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Saga - PT Light of Lasan (pre-Rebels; Zeb/OC romance; Lasan Series)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Findswoman, Jan 25, 2019.

  1. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Author: Findswoman
    Title: Light of Lasan
    Era: Saga—PT (around 18 BBY)
    Characters: Shulma Trilasha (OC), Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios, Chava the Wise, various other Lasat OCs
    Genre: Romance, drama, ritual, a certain amount of mush
    Contents: Six chapters: One (below) | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six
    Summary: Two young betrothed Lasat—a shaman and an Honor Guard officer—unexpectedly find themselves with important roles to perform at one of their homeworld’s most important ceremonies, and both encounter stresses and setbacks as they prepare.
    Notes: Part of the Lasan Series and recently rescued from the throes of long-wait-to-post-itis, as most of it was written over a year ago. On the canon and fanon sources of the lore incorporated in this and other stories in this series, see here. As always, I thank @Raissa Baiard for beta-reading, collaboration, and all-round encouragement. @};-


    One

    High on the summit of Mount Straga, the tallest and grandest of the mountains that dominate the northern hemisphere of Lasan, a young second-degree shaman sat in her study chamber at the Royal Lasat Academy of Shamans, engrossed in the study of her people’s ancient tomes. For many weeks now she had spent her days there in study and meditation, busily preparing for her advancement to the first degree of Lasat shamanism.

    The text before her was one of the central prophetic works of her tradition, as foundational and essential as it was arcane and convoluted. She had been poring over it since early morning, engaging with its archaisms and intricacies in a regular cycle of reading, note taking, and meditation. But now that the gold-purple tinge of evening was beginning to creep over the sky, her mind was beginning to wander, and the words on the page began to blur together. The ancient homeworld… the Fool… the Warrior… or something...

    She found her eyes wandering, too, away from the book and over to the large, unusually shaped dark red-purple crystal, shot through with gold striations. that stood on one corner of her desk. It was almost half again as large as her hand and was shaped almost like an irregular cup or shell surrounded by crystalline projections. Beneath it, weighted by it at one corner, was a flimsiplast-printed holoimage. Placing a length of ribbon horizontally across the page to mark her place in the dense text, she took the holoimage gently from under the crystal and looked at it.

    It showed a handsome young military officer in the armor and uniform vest of the Lasan High Honor Guard. His eyes were bright leaf-green, his sideburns and beard were neatly trimmed, and he hefted in his strong, striped arms the traditional weapon of the Honor Guard—a Lasan-Malamut AB-75 bo-rifle. The young shaman spent several moments gazing on this image, then turned it over to read the words scrawled on the back:

    MY DEAREST SHULMA I miss you so much the Southern Plateaus are boring as all getout the new ration packets make me retch and I’m gonna strangle Groz if he drops one more of his nasty chewed-up sigarra ends on my bunk but I still think about you every day and can’t wait till we’re together again with all my love ZEB

    A wistful smile brightened Shulma’s face, and a gentle sigh escaped her lips. Yes, this was her Zeb, her soldier, her love—the one who had been courting her for almost eight years, who almost two years ago had presented her with the purple-red betrothal stone that now adorned her desk. That had been just after his first, mandatory tour of duty with the Honor Guard; too soon afterward he had chosen to go on a second, in the interest of advancing his rank. This had come as no small disappointment to Shulma, of course, but she ultimately consented; it would at least give her time to advance in her calling as well, and perhaps to attain the rank of first-degree shaman before marrying. Zeb had promised her they would begin planning their wedding as soon as he returned home—which could be any time between a week from now and an entire dust season from now.

    Ah, my Zeblove! Shulma leaned back in her chair, clasping the holoimage to her breast and closing her eyes. She never thought she would fall in love with a military man—when she was younger she was sure she would promise herself either to another shaman or to one of the miners that worked alongside her brothers. Youths from both vocations, indeed, had attempted to woo her early on. But the miner, though hale and strong, had been as dull as the chunks of ore he dug from the ground—and the shaman, though deeply learned, had been a brittle, anemic youth likely to be snapped in half by the slightest wilderness breeze. Zeb, however—a gifted Honor Guard lieutenant—was blessed strength not only of body but also of mind and spirit—a keen wit, a strong sense of honor, and a true thirst for what was right. Not to mention those eyes… those sideburns… that beard… those stripes...

    She sighed again; she simply couldn’t help it. At least none of her fellow shamans were nearby to see the melt-puddle she had become…

    “Well, well, child. It looks like you are very hard at work on the Fifth Tractate of Prophecy. Yes, very hard at work indeed.”

    Shulma jumped; the holoimage fluttered to the floor. Standing before her was a diminutive, elderly Lasat female whose white hair was done up in an immense bouffant—none other than the High Shaman of Lasan herself, Chava the Wise, the head of the Academy and the chief of all shamans on Lasan. Immediately Shulma fell to her knees with her head bowed.

    “Apologies, Wise Chava… I became distracted, and…”

    Chava offered the younger shaman a hand and raised her to her feet. “Oh, no need to apologize, child. Everything you’re feeling I felt once too, you know. And don’t forget your nice holo, now. He’s quite a fine specimen, isn’t he!” She picked up the holoimage and returned it to a deeply blushing Shulma, who immediately refastened one of its corners beneath the betrothal stone.

    “Now, I have a task for you,” Chava continued, seating herself on one of the spare chairs nearby. Shulma sat as well. “You know, of course, that the Storm Solstice is approaching in less than a month.”

    “Yes, of course, Wise Chava.”

    “I have been in consultation with the Consistory, and we have decided to invite you to preside over the ceremony this year.”

    Shulma could barely stifle a gasp. The Storm Solstice was one of the most momentous occasions on Lasan’s calendar; it marked the highest point of Lasan’s sun, as well as the beginning of the Dust Season, when dangerous dust storms would begin to ravage the face of the already arid world. Each year, on that day, the shamans of the Royal Academy conducted a lengthy ritual on the Royal Lasat Parade Grounds to invoke the protection of the Ashla during that perilous time of year, and it was considered a great honor to participate in that ceremony in any capacity—let alone as presider. “Me, preside over the Storm Solstice ceremony? But, Wise Chava—”

    “Yes, child?”

    “I—I haven’t even reached the First yet—and my staff is not yet fitted for a focusing stone—how can I possibly—”

    “Be calm, child!” Chava placed a hand on her pupil’s shoulder. “For one thing, as far as I’m concerned, you have reached the First. Your knowledge of the sacred lore is already well beyond what the examination requires. For another, it will not be hard to find you a focusing stone. The foundry has a whole cabinet full of them. And for a third thing, there is no rule that says the Storm Solstice presider must be a First. That’s custom more than anything else. The Storm Solstice presider may be anyone the Consistory deems worthy and able. And you, child”—she pointed at Shulma with a long, gaunt finger—“are the one they have deemed worthy and able.”

    “I’m certainly honored, Wise Chava, but... do you think I’ll be able to learn all the incantations in time? I have never performed an invocation chant that long before, and so many of them are in the older modes…”

    Chava considered this for a moment. “Well, yes, the Storm Solstice chants are particularly long and intricate, that is true... but you have plenty of time to learn them between now and then, child. I think everything will be fine. And everyone loves your chanting.”

    Shulma lowered her face, feeling more blushes rise. “Thank you, Wise Chava. I’ll—I’ll do the best I can.”

    “I know you will, child. And remember the custom: you are to tell no one outside the Academy about this before the ritual takes place.”

    “Of course, Wise Chava.”

    “Now I’ll let you get back to your reading and studying. Don’t be nervous, dear one. Remember that the Ashla will watch over you.”

    “And you as well, Wise Chava,” Shulma replied, bowing her head.

    * * *

    Once Chava was gone, Shulma skimmed as quickly as she could to the end of her chapter of the Fifth Tractate of Prophecy, scribbled down a few notes, slapped the tome closed, and replaced it on the small bookshelf beside her desk. Then she took from her shelf the standard-issue shamanic chant compendium—a thick, bricklike black volume—and turned to the pages with the incantations for the Storm Solstice festival. They filled more than twenty pages, and most of them were in the more difficult cantillation modes, but she had no choice; she had to start on them now if she wanted to know them thoroughly in time for the Storm Solstice festival.

    She had just barely stumbled through the opening invocation when she noticed how low the sun had sunk in the sky. It was at least half an hour later than when she usually left the academy. She would have to hurry home to help her mother prepare the evening meal in time for her father return home from the mines at dusk; tonight her older twin brothers and their wives would be joining them as well, as they always did at the end of the week.

    Shulma sprang from her desk, threw on her cloak, and grabbed her bantha-leather satchel from a hook on the wall. For a moment she hesitated about whether to bring the book of chants home with her. Per Chava’s instruction and longstanding custom, she knew it was forbidden to let anyone outside the academy know that she had been chosen to lead the Storm Solstice ceremony. But every extra bit of practice would help—and it was not as though her family would suspect anything. They were all miners and mining officials, and none of them had ever taken any particular interest in her shamanic studies anyway.

    Sliding the holoimage into the book to mark her place, she stashed the book in her satchel and headed downstairs to board the funicular that connected the academy complex to the base of Mount Straga. No one else was aboard, so once again she took out the book and tried to work her way through a few more of the Storm Solstice chants. But the rumbling and clattering of the ancient funicular mechanism made it difficult for her to concentrate, so she replaced the book in her bag.

    Presently the car reached the foot of the mountain, and she stepped out. No sooner had she done so than she felt strong hands on her shoulders, gently peeling away her cloak, and heard a familiar husky voice in her ear:

    “You won’t need this. It’s warm out.”

    She spun around, dropping her satchel. Before her was none other than the young officer from the holoimage, who pulled her toward him for a tender, lingering kiss.

    “Zeb!—What are you—when did you—”

    “No need to sound so surprised!” he chuckled, still holding her. “Weren’t expectin’ me, were ya?”

    “Well, I thought it would be at least another half-season or so... when did you arrive?”

    “Transport just got in this morning,” he said as he draped her cloak carefully over his own shoulder. “Came as a surprise me too, but that’s life in the Guard for ya… aw, I’ll get that for you, darlin’,” he added as he saw her bending down to pick up her satchel, which he picked up instead. “Karabast, this is heavy! What have you got in here, anyway?!”

    “Karabast yourself, soldier!” Shulma tweaked Zeb’s beard playfully; he responded with a smirk. “Certainly you’ve heard of books before!”

    Zeb eyed the satchel with indignation. “Aw, don’t tell me that old bag gave you penance reading!

    “What would Wise Chava give me penance reading for? Forgetting to return books to the reading room? Besides, Zeblove”—she reached up to stroke one of his sideburns with her finger—“you shouldn’t talk about her that way. It’s not polite, you know.”

    “All right, all right, if you say so.” Zeb cracked a smile as he slung the satchel over his shoulder. He offered Shulma his arm, and they began to walk together along the track that led through the valley. A lazy afternoon sun was shining on the surrounding slopes, tinting them orange and gold. “So, have they made my wild mountain flower a First yet?”

    “Well, Wise Chava says I know the lore well enough, but…”

    “But what?”

    “Well, it turns out the examinations aren’t going to be held till the week just before Storm Solstice. But Rishla and Yhazi and I have been meeting each week to study, and—” She glanced over at him, noting the pensive look that palled his craggy features. “I know why you’re asking, of course, love. But take heart. It’s only a slight setback, and it won’t be long.”

    “Oh, no, no, no, it’s not that at all”—then, hastily correcting himself—“I mean, of course there’s nothing I’m looking forward to more than planning our wedding—but I was just thinkin’, right after Storm Solstice, the Guard will have its expedition to the poles, and if I go—”

    “Wait, what? Expedition? What for?”

    “Extreme weather conditions training. It would only be for a few months, but—”

    “AI GARAZEB AI AVISHAI KH’SA’-NEREZEB-GA’ ORRELIOS!” The ground seemed to tremble at Shulma’s angry utterance as she pulled free from Zeb and stood facing him, eyes flashing. Zeb could not suppress a shudder at hearing the full ceremonial form of his name, including the patronymic usually reserved for shamanic rituals. “You are not going on another tour of duty!”

    “B-but Shulma, it’s not—”

    “Immaterial, soldier,” Shulma growled through gritted teeth. The air seemed to crackle around her. “You’ve already gone on two tours of duty in a row, and it’s taken you five whole years.”

    “N-now, that’s not quite right, darlin’…” Zeb’s voice trembled slightly. When Shulma was in moods like this, she always seemed on the verge of calling forth thunder and lightning from the sky—and with her shamanic training she probably really could. “It’s—it’s only been two years, remember?”

    “Two years? By which of those fancy Military Academy math courses do you calculate two years?

    “I came back from deployment, gave you the betrothal stone, a-and—”

    “Yes, you came back for one measly season, gave me the stone, then gallivanted off on your merry way to the Southern Plateaus for two years to ‘advance your rank’ or whatever such. I’ve had it with being apart from you, Garazeb.” She emphasized this utterance with a stamp of her foot that Zeb could have sworn actually shook the ground. “If we’re going to be betrothed, we should act like it.” Then, in a softer voice, as she drew closer to him and slid her hands around his neck: “The stone is nice, but I’d really rather have you.”

    “Aw, well, if you put it like that—” He leaned downward.

    “I absolutely do.” She stretched up into his kiss, and for a moment they stood there together, fused.

    “Well, maybe I’ll go some other year,” he conceded, as they separated and resumed their walk.

    “That’s more like it, Zeblove.” She nuzzled her head against his shoulder. “Besides, I think your rank is plenty advanced, don’t you?”

    “My rank? Well, er—”

    “Yes, Senior Lieutenant Orrelios, your rank. You said you wanted to get at least to Middle Lieutenant first. So you are doing quite admirably, methinks.”

    “Well, see, the thing is—” Zeb glanced down at the rank pips on the right side of his uniform vest, and as he did his eyes bulged in consternation. “Aw, karabast… just a second…”

    “Zeb, what’s wrong?”

    “Nothing, nothing…” He had turned aside and seemed to be fidgeting frantically with his vest, occasionally grumbling curses. After a few moments he turned back to Shulma and took her arm in his again.

    “There. Sorry about that. Was just… er… straightenin’ my medallion.”

    “Straightening your medallion?”

    “It was… crooked.”

    “Was it, now?” She cocked her head. “Are you hiding something, ai Garazeb? Could it be that you have been—”

    “Could it be that I’ve been what?” Zeb’s eyes narrowed.

    “That your… rank has perhaps changed?”

    He spun around, causing the satchel to fly off his shoulder and land on the ground with a thunk. “Just what are ya trying to say?!”

    “Easy now, darling! Of course I meant changed for the better! Why would I ever for a moment think the opposite?”

    “Ah. Well. Right.” His tone calmed as he sheepishly picked up the satchel again. “Look for yourself, I guess.”

    She looked at his uniform vest. Adorning the right breast was the customary medallion of the Honor Guard. It was of burnished bronze and showed three crossed bo-rifles flanked by two very stylized rampant konculors, ringed by the motto of the Guard:

    PROTECTING THOSE + WHO CANNOT PROTECT THEMSELVES + IS THE BEGINNING OF HONOR +

    Below the medallion was an array of rank insignia: a horizontal metal bar, signifying the rank of lieutenant, and below it were four gleaming pips the shape of four-pointed stars, for the specific rank of senior lieutenant. Everything looked exactly as it had in the holoimage on her desk. And yet she could have sworn she had seen him stash something in a pocket just a moment ago…

    “Well, my mistake, then,” she shrugged at last. “Though, darling, I really must ask you to please be careful with that bag. She really will give me penance reading if anything in there gets broken.”

    “Aw, just let her try,” grumbled Zeb as he shouldered the satchel again, and they continued their walk through the valley. The sun was a little lower now, the sky had taken on a gentle bronze shade. Just coming into view ahead of them were the headframes and clay roofs of a mining village: Flowstone Vale, Shulma’s family’s village.

    “Say,” Zeb remarked at last, “you never did tell me what’s so special about all these books you’re bringing home.”

    “Ah! Well—er—you see—” It was Shulma’s turn to startle at this unexpected question. The sweet surprise of her beloved’s return had banished all thoughts of the Storm Solstice ceremony from her mind. Now, however, it all came crashing over again her like a rockslide on Mount Straga: the intricate ceremonial to be learned, the lengthy chants to be rehearsed, all in less than a month—all in addition to her continued first-degree studies. Worst of all, the custom of shamanic secrecy prevented her from confiding any of this in Zeb. She clutched his arm tighter even as she lowered her face. “Nothing,” she resumed. “It’s nothing.”

    “Doesn’t look like nothin’ to me.” He sounded almost indignant. “Out with it, darlin’. Has someone been—” His face darkened with a sudden realization. “Aw, don’t tell me this is one of those ‘shamanic secrecy’ things!”

    “As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what it is.” She smiled despite herself. “You know me well.”

    “I thought you said the first-degree exam wasn’t like that!”

    Shulma sighed. She had not expected him to remember that little detail; no one else she knew outside the Academy of Shamans ever seemed to remember—or care—about such things. It was a sign that he cared, that he had been paying attention all those times she had written about it in her letters to him. And yet it also meant he had a chance of guessing the truth, and thus breaking the mandate of secrecy.

    “It’s not, that’s true. But Zeblove…”

    “What?!”

    “Please don’t worry about me; I’ll manage.” She placed her other hand on his arm and nestled her head on his shoulder. “Just stay by my side and let me cling to you.”

    “Aw, that I can do.” He turned and placed a kiss on the gracefully tapered tip of her ear, and they walked on.

    By now they were inside the village, strolling down one of its quiet, gravelly roads past squat, sleepy clay-tiled houses. The main headframe, crowned by its five mighty hoisting wheels, loomed in the distance ahead of them. It would not be long before its gigantic lift would deposit hundreds of hungry Lasat miners back beneath the light of the sun—among them Shulma’s father and two elder brothers. At the end of this stretch of road was Shulma’s parents’ house, with those of her brothers and their wives on either side. Zeb and Shulma slowed their pace as they approached, not wanting to end their time together too soon. Once they reached the front porch, they stood for a few moments, hands joined, gazing into each other’s eyes.

    “So, till tomorrow, then?”

    “Yes, of course,” she smiled. “Just like always.”

    “Don’t forget this, now.” Setting her satchel down, he gently draped her cloak back around her—though not before planting a kiss on one smooth, stripe-swirled lavender shoulder.

    “Good night, my Zeblove.”

    “Good night, sweet Shulma.”

    She let him draw her in for one last kiss, and they parted.

    * * *

    “Oh, there you are, Shulma!” A late-middle-aged female Lasat in eyeglasses and a festively colored dress bustled out of the house to meet her daughter, and they exchanged a brief embrace. “What in the name of the Ashla took you so long?”

    ‘Sorry, Mama. I was a bit… delayed on the way.” She decided to say nothing yet of Zeb’s return; that would be her own sweet secret for now.

    “That’s all right, that’s all right. Now why don’t you put your things down and come help me with this roast. Orli and Vefa will be here any moment with the vegetables, and there’s only about an hour before quitting time at the mine.”

    Shulma quickly took her cloak and satchel up her attic room, then went down to the kitchen to help her mother. The rest of the evening went about as she expected: her sisters-in-law arrived and helped put the finishing touches on the meal, her brothers and father returned from the mines, and they all sat down to supper. As usual, the supper conversation revolved around happenings at the mine and the mining office: the week’s ore quotas, a gas leak in northwest shaft number five, the continued malfunctions of the new accounting droid, and assorted bits of gossip about coworkers (“I think Gormdak’s wife is expecting another kit,” announced Chornogar, the eldest brother—which apparently was big news to everyone else). Shulma let it all wash over her in a blur. As the only member of the family who was not in the mining trade, she often felt she had very little to say at such gatherings—but tonight, with her Storm Solstice tasks looming, that came as somewhat of a relief.

    Later in the evening, while the others were conversing over ale and geniper liquor in the parlor or out on the porch, she retired to her room, took the chant book from her satchel, and seated herself at her desk. The holoimage of Zeb still marked her place. Opening the book and slipping it out, she gave it a tiny kiss before leaning it against her desk lamp. Then she resumed her chanting where she had left off, directing her soft accents to the beloved face before her.

    to be continued



    The Honor Guard medallion is mentioned on the Wook as being one of Zeb’s personal effects. No specific design or description of it exists in canon, however, and so that part is my own fanon, as are the design and configuration of the rank insignia. In fact, here ’tis, in the form of a quick-’n’-dirty pencil drawing:
    [​IMG]
    The motto was devised by @Raissa Baiard in The Beginning of Honor. Just pretend it’s not in Earth Roman characters on the medallion. ;)

    The bricklike black chant book is based on the Liber Usualis. I have one on my own desk at work, too.

    konculor, Mount Straga, Academy of Shamans: All described in our Lasat fanon post. The konculor is a predatory feline beast and the creation of Raissa Baiard; the Academy of Shamans and Mount Straga (whose associations with the Italian word strega, “witch,” are perhaps obvious) are my creations.

    The custom of the betrothal stone is fanon as well, and likewise described in the Lasat fanon post (under the heading “Children, Family, Courtship”).

    “the shaman, though deeply learned, had been a brittle, anemic youth”: The story of his failed courtship of Shulma is told in The Sad, Sad Story of Porfozald Marballees.

    The Consistory: I haven’t yet decided if this fanon term of mine is basically synonymous with the Revered Masters or if it’s the subset of the Revered Masters that govern the Academy of Shamans. In any case, it has eight members in my fanon.

    “The ancient homeworld… the Fool… the Warrior…”: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Prophecy_of_the_Three. Note which of the three prophesied figures from that episode is missing here (and those who know “Legends of the Lasat” will know to whom it refers).

    The village of Flowstone Vale is fanon.

    Wookieepedia links:
    Ashla: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Ashla
    AB-75 bo-rifle: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Bo-rifle
    Lasan High Honor Guard: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Lasan_High_Honor_Guard
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2019
    Vek Talis, Kahara, TheRynJedi and 2 others like this.
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    :D :D What an honor Shulma has received, to preside over the Storm Solstice ceremony but memorizing long chants in an archaic language :eek:

    Chava is encouraging and very understanding even about Shulma's distraction ;)

    The Shulma/Zeb scene was DELICIOUS! Shulma was intimidating when she insisted that Zeb not go on another tour of duty. [face_laugh]
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2019
  3. TheRynJedi

    TheRynJedi Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Jun 20, 2018
    Yay, Zeb/Shulma loveys :zeb:❤️. Eagerly looking forward to the rest of this story!
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
  4. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    So exciting! A Zeb/Shulma romance! (can we call them Garashul? Shulmazeb?) :D

    This is a momentous thing for Shulma. She is so very serious about her studies - a Lasat Hermione Granger, if you will. She wants to Get It Right in all ways, even to the point of making sure she advances by the book. I'm sure she will spend every waking second studying those incantations. If Chava the Wise thinks she can do it, then she can.

    I love this look at them as they have their whole future ahead of them. There she is with the beautiful stone he acquired for her, and his photo - with such a Zeb-ish inscription on the back.
    What a dreamboat he is. Those stripes....[face_love][face_love][face_love] Girl, don't get all worked up now!

    I like that she met up with him as a surprise on her way home. The banter was great. But what is he hiding?
    What is in the vest? :zeb: Being sneaky with a shaman usually won't work...I bet she will figure it out.

    The look at her home is so sweet. It makes me sad to think of what will happen to her family and to Lasat when the Empire arrives.

    Now that I read this,
    I'm wondering - does your background as a musician play into the whole idea of Shulma's practices? [face_thinking]

    Great start and I am looking forward to more!
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2019
  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    "Garashul" and "Marzra" [face_dancing] ^:)^ These OTP blends do have a ring. [face_laugh]
     
    Kahara and Findswoman like this.
  6. Vek Talis

    Vek Talis Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Oct 12, 2018
    Yes, this was her Zeb, her soldier, her love

    The man incapable of using punctuation. :p


    Yes, very hard at work indeed.

    [face_laugh]


    The foundry has a whole cabinet full of them.

    Stones? They've got them up there, just laying around on the ground. :D


    And everyone loves your chanting.

    Shulma got an 'A' in chanting. :p


    They were all miners and mining officials, and none of them had ever taken any particular interest in her shamanic studies anyway.

    Foreshadowing of the “This can't possibly go wrong,” kind? [face_mischief]


    And yet it also meant he had a chance of guessing the truth, and thus breaking the mandate of secrecy.

    If he guesses it, then she didn't tell him, so she didn't do anything wrong. :D


    Good story so far. And good to see those two, crazy kits together again. :)
     
    Kahara, divapilot and Findswoman like this.
  7. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and commenting! Always a pleasure to have each of you. :)

    It's a big task, all right, but Chava wouldn't have selected Shulma for it if she didn't think she could! And as someone who has experience of my own in memorizing long chants in an archaic language (really!), I know just how hard and intimidating that process can be, even when one is experienced at it—how much more so for one who is still a learner, however talented! :eek:

    Oh, indeed! She knows what's what—in my fanon understanding of things, she's been there herself. [face_love]

    Thank you, I'm so glad you liked it! :) This was actually one of the first romantic scenes I ever wrote between these two (long consumed by a combination of long-wait-to-post-itis and not-being-in-the-right-place-yet-in-the-timeline-atosis). Those tours of duty can definitely be a real ordeal when one member of the relationship is military, and they tend to draw things out—but perhaps that will make the eventual advent of the wedding day all the more satisfying. @};-

    Thank you so much—so glad you're enjoying them, and it's great to have you here! :) More coming very soon; this one has six chapters in all.

    Ah ha, a good name smush is always a joy! I've been calling them Zebma, myself. :D

    Indeed so, and you're right that she will throw everything she has into it—with all of the positive and negative consequences to which that leads (and I've been there). In a way, having the confidence a respected authority figure turns the pressure up—she really wouldn't want to disappoint Chava!

    Thanks so much! [face_love] It was kind of bittersweet to write this earlier, happier time in their lives, knowing what happens later to them and their world. And it was fun to explore the younger Zeb before the gruff, curmudgeonly persona that grew out of his loss and pain—though I imagine his disposition always had at least a little of that, in some way. And then as now his sincerity ultimately shines through.

    Ah, that's past praying for now! :p Of course, who can really blame her? ;)

    Thanks so much! Again, it was actually one of my first romantic scenes with this couple, so I'm so glad it came off well, especially to such an experienced and adept writer of romance as yourself! @};- The two characters have such different ways of expressing themselves, such different dispositions, in a way, that it was extra fun to play them off each other in a lighthearted, romantic setting like this one.

    Ah ha, ah ha, that remains to be seen, doesn't it... [face_whistling] ;)

    Oh yes, it was definitely bittersweet writing about her family, her family home (which in my mind is based on a cottage in the hills of Piedmont, California, that I once thought about renting) and her idyllic mining village (which is a blend of idyllic mining towns I've visited as far apart as Colorado and Lower Saxony). So much must have been lost in the Siege of Lasan—more than we're really told about in Rebels itself, actually—and it must have included beautiful, tranquil, happy places like this.

    Oh yes, it most certainly does! :D That's a large part of why I've imagined her shamanic tradition as having a highly developed system of chant, and in forming that fanon I've drawn on my own experiences with early music and with sacred music of various traditions.

    Thanks so much as always for your readership and insights, diva! Always glad to have you on board, and more is coming very soon. :)

    Yes, scintillating writing style is not one of his strengths, I'm afraid. :p

    Said with a knowing smile, of course! :D She may see some of herself in this lovestruck student of hers, too.

    Ah, but ones that can refract and amplify the Sacred Light? For those one has to do a bit of digging. :p

    I do see it as one of her particularly strong areas within her tradition (it's one of my own within mine in RL, too).

    As in, her family disapproving of her match? Well, my ideas was not really so much disapproval as just that her chosen path ended up being very different from that of most of her family, and that as a result they just don't understand it much. (A dynamic I've experienced within my own family, too.)

    Yes, we know that—but that's going to be harder for a deeply self-critical sort like Shulma to buy, in a way. @};-

    Thanks, and glad you're enjoying! And that is where they are meant to be, as I see it. :D

    To all gracious thanks once again, and do stay tuned for more! :)
     
  8. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2001
    This is off to a lovely start; it's really endearing to see how head-over-footpads (huh, now I'm trying to figure out if heels would be correct :p) Shulma is for Zeb -- and vice versa.

    [face_laugh] Chava is the best. I love that she has that sense of humor and warmth to her, even though we know she can also be a full-blown Enigmatic Force-Wielder of Great Power when needed.

    I can only imagine how surprised Shulma is at being asked to do such an important part in the Storm Ceremony. She's not lacking some reasonable confidence, but she's also not the kind to harbor "delusions of grandeur". That is one reason why she's a good choice for the job, though I suspect there's much more at work there. Prophecies and all... [face_worried] Though there is at least a while left at this point. Whatever the reasons for her new task, I have no doubts that Shulma will rise to the occasion. :)

    The affectionate teasing and the obvious joy that Shulma and Zeb show in seeing each other for the first time in a long while is very cute. [face_love]

    Oh no. Not the WHOLE LONG NAME. Now you're in for it, buddy! :p More seriously, I can only agree with Shulma that eight years is a long enough courtship. The work-related reasons for it being that way are perfectly sensible, but enough time is enough already.
    Zeb's mystery medallion(?) makes me wonder if the decision has already been made to go with the polar expedition, though. Uh oh. :eek: Though I could be completely off base and it's something else altogether...

    [face_laugh] Something to that effect. Zeb is such a sweetie, concerned for Shulma but gets that sometimes it's... well, "one of those shamanic secrecy things".

    And what a romantic goodbye -- further evidence of their twitterpated-ness, if any were needed. @};-

    It was nice to meet Shulma's family here; I think we've heard of but not really seen them much before and they seem delightful. Very different from her, and I can see how she'd feel like the odd duck sometimes, but they all seem really kind and gentle. She does take after them in that regard.
     
  9. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Okay, I have been totally remiss in my commenting, so....

    Hooray for conquering wait-long-to-post-itis!11! :D So happy to see this one posted at last! And hooray for more Zebma purple prose; there can never be too much.

    So sweet to see Shulma as a puddle of purple goo here, daydreaming over Zeb’s picture—those eyes...that beard...those strrrrripes. Who can blame her, really? It’s not just his physical attributes she appreciates; even before she gets to those stripes, Shulma reflects on his strength of character, his wit, his honor. Because those things are more important to her than stripes and muscles (not that those hurt;) ) I love the sincerity of Zeb’s brief note. As we’ve seen, writing love notes isn’t necessarily his strong suit, but, with characteristic Zeb directness, he takes the time to keep her apprised of what’s going on with him and let her know he’s always thinking of her. Yep, a definite keeper (and I love the little reference to her rejected suitor, dearest Porfozald, who had none of Zeb’s good qualities. At least the miner was only boring!)

    And who should walk in when Shulma’s all goo-ified but Wise Chava herself...oops! Shulma’s obviously mortified to be caught in the middle of her reverie, but Chava’s not unreasonable. She got more of the tolerant amusement mixed with fond remembrance older generations have when they see young love. Nothing wrong with a little daydream now and then, and Chava knows the depths of Shulma’s dedication. Indeed, she may know even better than Shulma does! She invites Shulma to perform the incantation for the Storm Solstice ceremony, a rare honor for someone of Shulma’s level. Shulma, of course, protests that she’s never...that she’s not...that she’s not sure... But Chava is sure; she (and the rest of the consistory, though I bet Chava was instrumental) have seen and appreciate Shulma’s devotion to the Ashla and her diligence in her studies. She just needs to trust herself and the Ashla.

    Then Shulma gets another very welcome surprise: Zeb has returned! [face_love] Awwww, SQUEEEEEEE! They’re always perfect together, and I love their banter. The whole conversation had me squee-ing! I do not blame Shulma for vetoing Zeb’s suggestion that he go on another tour of duty in order to advance his rank. I love that Shulma, who gets dismissed as a “delicate flower”, can make the ground shake and the Ashla spark when she’s angry. No wonder Zeb gets a little nervous, especially when she invokes his ritual name :eek: (it’s got to be unnerving for him that his fiancée could essentially curse him that way:p)

    And then there’s a little comedy of errors while Zeb fiddles with his badge....aw, karabast....no, nothing wrong...not hidin’ anything...nothin’ to see here... Whadaya mean has my rank changed?! Smooth, Zebby, very smooth :p And Shulma is equally, if less karabastically, evasive about all those books and why she needs them... Hmmm, you think they’ve both got secrets here? But it’s nothing that a nice stroll and and a lingiering kiss (purple hearts here!) can’t smoothie over, at least for now.

    A nice little glimpse of Shulma’s family here at the end. I really like your description of Shulma’s mother; something about the idea of a Lasat in glasses and bright skirts makes me smile:) And I can completely reflate to Shulma’s feelings of being the odd one out in the family discussion (with my my family, it’s IT and computers). No wonder she’s just as glad to go upstairs and study—with Zeb’s holo-image to inspire her!

    Once again, another great addition to the Lasn Series. I’m so glad to see it at last and can’t wait for the next chapter! :zeb: [face_love]
     
  10. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Thank you so much for your comments, @Kahara and @Raissa Baiard! They always make my day. :)

    Thanks so much! I think "heels" are actually still correct—they've got them, they're just further up the foot because their feet are digitigrade rather than plantigrade, like ours. :-B And these two are indeed head over everything for each other.

    Isn't she just the cat's pajamas, though? :D I always loved her too, and I've had so much fun writing her as a grandmother-figure-cum-enigmatic-Force-mentor to Shulma; she always seemed like she had some of that in her.

    Oh, I'm afraid in this case it really is nothing more than the Consistory recognizing her talents, though her character certainly does come into it, too: a sacred task of this magnitude couldn't be entrusted to someone of less than worthy character. (If I do say so myself. :p )

    Aww, thank you! Always a joy to write these two, and it's an especial joy to be able to write them at this rosy stage of their love, before everything is thrown into chaos by the siege.

    Hah! He's in the doghouse now, especially since that's a form of the Whole Long Name that not even his own mother is entitled to use. :p But I absolutely agree that she does kind of sort of have a point. If they're engaged, they really should act like it. :p

    My answer to this for the present is "[face_whistling]." :D

    He really does his best to try to understand the ins and outs of her shamanic vocation, even if it's way outside his wheelhouse, because he knows how important it is to her. And it means a lot to her, too, since her vocation is completely different from what everyone in her own family does, too.

    Being apart for so long will do that, for sure! [face_love] :D

    Thanks! :) Yes, her parents and brothers are mentioned in a few other places, e.g., in the early chapters of Shaman, Traveler, Oracle, and her parents will show up again later in this story too. I'm hoping I can work them into future stories as well. And she has learned a lot from them about kindness and compassion, even if she ended up choosing a completely different path, too. @};-

    Oh, you're so sweet to say that, and thank you so much for your own leading role in making this story possible, even from its inception. @};-

    Who can blame her, indeed? :D He has it all, for sure—she is one lucky woman (as he is a lucky man).

    He's not a scintillating epistolary stylist, for sure, but his words come straight from the heart: like Dr. Seuss's Horton the Elephant, he means what he says and he says what he means. It's something that's always shone through in his character and that she has always admired that about him—and one of the main reasons she rejected Porfozald was precisely because he wasn't sincere in that way.

    They don't call her The Wise for nothing! :D Chava knows that Shulma's devotion to Zeb comes ultimately from the same place as her devotion to her shamanic studies. Again, I think she sees a lot of herself in this student of hers.

    Which can be hard for self-critical, driven, high-strung types to do, of course, though Shulma has the best possible person counseling her in that department. :)

    From my conversations with you in planning both this story and the over all timeline of Zeb and Shulma's relationship, I know that those tours of duty and those long periods of separation are A Thing, and a very common thing, in relationships where one member is military. I know too that it takes a special kind of devotion and stamina to weather those long periods of separation. @};- Shulma is one "wild mountain flower" who is definitely not to be underestimated, and Zeb knows it! :p If he's the mighty warrior of the Honor Guard, her status as Enigmatic Force-Wielder of Great Power (to borrow a wonderful expression from Kahara :D) counterbalances him perfectly. Her own strength is part of why he loves and respects her so much—I don't think he'd want a little wilty, wimpy flower... :p

    Hah! Caught'cha, Zebby. :p As diva noted above, one isn't necessarily going to get very far trying to hide something from a shaman. [face_scolding] But he's not dumb either in guessing about her extra books, and we know that's one of the reasons she loves him, too. And there is never a wrong time for these two to indulge in a nice lingering kiss. [face_love] (And I have you to thank for suggesting the adjective "lingering," too, when my inexperienced little newbie-in-romance-writing self was trying things like "tender." :p )

    Thanks so much! :) It's fun to actually have them appear for a change, after just being mentioned here and there (though as I recall, you were one of the first people to work Shulma's mother into a story, so you played a pretty pioneering role in forming them, too. @};- ). I see Shulma's mom as having a kind of a colorful, artistic-older-lady sense of style (hence the crystal necklace and the checkered skirt in the early chapters of Shaman, Traveler, Oracle ), and of course the glasses are related to the fact that she spends her days squinting at mining stats and accounting figures on a screen. (Shulma may need them when she's older, too, after all that squinting at ancient writings. :p )

    I've been there and done the same thing, too. Sometimes it's your work that understands you better than any of the other people around you (with "you" meaning "one," of course). And extra time to goo-puddle over the image of the beloved is always a good thing! :D

    Well, thank you once again, which I can't say often enough after all you've done for this story, its seriesmates, and this series. @};- Next chapter coming anon! (I think Tuesday or Wednesday may end up being the update day for this one; sorry to be off to such an irregular start.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2019
  11. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Here is the second chapter. Sorry I've been a bit disorganized about establishing an updating schedule for this; I am probably going to post chapter 3 on Tuesday 2/12 see how the schedule goes from there.


    Two

    Every afternoon after that, as soon as Shulma finished her day at the Academy of Shamans, Zeb would meet her at the foot of Mount Straga and walk her home. After a long, arduous day of studying for both her first-degree examination and the Storm Solstice ritual, nothing cheered her like seeing him standing there on the funicular platform, waiting for her, spruce and dashing in his Honor Guard uniform. He always greeted her with a kiss, and then they would walk arm in arm through the sunwashed valley, conversing about their day and exchanging pleasantries.

    They talked often of their upcoming wedding. It would be about a month after Storms’ End, when the skies would be clear and the wildflowers blooming in the valleys. Shortly before Zeb’s return, Shulma had gone with her mother to look at materials for her wedding gown at the biggest textile depot in Lira Zel, and she reported to her betrothed on her findings (“aw, karabast, darlin’, you’ll look gorgeous in any of ’em,” was Zeb’s response). Zeb, in turn, was pleased to report that his grandmother, a cook of immense skill, had offered to organize the feast (“she has to make that exquisite fire-pepper sauce of hers!” Shulma insisted). They discussed possible dishes, guests, decorations. As a good Lasat shaman, Shulma almost hated to admit it, but it came as something of a respite from all the mystical lore and ancient prophecies that otherwise occupied her mind. It was during those few fleeting moments with Zeb that she felt the most at ease during her day.

    It was always over too soon, of course. Once Shulma arrived home and took her leave of Zeb, she would be right back to the mundane routine of cooking, cleaning, and then—the moment supper ended—yet more studying and chanting. Often she stayed up late into the night, intoning the sacred texts in the dim lamplight while chalking the prescribed ritual schematics on the wooden floor. It was wearing, but she had no other choice if she wished to master the elaborate Storm Solstice ceremonial in time. All the while she kept the holoimage of her beloved officer propped there on her desk. She thanked the Ashla with all her heart that it had chosen this time to return him to her.

    And yet…

    Each day, she still found herself glancing over at his medallion and insignia, on the off-chance he was going to adjust them again, or whatever it was he had done on that first day. He never did. He, in turn, still winced and grumbled at the extra weight of the chant book in her satchel. She simply shrugged it off with a “sorry, love,” and no more was said.

    One afternoon, in the reading room of the Academy of Shamans, Shulma and the two other first-degree candidates, Risha and Yhazi, were engaged in one of the study sessions they periodically held. Rishla had a large tome before her and was asking questions from it. Shulma sat cross-legged on a floor cushion and answered as best she could, now and then closing her eyes to center herself in the Ashla. Yhazi looked on, occasionally taking notes; she and Rishla had already had their turn in the position of examinee.

    “All right,” Rishla began. “In which source is the prophecy of the Three first described?”

    Shulma inhaled and thought for a moment. “The Second Tractate of Prophecy,” she answered, “but it is not expanded upon in detail until the Fifth.”

    Rishla glanced at the book, then back at her colleague. “That’s correct. Anywhere else?”

    “A variant version of the prophecy is elaborated upon in chapters sixteen through twenty of the Stronghold of Prophecy of Osthi of Feldspar Falls, though it was relegated to deuterocanonical status by Skoura the Learned in 783.”

    “And why was it relegated to deuterocanonical status?”

    “Osthi adds the Seer to the Fool, the Warrior, and the Child. Once the Child has saved the Warrior and the Fool, the Seer’s wise teachings are his reward. But Skoura considered the fourth figure superfluous.”

    “Right again.”

    Yhazi whistled in astonishment. “Karabast, Shulma, you’re really burning this up! The Consistory is going to be so impressed with you on exam day!”

    “May the Ashla make that so, Yhazi. I’m so nervous.”

    Rishla slapped the book closed. “You didn’t seem nervous just now.”

    “Talking to you two about the Tractates of Prophecy and Osthi and Skoura is one thing. Talking to the Consistory about them? That’s going to be quite another.”

    “True, true.”

    They all got up. Rishla replaced the book on a nearby shelf, then they made their way toward the wing with the individual study chambers.

    “So, have you two gotten your Storm Solstice procession assignments yet?” Rishla asked.

    “Right-two, incense,” replied Yhazi. “You?”

    “Oh, we’ll be next to each other, then! I’m left-two, torch. What about you, Shulma? Shulma…?”

    In the process of packing her satchel Shulma had lingered for a moment over the holoimage of Zeb that still acted as a bookmark. She started slightly at the sound of Rishla’s voice. “Oh! Er… what was the question?”

    Yhazi tittered. “Caught you sighing over your handsome soldier again. Anyway, Rishla wanted to know if you know your Storm Solstice assignment yet.”

    “Ah, yes! Sorry.” Shulma quickly thrust the holo back into the book and the book into the satchel, then paused and heaved a long sigh. “Well…”

    “Well, what?”

    “Yes, out with it, already!”

    “Wise Chava asked me to be the presider.”

    The other two women stopped in their tracks, mouths gaping in amazement. “That’s amazing, Shulma!” breathed Yhazi. “But—but don’t they usually have a First do it?”

    Shulma shrugged. Shulma shrugged, looking away. She was well aware this was an unprecedented honor for a shaman of second-degree rank, and though she trusted Chava’s discernment, she couldn’t help but have a few misgivings. “That’s what I thought too,” she finally said.

    “Still fantastic!” Yhazi wrapped Shulma in a hug. “Congratulations!”

    “Thanks.”

    Rishla embraced her friend as well. “Oh, Shulma, they couldn’t have chosen better! You’re going to do so beautifully!”

    “Thank you, both.” Shulma extricated herself and and wrapped herself in her cloak, half wanting to hide her face in it too. Her friends were only trying to compliment her, but their effusiveness only made her feel more self-conscious.

    “I can see why you’re nervous, though,” Rishla mused. “All those tricky incantations on top of exam studying. I suppose that’s why they usually give it to the Firsts to begin with.”

    “Yeah,” Yhazi added. “If there’s anything we can do to help…”

    “You already are.” Shulma smiled at her friends.

    Having collected their belongings and donned their cloaks, the three shamans made their way to the funicular and began their descent. They sat in silence as the clattery ancient vehicle carried them down the slope, until Rishla said:

    “There’s someone down there on the platform.”

    Shulma, who was fairly certain she knew who it was, found herself reflexively reaching for her pocket mirror and checking that her hair was not too untidy. Yhazi, however, craned over to look.

    “Who is that?” she asked, and then, as the car descended further—“Waaaait just a minute! Shulma! Is that your boyfriend?

    Shulma glanced down at the funicular platform far below. There indeed was Zeb, pacing calmly on the platform with his hands clasped behind him. She smiled to herself, not quite facing her friend as she replied: “The word is ‘betrothed,’ Yhazi, and his name is Zeb. You know that.”

    “Oh, you didn’t tell us he was back!” exclaimed Rishla.

    “Well, as you see, he is.”

    “Did you set a date yet?”

    “Exactly one month after Storms’ End.”

    “How wonderful!”

    Yhazi was still peering out, and her eyes took on a mischievous glint. “Yes indeed, that is none other than Shulma’s strrripey military beau. Her beau who can’t wait for the day he can finally poke her with his beau-rifle!” She laughed raucously and slapped her knee at her own wordplay.

    “Oh, stop it, Yhazi! You’re embarrassing her!” Rishla laughed as she put an arm around the profusely blushing Shulma. “Don’t pay Yhazi any attention, Shulma. She’s just—Shulma?”

    Shulma didn’t answer. She was now gazing fixedly out the window at her betrothed on the platform below, watching his every motion. He seemed to be reading his commlink; as he did, a worried expression began to darken his face. He put it away, took out a piece of flimsi, scribbled something on it, and left it on one of the benches. Then he rummaged in a different pocket, took something out, and then—just as he had done on that first walk—began to adjust something on the front of his uniform vest. But this time she was high above him, halfway up a mountain from him—and could see exactly what he was doing.

    “I knew it!” she found herself breathing.

    “Knew what?” asked Rishla. “What’s going on?”

    “Nothing… nothing… just something he—” She sprang suddenly to her feet. “Ai’ rrhu’khu’ karabast’aka! No! NO!”

    “Shulma, what’s wrong?” Yhazi ran up to her.

    “He’s leaving!

    They all looked out the window. It was true: Zeb was descending the stairs from the platform, making his way toward the footpath that led back in the direction of Lira Zel, the capital. In a sudden motion Shulma wrenched the window open and called out—“Zeb! ZEB!”—but he could not hear. The car was still too high up.

    Shulma’s friends watched in astonishment as she scrambled to the back of the steeply tilted car, where the emergency brake lever stood. She gripped its shaft, holding tightly without pulling, and closed her eyes. Yellow sparks began to crackle at her fingertips.

    “Oh no!” Yhazi gasped. “Oh no, Shulma, you are not about to use Journeyers’ Lightning on this clankety old thing just to get down there to your—

    “YES—I—AM!

    At that moment a yellow bolt of energy shot from her hands down the brake lever shaft, then along the funicular cable up to the mighty winch that governed it, wreathing it in a golden blaze. Rishla and Yhazi grabbed the hold railings as the car hurtled faster and faster down the slope, finally thudding to a halt against the buffer in the station below.

    Grabbing her satchel, Shulma took off at full speed down the station steps, then down the Lira Zel path, not slowing till she could make out Zeb’s form ahead of her. “ZEB!” she shrieked after him. “WAIT!”

    He heard her and turned. “Shulma?”

    “Zeblove!” She ran to him and crumpled into his arms. “Where are you going?”

    “There, steady now, darlin’. Didn’t you see the note I left you on the platform?”

    “No… sorry… I didn’t…” She staggered against him, out of breath, her hair loose and falling in her eyes; so much for making sure it was tidy! To steady herself she put a hand to his chest.

    “Look, darlin’. Here’s the thing. Somethin’s come up and I have to get back to base. Read the note and it’ll explain everyth—”

    He stopped short, noticing that her hand was directly over his Honor Guard medallion and his rank insignia, which she was now eying intently and tracing with her finger. Below the medallion there were now two of the horizontal bars and five of the starlike pips. But most striking of all was the new emblem that gleamed directly above the medallion: a rampant konculor with its teeth bared and with tiny green jewels for eyes. It seemed to spark slightly as she touched it; whether it was because of some mystical property of its own, or from her own intense emotion, she did not know.

    “I knew it,” she said, this time deliberately and aloud.

    “Knew what? Look, darlin’, I really have to—”

    “You were promoted, ai Garazeb.” Her finger sparked on the konculor once again. “Rishla and Yhazi and I saw you messing about with your insignia from up there in the incline car. So there’s really no use hiding it anymore.”

    “Aw, that. I guess I wanted it to be a surprise. Should have realized how useless it’d be to keep anything from my razor-sharp beauty.” He stroked her cheek. "But really, darlin’. I gotta—”

    “At least tell me what they promoted you to.”

    He heaved a huge sigh that sounded very much like one of relief. “Aw, well, if you can’t tell by lookin’, that part still is a surprise.” He winked, and she winked back.

    “Fair enough, Zeblove. Now go do what you need to do.” She traced the Triangle of the Child, the Warrior, and the Fool over his heart, around his medallion. “May the Ashla watch over you and all your comrades.”

    “You too, love, you too.” He traced the Triangle on her as well, and they shared a parting kiss.

    * * *

    Adjusting her satchel on her shoulder, Shulma made her way back up the trail to the foot of Mount Straga and the funicular station. It was empty; Rishla and Yhazi had already gone. But Zeb’s note still lay on the bench, which she picked up and read:

    MY DEAREST SHULMA it breaks my heart that I can’t be here to walk with you as usual but I have to get back to base double quick because at one of the practice runs for Storm Solstice there was an injury with one of the bo-rifles in ancient mode and now all of us officers must personally show up to run a full inspection of everything in the arsenal which is a karking pain in the posterior of course and I don’t know how long it all will take and I may not be back for several days but always remember that I’m thinking of you darling with all my love ZEB

    Shulma sank onto the bench as tears welled up in her eyes. Zeb had been in too much of a hurry to mention it earlier, but once again he was being called away from her for an indefinite period of time. And so soon after his return, too—just when her studies were at their most intense and stressful, when she most needed his broad shoulder to lean on.

    She sat still for several moments, feeling the anguished clench of her heart and the heat of her tears on her cheeks. Then she stowed the note in her satchel and began her long, lonely walk home.

    to be continued

    Once again, the prophecy being discussed by Shulma and her friends is the one from “Legends of the Lasat,” though all the details about the historical sources, deuterocanonical status, etc. are fanon, and Osthi of Feldspar Falls (of whom you will learn more in chapter four) is a fanon figure. The Seers is likewise a fanon addition, and you are welcome to make whatever speculations you like about how it might (or might not) fit in with the canon version of the prophecy.

    Ai’ rrhu’khu’ karabast’aka!”: I haven’t decided exactly what this means yet, but the general import is karabast times about ten. :p Uttered by a shaman like Shulma, it has the effect of being part oath, part shamanic invocation.

    What is Shulma doing to the funicular cable? The idea is that it’s akin to what Zeb does to the Ghost in “Legends of the Lasat”: channeling mystical energy in order to get the vehicle to behave in a different way from normal. One difference, though, is that in the episode Zeb uses his bo-rifle for the task, while here Shulma, with her shamanic training, is using her bare hands. The name “Journeyer’s Lightning” for this technique is purely my fanon and was first used by me in Shaman, Traveler, Oracle, entry 3.

    The Triangle: Devised by Raissa Baiard in chapter two of The Beginning of Honor, and based on the three figures of the prophecy of Lira San. It is used in a similar way to the sign of the cross on Earth.

    And here, once again, is a link to the Lasat fanon post.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2019
    Kahara, Vek Talis and Raissa Baiard like this.
  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    @Findswoman -- do you know how much I love this?!

    I love the details of wedding planning and that Shulma's picked out a gown. :)


    Rishla and Yhazi are so full of genuine pleasure and confidence in Shulma's acting as Presider.
    Yhazi made me [face_rofl] at the bo-rifle comment!

    And of course a malfunction in the bo-rifles has to be investigated. It's a matter of them operating properly and not causing unwanted injury! :eek:

    Poor Shulma!
    [:D]

    Zeb being gone for an unknown period of time, NOW, in the midst of all that STUDYING! Icky timing!
     
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  13. Vek Talis

    Vek Talis Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Oct 12, 2018
    “aw, karabast, darlin’, you’ll look gorgeous in any of ’em,”

    That cat's a smart fellow. ;)



    He, in turn, still winced and grumbled at the extra weight of the chant book in her satchel.

    Tell him to man up! It's just a few more books. :D



    “So, have you two gotten your Storm Solstice procession assignments yet?”

    Uh-oh. This can't end well. [face_nail_biting]



    “Wise Chava asked me to be the presider.”

    Wait. I thought she was forbidden from telling anyone?



    reflexively reaching for her pocket mirror and checking that her hair was not too untidy.

    Gotta put all that fur in just the right places. :p



    Her beau who can’t wait for the day he can finally poke her with his beau-rifle!

    [face_laugh] :_| [face_laugh] :_| [face_rofl]



    He seemed to be reading his commlink; as he did, a worried expression began to darken his face.

    Uh-oh. Shulma's not going to like this. But orders are orders. And he has to put on his correct insignia, too.



    “I knew it,” she said, this time deliberately and aloud.

    Yup. The military tells you what to do, not the other way round. You knew that when you hooked up with a military man, Shulma. :rolleyes:




    Good update. I liked the tension building with Zeb getting called away and Shulma not happy about it. :)
     
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  14. Mira_Jade

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

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    So, I've shamefully fallen behind in lurker mode for far too many stories as of late, but I have been following this tale with great interest so far! What a wonderful time of Shulma and Zeb's relationship you've chosen to explore! I've enjoyed all of the details you've added to both your fanon lore and to your dear OC and her Zeblove. [face_love]

    Such as, for particulars -

    So Zeb! You always have his voice so spot on accurate. I loved the surrounding scenery of her studying, with his holo and his engagement stone a sort of tangible anchor amidst all of the more spiritual and arcane aspects of Shulma's studies. They really are a wonderful foil and balance for each other, as always. [face_love]

    [face_laugh] [face_love]

    As much as I loved Shulma's daydreaming - she has so many wonderful qualities of Zeb to dwell on, after all, least of which being those stripes [face_mischief] - I got such a kick out of Chava's arrival. There is such affection between mentor and student here. And, more so than affection, a real, deep respect. Shulma has had quite the honor bestowed on her - and such a burden through that honor placed on her shoulders. But she's been declared worthy by those who surely must know. It's a lot, but she can persevere and overcome! [face_love]

    Their reunion was so sweet, but oh, he's done it now! The entire name, yikes. But once again I appreciate this glimpse of Shulma's strength, as others have mentioned. She's certainly no wilting flower, and she's an equal for Zeb to contend with in every way. They've given up so much time in the name of the advancement of their careers - which really rang true for RL - and I can certainly understand her wanting to put her foot down! As much as their vocations define them, and even draw them to each other through their own respective senses of honor and duty, eight years is quite a bit for a courtship! It's time to sit still, just for a little bit, I agree with Shulma.

    (Especially with knowing how, down the line, there's going to be even more time lost apart from each other. I just want these two dears to take every moment they can here and now!)

    Ooooh, Zeb is being sneaky. Much as Shulma is being tight lipped about her own role in the ceremony to come. I look forward to both of these secrets coming out. :p

    Your bits and pieces of shamanic lore are fascinating to read, as always! They really enrich the world and give it a depth of tangible feeling. But this, adding on to canon as we know it, was especially well thought. I enjoyed every bit of Shulma's study session with her friends. [face_love]

    Gah, such good friends! There is such warmth between the three of them - even with Yhazi's familiar, frank way of speaking [face_laugh] ;) - and they wonderfully compliment and complete each other. Yes, Shulma is going to do a wonderful job - there's no doubt in their, or our, minds. [face_love]

    Yep. Made for each other. [face_laugh] [face_love]

    But I can't say that I blame her for her worry - she has her beloved here with her, and she's not going to let him go so easily. Not this time.

    And then, what a most interesting reveal about the medallion! Half of the mystery is solved, but there are still a few more bits and pieces to fall into place. I remain most curious for the conclusion, and further revelations! [face_thinking]

    Oh, poor Shulma. :( Yes, I can completely understand her frustration and heartbreak right now. She has such a burden on her shoulders, in more ways than one, and Zeb alone can help her aliviate that weight. I look forward to seeing the conclusion to this tale. Thank you for sharing!

    =D= [:D]
     
  15. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Your creation of this world and these characters has such wonderful depth; it's such a treat to read about them!

    So... Diva daughter is talking about getting engaged.... and I can visualize myself in your story not as Shulma, but as Shulma's MOM. :eek:

    Great scene with the girls studying. Our purple Hermione Granger works so hard to be the Perfect Shaman and it's wonderful that she has such great friends. They make a nice counterbalance to the seriousness of Shulma and give her that girlish quality that a woman her age ought to be able to enjoy. Life isn't all studying and work all the time! :p

    So Zeb got promoted! Great for him and for his career, but... they have to be separated so soon! With all the things going on in Shulma's life: the studies, the preparation for the ceremony, and of course the wedding!

    Wonderful update. :D
     
  16. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Awwww.... The scenes of Zeb walking Shulma home each day and discussing their upcoming wedding are so sweet! [face_love] You can just feel the warmth and coziness between the two of them, how comfortable they are together and how in love. I love all the little details you’ve sprinkled in about the wedding preparations. I agree with @Vek Talis that Zeb is wise to tell Shulma she’d look gorgeous in any gown, having been in that position, I can guess that Shulma found the comment sweet, but not particularly helpful :p Nice, too, to see that Gran is helping out and contributing her sauce, an Orrelios family favorite! Shulma definitely shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying these special moments; they in no way take away from her devotion to her shamanic calling. I’d even say that her love for Zeb is one facet of her love for the Ashla itself.

    She certainly spends plenty of time on her studies, between preparing for her examination and her duties presiding over the Storm Solstice ceremony. She’s fortunate to have good friends like Rishla and Yhazi to help her with her studies, to share her excitement over being chosen as presided and reassure her—and of course, to tease her about Zeb! Okay, that’s just Yhazi... oh, that naughty girl, with her beau-rifle joke!

    And then we get to see more of Shulma’s fiery side when she spots Zeb adjusting his medallion and leaving the platform from her perch aboard the funicular trolley. Whoa, girl! Do you think maybe you’re overreacting just a teeny bit with the Journeyer’s Lightning? Because Zeb’s not the only one with secrets here... ;) She catches him at the platform, only to find out he’s got to leave on Guard business. As always, I love Zeb’s note to her and I love the fact that he still says things like “which is a karking pain in the posterior of course ” even though Shulma is a shaman-initiate! I don’t blame her for being dejected at his departure; their time together has been her respite from the rigors of her studies. As stressful as planning a wedding can be, it’s got to be more fun than preparing for exams, especially when done with one’s handsome strrrrrripey fiancé. And of course, Zeb’s simple presence is the most comforting thing there is for her. For her to be without him at this time, necessary as it is, turns up the stress another several notches for her. Poor Shulma—though I know that she is strong enough to withstand his absence for a few days.

    Looking forward to seeing the continuation of this story and what’s in store for our couple next.
     
  17. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Thank you all, as always! :)

    I do now! [face_love] Thanks for reading and supporting, as always. @};-

    Yep, it’s getting nearer and nearer every day for them—very exciting times! And something I’m looking forward to writing sometime. :D

    Her friends were so much fun to write! Their confidence in her and happiness for her are big boosters to her right about now, while she’s so swamped and stressed. And I just couldn’t resist the “beau-rifle” thing—though it was also kind of an “I surprise even myself” moment. :p But those moments are part of the fun of fanfic, aren’t they! :D

    Yes, it’s definitely serious enough that he and the other officers have to check all of them to make sure no more injuries (or worse) happen. One of those unexpected wrinkles that comes up in military life. :oops:

    Yep, 'fraid so—very icky timing indeed! She knows it’s not his fault (because military life, again, is just like that), but that doesn’t make it any easier. =((

    Yes, indeed: as Raissa said while she was beta reading this, "Good fiancé, biscuit for you!" :D

    It's a BIG few more books, though! The RL basis of the chant book she's carrying is an absolute brick that adds a nontrivial amount of weight to any container it’s in. That I know from personal experience. :p
    Just keep reading… ;)
    Anyone outside the Academy. ;) Yhazi and Rishla are students at the Academy of Shamans along with Shulma, so it's OK for her to tell them.
    Yep! When you’re large and kind of feline/kind of lemur-like, grooming definitely is a big deal.
    I just knew you’d have something to say about this! How did I just know that? Gee, I can’t think how! :p :D
    Ah, I see you're onto something... ;)
    Well, sure, but that doesn't mean she doesn't feel a pang or two when her military man, who has just been away on a lengthy tour of duty and only just got back, suddenly has to go away from her yet again. It’s a lot for a girl to bear. =((
    Thanks so much, as always! :) Yep, again, it's definitely rough luck for both of them. But their natural strength of character will help them both get through—just keep reading. :)
    No worries—take your time! We (and the stories) will be there. :)
    Thanks so much, and I’m so glad you’re enjoying this! I’re really had a blast writing about this happier, rosier time from Zeb and Shulma’s love, when they had, quite literally, “world enough and time.” @};- Hardships and tragedies shape people, it’s true, but so do happier times, and I like to think that this happier time shaped both characters a lot.
    Thanks! I certainly try; he was precisely the character I at one point thought I never would understand, and then he went and became my favorite. :) A tangible anchor is exactly what he and his love are to Shulma amid all her arcane, abstract studies, especially now that they’ve intensified with exams and the Storm Solstice coming up.
    I loved Chava from the start and one of the reasons I made Shulma a shaman to begin with was so that she could be her student and have her as her mentor. [face_love] Chava always seemed like she would be a caring and supportive mentor, and that’s precisely what a high-strung, driven character like Shulma needs. That kind of caring and support will indeed help her persevere and overcome, no matter how hectic things get!
    I always imagined her not just as being strong enough to stand up to him but also as having a different kind of strength from his, a kind of strength that’s complementary to his—the “who needs muscles when you can fry stuff with the Ashla?” kind of strength (as @Raissa Baiard once so eloquently put it during a beta). :D And at the same time, as you say, they have so much of the same kind of drive to excel in their professions, the same strong sense of duty and devotion. Which can indeed make it hard just to take a break to reflect and enjoy the other’s company—and it definitely is high time for them to be able to do that, with their wedding coming up.
    Oh, me too, absolutely me too! [face_love]
    Soon and very soon, is the best I can say for now! :D
    Thanks so much, and I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying these little fanon bits and pieces—they are some of my favorite parts of fanfic. (And this is reminding me I should probably update the Lasat fanon post soon!) I too enjoyed writing that scene—doing so was a great opportunity to think back to memories of studying and hobnobbing with friends in college and graduate school. Good times, even amid the stressful times. :)
    Thanks again, and I’m glad you are enjoying them! (I’m saying that a lot, aren’t I! But it’s perfectly true. :) ) Raissa’s wonderful Honor Guard comrades for Zeb in The Beginning of Honor were a large part of what inspired me to give Shulma some good friends in her own vocation. And of course one of the most fun and rewarding things about writing friendships is playing with contrasting personalities! Yhazi’s mischievous and flirty, but she’s also smart and a good friend, and Shulma wouldn’t have become friends with her otherwise.
    Exactly my though too, if I do say so myself! She’s even growling it through gritted teeth the same way he would, too. :D (Aww, now I hope I can someday write a scene of them both being growly together! [face_love] )
    For sure! She’s a determined one. If he has to go away and forgo their afternoon walks again, he darn well better have a solid reason for doing so!
    Once again, you shall see... I daresay you probably already have a bit of a guess. ;)
    You are very welcome, and thank you once again for reading and for your insightful and detailed comments! :) It’s a lot for her to take, especially at this busy time with all this extra studying, but she will soldier (!) on somehow. And his return will be all the sweeter because of it! [face_love]

    Well, shucks, thank you—from you that is quite a compliment, with your flair for well-crafted, many-sided characterization. I certainly endeavor to give satisfaction. @};-
    Oh ho! Sounds like momentous and amazing times are ahead for the Divafamily—congratulations to you! :D And that is definitely a momentous perspective to have on the whole process. (You will see Shulma’s mom again in a future chapter, incidentally.)
    As studious and driven as she is, Shulma does have that youthful touch to her, too (another characteristic she has in common with Zeb), and no one can bring it out like her pals Rishla and Yhazi! That’s probably one of her (many) favorite reasons to be around them; she definitely needs that reminder now and again (as I did too at similar stages of my own education).
    Military life can definitely be unpredictable and roller-coastery that way, and of course with a new promotion comes new responsibilities that eat up one’s time and pull one apart from those one cares for. Often at inconvenient times, at that. But as Lovelace writes, “I could not love thee, dear, so much / Loved I not honor more...” [face_love]
    Thanks so much, as always—it is always a joy to have you here! :) @};-
    That end-of-day walk is a sweet respite for both of them at the end of their busy days, and the wedding talk reminds them that there is a beautiful "light at the end of the tunnel" for both of them at the end of all their hard work and career-advancing. Zeb's totally right about the dress, of course. :p And I just had to bring in Gran and her sauce (your invention, as I recall ;) )—why can't a good fighter also be a fabulous cook? :D I bet she is over the moon (or however many Lasan has) with joy for her grandson's upcoming wedding!
    Singling this out, because YES. ABSOLUTELY TRUE. This is how I've always seen her love for him. [face_love]
    They too are playing a role in easing her nerves—even Yhazi with her teasing, in her own way! I just couldn't resist the "beau-rifle" thing—it was just too perfect. :p
    Oh, perhaps she's overreacting just a leetle... :p though as I've always imagined it, her fire is part of what draws Zeb to her—he would never go for what the Germans call a "trübe Tasse" ("cloudy cup"—a dull, laconic person). He loves that she's his "razor-sharp lady," both in intellect and in temperament.
    Yep, just the same way, she loves him for just being his own, gruff, plainspoken self. "These words of mine..." :D
    Most definitely! ;) And yes, sometimes just a different kind of stress (or a lesser kind of stress) is a sufficient respite in and of itself. Definitely a much more pleasant kind of stress, I’d say!
    She is—it won’t be all roses, but she’s no wilting flower, as we know, and she’ll have her friends and family and teachers supporting her. <3
    Thanks so much, as always! More will indeed be on its way soon. Again, I’m really sorry I have been wish-washy about a schedule for this! As always, I’m open to suggestions on that score. @};-
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019
  18. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Next chapter, at last. It will feature a name (or at least a surname) some of you might recognize...


    Three

    There were now less than two weeks until the Storm Solstice. Shulma redoubled the intensity of her studies. Even though by now she had learned the Storm Solstice ritual in its entirety, she still needed regular practice on the intricate chants in order to make sure she retained them. She met regularly with Chava the Wise for coaching and advice, and she knew that in these last weeks other members of the Consistory of Shamans would be coming to vet her progress as well. To all this was of course added her continued studies for the first-degree examination, which was to take place only one week after Storm Solstice.

    With both these momentous events so rapidly approaching, these were stressful days for Shulma. She spent her days at the Academy of Shamans shut up in her study chamber, emerging only for her meetings with Chava and her study sessions with Rishla and Yhazi. Even at home in the evenings her studies consumed her. She would sit late into the night at her small writing desk, poring over the ancient writings by lamplight with the holoimage of her beloved Zeb propped before her.

    (Her beloved Zeb, who had still not returned! How lonely it was to walk home through the barren canyon with no sweet friend at her side to share her day’s triumphs and trials—with no strong arm to hold, no warm, uniformed shoulder against which to nestle…)

    When she finally retired to bed, dark dreams plagued her—dreams of failing in her ritual duty before the Academy and the Royal House on Lasan’s holiest day, of the reproof of the Consistory, of expulsion in disgrace from the Academy. She would awaken in sweats and shivers, feeling almost as weary as she had the night before—and yet she still pushed herself, forced herself to go into the Academy and immerse herself in her studies.

    She said nothing of these dreams to her friends or superiors. After all, she told herself, they were only the routine kind of nervous fever-visions that she was prone to anyway; back when she was still an initiate, Chava had dubbed her “little Storm-Dreamer,” a moniker the senior shaman still occasionally used even now. Throughout her time at the Academy, Shulma had been admonished again and again by her teachers that a true shaman of Lasan did not let such trifling visionary fears stand in the way of her studies. It was much easier said than done, of course, but she was determined to persevere as best she could—for her teachers, for her fellow students, for Lasan, for the Ashla.

    And for Zeb—her own absent Zeb.

    * * *

    One day, as Shulma sat in her study chamber perusing the Sixth Tractate of Prophecy, she heard a knock at her door. Chava entered, along with two other eminent-looking senior shamans: a thickset woman with short, wavy gray-purple hair, and a thin, wan man with angular features and a simpering expression. Shulma knelt with her head bowed as they entered.

    “As you were, child, as you were.” Chava extended a hand to lift her pupil. “I present Memirra Movshati and Rufozald Marballees, both of the Consistory.” She gestured toward the female shaman, then toward the male, each of whom nodded.

    “Pleased to meet Your Reverences.” Shulma’s voice was quiet, but she seized up inside. She knew why these two august visitors had come: to hear her run through the Storm Solstice ceremony from beginning to end, and to evaluate her performance. Moreover, for some reason she couldn’t place, there was something familiar about the thin, smug-faced male shaman—something familiar and discomforting that made the memory of her dark dreams rise all the more quickly to her mind. But just as quickly she quashed them, as befitted a good shaman of Lasan.

    Shaman Movshati smiled back at her. “It’s a pleasure to meet you too, Shaman Trilasha.”

    “Yes, charmed,” added Shaman Marballees. “I believe you know my son.”

    “Y-yes, Your Reverence.” Suddenly Shulma realized where she had seen Shaman Marballees’s weedy physique and smug expression before: on the gawky, anemic young initiate who had tried to woo her a few years earlier—and whom she had refused in no uncertain terms, having already chosen Zeb. And now, it seemed, his father was going to be not only one of her Storm Solstice advisors but also—as a member of the Consistory—one of those administering her First Degree examination. Had not the Ashla already tormented her enough with so many stressful days and troubled nights? Did it now have to add to her unease by placing her fate in the hands of a rejected suitor’s father? Sovereign spirit of the Galaxy, you’re laughing at your creatures’ hardships, aren’t you?

    Chava’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “You may begin whenever you are ready.”

    “Yes, Wise Chava.” Returning the Sixth Tractate of Prophecy to her bookshelf, Shulma replaced it with the thick black chant book—moving as quickly as she could so that the visitors would not see her trembling hands. She removed the holoimage of Zeb from the book and anchored it once again with the betrothal stone. From a narrow closet in one corner of the room she took her staff, which still lacked a focusing stone, and held it with both hands directly before her in both hands in the customary ready position. Then she began.

    The minutes wore on and on as the young shaman chanted the ancient, solemn words in their prescribed order, moving forward or backward, raising or striking her staff as the ritual required. All the while she felt the eyes of her three superiors upon her, attentive to her every note, word, and motion. She knew they could see her hands trembling, hear her voice quavering, and they undoubtedly could feel her unease roiling the currents of the Ashla.

    It was only toward the midpoint of the ritual, as she stepped forward and pantomimed lifting up the great focusing lens that would be placed at the center of the Royal Lasat Parade Grounds, that Shulma finally hazarded a glance at her spectators. Chava and Shaman Movshati looked cheerful and reassuring—Chava even smiled as she caught her student’s eye—but Shaman Marballees stood with his arms crossed, his eyes shaded, and his mouth pressed in a tight, stern line. Again Shulma felt the darkness of her recent failure-dreams flood over her consciousness: You’re doing this wrong, Storm-Dreamer. You’re going too fast. Your pronunciation isn’t clear. That long melisma coming up? You’re going to botch it, badly. Your voice is going to crack on that high note. And the Consistory will renounce you publicly, and the sun will hide its face, and the dust will ravage Lasan…

    A sharp pain shot through Shulma’s head. She staggered suddenly, falling against the side of her desk. Shaman Movshati gave a gasp of concern, Shaman Marballees a barely disguised sigh of exasperation. Chava stepped forward with a steadying hand.

    “I think you just dropped the lens, child,” she said. “Why don’t you begin again from the third verse of the sun petition sequence?”

    “Yes, Wise Chava.” Shulma’s head still ached, but she took a deep breath and began again—a shaman of Lasan must always persevere, after all, as her teachers had always told her. All the while she tried hard to avoid the gaze of Shaman Marballees, which was difficult in the small study chamber. But as she finished the sun petitions, pantomimed replacing the lens in its mounting, and took up her staff again, her eyes fell on the betrothal stone at the corner of her desk, with the holoimage beside it. She fixed them there instead, directing the entire rest of the ritual toward those emblems of her love. This helped calm her somewhat, and she reached the end without any further setbacks. Although the headache persisted, she did her best to pay it no heed.

    “Well done, child, well done,” Chava smiled once Shulma had replaced her staff in its closet. Shaman Movshati nodded in agreement. “Beautiful chanting, as always. Just remember not to rush, especially in those sections in the ancient modes, and watch the timing of the staff strokes in passage with the petitions. I think some of them were early.”

    “Yes, Wise Chava. My apologies.”

    “Not to worry, child. I know you have much occupying you now. Just something for you to bear in mind, is all. Shaman Movshati, Shaman Marballees, is there anything either of you wish to say to the young lady?”

    Shaman Movshati spoke first. “Yes. This is all very good, Shaman Trilasha. For now I would echo what Shaman Behanrrocha says about the rushing and the timing of the staff strokes. And there were a few places where your upper accents came out as lower accents, so just be aware of that.”

    “Thank you, Your Reverence.”

    “And you, Shaman Marballees?” asked Chava.

    “Mmm. On the whole, quite satisfactory. You are quite the pretty chanter, my dear. Though the interruption during the sun petition sequence was... regrettable. I sincerely hope there will be nothing of that sort on the holy day itself.”

    Shulma lowered her eyes. “There will not be, Your Reverence. As the Ashla lives.”

    “Hmmph.” Shaman Marballees cleared his throat and continued. “And with all respect to my esteemed colleagues, I submit that the pacing of the staff strokes in the petition passage might have been more precise had Shaman Trilasha not been... distracted by this pretty trinket of hers.” He indicated the stone on Shulma’s desk. As he did Shulma felt her headache twinge. Fortunately Shaman Movshati spoke up.

    “Oh, she didn’t seem distracted to me,” she said. “Perhaps just a little nervous, but who can blame her? Karabast’aka, if I were a Second studying for both the First and the Storm Solstice at the same time—”

    “Ah, perhaps you did not see that she was gawking at her shiny toy continually from the last of the sun petitions through the concluding verses? I have expressed my concern to you both before about personal effects in the initiate and second-degree study chambers. This sort of thing is precisely why.”

    Shiny toy?! Indignation smoldered inside Shulma even as her headache intensified. “I apologize to your Reverence—I just thought that if I had something to focus my attention on—I didn’t know it was—”

    “Do not worry about it now, child,” Chava interposed, much to Shulma’s relief. “These are just some things for you to think about as you continue to prepare. We shall return for your final runthrough in two days, in the afternoon. Till then, may the Ashla guard you.”

    “Thank you, Wise Chava, Your Reverences.” She bowed her head as Chava and Shaman Movshati filed out of the room. Shaman Marballees, however, hung back.

    “That’s your betrothal stone, isn’t it, my dear?” he asked, leaning close to Shulma and chucking her under the chin. She recoiled from his touch, and as she did another burst of pain shot through her head.

    “Y-yes, Your Reverence.”

    “No wonder, then.” Shaman Marballees’s face twisted into a bitter simper as he turned to go. As he did, he jostled the side of Shulma’s desk, knocking the stone to the floor. It broke into several pieces.

    “Ah, karabast upon karabast! I’m so sorry, my dear. What a shame. But that’s what comes of cluttering your study cell with your personal baubles.” He flashed her another smug smile, then left.

    Shulma dropped to the ground, gazing in shock on the broken pieces of her betrothal stone. It was not a dream, it was not a vision: the rare, beautiful, red-purple treasure that Zeb had brought her from the Basalt Mountains far to the south—that he had hewn from the rock himself as a sign of his love and promise—now lay in shards on the floor. She tried to gather them up, but her hands shook and sweated so much that it was no use. Bitter tears welled up in her eyes. Look what a mess you’ve made now, Storm-Dreamer! If you had done better, if your staff strokes had been more precise, if you hadn’t rushed the ancient-mode passages, none of this would have happened and you wouldn’t have gotten a Prominent Member of the Consistory all Righteously Indignant at you… of course, if you hadn’t rebuffed his precious son all those years ago, that would have helped too…

    She managed to grasp one piece of the stone, the largest of the pieces—then doubled over suddenly as the now-familiar blade of pain pierced her consciousness anew…

    * * *

    Shulma stood at the center of the Royal Lasat Parade Grounds in all her shamanic finery, holding above her head the great sun-lens, chanting the petitions to the sun that were at the centerpiece of the Storm Solstice ritual. But a noise behind her, of staves clattering arrhythmically on the ground, startled her; her voice cracked as the lens fell from her hands and shattered on the pavement into uncountable millions of pieces…

    ...which swirled in a menacing vortex as they rose into the air, multiplying as they rose, darkening the sky, and then flew in a rageful storm across the face of Lasan.

    And the assembled shamans and soldiers fell on her, beating her with staves and bo-rifles, kicking her and spitting on her and cursing her, grinding her face into the broken shards littering the ground. DOWN WITH STORM-DREAMER! SMASH HER! CRUSH HER! KILL HER!

    Darkness and pain overpowered Shulma, and she collapsed onto the floor, still clutching the piece of stone.

    * * *

    When Rishla and Yhazi came to Shulma’s chamber later that day for their usual study session, they found her lying unconscious on the floor amid the broken stone pieces. Her skin was cold to the touch, and her extremities twitched occasionally. Her two friends recognized the symptoms as those of vision shock, to which they knew she had always been prone. They also noticed what she was holding in her hand, and glanced from it to the narrow closet where the staff was kept, and then at each other.

    “But let’s let her hold onto it a little longer,” said Rishla. “Maybe it'll cheer her up.”

    Then, after borrowing one of the Academy’s speeders, they drove her back home to Flowstone Vale, where they took turns watching over her for the rest of the day.

    to be continued

    Rufozald Marballees: Shulma has indeed met his son before, in The Sad, Sad Story of Porfozald Marballees!

    Once again, on the custom of the betrothal stone, see the Lasat fanon post.

    Shaman Behanrrocha: Chava doesn’t have a surname established in canon, so I gave her one. It is based loosely on that of the Rev. Halfon Benarroch, who for many years was the cantor of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community in London, and whom I had the immense privilege of hearing in the summer of 1996 while vacationing in London with my mother.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
    Kahara, Vek Talis and divapilot like this.
  19. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Shamans Movshati & Chava are so encouraging, but ...
    OH, NOW I SEE IT CLEARLY! Marballees' dear old dad is as much of a douche bag as his son is! :mad: :mad:

    Poor darling Shulma. That lovely, lovely stone broken not by accident, either! :eek: And then she falls into vision shock! I am so glad that her friends were there! [face_relieved]

    On the edge of my seat for more. =D=
     
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  20. Vek Talis

    Vek Talis Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Oct 12, 2018
    no warm, uniformed shoulder against which to nestle…

    I'm sure she was only thinking about 'nestling' with him. [face_mischief]


    forced herself to go into the Academy and immerse herself in her studies.

    That kind of dedication is tough on a person... or Lasat.


    One day, as Shulma sat in her study chamber perusing the Sixth Tractate of Prophecy, she heard a knock at her door.

    Surely, said I, this is some late visitor entreating entrance to my chamber door... This it is, and nothing more. *Nevermore, squawk*


    Sovereign spirit of the Galaxy, you’re laughing at your creatures’ hardships, aren’t you?

    Vek Talis would wholeheartedly agree with you there. :p


    Shaman Marballees stood with his arms crossed, his eyes shaded, and his mouth pressed in a tight, stern line.

    Of course he was. “My stalker of a son wasn't good enough for you, eh?” he intones gloomily. :rolleyes:


    he asked, leaning close to Shulma and chucking her under the chin.

    Like creepy son, like creepy father. :rolleyes:


    none of this would have happened

    Hard on herself, eh? No, Shulma, that's that creepy dude harshing your buzz, man. Just tune him out and maybe he'll disappear. We can only hope...


    Darkness and pain overpowered Shulma, and she collapsed onto the floor, still clutching the piece of stone.

    Wow. Harsh, man.


    Excellent update! Hopefully Zeb will come back and help bring her around. :) =D=
     
  21. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Wow. I'm wondering what happened - did she work herself to the absolute brink of exhaustion? After all, she is trying to accomplish so much in so short a time, not to mention preparing for a wedding and the added stress of not having dear Zeb beside her to help her. She's doing a fine job on the incantations, and I wonder why Chava felt it was necessary to bring in the other two shamans. Surely Chava would have known or sensed that Shaman Marballees was no friend to Shulma. I'm so sad that she thinks she's to blame for the stone breaking when it's clearly Marballees who did it- out of spite because she chose someone other than his derpy-doo loser boy son, or because he is just a jerk.

    This pain is very concerning. I am wondering if perhaps the pain is a message from the Ashla. This part:
    in particular: Could it be a premonition of the fate of Lasan itself, of the emotional pain to come for Shulma?

    Another great update!

    I wonder if the staff which currently lacks a focusing stone now has one with the shattering of the betrothal stone. Maybe her pain is connected to the splintering of the stone?

    Arg! I guess I will have to wait to find out!
     
  22. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2001
    Yikes! :eek: Well, that went about as badly as it could have. At least Chava and Movshati seem to realize that Shulma knows her stuff and this is just an off day for many reasons, but Marballees... well, I guess now we know where his son learned those attitudes. What a piece of work. :mad:It's really awful for her to lose such an important keepsake. Even though it's "just" an object, it represents a wonderful memory and to have that destroyed so callously is horrible. :(

    Then to make matters worse, she gets lost in something that seems to be both nightmare and vision in one. Shulma's visions can serve a good purpose sometimes, but here they seem to be melding with her own fears and feeding them -- a scary thing to deal with even for someone of her experience and skill.
     
  23. Mira_Jade

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

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    :eek: [face_worried]

    Oh dear Shulma!! Well I couldn't imagine a worse day for her than that if I tried! The poor girl. She has so much on her plate to deal with all at once, from her usual studies and upcoming exams to planning her wedding to the august need to prep for the honor of performing in the Storm Festival all at the same time! That bit by itself, especially for a Shaman of her age and relative inexperience, is bound to be daunting to the extreme! But, as we have come to expect of Shulma's courage and fortitude, she's certainly not backing down. She's giving it a hundred percent and then some! [face_love]

    I really appreciated this, not just for the lovely prose and the oh so sweet helping of mush. Shulma can and will persevere on her own, but this shows what a healthy, inspiring force Zeb is in her life. They really do make each other better and compliment each other in the best of ways.[face_love]

    I don't know, visions are seen for a reason - especially in Shulma's case! There's a fair bit of premonition in the light of Lasan going out, and definitely something we can pick up on easier as omnipresent readers than Shulma who's in the middle of everything. But of course she's not letting her nightmares and the litteral pains they cause her slow her down. As much as I worry for her, I'm proud of her too!

    Telling that it was there she paused and faltered. Oh, Shulma! =((

    Now THAT'S what a healthy relationship looks like. It was her focusing on her love and earthly attachments that helped her finish her ritual, and not anything else Mr. Snotty-pants would like to imply. :mad:

    Thank-you!!!

    It's not unnoticed how she's balancing the weight on her shoulders with such aplomb except by those who are looking to find fault!! [face_waiting] :mad: o_O

    Eugh, PERSONAL SPACE, have you heard of it?!!! It seems like the son was just a natural spawn of the father's own creepiness. What a petty Sheevster!

    It's no wonder that the already agitated Ashla is sparking for her there at the end. Back off. [face_bleh]:mad:

    And oh!!! How heartbreaking this was. I can't imagine a lower blow from her elder here, who's supposed to have her best interests at heart - seriously, that was such a petty move that I'm still reeling on Shulma's behalf. What's sad too is that Shulma is still putting a good part of the blame on herself, rather than seeing how well she did do on her trial performance and assigning blame where true blame is due!! Oh I want to put up my fists for her!!!

    In the end it's no wonder she collapses - the stress she's been working under and how she's been running herself thin, when combined with the Ashla trying to tell her something is not to be taken lightly!

    Excellent work, as always! I remain riveted to know what's next in this tale for Shulma and her absent love! Perhaps a tide is turning for a better day just around the corner. [face_love]

    =D=
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2019
  24. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Hi everyone! Sorry to have neglected this story—things got busy and hectic in RL over the last couple weeks, and April tends to be a really super-busy month for me in general. But here I am again, and please don't think that my silence means in any way that I don't appreciate your readership and lovely comments. @};-

    Yep, I'm afraid so. You can see that Porfozald learned his ways from Rufozald! And wow, I know I must have made him a real piece of work if it's led a kindly sort like you to resort to the expression "douche bag"! :D ;)

    This was another one of those spots that was hard to write. The thing is, I actually wrote this scene before I wrote "Romance among the Stones," the story where Zeb actually gives her the betrothal crystal, but coming back to preparing it and posting it after "Romance among the Stones" made it even more of a gutpunch, since we now know what Zeb goes through to get that stone and that...

    he almost fell to his death the day he gave it to her!

    But even if that bit was hard to write, Shulma's friends are always a pleasure to write, and you'll see more of them in the chapter to come! :)

    Coming very soon, and thanks as always for your readership and support! @};-

    Well, eventually. ;)

    It is, I agree! I have the tendency sometimes to be the same way, and it really wears one down.

    Yes, and it's about the same level of ominous, too, as you saw! :D

    I could totally see that, and he would definitely know! :D

    That is perhaps one thing in the back of his mind here, yes.

    Oh yes... learning by example is a galactic universal, for the good and the bad.

    Ah, if only it were that easy! Tuning that sort of person out isn't quite so easy when they're in a position of authority.

    Yes, for sure. =(( The shock of the situation, combined with her own self-doubts, and of course all of that grows out of the dedication you mentioned earlier. It really can be hard on one.

    Thank you so much for being here and commenting, as always! :) You shall soon see... [face_whistling]

    Thanks so much, as always, for being here and commenting and sticking with this. @};- It's a combination of all those things, really, and the horrible treatment she received from one of the shamans who's supposed to be looking out for her

    Ah, the idea is that that was just supposed to be her "committee"—the faculty members who are supervising her in her training, the way graduate students preparing for their doctorates have a committee that supervises them, reads and comments on their dissertation, etc. So it's perfectly standard procedure for them to be there. As to why Marballees is part of the committee... well, I'm a bit embarrassed that I don't have a good explanation, but it could have been a matter of some other procedure at work that even Chava couldn't bypass. Or perhaps she misjudged and thought it wouldn't be a problem, e.g., that enough time had gone by that Marballees would be "over it." Even the wisest people misjudge sometimes, I guess.

    Shulma's self-blame is a feeling I too have had too often in my life and that I still sometimes have to grapple with even now. And again, for Marballees, I'd say that probably all those factors are at work there. Like son, like father.

    Ah, that is a very good point, and one I confess I hadn't considered! When I wrote that I'd just been thinking of the dust storms that hit Lasan every year, but you're absolutely right that there could be a larger portent hidden in there as well, for both Shulma and her homeworld. See, this is why I love my readers! [face_love]

    Thank you so much, as always. :)

    Ah ha, a very good point and observation there! ;) See what's to come in the next few chapters...

    And you soon shall! :D Thanks so much once again.

    Isn't it a shame how one "bad apple" can ruin things like that, even when they're outnumbered by caring and supportive people? =(( And Marballees knew exactly what he was doing jostling Shulma's desk that way—he knew that was Shulma's betrothal stone and that he wanted to break it, the old creep. :mad:

    This traumatic situation, combined with her own nerves and feelings of self-doubt about her preparations for Storm Solstice, are all part of what trigger the disturbing visions, and as other stories show, she is pretty susceptible to that kind of thing. Add to that the connection to her betrothal stone and all the memories that represents, and that really turns it up to eleven. But she will make it through, as you shall see!

    She is throwing her whole self into all these things, it's true, and as Vek said above, that kind of dedication can be hard on one. I remember having similar feelings, and similar days, back in my graduate school days and have been drawing on those here as best I can. I just wish I had handled things as well as Shulma back in those days! :p

    Aw, thank you so much! :) True love can definitely be that for a person, and I have always loved the idea of loves and friendships that are complementary that way—which is a large part of why I love writing about these two. [face_love]

    They are, it's true, and sometimes great visionary capability and great pain go hand in hand—which was definitely true of some of the real-life mystics who were inspirations for Shulma's characterization (Hildegard of Bingen, Theresa of Avila, etc.). It's something for her to grapple with (she still does later in life too), but her determination and strength of character will stand her in good stead.

    Oh yes... see my response to divapilot above on the same topic, because it looks like you made a similar observation! ;)

    I agree! True love can be a calming and stabilizing force in our lives, and that's not a bad thing, nor is it a "distraction." Of course Marballees is colored by some of his own bitterness and prejudice here, too...

    Exactly. Her supporters outnumber her detractors two to one here... but unfortunately there's that "bad apple" effect at work, and it's the "bad apple" who will have the biggest effect on her in what comes next. So often happens that way in real life, too, doesn't it! :(

    The Ashla disapproves just as much of what this Marballees just did to Shulma as of what the younger Marballees did to her in the earlier story, and again, the (rotten) apple never falls far from the tree. [face_bleh] Another bit that wasn't easy to write!

    Exactly... this was someone tasked with watching out for her and acting as a trusted authority figure to her in her studies, and he has completely abused that role. Perhaps he was even playing on her own feelings of self-doubt, in a way—people like that often do. Again, that "rotten apple" effect, and it's a place I've been before, too. :(

    It's a lot to take, and the betrothal stone was the straw that broke the camel's back. At least her friends are nearby, so she won't be going this alone—but it will take some time.

    You'll see, soon and very soon, and you may be on to something there! :D

    Thanks again, all—more anon...
     
  25. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Four

    That same day, later in the afternoon, Zeb returned.

    It had taken much longer than he’d hoped, but the tiresome business with the malfunctioning bo-rifles had finally been sorted out. A full inventory of the arsenal had been conducted, and all active Honor Guard personnel had been required to submit their weaponry for inspection. The unfortunate Guardsman who had suffered the injury was now fully recovered except for a few bacta patches, but there were still piles of datawork to be filed with the proper military authorities. And naturally Zeb had been tasked with overseeing it all, thanks to his new rank and responsibilities…

    But now it was all over, thank the Ashla, and Zeb thought he would celebrate by taking Shulma out to a pleasant, romantic dinner in town. If her studies and duties permitted, of course—and he was fairly sure she would let them permit.

    So it was, once again, that the young officer paced on the platform at the base of Mount Straga, waiting for the funicular car to arrive with his betrothed. He gave a grunt of impatience as he checked his pocket chrono; usually she was here by now. But the transport had been idle for several minutes.

    Then he noticed a female figure running up the pathway toward the station. It wasn’t Shulma but rather her friend Rishla, who was studying with her for the First Degree. She was out of breath as she ran up to him.

    “Zeb! That you?”

    “Yeah, it’s me. What’s up?”

    “Are you looking for Shulma?”

    “Aw, how’d you guess?”

    Rishla cracked a slight smile at this quip, then bit her lip nervously. “Look, um… she had to go home early.”

    “Home?! Early?! What’s going on?!”

    “She… she collapsed from vision shock. I was just there… Yhazi’s with her now… we’ve been trying to get her to sleep naturally but she’s too—Hey! Wait!”

    But Zeb was already running at full speed down the trail through the valley that led to the village of Flowstone Vale. He did not stop until he reached the threshold of his beloved’s house, where he knocked vigorously on the front door.

    After a few moments it opened to reveal a hulking, stern-faced Lasat male of late middle age in miner’s coveralls, who stared at Zeb as if he were a heap of dead giju that had been left on his doorstep. “’Afternoon,” was his terse greeting.

    Zeb drew himself up to perfect military posture. “Good afternoon, Master Trilasha.”

    “Here to see my daughter, are you, hmmm?”

    “Yes, Master Trilasha.”

    “She’s indisposed.”

    Aw, karabast. “I know she’s indisposed, Master Trilasha,” Zeb answered as calmly as he could, though his teeth ground together in frustration. “I just was hoping to… check up on her, you know.”

    “Let me see what my wife thinks about that,” came the gruff response. But just as he turned to go back into the house, a bespectacled female Lasat of similar age hurried up beside him.

    “Ormgar, what are you doing?! Let the young man in, for Ashla’s sake!”

    “But Yokheva! Is it proper for him to see her like this?”

    “See her like what? She’s completely wrapped in blankets. And it’ll cheer her up. Here, you come on in.” She extended her hand to Zeb. “I’ll take you up to her.”

    Yokheva led Zeb past the nonplussed Ormgar and up a narrow staircase to the attic level of the house, where she knocked on a closed door. It was answered by Yhazi, who gestured quickly for Zeb to enter. Yokheva gave them both a wave and a wink and retreated downstairs.

    “All right, so I got her to sleep,” whispered Yhazi. “The trance incense should last maybe… ten more minutes? I’m just gonna do the healing sequence one more time and then—”

    “Right.” Zeb pushed past her and made directly for the low but heavily pillowed bed at the other end of the room. There she lay—his Shulma—asleep, wrapped in blankets and shawls, with her long, purple-black hair flowing loose around her. She was turned on her side, facing away from him, with one hand down at her side and the other folded under her pillow. Her face was as serene and lovely as ever, and she looked so beautiful lying there that part of Zeb longed to pounce on her and cover her with fierce kisses. But he knew now was not the time; she was ill and weak, her cheeks were so pale they looked almost gray, and she squirmed fitfully as she slept.

    Zeb glanced around, from her to the book-strewn desk across the room, to the twilight outside the window, to Yhazi, who chanted quietly as she chalked mystical symbols on the wall and floor, and back to the sleeping Shulma. It crossed his mind that he had never seen her asleep before, much less even crossed the threshold of her bedroom. He couldn’t help but feel a little nervous, and even a little incredulous: was this humble room beneath the eaves, with its creaky floor and sparse furnishings, really his lovely shaman’s private place of repose? Just his rotten luck that he would be here while she was sick, with her giddiest girlfriend there in the same room and both her parents just downstairs…

    Zeb seated himself on the bed and touched the hand that lay at Shulma’s side. It was clenched, cold, and slightly sweaty; he covered it with his own hand in an attempt to warm it. As he did he noticed that it was gripping something. He had just begun to uncurl her fingers to see what it was when he heard a faint “Mmm… Zeblove… is that you?”

    “Shulma!” Zeb released her hand and looked over to see her emerald eyes flickering open. He immediately shifted closer and began to put his arms around her. “Oh, Shulma, yes, it’s me… aw karabast, darlin’, you’re shakin’… you’re cold… what’s goin’ on?!”

    “Don’t worry about me, dear Garazeb.” She spoke in faint, tired tones as she wriggled gently out of his embrace. “I’ll be all right. I’m just… worn out, is all.”

    “Rishla says you collapsed!”

    “I did. It’s true.” Her voice seemed even more tremulous. “But all will be well. What about you, darling? Did everything work out all right with the weapons inspections and the—”

    “Fine! It’s fine! EVERYTHING’S FINE!” he growled. “Never mind me! What's happened to you?!” He tried to embrace her again, and again she shifted away. “What in the name of the Bogan is goin’ on here?! And karabast, why do you keep pullin’ away from me?!

    “I’m sorry, love… I guess I’m just still feeling out of sorts… all those late nights of studying must have really done me in… but really, please...”

    “Please what?!

    “Please don’t be so worried. Yhazi and Rishla have been taking good care of me. Just stay with me while I rest.”

    “Shulma…” He placed his hand on her arm; she stirred but did not pull away this time. “Of course I’ll stay with my lady, but…”

    “And if you could please move that manly posterior of yours down a little so it’s not on my gown…” Zeb shifted slightly, suddenly wondering about this gown that he couldn’t see for all the blankets and shawls. “Thank you. That’s better.” She turned onto her back, leaning on her pillows in a half-upright position.

    Yhazi, meanwhile, had just finished her incantation and was having difficulty stifling giggles as she relit the trance incense, which burned in a small brazier on the windowsill. “I think I’ll leave you two alone now,” she smirked, making for the door. Then suddenly she spun around, took a small bottle from her bag and placed it on the bedside table. “Oh, you know what? I’ll leave the kamphra water. You can have Senior Lieutenant Stripes rub some on you.”

    “Dear Yhazi, what would I do without you?” Shulma cracked a wry smile as she called after her friend. “And I’ve already told you, his name is Zeb, and anyway he’s been—” The door closed with a click. “Promoted. Sorry, love. Pay no heed to Yhazi. She’s just being her usual silly self again.”

    “’S all right, I’m used to your friends by now. But darlin’—”

    “The kamphra water is a good idea, though. Would you rub some on my temples, please? It would feel so nice.”

    “All right, fine.” Somewhat gingerly, Zeb opened the bottle, sprinkled a little of its contents onto his fingertips, and began to dab it onto Shulma’s temples, all the while grimacing at the strong smell. “Karabast! This stuff smells like an explosion in a mothball factory!”

    “Oh, does it? Because all I can smell right now is you, my mighty bristlecone.”

    “Then I’ll come closer, my wild mountain flower.” Zeb did so, despite the strong smell of the kamphra water, and felt his face and breast fill with heat. When she started talking like that, how could he not long to crush her with kisses? Especially since he could now catch her scent too—so herbal, earthy, and sweet all at once… But an Honor Guard must have discipline, after all—so he took a deep breath and continued his ministrations, now rubbing the water on the other side of her forehead. As he did, his gaze happened to wander down toward the hand at her side, which was still clutching something.

    “What’s in your hand, darlin’?” he asked.

    “Oh! Well—” Shulma shuddered, thrusting her hand quickly under the covers. “It’s—it’s nothing, love. Nothing.”

    “It’s not nothin’. I know it’s not nothin’. You’re holdin’ somethin’. What is it?”

    “Oh Zeblove…” Her voice trembled again.

    “Please.”

    “Promise me by the Ashla that you won’t be angry?”

    “I… I’ll do my best.”

    Shulma chuckled slightly, wryly. “At least you’re honest, my hotheaded love. Fine. Here.”

    She took her hand from under the covers and opened it. The shard of red-purple crystal lay there. Replacing the kamphra water on the bedside table, Zeb picked it up for a closer look, and noticed that Shulma’s palm was scratched from where she had clutched it so long and so tightly.

    “Karabast… that’s… that’s…”

    “Y-yes… our stone… a piece of our stone… Zeb…” She turned away as tears overtook her.

    “Shulma!” He grabbed her shoulder and tried to turn her back toward him. “What happened? Tell me!”

    “Zeblove, please—” Again she pulled free of his touch. “I can’t—”

    “What do you mean, you can’t—” Zeb broke off and sighed. “Shamanic secrecy again, is it?”

    “Well, yes… partly…”

    “Aw, the Bogan take shamanic secrecy!” Zeb thumped a fist on the bed. “All it’s ever done is make my poor lady miserable and sick!”

    “Please, dearest.” Shulma sighed anew at this outburst from her betrothed and placed her hand over his fist. “You said you wouldn’t get angry.”

    “Sorry, sorry… but darlin’…” He reached over and brushed the tears from her cheeks. “Isn’t there anything you can tell me? It just… makes my blood boil to see you so troubled! And not know why!”

    “Well…” She took a deep breath to calm herself, then lifted herself onto her side and curled closer around him. He could now see a bit of a silky golden-yellow bodice. “Do you remember that awful Porfozald? That skinny little fellow who used to—”

    “Oh, do I,” grunted Zeb. His face contorted with disgust as he recalled the weedy shaman initiate who some years before had spent his every spare moment tormenting Shulma with his obnoxious, fulsome advances—even after she had made it perfectly clear that she had no interest in him. Zeb had threatened to snap the spindly youth in half like a dry branch if he didn’t leave Shulma alone, and that—as far as he knew—had been the last of it. “If that smarmy li’l Bogan-spawn is givin’ you trouble you again…”

    “Oh no, of course not! You already made sure of that, remember, dearest?” She winked at him. “But his father is on the Consistory, and today it was the inscrutable will of the Ashla to send him to my study chamber.”

    Zeb’s brow darkened. “And why was he in your study chamber?”

    “For an examination. Wise Chava and Shaman Movshati were there, too.” Zeb nodded, and she continued. “Oh, Zeb, it was… the others were fine, but he was so smug and haughty and nasty and nothing I said or did was right—it was terrible—” She swallowed as her tears began to build again. “And then—”

    “Aw, karabast, no… no…”

    “Yes… he knocked my desk so the stone fell off, and—” Suddenly she doubled over. “Oh, Zeblove! Oh, my head hurts!”

    “Shulma! Darling!” Zeb caught her in his arms—now noticing and feeling the delicate floral embroidery that covered her gown—and eased her carefully back onto her pillows. Her face had gone gray again and she was trembling violently. And if her head hurt on top of it all—he remembered something she had said to him once about headaches, storm-visions, and vision shock…

    And all because of that rotten old Consistory shaman or whatever he was! Zeb could feel anger rising in him even as he stroked Shulma’s hand to calm her. He did this to her, the sleemo!

    “THAT DESPICABLE OLD CREEP!” Zeb slammed the piece of stone down on the table and jumped to his feet. “HOW DARE HE! I’LL MAKE HIM PAY FOR THIS! I’LL GO UP THERE AND BEAT HIM TO A BLOODY PULP AND THROW HIS MISERABLE REMAINS FROM THE MOUNTAINTOP FOR THE CONVOREES TO FEAST ON!!

    “Zeblove…” Shulma’s voice was barely audible. “You’re getting angry again…”

    “YOU BETTER BELIEVE I AM!” He rammed his fist into his palm. “NO ONE TREATS MY LADY THAT WAY, NO ONE! I DON’T CARE IF HE’S CONSISTORY OR WHATEVER THE BOGAN HE IS, THIS IS THE LAST TIME HE’S EVER GONNA—

    “Hey! What’s going on up here?!” The door flew open. Zeb stopped short as Yhazi strode in, fixing him with a scolding glare. “Her Ashla currents are going absolutely berserk! Like, storm-vision berserk! What have you been doing to her, anyway?” A sudden smirk slid across Yhazi’s face. “No, wait, don’t answer that.”

    “I didn’t do anything to her!” Zeb protested. But I wish I could, just a little—though there was no way he’d ever admit that to the likes of Yhazi. “She was tellin’ me what happened and it got her kind of… worked up, is all.”

    “Yeah, ‘worked up’ is one way of putting it.” Yhazi bent down to feel Shulma’s forehead and cheeks; she was facing away from both Yhazi and Zeb and still trembling visibly. “’Course, Marballees is enough to give anyone storm-visions. But seriously, though. If we don’t calm her currents back down soon, she’s never going to be better in time for Storm Solstice. I really hate to say this, but it might be best if you go now and let her—”

    “NO!” Shulma’s hand shot out suddenly to grab Zeb’s wrist. “Please, please let him stay! Won’t you stay with me, love?”

    Zeb took her hand in both of his, then turned with a scowl toward Yhazi. “I’ll stay with my lady as long as she wants me to.”

    “All right, whatever, you two, but—”

    “Maybe you could read to me. Could you do that, darling? With Your Reverence’s permission, of course.” Shulma winked at Yhazi.

    “Fine,” Yhazi sighed, rolling her eyes. “Just not, like, the Boganomicon or anything like that, all right?”

    “Yhazi, you’re the one who has the Boganomicon checked out, not I.”

    “Hey, there’s some pretty juicy stuff in there. Just saying, just saying!” Yhazi added hastily as both Zeb and Shulma glared at her. “Anyway, I’ll just refill the trance incense and then leave you two nuzzlecats in peace.”

    She went to the window and busied herself with the brazier. Zeb looked with some trepidation over at the numerous books strewn about Shulma’s desk. There had always been something that intimidated him a bit about all those ancient texts and arcane prophecies with which his beloved spent her days—but then again, he was an Honor Guard, and an Honor Guard must face trepidation bravely, mustn’t he? “All right, darlin’, what am I readin’ to you?”

    “How about Osthi?”

    “Oh, how’d I guess?” laughed Yhazi as she finished with the incense and collected her gear.

    “I’ll miss you too, Yhazi,” quipped Shulma languidly as her friend swaggered out of the room. “Anyway, yes, Osthi… Stronghold of Prophecy… it’s that little one with the gold cover up at the corner, on top of the big red one… no, the other big red one, next to the lamp… there, that’s it… and could you please read prophecy eighteen... I think it’s on page 137…”

    Zeb took the book and sat on the bed once again, and once again Shulma nestled up against him. Turning to the page in question, Zeb began to read, slowly and a little uncertainly:

    “‘After all these things, the blade of the Ashla pierced me again, and I saw the Child standing on the dawn-red cliff beneath the stars of the firm… fer… ferment.’”

    “Firmament.”

    “‘...the stars of the firmament.’” Zeb grimaced slightly, then continued. “‘His face shone with such brightness that it dazzled me; now white was its light, now gold, now all colors at once, ever changing: for he had gone unscathed through the Maze and seen the ancient homeworld with his own eyes, and its glow now shone within them. In the sky above him shone five stars: one blue, two green, two more that were the color of the paintbrush that blooms in the valley’… what’s that? That spiky orange flower we sometimes see along the trail from—”

    “Yes, that’s right.”

    “So why doesn’t it just say ‘orange’?”

    “Because it’s more beautiful this way.”

    “Hmph. If you say so.” He cleared his throat and continued. “‘He looked up at those stars and sighed, for they were far from him, gone from him. But still an even deeper and more painful longing assailed his heart, piercing it even as the Ashla’s blade pierced me; and he raised his voice to the stars and cried, “Ah me, wretched woeful wight!”’ Wight? What’s a wight?

    “Just keep reading, Zeblove.”

    “‘“Ah me, wretched woeful wight-whatever-that-is! For my heart longs with grievous longing for the glory of the ancient homeworld. But I am unworthy, my hands stained with blood and my mouth with foulness; and how can my untaught mind withstand this new knowledge that burns it like molten stone?” But no sooner had he said these things than he heard above him the sound of beautiful singing; and he looked up and saw the Seer standing higher up on the dawn-red cliff, surrounded by a rosy light that rustled like water…’ WHAT?! How can light rustle like water?!”

    “Mmm…” was Shulma’s only response. Her eyes were now closed, and her head lolled drowsily to one side. Zeb wondered if she was on the point of falling asleep; he decided to keep reading, in hopes that it might help her stay awake.

    “‘And grasping the sheer rock the Child began to climb up to her; and when he reached her she gathered him to her, and said unto him: “Be not troubled, beloved Child of Lasan: you have had many trials and shall have many more, but I shall remain with you and guide you, and gently cleanse you.” And she wrapped him in her cloak so that her rustling light enfolded him; and when she placed her hand upon him, his heart was transverberated by a shock of such ineffable joy that he’—Transverberated?! Ineffable?! What the—?! Why can’t these prophecy-types ever say anything in plain and simple language that everyone can understand?!”

    There was no response but the sound of soft breathing. Zeb slapped the book closed and thrust it down on the bedside table. “Karabast, first you want me to read to you and then you go and fall asleep before I even—”

    He stopped short and leaned over to take a closer look at his beloved. She had indeed drifted off to sleep—but it was a much more peaceful sleep than before. Her only motion was the gentle rise and fall of her chest, and she no longer tossed or twitched. Color—her own natural lavender color—blossomed again in her face.

    Zeb couldn’t help but smile. Shulma might have nodded off before the end of the chapter or prophecy or whatever it was—but she was clearly doing much better now, and that was what mattered most. Was it because he had been there beside her? He could not help but swell with a little pride. But some of it had to be her own inner strength, too. He knew his bride-to-be had the perseverance of a true shaman of Lasan, and that neither vision shock nor the stress of her studies nor broken betrothal stones nor nasty old Consistory shamans had the power to keep her down for long. (For a moment he found himself wondering why he no longer felt the urge to pound the living daylights out of that Marballees creep. But you’ve always had that effect on me, haven’t you, my wild mountain flower?)

    Perhaps now wouldn’t be a bad time for those kisses, he thought to himself. Well, maybe just one. Mustn’t go full strength just yet, after all…

    Shulma’s head was still turned to the side, away from Zeb. Leaning over and pushing back a fallen lock of her purple-black hair, he planted a kiss on one of her wispy violet cheek-stripes—and lingered there for a few moments, taking in her warmth, her softness, her scent...

    “Sleep well, Shulma, love,” he said as he rose at last. Then he arranged the shawls and blankets back around her shoulders, turned out the lamp, and left the room.

    * * *

    A little later, Yhazi came back upstairs to check on Shulma. All was calm, and she was relieved to see her friend sleeping peacefully and naturally at last. Just for good measure, she chanted one more quick healing prayer.

    Then her eyes fell on the piece of red-purple stone on the bedside table. She picked it up and stashed it in her bag, then hurried downstairs to send Rishla a comm message.

    to be continued

    Once again, Osthi of Feldspar Falls and her version of the prophecy of the Three are fanon (see notes to chapter 2 above). For the mystical/prophetical text that Zeb reads to Shulma in this chapter, I took inspiration from Hildegard of Bingen, Mechthild of Magdeburg, and Teresa of Ávila. Osthi herself is kind of an amalgam of those three Earth mystics.

    bristlecone: Raissa Baiard’s fanon, based on the Earth bristlecone pine and described in the Lasat fanon post.

    kamphra water: Fanon. A sort of eau de cologne-like stuff used as a topical tonic, with a somewhat camphorous odor.

    “that little one with the gold cover”: Based on the design of the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, published by Harvard University Press.

    “all colors at once, ever changing”: Cf. the light surrounding the Ghost in the climactic scene toward the end of “Legends of the Lasat,” when the hyperdrive suddenly reactivates on its own.

    “the paintbrush that blooms in the valley”: A flower called “canyon paintbrush” is referenced in chapter 3 of Raissa Baiard’s The Beginning of Honor, which is based on the Bryce Canyon paintbrush (Castilleja revealii). The Bryce Canyon paintbrush is a fuchsia color, but many other members of the Castilleja genus are orange or orange-red instead. Thus there’s now an orange “valley paintbrush” on Lasan as well as the fuchsia canyon paintbrush. (And yes, the colors matter here—see below.)

    transverberate: The basic meaning is to pierce through; usually used of the heart during an ecstatic religious experience. The word is associated primarily with St. Teresa of Ávila, one of the inspirations for Osthi (see above).

    vision shock: Fanon. I haven’t yet worked out the exact pathology in detail, but it’s essentially a shock-like reaction in response to repeated and/or intense mystical experiences or visions. Shulma suffers from it at various points in Shaman, Traveler, Oracle as well.

    wight: A legitimate, if somewhat archaic and poetic, English word that simply means “creature.”

    Wookieepedia links:
    Bogan: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Bogan and http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Lasat_(language) (though the Boganomicon is fanon)
    convorees (sing. convor): http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Convor

    Finally, the rest of the Ghost crew appears in this chapter—can you spot them? ;)
     
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