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Saga - PT Before the Saga Midday Darkness // The Light is Me, I Am The Light (OCs | Autobiography & Biography)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Ewok Poet, Feb 18, 2016.

  1. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Thanks for reading - to those who comment, to those who sometimes comment and to others. Seriously, if you ever feel inadequate about saying something, remember this: you're supporting the writer, not writing a comment that needs to be perfect. Whatever you say, I am going to appreciate it a lot. It does not have to be perfect, it does not have to be in tune with my own views - in fact, if you challenge me, I am going to welcome it!

    This said, this story was meant to end on December 31st, but I expected too much of myself and I'm not sure if that's possible at this moment, as bulk-posting all the remaining chapters (7x2 = 14!) would not give anybody any time to think about it. So, I am taking it slow, because actually finishing it, at this moment, matters more than finishing it at a specific point in time.

    Next set of chapters coming VERY soon. :)




    Would definitely like to know more about what you said at some point, yeah, but thanks for the encouragement. :)

    Of course. Sex is a mean of creating those whom you raise to love you and submit to you, but it's risky because those creatures could also betray you someday. Pleasure is for the weak, so is emotional attachment. Any union of two individuals is a thing of convenience or domination.

    Nobody said if it was true or not. We'll see. But yes, Drall boys are definitely being scared into waiting and, if possible, aversion.

    All of that is true, except for "romantic". Roula thinks these things are just trade-offs. Practical stuff!

    And no matter how small he is otherwise, he managed it. That's some good, good guardian angel!

    A thing of all "very moral" societies - karked up priorities. And Roula, next to being a snitchy monster, is also getting too much credit at very young age - just because she's a Pelayn.

    Your guesses are very welcome, at any given time.

    As for everything else...yeah, you saw it coming...[face_whistling]
     
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  2. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    The Light is Me, I am the Light
    A cautionary story for whoever

    05 Artificially Flavoured

    My memories of the penalty days on Noleria are sparse. Every day was like the previous one, and the next one. The lack of proper sleep cycle, the artificial light we were all subjected to and the bleak outlook most of us acquired – let's say that, right now, when I am sitting a couple of footsteps away from blazing sunlight illuminating a waterfront street, it's the last thing I want to describe in detail.

    Once we landed on the planet's surface, I was not sure how it could be referred to as a world same as our own in the first place. Later on, I would learn that many things preached on Sacorria with such an amount of fervour are most likely not to be true, but this was my first negative and therefore, a major shock.

    This was a desert planet with mostly red sands covering it, a gigantic polygon for the most unruly among the genetic and terraforming experiments. Oases were sparse and each single one had to be constantly invigorated with water as well as a bunch of mineral supplements. Whatever the terraforming was like in other systems – we were most likely doing our own thing. In the worst way possible. The project was clearly not working as it should have. Later on, I would learn about far more dangerous terraforming projects – namely the one attempted on Arcadia, the volcanic planet. Sacorrian authorities have always been praising common sense, but it was never used in practice.

    Still, I had not seen much in life prior to that moment. Even though I was aware that I was a convict, a juvenile delinquent, I still had the spark in my eyes, because, at least at the very beginning, this felt like an excursion. Every single thing in the red rock covered wilderness was new and beautiful to me. The sediments speckled around, their base colour being black. The way Sacor looked and how it was never at its highest in the sky. All the other star systems and constellations visible at any given point in time, because the planet’s atmosphere was thin. Then there was also dustgrass, which I later learned was a cross between wild dust corn and galah, the weed found hundred kilometres under the glacier surface of Vo. I have never seen a plant formed from its own seeds carried by the wind and each single specimen looking different. Whoever was behind this was certainly a good astrobiologist. And potentially dangerous.

    My hands remained glued to the durasteel viewport of the shuttle that carried us from the colony’s only spaceport towards the convict housing facility deep in the desert. In a stark contrast to this, the doctor’s face remained stuck in a single, listless expression. This was not his first time in the penal colony, thought it was most certainly his first time there as a convict.

    We were taken to what resembled domed town and given a modest dormitory, housing our entire group of thirteen. During out first night at the facility, we discovered that the dome does little more than provide cleanish air. It was not simulating the day and night in any way, the intensity of blinking artificial light generated through the power of the desert winds was not changing during the planet’s 32-hour rotation cycle. Humans with blue eyes and this albino Selonian would often sleep underneath their beds, as not even sticking one’s head under the thin pillow would help them create an illusion of there being night.

    Sometimes, our supervisors did not like this. They would come along and drag everybody whom they would find sleeping in a wrong place outside, to sleep under even brighter lights of the hallway.

    During the day, we would work in another dome, under much lower light. The jobs were not as hard as I initially had assumed – we were not given typical droid tasks, it was not physically exhausting. On the contrary, everything was highly repetitive. I was tasked with subtitling the historic speeches of the previous incarnation of the Triad. I was required to do it in Drallish, while the albino Selonian, whose name was Wake, was doing that in the other two languages. After we subtitled twenty of them, we got the first speech again, under an excuse that it was a mistake. However, the time we recognised the second one, we were sure that this was being done on purpose. We first shrugged it off and saw the whole round of twenty repeat itself. Wake joked that we’ll get everything once again and, sadly, he was right.

    The third time around, after we were told that the datacard was corrupted, the task was tedious – listening to the Ruusan Reformation speech in the seventh of the twenty holovids was becoming so predictable that I was sure that I knew every word of it by heart – yes, we accepted the Galactic Standard Hour. Yes, we accepted the length of the standard year. No, we don’t want to name the days of the week after whatever was significant to Coruscant, because us Sacorrians, we have our own important people – all of them probably legends.

    We ended up transcribing the speeches a total of seven times. This was their way to force us into complete obedience. And I am sure that they managed to break most of us. Me? I learned to act like I was more obedient, but below the surface, underneath the mask, I remained cynical. My world had shattered the moment I saw how it works and my faith in system disappeared when Roula’s revenge turned my life upside down – there were no illusions to feed and clothe anymore.

    In all this bleakness, I started to draw again, after a long time. In a way, it was only dragging me further down. I was always the kind to experience the world through his five senses and I was not good with escapism. Therefore, I see what I draw and I draw what I see. And in this case, that was like rubbing salt on my wounds. At this point in time, I am doing the same – painting pictures of what’s right before me – but it fills my heart with nothing but joy. The kind of a world I live in right now, that I hope to remain in until the end of my life, gives me more hope than Sacorria and Noleria ever did.

    If nothing else, I managed to escape the danger of having too much time on my hands. With twelve hours of forced labour per day, ten to draw and ten to sleep, I remained safe from possible fights. And that was good. Those who fought would often be taken to solitary confinement, where they had to sit in a room with their eyes glued open, their hands tied behind their backs and large headphones in their ears. They were, of course, going through repeated read-throughs and audio narrations of the Book of Law. And it was us, the well-behaved inmates who would often be tasked with reading right into their headphones, from the safety of a nearby isolated chamber. One would think that nobody wanted to do it – but we were rewarded with the ability to sleep in a completely dark room, meals that contained salt, herbs, sugar and spices instead of the usual bland meal and a nutritional supplement where the taste of everything that made any food good was masked. On one occasion, I even got a piece of dust corn bread with angleberry jam on top of it. I didn’t even want to ask my supervisor how come that a banned fruit made it back to our system – the answer could have as well landed me into solitary confinement.

    During these readings, our voices were never obscured and modified. Despite that, the punished inmates would never seek revenge on those who were reading to them. They knew that each fight meant more and more reading. However, there were instances of inmates destroying their belongings or committing self-injury solely to be placed into the solitary confinement and listen to the collection of the values and doctrine forced upon us all over again. They were becoming fanatics. In such cases, they would disappear after their solitary confinement.

    It was much later that I realised that they were rewarded for their display of loyalty and sent back to Sacorria early. In the end, about five or six inmates had disappeared that way.

    Twelve months later, we were free to go. Or not quite.

    On the eve of our return to Sacorria, we were transported to the Nole City and participate in the Nolerday – the planet’s annual fete in honour of the day it was founded. Seven centuries ago, they told us, an explorer named Nole Quickhitter landed on the planet that was previously thought to be impossible to terraform and begun a minor mining operation that eventually resulted in a chain chemical and geological reaction. I don’t believe this. Seven centuries ago would have been too soon and random explorers are not capable of things like this. But at the time this was happening, I was so exhausted from the light torture and the daily propaganda force-feeding rounds that I wanted to believe it. It sounded more positive than anything I had heard of before.

    Celebrating the Nolerday on Noleria should have been an experience to look forward. In reality, after everything we have learned about this colony, its signature holiday seemed fake. Sure, we were dragged to the properly terraformed side of the planet – which was in itself a great surprise, but nobody rewarded us with anything – we were sent there to serve, wash, clean and cook. To add insult to injury, holos of us doing the droid kind of jobs, with our faces blurred out as the only thing remotely resembling privilege, were sent to CESA in order to show the comrades and comradettes how we were about to be re-integrated into the society and how obedient we had become.

    Much to our relief, the people we served were peasants and they acted like we had been equals all along. They moved to Noleria in hopes of better life, and they lived without some of the common amenities of the later Hyperspace Age, but they loved it that way. There was no population control in the Nole City, as opposed to the motherworld’s Saccorata. Nobody was telling these people what to wear, how to think, they lived their idyllically lives on the side of the planet facing Sacorria. That said, we could see a green and yellow ball in the sky – we were closer to home than I had thought previously.

    And this was where I also realised that Noleria was tidally locked. And the penalty colony was on the side of the planet facing away from Sacorria, yet everything that was ever done to those unfortunate enough to be sent there was stuffing their minds and hearts with more and more Sacorrian doctrine. At this point, I believe that this too was done on purpose – we were supposed to get homesick and miss the supposed perfection of our fields of golden grains.

    I don’t want to see another tidally-locked planet, ever again. With my luck, I would end up on the dark side, once again.

    …​

    Upon arriving to Sacorria again, I felt strange relief. For once, the blue sky was right before me, with those puffy, fluffy clouds that I had missed so much. That meant that day and night would soon become common occurrences as well. While such a thing would have sounded bizarre to most, that was all I ever wanted at this point in time. All I ever wanted.

    But the one thing that disappointed me further was that our belongings from Noleria were confiscated. Everything I drew, and at the end, it was almost like a book of pictures, was either destroyed or it remained up there. Things that contributed to my spirit remaining in a decent shape, despite the fact that it had been almost starved to death, they had no value by Sacorrian standards.


     
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  3. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Ah ha! And we have a second episode that seems to have be conspicuously absent from Roula's version of the story. I see why, of course—this is clearly not the most pleasant memory for Dyeke either. Let me make sure I have this right: he's on the dark side of the planet, but he doesn't really get to experience natural night because they're blaring artificial light at everyone at all hours? So he's basically experiencing what one can only describe at best as a bizarre light/darkness mixed message, at worst as light torture ( :eek: !). After enduring that, it's a wonder that he can later go on to say "the light is me, I am the light"! But perhaps it's precisely because he's been through that that he can now say "the light is me." With that horrendous experience behind him, he appreciates more than ever the way light and darkness really are supposed to work. (We see that from his remark about the beautiful sunlit place where he's writing right now, [hl=black]about which I have a few guesses[/hl].)

    Of course, it's not surprising to me that a society as messed up as Sacorria would do that sort of thing in its prison colonies (and yes, you said that that sort of thing was being done in some places in the US too, which is very disturbing). Indeed, none of the bizarre, tortuous tasks and punishments you have described here are at all out of character for that supremely warped society, from the repetitive, useless subtitling work to the repeated forced readings and audio-narrations of the Book of Law. I'm noting that the former involves canonically Sacorrian texts too—former Triad members' speeches—so that these poor folks are being gorged with at least a double dose of fulsome propaganda. [face_sick] And of course they all get to the point where they memorize the texts and internalize them and to where the texts become part of them. For those that will eventually go on to leave the Sacorrian homeworld (which we are pretty sure Dyeke himself will eventually do), this is the kind of thing that will make it very hard to "take Sacorria out of the Drall" (or Human, or Selonian).

    The mention of the Ruusan Reformation speech is an interesting detail, because it sums up in a few words just what Sacorria's relationship to the Empire is—even as they comply with most of what the Empire dishes out to them, they have the cocky boldness to stay just different enough, and they know that the Empire will have to deal. In other words, they have out-Empired the Empire in certain areas, and that's pretty chilling to think about!

    The whole business with the Nolerday celebration just adds insult to injury. :( What these poor unfortunate inmates thought would be a celebration and a much-needed chance to enjoy themselves becomes just a way for the authorities to parade their "obedience," as well as a sort of continuation of the light torture—or at least another form of light torture in which the view of the homeworld itself, floating there in the sky so close to them, becomes a form of torture. The "fields of golden grains" become a kind of torture, too. (And hmm, that is of course the name of Sacorria's anthem, too... will this part of Dyeke's experience influence the way he hears that anthem later on in life? Of course I would wonder something like that.)

    Gotta say here that though of course I think you did a fantastic job with all the chapters of this story, I find this one especially effective, and I think it might be my favorite so far—just for the way the starkness and terror of the place, and the tidally locked setting, and its effect on Dyeke, are described. Bravissima. =D=
     
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  4. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Thanks for reading! :D

    And OMG, is that...another stealth reader that I have? I know about one who doesn't do 'em peasant things like likes, tags etc, but glad that I have one who does, too. Welcome. [face_love]




    She won't be absent from the next one on - but be ready for lots of bantha poodoo. And that's an understatement. It's a whole speeder truck load of bantha poodoo, I says.

    It is light torture, yes. I got the idea from reading an article about for-profit youth prisons in USA, as you suggested, but I am linking this in case somebody else is interested, too.
    http://projects.huffingtonpost.com/prisoners-of-profit

    Of course, the rest of the brainwashing process does not happen IRL. And our world has day and night.

    A little ibbot told me that your guesses are probably correct. ;)

    And yes - light has been an important part of Dyeke's journey and the only way to beat too much light was to become it and blend in, in a way.

    Great observation! No matter how much he managed to resist, parts of those Triad speeches and audio narrations of the Book of Law are etched somewhere in the back of his mind and they WILL pop up at strangest possible moments.

    Nothing to add here. Nothing. :)

    If any kind of an enforcer they encounter was asked about this, if these broken souls dared to ask, the answer would probably be that they need to show that they changed in the presence of their planet in order to truly be worth of it again. Or something as odd as that.

    It took me a long time to come up with a good idea for it, so that means a lot. [face_love]
     
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  5. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    MIDDAY DARKNESS

    Official biography of the progressive artist Dyeke
    by Roula of Pelayn


    04 Integrated and Integrating

    The latter years of comrade Dyeke’s basic and mid-level education were as tranquil as the Dorthus Tal Sea on the day the First Triad had taken power over our world. And just like Davoreen Lylek was progressively inspired when he immortalised those three beings in the relief of what is now the Triad Mountain, just like Poruga Kvadar was when she came up with the lyrics to “Golden Grains”, he was a personification of the will for art that was impossible to quench.

    Once no longer in the hoverchair, he could have become the next top limmie goalkeeper, the next one to win the scholarship and travel to the Noleria Talent Camp. He was healthy, he was enhanced in numerous ways and that would have been an easier path to success. But a true Sacorrian comrade harbouring the eternal energy of the Dorthus Tal Volcano in his restless heart knows that the long road will reward the Community more than the short one. And therefore, he generously let somebody else have the goalkeeper position and decided to spend more time painting.

    From this era of his life, we have numerous paintings of Curheg. I was not aware that they existed, until Dyeke’s then-mentor comrade Saride, now the vice-dean of the SUPAS, brought them to my office after we had heard the tragic news of Dyeke’s passing. They appeared to have been taken at night, which impressed me more than I am capable of expressing in words, because it would have certainly meant that the young Drall was painting when he was supposed to be sleeping and then, still ending up efficient at school despite not having slept as much as his class comrades.

    And this was indeed what prompted Saride to send Dyeke’s work to SUPAS for evaluation, without his knowledge. The then-dean, comradette Progressina Trench, was, reportedly, so excited that she accidentally hit her hand against a hard surface and broke a couple of bones in it. That was the kind of a talent that she had not seen in a long time and the Board of Advisors, as well as the other professors at SUPAS, shared her opinion. They were more than delighted to grant young Dyeke a place at this elite institution, without an entrance exam – which is itself a practice unheard of – as long as his parents and Shvaya, the Prime Comradette of the Nar’cees Clan would agree that he could relocate to Sublata, together with his faithful childhood friend, Garko Garelbi.

    Once in Sublata, the two young men were placed in a twelve-bed dormitory on the quieter side of the building housing the progressive students. They instantly made friends with a whole group of future artists and designers. And, being the charismatic being that he always had been, Dyeke noticed that some of them had trouble integrating. Therefore, he opted for yet another noble, yet progressive sacrifice: he went straight to the office of dean Trench and proposed to her that he spends his first year at SUPAS working as a student host, in addition to taking two sets of classes. Comradette Trench almost rejected it, as comrade Saride had already informed her of Dyeke’s enthusiasm that could lead to severe sleep deprivation; but the progressive Drall assured her that he could handle it and that he would not resort to means such as alcohol or legal stimulants to achieve it.

    Once that was done, he was ready for his first mentee – me!

    The moment we first met, I was awestruck. This man, shorter than me and not from this city, was better at getting around and showing me the best cafes, such as Kantarelo’s, than I could have ever been. I had spent so much of my early years dedicating myself to studying that I never had the time to have progressive, clean fun. But with Dyeke and his equally well-behaved friend Garko, I learned more about the wonders of table-games, making figures in the snow and collecting decorative napkins. To this day, I still have my napkin collection. Some of the cafes that we used to go to no longer exist, but the emblems on the relief-flimsi remind me of the wonderful times I had with my comrades. And they truly changed my life – I was extremely shy, focused on my career and almost forgetting what my clan duties were – to entertain others in order to become a proper Duchess someday, as that is a part of being a leader, too.

    While this friendship brought me to the excellent opportunity that was replacing comradette Trench as the dean of SUPAS, I humbly dropped out of the Duchess Prospect poll, which is not to say that the experience has not been worth the while. I now use my social skills in day-to-day interaction with my students, while my failure helps me teach them that they should be humble and, first and foremost, love art for what it is – a progressive way to express oneself, in the name of Progress and Unity.

    A curious and attentive reader will probably be interested to know if Dyeke and I were more than just friends and if he tried to charm me.

    Of course that he didn’t! Have no fear!

    Young comradettes were never on his mind, despite of the amount of them fawning over him each time he would take a paintbrush in his hands or smear a gob of all colours of the rainbow over a blank canvas! This way, he was setting an example for other Drall males, who might have been tempted to break the rule stating that one’s ta’devsh needs to be preserved until the first wedding night, or at least engagement upon their clan’s Duchess’ approval to marry whoever had proposed to them. He was never the one to break any kind of a law or engage in any forbidden activity.

    The only thing remotely close to an accident we experienced was our first encounter with a student from Saccorata. A certain Branna had opted for SUPAS because she could not pass the entrance exams at Saccorata Tech, or the Dorthus Tal University. Moreover, her lack of talent for almost all forms of art left her only one possibility – to study for a gemmologist. This was the least popular department of SUPAS back in the days, as there certainly aren’t many gems to speak of on Sacorria that are worth exploring. One should note that clan symbols, such as the black stars of R’vanye and the white orbs of my humble clan Pelayn, are obtained on other worlds, but this comment is probably redundant, as any diligent comrade or comradette is well-aware of this.

    The said Branna called my host student ugly. Dyeke was petrified, because nobody else had ever called him that. She also added that he was never going to find himself a spouse and that he clearly was a teacher’s pet. We engaged in a long debate, where I explained that comrade Dyeke was the kind of a talent that never came out of a clan other than Pelayn, that he proudly spent his youth in the progressive city of Curheg and that she should be ashamed of not respecting one of the most basic bullet points from the extensive list of rules to live by from the Book of Law – that a working-class comrade or comradette should be given the same chance as beings like her and me.

    And we sure taught her a lesson. Throughout her stay in Sublata and studies at SUPAS, she remained jealous of both Dyeke and me. And once back to Saccorata, she did not follow my humble example and to this day, she remains a Duchess prospect for her clan, R’vanye.

    Dyeke was disgusted by this being – so much that he missed a table-game night at Kantarelo’s with Garko and me. It took him a couple of days of re-reading the Book of Law to immerse himself in the ways of Progress and Unity again and during that time, he did not paint at night, either.

    But he was not upset, by any means. He knew that the best was yet to come.


     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2017
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  6. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Warning: [hl=black]some sexual content, TOS-friendly, but still...[/hl]

    The Light is Me, I am the Light
    A cautionary story for whoever

    06 The Red Dress

    The day of my return to Sublata was close to the beginning of the school year. I had missed the summer. The first thing I saw once my repulsortrain arrived from the Central Spaceport near Saccorata was rain and heavy fog surrounding the Triad Mountain. The black light was the only thing below the three pairs of preying eyes peeking through the dense, grey clouds.

    Garko and my father were waiting for me at the station. Dareana could not make it – she was to give birth to a son any day. I felt like I had been absent for centuries upon hearing that she got married. The more I think about it, the more I realise that, with her further schooling out of question, she had no other choice. If nothing else, Garko assured me that she loved her husband very much.

    Then they started breaking the bad news.

    My wonderful mother Rogla left home and requested divorce four months ago. She did not love my father anymore. She had a relationship with a younger waiter at the Pelayn residence. However, she did want to see me and she was still sending credits intended for me only, twice per month.

    The other news was the one of Duchess Pata’s death. She lived for good 102 years and died in her sleep. Kasha, somebody I have not heard of before, was the new Duchess of Pelayn. One of Pata’s last wishes was, strangely enough, related to my future – she wanted me to do my year of community service at the Sacorrian University of Progressive Arts of Sublata – SUPAS. This would have given me a chance to study there as well, after the year had passed.

    We went back to our home and ate together, in silence. I could not bear the fact that my mother was not present at the table, but I was broken about so many other things that I kept quiet. After this, my father went to work and Garko and I moved to the bedroom. We sat down on the large bed and I opened my old datapad for the first time in a year. A cloud of dust filled the air, the second grey cloud for the day.

    Garko was doing his best to humour me.

    “You should move in with me. You’re too old to sleep in the pantry of your father’s home, in such a small space.”

    “Are you going to study at the SUPAS, too?”

    “Yes. While I cannot act, I can study to be a traditional dancer and eventually move to acting. That’s still something.”

    I smiled and then frowned. “Garko, I am impressed by your self-esteem. The only way that I was ever able to get any was spice.”

    "Know what would help your self-esteem that is not spice?"

    "Alcohol?" I asked. He almost laughed in my face.

    "Women, buddy. Women. I see a new one every month or so. And they adore me." Garko started counting on his fingers and it seemed that there have been more women in his life than fingers on both of his hands. "I am sure you have some stories to share, too. Penal colony and all…and the gorgeous orgy that I heard the Nolerday is!”

    "No. Me...eh..I still have my ta'devsh."

    "No way! After Noleria?" Garko slapped himself upside his forehead. "Admit it, Dyeke, you were not even trying!"

    I frowned. "I wasn't even trying, no." To my surprise, he did not laugh. On the contrary. His facial expression looked as if somebody had just told him that the whole star system was going to be swallowed by a supermassive black hole.

    "You are twenty. That's awful!"

    I wanted to study arts. The last thing I could think about right now was my ta’devsh. Moreover, I was pretty sure that no girl would want anything with a man who was shorter than average and who had been previously accused of homosexuality and bestiality.

    …​

    Ten days later, I had an unexpected visitor – Roula of Pelayn.

    "Duchess Kasha wants to see you." She said. The tone of her voice seemed so cold that I was sure that she had rehearsed for this.

    “Now?” I asked.

    “Yes. We are going to take my landcar to the Touchskies.”

    She did not even allow me to change my clothes. I donned my yellow jacket and followed her down the stairs to her landcar. The vehicle looked familiar and it did not take me long to realise that it was the very same one that I drove before Garko, Rocas, Dareana and I were arrested. The same stupid decorations, the same modified front panel common to speeders other than Saygos. That was a strange coincidence. Why did Roula buy it for herself?

    "Roula, can we talk?" I asked as the city was flashing before my eyes. This was my first speeder ride in a long time and she was driving like a maniac.

    She dismissed me. "I am only the messenger. She sends me on the tasks she thinks will serve me right. And talking to you was not a part of the task.”

    After a ride that seemed longer than it should have – there was a shortcut and we were not taking it – Roula’s landcar docked to the last floor of Touchskies. I was pretty sure that my heart was going to jump out of my chest after that series of unnecessary loops and spins. She led me to the protocol droid who was to take me to Duchess Kasha. Before we parted, I tried to talk to her again.

    “Can you at least tell me what you are doing now? I know you graduated and all, but…”

    She shook her head, turned around and left. The droid led me to the office that used to be Duchess Pata’s. It seemed that Duchess Kasha was quick to decorate it to her own liking. She also got herself a different desk. And she was not even willing to turn around once the droid announced to her that I had come to see her.

    "Is that Dyeke? The one who came back from Noleria?"

    I could only barely mutter a single word. Come to think, I didn’t even mutter it. I stuttered it.

    "Y-yes."

    "I've been expecting you, young man. I have a proposal. I only slightly altered Duchess Pata’s will to achieve this. I want you to be the host responsible for high-profile students from all over the planet.”

    “W-what?”

    “This will be good for you. You can work your way towards the orange class, which would then place you in your desired programme next year."

    Kasha was not even looking at me. She seemed to have been tracing snowflakes through the window. This was just one of the countless times that it snowed in Sublata near the end of Grainmonth. There was nothing special about it, but for her, it was more special than the conversation she was having with me.

    I walked up to the window and stood in her way. "And how would I go on about it?"

    It was only then that I realised how old she was. She wore very thick spectacles and her fur was falling off in some places. Could it have been that there was nobody in the Pelayn clan of required age, 40, to succeed Duchess Pata and that this octogenarian had to take over?

    "I am aware of your criminal record.” She ignored my question and continued. “This would also be your chance to redeem yourself. Poof, gone."

    I was puzzled. And strangely, she could see that through her spectacles.

    "Your file in CESA. That can be arranged."

    I was raised to be proud. This was against everything I had ever believed in. But I wanted to study fine arts. I wanted to be back home in Sublata for good. A year spent on Noleria was not good for my health.

    This is where I swallowed the last lump of my pride.

    "I accept, Mistress Kasha." I looked down. "When do I start?"

    "There is a high-profile student who was not assigned a host yet. She is arriving from Saccorata on tomorrow morning's repulsortrain."

    A girl? Again? After all I have experienced with Roula? My vocal cord almost rebelled against this, my whole body was not up for it, yet I nodded and grinned.

    "What if I say no?" I asked.

    "You cannot really say no to Duchess Pata’s wishes. She thought highly of you…for some reason and my modified…offer is too good to refuse. She is doing this from Sarcophagus to help you out, because she was ridiculously sentimental towards you. I, on the other hand, am not too interested..."

    "What?"

    "...and if you don’t fullfill my expectations, I am going to find a way to send you to Noleria again. Or, depending on when you fail, you could also go to the Dorthus Tal prison.”

    ...​

    The two girls waiting for me at the main repulsortrain station were about the same height, some 150 cm. Voluptuous, definitely turning heads, with reasonably large chests. Now, this would not have mattered hadn’t one of them been a Drall, hiding what she had underneath a large red collar with a fluffy front bib. Or maybe it was not her chest after all. I never understood Humans for looking at chests, either way, especially not at that fateful moment in time, when I got a glimpse of the most beautiful pair of golden-brown eyes. I caught myself staring at her, long before I realised that she was heading towards me. Her head fur was slightly longer and she wore it in a bob.

    "Prog!" She chirped. I recognised the Saccoratan accent. Or at least I thought I did. "You must be the yellow shirt volunteer? It's pretty cold here, can you take us somewhere where we could have a hot drink?"

    So, that is how it was going to be, I thought. She was going to be putting me down from the very start. Why did I even apply for this? Oh yes, the orange collar, orange shirt, orange jacket, orange tie, orange anything. The second chance to prove myself. And the only way not to end up in the penal colony, again.

    "I'm from Saccorata." She continued. "They sent me here to study. It’s a part of a...evaluation type of a thing. You must be native to Sublata, if you don't understand how cold it is here, right?” At this point, she was giggling, the golden-brown eyes half-closed.

    “Come on, you're forgetting manners! Did he enchant you or something?” The angleberry-blonde-haired Human woman in a white coat finally joined the conversation. "Hello..." she read my name on the holotag."...Dyeke. My companion seems to like you way too much! She forgot to introduce herself to you. Her name is Branna, and I’m Larax. Larax Antilless. And yes, please do take us to a tap'. I could use a good black caf spiked with whiskey.”

    Ten minutes later, we were sitting at Kantarelo’s, a couple of corners away. I tried not to look at Branna that much. She was more beautiful than any girl I had ever seen, but her evident richness, her red clothing and my fear that she would have put me down the moment I would have said something made me almost scared of her. But the couple of times that I had the courage to look at her, she would grin. And her grin was not even spoiled by the fact that she was smoking a thin cigarra.

    A thought about how I should say that I too was a smoker in other to appeal to her crossed my mind, but instead of asking her for a cigarra, I smiled awkwardly and took another sip of caf. There was something about this girl, something I could not quite grasp. Larax, however, was annoyed by the silence among us and, after she downed her conveniently alcoholic drink, which appeared to have contained more whiskey than caf, she started again.

    “Branna is here an arts-related study of choice. Me? I’m looking to be a life model. You?”

    I nearly spit out my caf. I was not sure if she was only telling me that she would model or that I should have done the same myself.

    "Relax, Dyeke, I am also interested in garb-design." She put out the cigarra in the sludge on the bottom of the caf cup.

    Branna laughed. “Larax, now you are shocking him. So, really, what do you do?”

    “I am…taking a year off until I can study something at the University myself. I like to draw and paint. I used to draw for everybody else at school.”

    “Oh, so you too like arts? Painting, what else?” she leaned over the table. I swallowed a lump.

    “Poetry…I loved Karihn when I was little.” I said and then bit my tongue. I was not supposed to mention a revolutionary poet.

    “Interesting.” She clapped her hands. “I like him, too! I can see that you are well-read and intelligent. Larax, isn’t he great? I was so worried about who was going to serve us while we get adjusted to this place, but this is a major relief. He is not an airhead!”

    I followed them to the student dormitory building. This was the same place where Garko had a small apartment in the attic, that he called a “studio”. He was serious about his modelling career and he converted the attic to a place where the holographers would come and take pictures of him. Female models accompanying him would often end up in his bed, but that was a different story. Moreover, his rent was cheap, allowing him to save up – the attic was not isolated and it was only a couple of metres away from the city’s Sarcophagus route.

    Once I was on my own again, I went to the attic myself. Garko opened the door only slightly. He had a “visitor” again.

    “I do want to live here!” I said. “Make some space for me, please!”

    He was surprised. But within the next couple of days, I moved in and we set up some screens, so I would not have to be a witness of his conquests. I was desperate to be an artist even before I could become one. For the first time, there was somebody other than the late Duchess Pata who appreciated my artistry and the little of the knowledge I had.

    I could not bear admitting to myself that I was head over heels in love with Branna and that it could have led me to a dangerous delusion, but that was exactly what was going on.

    ...​

    For the next couple of weeks, I got to spend more time with Branna, fulfilling various tasks for her, but Larax was always around, almost if that had been her duty. I did not dare to ask what kind of an evaluation they spoke about the first time we met, but whatever it was, it probably required Branna to be chaperoned. And Larax herself seemed to be annoyed about this, as days were passing by – she wanted to party, meet men and it was only when I finally introduced the duet to Garko that she confessed to it. It was on the day they first came to our quarters – Branna was accepted into the gemology programme at the SUPAS and she brought two serving droids with enough food to feed an entire village, for the four of us. There was alcohol, too – the kind that made Larax even less inhibited than usual.

    “I really needed to get away from my older sister and her new husband.” She said. “I wanted some peace, and by ‘peace’, I mean ‘riot’.”

    “The New Year’s dance is coming right up.” Garko pointed to the calendar on his datapad and grabbed a huge pygmy ibbot thigh. “That’s when everybody is free to mingle, you know? And there is something Branna cannot say no to!”

    “I can say no to everything!” Branna protested. “I am being evaluated.”

    “Oh yes?” Garko got up. “Well, you can’t say ‘no’ to allowing me to take this gorgeous girl to the New Year’s dance…” he stopped and grinned mischievously, pointing to Larax. “Because this young man right here can then go with you! And whoever is supervising you doesn’t have to know. You would be crazy to reject a chance to have some fun.”

    It took me a moment to realise that he had been talking about me. Branna was surprised. I wanted her to say no. No, I wanted her to say yes. I was not sure.

    “Well, it’s a party, all right…” She begun. “I suppose that a girl can have some fun every now and then. Dyeke, can you dance?”

    “No.” I said, despite Garko pushing me to say yes.

    “Well, neither can I. We can have some drinks and eat, then watch others dance. Most of them don’t know how to, either, so it’s going to be fun!”

    My face lit up.

    Late that night, when the girls went back to their rooms on the fifth floor, I confronted Garko about this.

    “I have just set you up with the girl you have been drooling over. And don’t deny it – I know men, I know women and you would have been able to see yourself drool from Noleria. The best part? I think she likes you, too.”

    There was factual accuracy in that statement. But of course, I was not allowed to tell him about the dark side of Noleria.

    "But…but…she thinks I know everything about everything. I have not even begun studying arts yet.”

    I was effectively trying to paint myself in the corner. But Garko Garelbi always had a solution.

    “I found her on HoloNet, she appears to be a R’vanye. Do you even know what that means?”

    “N…no?!”

    “Duchess Taranya, one of our founders was from that clan! They are very traditional and disciplined, as well as science-oriented, unlike the Pelayns. They are the patrons of Agricultural Appliances Research Institute of Saccorata, among other things!”

    “Then why is she studying here?”

    “Gemology is more science than art, my young man. The rest...I have no idea. But she loves art. And you, you are going to pose as what she thinks you are - a true Granno type of an art appreciator. And you’re going to bring her back here. I will go someplace else for the night. Maybe with Larax, maybe with somebody else."

    "What?" I was surprised. "Do you think she wants to...uh...you know?"

    "Yes, and so do you. I know you need me to tell you this, so I will. She is looking for some good time, you are looking for somebody to get you rid of the burden you call...what is it again...ta'sharr? No, ta'devsh!"

    I looked at my crotch. I was hoping I could blast it away that way, but that only worked in holotoons.

    …​

    On the evening of the dance, I was very nervous. I spent the rainy morning chewing brightigum on the studio floor. I was not sure what I wanted and that was the only way I could get away from it. Garko would occasionally bring us spice, so we could wind up after a long day and brightigum was my favourite pastime. A couple of times when he did not have any, I used the credits from my mother to buy some. But this time, I had been saving credits for a custom-tailored suit that made me look like a true artist.

    I was looking at shuttles passing by. True to their Saygo brand, they were extremely noisy and brightly coloured. The thought that somebody died each time the black freighter would accompany them, carrying the bodies to Sarcophagus, was chilling. But, at the same time, I found it strangely comforting.

    Eventually, I took the gum out of my mouth and tossed it to the space below Garko’s bed. That was something he definitely needed to get a proper housekeeping droid for. I could smell mouldy shuura and dirty laundry coming from down there.

    Garko had gone to the party already – he was in charge of entertaining the guests and this doubled as his first dance exam. Larax tagged along, though she seemed disappointed that he would be working. But for the first time in a while, she had a chance to pursue anybody she wanted and she liked it.

    Just then, Branna arrived, carrying a repulsortray full of delicacies that I had never seen before – two zherry cream-glazed cupcakes, a whole bottle of Seven Rivers brand sparkling wine and a large plate of marinated and grilled lumi-shrimp straight from the Dorthus Tal Sea. Were those the things that I saw on Kasha’s table? And were the red students eating this kind of food regularly?

    “Happy New Year, Dyeke.” She said. “Let’s celebrate.”

    “Let’s celebrate…what? Why?”

    My family never celebrated New Year. I was slightly confused about what were we to be celebrating. And she was reading my mind, or so it seemed.

    “This is the year you should look forward to.” She said. “Your study of arts will commence and also, you’re going to cross another milestone. I’m sure of it.”

    “What?”

    “Be patient. For now, I say that we should eat before going to the party. This is something I wanted to do to thank you for treating me better than any host ever.”

    We sat down to eat. The food was delicious. And the brightigum was kicking in. At some point, I got up and looked through the open window.

    “Look! They’re carrying the dead away! Sarcophagus is…all about transcending.”

    I turned to her, grinning. She pointed to her lips. I could either jump out of the window or kiss her.

    So, yes, I kissed her. Her lips reeked of cigarras to a certain extent, but they tasted nice.

    "I knew you would be a good kisser.” She encouraged me to continue. “Even if you were practicing, I have no problem with that. You’d still be a properly celibate-before-picked Drall boy in my eyes.” She bit me gently and I opened my mouth, allowing her to show me how they kissed in Saccorata. "I know you are a poor local boy who was offered orange in exchange for watching my every move. But that does not make you any less appealing."

    Once we stopped, I was petrified. And I wasn’t quite sure if there was floor underneath my feet. I walked to the nearest piece of furniture, Garko’s bed, and sat on it. Branna followed me.

    “Have you ever played dress up?” she asked. I shrugged.

    “It’s okay. It’s not progressive, you know. Especially not when you and I can play…dress down.”

    She dropped the red dress to the floor, without any shame, whatsoever. I turned around.

    “Dyeke! You have to watch my every move, remember? Unless you want me to report you.” she turned my head back to face her.

    “But…have you no shame?” I asked and realised how ridiculous my question sounded.

    "Our ancestors were not wearing clothes. They still don’t wear any over there.Drall. Been there, done that. It's not that anybody can see anything, anyway. Sure you are looking at my chest and you are excited, but this is yet another way Humans control the rest of us. We were not wired to like each other’s chests, get it? Some other things, however…anyway…sleep with me." She pushed me on Garko's bed and, seconds later, she was on top of me, her bright fur looking even brighter under the light of the bio-lamp. “You won’t have any shame about that, trust me.”

    "Branna...I...I..." I felt my tongue turning into duracrete. I could not bear to tell her. But I had to. "I...I have never touched a woman."

    “Good comrade, you are. But it’s time to be progressive in a whole different way.”

    Her hand was travelling all the way through my fur until she found what she wanted. I felt throbbing in my sides and it was hard, impossible to subdue it.

    "You don't know what you're doing to me." She said. "I am normally not like this. I had a fling or two in high school, but it was awkward. He was too Sacorrian Human for a Sacorrian Drall, if you know what I mean."

    And how was this not awkward? There I was, lying on my back on Garko's pillow, with a breathtakingly beautiful girl by my side. For the first couple of minutes, I could do nothing but watch her move. It took me a while to loosen up. I know I had a half-chewed piece of brightigum on the floor somewhere, but with my short arms, I could not reach for it.

    On top of it, she spoke about her flings as if that had been nothing. I had no flings. With anybody. Ever. She was to be my first and only, to an extent I cannot even grasp.

    And she kept on breathing deeply, slowly taking me over. This had nothing to do with what Garko had said of his numerous girlfriends. Human men, meh, they had it so easy. They would just look at a woman and get real happy. To us Dralls, that kind of a thing takes a while, especially the first time around, and now I wonder if Branna knew about my ta'devsh before I even told her.

    Strangely enough, it came naturally. Just like the nudity did. And while I did not like seeing my own body and there was that one thing I was embarrassed about, Branna liked even that.

    "I love your black stripe." She licked the inside of my left ear and whispered. "From the top of your head, all the way down to...the other good bits."

    She tickled me, just in case I had no idea what she was talking about. I am glad that we’re covered with fur. I would have blushed at this even more if we weren’t. I never thought my ‘bits’ were good, in any way. Same goes for my head, more or less. Especially then, with that brightigum in my bloodstream. I moved back and she followed. She thought it was play.

    And then we fell right through the bed frame, right on top of that pile of dirty clothes and rotten shuura. And she found herself with my chewed piece of brightigum attached to her rear end.

    “I’m…sorry.”

    “Don’t be sorry.” She said, ripped the gum off and embraced me again. “It’s Garko who needs a droid, you need something else.”

    …​

    Later that night, as Branna was sleeping soundly after what felt like the whole system going nova, I got up and brought a piece of canvas and a coal-stylus. My hands were shaking and I was wondering if I was doing something wrong, but I so desperately wanted to have a memory of this encounter. I wanted to draw her.

    My ta’devsh was a thing of past. But the girl sleeping there in Garko’s broken bed could have been my future - unless she was going to get up and leave in the morning.


     
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  7. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Finally catching up on this after more than two months—almost three! I meant to get this finished while it was still your birthday in your time zone; I apologize that I didn't, but it is at least still your birthday in my time zone, and late is better than never, so here goes. :)

    Well, Roula and her insufferable humble-bragging continue to make my blood boil, said course. :p Trust her always to be able to put some "progressive" spin on her own failings and not-quites. News flash, Frau Doctor: we are not fooled. We know that "humility" has little or nothing to do with why you didn't attain the title of Duchess—it's because no rational Drall, Sacorrian or otherwise, would want someone like you in that important position. We know that that "certain Branna" (a name I know well by now...) is far more deserving of that title than you'll ever be. We know that Dyeke's noninterest in you has zilch to do with any abstract ideas about setting good examples for Drall males. Oh, and we are pretty sure we don't believe your explanations of why Dyeke skipped out on that game night, and why he stopped painting at night. Kthxbye. :p

    (Of course, it's easy enough for me to say all that—I still can totally believe that many people on Sacorria of this era would not only totally swallow Roula's pudu whole, but also would have a hard time accepting anything else as the "real story.")

    Now, as for Dyeke... wow, he really does go through a nova-like explosion in this chapter, and not just at the very end. He's offered the chance to turn things around for himself and earn that much yearned-for orange shirt (and coat, and tie...) But little does he realize just how much things are going to turn around for him, in ways he never counted on (and I'm not just talking about his ta'devsh :p ). This is where meets the love of his life, the woman who will become his whole purpose for living and carrying on, and even now he seems to be aware that that might turn out to be the case. I love how you write his mixed feelings here—mixed in that it's clear that adores Branna and is developing sincere feelings of love for her, and yet he's also apprehensive about those feelings—he's in awe of them and doesn't know what to make of them and is embarrassed by them, all at the same time. And it dovetails well with what we see of the [hl=black]later incarnation of the character that we meet in Letters Never Sent[/hl], who will nevertheless [hl=black]look back on this first sweetly awkward moment of intimacy with great fondness[/hl]. (Dare I say I've been kind of sort of awaiting the full story ever since then? :p )

    I think Dyeke probably enjoyed the experience more than he let on—he's understandably a bit embarrassed about something so new and unaccustomed. And I love that the first thing he does afterward is grab his charcoal and paper and draw her—such a beautiful gesture of love precisely because it is so true to his artistic nature. [face_love]

    Now Branna... here, as in her other appearances in your 'verse, she's got a personality that hits one like a nova. :p Her attitude to Dyeke at this early stage seems almost to be, "I want that one," as if she's choosing a cupcake at a bakery. Part of it is of course that she's still young and callow at this point, and I know part of it (much of it) has to do with Drall sexual mores, where the female is regarded as the dominant partner. What she's doing seems rough to us Earth Humans, but it does fit well with what you've established in your Drall fanon.

    Of course it goes without saying that I can't wait to see what will happen next—what the fallout of this moment will be, and of course whether or not Dyeke will end up getting that orange shirt! Bravissima once again, and I hope this masterpiece will continue soon. =D=
     
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  8. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    That was one of the best birthday gifts, ever. Thank you so much! <3 <3 <3

    Nah, she was aiming for something bigger. :p

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO U SUX ME THE GREATEST ME TYPE PROGRESSIVE.

    - RoUlA

    About 9 999 out of 10 000 would believe her...which is disturbing, to say the least.

    ...an he takes it, which means he DID learn something on Noleria, or he makes a good impression of having learned something on Noleria. Likely the latter. ;)

    The ta'devsh was a big deal, indeed, but there's so much more to love. And I love the Italian word "imbranato", it describes his behaviour so perfectly, plus it almost has Branna's name in it. He could be...imbrannato, as a combo of Branna, imbranato and innamorato. Does this even make sense?

    Remember, though, his first beta is a school child. She could see the chapter to a certain point, so I guess he wanted to keep it G/PG until a certain point. XD

    Hey, glad you spotted that. :D And I knew you did - because that described bit, hehe, no pun intended, was funny. ;)

    He loved it, but it's hard to get the Sacorrian out of him, even [hl='black']when he's no longer on Sacorria[/hl].

    It's titanicky, but it fits, doesn't it?

    Nah, it goes the other way round in "Titanic". :D

    She is the no-nonsense type and according to all the tests I did pretending to be her, she should not be the type to have feelings, but she's mature enough to know how to reach down below her logic, sensing and intuition and truly and sincerely feel. And yeah, that creates such a powerful personality. It doesn't help much that a love-hungry doofus like Larax, the Phoebe Buffay of the GFFA, is with her. :D

    And yes, male Dralls have to submit. But the consent was definitely there, which matters. In many Drall relationships, there is no consent in early stages, it's pretty much just "I want sex and I'll get it from you". O_O

    He will get it, that's a given. Now, what happens next...is definitely going to be complicated.
     
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  9. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    *ahem*

    So, since the next chapter is still being written and will hopefully be posted at the very end of the month, I thought I would use an opportunity to than you all for the nominations this story has received. I was honestly surprised that it did, knowing that late Before that is not Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon is rarely visited by most and that this story is a spin-off from a popular contest and that I am using a challenging form of narration, with two different authors, including pictures and all.

    For those who are yet to see the excerpts, thread; those nominations are:
    • Best story in Before
    • Best drama
    • Best villain (Roula of Pelayn)
    Since I cannot brain, I THINK those are what they are. 8-}

    Also...

    ...the continuiation of the story, Letters Never Sent, where Dyeke changes his fur colour and his identity and becomes Lidgrain aka "Lil" was nominated for three awards, too: Best Story in PT, Best Epic and Best Original Character for Lil. Looks like this little guy - and I really mean little - has grown on people. I created him as an unfortunate character who ties my whole micro'verse together and he was not meant to be developed this much but am I glad that I did.

    Thank you once again, so much. [face_love]@};- And I hope you'll stay on board to see what happens with Dyeke and Branna, what Roula will be up to, what's Rogla's secret and how the Trindello family comes into play. Also... the thing that shines in the night.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2018
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  10. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    The Light is Me, I am the Light
    A cautionary story for whoever

    07 Playing the Suit


    I thought that Branna would pretend not to know me. I could not have been more wrong. Not only that she left Garko's apartment with me, but we also shared a series of passionate kisses under the bio-light near the Grey Bear Bridge. And then, I had to leave, because I had promised to spend the first day of the year at my father’s home. I spent staring at myself in the mirror, wondering if I looked any different and if my ta'devsh was revolutionary in any way. Could not see a difference even when I disrobed. The same blackness was there either way.

    My father entered the room. I quickly pulled my trousers up.

    “What are you doing?” He seemed suspicious. “Self-injury? Do not do that, you’ll remain tiny!”

    I was not doing what he thought I had been doing. And it was not like I was going to grow, anyway. Where did that come from?

    “Father, I…I don’t know how to say this. I have a girlfriend.”

    He shook his head. And he was not happy for me at all. “More trouble! How are we going to feed another hungry mouth if you were stupid enough to sleep with her and impregnate her?”

    Was he speaking from his own experience? Was that how I had been born in the first place? I was trying to think of a comeback.

    “She’s rich. And I’m sure that she knows how to make love without conceiving a baby.”

    This caught him by surprise.

    “You are not telling me things. Aren’t you a student host? How come you have the time for girls? Don’t get into trouble again, the only thing that should matter to you right now is to fullfill your tasks on time.”

    “She is my task! She is from Saccorata and a R’vanye, or so Garko discovered. I am her host this year.”

    “So, great. Duchess Kasha hired you as a male prostitute!”

    “Not really?!”

    “Why would you have anything to do with a R’vanye otherwise? She should know that every Drall in this city is a Pelayn. Unless this is one of their clan games and you’re being used again. You know, as a double agent of sorts. One side will clothe you and feed you, the other will be helping you with your urges. Wait, that’s still prostitution!”

    I was hurt by his assumptions.

    “Dad, you have no say about this. The only person who has a say when it comes to my relationships is the Duchess of our clan and that’s Kasha! And…that’s only if I wanted to get married!”

    “And who, in their right mind, does not want to get married, Dyeke?”

    I didn’t know how to answer that. I never thought about marriage, I was completely sure that nobody would ever love me and now, less than a day after Branna took my ta’devsh, it was the very last thing on my mind. But if nothing else, it reminded me of what I really wanted to do today.

    “I want to talk to mom about this.” I said. “Perhaps she will understand love better than you do.

    …​

    My mother and I met on the snow-covered open market food court. It was modelled to look like the one in Theed, “on the mythical planet of Naboo”. Back then, the Triad considered actual Naboo to be too liberal in order to be presented to comrades and comradettes as real, so they censored every single thing about that planet and repacked it as a thing of legend.

    “So, you like that girl? Branna?” Mom asked. We were sitting on a snow bank, amongst all those little tables resembling glazed cookies.

    “Yes, mom. And she is not one of us. But I had no idea about it when I met her. Dad thinks I’m being prostituted.”

    She shook that off. “Poor Ekram, he would not be able to recognise a prostitute if he saw one. And he’s always been so dim-witted. But I love him.”

    There was that air of aristocracy to my mother that I had not seen before. Her vocabulary was better, she was more confident and it was impossible to tell that she had been a white shirt with a minimum of education. I was proud of her. But, at this point, I wondered - had her marriage ever been anything more than a thing of convenience?

    “Dim-witted?” I was confused. “Mom…did you love dad?”

    “I loved a total of one being in my life, Dyeke. Everybody else comes second to him.” She cupped my head in her cold hands and smiled. “And as far as I am concerned – and mother’s word matters more than father’s – you and Branna should do whatever you want, as much as you want. You have a golden point of progress from me.”

    I was not sure. Was she talking about her new boyfriend, Katrane, the waiter? Was he really that much better than dad? Was that last Karlina Yaihe show right about girls always liking men in uniforms?

    And that was another thing that was getting me down – there were no longer going to be Karlina Yaihe shows. A press release said that little Karlina was now a grown-up woman, about to get married and soon to give birth. How could that have been? She was my age!

    Why did every last thing from my childhood had to go? My parents’ marriage, my favourite thing on the viewscreen, my friends growing up and some of them settling down too early? Was some higher power trying to punish me for having had somebody take my ta’devsh outside of marriage? Was it alright to have that done weeks before turning twenty? Or was that too early for a Drall male?

    But my mother, regardless of much she had changed, was still there. She gave me some Republic credits and a jacket that she said was too small for Katrane. She promised that I could come visit the two of them at some point.

    Once I was back home, my father was acting differently. In fact, he had a surprise for me.

    "A girl is looking for you. A girl with a large red...bib. Either that, or I'm colour-blind." He shrugged. “Is that the one you spoke about?”

    I understood the reasons behind his doubt. Apart from Roula during my basic school years, no red student had ever stepped foot into our home.

    "She is really attractive, too.” Shall I leave you alone?"

    So, he did. He went for a game of korraks in the nearby cafe and Branna went straight to the double bunk and gestured to me to come.

    After another lovemaking interlude, straight from heaven, I finally got the courage to talk to her as if we had been equal. Looking at my oldest painting set in the corner of the room, I asked why Sublata and why arts.

    “My sister, my cousin and I, we were sent to three different cities as a part of our evaluation…three different universities, each one of us with a different chaperonette. If nothing else, we got to pick our chaperonettes, so I picked my neighbour.”

    “Why Sublata and Larax?” My questions were getting oddly formulaic and repetitive, or so I thought.

    "Nearly everybody in my family chose a science or technology-related career, because that’s what a R’vanye does I am not interested in those things. As for Larax, she's an orphan and her older sister, who recently got married is giving her a hard time. She wanted more from life and she wanted to get away from Yola and Kambaas."

    She showed me a holo of this Yola who was slightly less busty, lean in comparison with Larax's stocky build and with a bun of reddish brown hair so thick and beautiful that it could have resembled an ibbot’s nest. She looked like a crown princess of a faraway world, sophisticated and greatly un-progressive in a way. Next to her was her new husband, Kambaas Inesedam, a ramship pilot in the Sacorrian Navy. He was wearing a uniform, too.

    “She looks like a holofilm actress!”

    “Don’t let her looks fool you, Dyeke.” Branna did not seem fazed by my comment at all. “Yola is a classic, progressive Sacorrian. Finish school, get married, have a child – which I bet she will at some point this year. There is nothing special about her, to the point where Larax is more special. Sure, she never had the smarts, but she’s fun, who cares?” She winked and stretched herself. I lay my head on her shoulder and immediately drifted away. The pendant on her necklace was cold. And that was another thing I finally had the courage to ask Branna about, so I swallowed a lump and went ahead with it.

    "What's with the black star?" I playfully pushed the pendant with my finger, the kind of a thing I would not have had guts to do a year earlier, or even dream about it.

    Branna grinned in a way she never did before.

    "I won it over from my sister and cousin. Isn't it beautiful?"

    I had to agree. The opaque black gem seemed to be glistening when we would turn away from light and look slightly greenish.

    “Beautiful, and so are you.” I nodded and hugged her again.


    …​


    The next day, our short New Year’s Fete break was over. I returned to my and Garko’s lair in the dorms and a letter was waiting for me. The SUPAS dean, a Human woman named Progressina Trench, wanted to see me about something. There was that moment when I feared that having an affair with a red shirt and a Drall from a different clan than my own would have resulted in having me expelled from this programme that I was so lucky to get in.

    Comradette Trench was nothing like Duchess Kasha. Dressed in a pair of bell-bottomed purple velvet trousers, she reminded me of a holo-show entertainer, nowhere near the credibility that she was supposed to have. She was also smoking a cigarra, which didn’t seem too progressive. I mean, I was only pretending to smoke once, for Branna, and I felt ashamed for that.”

    “Ah, it’s you. Finally.” She leaned over the table, pressed her hands against its surface and looked at me. “We heard that you have certain artistic talents, and we were looking for somebody like you. Young comradette Roula of Pelayn, the first year student of art history in the class of Agoste Lylek recommended you. We want to give you a special chance. We want to honour you.”

    This sounded like it was too good to be true. I swallowed a lump.

    “You’re going on a dinner at Rabudo’s next to the Iasonné bridge with comrade Lylek, myself and a couple of others. Do you have a proper suit?”

    I did not. I had my mom get me one from Katrane in the last possible moment, I had to fold both the sleeves and the trousers and luckily, I could put together something that resembled a yellow both tie, since my school class had to be displayed.

    The restaurant, owned by a pair of middle-aged Selonians one of whom was most certainly Rabudo himself, smelled wonderfully – it was a mix of the gentlebeings’ perfumes and divine scents coming from the restaurant kitchen. There was a large, antique-looking stage and a dancer was performing for the audience. Comradette Trench waved to me from the table closest to the stage.

    When I saw Roula sitting next to them and grinning at me as if I had been her best friend all of the sudden, once again, I thought that this was good to be true. There were a couple of other professors from SUPAS, as well as a quiet Selonian whose suit was worse than mine, resembling what comradette Trench wore that morning. And she was, this time, wearing a long dress with a subtle iris pattern. She introduced me to everybody and I only remembered the name of the quiet Selonian – he was Saride and he was teaching arts to the younglings in Curheg, whose parents were hard at work producing Saygos. He looked somewhat tired.

    The last in line for me to meet was the famed Professor Agoste Lylek, who only pointed to the stage.

    “This is my daughter, Lyneina.” He pointed to the dancing girl with long, angleberry blonde braids. “She is not a talented painter like you, but she is an impressive dancer and weeks away from her graduation. She is interested in taking another course and becoming a choreographer.”

    “That’s wonderful, comrade.” I said. “And pleased to meet you.”

    “You sure are, young comrade Dyeke.” He leaned on his right elbow and gave me this cheesy grin. “And therefore, I have to give up on an opportunity of a lifetime! Comrade Saride, as the one who organised it, knows my pain.” He paused to take a deep breath, just when his daughter got offstage and sat next to us, still wearing a sweaty bodysuit underneath her cardigan. Just for how long has she been performing and for how long have the others been sitting here?

    “I was supposed to paint the longest wall of the conference room at the ProSper factory in Curheg.” Agoste Lylek finally spoke again. “But I cannot do this, I have to support Lyneina’s efforts, her mother passed away from an illness a couple of years ago.”

    “Yes.” Roula said, calling the waiter. “And that’s why I have offered comrade Lylek that a young talent goes and does that instead of him – you!” Her facial expression had, by now, turned into something I could not even describe. There was victory in the corner of her eye.

    “Oh, comrade Lylek, that is such great honour!” I managed to say. “How big is the wall?”

    “Thirty by four. You have eight months to complete it. But you will have assistants. And comrade Saride will be checking on you. We’re going to get you an apartment in a nice building, a permission to live and work in a closed city and much more. You will also be catching up with the first year of university. And once you’re done with this, you can enrol in the second year of art studies, in your desired orange shirt.”

    I was in awe. This was so great. This was special. Finally, somebody was willing to recognise me for what I was. And we had a great dinner on top of this – Grotlian shrimp in a light red nebula onion and ryoo sauce. This had been my second important comrade meal in a month!

    It was only when I got back to my and Garko’s apartment that I realised that this was yet another of Roula’s attempts to separate me from my family, my friends and, now, Branna. And eight months to complete such a huge mural? I had applied for a suicide mission and I had accepted it wholeheartedly!




    Footnotes
    Korraks – a card game named after a predatory reptilian species on Sacorria. Played like tablanet. Fanon.

    Grotlian shrimp in a light red nebula onion and ryoo sauce – A shrimp species from the Grotlo province near the Southern Polar cap of Sacorria, accompanied by something that should resemble onion and basil sauce. Fanon.
     
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  11. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Great to see this continuing. :) There's so much packed into this chapter. First there's Dyeke's post-ta'devsh ruminations: D., my man, really and truly, you are still the same person after as before! (Speaking as someone who [hl=black]had similar doubts at one point in my life[/hl].) There's his dad's insufferable busybodyism and ridiculous snap assumptions—prostitution, really? :eek: It's good that Dyeke has the courage to stand up to him, though.

    Then there's the sweet mother-son outing in that "mythical Naboo"-style food court—yay for mother-son scenes! [face_love] [face_love] [face_love] It's such a comfort to know that Dyeke has at least one supportive, caring parent who understands his love for Branna and supports his right to love her even though she's outside the clan. Now of course I'm very intrigued by Rogla's statement that "I loved a total of one being in my life"; I tend to think she's referring to [hl=black]none other than Dyeke himself[/hl], though it's certainly interesting to know that there's a boyfriend in the picture. (From Dyeke's comment about the end of his parents' marriage, I'm guessing they're separated at this point, though it's interesting that Rogla says she still says she loves Ekram... hmm...)

    At least Ekram has the decency to go off and let his son have a little alone time with his sweetheart. It's good to see Dyeke's confidence increasing in his interactions with her—and it's rewarded, because Branna isn't the type of domineering Drall female who lords her "superiority" over him, and she's all for telling him everything about her studies, her choices, and her friends and hosts. (Great to see some of the early life and loves of [hl=black]Doria's grandmother and great-aunt[/hl], too—woot for familiar names! :D ) Not only that, but we now know a tiny bit more about the famous black star, which I am going to file away in my mind for later. The question is, of course, where did Branna's sister and cousin get the star? [face_thinking]

    And OF COURSE Roula strikes again. She is just the gift that keeps on giving, isn't she? Her scheme is indeed only too clear: dangle the carrot of the orange shirt (!) to Dyeke by assigning him to a PRESTIGIOUS ART PROJECT!1! that will be a ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY!1! but will also have the effect of keeping him far away from the woman he loves. Disguise the punishment as an honor, all the while playing on the unfortunate recipient's emotions as on a stringed instrument—that's the Roula way, all right. :rolleyes: [face_mad]

    I know from your other stories that [hl=black]Dyeke's separation from Branna will become one of his main crosses to bear, to the point of casting its shadow over his whole life[/hl]—and this looks like right about the point where that begins. :eek: :eek: :eek:
     
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