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Saga - PT In the Cards: a Raissa Baiard/Doran Blayne story

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Raissa Baiard, May 11, 2015.

  1. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    They are definitely talking past each other. I'm glad that it came through. The thing is, they've both got valid points. Doran's "who cares what they think" attitude (though as Chyntuck points out, his consumption whiskey suggests he does) can be a great way to shut down gossip. Raissa isn't wrong to care about her reputation. But neither one is listening to the other, so things wrong rather quickly.

    Yes, the poor girl really gets a double dose of romantic cluelessness, doesn't she? I wonder if she'll fare any better in this universe, assuming her parents can get their act together long enough for her to be born :face_laugh:

    Chapter 5: You've Been Thinkin', and I've Been Drinkin'

    True to her word, Baiard didn't show up for training the next night, or the night after that. When Doran ventured a complaint to the Paolo-cron about his errant padawan's behavior, he received no sympathy, only a lecture for putting Baiard into a situation that could even be perceived as being dishonorable and further for letting Haaz defame her character. The fact he was also defaming Doran's character was apparently of little consequence.

    "You're letting your emotions rule you," Paolo chastised him. "You are the teacher, the leader in this relationship, and it is incumbent upon you to present an example of the proper character and behavior for a Jedi to your young padawan." The gate keeper pursed his lips and regarded Doran suspiciously. "If I didn't know better, I'd suspect you were forming an inappropriate attachment to her." At that point, Doran swept the Holocron into his beside table's drawer, slammed it shut, and let Paolo rail impotently until he switched himself off.

    It had now been a week since Haaz had discovered their nocturnal meetings, and Baiard had still not returned to the Café, either for training or her morning caf. During that time, Doran had put a dent in his stock of Corellian whiskey. He'd gone through most of the good stuff and was going to have to start on the cheap rot gut from Ethra's Brewery soon.

    Doran slouched at his table with the last of the Whyren's Reserve, playing solitaire-- and losing, of course. He snarled at the card chips and swept them up to deal a better game when Sascha slid into the seat across from him. She whisked his glass away and replaced it with a steaming mug of black caf. "I was drinking that," Doran growled, grabbing for the whiskey. "Gah!" He choked back profanity as she smiled sweetly at him and dumped the Whyren's into the nearest ch'hala tree.

    "Not anymore. If you were anyone else, I would have cut you off a long time ago." He glared at Sascha, who stared back, unmoved. Her slight build and blonde pixie cut made Sascha look younger than she really was and led many a new customer to think she was just a cute, harmless bit of fluff. Doran knew better. Behind the innocent looking façade was a streak of Corellian stubborn as long as the Hydian Way and a tongue that could blister paint off a star destroyer. He wouldn't put it past her to have hidden what was left of the whiskey from him. "Fine." Doran took a drink of the caf. It was strong, dark, and bitter. "Happy now?"

    "Not really." Sascha regarded him with mingled pity and disgust and shook her head. "Look, I don't know what happened between you and Prefect Baiard, but when are you going to stop feeling sorry for yourself and admit that you miss her and want her back?"

    "I don't..." He noticed that several waitresses were wiping imaginary crumbs off nearby tables that hadn't been occupied in the last hour, and Haaz was diligently guarding the door from no one. All of them were trying so hard to listen without looking like they were listening that Doran was afraid they were going to sprain something. He rolled his eyes, and sketched an arc with his index finger, and gave them all a mental nudge. Back to work; nothing to see here. All he needed was for Haaz to come up,with a new batch of rumors. Baiard would blow another gasket...not that he cared.

    "Nothing 'happened between us', because there is nothing going on between us," Doran informed Sascha. "And I do not miss her." The first part was true, mostly. Nothing had happened in the sense that Sascha meant-- no melodramatic lovers' spat. The last part, though, was a lie; he did miss Baiard. Since she'd stopped coming, the hours after closing time seemed empty. He 'd resorted to listening to the Paolo-cron's long-winded commentary on the Force and a Jedi master's responsibilities just to have something to do until it was time for bed. Doran hated to admit any of this, even to himself, and he certainly wasn't going to admit it to Sascha.

    She wasn't buying it. Sascha cocked an eyebrow at him over her own caf mug. "Right. I suppose it's just coincidence that the day Haaz starts telling anyone who'll listen that you and the Prefect are hot and heavy is the day she starts drinking her caf at the Azure Kroyie. And I suppose it's also coincidence that when she started going to the Kroyie, you started drinking enough whiskey to pickle a rancor and the Prefect started prowling the garrison snarling like a poked goozim."

    Baiard, acting like a poked goozim? Because she was still angry at him? Or because she missed their training, too? Doran quashed the hopeful lift of his spirits, telling himself it didn't matter; he wasn't going to beg her to come back, no matter what Sascha thought.

    "You ought to apologize to her," Sascha pressed, apparently interpreting his silence for defeat. "Clean yourself up first, though; you look like something that crawled of a womp rat's nest-- and smell like it too." She considered for a moment. "Wouldn't hurt you to give her something nice, too."

    "Why does everyone assume this is my fault?" First Paolo, and now Sascha. Because he was a man, he must automatically be in the wrong, never mind that Baiard had basically called him a drunken reprobate. Doran banged his mug down on the table and scowled at his bartender. "Why don't you tell Baiard all this?"

    Sascha slammed down her own mug and glared back. "Because I'm talking to you, you laser-brained nerf-herder! Gah!" She threw up her hands and rolled her eyes heavenward in a mute appeal whatever deity dealt with barve-headed men. When she looked back down, her expression was softer. "Look, I've had my share of bad relationships, so I'll tell you something it took me a lot of time and pain to learn: if you care about her, don't waste time time trying to prove you're right, or righter than her, or whatever. Just reach out to her somehow, before it's too late."

    Doran opened his mouth to snap out a retort, but he couldn't find one. It was surprisingly good--surprisingly Jedi-like-- advice. He did care about Baiard, not as a lover, but as a friend. She was the one person he could truly be himself with, the one person on Merkesh who knew who and what he really was. Was he willing to throw that away for his Corellian stubbornness and pride? Alright, he'd apologize, but damned if he was going to give her presents, too.

    "You'll be back tomorrow, right?"

    "I doubt it."

    "Then when?"

    "I don't know. Maybe never."


    The image of Baiard's face when she slammed the door flashed in his memory... Maybe presents were in order, after all, but what could he give Baiard that wouldn't be a stupid cliché? Doran took a long pull of caf and stared down at the solitaire game he'd dealt; the mistress of sabers stared back up from the center column, flanked on either side by a row of sabers. Lightsabers. Of course. "Aren't your ways supposed to be subtle and mysterious?" he muttered

    "What?"

    "There are still three lightsabers missing from Prefect Renau's cache of Jedi artifacts." Doran grinned at Sascha's blank expression. "You did say I should give Baiard something nice."

    "You're going to give the Prefect....lightsabers?"

    "You know Baiard. You think she'd rather have flowers or jewelry?"

    "Point," Sascha conceded. "So how are you going to find these missing sabers?"

    "I do have a few connections." Doran gestured at the Café's patrons. Half the criminals in Merkesh City drank at the Café Alderaan. Someone had to know something. All he had to do was round up the usual suspects.

    Notes:
    --Whyren's Reserve and Ethra's Brewery are listed on Wookieepedia as two types of Corellian whiskey, with Whyren's being the best while Ethra's is actually manufactured off-world.
    --"snarling like a poked goozim". Okay, this isn't really from the GFFA, it's from Phineas & Ferb, a reference to the sport of "poke the goozim with a stick" , popular in Doofenschmirz's home country of Drusselstein, just not with the goozims themselves.
    -- and props to anyone who knows the origin of the chapter's title
     
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  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    OK, I like Sascha. Every single person should have a Correllian for a friend to tell it like it is! [face_laugh] [face_love] Waste less time that way. :) =D=
     
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  3. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Oh I am so happy every time I see an update on this story, because you know how much I love it!

    It's kind of lucky that I'm alone at home and reading this, because I laughed so loud Mr. Chyntuckopoulos would have told me to go and get my head checked.
    Doran channeling Threepio "oh, shut down!" I was wondering why he keeps listening to Paolo-cron, but then I got my answer later in the chapter... he's lonely.
    And now, channeling Bogie... which reminds me a question I've been meaning to ask you for a while, does Doran smoke? You know, short fat cigarettes, Bogie-style.
    [face_rofl] Where do you find these expressions??? I want the same SW head-dictionary as you!

    Sascha comes across as a wonderful, sensible person, just what Doran needs to ground him a bit. I kind of feel sorry for Raissa now, because she probably has no one to talk to :(
    Yeah. Right.
    Another [face_laugh] moment. I guess Doran is better than me at interpreting the will of the Force, being a Jedi and all, but his lightsaber project sounds a bit far-fetched to me -- a very Corellian thing to do!
    And this is of course the moment when I melt, I completely melt and Mr C is going to have to collect me from the floor when he gets here.

    I can't wait for the next update. This is going to be so much fun!
     
  4. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Yes. I think if he wasn't her boss, Sascha would probably smack Doran upside the head. She's got a bit of my older sister, who likewise doesn't suffer fools gladly, in her.

    Doran doesn't smoke; he hasn't picked up that particular habit yet. I was shocked (shocked, I tell you) enough to realize he's an alcoholic ("Hmm, every time Doran has a problem, he picks up a bottle of whiskey and gets sloshed...heeeey, wait a minute...")

    Where do I get the expressions? Well, it's partly due to my Honors composition prof, who never let us use common metaphors (doing so would get "trite" or "thud" scrawled on your paper in red fountain pen). Partly it's trying to channel film noir through the GFFA, probably influenced by urban fantasy like Jim Butcher's Dresden Chronicles.

    And Raissa's not quite alone; she has a certain so-ugly-he's-cute pig-dog to keep her company....

    Chapter 5: You've Been Thinkin', and I've Been Drinkin': part 2
    Since Raissa had stopped going to the Café Alderaan after hours, the nights seemed longer somehow. Her days, dealing with the motley band of nerf herders at the garrison, already felt endless. As she'd had predicted, everyone had to put in their two credits about her supposed relationship with Doran. Though admittedly, most of the remarks were along the lines of "So, you and Doran, huh?" there was a small but irritating faction who thought it was their right--and their duty--to offer commentary on her personal life. Their ringleader was Captain Donal, one of Prefect Renau's old cronies, who had all of the late prefect's vices but none of his wit or charm. Donal had been sure that the vice-prefect's position was his and, when he'd lost it to Raissa, surer that she'd slept her way there. He grinned when his salacious comments made her squirm, and her reprimands only made him add snide comments about emotional women with no sense of humor. Donal kept up a steady stream of filth and insolence until Raissa finally lost her temper and yelled, "Donal, SHUT YOUR KRIFFING MOUTH!" She'd apparently put more than a little of the Force into it, because his mouth snapped shut instantly and stayed shut for the rest of the day.

    It was the only success--if you could call forcing your subordinate to be silent against his will as a success-- that Raissa had using the Force. She'd tried to continue her Force training on her own, reading data-flimsies with her eyes closed or trying to make Frugly to get off her bed using Jedi mind tricks, but nothing clicked and she just couldn't focus. After one spectacular failure where a poorly worded command to "go on, go," not only failed to convince Frugly to get down but actually compelled him to wet the bed, she gave it up as a bad job. She slunk into the kitchen and made a huge batch of her mother's recipe for Wookiee cookies to comfort herself, turned on the cheesiest old holo she could find, and curled up on the sofa with Frugly, who still seemed embarrassed over the bed incident. Since then, eating cookies and watching old holos all night had become their routine. Raissa amused herself by picking apart their flaws and offering snarky advice to the characters. Frugly never seemed to mind her running commentary, at least as long as she was willing to share her cookies with him.

    "Tonight's feature film is 'Gar-Jen vs. Gargantua," Raissa said as she flicked on the holo-viewer. Frugly jumped up on the sofa next to her, wagging his stubby tail enthusiastically, though she knew that enthusiasm was directed more toward the accompanying plate of cookies than the holofilm itself. She settled down next to the roba and handed him a Wookiee cookie. Frugly gulped it down with an ecstatic sigh. Raissa had to agree with the sentiment; double chocolate chips smoothed over a multitude of poodoo.

    "Gar-Jen vs. Gargantua" was a classic example of the Jedi Action genre of holofilms, which was to say it featured hackneyed dialogue, gaping plot holes and nonsensical action sequences. It was so bad, it was almost good. The problem with watching a Jedi Action film, though, was the Jedi part. "I wonder if anyone involved in this holo ever actually met a Jedi," Raissa muttered as Gar-Jen, muscles rippling improbably, sliced and diced his shirtless way through a horde of cyclopic gargantelles. Her own sample size was small, but neither the moralistic Paolo or ethereal Alyse seemed the kind to annihilate an entire tribe of gargantelles to rescue a scantily clad heroine of dubious intelligence and morals. And Doran... well, he'd would be more likely to snark the gargantelles into submission.

    Doran... All the thoughts and emotions she'd been keeping at bay with cookies and bad holos found their opening, barged in and began kicking her in the metaphorical teeth. Even More depressing than the fact that she'd predicted her men's reactions was the way Doran had refused to believe her and blown her off entirely. If he didn't give a vrelt's behind what people thought of him, fine, but shouldn't her concerns should have mattered to him a little? Surely a good friend would have given her fears more than just a summary dismissal. And most depressing of all was the knowledge that if she was waiting for Doran to apologize to her, she was going to be waiting a very long time. "Shavit," Raissa muttered. Why did Doran have to be so... Stubborn? Insensitive? Dismissive? Male?

    Frugly whimpered and edged closer to Raissa until his muzzle was resting on her leg. He nudged her hand insistently until she finally rubbed his ears and gave him another cookie. He wriggled happily, giving her a gape-mouth, tongue-lolling smile that was so blissful she had to smile back. Raissa sighed, wishing that she could forget everything that easily. "Oh, Frug, when did my life turn into such a cliché? I mean, look at me, sitting here binging on Wookiee cookies and mooning over Doran Blayne like I'm the heroine of some horrible Harissa Shoti holo-romance." She gave a short, sharp laugh. "Of course, if this really was a holo-romance, Doran would burst in here at any moment, throw himself at my feet, beg my forgiveness, and confess that he'd always loved me. And I can't think of anything Doran Blayne is less likely to do...not that I want him to."

    Frugly paused in licking the crumbs off his muzzle and cocked his head at Raissa with an interrogatory chuff. "I do not. Stop looking at me like that," she told him. Frugly sneezed, shaking his floppy ears, and spraying her with roba slobber mixed with cookies. She wiped the mist of chocolate roba sneeze off her face. "Ugh. Even own roba doubts me... Men and women can be just friends, you know, and that's all Doran and I are. Or were..."

    Raissa slumped against her couch, feeling defeated. Doran didn't have to be her lover for her to feel the pain of their estrangement. He'd been the one person on Merkesh who really understood her, the one knew her secrets trusted her with his. Her best friend, her only real friend beside Frugly. She wished she things between them could be repaired, but if Doran didn't understood how or why he'd hurt her, how could they?

    So here she sat, moping like some passive holo-rom heroine, and she hated it. She was an Imperial Prefect; she was supposed to be strong, self-sufficient. "I need to snap out of it. I need to do something for myself, something to prove I'm not just some whiny, pathetic female in need of a man," Raissa said, rubbing Frugly's ears. He whuffed and licked her hand encouragingly, before rolling over so she could give him a belly rub, too. "It's too bad I gave Doran that Adegan crystal; he's never going to use it. If I had one, I could build my own lightsaber." Though she'd probably get herself killed, trying to build one without any guidance or any idea what she was doing. Okay, maybe that wasn't the best idea, but there had to be something she could do to feel strong. Something prickled in the back of her mind. Lightsabers.... Renau's missing cache of Jedi artifacts. "Doran and I recovered the Holocron, but I never found the Jedi medallions or the lightsabers. Maybe it's time I started looking again."

    Notes
    "Gar-Jen vs. Gargantua" and the Jedi Action genre of holo-films are a real thing, though I made up the part about Gar-Jen fighting shirtless. It just seemed like the kind of pointlessly macho thing that happens in action films. :D

    If "Gar-Jen" seems familiar, it's the movie that Doran was watching on Life Day, in "Not Exactly an Old-Fashioned Life Day.". Likewise, Raissa's Wookiee cookies make an appearance there, too. Wookiee cookies are real, and quite tasty: cinnamon-vanilla with double chocolate chips. :)

    Harissa Shoti is an actress I found on the Wook. I envision her as the GFFA equivalent of Julia Roberts, starring in every overwrought romance.
     
  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Double chocolate anything is good for the melancholy mood, as is a very cute puppy with an even cuter name, Frugly! [face_laugh] Fave line: Did he have to be so insensitive, stubborn, male? [face_laugh]

    I like Raissa attempting to refocus on the Jedi artifacts again and agree that even without the romantic angle, the estrangement certainly does make training awkward if not unlikely. :p
     
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  6. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    How could I possibly forget about Frugly? [face_laugh]
    And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the moment when you get to see the unexpected side-effects of a shout by a partially trained Force sensitive.
    I have to say once more that I love, love, love your ironic, snarky world-building. If Jedi action genre holofilms were a thing in RL, I'd definitely be watching them, just for kicks.

    So. Doran wants the missing lightsabers, Raissa wants the missing lightsabers. There's going to be an interesting encounter somewhere down the line... :p
     
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  7. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2001
    Okay, the at-work one is funny, but this makes me giggle even more. Possibly because it's something that seems all too plausible to me as a pet owner! [face_laugh]

    And this is so sad. Doran is very unhappy with how things went too, but of course Raissa wouldn't necessarily know that. :oops:

    I like how we now know that they've both decided on a course of action that's going to have them tripping over each other -- and for totally different reasons. These wonderful, well-meaning, often self-defeating dorks. :p I love them so much, and Frugly is a joy as always. This series really has a great cast and grounded feel to it that makes it great comfort reading even when things are going pretty much down the tubes for the characters. Hope to see more when it's written! :)
     
  8. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    So the Word Race has kicked me into high gear on this story. :D Here's the first of three chapters that I've written for Word Race so far.

    Chapter 6: Government Contracts
    Merkesh City's sprawling bazaar was not so much a feast for the senses as an assault on them, a noisy, pungent hodgepodge of sights, sounds and smells. Shoppers and merchants of a dozen different species haggled in Basic, Huttese, and other, less identifiable, languages. A stall selling brightly patterned textiles run by an equally vivid Mrlssi was next to one where a ragged Duros hawked second-hand speeder parts. The scents of cinnamon, catabar, and zwil wafted over the market, occasionally overpowered by the smell from the livestock pens.

    As Prefect, Raissa had a love-hate relationship with the bazzar. You could find the best brewats and bastillas at the food vendors' stalls to go with the mint tea served at the tea shops nearby, and she enjoyed talking to the shopkeepers, the hard-working, everyday citizens of Merkesh City, to find out what their problems and concerns were. The problem was that there were just as many, if not more, vendors who were selling stolen goods, cheating their customers, or sabotaging their competitors. Today, however, she had other concerns; she was looking for an old...well, not exactly a "friend," but not an enemy, either... Bothan pickpocket Dev Breil'lya, and see if she could turn a complication into an opportunity.

    In her official capacity, Raissa knew she'd never get close enough to Breil'lya to talk to him, so instead she went to the marketplace where he found his marks. A plain head scarf covered her auburn hair and partially hid her face while a shapeless brown robe made her figure look less athletic and more thick-waisted. It also concealed her blaster; her data pad and comlink were hidden in the canvas satchel slung over her shoulder. Disguised in this simple garb, Raissa could pass for a matron doing her weekly shopping.

    Unfortunately, finding one being in the teeming bazaar was rather like trying to locate the proverbial grain of sand on Tatooine, she reflected as she wandered through the marketplace. Stretch out with your senses and let the Force guide you. she remembered Doran's instructions as clearly as if he was still lecturing her over sabacc cards. Raissa shook away the useless pang she always felt thinking of Doran. She'd worry about him later; first things first. She reached out to the Force and felt a shift in her perceptions as if looking through macro binoculars that had come into focus. She set off into the crowd with renewed resolve.

    Raissa passed a produce stand, and on a whim she stopped to look at their luilris mushrooms. They were Frugly's favorite treat, and she thought she might as well buy some and get something useful out of this little jaunt. As she inspected the mushrooms, she caught a slight movement from the corner of her eye.

    Breil'lya's dust colored fur and khaki tunic made him blend in with the stucco walls and weathers canvas of the nearby stalls. He strolled through the crowd casually, occasionally browsing at one of the shops, but never lingering. He could have been any ordinary Merkeshian out doing a day's errands, but Raissa noticed that he never really looked the merchandise. He was assessing the shoppers. His nostrils flared when a harried spacer trailed by a malfunctioning astromech droid pushed his way past. A few heartbeats later, Breil'lya slipped in behind him and Raissa followed. While the spacer haggled with a scraggly looking Bimm for droid parts, Breil'lya pretended to be interested in a display of power converters, his eyes flicking left and right to make sure no one was watching. If Breil'lya spotted her, he just as quickly dismissed her as a threat. He edged closer to his target.

    Raissa reached for a power converter and "accidentally" bumped his arm. "I really wouldn't do that if I were you. Didn't you just get out of prison?" she remarked, loud enough for both shopkeeper and spacer to hear. The Bimm looked up, and spotted Breil'lya with a yelp. He began chattering in Bimmini, making furious shooing motions at the Bothan.

    Breil'lya turned on her with a snarl. "Lady, who the drokk...."

    "Nice to see you, too, Dev." She lowered the scarf from her face and was strangely gratified by the way his fur stood out like a cacta bush. "Vice-Prefect!" He whirled and tried to run back into the crowd, but fell over the faulty astromech droid. Raissa tried not to shake her head as she extended a hand to the struggling Bothan. "Take it easy. I only want to talk to you. Oh, and it's Prefect now."

    He glared and pushed himself up. "Talk about what?"

    "A business opportunity." She smiled at the suspicious Breil'lya. "Come on, I'll even buy you lunch to prove my good intentions." Raissa edged a bit of persuasion into her words, careful to control her emotions. She'd learned her lesson with Donal; she wanted Breil'lya to listen to her, not to be compelled.

    He stared after her, but as she'd counted on, his Bothan drive to know kicked in. He followed Raissa to L'moko's-- "Best Brewats in Merkesh City!"-- where she bought two of the meat-filled pastries and two flimsi-plast cups of mint tea. She handed one of each to Breil'lya; he eyed them skeptically, as if he hadn't just seen L'moko pull them from the fryer. Raissa took an encouraging bite of her own brewat. "I think you're wasting your talents being a petty pickpocket, Dev. You could do much better, and I want to give you a chance."

    Breil'lya's fur rippled in a Bothan gesture of disbelief. "My talents. And just what do you imagine those are?"

    Raissa balanced her brewat on top of her tea as she pulled her data pad out of her satchel and accessed his file. "Let's see... Your family is one of the most prestigious clans on Kothlis, you were educated on Bothawui, and soon after graduation, you were accepted into the Galactic Intelligence Agency. Unfortunately for you, at the same time, Supreme Chancellor Palpantine became Emperor and the GIA became the Imperial Security Bureau, which no longer accepted non-human agents. There was some unpleasantness with an ISB agent..." She looked up from her datapad. Breil'lya's hackles were raised and she could sense his tension rippling uneasily like his fur. She couldn't blame him, though. The ISB took a dim view of non-humans who refused to be subjugated, and an even dimmer view of alien scum who assaulted their agents. If she'd decided to arrest Breil'lya and deport him to Coruscant, he'd face a lengthy prison sentence. However, she'd had her own encounters with the ISB; the fact that Breil'lya had punched one of them in the face was a recommendation as far as she was concerned. Raissa gave him what she hoped was a reassuring smile and sent out calming thoughts. *Trust me. I'm on your side *

    "What exactly do you want from me?"

    She slid her datapad back into her shopping bag. "As I mentioned earlier, I was recently promoted to Prefect. But, you see, I don't have the same...contacts...as the late Prefect in Merkesh City's fringes. I need some one who can help me find out what's happening there."

    Breil'lya's ears flattened and his upper lip pulled back in a snarl that revealed an impressive set of canines. "I'm not a snitch."

    "Of course not," Raissa agreed. "Don't think of it as being an informant; think of it as being a free-lance information broker with a government contract." Before he had a chance to protest her semantics, she pulled a credit stick out of her canvas satchel and held it up. "Two hundred and fifty credits. Consider it an advance."

    There was a definite spark in the Bothan's eyes, but he didn't take take the credit stick...yet. "Just what kind of information are you looking for?"

    "Prefect Renau was in possession of a cache of Jedi artifacts when he was murdered. We recovered the Holocron." No need to mention that it was currently residing in the back room of the Café Alderaan instead of being safely in Imperial custody. "However, three lightsabers and two Jedi medallions are still unaccounted for. I need to find out what happened to them."

    "And you think I can find them when the whole Imperial constabulary, including you, failed?"

    Raissa couldn't decided if he was mocking her or not; she gave him an honest answer anyway. "I have more faith in your information gathering abilities than ninety-nine percent of my staff's. And I think you can talk to people who wouldn't give me the time of day. So, will you help me?"

    "I'll think about it." He crunched into his brewat, snatched the credit stick from her and pocketed it. "Thanks for lunch," he called as he disappeared back into the crowd.


    Two days later, Breil'lya ran into her in the bazaar again-- literally. After he jostled into her, Raissa reflexively checked all her pockets, but nothing was missing. Instead a small, folded piece of flimsi had appeared in her belt satchel. The message was a cipher written in Bothese; once decoded and translated, it read: "The Hutt has what you want. Grand prize in Benduday sabacc tourney."

    Reading it, she was torn between impulses to smile and scowl. Smile because Breil'lya had taken up her offer and come through for her. Scowl, because...well, it would have to be Verraro, wouldn't it? He certainly couldn't be counted on to turn over the lightsabers out of the goodness of his slimy heart. He had no respect for the Empire, and Raissa doubted she could intimidate him even if she showed up with the entire Merkesh garrison. His lackeys were no doubt better armed and definitely better trained.

    But maybe she could persuade him to give her the lightsabers the way she'd persuaded Donal to be quiet. It was time, Raissa thought with a grin, to put her newfound ability to good use.

    Notes: Brewats and bastillas are Moroccan dishes.

    Brewats: baked layers of thin pastry filled with seasoned minced beef, eggs, fried and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar

    Chicken Bastilla: baked layers of thin pastry filled with minced chicken and almonds, sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar

    Cinnamon exists within the GFFA, per Wookieepedia. Catabar and zwil are other cooking spices.
     
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  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh, my goodness. Raissa is resourceful and has a freelance information broker [face_laugh] on the lookout. Those Moroccan dishes - sound. Fantastic. =P~ Yumsy! Looking forward to more of her sleuthing.
     
  10. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Now that's what I called diplomacy! [face_laugh]

    It was great seeing poor old Breil'lya again -- tripping over in the market in Raissa's presence seems to be a specialty of his! -- and great world-building with the central bazaar.

    Now about those lightsabers:
    I have a baaaaad feeling about this. Raissa might discover the limits of the Jedi mind trick sooner than she expects... and she might also discover that being as devious as Doran helps too, because I think I'm guessing the strategy he would/will choose in the same situation ;)
     
  11. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Nyota's Heart, the descriptions are from EPCOT's Restaurant Marrakesh. One of these days, I hope we'll be able to dine there. I think the Youngling would enjoy the entertainment-- belly dancing-- and I would love to try these dishes!

    Yes, poor old Breil'lya :) He's another poor, unfortunate soul whose bad luck brought him to Merkesh. In my head canon, he's from the same illustrious that produced Borsk Fey'lya's aide, Dev Breil'lya.

    The marketplace is sort of a mash up of the bazaar depicted in "Casablanca" and the ones in Mos Eisley and Mos Espa, with a little bit of "Aladdin" for good measure. :)

    Now you get to see if your ideas about Doran's strategy are correct. Deviousness is always necessary when you're up against a Hutt.

    Chapter 7: Seven of Flasks

    Doran's original plan to locate the lightsabers involved subtly interrogating the Café Alderaan's resident rumor mongers and info brokers, aided by the liberal application of Jedi mind tricks and the his best stock. However, the Force, in another of its not-so-subtle or mysterious moments, provided the answer while Doran was eavesdropping on a group of drunken gamblers in the booth next to his.

    "Five thousand credit entry fee for a sabacc tourney; what does the Hutt think this is, Cloud City?" one grumbled into his lomin ale.

    "Yeah, but just think, if you won those lightsabers, you could sell 'em for ten times that, easy," his friend answered.

    The third snorted. "It don't matter, anyway. Tourney's invitation only, for the best players in the sector...which ain't either of you."

    Doran lost track of the rest of their petty complaints after that. So Verraro had the lightsabers... He should have guessed that Merkesh's reigning crime lord would be at the bottom of things. The Hutt had had Renau in his pocket, assuming he'd had any, thanks to the late Prefect's loose morals and impressive gambling debts. Verraro certainly would have known about Renau's cache of Jedi artifacts; since Renau had seized them in customs, there was a good chance they'd originally been destined for Verraro. Doran could only imagine how infuriated would have been, first that his pet Imperial had taken them with an eye towards turning them into a promotion, then that second-rate crook like Pter Lorr had stolen them before Verraro's goons had a chance.

    Now Doran knew who had the sabers and what he planned to do with them, the only thing left was finding a way into Verraro's exclusive tournament. He certainly couldn't count on the ties of friendship. The Café's previous owner had sold it to Doran on the cheap, rather than let Verraro have, and Verraro never quite forgave or forgot. At best, he and Doran shared a friendly rivalry. Since he couldn't count on his winning personality, nor, sadly, the Force to gain admittance, he'd have to fall back on what was really the only way to get a Hutt to do anything-- bribery.

    On Benduday, Doran made his way to the Azure Kroyie, armed with a credit stick with an impressive number of zeroes on it. Baiard had just better appreciate this, he thought, before reminding himself, this is supposed to be a gesture of apology, you idiot.

    Outside, the Kroyie was made of the same creamy stucco as the Café Alderaan, only somewhat more weathered. Its name was painted over the arched doorway in gilt-trimmed blue letters. Inside, it was darker than the Café, wreathed in a haze of cigarra and hookah smoke. It lacked the Café's profuse, if artificial, greenery, but it did have, as promised, an azure kroyie perched over the bar. The bird was chronically bad tempered and perpetually in molt, though Doran supposed he would be, too, if someone had and chained him to a post in this den of inequity. It hissed at him as he walked past the bar into the casino.

    The noise of the jubilee wheel and the clangs and whoops of the lugjack machines were as thick as the smoke in the claustrophobic casino. Tables for binspo and compmatch, as well as several sabacc tables, packed the floor. Scantily clad cocktail waitresses threaded their way through the narrow paths between the tables, deftly avoiding the patrons' groping hands. An argument between a Twi'lek and a Camaasi at the compmatch table devolved into a shoving match. One of the waitresses, less adroit than the others, wasn't quick enough to move out of the way. Her laden tray went crashing to the tile floor. She began screeching at the gamblers that they were going to have to pay for the spilled drinks and broken glasses, it wasn't coming out of her salary! The compmatch players turned from arguing with each other to yelling at her, while other gamblers called out their opinions of who was at fault. Doran rolled his eyes; it was sloppy of Verraro's security to let things get out of hand like this. Haaz would have had them out the door at the first shove. *Sit down and be quiet, before someone pulls a vibro-shiv.* He stepped around the suddenly bemused gamblers and made his way towards a door at the back of the casino that led to Verraro's private game room.

    Verraro's chief goon, a thuggish young man--at least, Doran had always assumed he was human; his skin wasn't green enough to be a Gamorrean--was guarding the door. He scowled at Doran. "Invitation only."

    "Oh, come on, Wilmot; you know me." Doran flashed an ingratiating smile him as he described a subtle arc with his right hand. "Verraro will want to see me. You should take me to him now." It was almost too easy to influence the young thug; he had about as much strength of will as a comatose worrt.

    "I should take you to him now," Wilmot agreed, opening the door.

    The seven players were seated around the semi-circular sabacc table looked up from their drinks as Doran stepped inside. He knew most of them by sight; the others by reputation. Closest to the door was Garlyn, a colorful Mrlssi who owned the biggest textile shop in the bazaar. She stopped preening her rainbow-dyed crest, cocked her head and regarded Doran with bright, beady eyes. Next to her was Syd Lufft, a human whose round face and crooked, broken nose hadn't hurt his reputation as a ladies' man. He'd been evicted from the Café Alderaan three times for starting bar brawls. On his right, Irn La'Zar, better known as "Swifty," was already half-drunk. The self proclaimed "import agent" goggled at Doran through thick glasses that made the Caarite's eyes as round than sabacc chips.

    The fourth player was a Falleen in a perfectly tailored vine silk robe. Xinatra was a serious gambler who played sabacc not only in the Hydian sector but in every casino between here and Coruscant. He murmured something to the equally nattily dressed human in the next seat. Dav Nivin, son of a minor Coruscanti lord, was art collector as well as a gambler; no surprise that he was interested in the sabers.

    The last two seats were occupied by Kat Hibburn, captain of the Burundi Queen, and her partner, Spen Sertrasi. Kat was plain spoken and out spoken to the point of abrasiveness. Doran would have said they got along famously, except that they frequently didn't. They did, however, have a mutual respect for each other's candor. Spen took all their debates in stride with bluff good humor. Right now, he was the only one who seemed happy, or at least amused, by the interruption. He tipped his glass of lomin ale to Doran.

    In the center of the table, like a bloated spider in the middle of its web, sat Verraro the Hutt. A jaunty red fez perched on his head like a nervous fly. He cast a disapproving look at his henchman. "Wilmot? What is this?"

    That Wilmot didn't squirm under the Hutt's baleful stare showed that the goon was made of sterner stuff than Doran expected...or, more likely, wasn't the smartest eopie in the herd. "He said you'd want to see him."

    A surprisingly delicate sigh escaped from Verraro's cavernous lips. "Imbecile. No, never mind. Go." He flapped a stubby hand in dismissal. "I'll take care of this myself. But, Wilmot...see too it there are no more interruptions." Wilmot slunk out with a backwards glance at Doran that promised dire things if he ever caught him alone. Doran just smirked back. He'd seen a real Sith Lord in action; it would take a lot more than the evil eye from a Hutt's toady to intimidate him.

    Verraro's gaze slid to Doran. "Doran, my boy, you know I'm always delighted to see you," he said in an unctuous gone completely at odds with his flat stare. "But as you can see, I'm a trifle busy at the moment. I'm afraid this tournament is invitation only. Perhaps you can come back next tomorrow with your payment for the Whyren's shipment..."

    "You wound me, Verraro." Doran pulled a chair up from a nearby gaming table, shoved it in between Xinatra and Dav Nivin, and elbowed his way in, almost spilling the Falleen's Cosmic Rose shooter. "Imagine my surprised when I heard yesterday you were holding a tournament was for the best sabacc players in the Hydian way. I guess my invitation must have gotten lost in the mail."

    Beside him, Xinatra sniffed over the rim of his rescued drink. "You? Best? I've played at Cloud City, the Outlander Club, the Mantine, the Coral Vanda... I've never seen you at any of them."

    "Just because you've never seen me, pretty boy, doesn't mean I can't play. I've been playing sabacc all over the galaxy since I was twelve." That was what came of having parents who owned a cantina on Treasure Ship Row and a Jedi Master whose favorite method of gathering intelligence was frequenting local bars. "I'm prepared to overlook this slight, though, since we're old friends." Doran leaned forward and slid his credit stick across the table. "I'll even pay double the entry fee for the inconvenience of adding me at the last minute."

    "Double?" Doran saw the spark of greed kindle in Verraro's jaundice-yellow eyes.

    "This is supposed to be an elite tournament," Xinatra protested. "You can't just let in any scruffy nerf-herder who thinks they can play."

    "Any scruffy nerf-herder wouldn't have ten thousand credits to throw around," Kat pointed out from the end of the table "I say we let him play. If he's really as bad as you think he is, he'll be out soon and we'll have more credits in the pot." She gave him a sharp edged smile. "Nothing personal, Doran, but this is sabacc."

    "A better question is why this particular nerf-herder suddenly wants to play." Dav Nivin eyed him shrewdly. "If you're such a sabacc ace, then why haven't you ever deigned to join us before?'

    Doran shrugged with forced diffidence. "I'm here for the same reason as the rest of you. Those sabers are worth a pretty credit." It wouldn't do to let on how much he needed the lightsabers. Verraro might put on a civilized veneer, but he was as greedy as the next Hutt. If he sensed Doran's weakness, he'd set the price of admission much higher than ten thousand. Not to mention that it would ruin his fall back plan to buy the sabers outright if the Hutt refused to let him in.

    "You? Selling illegal Jedi artifacts?" Nivin shook his head. "I don't think so, old boy. I can't imagine your lady love, the Prefect, would look very kindly on that."

    Damn the Coruscanti; he was was too clever by half. "All right," he sighed. "Baiard and I had a disagreement. I thought if I gave her Renau's--ahem-- missing lightsabers, it might get me back on her good side."

    Syd Lufft whistled through a chipped front tooth. "Musta been one helluva disagreement."

    During this exchange, Verraro's eyes travelled from Doran and his credit stick to Xinatra and back again with an expression of calculation and greed, weighing whether he could profit enough from letting Doran in the tournament to risk offending the Fallen and possibly Nivin, both regular customers at the Kroyie. Doran pushed the credit stick forward slightly and watched the Hutt's eyes track it. He wished that Jedi mind tricks worked on Hutts; it would simplify things immeasurably. As it was, he wondered if should up his offer to fifteen.

    Doran's financial estimations were interrupted by an angry shout from outside the door. "You can't go in there!" Wilmot bellowed. There was a murmured reply that Doran couldn't catch, and he felt--not a disturbance in the Force, exactly, but a definite twinge--and a presence that was very familiar.

    Oh, no.

    The door whisked open again and Imperial Prefect Raissa Baiard marched into the room, rank bars polished and boots spit-shined. At her side was a snarling Frugly, wearing a gray vest that marked him as an on duty member of the Constabulary.

    "Good evening, Verraro," she said in her most officious tone. "I believe you have something that belongs to me."
    ------------------
    Notes:
    Lots of notes this time, as the GFFA meets Hollywood of the 1940's

    Verraro the Hutt is based on Sydney Greenstreet's Signor Ferrari from "Casablanca," with a dash of Casper Gutman (a.ka. The Fatman) from the "Maltese Falcon," which re-teamed Greenstreet, Bogart and Peter Lorre. I was originally going to make Verraro a different species and then I came across this tidbit about Greenstreet on IMDB: "Partially inspired the appearance of Jabba the Hut in the "Star Wars" series. When asked what the intergalactic gangster should look like by the designer, George Lucas replied, "A big blob, a huge mass of matter." The designer immediately thought of Greenstreet in Casablanca (1942). At one point during the production, a fez was placed on the final Jabba's head, to make him look like Greenstreet."

    Wilmot is likewise based on Wilmer, Gutman's young "gunsel" in "The Maltese Falcon," who gave Bogie's Sam Spade plenty of trouble.

    The gamblers at the Azure Kroyie are based on some of the original members of the Rat Pack. While the Rat Pack is often associated with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin, its original founder was Humphrey Bogart; his wife, Lauren Bacall, gave them their name, saying that after a night of drinking, they "looked like a g** d***** pack of rats." The gamblers are as follows:
    Garlyn-- Judy Garland
    Syd Lufft-- actor Sidney Luft, Judy Garland's first husband
    Irn La'zar-- Irving "Swifty" Lazar, Bogart's agent
    Xinatra-- Frank Sinatra, of course
    Dav Nivin-- British actor David Niven
    Kat Hibburn and Spen Sertrasi-- Katherine Hepburn and her frequent co-star and real life partner Spencer Tracy

    The games of chance at the Kroyie-- binspo, compmatch, the jubilee wheel and lugjack-- are from the Wook's article on gambling. The jubilee wheel and lugjack are the GFFA equivalent of the roulette wheel and slot machines.

    And of course , the Cosmic Rose shooter was originally created by leiamoody . It's the drink of choice for demanding Falleen everywhere, right Chyntuck?
     
  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wonderful melding of GFFA and 1940s Hollywood ;) :oops: Prefect Raissa would pick just that moment to stroll into the card game. :p =D=
     
  13. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Oooh, this was my favourite chapter so far! I spent my time figuring out the Hollywood references (I even got some members of the Rat Pack right!) and I loved the ensemble scene. This was really a treat!

    (I also wondered of the Burundi Queen was a reference to The African Queen, or if that was just a subconscious coincidence.)

    Next: my guess about Doran's deviousness was right. I expected that he would gamble for the lightsabers, but the devil -- or rather the pleasure -- was in the details. He knows when a mind trick will work and when it won't (as opposed to Raissa [face_tee_hee]) so of course he'd have a couple of aces up his sleeve. What he hadn't guessed, of course, was that Raissa -- and Frugly!!! -- would gatecrash the party just like him. The possibilities for misunderstandings are endless on all sides now, and I'm curious to see how many of these avenues we will explore in future chapters.

    And, lastly, about Falleens and Cosmic Rose Shooters, I hope that Xinatra enjoys his with full-fat Ishi-Tib coconut cream and a fresh zherry -- barring what, leiamoody might call him a philistine, and then I'm going to be tempted to write a Xerola romance... :p
     
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  14. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Of course! The Force is guiding her, and as Doran noted, it has a sense of humor. ;)

    Thanks! I have to say it was a lot of fun turning stars from the Golden Age into characters in the GFFA. I'm curious which of the Rat Pack you guessed.

    ...Aaand I missed a reference in my notes. The Burundi Queen was a definitely a play The African Queen. I discovered a species called the Burundi on Wookieepedia; Burundi is also a country in Africa, so it seemed to make a perfect ship name for Kat Hibburn.

    But of course, Xinatra prefers it that way! It"s the way they serve it in all the best clubs on Coruscant. He is the epitome of style and taste, after all. Poor Xerola will just have to find a less discriminating suitor.

    Chapter 8: Mind Games
    "To you, Prefect?" Verraro arched his brows and stared down at the Prefect with thinly disguised contempt. "I think not."

    "To the Empire, then, which I represent," Baiard replied. As she stood there ramrod straight in her immaculate Imperial grays, unperturbed by either the Hutt staring her down or his thug pulling a blaster behind her back, it was easy to see her as a kind of embodiment of Imperial Justice. Yet, even though Doran had seldom seen Baiard look so completely Imperial, he'd also never seen her look so much like a Jedi. She radiated the kind of self-possessed authority he'd only seen on the faces of Jedi masters. In short, she hardly resembled the Baiard who swatted at him with a bamboo staff after hours at the Café Alderaan and drank spiked hot chocolate with him on Life Day. Even Frugly had undergone a transformation, his usual tongue-lolling grin replaced by a business-like snarl as he stood between his owner and Wilmot.

    "Emperor Palpatine has declared that it is illegal to possess lightsabers or any other Jedi paraphernalia," Baiard continued. She scanned the row of gamblers, a hand resting on her service blaster. "As such, I am authorized..." Her gaze travelled past Xinatra and came to rest on Doran. Baiard lost her composure for a second, her mouth dropping open momentarily before flattening into a thin line. "Doran. What are you doing here?"

    Her stern expression reminded Doran of the time he was fourteen and Master Nu had caught him trying to sneak into the restricted section of the Archives. "Trying to win the lightsabers....for you."

    "For me?" Her eyes seemed to look straight into his and peer down into his heart. Whatever they saw there made them widen. Baiard's Imperial mask slipped, her reserve thawed, and she was once again his padawan, his friend.

    Garlyn gave a twittering sigh, while Xinatra snorted, '"Oh, please." At the other end of the table, Kat gave him a brusque nod and Spen watched as if the whole scene was a holo-drama staged solely for his amusement. The rumors about him and Baiard were going to be flying again tomorrow, Doran thought ruefully, but there was no help for that now. He wished he'd thought to order a whiskey at the bar before coming back to the gaming room; he was going to need one-- or two, or six---before this was all over.

    "Hmm... How very...touching." Unlike Garlyn and Spen, the Hutt was clearly not entertained by the spectacle his tournament had become. Doran could see the tip of his tail twitching like an angry felinx's. "However, as they say, possession is nine-tenths of law, therefore the lightsabers shall stay in my possession."

    Recalled to the matter at hand, Baiard became the dutiful Imperial officer again. "I'm afraid I must insist that you turn them over to me." Doran felt the tug of her will and the Force persuasion behind her dispassionate words. The part of him that was her teacher noted approvingly that Baiard's suggestion was strong, if a bit unfocused. The part of him that was her friend winced, because she had no idea her effort was futile...and ordering Verraro around his own turf was liable to get her fried by a certain Gamorrean-jowled blaster jockey.

    *Baiard...*

    As if he'd heard Doran's silent worry, Verraro gestured to Wilmot, who raised his blaster. "I think not, Prefect."

    Baiard frowned a bit at his complete disinclination to obey. She summoned all of her strength in the Force and poured it into her command. "Yes, you will give them to me now." There was so much raw power in the words that any other sentient would have been tripping over himself to get the sabers to her. But not, of course, Verraro.

    *Baiard... Remember when I told you that some species are immune to Jedi mind tricks? Hutts are one of them.*

    There was an uncomfortable pause. *That would have been nice to know before now.*

    Verraro's nostrils flared. He glared down at her, his bulbous eyes narrowed almost to slits. "I will not be giving them to you." His tail lashed once, twice, and he surged forward, looming over the sabacc table with all his considerable bulk. All traces of his jovial persona were gone, and his voice was a guttural rumble. "Your unfortunate predecessor understood that Merkesh is very far from Coruscant, and Imperial rule is stretched quite thin here. In Merkesh City, and especially this cantina, my rules are the ones that matter. Wilmot, escort the Prefect out of my cantina, now."

    Wilmot reached for Baiard with an ugly grin. She side-stepped him, drawing her own blaster, and warned,"Assaulting an Imperial officer is a felony offense." Wilmot just laughed and lurched towards her. Frugly lunged at him, snarling and snapping. Wilmot snarled back and aimed a kick at the roba. Baiard shouted and pulled back on Frugly's leash, hauling him out of reach, and stumbled into Irn La'Zar. The drunken Carrite yelped and toppled off his stool, crashing into Xinatra, who spilled the Cosmic Rose shooter in his hand down the front of his vine silk robe. He swore volubly in Falleen, and Doran realized he had to do something before things got truly ugly. "What if she plays you for them?" he called into the chaos.

    The entire tableau seemed to freeze. "What?" Verraro and Baiard demanded at the same time.

    "What if Baiard enters the tournament?" Doran repeated. "She pays the double entry fee, and takes my place, but if she wins, the lightsabers go into Imperial custody." It was a thin gambit, but it was all he had. If Wilmot managed to get his grubby hands on Baiard, he was going to have to knock the Hutt-thug cold, and that was unlikely to improve his standing with Verraro or help him get the sabers.

    She shot him a look. "Doran, I don't..."

    *Shh... Let me handle this.*

    *Doran, I don't play sabacc.* Baiard's thought skittered anxiously into his mind.

    *But I do.*

    *That's cheating!* He felt her recoil, shocked--shocked and appalled--that he would even suggest such a thing. He didn't know whether to laugh or shake his head; she was really too good for Merkesh, sometimes.

    *Baiard, look around; we're in a Hutt's gambling den. Everyone here plans to cheat--including Verraro.* Well, maybe not Kat, but he'd only give 50/50 odds on Spen and definitely wouldn't take bets on the rest of them. *I'm going to get these sabers for you somehow, and I'll use every advantage the Force can give us.*

    *But..*

    *Trust me.* Doran leaned back in his chair and cocked a rakish grin at the Hutt, as if this was was all just a lark. "Come on, Verraro, you can't say that isn't fair."

    Suddenly, Verraro laughed, a sound like the burbling sulfur swamps of his home world. He lounged back on his dais, folding his hands over his rotund mid-section. "Ah, Doran, my boy! Such typical human arrogance, giving the Prefect a spot that hasn't even been given to you yet! You're lucky I that I've always found your audacity refreshing--amusing even--or I might be quite angry at you for telling me what's fair in my own cantina." Despite his oily smile and his honeyed tone, there was a hard glint in Verraro's eyes. "However, even if I found your offer fair, I doubt very much that a mere officer can afford either the entry fee or the kind of bets that will be made tonight."

    Baiard looked affronted, forgetting in her indignation that she didn't want to play. "I do have some savings; I'm not like Renau; I don't spend my salary on alcohol and gambling." She was being generous, Doran thought, to leave spice and loose women off the list of Renau's expenses.

    The Hutt chortled and shook his head pityingly. "Correction: I doubt that any honest Imperial officer could play at this level." He pronounced "honest" as an insult, and Baird bristled; next to her, Frugly began snarling again. Doran gave her a quelling glance before all that highly combustible righteousness could explode. ''I'll stake her," he said, pushing his credit stick across the table until it touched Verraro's grub-pale belly. "Up to the value of the Café Alderaan."

    The gamblers' staring silence was broken by another gap toothed whistle from Syd Lufft.

    Verraro's laugh boomed this time. ""Heh heh heh, done!" he proclaimed, sweeping the credit stick up in his stubby fist. Naked greed lit his smile. "I trust there will be no more delays now, so let us begin."
     
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  15. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_laugh] Love the interplay between Baiard and Doran and yeah the whole thing about Hutts being impervious - should've mentioned that first. :p
     
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  16. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    That post in pet peeves moved me because:
    a) I'm experiencing the same as you right now;
    b) It took me a year and a half to open my mouth around you and realise that you're a sweet person who's not a scary art snob that jumps on people from the ceiling - which is how I see everybody until they speak up;
    c) This stuff is golden and that Raissa.txt file that's been sitting in my Dropbox for about a year should be put to good use.

    So, here they come, semi-literate reviews from somebody who realised that she likes this sequel more than the first part. This post will be edited as I go on a binge. :p

    Prologue

    The prologue is not marked as prologue and it clearly is prologue, so would you mind marking it as prologue? Circular definitions are the best, btw.

    Despite not having finished the previous story, I can see that these two have some pretty big shoes to fill, those of the two Jedi who have parted! And with Raissa's day job and Doran being on the run, those would better be running shoes!

    The frustration of learning something simple when you are too old for simple things...I feel you, protagonist. I totally do. Similarly, the lightsaber fascination...I mean, that's like adding content when you could be messing with cool, experimental CSS.

    The end bit - will assume that was telepathy, was hilarious. Same goes for Doran describing Raissa's facial expressions. That sort of banter definitely implies there may be, err, other activities in the future. :p

    Knowing that these two characters were modelled to be that specific character's parents, I can totally see what the said character got from each of them.

    Doran, go get yourself another whiskey, because I don't get your approach at this point, either. XD And bring me Pepsi Max.

    Chapter 01
    As I am not that far in the prequel in order to know enough about Paolo, forgive me if I'm saying something stupid. From this point of a view, Paolo seems almost like a perfect contrast to Doran. Sure, he's hardline in more ways than one and he's not helping Doran forget the life he had to abandon to save himself, by using his name and being all blahblahjedicodeblahblah.

    Still, virtually killing him...:p

    Chapter 02
    It's interesting to see Raissa's lack of confidence over being trained, as opposed to, well, Doran's lack of confidence because he's training her. It figures that they both have to change something about their approach-.

    And Frugly! <3

    The idea of removing people who are threatening to places where they won't be threatening to whatever power...well, seen it. Fits perfectly in here.

    I have to sympathise with the whole idea of previous learning-through-repetition coming as a haunting thought at the bed time, too. EEEK.

    Chapter 03
    That's a weird way to say "Sorry that I was drunk while training you." :p Now, if he could only explain the whole idea of treating a person who's almost thirty (if I understood that well) as a kid. Come on, Doran, I'm listening.

    "Wait a minute. The Jedi would blindfold toddlers, give them lightsabers, and turn them loose with a training remote? That's got to be one of the most horrifying things I've ever heard."

    This is an absolutely normal reaction.

    And whatdoyaknow, all play and no work makes Raissa a...wait, that sounded wrong.


    Chapter 04
    The very first three paragraphs of this are a PERFECT innuendo. :D Not super-vulgar, not cheesy, just plain hilarious.

    As a straight-edge woman with an affinity to a substance abuser, I...sort of love it how normalised it is here. Because that's the way it goes.

    I remember the notes I wrote for the prequel somewhere (still need to find them) mentioning that I loved the way you write Toydarians. Looks like that stuck out, because a) I remember writing it, b) the way you wrote Haaz is extremely enjoyable.

    AND BORK. BORK. OH.MY.GOAT. PERFECT. Of course, my first thought is the Swedish chef, but that makes it even more hilarious.

    And the whole "we are going to argue because everybody thinks we're an item" is well-played.

    Chapter 05

    Wow, don't they like to torture each other! And looks like Sascha gets it. I'm usually irritated by types like her and, heck, I'm scared of that style, that look and that behaviour, but Doran can stand his ground and therefore she's not scary to him and...she gives him a great, great reality check.

    Behind the innocent looking façade was a streak of Corellian stubborn as long as the Hydian Way and a tongue that could blister paint off a star destroyer.

    Lovely!

    And given how Doran deals with this in part one and how Raissa deals with this in part two, one can see that loneliness plagues them - and that's not just the shallow kind of loneliness, the immature "I want this person and nobody else, screw my friends" kind of a thing. There is more to it: she is alone at not-really-top and he is alone at not-really-rock-bottom. The small town mentality of the community isn't helping, either!

    Chapter 06
    Hmmm, getting a Bothan's curiosity like this...cruel, but serves its purpose.


    Chapter 07
    I assume this is the chapter you were researching poker tournaments for? Well, bork, that's tense! Loved the descriptions of all players, how they behaved etc etc...

    ...and would've HATED the cliffie hadn't I been reading nine chapters in bulk. :p Raissa, what are you doing? Not RL-Raissa, in-universe Raissa!

    Chapter 08
    Having seen that your plots move sort of slowly, this chapter came in as a surprise. As disclosed before, I did not expect Raissa to jump in in the first place, she is failing both the Empire and the Jedi ethics as we know it here, but that is EXACTLY what is fascinating here. She had no idea about Hutts and mind tricks either and this could've ended up BADLY.

    Also, I loved the reference to your own story here! Not Exactly An Old-Fashioned Life Day, that is.
     
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  17. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 14, 2002
    I am here for the same reason as Ewok Poet, however, finding this last piece with three times as many reviews as I normally get, has waned my sympathies a bit.

    Still, I am here now:

    Intriguing beginning, having an Imperial prefect as a padawan. Nice descriptions of the night-time Cafe Alderaan.

    The whiskey was there to help him get through the lesson. *Smirks* and another one the next time Doran reached for the whiskey.

    I do like the dynamic of Doran having to figure out a way to pass on information, and drawing upon his own youngling lessons; I have been there.
    Some very pleasant reading, this.

    Typo detected: Doran had sold all the crystals out of his to his buy his new identity and the Cafe Alderaan.

    A lightsabre crystal or several, was enough to buy the establishment?! I have never really applied a monetary value to such things, since the jedi never did; good to see that addressed.

    "Ah-ah-ah, who's the Jedi here?" :)

    I actually quite like that first chapter. Very pleasant reading.

    Alright, drokk it, let's give Chapter 1 a shot.

    Query: the place is called the Cafe Alderaan, and some people think of Baiard as "some sort of strait-laced Alderaanian nanny." And this is set in 17BBY...tell me, is this set on Alderaan?

    Okay, again your "Lucky to get one review and a couple of likes" is looking like a bit of an understatement.

    Pleasant reading again, seeing Doran engaging with the holocron teacher. Good attention to detail with the image crackling as it processed new data, and the protagonist's soul searching proving to be very insightful.

    I am glad that he has found a bit of inspiration to take them beyond the one lesson he could think off, and it is good how you showed the various responsibilities weighing down on him, not least, failing his friend.
     
  18. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    This. Was. Priceless. This. Was. Positively. Priceless.

    I was trying to imagine Doran doing the Force equivalent of clearing his throat before telling Raissa that Hutts are not affected by mind tricks.

    That poor Xinatra spilled his Cosmic Rose Shooter all over himself. Someone tell him that zherry juice stains. Indelibly.

    Plus, Frugly in combat mode. That was an unexpected bonus [face_love]

    And now, Doran is playing for the Café Alderaan. This is getting more interesting by the minute!
     
  19. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    I wanted to say a huge "thank you" to everyone! [:D] I was completely overwhelmed to win "Best All Around." As I noted in the Golden Yodas thread, all the nominees for the award were excellent, so I feel incredibly lucky to have been chosen.

    I also wanted to apologize to Ewok Poet and Sith-I-5 for not responding to their reviews sooner, after they very kindly responded to my pity party. [face_blush] Darth Real Life has been particularly Darth-y lately, but I should have taken time to acknowledge you.

    So, to business:
    Thanks; I tried to do some foreshadowing without making either of them a duplicate of their eventual child. One quality I think they all share is loyalty, even if it is sometimes misplaced.

    I hadn't thought of it that way, but you're right, and I think a lot of it comes from the contrast between their analogous characters in "Casablanca", Victor Lazlo and Rick Blaine. Victor/Paolo are traditional heroes; they'd be knights in shining armor, while Rick and Doran are a bit...tarnished. They'll do the right thing, maybe after a few drinks and a bit of complaining that they stick their necks out for no one, but they're going to do it their own way.

    It was fun to write something that was totally benign in context, but if overheard would be so wrong.

    Bork....[face_laugh] How did I not get the Swedish Chef before? I got the word from a webpage on SW insults/swear words called "A Mouth Like an Intergalactic Princess." Because I'm of a certain age (and American), it reminds me of Robert Bork, a conservative judge who was nominated for the Supreme Court. His opponents went all out to vilify him, even going through his (innocuous) video rentals for dirt. In short, he was borked.

    :D Bothans are a lot like librarians in that regard. And he is well rewarded for his efforts.


    Thank you for stopping in. :) Respones do taper off on the last few chapters, but I will admit I was kind of having a pity party when I wrote that. Perhaps I should have gone to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters... :luke:

    It's the "In the Cards" drinking game! Take a drink every time Doran does and pass out by the end of the story! (Okay, that's probably an overstatement...)


    Wookieepedia mentions that the Empire interdicted Adegan crystals, and they seem to have been rare in the first place, so I imagine that they would fetch a hefty price on the black market. The previous owner also let the Café go for cheap rather than sell it to Verraro the Hutt (which will be touched on in an upcoming story.)

    The story is set on the fan on world of Merkesh, which is based on Morocco as depicted in the movie "Casablanca." (The first story in the series, "Everyone Comes to Doran's Place," is based on the movie.) The café in "Casablanca" is the Café Americain, and it seemed to me that Alderaan during the rise of the Empire represented the same spirit of hope and freedom that America represented to the WW II refugees in Casablanca.

    Glad you enjoyed the first few chapters, and again, thanks for the review!

    Xinatra will be sending a bill for his robe to the Merkesh Garrison. ;)

    Yes, Frugly would rather sit at home and eat Wookiee cookies, but he's got hidden reserves of courage when it comes to protecting Raissa.

    Can't you just hear the gears turning in Verraro's greedy little brain?
     
  20. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    You absolutely deserved that award and you know it. BORK, BORK, BORK! :)

    Can't wait to read more and thanks for replies to my comments!
     
  21. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Chapter 9: Tournament, part 1

    Doran rose, motioning for Baiard to take his place. She handed Frugly's leash to him as she slipped in between Xinatra and Nivin. Her expression had returned to its impassive Imperial planes, but a spark of worry lurked in her eyes. *Are you sure about this?*

    He squeezed her shoulder reassuringly. *Don't worry. We've got this.* The Force had been nudging him in this direction all along, dropping hints about sabers and staves in the cards; it wouldn't let them down now. He hoped. The Force had been somewhat of a fickle ally lately, but he supposed he hadn't exactly been a paragon of faithfulness himself. Surely it wouldn't fail someone as purely virtuous as Baiard, though. *Not for me,* he told the Force,*Do this for her. She deserves it.* Baiard deserved a lot of things, including a decent master. Instead, she was stuck with him, which just went to show that the Force really did have a crummy sense of humor.

    Doran's wave of self-pity was interrupted by the phlegmy sound of a Hutt clearing his throat. "Hmm..." Verraro looked down his nose at Doran and Baiard, or would have if he'd had a nose. "Doran, old friend, why don't you just sit over at one of the binspo tables? Can't have you helping out your lady friend, now can we? Wouldn't be fair to the others." He chuckled. "Not that I don't trust you, of course.''

    He gave the Verraro a smile that was just as sincere as the Hutt's obsequious laughter. "Verraro-- old friend-- you know I wouldn't dream of cheating you."

    "Good, good." Verraro's own smile was froggily beatific, the petty monarch once again in control of his little domain. "And take that...thing...with you." He waved a hand at Frugly. "I don't want the little beast giving my best customers fleas." Frugly growled up at the Hutt, and Baiard's lips tightened as she handed his leash to Doran. He rubbed Frugly's ears the way he'd seen Baiard do. "Don't worry, Frug," he muttered. "The vermin was here long before you came." The roba huffed, apparently mollified. He trotted over to the gaming tables next to Doran, and flopped down at his feet when he took a seat in one of the plushly upholstered chairs, far nicer than those in the Kroyie's common gaming room. Frugly laid his jowly muzzle across Doran's feet, and steadfastly refused to move when Doran tried to extricate them. He could only hope that roba slobber wouldn't ruin the Corellian nauga hide leather of his boots. They was his best pair...his only pair.

    Doran had chosen the seat that gave him the best vantage point to watch the tournament, one that afforded a clear view of Baiard's profile. She had what he'd come to think of as her Imperial face on, an expression of utter composure and steely reserve. Baiard surveyed the unfamiliar landscape of the sabacc table like she was preparing for a battle. He could sense the wheels turning in her mind as she assessed her opponents, weighed her options, and tried to devise her strategy. *So what's the point of this game, anyway?*

    *To make as much money as possible.*

    *No, I mean...*

    Doran sighed. So much for his attempt to lighten things up. *I know. The goal is to get your cards to add up to as close to twenty-three as possible without going over.*

    *That sounds easy enough.*

    *Except that there are cards with negative values. And your cards can change at any time, unless you put them in the interdiction field-- that's the rectangle on the table in front of you. And there's an excellent chance your opponents have skifters up their sleeves.*

    *Not so simple then.*

    *Well, we do have a few unfair advantages.* Doran reminded her. He grinned. *Looks like all those card reading sessions are going to come in handy after all. You ready for this?*

    *No.*

    *That's the spirit.* He had to give her points for honesty, at least. Doran took a deep breath and opened himself to the Force, reaching out to Baiard at the same time.

    There were a number of techniques that could enable a group of Jedi to accomplish more by pooling their strength, sharing one another's senses, and coordinating their actions. Naïve young padawans learning these techniques were inundated by dire warnings--use it too often with the same group and you'd turn into a sort of drooling hive mind, unable to tell your own thoughts and feelings from the others'. What the instructors usually failed to mention was that the opposite was true, too. When you joined minds with someone for the first time, there was a wrenching dissociation, a struggle to find balance between minds and personalities. Doran had always felt that melding minds this way was a lot like hitching an eopie to a bantha and expecting them to work nicely together. Sometimes it worked after minor adjustments, but sometimes you just got dragged along for a ride. However, joining up with Baiard was no struggle at all; it was as if all he had to do was fall in step beside her. He'd never synced up with anyone before that easily, not even Master Onfroi. He didn't have time to contemplate the implications before Verraro began dealing the first hand.

    As he'd explained to Baiard, there was a lot more to sabacc than just adding up cards. If that was all there was to it, he could have just read the cards fed Baiard the right answers-- Hit! Stay! Fold!-- piece of ryshcate. But when you threw in randomly shifting cards, knowing what a card was wasn't good enough. You also had to know what it was going to be. It wasn't especially hard to look a minute or two into the future, but doing it for every card in every hand, that raised the difficulty level of this enterprise from "piece of ryshcate" to "arm-wrestling an angry Wookiee." Doran felt like he had one eye in the future tracking possibilities while keeping one in the present to advise Baiard how to play-- and when to lose. *Yes, we're cheating* he told a perplexed Baiard the first time he instructed her to throw a hand, *but we don't want to look like we're cheating. Even the best sabacc player doesn't win every hand. If a rookie like you did, they'd know something was up.*

    Doran hadn't used the Force like this since escaping the siege on Coruscant, and it was a little like running the duodecathlon after six months in a bacta tank. With Baiard's strength to draw on and some practice, things became a little easier. Like wrestling a Wookiee who's only mildly irritated. Still, Doran was so absorbed in that he hardly noticed Syd Lufft had plopped down heavily into the chair across from him and until he loudly proclaimed, "Too rich for my blood!" He mopped his florid face with a handkerchief and gave Doran a gap-toothed grin. "That Prefect of yours is a helluva woman! Never seen a sabacc face like hers before; talk about cool under fire. Think I might have to steal her from you!"

    His sabacc face was nowhere near as calm and inscrutable as Baiard's; Lufft's levity died in mid-chuckle. "Kidding. Just kidding!" He threw up his hands and shrank back into his chair to nurse his drink, watching Doran uneasily over the rim.

    Garlyn was next to leave the tournament, quickly followed by by Swifty La'zar. They joined Lufft on his side of the binspo table and huddled in a tight knot. The three gamblers conversed in buzzing whispers that grated on Doran's ears and his nerves. From the sidelong glances they kept darting from him to the sabacc table and back again, Doran knew they were gossiping about him and Baiard. Worse, linked as they were in the Force, she knew it, too. Her perfectly blank sabacc face never twitched, but he felt her stomach lurched and twisted before she beat back the sick feeling, stuffing down the emotions down as a useless distraction from the matter at hand. Doran couldn't help but feeling a small stab of pride--his padawan was thinking like a Jedi--but in this case he thought it was due more to her own nature than anything he might accidentally have taught her.

    Baiard might have been unruffled, but Doran's temples were starting to throb with the strain of keeping the threads of possibility straight. The tournament had been dragging on for hours…or years…or possibly eons. Time was starting to become meaningless, and Doran was starting to lust after Veraro's stock of Corellian whiskey. He really, really needed a drink, and Verraro, that greedy chuff-sucking leech, kept the best of the Whyren's for himself. Beneath the binspo table, Frugly whined and nudged Doran's foot with his muzzle. He reached down and ruffled Frugly's ears again "I know, I know. But it can't last much longer." Sweet, merciful Force, don't let it last much longer.

    Perhaps the Force actually heard his appeal, because Spen stood up and threw his card chips down. "Well, it's been fun," he announced. "But I make it a rule never to lose more than the cost of a small ship in one night." He kissed Kat on the top of the head. "Win it back for me, sweetheart."

    Kat shook her head. "I make it a rule not to throw good credits after bad. I'm out, too." She left the sabacc table and sat down next to Doran, "Here," she said, sliding a half empty glass of whiskey over to him. "You need this more than I do. You look like hell."

    Xinatra stared after her incredulously. "I don't believe this; five of the best players in the Hydian Way are out." He turned back to the sabacc table and jabbed a finger into Baiard's chest. "But you! You're still here. How are you doing this?"

    Showing more restraint than Doran would have been able to, she brushed the claw tipped digit away like a midge-fly. The look she gave Xinatra was a guileless as a newborn wokling's, but there was a spark in her amber eyes as she suggested, "Beginner's luck?"

    He slammed both hands down on it, making the handful of chips in front of him jump. "You're cheating, I know it. You and him!" Xinatra's voice had lost all of its Falleen charm. The hours at the sabacc table hadn't been kind to him; the other players were sweaty and rumpled, but the foppish lounge lizard looked like he'd been dragged backwards through a womp rat's den. His magenta vine silk was disheveled and stained with a violent red streak from the spilled cosmic rose shooter, and his topknot was limp and stringy since his pomade had liquefied in the stuffy confines of the game room. He glared wildly between Doran and Baiard. "You're working together!"

    The gamblers at the binspo table exchanged pitying glances, but, of course, it was Kat who spoke up first. "What have you been drinking, you paranoid lizard? First of all, this the Prefect you're talking about, not some floozy from the Coral Vanda circuit. Anyway, Doran's been sitting over here and the Prefect's been next to you the whole time. Don't you think you would have noticed something if they were cheating?"

    Doran took a slug of Kat's leftover whiskey. "Maybe he thinks the Prefect and I are secretly Jedi and we've been using our mind tricks to cheat at cards."

    There was instant of stunned silence at this impious absurdity before the assembled gamblers broke into a chorus of laughter, with Garlynn's twitter hitting the high notes and Spen's guffaw filling in the bass. *Doran!* Baiard's exclamation was only half as scandalized as it could have been; he thought he might even detected a hint of exasperated amusement behind her indignation. He smiled over the rim of his glass. *Sorry. I just couldn't help myself.* Baiard sighed and somehow managed to roll her eyes at him without ever changing expressions.

    Xinatra flushed a mottled yellow-orange. "Fine, laugh all you want, but I'm sick of this farce." He shoved his remaining credit chips to the center of the table. "I'm all in. Dav?"

    Nivin gave both Xinatra and the Baiard a long, measuring look, and apparently decided that he liked his odds. He pushed his chips in with Xinatra's. "All in," he said, turning a suave smile towards Baiard. "Now, how about you, dear Prefect?"
     
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  22. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    The Force had been somewhat of a fickle ally lately, but he supposed he hadn't exactly been a paragon of faithfulness himself.

    LOL at "lately". How long is that, his whole life? :D

    From the way Doran interacts with Baiard here, with Frugly being the symbol of them being a great team in so many ways - one hands him over to the other and then, they continue to do the same with their thoughts, without any effort, whatsoever, and even though they're cheating at the game, it says a lot about their actual connection. Her Force-sensitivity serves like a Chekhov's Gun here and it's incredible, but I suspect that, in the next chapter, she might have flashback from the very beginning of the story, as that is one of the obstacles that she has to overcome, either way.

    Have I ever told you that I love how you address her by her last name in this story and its prequel? It gives such a distinctive voice to the narrator, it makes me wonder if it's, somehow, [hl='black']older Doran/Domnic writing a book about his life[/hl] and if [hl='black']once they are finally a thing, he will call her Raissa[/hl].

    As far as poker and sabacc rules go, I'm afraid that I don't know enough to determine if the sabacc faces, bluffing etc here were right, so I'll trust you. And hope that Xinatra's comments don't mean that he's suspecting something.

    That said, that dude has an appropriate name, too. Women were often lusting after his equivalent in this galaxy without a clear reason. Maybe he was full of pheromones, too. XD
     
  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Terrific musings from Doran as the game progresses and a very pleasant surprise about the "mental teamwork" with Raissa. ;) :)
     
  24. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Well, surely the Force was on his side at some point in his life. When he was a baby....

    [face_whistling]

    The actual rules and gameplay of sabacc are pretty vague; it seems like a hybrid of poker and blackjack played with tarot cards. For the purposes of this chapter, I treat it more like blackjack than poker. Any deviations from canon/legends sabacc can be chalked up to house rules at the Azure Kroyie :D

    :) And Xinatra gets even less attractive as the game wears on...

    Chapter 9: Tournament, part 2
    Baiard hesitated. *Are you sure about this? If we lose, then Verraro wins the Café Alderaan, and....?

    She didn't finish the thought, but Doran knew what came next. "The what happens to you?" An excellent question... If Verraro won the Café Alderaan, he might let Doran stay on as a waiter or dish washer, if he was feeling kind. Doran had ever seen him display that particular virtue. Like most Hutts, his idea of mercy was slamming gorgs against the table to knock them out before slurping them down and spitting out their heads. His rivals tended not to be so lucky. So the answer to Baiard's unspoken question was if they lost, Doran would lose his job, his home, and, in the ultimate cosmic irony, the life he'd chosen over returning to his first life with Alyse. He suppressed the urge to throw back his head and laugh hysterically at fate, the Force, and everything. Pull yourself together, man. Wallowing in self-pity wasn't going to do them any good. He need to be like Baiard, putting aside other concerns and focusing on the task at hand. Faith he told himself. He needed to have faith and trust in the Force. Right. Doran pulled together every scrap of belief he could muster-- a pitifully small amount, it seemed-- and answered, We're not going to lose. The Force is on our side. All in*

    "All in," Baiard repeated, sliding Doran's credit stick forward. Her hands and voice were steady, but her momentary indecision hadn't escaped the other players' notice. Nivin's smile was almost sympathetic if it hadn't been for the calculation in his eyes, but Xinatra's expression could only be described as a smirk.

    "Wonderful! Ahem." Verraro wiped a trace of drool from the corner of his mouth as he surveyed the credits in front of him. It seemed though he was civilized enough not to slaver over piles of cash like your average Hutt gangster, he couldn't entirely suppress his baser instincts. "And so, we come to the final hand in our little tournament. For this round, gentles and...heh heh heh...lady," He raised an eyebrow at Baiard, causing his fez to tilt precariously. "We'll be playing according to Rylothean rules. I find it makes things more...hmm... dramatic!" He fanned out the card chips with a flourish, gathered them back, and began to shuffle.

    *Rylothean rules?* There was more than a hint of "good skies, now what?" to Baiard's query.

    *Card chips dealt face up, so you can see everyone's hands. Makes things more dramatic, all right, mostly because it makes it easier to cheat, especially for the house. The slimeball's up to something; I'd bet my blaster on it.*

    *You already have,* she reminded him, rather unnecessarily, Doran thought.

    Rylothen rules might make things more dramatic, but not from three meters away. Irn La'Zar peered through his magnifying lens glasses. "Er...my eyes aren't what they used to be. Would you mind terribly if...?" Without waiting for an answer, the old Caarite stood and started shuffling toward the sabacc table. Lufft rose, too. "Nah, 'course he doesn't. Anyway, Kat has eyes like a probe droid. She'll make sure no one cheats."

    Kat tsked. "Well, come on, you two nerfherders," she said motioning to Doran and Spen. ''We might as well go up there with the rest of them."

    Verraro gave the cards one last theatrical shuffle and began dealing until each player had two cards face up in front of them. Nivin held the ten of staves and the six of coins for a respectable total of sixteen, but Xinatra had the seven and eleven of flasks and Baiard had the mistress of staves and the four of coins, adding up to eighteen each. And Verraro had the master of flasks and the five of sabers-- twenty.

    Nivin shook his head and flipped his cards over. "I surrender," he said, surprising Doran. In all the years he'd played sabacc, he didn't think he'd ever seen anyone take the option to surrender-- to end their stake in the hand and have half their bet returned. Judging by their astonished expressions, the other gamblers were as surprised as he was. Nivin shrugged eloquently andgave a thin smile that barely quirked the corners of his mouth. "Better to leave with something than nothing."

    "Quite right, quite right. A perfectly respectable choice." Verraro nodded and clucked his slab-like tongue sympathetically. "Would either of you like to surrender as well? I remind you, you must decide before you take any card chips. Master Xinatra? Vice-Prefect?"

    "E chu ta," Xinatra snarled. "I'm in this to win."

    Baiard turned pink at the Falleen's profanity. "Not the way I would have phrased it, but...yes...I'm...". She paused, frowning as if she heard something in the distance--or sensed something; Doran felt it at the same moment, the ripples in the Force that heralded a change in possiblities. The cards were shifting, images flickering across the faces of the chips too quickly to be discerned, unless, of course, you were a Jedi. Doran saw what they would be before the changing pictures finally settled, and...Shavit!. The mistress of staves had vanished from Baiard's hand, replaced by the three of sabers, and the six of coins had dwindled by two-thirds, leaving her with the paltry sum of five. Xinatra, on the other hand, now had the seven of flasks and the mistress of coins, for twenty-one points. But worst of all, for both of them, the eight of staves had joined the master of flasks, making...

    "Well, well, well," the Hutt purred. "Pure sabacc. Would either of you like to reconsider now?"

    "Urpghurit, sleemo," Xinatra growled. "Hit me."

    "Very well." Verraro smiled like a tooka in the bird cote and flipped down a card: the ace of staves. Thirty-five. Busted and more than busted.

    "Baay shfat! You scrunty prugnuficating spoggick! You slimy excuse for a she-Hutt!" Xinatra's face mottled several unattractive shades of orange as he ranted. "You cheating pile of bantha poodoo! I'm never playing at your kriffing cantina again!"

    "Yes, yes." Doran could have sworn he saw wisps of smoke rolling from Baiard's ears, but the Hutt simply waved away the foul-mouthed Falleen's impressive string of imprecations. "You say that every time. Now, will you please step away from my sabacc table, or do I need to have Wilmot assist you?" Xinatra gave one last snarl as he stepped away, leaving Baiard the last player sitting there. She glanced around the empty table, "Wait, did I just win?"

    Verraro chortled his burbling slime laugh again. "I'm afraid not; you still need to beat the house-- that's me." His expression was such a treacly confection of false sympathy and barely concealed gloating that it made Doran's teeth hurt. His fingers itched to smack it off the Hutt's face, but he would only have gotten them in stuck in slime and blubber. "It's quite incredible that a rank amateur like you has made it this far but, the odds that you'd be able to tie me and then win the standoff hand are slim to none, and, as they say, slim has left the system. Take my advice: forget about the lightsabers, surrender and I'll even let Doran keep a...minority interest... in the Café Alderaan."

    Something like a growl crept into Baiard's thoughts and Doran saw a muscle tighten in her jaw. Her perfect sabacc face had turned into a frown. Around them, the assembled spectators seemed to hold their breath. To them it must have looked like she was considering Verraro's offer as she paused to read the top card on the deck. The image that came to him from her was a jeering lizard monkey capering across the card chip. Doran nearly spewed his mouthful of whiskey. *Minions of Xendor, Baiard! Do you know what this means?*

    *I may have mentioned I've never played this game before.*

    *It's the Idiot!*

    *Well, that explains everything...

    Doran could hardly contain his glee as he explained. *With a two and a three, it makes the Idiot's Array...the one hand that beats Pure Sabacc!* Incredible as it seemed, the Force really was with them.

    It took a moment for it to sink in, until finally, a slow wonder kindled within her; she sat, stunned. Encouraged by Baiard's continued silence, Verraro leaned forward, his smile even sicklier, his voice low and wheedling. "What do you say, Vice-Prefect? It's a generous offer, one I won't make again."

    Baiard locked eyes with him. "It's Prefect," she said, and tapped the sabacc table emphatically with one finger. "Hit me."

    Time seemed to slow so that Doran saw everything that happened next in perfect, Force-aided clarity. Verraro, face now twisted into a sneer, laid a stubby finger against the top card chip, and slid it off the deck towards himself, a sly maneuver that allowed him to peek at its face before it was technically dealt. The Hutt's slit-pupils contracted just noticeably when he saw it, and he tapped card's lower left corner with a fat thumb. When Verraro laid it next to Baiard's hand, it wasn't the grinning face of the Idiot that greeted them, but the compass-pointed Star. Worth a dismal minus seventeen points, it brought Baiard's score into negative numbers.

    Watching a spectacular sabacc loss was a lot like seeing someone get slugged in the gut. You might hate that person, you might think they had it coming, but there was always that moment of sympathy when you could imagine yourself being sucker punched that way, too. A collective wince passed through the gamblers, followed by a chorus of gasps, a nasty reptilian snicker, and Lufft's trademark whistle. *He cheated! Did you see that? He cheated!. The moral outrage in Baiard's spilled over onto her features, and she stood, pushing away from the sabacc table.

    ''Heh heh heh! It appears you lose, Vice-Prefect." Verraro didn't bother to conceal his gloating now. "What a pity."

    He reached forward to sweep her cards away, but Baiard stopped him. "I'd like to take a look at that last card, if you don't mind," she said, grasping his wrist. That unheard-of trespass against the gangster's exalted being, even more than her request, sucked the air from the room like a thermal detonator in an airlock. Swifty La'Zar began inching way from the sabacc table at a pace that disproved his nickname while Xinatra, still grinning over Baiard's defeat, looked like he he wanted some bang-corn to go with the main event. Nivin tapped Doran on the shoulder. "You ought to do something before the lady gets herself hurt." Doran swallowed a snort; the Coruscanti might be able to charm the ladies, but he knew nothing about Baiard. He wasn't about to interfere and get thumped again for his "misguided chivalry." Besides, the last time he'd seen that steely look in her eyes, she'd stunned her commanding officer, concocted a scheme to rearrange his memories, and smuggled a pair of Jedi off-world. It was definitely he better part of valor to stand back and let the woman work.

    Verraro drew himself up and shook her hand off. His nostrils flared once before he twisted his mouth back into a condescending smirk. "Come now. You've never played sabacc before, yet you get to the final hand of an elite tournament, and you accuse me of cheating? "

    If he expected Baiard to be daunted, he was wrong. She'd recovered her Imperial composure and was once again standing straight and tall in her dress grays. "I am within my rights as Prefect to investigate an intent to defraud."

    "Oh, this is rich; now I have 'intent to defraud'. How typical of an Imperial officer, to bend the law when she can't get what she wants." Doran could feel the Hutt's anger festering behind the facade of wounded dignity. No talked to him this way. No one defied him this way... A current of cold calculation ran beneath the seething hatred. His smile tightened. "I think you're not nearly as virtuous as you like to pretend: cheating at cards, strong arming citizens, ahem..bedroom escapades. Why, I believe you do the late Prefect Renau credit."

    *That chuff-sucking leech!* Verraro the Hutt, whose morals were as pure as a pile of raw bantha poodoo, dared to question Baiard's virtue? Inconceivable....and yet, that would be the talk in the marketplace tomorrow. Xinatra at least, the greedy lizard, was nodding smugly along. The others might preface it with "I don't believe it, but..." but they would repeat it. Gamblers were worse gossips than bored housewives. He'd told Baiard something would replace their supposed relationship as news, but damned if he was going to let it be that. *I'm going to feed him into a trash compactor slowly, tail first. And whatever's left, I'm going to run through again.* He didn't realize he'd taken a step forward, reaching for his blaster until he felt Kat's restraining hand on his shoulder. Next to him, Frugly was snarling like a crazed nexu. He thought the roba agreed with his plan.

    Baiard only half-turned, keeping her eyes on the Hutt as she commanded, "Frugly, down." Frugly whined unhappily, but sat. He looked up with an expression Doran could only translate as, "you'll bite him for me, won't you?" *Maybe not bite, but I'll handle him. *

    *No, I'll handle him.* "Shall I tell you what I think? I think that you never meant for anyone to win this tournament. After all, one lightsaber on the black market would fetch...oh, enough to buy the Café Alderaan. If an honest officer like me knows that, then surely the leader of Merkesh City's criminal activities does, too. But offering them as a prize in your tournament was guaranteed to bring in fierce competition and hefty bets." Baiard's smile rivaled Verraro's best for sweetness and her tone was oh-so-reasonable. "Come now, Verraro, surely there's no harm in having a look if you've got nothing to hide." Doran felt the subtle pull of her will, directed not at the Hutt but at the other players.

    *Clever, Baiard. Very clever.*.
    And it was working; a ripple of unease travelled through them. Cheating among sabacc players was as common as sand on Merkesh, but it still provoked bar brawls and shiv-fights. The idea that the house would rig a tournament so that no one won....Verraro would be lucky if they only fed him slowly through a trash compactor. As the turbulence built, several of the gamblers fidgeted nervously; Lufft adjusted a boot, while Garlyn fiddled with the ornament securing her topknot.

    It was Kat, as scrupulous in her own way as Baiard, who broke the tense silence. "Let her see it." She underscored her words by slipping an ugly little vibro-shiv from up her sleeve. Spen produced a matching blade from his belt pouch. Murmurs of agreement came from all sides. A snub blaster appeared from the Lufft's boot, Garlyn's feather clip turned out to have a wicked stiletto blade, and Nivin was cleaning his nails with something silver and unnecessarily sharp. Only Swifty and Xinatra made no move. The old Caarite looked about ready to pass out; the Falleen simply looked derisive.

    Baiard's glance flicked between the array of weapons that had suddenly appeared, and Doran felt her chagrin *Oh, good skies, I overdid it again. I didn't think I used enough Force to make them all pull weapons over a game, but...*

    *It wasn't you. Sabacc's no game, Baiard. Not with these kinds of credits on the line.*.

    Verraro's tail lashed as he surveyed the scene. His anger hardened into a cold lump of hatredand Doran found himself reaching for his blaster. If he decided to call for the muscle-bound thugs that served as the casino's security, things were going to get uglier than a rathtar's rear, and fast. Nivin, at least, was close enough to stick his blade into the Hutt's flab, and Lufft's could probably get off one good shot before the bully squad arrived. Verraro calculated his odds much the same way. He glared at Baiard through slitted eyes and hissed, "I see that I have no choice."

    "Thank you," Baiard somehow managed to reply without irony. "Master Nivin, if would you pick up the card with the star on it for me, please, and tap it twice in the lower left corner?

    Nivin complied; with the first tap, the card chip went blank, on the second, a grinning lizard monkey popped onto the screen. "The Idiot's Array. She won."

    "How did she know that, though?" Xinatra sneered. "If she's so kriffing honest, how did she know she had the Array?"

    "Exactly. Thank you." Verraro could change faces faster than a Clawdite; he was once again the soul aggrieved honor.

    "Shut up, both of you." Kat, as usual, wasn't about to put up with any poodoo, not even from from a criminal kingpin. Doran remembered now why he'd always liked her. "I don't give a vrelt's back end if she shuffled tracked, marked cards, or used Jedi mind tricks to pull it out of your sleazy little brain, Verraro. She's right. You never meant for any of us to get those sabers, but the Prefect beat you, and called you at rotten scheme. Now play nice and get the sabers for the Prefect." She pointed her shiv towards Verraro's heart, assuming he had one. "And don't even think of calling for your goons unless you'd like to be turned into a Hutt-kabob."

    Verraro's only reply this time was an incoherent snarl. His tail thumped against the dais again as he leaned forward and reached beneath the sabacc table. Doran tensed, his hand on his blaster, and saw Baiard do the same, but the Hutt only brought up a battered metal strongbox, which he thrust at Baiard with another low growl.

    She opened it with trembling hands, half-expecting it to blow in her face. The lid swung up with a creak. Doran glimpsed flashes of silver, bronze and black. *They're beautiful...*. He felt Baiard's longing to run a finger over the shining hilts, but she slammed the shut before she could betray herself.

    "Don't forget the rest of your winnings, Prefect Baiard," Nivin called.

    "What?"

    "Your winnings." Nivin gestured towards the messy pile of credit chips and sticks in the center of the table. "It's rather a lot."

    "Hmm." She considered the heap of cash, which was likely more than an Imperial officer...at least an honest officer... could earn in several lifetimes. Finally, she pulled Doran's credit stick from it and handed it to him. "I only came for the lightsabers; the rest of you can have whatever is yours. Mistress Hibburn, Master Nivin, can I trust you to ensure that everyone is fairly reimbursed?"

    Kat and Nivin exchanged dumbstruck glances before murmuring their assent; the rest of the gamblers gawked at Baiard in a kind of disbelieving wonder. Even Xinatra's sneer had lost most of itshostility. Baiard being Baiard, she didn't notice any of this. She tucked the strongbox under one arm, and saluted Verraro with the other. "The Empire thanks you for your service. Come, Frugly." She left the gaming room, roba padding behind, with a crowd of astonished gamblers and one outraged Hutt rubbernecking after her.

    At that moment, Doran had to agree with Syd Lufft; Prefect Raissa Baiard was one helluva woman.
     
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  25. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    That was...well, it had me on the edge of my seat! I know how long it took you to finish it, and you absolutely aced it. The exchange among the characters during the game was tense and the moment when I thought Raissa lost was like NOOOOOOOOOOOOO NOOOOOOOOOOO and then, boom, she had the Idiot's Array, out of all things. YOU GO, GIRL! ^:)^^:)^^:)^

    Xinatra was extremely amusing. He rivals some of the most foul-mouthed OCs on this board. A real charmer. :p I laughed.

    Doran will definitely have to evaluate her now. As far as I'm concerned, she passed her trials. :) At the same time, he might be able to have more faith in himself. We know him as extremely jaded, even from his youngest appearance in "Proud of Your Boy", so I am wondering if this is about to change...now. This seems like a good situation for that.

    And this may be one of the most brutally realistic sentences I have ever read in any fic. I loved it.

    Like most Hutts, his idea of mercy was slamming gorgs against the table to knock them out before slurping them down and spitting out their heads.
     
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