted by the time night falls. She still has one more thing to do before turning in, though.

    She sits at the desk near the bed and flips on the comm unit, tapping in the frequency for the Jedi Temple. The holoimage flickers to life, and her cousin’s torso appears above the projector, tinged in blue.

    “Hey,” Ben Skywalker says nonchalantly. “You all done with the negotiations?”

    “Mmhmm.” Allana arches an eyebrow at him. “So… when were you going to tell me I’m attending a fancy royal ball?”

    Ben shrugs, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “I figured it wouldn’t take long for you to get the message. The queen already had your dress picked out and everything.”

    Allana leans forward on her elbows, covering her eyes with both hands for a moment as she groans. “I don’t understand why these people are so impressed by me. I’m not this person they think I am. I keep telling them I’m not the Chume’da or a royal or anything anymore, but they don’t seem to care.”

    Ben’s smile fades, and his eyebrows knit together. “They’re impressed by you, Allana, not your birthright. The queen wouldn’t have invited you to stay for this dance thing if she wasn’t.”

    Allana pauses a moment, then shoots him a tiny smirk. “Dance thing?”

    Ben’s narrowed expression turns to an outright glare. “Fancy royal masquerade ball. Happy?”

    “Getting there.”

    Ben’s faux indignation shifts to genuine concern. “You don’t have to go if you don’t want. The reputation of the Order isn’t riding on it or anything.”

    “Isn’t it?” She sighs and crosses her arms loosely in front of her. “We’ve come so far these last few years. I can’t jeopardize that. And I don’t want to be rude, especially when you already told the queen I could attend.”

    Ben reaches up to scratch the back of his neck. “Yeah, sorry about that.” He takes a deep breath. “You should try to enjoy it though. How often do you get to go to a party?”

    Her thoughts drift back to the memory of her mother, to the dress fitting where she sat on a nearby chair, swinging her legs in excitement as handmaidens attended to the Queen Mother. “Not often,” she says quietly. “I do want to go. I think.”

    Ben smiles again. “Don’t worry about being the face of the Jedi. Just have fun.”

    Allana raises one eyebrow. “Maybe find some attractive men to dance with?”

    “Nope, I was thinking more like eat all the food and maybe bring some back—”

    Ben.”

    “Of course you should find someone to dance with, who do you think I am?”

    A small tendril of fear grips her in that moment as something new occurs to her. “I’ve never danced before, not like they do at a real ball. What if—” She doesn’t want to finish that thought. It feels silly to even think it.

    Static shudders through the holo as Ben shakes his head. “Those fancy nobles are going to be lining up to dance with you, Allana. Just use your Jedi instincts to stay a bit ahead of them, and you’ll be fine. Trust me.”

    She exhales slowly. “Okay. I’d better get going; it’s been a long day. See you soon?”

    Ben nodded. “See you soon. And seriously, have fun.”

    “I will.”

    She switches off the holoproj and leans back in her chair. She’s not actually nervous, is she? After fighting a war against the Sith Empire and spending the last eight years dealing with all the fallout from its dissolution, it seems ridiculous that she should be nervous about something as trivial as attending a masquerade ball.

    She checks the chrono on the desk, eyes widening a little at how late it is. Sleep it is, then, and maybe in the morning her nerves will be a little quieter.


    ~~


    She doesn’t dream of her childhood often, but when she does, it’s always the same dream.

    She sees the enclave, the one she lived in while her grandmother was alive, the one where no one ever played with her. So cold and crowded and sad.

    She sees gray duracrete walls and dark stone floors, and she hears people whisper whenever she’s near. She clutches her favorite stuffed toy, a plush tauntaun, one of the only possessions she was able to keep when her grandparents rescued her. She had to leave almost everything else behind.

    And then she sees the boy, and her world slants sideways as he rips away the thing she loves most.

    “You’re not a baby, are you?” he says with a sneer.

    “Give it back,” she says, reaching out for her tauntaun.

    “Sure looks like a baby toy.” He dangles it over her head, looking past her. “What do you think, Roji?”

    He tosses the toy across the room to one of his friends. She turns and takes a step toward the second boy, but he’s already throwing it to the next member of their gang.

    “Poor little baby,” the third boy says, holding up a hand to his eyes as he pretends to sniff back tears.

    She wraps her arms around her middle and feels a sob rising up in her throat. The boy throws her tauntaun toward the first boy, the one with the cold eyes. He raises a hand, suspending it high in the air where she can’t reach. She turns back to him, trying not to cry.

    “Please,” she whispers. “Give it back.”

    The first boy – the oldest and leader of the group – stops laughing and grows suddenly angry. “You’re not gonna cry, are you? This is all your fault.”

    She looks up into the boy’s ice blue eyes, at the accusation there – your fault, your fault, your fault – and she can’t hold back the tears anymore.

    The tauntaun drops suddenly, not toward her or any of her tormentors, but to a fourth boy, standing off to the side with one arm outstretched. He catches her toy and holds it to his chest as he takes a step toward the leader of the bullies. She immediately notices the strong resemblance between them and remembers hearing someone mention there was a set of twins here.

    “That’s enough, Veeran,” he says in a quiet voice, but one that has an edge of durasteel behind it.

    The first boy – Veeran – glares at her for a second before looking over at his twin. They stare at each other, and she can feel something stirring in the Force between them. A silent argument. Then Veeran blows out an angry breath. “Whatever,” he says, motioning for his friends to follow him.

    After the other boys have left, her rescuer walks toward her. He has the same dark hair and pale blue eyes as his brother, and yet there’s nothing cold about him. He kneels down in front of her and holds the tauntaun up for her to take.

    “I’m sorry,” he says.

    She reaches for her toy, and he smiles up at her; and even though she can barely meet his eyes, she feels a warmth from him that almost makes her forget how sad she was a moment ago. She buries her face in the soft plush of her toy, unable to meet his gaze head on. “Thank you,” she whispers.

    “You’re welcome,” he says, still smiling as he tilts his head to study her. “I’m Dorian, by the way.”

    What happened to him? Why won’t anyone say?

    I’m so sorry, sweetheart. They never made it to the other enclave.

    But what happened? Where is he?

    Come here, Allana. Come here, and I’ll explain.



    ~~


    The room is still dark when she wakes, and it takes her a moment to recall where she is. She stretches out with her feelings, searching the quiet, swirling eddies of the Force. Things that would normally be all but silent are now impossibly loud to her senses: the drumming of her own heart, the whisper of a breeze sweeping through tree limbs outside, the steady hum of air filtration systems inside the palace guest wing…

    She’s still on Kurin, she realizes belatedly. She rolls over in bed – the sort of bed designed not just for sleep, but for deep, luxurious, indulgent rest – and checks the faintly glowing chrono on the nightstand. It won’t be dawn for several hours still. She wonders what woke her.

    Allana lies on her side, staring across the room at a pair of elegant doors which lead to a private patio, and beyond that, a hedge and a garden and a tranquil reflecting pool. Moonlight streams through the antique glass of the doors, giving both the room and the landscape outside an ethereal glow. A dream, she realizes with an inexplicable, aching sadness. That’s what woke her.

    The dream exists in a shimmery haze just beyond the edge of her consciousness. She lies there for a while, trying to remember what it was about; but every time she concentrates, she can feel it slipping further and further away. Finally, she rises from the bed, grabs her shawl, and crosses the room to the patio doors.

    She slips outside, closing the hinged doors behind her as silently as possible. Both moons are out tonight, though clouds have begun to pass in front of them, leaving just enough light for Allana to see her destination beyond the hedge.

    There are many reflecting pools within the palace grounds, she’s come to learn. Some, like the one that spans nearly the full length of the main promenade, are considered beautiful works of art, adorned with tiles painted in azure blues and bright teals and deep, dark violets. They are monuments to victory, to love, to prosperity and virtue and peace, made prominent for all to enjoy.

    The pool Allana finds herself kneeling next to in the middle of the night is not one of these vivid testaments to culture and creativity. Lying parallel to the marble colonnade that connects the guest wing to the main palace, it is narrower than most others she’s seen here; and the tiles lining the bottom are purest white, without a trace of color. Though this particular reflecting pool lacks the grandeur of its counterparts, Allana finds herself drawn to it, and she thinks it no less beautiful for its simplicity. She’s been told this pool is a monument, too, in its own way. A memorial built for the dead.

    Which dead?
    she’d asked the senior handmaiden who led her past the pool, showing her to her quarters when she’d first arrived. The woman had looked back at her, flashing a gentle but knowing smile as she raised a hand to her own heart.

    Whichever dead you bring with you,
    was her reply.

    Allana gazes at the pool’s dark, still surface. Her dead. She has plenty of them, though not nearly as many as some, and it’s not like she was old enough at the time to appreciate just how much she’d lost. It still hurts, even so. Some days she can get by without thinking of them at all, but on the days that she does remember…

    It’s always a little thing, at first. Davin’s lopsided grin, or Roan’s serious brown eyes, or the way Tahiri looks at her sometimes like she’s seeing someone else. Or the slightly reckless head tilt Ben adopts when he goes up against impossible odds.

    She recites the names in her head, grasping at the memory of their faces. Her aunts, her uncle, her grandparents…

    Her mother.

    Her father.

    Once upon a time, she might have cried at the thought of him. Force knows she’s shed enough tears for him in her life. Now she simply stares at the inky darkness of the reflecting pool, pulled down by the weight of all those losses.

    Something settles heavy around her heart as she gazes at that perfectly serene surface. It’s the same feeling she had upon waking from the dream, unable to remember what about it made her so sad. And under the intermittent moonlight, she recalls an old Alderaani lullaby her grandmother used to sing to her, remembers how she would gently stroke her forehead until the sadness ebbed and sleep took her. Faded relic of a bygone era, of a world that simply vanished from existence one day, before anyone could say goodbye. Never to be seen again.

    Why does she still feel like something is missing? Like she’s a child who misplaced her favorite toy and can’t for the life of her remember where it’s gone—

    Oh
    . Her favorite toy… she remembers the dream now. She’s dreamt it before, many times, though it’s been a while. And it’s not even so much a dream as it is a memory. The tauntaun and the bullies and the boy who came to her rescue.

    What happened to him?

    Where is he?


    For a long time, it had hurt to think about him. It hurt to remember how she’d watched him from a distance in the days after, too shy to go up and talk to him even though he was usually sitting all by himself. And then one day he was just gone, and when she’d realized she would never see him again, that he might be dead for all she knew, well, that had hurt in a way her seven-year-old heart couldn’t fathom, even after all the other losses. It was too much, and she tried to forget.

    Now, though? Now, the part that hurts the most is recalling the way he looked at her in the dream, with his gentle smile and his kind eyes.

    No, that’s not true – what hurts the most is waking up from that dream and thinking of all the times she’s encountered him since then, feeling the darkness tangled up inside him, always narrowly avoiding death at his hands, some small part of her still searching for the boy she knew.

    She lets out a long breath, reaching up to pull the shawl tighter around her shoulders. It’s getting chilly, and she should probably try to get some more rest before tomorrow. Even though this masquerade ball is supposed to be a fun diversion, she’s still representing the entire Jedi Order. She can’t forget that, no matter what Ben says.

    As she rises from the edge of the reflecting pool, she feels a flicker of something at the edge of her perception, as if something or someone is watching her. She looks beyond the pool at the colonnade, bathed half in moonlight and half in shadow, and she stretches out with her senses, breath catching, wondering…

    But there is no one there.


    ~~


    There’s hardly a night that goes by that he doesn’t find himself trapped inside his own head, reliving the worst of his nightmares over and over. He’s gotten used to it, just like he got used to the things that caused those nightmares in the first place; and if the things he sees in his sleep are horrific and monstrous, well, it’s really only fitting, isn’t it?

    Sometimes he just dreams, though. Never anything pleasant or peaceful – he’s pretty sure he lost the capacity for those kinds of thoughts a long time ago. But there’s a certain sanity to his dreams that makes them more bearable, even though they’re sad; and he finds himself missing them – craving them, even – when they end.

    “Will we be able to send messages?”

    Master Bash puts a hand on his shoulder. “It might be possible, but we have to be careful.” The Twi’lek Jedi Knight tries to smile, but he can sense the man’s hesitance. “I know it’s hard leaving your friends, Dorian.”

    He looks up at Master Bash. “I don’t have any friends.” Not even Veeran. Not really.

    “Maybe this will be a fresh start for both of you.”

    He looks down at the deck of the starship and nods. He doesn’t want to argue the point. Veeran already causes enough problems, and he doesn’t want to be a problem, too. He just thought maybe, if he were to write her a message sometime, it might make her happy. And maybe she would write to him, too…

    The starship jolts, sending them tumbling to the deck, and an alarm blares from the comm unit. Master Bash looks up to the ceiling, then turns to them all, eyes wide.

    “Hide!”

    He runs, grabbing Veeran by the arm as the other kids rush to find hiding places. He needs someplace big enough for the two of them, somewhere no one will look…


    He wakes on a hard surface, and his first instinct is to check for the straps holding him down. He lifts his head, staring down at his arms and legs. No straps. Fully clothed. He lays his head back against the ground – okay, so he’s outside, that’s weird – and exhales slowly.

    Something still isn’t right.

    He sits up, realizing as he does that it’s still night, and that he’s currently resting under the shade of a long, stone pavilion. He looks around, noting the seemingly endless row of columns on either side of him, holding up the roof of the structure. Not a pavilion, exactly. What’s the word? Colonnade, he thinks. Yeah, that’s what it is.

    There definitely aren’t any buildings like this on Denon, at least not where he lives.

    He stands, reaching out in the Force, wondering how he got here, wherever he is. He hears a faint rustling sound beyond the edge of the building, and he takes a few steps toward one of the columns, peering out from behind it at a long, narrow reflecting pool and the lone figure approaching it.

    This can’t be right
    , he thinks as he realizes who he’s looking at. It can’t be.

    He watches from the shadows of the colonnade, holding his breath as she kneels at the edge of the reflecting pool. Its surface is smooth as glass and serves as a mirror for the dark clouds gathering overhead. He glances up at those clouds, their edges shimmering silver from the moonlight behind them. It’s just enough light to make out her expression: contemplative, a little forlorn, maybe. He wonders why that is. He wants so badly to ask her.

    For the first time since he left behind his old identity, he desperately wishes he could be that person, that he could know what it’s like to be everything he’d once wanted to be. That he could walk out there and speak to her without scaring her away. But that’s their game, isn’t it? He chases her, and she runs, and he never catches her because there’s only one way for this to end. And he’s not ready for that yet. He’s not sure he ever will be.

    What would it be like, he wonders, to be worthy of her? Even if he wasn’t all twisted and jagged and broken, even if he wasn’t a murderer and a liar, would she give him a second glance? Would she even consider him when all he’s ever been is nothing?

    She gazes out across the still waters, and he watches her, transfixed. Gods and heavens and stars above, she is so, so beautiful. Does she even realize it? She’s so beautiful, it actually hurts, the kind of pain he can’t just disconnect from like he does with everything else. He doesn’t want it to go away, either; he actually likes how bad it hurts, and isn’t that sick? Force, he’s pretty sure she’d be horrified if she knew how he really feels about her, if she knew how she’s occupied his thoughts every day for nearly eight years, if she knew how much he wants.

    She pulls her shawl up around her shoulders and leans her head to one side, away from him; and he imagines trailing soft kisses along her smooth neck, threading his fingers through her long, copper hair, hearing her whisper his name—

    —what name is that, weak little wannabe Jedi brat, who do you think you are—

    —she’s not yours, she never will be, don’t you know that by now—


    He freezes in place as she stands and looks up toward him.

    Dorian…



    ~~


    …Darth Festus wakes suddenly, heart racing at the whisper still lingering in his thoughts.

    Light from Denon’s moon filters through the single window opposite his bed, bathing the sparse interior of his room with its cold white glow. He lies still, gripping the bedsheet between his fingers, trying to determine if this is reality or another dream. Maybe if he closes his eyes, he can go back, see her one more time…

    It fades away so fast, it might as well be a warm breath exhaled in the frigid night air. Nothing more than vapor. He sits up slowly, staring at the pale shafts of moonlight that stretch to the end of the bed. There are shadows within that light, probably cast by the never-ending stream of speeder traffic, or maybe the occasional cloud drifting across the sky. He can’t remember it now, but he wants to go back to that place, wherever it was. He doesn’t want to be here anymore. He can’t… he can’t

    A muffled sigh as he drags his hands over his face. Pull yourself together, idiot, he tells himself. It was just a stupid dream.


    ~~


    Allana rises early the next morning, partly because the sun is shining directly in her face, eliminating any chance for cool, restful sleep, but mostly because she hadn’t really slept well after waking in the middle of the night anyway.

    She starts the day with another round of exercises in the garden, trying to work away the lingering sadness from her dream the night before. It’s probably not the best place for a workout, though, because the gardens overlook the reflecting pool, and that just makes her sad all over again.

    She wonders why that particular dream returned after all this time. It’s been months and months, maybe more than a year. Did her mood trigger it? She’d been thinking about her mother a lot yesterday, missing her, especially when she tried on the dress. The memory of that long-ago gown fitting on Hapes had returned with surprising clarity.

    The occasion was a grand ball in the Fountain Palace on Hapes, one of the few such events that her mother begrudgingly hosted. Allana was excited because her mother said she could go, too, at least for a little while. She got to wear a pretty blue dress, and she was given a matching silk ribbon to tie around her stuffed tauntaun’s neck. The toy that her father had given her, before she knew who he really was.

    She remembers the other reason that ball was so special. It was the only time she ever saw her parents dance together, and it was the last time she saw either of them truly happy.

    His presence must have fueled speculation about her paternity, but Allana was still too young at the time to realize the connection. She only recalls how excited she was when Colonel Jacen Solo, the famous Jedi Knight, walked through those massive ballroom doors; and how dashing she thought he was as he offered her mother his hand and led her to the center of the room. She remembers thinking their dance was so graceful and romantic and perfect in every way. Even with how badly things went later on, even with how deeply he ended up hurting her, she still remembers that moment with the longing of a child, wishing her parents could have been together with her always.

    Her only other memory of that night is of being sent off to bed with her nanny droid. She was so annoyed at missing out on the fun, until she realized Jacen Solo had stolen away from the ball to tuck her in, making sure she had her precious tauntaun wrapped tight in her arms before placing one warm kiss on her forehead.

    For a long time, when she’d thought him dead, that toy was her only link to him, the only proof that he’d once loved her. The only proof that he hadn’t totally given himself over to the darkness.

    Allana finishes her exercises, lying down on the damp grass to catch her breath. It would be so easy to let all of that pain and grief fill her up like smoke, choking out the light. But wallowing in all of her sad memories isn’t going to get her anywhere, and it certainly isn’t going to get her through the masquerade tonight. Her growling stomach reminds her that she hasn’t even eaten yet, and she decides to listen to it instead of chasing after dreams and shadows.

    Maritte arrives at Allana’s door just as she’s finishing breakfast. The handmaiden is carrying a garment bag in one arm and a box in the other.

    “Good morning, my lady!” The girl is as chipper as she was the day before, and as soon as Allana invites her in, she sets to work rearranging the room.

    “You really don’t have to go through the trouble,” Allana says as she finishes a sweet roll and discreetly licks crumbs from her fingers.

    “It’s no trouble at all, my lady. Here—” She reaches for the garment bag and pulls out the dress, laying it across the bed. “—don’t you want to see how your gown fits?”

    Allana walks over to the bed and runs her fingers along the skirt, lifting the pale purple material to once again feel its soft airiness. “I suppose I should.”

    She senses hesitance from the young handmaiden. “My lady, I don’t wish to pry,” Maritte begins, more somber than before, “but you seem a bit different today.”

    “Different?”

    The girl gives her a look that she might almost describe as sisterly, if she knew what it was like to have a sister. “Sadder,” Maritte says gently.

    She pauses, thinking again of her late-night trip to the reflecting pool and of all the people she’s lost. “I guess I didn’t sleep that well,” she says.

    Maritte smiles again, simultaneously sympathetic and enthusiastic. “Well, I guarantee once you put this dress on, you’ll start feeling much better.”

    Allana nods and picks up the dress, changing into it quickly. When she’s finished, she steps in front of the mirror and looks up, startled. “Oh, wow,” she says under her breath.

    Next to her, Maritte shines in the Force like a happy little star. “I told you,” the girl says with a knowing smile.

    For a moment, Allana can’t find her words. The gown had looked beautiful yesterday, but now that it’s been tailored to perfectly fit her shape…

    She realizes that she’s grinning like an idiot, and she shakes her head at her reflection. Don’t let it go to your head, she tells herself. This is just for one day. Even so, she can’t help thinking where she might be right now, if things had worked out differently for the galaxy. If her father hadn’t fallen… if he hadn’t destroyed so many lives…

    She pushes those thoughts aside, forcing herself to stay in this moment. She sways in place, letting the gauzy skirt swish against her legs. As if it was always meant to be.

    Maritte laughs, looking very proud of her work. Then, “Oh! I almost forgot!” She produces a slender object from the box on the bed and hands it to Allana.

    It’s a small, half-mask in the same lilac shade as the gown, with tiny, sparkling amethysts at the outside corner of each eye. Allana holds the mask up to her face, noting how perfectly it curves over her nose and cheekbones, as if it was made specifically for her. The Queen of Kurin is certainly thorough, she thinks.

    “How were you planning to wear your hair?” Maritte asks.

    She hasn’t even thought that far yet. She’s still in awe over the dress. “I don’t know, maybe wear it down?”

    “May I make a suggestion?” Maritte steps behind Allana and gathers her long braid up, coiling it against the back of her head. “You will definitely want your hair up, with the dancing you’re going to be doing, and—” She motions toward Allana’s neck. “—it would be a shame to obscure this gown’s unique neckline.”

    Allana feels her cheeks warm slightly, realizing how little she knows about this world that she was once a part of. A few days ago, that wouldn’t have bothered her at all, but now… “Would you— I mean, are you able—”

    “To help you get ready tonight?” Maritte’s face lights up. “It would be my honor, my lady; and I would have offered regardless.”

    Allana gazes at her reflection, feeling a spark of genuine excitement race through her as she takes it all in. She holds the mask to her face again and angles her chin up, feeling an uncharacteristic swell of pride. She might not be the Chume’da anymore, but she’s still the daughter of Tenel Ka Djo, a fierce queen and Jedi Knight. She can handle a masquerade ball and some dancing and anything else that comes her way.


    ~~


    He wakes to the sound of his twin brother banging violently on his door.

    “Hey!” Darth Ferrus yells. “I’m coming in if you don’t open up!”

    The door slides open almost immediately – apparently the locks in this place are fragging useless – and he feels his brother enter the room. So much for sleeping in.

    “Get up, we’ve got a job.”

    Festus cracks one eye open and groans as sunlight stabs at him. “Go away,” he mutters, reaching up to cover his face with one arm.

    A slight pause before his brother says, “You really wanna make me do this the hard way?”

    He lifts his head up and glares at Ferrus. “What is it?”

    “I told you, we’ve got a job.” His twin tosses a duffel bag at him; Festus catches it at the last second. “Come on,” Ferrus says, “get packed so we can get going.”

    Festus looks around his room, raising an eyebrow as he wonders just what the hell his brother expects him to pack in this giant duffle bag. Then he realizes there’s already something in it. He opens the bag and frowns. “The hell is this? You bought me clothes?”

    “Yep. Need you to look presentable.”

    “For what?”

    Ferrus grins over his shoulder as he exits the room. “We’ve got a party to crash.”


    ~~


    to be concluded...
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2021
  2. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    Lovely to see what my Much Ado About Nothing challenge partially inspired, and I really love the fact that you went with the masquerade ball as inspiration for your setting. That is a brilliant idea, and you're right that there is a masquerade ball in the play, so what a great way to play tribute to Shakespeare in the plot of your story.

    I really like your portrayal of Allana and Ben Skywalker in particular in this. There aren't a lot of stories that focus on Allana Solo, so this is a treat, and I love the bantering relationship she has with Ben.

    Nice job with this! I'm very impressed with how you tied your story to Shakespeare's play:)
     
  3. SiouxFan

    SiouxFan Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2012
    This is really good....like all of your stories. The over-arching melancholy of both Allana and Dorian are both sad yet strangely uplifting. I got to be honest about the dress, though: not sure a pale purple would look good on a red-head! In fairness, I only know two red-heads, so my knowledge base is pretty scant...but they both avoid pale colors.

    Thanks for writing!
     
  4. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    GAAAAAAH!! IT'S UP, IT'S UP, IT'S UP!!!

    I promise that I'm going to gather my thoughts into an more articulate review than that, but I had to take a moment to gush and flail, first. Just a little bit. This was the absolute best thing to log on and see tonight. Yes siree, it was!

    *pulls up the comfy chair and gets out popcorn* Yep, but I am so here for this.

    [face_dancing] :D [face_love] [:D]
     
  5. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    Methinks Master Skywalker is in a bit of trouble :p

    GIMME [face_hypnotized]

    Look, you don't want to wear them all the time, but what's life without a few pretty dresses

    Somewhere in the Force, Mara is sighing deeply.

    And now somewhere in the Force, Luke is nudging Mara and saying, "Well, he does have a point there..."

    The number you did on this sweet boy, Vi :_|

    I swear, if you don't write something happy soon... =((

    I love the image of Tenel Ka "begrudgingly" hosting a formal function, and the tauntaun getting a matching ribbon [face_love]

    A good fitting and alteration can be life-changing, this is true :cool:


    Hi, redhead related to and friends with other redheads here! So, this is a common misconception, that redheads can't wear certain colors. Let me clear that up: no such thing. Our hair doesn't cut us off from half the color wheel. In fact, the color most people say redheads can't wear is pink, and remember Molly Ringwald? Yeah. I myself have worn every shade of purple and every pastel in existence. And one of my redhead friends? Not only is her favorite color purple, but she prefers lavenders and lilacs. And she looks great! But much, much more importantly: they make her happy. Because here's the thing, clothes have multiple purposes. Top of the list is avoiding death by exposure. A close second is modesty/public decency laws. After that? How they make you feel. Whether other people consider them flattering is way, way at the bottom. Clothes are a way to express yourself and make yourself happy. If the redheads you know are happy avoiding pale colors, more power to them, sincerely! Jewel tones and earth tones are great, go for it. But Allana loves this dress. It makes her happy. She feels beautiful in it. And that's what matters here. :)
     
  6. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Ooh, I like this, I like this very much! I've been keeping an interested eye on your story-verse for a little now, and the more I see of it, the more I like it. This was a wonderful way to get to know both Allana and the Chaos Twins, and it's got so much going on. I too have to agree that there is nothing in this world like a beautiful dress you feel good in, and no experience like a good fitting! And the dream scenes and the reflective nighttime garden walks were so gorgeous and such a perfect match for the Philip Glass piece—I love both Allana and Festus/Dorian experience them, and come so close to meeting up then and there! So close, yet so far away! And of course the Glass piece reflects not only the luminous setting and wistful mood but also the recurring nature of the dreams but also the recurring nature of the dreams, with all its repetition.

    I really can't wait for these two to meet up at last, after so many years of dreaming and yearning! Even if it is in the context of "crashing a party," as that pesky Ferrus insists in that very Ferrus way of his :p —actually, that will make things even more interesting! And I also can't wait to see how your Much Ado about Nothing quote will eventually fit in as well, because I, too, get the feeling it would be a really good match for poor Festus and all these unaccustomed emotions he's working out! Great work—thanks so much for sharing, and I'm really looking forward to more! =D=
     
  7. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Replies!

    @devilinthedetails
    Aw, thanks, I’m glad you think so! I went back and forth between thinking the masquerade was the best and worst idea ever, so I’m happy if it works for everyone. :) I guess we’ll see how it plays out! ;)

    Allana has become one of my favorite characters to write. There’s so much history behind her, from all sides of her family – maybe especially in this messed up ‘verse where things have only recently started to settle down for the galaxy. (And I’ve been writing versions of Allana for about fourteen years now [face_hypnotized] which is kind of wild to think about.) The relationship between Allana and Ben in the EtF-verse is very dear to me. In EtF they are master and apprentice, but they’re also basically like siblings. And oh, the snark. I love them. [face_love]

    Thank you for commenting! I hope you enjoy the conclusion of the story. :D




    @SiouxFan
    Thank you very much, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it so far! I wasn’t expecting things to develop between these two characters in quite the way it did for this story, or at this particular point in time, either; but it ended up feeling perfectly right, if that makes any sense at all.

    I think Gabri did a great job defending the dress color, so I don’t have much to add there. Based on the actress I picture as Allana, I do think it would look amazing on her. ;)

    Thanks for the reply! I hope you’ll like the final part of the story. :)




    @Mira_Jade
    :D [face_dancing]

    This response really made my day when I first read it. [face_love] Take all the time you need, girl! [:D]

    [face_mischief] [face_batting]




    @Gabri_Jade
    It’s a good thing Allana is so forgiving, although next time maybe Ben should talk to her first before signing her up for fancy masquerade balls. :p Which does make me wonder how often these types of events happen in the GFFA? Is this all I’m going to write now, Gabri? Fancy SW galas?

    RIGHT??? [face_love]

    I agree with this wholeheartedly! ;)

    Ben is like Mara in so many ways. Appreciation for fancy masquerade balls is clearly not one of them. :p

    Right? Luke knows what’s up: always go for the food. [face_laugh]

    I knoooooooow. =(( =(( (Why am I like this?)

    I don’t know, Gabri, maybe he’s still in there somewhere… under all the murder and creepiness… [face_worried] :oops:

    [face_whistling]

    Good thing I sent you some bebeh Padawan Mara to hold you over. ;) :*

    Lol, listen, Tenel Ka has had it up to here with her ridiculous little empire, but maybe if she throws a party they will all stop trying to overthrow her for one day and just have some fun. Or, you know, they might all try to assassinate her during the fancy ball, who even knows. :rolleyes:

    Baby!Allana and her tauntaun and its matching ribbon [face_love] So darn precious! Why would anyone pick on this sweet child ever? (Looking at you, Veeran [face_not_talking])

    I can definitely attest to this. :p

    Nothing more to add here, other than I completely 100% agree, and also [:D] [:D]

    (Okay, I lied… “death by exposure” makes me chuckle every time. :D)

    Thanks for all your comments, dearest! You're the best. [:D]




    @Findswoman
    Welcome to my little AU corner of the boards! ;) :D I was weirdly nervous about this story since it’s a bit of a departure from where I thought I wanted to go with these characters, but I’ve also loved it so much, and I’m always glad to hear that others enjoy it, too. It’s been fun and interesting seeing how all of these different challenges have helped shape the story that’s been in my head for a while now. Both Allana and the twins are very special to me, after so many years writing them, (or thinking about writing them, during my writing dry spells :p).

    It’s always nice when I can incorporate some of my own real-world experiences into SW fic. :p Even if it has been a while since I’ve had a dress fitting, those memories have definitely stuck with me! (I feel like there have been a lot of fancy dress fics floating around here lately, and it has me wanting to wear a super elegant formal dress something fierce [face_laugh])

    [face_blush] I’m glad you liked those scenes! A lot of this existed in abstract snippets early on, and I wasn’t sure how it would all fit together, so I was relieved when it finally coalesced. The dream angle – especially from Festus’s POV – felt like a bit of a gamble for me, because it’s probably the most honest he’s ever been with himself in the greater context of all these stories. And I imagine part of that is because it is a dream, and perhaps it’s the only place where that part of him that is still Dorian can sort of surface. In his waking life, Festus very much refuses to associate himself in any way with his old identity.

    I was really surprised how quickly I fell in love with this piece despite that repetition. At first I thought, “well, it’s not as varied as some of the others…” but it didn’t take long for me to be completely into it. And then I went and found a video of someone playing the whole series, and I fell even more in love. And then I found a video of Lavinia Meijer playing “Metamorphosis Two” on the harp and wow, that was equally amazing! (That particular recording was another one I listened to quite a bit as I was writing the masquerade scene.) [face_love]

    I hope it doesn’t disappoint! ;) It will certainly be interesting, that much I think I can guarantee. [face_mischief] (And oh, Ferrus. I love that easily-irritated brute, but he’s such a *muttermutter* :rolleyes:)

    I tend to avoid direct quotes unless it’s part of the parameters of the challenge, so it won’t show up in written form… but I do feel that the spirit of the quote is very much represented in the scenes to come! Thank you so much for commenting, and welcome once again to my crazy ‘verse and my weird little ship! :D




    Okay, I'm planning to have the conclusion of this story up sometime today, or tomorrow at the absolute latest, if I can't force myself to stop tinkering with it. :p

    Also, if anyone's interested in the inspiration for Allana's dress, here it is:
    I picture it without the bow on the shoulder. I don’t have anything against the bow, I just don’t picture Allana’s dress having one.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2021
    Findswoman and Mira_Jade like this.
  8. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    And now, the conclusion! [face_batting]

    ~~

    Part Two: Masquerade



    Allana Djo isn’t a princess anymore. She doesn’t live in a world of lavish palaces and endless smiles and court intrigue. She lives in service to the Force and to all life, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

    But as she stands in front of the mirror in the guest suite of Kurin’s grand palace, watching the train of her perfect, lilac-colored dress drape around her on the smooth floor while Maritte puts the finishing touches on her hair, it isn’t hard to imagine what her life might have been like in another world. What would that Allana have been like, she wonders? Sheltered and pampered, probably. She certainly wouldn’t have been out fighting Sith Lords when she was only fifteen.

    In another world, there might not have been any Sith Lords to fight.

    “There you are, my lady,” Maritte says, tucking one final pin into Allana’s hair. “Ready?”

    Allana smiles at her reflection. For one night, she can be Lady Allana, and she can allow herself to indulge in some of the better parts of the life she missed out on. That wouldn’t be so terrible, would it? And anyway, Ben told her to have fun. This is really all his fault.

    She turns to Maritte and grins. “Almost forgot the mask.”

    The handmaiden is practically bouncing with excitement as she picks up the mask and ties it in place. “There. Now you’re ready.”

    Allana turns to the girl and throws her arms around her, enveloping her in a hug. “Thank you,” she whispers, fighting back a sudden swell of emotion. She senses Maritte’s surprise, then genuine affection as the handmaiden returns the hug.

    “You’re very welcome, my lady.” She pulls away and puts her hands on Allana’s shoulders, a glimmer of mischief lighting her eyes. “Now you’d better hurry, before all the good dance partners are taken.”

    Allana laughs. “I was thinking more of the food.”

    “Well, of course, my lady, the food is the best part.” She lets go and smiles. “Now hurry!”

    Allana makes her way from the guest wing, passing under the marble colonnade on her way to the palace. She glimpses the narrow reflecting pool out of the corner of her eye and slows for a moment to look at it. Old pain and melancholy swirl inside her, a steady, deep-water current that she can never truly be rid of; but it feels more distant tonight. She turns away from the pool and continues on to the main palace.

    The first thing that strikes her as she walks through the grand set of doors – on hinges, like so many in the palace, and held open by a pair of finely-dressed footmen – is how bright the ballroom is. There are lights absolutely everywhere: shaded lamps on ornate tables all along the perimeter of the room; incandescent wall sconces patterned after flames; tiny, glittering fairy lights strung above the doors and across the windows, and even woven in among and between the massive chandeliers that dominate the ceiling.

    Oh, the chandeliers. There are three of them, evenly spaced from one end of the long, rectangular room to the other, though the central chandelier is the largest and most intricate. She can’t even begin to guess the number of crystals or the amount of gold leaf required to craft even one of these stunning works of art, let alone three. And the way they catch all of the other light, sending it dancing across the ceiling above and the floor below… it’s enough to take anyone’s breath away, even a girl who once lived in Hapes’ magnificent Fountain Palace.

    Allana’s heart beats a little faster as she steps further into the room, trying to drink in every detail. Around the edges of the room, next to all those ornate tables, are equally luxurious chairs, many of them occupied by guests who are either watching the festivities or taking a break from dancing. She looks out at the crowd – Force, there are so many people here – and stares in awe as they spin about at speeds she finds nearly impossible to comprehend, even as a Jedi. She vaguely recalls observing a dance like this once. A waltz, she thinks. Not the slower one she remembers her parents dancing, but a giddy, almost wild thing that makes her head spin just watching it.

    Yeah, she’s not ready for that. Not at all. Maybe she will go get some food, like Ben suggested—

    “Lady Allana!”

    Her eyes snap toward the voice, drawn to the middle section of the room where the Queen of Kurin – an elegant, middle-aged woman with raven-black hair and sharp amber eyes – sits upon a white throne, her husband at her side. Allana takes a small breath and weaves through the twirling couples to make her way toward the queen.

    “Your Majesty,” she says, old, ingrained habits kicking in as she drops into a curtsy that would have made her etiquette mistress weep for joy. She hadn’t even hesitated, she realizes. Years and years of plain, utilitarian clothes and robes and the practiced Jedi bow, and she’d switched to the curtsy as easily as switching on her lightsaber. She’s not sure what to make of that.

    The queen returns the gesture with a delicate nod and a warm, gracious smile. “I hope you are enjoying the party, my dear?”

    “Oh, very much, Your Majesty. It’s breathtaking.”

    “And have you had a chance to sample some of the delicacies my chefs have prepared?”

    “Not yet,” she says with a smile, “but I’ve only just arrived.”

    The queen waves dismissively. “There will be plenty of time for that, after you’ve had a dance or two.” She waves again, this time motioning to a young man standing a few meters away. He turns and steps quickly to the queen’s side. “Lady Allana, may I introduce my cousin: Captain Haldin of the Kurin Royal Defense Fleet.”

    So much for food,
    Allana thinks as she turns to greet the man. He has short, golden blond hair – sort of ridiculously golden, like he’s a figure from a painting or a holostar or something – and bright, friendly green eyes sparkling from behind a white mask; and she has to admit he cuts a nice figure in his dark blue dress uniform. He takes her hand gently in his as they exchange a formal greeting. She thinks she likes this. Likes him, maybe. Too soon to really tell, but she gets the feeling she’ll have the opportunity.

    And now she’s pretty sure she’ll have to dance with him. Her stomach lurches a little at that prospect, but she tries to remember what Ben told her.

    Have fun,
    she thinks. How hard can that be?

    “Lady Allana,” Captain Haldin says, “might I have the pleasure of this dance?”

    Allana puts on her most gracious smile – not too wide, child; don’t show your teeth – and places her hand in his, allowing him to lead her onto the dance floor. He guides her toward the far end of the room where it’s slightly less crowded, away from the immediate attention of the queen. Allana is grateful for the distance. She’s happy the queen seems to like her so much, but if she’s going to potentially embarrass herself, she’d rather not do it right under Her Majesty’s nose.

    “I have to warn you,” she says as she takes her position opposite Captain Haldin, “I haven’t danced like this since I was a little girl, and even then I wasn’t very good.”

    He smiles at her as the orchestra starts up another song, this one lively but not as quick as that first waltz. “I can’t imagine that to be true, my lady.” Haldin holds out his arm to her. “This dance is fairly simple; just follow my lead, and I promise you’ll do fine.”

    She rests one hand lightly atop his arm, and he takes her other hand in his, maintaining a bit of distance between them as he starts to lead her through the steps. Thanks to her Force-sensitivity and Jedi training, she can anticipate where he will step next, which gives her a bit of an advantage in keeping up with him, despite her lack of experience. She vaguely recalls learning something like this in her very first dance lessons, not long before she left Hapes. It’s a combination of slow and quick steps, and after they’ve gone through a few sets or variations – or whatever they’re called – she starts to get the hang of it. She even enjoys it a little. It doesn’t hurt that her partner is nice to look at, either.

    “My cousin said you were instrumental in ensuring the treaty negotiations went smoothly,” she hears him say. Allana looks up at him and smiles.

    “Her Majesty is very kind. I’m not sure ‘instrumental’ is the word I would use, but I did what I could to help.”

    The captain returns her smile. “It’s that sort of modesty that is sorely lacking in most of our leaders these days, both here and across the galaxy,” he says. “You’re a credit to your people and to the Jedi Order, Lady Allana.”

    A credit to her people? She knows he’s being sincere, but she doesn’t really know what to say to that. She nods as graciously as possible and says nothing more.

    As she and Haldin travel around the dance floor with increasing ease, weaving in and out between the other couples, she finds herself concentrating less on the steps and more on the people around them. She notices many of the dancers adding different flourishes to their movements, sometimes throwing in more complicated turns – enriching the dance, she supposes, by giving it a unique flair. As interesting as she finds it to watch – and it truly is impressive, she thinks in a detached sort of way – it’s not really something she feels compelled to imitate. She’s never really been one for pageantry. Is it because of her childhood, because of everything she experienced in the shadow of the Hapan elite? Beautiful, elegant women who would smile and curtsy and weave lies made of silk, all while plotting how best to murder her and her mother. It’s unfair, she knows, to compare this lovely scene with the viper’s den of her youth, but she can’t help it.

    Just have fun,
    Ben had said. If only it was that simple.

    Something brushes across her senses, then – an elusive presence, but one she recognizes instantly despite his attempts at concealment. Heart suddenly in her throat, she pulls away from her partner and spins around, searching; but in a sea of bodies and gowns and masks and glittering lights, it’s too much, and over the years she’s learned that he’s good at hiding in plain sight.

    She turns back to the captain and finds that another man has taken his place. Her breath catches, the air around her sparking with anticipation and heat, and her every sense whispers danger. It takes everything in her not to visibly react as she looks up at him, past the plain black mask, into his ice blue eyes.

    One corner of his mouth turns up in a faint smirk, and he tilts his head slightly to one side. “You weren’t looking for me, were you, Princess?”

    Before she can back away from him, Darth Festus reaches out lightning fast and catches her by the wrist. She tries to yank her arm away, but he spins her toward him, pulling her backside flush against his front.

    “That’s not how this dance goes,” he whispers in her ear, his arm tightening around her waist.

    Despite the danger she is in – or maybe because of it, she doesn’t really know – she lets out a quiet, gasping laugh. “How would you know?”

    “I may not have been born in a palace like some people, but I'm a pretty quick study.” His hold on her tightens further – a warning, she thinks. “It’s not that different from fighting, really.”

    “Except your dance partner isn’t usually trying to kill you.”

    He laughs under his breath, and she feels it whisper across her skin. “Is that why you think I’m here? To kill you?”

    “Oh, I’m sure you have some other horrific goal in mind. Killing me is just a happy bonus, isn’t it?”

    She startles as he takes her left hand in his, drawing it away from her waist; and for a moment she has trouble concentrating on anything but the little static jolts his touch sends through her.

    “What are you doing?” she says, unable to take her eyes off of the hand holding hers.

    “I’m trying to blend in,” he says, “but it’s hard to do that when we’re the only ones not dancing.” He adjusts his grip, fingers brushing against the inside of her wrist. “You’re kinda making a scene, Princess.”

    They are attracting attention, she realizes. Several couples have had to move around them, and the way he’s holding her is drawing more than a few stares. Her skin warms at the thought of how this must look. There are probably other emotions she should be feeling right now, but indignation rises above them all.

    She turns her head just enough to catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of her eye, trying to ignore the lack of distance between them. “Feel free to let me go if it’s making you so uncomfortable.”

    He leans closer, his lips grazing her ear. “I’m not the one who’s trembling, Allana.”

    Stars, no, this is wrong. How many times has he tried to kill her? He shouldn’t be holding her like this, as if—

    Nope, don’t you even think it, that’s definitely
    not what this is…

    She tries to pull away from him, but he holds firm.

    “Don’t fight me,” he says. “You know what’ll happen if you do.”

    She takes a shallow breath. “Enlighten me.”

    He lets out something akin to a sigh. “There are a lot of people here. A lot of collateral damage.”

    A slight hiss as she takes a sharper breath. “You’re despicable.”

    “I'd hate to disappoint you by being anything less.” He spins her around to face him, putting a bit of distance between them before releasing her. “Why don’t you practice some of that enviable Jedi patience and maybe keep these people alive a little while longer?”

    He holds out his left hand, and she stares at it for a few seconds, realization dawning. She glares up at him. “You can’t be serious.”

    He shrugs, but doesn’t withdraw the offered hand. “Aren’t you a little curious?”

    “About what?”

    “About whether I know what I’m doing.” He looks like he’s holding back a laugh, and for some reason that really infuriates her. “You’re not worried I’ll show you up, are you?”

    Before she can talk herself out of it, she takes his hand and steps toward him. “Of course you’d use manipulation to get your way. I don’t know why I’m even a little surprised.”

    He shakes his head and wraps his other arm around her, hand resting just below her shoulder blades. “I don’t know why either.”

    Gods, I’ve actually lost my mind,
    she thinks as she raises her free hand to his shoulder. This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.

    She tries to ignore the warmth of his hand through the sheer back of her dress by running through a mental list – admittedly not that long – of all the stupid things she’s done in her life. This is definitely at the top of that list.

    He steps toward her, and she steps back, following his lead as they join in with the other couples. The music isn’t quite as fast as some of the previous songs, and she’s grateful for that. She might be a Jedi, but she thinks even she would have a hard time keeping her wits about her while trying to dance to something that quick.

    Less than a minute into the dance, she realizes – rather annoyingly – that he isn’t terrible at this. In fact, he’s more than capable. She’s not sure what she expected from him – maybe something rough, or hurried. Or maybe she thought it would be like he’d said, like an actual fight, with her guarding every second against certain death at his hands. She didn’t expect him to be so measured or so tuned into his surroundings. Tuned into her. And while the way he moves lacks some of the sophistication of the other men here, part of her thinks it suits him.

    She looks him over quickly, suppressing the urge to roll her eyes as she notes that he’s wearing all black, as usual. He’s definitely underdressed compared to everyone else here, by a fairly large margin. He’s left his jacket behind, though, and the rest of his clothes actually remind her of what her grandpa Han used to wear. No frills, just basic pants and boots and a long-sleeved shirt with a high, loose collar; but in a ballroom full of men decked out in their finest, it makes him look almost roguish. If he were any other man – any other man – she might find the effect to be just the tiniest bit dashing.

    Don’t start with that,
    she tells herself, glancing away from him. This isn’t a real dance, and he could still kill everyone in here without flinching. Even her.

    Especially her.

    “You’re tensing up,” he says, and she feels a lessening of pressure from the hand on her back. It takes half a second to realize he’s guiding her backward. She’s honestly not sure if she wants to fight against his lead right now or follow him just to prove she’s up to the challenge.

    “I wonder why that is?” she mutters, opting for the path of least resistance. Out of the corner of her eye, she notices some of the other couples performing the same steps, smiling and laughing. They have no idea how quickly this could all end.

    She looks up at him, only to find him already watching her. “Why are you here?” she asks, suddenly quiet.

    She half expects to see that smug, teasing grin on his face, but his expression is surprisingly neutral. “You know I’m not going to tell you that,” he says.

    They rotate around one another, and then he stops and turns her back in the opposite direction as they continue through the steps. “I thought you only went after the most dangerous bounties,” she says. “Why come here?”

    He lets out a short laugh. “Been keeping tabs on me, Princess? I’m flattered.”

    She rolls her eyes. “Please. You haven’t exactly been subtle in recent years.”

    He doesn’t quite tilt his head to one side, but she can tell he wants to. “Maybe there’s a job here, and I needed the credits. Or maybe I knew you would be here.”

    Is she imagining the sudden intensity in his gaze? She has to be. It’s the mask, she thinks. They make people harder to read, especially someone whose presence in the Force is always so murky.

    “You couldn’t have known,” she says, barely a whisper as she remembers all the other times he’s shown up unexpectedly over the years.

    He does tilt his head, then, coupled with an amused half-shrug. “Then I guess it was fate that we met like this. Destiny, the Force… take your pick.”

    “You think you were destined to dance with your mortal enemy at some silly masquerade ball?”

    He draws her toward him, and in a flash of insight she realizes what the last move of this dance is, and she has only a second to decide whether to go through with it or not.

    He takes her waist in both hands, and she doesn’t stop him; and as he lifts her off the floor and holds her against him, she finds herself once again breathless. She’d like to think it’s from the suddenness of the motion that literally swept her off her feet, but as she looks down at him and holds his gaze, fingers tightly grasping his shoulders, she knows that isn’t why.

    He lowers her to the floor, slowly, the space between them reduced to nothing. “You’re right,” he says quietly, his face suddenly very close to hers, “it sounds pretty ridiculous when you say it like that.”

    There’s an uneasy flutter in her stomach, like the rapid beating of soft moth’s wings. Stars, what is wrong with her? The last time she was this close to him – bodies pressed against each other, breath mingling, close – was on Vjun, when he nearly succeeded in murdering her. Why is she acting like a silly little girl at her first dance instead of the intelligent and discerning Jedi Knight she’s supposed to be?

    Because you could have had this life.

    Because you've never actually done this before, and you've always wondered how it would feel.

    Because deep down you like it.

    Deep down, you like—

    No
    . Absolutely not. She can’t go down that path. He is what he is, and she is what she is, and there’s no use pretending it could ever be any different.

    The music fades, and the couples around them applaud for several seconds. She starts to pull away from him, forgetting his earlier threat. He doesn’t let go, though, and her eyes dart up to meet his.

    “Come on, Princess,” he says, still quiet, a mischievous glint in those pale blue eyes. “You can handle one more, can’t you?”

    The orchestra starts up again, their tempo slowing once more, and she hears one of the stringed instruments playing a low chord like a heartbeat. It vibrates through her, deep and steady and impossible to shake. She slides her left hand further up his shoulder as his right arm completely encircles her waist.

    “Do you still think this is exactly like fighting?” she asks as they turn in a slow circle.

    “I didn’t say it was exactly like it. I said it’s not that different.” He lets go of her waist for a moment, raising his other arm to spin her underneath it. Then he catches her against him and pulls her close. “Action and reaction. You move, your opponent counters. Isn’t that what a dance is?”

    Her chest constricts a little as she thinks of that last grand ball on Hapes, before everything changed. “Why do you assume I’d know?”

    “I thought that was the sort of thing princesses learn in the great Fountain Palace?”

    She looks up into his eyes, pushing back every painful memory his words conjure. “I’m not a princess anymore,” she says quietly.

    He shakes his head, eyes never leaving hers. “In that dress? You could’ve fooled me.”

    She can’t quite tell if it’s an insult disguised as a compliment or a compliment disguised as an insult, but she feels her face – already warm from all the dancing – flush even further.

    He reverses direction, and she follows, their bodies maintaining close and constant contact. Action and reaction, moves and countermoves... maybe he's a little bit right, but he's also so, so wrong.

    “Dancing isn’t a contest of wills between two opponents,” she says with a hint of defiance. “It's about partnership and trust.”

    He makes an amused sort of noise in the back of his throat. "Are you saying you had a deep and trusting bond with that guy you were dancing with before?"

    “I trusted him not to try to kill me.” A flash of shame as she realizes how quickly she’d forgotten about the queen’s cousin. “What did you do with him anyway?”

    “Guess he wasn’t much of a partner if you’re just now asking about him.” There’s that smirk again, so smug and irritating and not at all distracting. She looks away quickly, and he notices. “Calm down,” he says, equal parts soft and dismissive. “I just suggested that he go for a walk.”

    “A walk,” she says dryly.

    He doesn’t respond to her sarcasm, smiling a little to himself instead. “You’re wrong about the whole partnership and trust thing.”

    “Is that so?”

    “It’s a language, isn’t it? A way of communicating. Some people are terrible at it, and others are skilled, and you don’t have to trust someone at all to understand what they’re saying, or to respond.”

    She looks away from him again, staring over his shoulder at the giddy, twirling masses. “So what are you saying?”

    He stops moving without warning, and her momentum presses her even closer to him. She lets out a surprised gasp as his lips briefly trace the curve of her neck. “Can’t you tell?” he murmurs in her ear. “I guess I’m not very good at this after all.”

    Her skin burns where he touched her, and his face is entirely too close. This isn’t real, this definitely, definitely isn’t real… She shakes her head, still refusing to look at him. “Do you think I’m stupid?” she says in a harsh whisper. “That I would believe anything you say or do?”

    He’s still holding her hand, and he adjusts his grip, letting his thumb trail across her palm, down the inside of her wrist. “I think you're—”

    “What?” she says, anger rising as she tries to ignore the shiver that runs through her at his touch. “Weak? Pathetic? Naïve?”

    He doesn't answer, and she finally looks at him. He stares back at her, silent, just like Kordros, and Taris; and her pulse quickens as she finds herself caught up in his gaze.

    They’re doing it again, she thinks a bit distantly. Standing still while the other dancers whirl around them. The eye of the storm.

    She’s always been able to handle his taunting, his insults. Words are as much a weapon as a lightsaber, and she’d rather fight with them than anything else. Maybe that’s why she finds his silence so frightening. It’s the one thing she can’t defend against.

    Why can’t she look away from him? It’s as though they’ve fallen into a separate plane of reality where neither of them is quite who they’re supposed to be – cut off from everything that has come before and everything that will happen after. Not unlike a dream.

    I think you’re… what?
    Why is it suddenly so important that she know the end of that sentence? Why does she care what he’s thinking in that twisted mind of his?

    He releases her hand and lifts a finger to her chin, tilting it up ever so slightly. She should stop him, she knows she should. But there’s a very small, very dangerous part of her that wants to know what happens next.

    He bends his head toward her, lips brushing against her ear, and she closes her eyes without meaning to. This is wrong, she tells herself. This is so, so—

    “I think you’re distracted, Princess.”

    The words hit her dead center in her chest, a cold, heavy weight threatening to drag her under and drown her. She opens her eyes to see he’s pulled back, though his arm is still around her. There’s a hint of a smirk on his face, but his eyes… stars, they really are like ice, and she wonders what the hell she even thought was happening between them.

    Then she hears a scream from across the ballroom – no, multiple screams, and the distinct snap-hiss of a lightsaber activating as the music cuts off.

    She shoves him away from her as hard as she can, turning to see what’s happening. Darth Ferrus stands in the far entry, dragging one of the masked guests by the collar, grinning like a madman as he points his crimson saber out at the crowd.

    Allana spins around, half expecting Festus to have vanished just as quickly as he’d appeared; but he’s still standing there, staring at her from behind the mask. She tears her own mask off and throws it on the ground at his feet. “You bastard,” she says, shaking.

    He holds his hands out at his sides, saying in a quiet voice, “I’d hate to disappoint you by being anything less.”

    People begin to press in around her, and she loses sight of Festus for a moment as she picks up the train of her gown and tries to navigate the panicked, stumbling crowd. When she spots him again, he’s slipping through the pair of doors closest to her.

    Allana pushes her way through the crowd, relying on her Jedi training and senses to find the quickest path. She notes that Ferrus is already gone, along with the man he was dragging. She has to get to him and stop him from doing whatever it is he and Festus came here to do.

    As she reaches the main corridor outside the ballroom, she sees some of the royal guard are attempting to herd people toward the interior of the palace. She extends her perception in the opposite direction, toward the doors at the end of the corridor that lead outside… and she senses Ferrus’s blazing presence, as if a shroud has been thrown off it. She turns to go after him, when she feels tendrils of energy wrap around her, pushing her up against the wall behind her.

    “Don’t try it,” Festus says as he emerges from the crowd, hand raised toward her.

    “You can’t just come here and— gah!” She tries to break his hold, straining to tap into her own power. “I won’t let you do it!”

    He grabs her by the wrists and pins her arms up against the wall. “You can’t stop this,” he says, his jaw tight. “You’re not even armed.”

    Frustration and helplessness and desperation roil within her, and beneath it all a fury that has long lain dormant, awakening now as she struggles against his grip. “I don’t need a lightsaber to stop you,” she growls, reaching out with the Force to push him back. He’s ready for her, though, and his fingers tighten around her wrists.

    “Enough,” he says, his voice low as he leans in close. “You’ve lost this one, Princess.”

    There are still people trying to exit the corridor, moving past them without even noticing. She’s grateful, in a way. She wouldn’t want anyone to die trying to help her out of her own mess.

    My fault,
    she thinks, feeling the weight of that realization press in on her from all sides. All my fault.

    Festus lowers himself enough to bring his eyes level with hers, pinning her with that unnerving stare. Then he lets out a heavy breath. “I’m sorry,” he whispers.

    I’m sorry.
    She hears those words reaching out to her from a dream, one that has stayed with her for sixteen years. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…

    “No, you’re not.” Her eyes are burning, but she won’t cry. She won’t. “You’re not sorry at all. You’re a liar, and—” And I should have known. I should have known it was a lie. I should have been stronger.

    Even with the mask obscuring his features, she sees a shadow pass over his face. “What did you expect, Allana? I learned from the best, didn’t I?”

    She can’t quite stifle the sob that rises up in her throat at that barb, so carelessly thrown. Does he know how deep those wounds still go? Of course he does. This is just a game to him, and he knows exactly what he’s doing.

    “I hate you.” She hurls the words with as much venom as she can summon, trying to ignore the sound of her own voice breaking.

    His fingers loosen from around her wrists, sliding up to spread across the palms of her hands; and stars, she hates him for that, too.

    “That’s just perfect, isn’t it?” he says through clenched teeth as he leans in, fingers interlacing with hers, lips brushing along her neck, her jaw… “Because I hate you.”

    Then he lets go of her and disappears into the crowd.


    ~~


    When he finally makes it back to the ship, he finds his brother in the cargo hold, securing the last of the prisoners. There are three still living, plus one lying dead in a body bag next to them. Ferrus looks up at him and folds his arms across his chest.

    “I see you decided not to wear the clothes I got you.” He tilts his chin up and smirks. “Did you have fun playing make-believe?”

    Festus pulls the mask off his face and tosses it on the deck. “So much fun,” he deadpans. He runs a hand through his hair and lets out a short breath. “Tell me you at least saved one for me?”

    Ferrus grins. “What kind of brother do you think I am?” He hauls one of the prisoners forward. “Pretty sure Caleg wants this guy dead.”

    Ferrus throws the man down on his knees, and Festus steps in front of him, drawing his lightsaber.

    Please,” the man says, “please, I'll give you twice what Caleg’s offering you. I’ll give you anything. Anything you want.”

    Festus kneels down in front of the prisoner and wraps a hand around the back of his neck, pressing the emitter of his weapon to the man's chest as he pulls him close. “There’s only one thing in this whole forsaken universe that I want,” he whispers in his victim’s ear, “and you can’t give her to me.”

    Festus pulls back and holds the man’s gaze as the lightsaber burns through his chest, melting flesh and bone. He doesn’t look away. In all the years since he first stood at the doctor’s side and held down one of his dying test subjects, he has never looked away.

    The man slumps forward, dead. Festus deactivates his saber and releases the body, letting it fall onto the deck. Then he stands and hooks his weapon on his belt.

    Ferrus is watching him, one eyebrow raised. “Feel better?”

    He takes a long, deep breath and turns away from his brother. “No.”


    ~~


    The morning after the masquerade ball, Allana Djo prepares to leave Kurin.

    She stops packing for a moment to stare at the dress, draped across a chair opposite the bed, right where Maritte left it the night before.

    It wasn’t your fault,
    the young handmaiden had said quietly, staring down at the lilac-colored gown in her arms. Her Majesty knows you weren’t to blame.

    She should have been stronger. She should have known what was happening.

    You were there as a guest, not a Jedi.
    Maritte had held out the dress, then, offering it up to her. This was a gift. Her Majesty wants you to have it, to show she bears no ill will.

    That’s not why I can’t take it,
    she’d wanted to say, unable to get the words past her throat.

    These people, they all think she’s so noble, holding herself to some higher standard because she’s a Jedi or a princess or whatever. They think she’s principled and virtuous and self-sacrificing. But that’s not it at all.

    The truth is, she can’t look at that beautiful, perfect dress without thinking of him, without thinking of all the things she’s spent years keeping locked deep inside her. Things she pretended not to notice or feel, things she refused to examine more closely, things she still can’t stand to entertain in her thoughts because to do so would be shameful and wrong; and now she just wants to shove it back down, close it all up in a box where she never, ever has to look at it again.

    I’m sorry
    .

    She shakes her head, tearing her eyes from the gown. He isn’t sorry at all. He doesn’t even know what it means to be sorry, and she’ll be damned if she’s going to let another Sith Lord whisper those meaningless words to her, as if it somehow makes up for his betrayal.

    And that’s just so stupid, isn’t it? Betrayal implies trust, and there’s never been any trust between them. Not ever. He’s nothing to her, just as she’s nothing to him. Whatever twisted web has bound them together all these years, she’s determined to be free of it now.

    She shoulders her bag, glancing one last time at the dress before walking out the door.

    The way back to the main palace leads through the colonnade, past the reflecting pool for the dead. She stops beside one of the columns and gazes out at the tranquil waters, remembering the dream she had that night and the presence that had flickered briefly across her awareness. She should know by now, shouldn’t she, the danger of dwelling in a dream? Blinded by a tiny handful of childhood memories, unable to recognize reality for what it is. Maybe there is a world where that sad little dream ended differently, for both of them. But this isn’t that world, and she can’t pretend it is for even a second.

    He’s nothing to her. He’s never been hers, not ever. It’s time to wake up.

    She walks on, leaving the reflecting pool and that beautiful gown and the dream of everything that might have been behind her.


    Fin



     
    Gabri_Jade and Mira_Jade like this.
  9. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Okay, so I was almost through drafting my reply to part one - finally, I know - when I saw that you updated with part two. So, um, here I am with one huge mega-comment full of gushing and rambling. Maybe too much rambling. Some of this I know you've already heard, but I'm gonna say it all again since it bears repeating! Because this was soooooo good. Like: Godiva chocolate good. Mmmhmm, every dark and twisty and poignant word of it! [face_love] [face_love]


    SO DARTH FESTUS. SO MUCH SO IT HURTS. (And, you know, kinda Allana by the end here too. [face_whistling] [face_mischief])

    So, so perfect. Seriously, I don't know how you magically got all of these stellar prompts, because they fit. [face_hypnotized]

    Oh, Allana. But doesn't this just set up the internal conflict right from the beginning? This isn't who she is - not wholly, anyway - but it's what she could have been. Once. In another life.

    This queen is sneaky, and I love her. :p Ben is also sneaky, and I love him too. [face_laugh] [face_love]

    This line hit so powerfully the first time I read it, and that power remained even with subsequent rereads. In just a few words I could envision what Allana saw in Tenel Ka: her grace and strength and sadness, all. *throws extra kudos in the air like confetti*

    GORGEOUS! Again: diaphanous materials and delicate butterfly wings were descriptions that really sang. I have to second and third @Gabri_Jade's most excellent commentary: that shade of purple beautifuly compliments Allana's coloring. The overall description you provided was wistful and ethereal and royal all at once - where purple, again, plays such an important role. The thought and detail you put into your design really added to the depth of the story and helped bring your vision to life. And, you know, the image of Allana in this fairytale gown juxtaposed by Dorian in all of his darkness . . . well, how could you pass that opportunity by? [face_mischief]

    Yikes, but I can only imagine judging yourself by Hapan standards of beauty. But those same details that Allana would rather be different sound striking to me. Especially with all the freckles. There can never be enough freckles. [face_love]

    Ben, you were an absolutely darling fount of encouragement and wisdom until you ended with dance thing. :p Poor Mara, shaking her head somewhere in the Force - I second Gabri again there! [face_laugh] :oops:

    From his mouth to the Force's ears. [face_whistling] [face_tee_hee]

    BEN! [face_laugh] [face_laugh] Oh but he was a hundred percent Luke Skywalker's son here.

    The imagery here just cut me to the quick. The loneliness and the sadness and the loss. Of course Allana and Dorian found such kindred spirits in each other, even for that short period in time. Everything about this passage hurt. Everything.

    And there goes that refrain again. [face_plain] ALSO: seriously, Veeran, what the heck? Picking on little girls, even as a Jedi initiate? While a part of me wants to say that this really showed the foundations of Darth Ferrus taking shape, but I'm also kinda wondering what happened to these boys even before the Sith, now? It was a hard and dark time for the Jedi as a whole, and for these two orphans in particular. One of whom has a serious chip on his shoulder about Jacen's actions as Caedus, enough to take it out on his daughter. It's just veeeeeery interesting to consider, and with that little bit of detail you've drawn me even further into this 'verse. [face_thinking] =D=

    Oh honey . . . I just wanted to give baby!Allana all the hugs.

    [face_love]!!!! I just couldn't. I just COULDN'T EVEN with this scene. Every ridiculously adorable and heart tugging word of it. [face_love]

    =(( :_|

    . . . so, when's that happy AU fic of your AU coming. ;) [face_batting]

    Lovely! Your descriptions were beautiful throughout this story, and really added to that dreamy, wistful sort of ambiance suggested by your prompts and further explored in your themes.

    Besides being such a poignant concept, beautifully expressed, I appreciate how so much of this scene was a distorted reflection of Dorian's introspection and imagery in TLotD. They really are inverted mirrors of each other, in so many ways.

    :_| There's a ninja in here chopping onions, I tell ya . . .

    Gaaaah. THIS. One of my favorite lines of the story. =D=

    So close, but yet so far away, aren't they always? [face_plain]

    Oh Festus, you have to keep telling yourself that, don't you? I mean, I get it: he has to keep up with all of his unhealthy coping mechanisms to survive both what he's endured and since done to others in return. But still.

    =((

    Well, well, well, but isn't that a telling line? Again, I want to know more, Vi. I really, really do. [face_batting]

    Then, I thought I quoted it, but apparently I missed that selection. So I'll just have to use extra caps for emphasis: BABY!DORIAN WANTING TO WRITE ALLANA LETTERS JUST TO MAKE HER SMILE. Just twist the knife while it's in there, why don't you? THESE POOR BROKEN DEARS.

    All of the wistful yearning and bittersweet longing absolutely killed me throughout this story. Just . . . how much he loves her and how much he hates that love but needs it. Mmmhmm, but that's the good stuff there.

    Well hello there unhealthy coping mechanisms. Can't have a single human thought without that voice popping up and making sure that no weakness remains, huh? [face_plain]

    Yep. That hurt too.

    So. Much. Pain.


    Paaaaaain!


    (Also, seriously, Jacen, but whyyyyyy? The mess you've made of these kids; the absolute mess. [face_plain])

    You get 'em, girl! :D [face_dancing]

    I adored every bit of Allana embracing the fierce, gorgeous woman she is. She's a daughter of so many legends - she is one of those legends in the making - and no fancy ball is going to get the best of her.

    THESE TWO!!! [face_rofl]

    This is where the fun begins. [face_mischief]

    Also: the pure sibling loathing I could feel from Festus just killed me dead. Absolutely loved the Chaos Twins in action, as always. :p

    Oh, but didn't that line hurt, again? =((

    But still, gonna have to disagree with Allana there. Even without Sith Lords, I remember her parents finding quite a bit of mischief when they were only fifteen. No way would she have been sheltered and pampered!

    Aw! [face_love] I love how this little bit with Maritte developed!

    Ben has trained her well. :p

    Also, loved the tongue-in-cheek foreshadowing of all the good dance partners. [face_mischief]

    Lovely prose and imagery!

    More gorgeous descriptions were gorgeous.

    (Plus, my 15-year-old self as a hard-core PoTO phan was just reveling, you have to know. For more reason than one. ;))

    Oooh: "giddy, almost wild thing" was exquisite wording!

    [face_laugh] [face_laugh]!

    Great bit of characterization, again! [face_love]

    Because you are, dear. In every way. [:D]

    Also, the poor captain here. He didn't seem like half bad a partner, until . . .

    SHIVERS. Even knowing what was going to happen, I was still holding my breath with Allana.

    Whew! What an entrance. That awareness. That tension. Her searching for him and him just being there, so close all along! I could feel this as much as I could see this play out in my mind.

    Not gonna lie: I enjoyed every single bit of this without shame, I tell ya. Without shame.

    [face_laugh] Such sass!

    But, again, I betcha he had to distract himself with bantering. I'm shocked Festus.exe didn't shut down completely with having his arms full of the girl of his dreams without lightsabers crossing. [face_mischief] [face_laugh]

    YEEEES, all of the banter here was excellent. As were all of the soft, feathery little touches. Like that's all he can manage - funny, for being the super evil Sith Lord and all that, he has boundaries. And Allana just notices. Poor thing. The connection between them is just so tangible, all the while being something so completely reprehensible and unthinkable at this time and place between them. A fact which this entire story plays with so deliciously!

    What a call back to Han and Leia in TESB if ever there was one. [face_whistling]

    [face_whistling] [face_mischief]

    I can't tell for a second that you spent so long trying to come up with the perfect description for their dance. Because isn't that what it boils down to in the end? How one partner responds and reacts to the other and how that feels? It's that connection. Which, not ironically, is commented outright on later.

    Just the tiniest bit, of course. But I LOVED the comparison to Han, here. Oh, in another world . . .

    This was a great line, reminding us that while you are toying with the 'dark romance' of their connection, this is still a very dangerous scene and nothing that Allana should indulge in for long. It's a tricky tightrope to walk, but you balance this so deftly in all your stories! =D=

    You know, when they do keep meeting like this, time and time again . . . [face_whistling] [face_thinking]

    THIS IS NEW AND I LOVE IT. What a gorgeous image, so unbalanced and disorienting for Allana and yet not.

    Who are you arguing there, Festus? ;)

    THE SHADOWMOTH IMAGERY! DON'T THINK I DIDN'T SEE IT, BECAUSE I DID.

    Whew, but wasn't that the entire crux the story expressed in a few heartbreakingly powerful lines?

    I could HEAR that opening chord to Metamorphosis here - especially in the harp version!

    I'm running out of ways to comment without repeating myself, but this here really stood out to me. The movement and the dialogue and the emotion.

    I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HE WAS GOING TO SAY!

    And, aren't those the very same words Festus would use to describe Dorian? In her own way, Allana shares those demons too.

    More fantastic imagery.

    Yep. That's the whole of it, isn't it?

    And then Damocles' sword finally falls. In a way, I was so drawn into the story that I was nearly as surprised as Allana was when it finally did.

    Oh Ferrus. :rolleyes:

    This just HURT. Again, he's keeping to these predefined roles and I just want to shake him and yell at him to do better.

    Oh Allana. =((

    Ouch. =((

    Again: JACEN! He really has so much to answer for. :(

    Hate, huh? Yeah, that's why it hurts so bad, kids. =((

    But, still, this was quite the way to bring them full circle, in a way, to where they were when the story began. But there's that awareness underneath it all that's just so tragic. It really sets these two up at a very interesting point, and makes me so, so curious for what might come next for both of them.

    You know . . . I am now morbidly curious as to what outfit Ferrus picked that Festus so blatantly decided not to wear. :p

    There you have it, ladies and gents: putting the Super Evil into the Super Evil Chaos Twins of Evil. [face_plain] This was as cold a dousing of reality as could be, the stark violence of this murder as compared to the idyllic fairytale-esque setting earlier was . . . jarring.

    Festus, this is why you can't have nice things. :p

    [face_plain]

    Oh, but everything about Allana's introspection in this final passage hurt. Her sense of regret and betrayal, her pain and her grief and everything that could have been in so many ways being left behind once more . . .

    The sharp finality of these last few words really read like waking up. This was a brief deviation from reality, and no matter what unwelcome realizations Allana may have had about herself in regards to Festus, she's determined to move on and let go. It's the only rational choice she can make, and yet . . .

    . . . aaaaaand yet I am just all too eager to see what you have planned next for these characters. After all, Allana may be done - and Festus wants to be done - but something tells me that the Force isn't quite as ready to leave well enough alone. To what end, of course, still remains to be seen. [face_thinking]


    Again: I really just adored this story from start to finish. It ranks at the top for me in this 'verse - which is saying something, with the company it has to contend with! On top of that, you managed to weave your prompts together so seamlessly in a way that can't fail to impress. This was a top tier addition to the Mini-games, and I'm so glad that you were inspired to take part!


    =D= [:D]
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2021
    Gabri_Jade and ViariSkywalker like this.
  10. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    Yes. There are so many more fancy dresses to put our favorite characters in [face_batting]

    He had to take after Luke in some ways :p

    "under all the murder and creepiness" - VIVISECTION

    My bebeh!Mara! [face_love]

    I sincerely do not know why Teneniel and Tenel Ka bothered. I woulda been out of there so fast...

    It's an important consideration! Around here death by exposure would look like heatstroke, severe sunburn, and dehydration. Very unpleasant! [face_skull]

    She's not wrong

    I'm telling ya, that Zoom wedding I had to attend - if I have to sit through a wedding ceremony, I want some cake.

    No, I'm not sentimental, why do you ask :p

    Haha, I'm all for a good curtsy, but a life that requires an actual etiquette mistress - I'll pass

    Reminds me of the behind the scenes story from The Avengers, where Mark Ruffalo happened upon a napping Chris Hemsworth and declared, "My God, what a speciman" :p

    I mean, that never hurts [face_batting]

    I still love "lies made of silk" :D

    SO CREEPY, VI

    A fair point, despite the epic creepiness

    Half genuine threat and half playing the role he can't see any way out of, I think [face_thinking]

    And yet the truth is often ridiculous O:)

    Yup, that's a disorienting line coming from a Sith Lord, all right [face_worried]

    I so love this part, such a bait and switch for the reader while keeping Allana and Festus perfectly in character throughout :D

    THIS MURDEROUS DOOFUS

    VIIIIIIIIIIIII THE CREEPINESS

    :_|

    *curtsies*
     
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  11. SiouxFan

    SiouxFan Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2012
    If. Only.

    I suddenly had the image of Jaime Lannister here, for some odd reason.

    Yeah....thanks for that. I'll be over in the corner now, NOT sobbing.

    Powerful imagery and overwhelming emotions. Allana needs a hug....and a real vacation. Thanks for writing!
     
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  12. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Replies!

    @Mira_Jade
    Aw, shucks. [face_blush] [face_blush] I’m so happy that you enjoyed it that much! And there can never be too much rambling. ;) I’m about to engage in some rambling myself, here we go!

    [face_mischief] Oh absolutely, but I couldn’t give that away in the intro or part one replies, now could I? ;)[face_batting][face_whistling]

    I don’t even know, Mira, but I’m loving it. [face_mischief]

    I’ve really enjoyed playing around with the whole princess-but-not aspect of Allana’s character. In this ‘verse she left Hapes when she was about six, so that life is a distant and largely unpleasant memory, and not one that she consciously thinks of most of the time. It has to be strange for her to be on a planet where the people embrace that side of her, and it definitely leaves her feeling like an imposter; but at the same time, she knows she could have had a life like this, had things gone differently, and that has to be a little disconcerting.

    I had to get Allana to this fancy ball somehow, goodness knows she wasn’t going to go on her own. :p (Ben is the best, and I also love him. [face_love])

    I just really love imagining the young Jedi Knights we knew from the NJO as adults with kids of their own, and seeing them through their children’s eyes. And so often in SW the stories seem to focus on fathers and their children (usually sons) – which is great, and I love it – but in this ‘verse I do try to give the mothers their due also… even if I did kill most of them off. [face_worried] :oops: (To be fair, I killed most of the older generation off…)

    [face_blush] :D It was such a pretty dress, exactly what I pictured for Allana. [face_love] And I do love picturing that light vs. dark contrast. [face_mischief]

    Right??? When I wrote this, I was actually thinking of how we often can’t see past what we perceive to be flaws in our appearance, when in reality, those things are part of what make us unique and are often the things other people love about us.

    And then on top of that, my headcanon is that Tenel Ka and Allana both inherited physical traits that appear more Dathomiri than Hapan, and while those traits are striking and gorgeous, they are also distinct in a way that certain Hapan nobles would never fail to point out. And I can definitely imagine how hearing comments like that as a little girl would affect Allana’s self-image. Fortunately, she grew up surrounded by some pretty amazing people, and she knows her true worth comes from inside. [face_love]

    He tried, Mira, he really did. :p

    The Force was all, yep, on it! ;)

    I mean, she did end up dancing with two attractive men, so… [face_whistling]

    Absolutely! :D

    What does it say about me that I enjoy making my readers hurt? Oh right, it says I’m an angst-monger. [face_mischief]

    Every time I write a version of this scene, though, it hurts me, too. :(

    What a coincidence that I just so happen to be 7,000+ words deep into that Veeran POV fic for the Lore Olympus challenge… [face_whistling] And it’s going to address all of these things. [face_mischief] In some ways, I’ve found it more challenging than writing TLotD, for different reasons, so I hope it doesn’t disappoint!

    Me too. =((

    Our little knight. [face_love]

    I think it would be hard for Allana to let go of this image of him, even after all these years, even knowing how far into the dark he has fallen.:(

    After EtF and the quasi-sequel are finished, probably. :p ;)

    I promise it won’t take ten years this time around! (I think :confused:)

    Thanks, I’m so glad you liked them! I was really itching to write something beautiful and dreamlike, just for a change of pace. ;)

    Oooh, I love that you picked up on this! I thought it would be interesting to play around with that idea of Allana’s dead, and how she once considered Dorian one of the people she lost… and even though it turned out he was alive, he was lost to the dark side, and even he viewed himself as dead for so long, only to be reborn as Festus. But even though he would swear up and down that Dorian is dead, it seems pretty clear from his dreams that that’s not entirely true…

    …that got a little rambly and nonsensical. What point was I making again? 8-}

    Lolol, darn ninja chefs and their onions… :p

    :D I was really happy with this line, so I’m glad you love it!

    Truth right here. :(

    He really just refuses to engage emotionally with the things that happened to him. It’s not that he ever forgets it – obviously, because he relives it almost every night, and he has the scars to remind him of what he endured – but he holds it at a distance to keep himself somewhat sane. And it’s like we’ve talked about before, that issue of choice. How much of a choice did he have along the way? At what point did he become responsible for his own choices? Is he even capable of choosing anything different at this point, or is he so deep in the bones screwed up that there’s no way out?

    Just some things to ponder. [face_thinking]

    This is something I hope to explore a little more, possibly in the Ferrus TLotD companion fic, possibly in other AUs of my AU; because as I wrote TLotD, it became clear to me that while Dorian was good kid, he was also definitely a loner. The stories that resonated with him most were heroic ones; but he didn’t have an outgoing personality, like Anakin, or more developed social skills and an ability to make friends easily, like Luke. So while he was a sweet kid, he probably often appeared aloof or indifferent to others. And he’s an introvert, so social interaction would have been more exhausting than not. And then there's the whole complex and messy relationship between him and his twin... I could probably keep going, but then we’d be here all day…

    No, I haven’t given this much thought, why would you think that? :p

    And he doesn’t even have any friends, and he’s being sent to a strange new place, but he’s still thinking about how to make this one little girl happy! :_| :_|

    And then I ruined it. [face_plain]

    (I’ll say it again, Mira: pen pals AU! :D[face_love])

    It killed me, too, it really did. =(( And you've summed it up beautifully.

    I think it’s telling that in TLotD, these particular types of thoughts start out as mantras meant to bolster his defenses and keep him focused despite his fracturing psyche, but they eventually shift and become accusatory, and it’s more like he’s berating himself for being weak or for being a monster or for trying to lie to himself about what he’s become. He can’t escape that inner voice even in his dreams and visions, and it’s just so full of contempt and loathing, repeating back every insult that was ever thrown at him and twisting every mantra he clung to in order to survive… and reminding him of what he can never be and what he can never have. I can’t be weak becomes you’ll always be weak, and it spirals outward to encompass any good and decent thing that enters his mind.

    He’s really a mess.

    Seriously, Allana and Festus each have a lot of baggage where Jacen is concerned. A lot.

    I did really love having Allana realize her confidence and strength here, but I also felt a little bad because she was actually getting excited for the masquerade ball, and I knew I was going to have to rip it all away. =((

    Ferrus is so unrepentantly brutish sometimes (all the time?) and I seriously love it. The two of them together are just perfect.

    I soooo relate to Festus here. A morning person I am not. :p And I love the idea that while he and his twin share a few similarities, they are also very much opposites, and Ferrus is ready to go at the crack of dawn while Festus just wants to freaking sleep in.

    It would be interesting to see what kinds of shenanigans a young Princess Allana would have gotten into. [face_thinking]

    I was surprised by how prominent her role in the story became, but I’m really happy with it! And it was nice to write Allana having a female friend close to her own age, for once. :p

    [face_whistling][face_mischief]

    (And the food is always my number one concern when I go to any kind of party…)

    Aw, thanks! [face_blush]

    Why, thank you! [:D]

    Hee, I’m glad I could hit those buttons for you! ;) :D

    :D [face_blush] (After watching some of those Viennese waltzes, I could think of no better description… wow, those couples can move.)

    Old habits do indeed die hard… [face_thinking]

    The girl has a hard time taking a compliment, but she’s also sensitive when it comes to her Hapan heritage. Still, she’s a credit to the people who truly matter to her, the friends and family that raised her and cared for her and loved her. [face_love]

    Man, poor Haldin. He did seem nice, didn’t he? I wonder what happened to him…

    o_O

    I love this reaction. [face_love]

    I told Gabri that when I started writing this scene, I thought maybe Festus would show up and cut in, but then almost immediately I was like, no, he definitely would have gotten rid of the other guy the moment she turned to look for him. Gaaah, I love it! And I’m glad you loved it, too! :D

    Oh, it was definitely a struggle. It helps that he’s always been good at controlling his outward reactions, ever since he was young. And then part of it is also that role he’s built up for himself over the years, the persona he inhabits so thoroughly that even he believes it to be real: the charismatic and unstable Sith Lord. Plus, he still has a job to do, and I don’t think he forgets it for even a second, much as he might want to.

    Still, this scene would have read entirely differently from Festus’s POV, wouldn’t it? Probably a good thing I went with Allana for this one. [face_laugh]

    He's so irreverent and I love it. :D And he does seem to show a lot of restraint for someone who is, as you say, a super evil Sith Lord. [face_thinking] Hmmm…

    Poor Allana. At least Festus has the benefit of being in love with a precious cinnamon roll of a Jedi Knight. Allana doesn’t know anything about what he really feels, and all she has to go on are some childhood memories and the very vivid memories of all their encounters since then. The first of which – as you know – was incredibly scary and violent and should have been enough to make her never, ever consider him in any sort of romantic light. So this would definitely be a worrying and disconcerting experience for her. [face_worried]

    I was proud of that one. [face_mischief]

    [face_blush][face_blush] That really means a lot; I had so much angst over all the dancing details throughout. The dialogue and emotions and all of that came easy. But how to convey the movement? And honestly, while I love watching ballroom dancing scenes in movies – and I did watch a few as “research” – there just really weren’t any where I felt like the men moved the way I imagined Festus would. He’s smart enough to have figured out the steps, and he has the reflexes to handle it, but I pictured him being very economical with his movements here, nothing fancy. When it comes down to it, we’re not seeing his more theatrical Sith Lord side, we’re seeing a glimpse of his real self: understated and observant and focused.

    Anyway, I was hoping that’s how it would come across. :p

    I honestly could not picture him wearing anything else, really. That classic OT look… yep, I think that’s pretty good right there.

    I do enjoy reminding everyone that Festus is a dangerous and scary villain. Maybe a little too much, if later scenes are any indication. [face_whistling]

    I’m really happy if you think I’ve struck that balance! It is tricky, and each time I write one of these stories, I wonder if I’ll be able to pull it off; but I’ve come to realize that I’m a bit of an angst adrenaline junkie, and I love the challenge that a pairing like this presents. [face_mischief]

    Will of the Force, baby. ;)

    It’s nice to have a mystical energy field that I can just blame everything on. [face_whistling]

    I can’t tell you how many times I rewrote and tinkered with this one small section, even up until the morning I posted it. :p In my mind it was such a quick, simple lift, but it was also incredibly charged emotionally, and it was a challenge trying to portray both those aspects at once without bogging down the narrative. So I’m glad you love it! :D

    [face_mischief]

    [face_whistling] [face_batting]

    And I so appreciate you pointing that out to me the first time around. It really helped me figure out exactly what my themes were so that I could focus on them! I was worried there for a while that this story would never come together like I wanted, but it ultimately worked out far better than I could have planned. [face_love]

    SO GOOD. [face_love]

    Another section that I tinkered with endlessly, trying to get the flow just right. It really is a pivotal moment, even if he still won’t come right out and say what he’s thinking.

    [face_whistling] [face_whistling] [face_whistling]

    What do you think he was going to say, Mira, hmmm? [face_batting]

    I think you’re on to something there. [face_thinking]

    Another image I was very pleased with. The eye of the storm in more ways than one, really.

    It really is. And maybe it makes the whole experience more palatable if she views it this way, as if they’re somehow two different people from the Allana and Festus who have faced off against each other so many times over the years. She could never be attracted to that Festus, and that Festus would never hold her the way he does here. Like we talked about before, it’s easier to live a lie when you’re wearing a mask.

    As soon as I committed to writing this masquerade ball scenario for real, I knew this was the only way it could end. As much as I’m sure everyone would have loved a happier ending, that’s just not where the story was headed. This part and the scene after, where he kills the prisoner, came to me with such clarity that I knew that was how it had to be.

    He definitely timed his entry on purpose. Dude did just fine sneaking the other prisoners out of there without being noticed, but now he suddenly decides to make a scene? o_O Come on now, Ferrus.

    Me toooooooo :_|

    This poor girl carries so much guilt around, ever since she was little. I just want so much better for her. :(

    Baggage, I tell you! SO MUCH BAGGAGE. =((

    I was initially really nervous about writing this story (and to a lesser extent, FoG) because I thought it was going to completely derail the sequel story that I’d already poured so much energy into, but then I decided to let go of those constraints and just write… and I sort of ended up in the perfect place going into the sequel anyway? Because they’re sort of back to square one, but there’s a deeper layer to it now that will color any future interactions in new and interesting ways.

    I think that is one mystery box that shall forever remain closed. :p Maybe it was something truly awful, maybe it didn’t fit, or maybe Festus just does the opposite of whatever Ferrus wants because he likes to annoy his brother? As I thought about the scene, though, I just couldn’t picture him dressing up for it, and I don’t know, I kinda liked the idea that he didn’t need to do that for Allana to be attracted to him. She may call him a liar, and he may be one, but there was no lie in how he appeared, no gilding to cover what was underneath. He came as he was, the way she’s seen him for years, in all his darkness.

    I’m telling you, every time I start to think I’m softening him up too much, I immediately have to write him doing something horrible. :oops: From a storytelling perspective, this is probably also my way of signaling to the readers that yes, he’s still a bad guy, and I’m not going to pretend he’s not.

    That was really one of my biggest concerns as I started writing this, crafting a scenario that would stay true to his character and to Allana’s. I think I managed it? :p

    He’s so messed up. [face_plain]

    Even murder can’t make this pain go away. (Might be time to look for a new coping strategy, Festus.)

    He’s good at playing a role and thoroughly inhabiting that role, but I think here you’re starting to see the cracks in his façade a little. It’ll be interesting to see how that manifests the next time he and Allana meet…

    I’m so glad all of that came across, because I really laid it all out there for this scene. I hadn’t originally planned for Allana to be this self-aware (or Festus, really) at this point in time, but it became impossible to imagine that she could remain in denial after all these years.

    And yet I found a way for them to go back to being in denial, look at that. :p

    Oooh, I’m glad it read that way! I really struggled with how to wrap this story up, especially the last few sentences. But once I allowed Allana to fully confront what she was feeling, the words just started to flow. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, even if it hurt a little to write it.

    And I’m also eager to see what happens next! I honestly think this story was the best thing for my muse: exploring a slightly different path from the one I thought I was heading down with these characters, because now – even though I still know what my ultimate endgame is – everything feels sort of new again. And I find that the best story developments happen when I allow myself to be flexible and just go where the muse takes me, rather than trying to keep everything within the narrow confines of “the plan.” (Even if I do still occasionally need a gentle nudge to remind me of that. [face_blush] :p)

    Like you said, the Force isn’t quite ready to leave these two alone. And we already know from What If This Storm Ends? that there’s another meeting in their future… [face_batting] [face_mischief]

    [face_blush] That is such a huge compliment, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the finished story! It’s pretty incredible to think of how all these challenges have helped shape the story in my head, and I’ve loved having the inspiration. Now I need to get to work on some of my other mini-games prompts! ;)

    Thank you so much for all your suggestions and feedback as I worked on this! I appreciate it more than I can express! [:D]




    @Gabri_Jade
    Maybe we need a fancy dress challenge. [face_thinking] ;)

    [face_laugh] True!

    :oops: I knoooooooooooooooow :_| :_|

    She is precious. :D

    Lolol, Hapes is the worst, but it’s so angsty, Gabri. It’s like a siren call that I, as an angst-monger and writer, cannot ignore…

    Here it would look like… well, I guess it depends on which of the twenty different seasons we’re currently in. :p

    Man, Ben’s going to feel really bad when he finds out what happened at the ball… [face_worried]

    If you ever attend another Zoom wedding, you need to get yourself a highly sugary fancy cake beforehand. Then everything will be perfect! :D :p

    Same, girl. Same.

    [face_rofl] [face_rofl]

    Captain Haldin is Chris Hemsworth, confirmed. :p Somehow, that makes it even better to imagine Festus using the ol’ mind trick on him. I can just picture him walking away with a smile on his face, thinking that going for a walk suddenly sounds like the best idea in the world. [face_laugh]

    It does not! (Lol, “what a specimen”)

    But I don’t know, I think Allana might like the dark and brooding type a little better [face_batting]

    I was so glad you liked that! It was one of those lines that sounded good in my head, but I wasn’t sure if it made actual sense, so I’m happy that it stood out to you in a good way!

    Your reaction to this moment – back when you first read it – is what convinced me to continue on with the story when I was having my first angsty doubts about it. So thanks for that! :* ;)

    He’s so eerie and unsettling. [face_mischief]

    Oh, Festus. You really are such a smug jerk sometimes. :rolleyes: It makes it worse when he’s not wrong.

    And overlapping with both of those, I’d say it’s also a delaying tactic to buy Ferrus some time, while also giving Festus some much-desired time alone with Allana and keeping her so focused on him that she doesn’t think to wonder where his brother is… [face_batting] Ah, complexity. I love it.

    It is, it really is. [face_whistling]

    When in doubt, blame the Force. :p

    She’s really trying not to take the compliment, too, because she sees some degree of duplicity in it, even if she can’t figure out which part is the lie and which is the truth…

    In reality, it’s a sincere compliment spoken by a lovesick idiot who plays at being charismatic but is actually in possession of terrible people skills. o_O

    I was super proud of this moment, and it’s really the only way I could see this scenario playing out at this point in time. :D [face_mischief] And you know how important it was to me that I keep both of them perfectly in character throughout this whole scene, so I’m very, very glad you thought they were. *relief*

    You love him. ;) :*

    AND WAY TO KILL THE MOOD, FERRUS, YOU COULDN’T HAVE WAITED FIVE MORE MINUTES?

    Plus, he snagged three other people before this incident without anyone noticing, so he was definitely being extra ON PURPOSE. :rolleyes:

    [face_mischief] [face_mischief] [face_mischief]

    As terrible as his actions are, I really loved writing this scene. He’s so screwed up, Gabri. It’s awesome.

    My poor, precious cinnamon roll. :( Why am I so mean to the characters I love? Maybe it’ll be worth it in the end… [face_whistling]

    As always, thank you so much for your comments and support and for putting up with all my insecure rambling. ;) [:D]




    @SiouxFan
    I’m glad I have fanfic to help me deal with the disappointment of profic. *sigh*

    He’s a good-looking guy, I’ll take it. [face_thinking]

    :D Not gonna lie, I love this reaction.

    Thank you for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed it and that the emotions came across that way. That was certainly my intention. ;) Allana really does need a hug and a vacation… maybe a nice beach somewhere… [face_whistling]
     
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  13. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Holy smokes! I've had Enter the Foreign on my list for longer than I care to admit, but now that I read this I'm going to have to get around to reading it because I. am. officially. hooked. (and bracing myself for all the angst :p ) But seriously, this is such a wonderfully written story even as a standalone. It's sad, melancholy, romantic and tragic at the same time. I'm just amazed at the subtlety of your writing for introspection and angst, but also with your descriptions that make it possible to visualise the gown, the ballroom and the gardens so very well. I just... yeah, I loved it all. You'll definitely be seeing me again in your story threads :)
     
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  14. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    @Chyntuck
    :D Yay, I love this reaction! [face_love] (There’s so much angst in EtF, my gosh… but I do hope you enjoy the journey if you decide to pop over there! [face_batting])

    I’m really glad you enjoyed this even without having read the other stories! I like to think they’re accessible to anyone, but at the same time there are a lot of connections to the other fics woven in throughout, so I sometimes worry that things might get too confusing. (Hence, my silly Q&A author’s note at the beginning :p) But I’m happy to hear that all those emotions came through! That's exactly how I wanted this story to feel.

    [face_blush] [face_blush] I don’t think of myself as very good with descriptions of physical settings or clothing, so it’s wonderful to hear that I’m doing something right! (Angst, on the other hand, is probably my default, and I’m always glad to hear when I’ve done that right, too. ;))

    I look forward to seeing what you think of the rest of this ‘verse, and I hope you continue to enjoy it! :D [face_batting] Thank you so much for the lovely review! [face_love]
     
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