Before the Saga Overture of Reconciliation (High Republic Oneshot for the Angsty First and Last Line Challenge)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by devilinthedetails , Nov 17, 2022.

  1. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Admin of Comms star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    Title: Overture of Reconciliation

    Author: devilinthedetails

    Characters: Vernestra Rwoh; Stellan Gios; Imri Cantaros

    Genre: Angst; Hurt/Comfort; Drama; Friendship

    Timeline: Before the Saga. High Republic Era. Set in the immediate aftermath of Justina Ireland’s Test of Courage.

    Summary: After a confrontation with Imri, Vernestra turns to her former Master Stellan for advice.

    Author’s Note: Written for the Angsty First and Last Lines Challenge in the awesome Angstmongers Anonymous thread. My assigned first line was: “I didn’t know where else to go.” My assigned last line was: “This isn’t up for debate.” The bonus words I am including are “overture,” “onus,” and “obliterated.” Thanks to @ViariSkywalker for the wonderful inspiration to write some amazing angst.

    Overture of Reconciliation

    “I didn’t know where else to go.” The words tripped from Vernestra’s tongue as Master Stellan opened the door to the quarters he had been assigned aboard Starlight Beacon following its formal inaugural ceremony, which had been broadcast to admiring audiences across the Republic on every holonews network worth the bandwidth.

    Serene quarters. A place of refuge in an endlessly chaotic universe where Master Stellan could meditate on the manifold mysteries of the ultimate enigma that was the Force. Quarters whose peace Vernestra had disturbed with frantic knocking more befitting a youngling haunted by a nightmare than a Jedi Knight expected to be a model of poise under pressure.

    She could feel herself cracking beneath that pressure as she stood, sweaty fingers fretting with each other in the corridor outside Master Stellan’s appointed rooms. Crumbling like a mossy stone withered by the storms and seas of time.

    That was why there was such a pathetic note of anxiety and apology fluttering through her voice. Into her plea for guidance. As if she feared being rejected by the man who had been her greatest mentor. The steadying hand on her shaking shoulder for years.

    As if he would dismiss her with a reprimand and a curt wave now that she no longer bore the official title of his Padawan. Now that her braid had been shorn. Severing that bond between them with a deft lightsaber swing she could still hear echoing in her ears. A triumphant and lonely sound like wind whistling through a canyon.

    “Then you’ve come to the right place.” Master Stellan smiled gently at her. As though he could sense all her roiling fears and uncertainties and wanted to allay them.

    Calm confidence that somehow managed to avoid descending into the ugly depths of arrogance. That was the aura–golden and glowing as sunlight–that Master Stellan always projected to the universe. The demeanor he had sought to imbue Vernestra with as well. A living legacy and breathing wisdom that stretched beyond mere empty platitudes that could be recited by anyone with dreams of being a philosopher. Though next to his constant composure Vernestra felt as if his presence cast her own flaws into sharp relief. Reduced her to being a Padawan again.

    A foolish Padawan who, in an appalling display of hubris, had possessed the gall to take her own apprentice. An apprentice named Imri Cantaros with volatile emotions whose grief and guilt over the loss of his previous Master had already caused him to court the Dark Side. Who had already been brought to the brink of destruction by a hurricane of wrath and hate whirling inside him, demanding vengeance on those who had killed Master Sunvale. A talented boy whose empathic gifts should be nourished by any number of Jedi more knowledgeable and experienced than herself.

    She had never been more acutely aware of her own ignorance and inadequacy as a Jedi Knight than when she bowed her head now. Her posture that of a penitent Padawan awaiting a blistering rebuke. That of a Padawan who deserved to be thus humbled. “I am in need of your counsel, Master.”

    “Then you must come in, and we will talk.” Master Stellan stepped back. Gestured for her to enter his rooms.

    As Vernestra murmured her thanks and obediently crossed the threshold–the sensors automatically sealing the door shut in her wake–Master Stellan added, “I was about to boil myself a pot of Sundragon Tea when you knocked. Would you care for some?”

    “Yes, please.” Vernestra couldn’t bite back the tiny, twisted grin that rose to her lips.

    She and Master Stellan had become connoisseurs of the millions of varieties of tea abundant throughout the galaxy during their posting on icy Hynestia. They had often required something to warm their blood and bones after braving Hynestia’s frigid temperatures and relentless winds to assist a distressed settler or rescue some hapless tourist who hadn’t realized snowstorms could be deadly dangerous.

    As they lifted steaming mugs to lips that broke and bled in Hynestia’s inhospitable conditions no matter how many swipes of chapstick were applied, Master Stellan would always remark with laugh lines creasing the corners of his clear blue eyes that tea could make anything better. That comment had become as vital and defining a part of the ritual between them as the soothing tea drinking itself.

    While Master Stellan poured water into the kettle and turned it on, Vernestra sank into a sofa with plump cushions so ravenous they seemed to swallow her whole as she sat upon them.

    Once the kettle whistled, Master Stellan filled two mugs with Sundragon Tea. A yellow tea, Vernestra knew, that could make a drinker’s tastebuds explode with the heat of sun gone nova. A spicy herbal brew that more than earned its name.

    After letting the teas steep, Master Stellan left his strong. Untempered by sugar or cream. Deposited three cubes of sugar and a generous dollop of snow-white cream into Vernestra’s. Sweetening and softening it until it was just the way she preferred her tea.

    He offered her the mug and then claimed the couch across from her. Speaking at last words that Vernestra had both dreaded and longed to hear. That made her simultaneously and paradoxically clam up inside and ache to confide in him. “Now, why don’t you tell me what’s happened? What’s wrong?”

    “I had an argument of sorts with my Padawan.” Vernestra’s hand was trembling as she made this confession. She could see her tea rippling with every shake as it were registering on the seismic scale.

    “An argument of sorts?” Master Stellan repeated. Arching an eyebrow as he did whenever he suspected her of indulging in imprecise language. Evading important details. Concealing the truth. Wriggling out of responsibility like a kicking, screaming toddler told to eat vegetables.

    “We were training in one of the dojos.” Vernestra blew on her tea to cool it. Creating more miniature waves on its liquid gold surface. “His sparring was slower and sloppier than it should’ve been. So I corrected him on it. Pointed out the places where he needed to be swifter and neater.”

    “As was your duty as his Master.” Master Stellan’s words were like a weight. A heavy chain coiled around Vernestra’s neck. Dragging her, drowning, down to a dark ocean floor from which there would be no escape. A choking guilt like her own Padawan must have felt when his first Master died in the vacuum of space. Abandoned to the void at the end by Vernestra and Imri.

    Master Sunvale had ordered them to flee–to ensure others reached safety–but that wouldn’t have lessened the crushing grief her Padawan was facing. Only would have increased it because of how noble and selfless Master Sunvale had been at the edge of oblivion.

    “As was my duty as his Master.” Vernestra inclined her head. Mouth dry as a desert. “But he didn’t appreciate the corrections. He exploded at me. Shouted at me that I wasn’t his Master. Not really, and that I couldn’t replace Master Sunvale no matter how hard I tried.”

    Vernestra’s cheeks flamed with mortification as she finished this account of her apprentice’s flaring anger and raging disrespect. She was humiliatingly aware that, as Imri’s Master, the onus was on her to teach him control. To prevent these lapses and discipline him appropriately when they occurred. Yet, she was at a loss when it came to figuring out how to do so. How to reign in her Padawan without stoking more blazing resentment in him.

    “That’s quite a torrent.” Master Stellan stroked his brown beard with the fingers that weren’t wrapped around his mug. “And how did you respond?”

    “I didn’t say anything.” Vernestra took a tentative sip of her tea. It felt as if everything she did was tentative now that she was Imri’s Master. The tea seared her tongue. Despite her caution, she had still sipped too soon. Burning herself. A metaphor for her. The pain and scalding shame of it. “I didn’t want to risk provoking him further. So I allowed him to stalk out of the dojo. Wanting to give him time and space to calm down. Cool off.”

    “I see.” Master Stellan sounded thoughtful rather than reproachful but Vernestra couldn’t resist picking over everything she had done wrong the way a scavenger would devour all flesh from a found corpse.

    “You never would’ve let me make such an insolent exit.” Vernestra could feel tears swelling in her eyes. Threatening to flood her face. “You would’ve grabbed my arm before I left. Spun me around. Sternly demanded an apology.”

    “I would’ve,” Master Stellan agreed. A fond and almost amused glint in his blue gaze although Vernestra couldn’t fathom what might have been funny in the woeful circumstances. “But you would never have spoken so disrespectfully to me in the first place. You would’ve sooner chewed out your own tongue.”

    That was a grisly image Vernestra didn’t wish to dwell on. So she went on, rubbing her green forehead with the hand that didn’t clutch her tea, “I should’ve acted as you would’ve with me.”

    “Not necessarily.” Master Stellan shook his head. Drawing a startled stare from Vernestra. “You aren’t me. Nor is Imri you.”

    “Obviously.” Vernestra wrinkled her nose. Struggling to grasp whatever Master Stellan believed he was implying.

    “You say it’s obvious, but you don’t act as if it is.” Master Stellan patted her knee as if she were still his Padawan. “How we teach our apprentices is shaped as much by who they are as who we are, Vernestra. It could be that your more measured response gave your Padawan the time and space he needed to cool his temper. To reflect on how wrong he was to lash out at his patient, gentle Master. Patience and gentleness are more a mark of Jedi discipline than sternness and severity. Perhaps you reminded your apprentice of that today. If so, that is not a lesson to be scoffed at.”

    “Oh.” Vernestra was silent for a moment. Contemplating this. Soaking in the wisdom of Master Stellan’s perspective. “I do want to be patient and gentle with Imri. With everyone. But I don’t want to be a plush carpet to be walked all over either. I’ll have to speak to Imri about this, won’t I? Emphasize that there can’t be a repeat of such disrespectful behavior?”

    “Yes, you will have to talk to him.” Master Stellan gave Vernestra’s knee another pat. As if he sensed how difficult such a conversation would be for her. “When you do so, keep in mind that he wasn’t truly mad at you. That he does not really resent you. That he is only violently grieving the loss of his former Master and struggling to adjust to having a new Master in charge of his training.”

    “Change is always hard.” Vernestra swallowed a sip of tea that finally wasn’t too hot for her to drink. She had only needed to be patient beyond what she had thought she would have to be. A metaphor in that too. “Imri and I will adjust and learn together.”

    “Sage words.” Stellan raised his mug in a toast to her. “Soon you won’t need my guidance at all. What a sad and beautiful moment that will be.”

    After finishing her tea and taking her leave of Master Stellan, Vernestra sought out her Padawan. Seeking out his bright presence in the Force. Finding it and him in the gardens that were designed to mirror in climate and landscape many of the worlds of the Outer Rim where the Starlight Beacon was stationed.

    He was perched on the bough of a tree blossoming with pink flowers. The hunched slope of his shoulders attesting to the remorse Vernestra could feel radiating from him in waves.

    “Imri.” She slid beside him. Taking care not to jolt the branch. Infusing her tone with tenderness so that he didn’t flinch from her.

    “I picked these for you.” Imri held a bouquet of the pink flowers out to her. A blooming sign of repentance. An overture of reconciliation.

    One Vernestra accepted with a smile. Slipping a few flowers into her purple ponytail. “Thank you. Along with purple, pink is one of my favorite colors.”

    “I know.” Imri fixed her with a watery grin. “That’s why I picked pink flowers for you as an apology.” His pale cheeks flushed pink as the flowers he had given her. “I am sorry I shouted at you like that.”

    “I forgive you.” She squeezed his shoulder gently but firmly. Ensuring she had his complete attention. “I understand that you are grieving Master Sunvale, but that can’t happen again. You can’t treat me so disrespectfully when I am your Master now. I can tolerate and enjoy a lot of teasing and informality from you, but there are limits. Lines you can’t be allowed to cross.”

    “Yes.” Imri’s voice was quiet. Subdued. “I understand.”

    “Good.” Her fingers drifted upward to ruffle his hair. Golden as the Sundragon Tea Master Stellan had served her. “I also want you to know that I’m not trying to replace Master Sunvale. Nobody can ever replace him. I mourn him too, and I’m only seeking to guide you down the Jedi path he wished for you to tread. To bring out the incredible potential he glimpsed within you. A potential I’ve seen as well.”

    “Thank you for being so patient with me.” Imri seemed to be blinking back tears. “Even though I’m a terrible Padawan who doesn’t deserve your understanding.”

    “You are not a terrible Padawan.” Vernestra became the sternest she had ever been with him since she became his Master. “You are a good apprentice who makes me very proud of you every day we train together.”

    When Imri opened his mouth to contest this assessment, Vernestra lifted a quelling palm. Pronouncing the strict, forbidding words that she had learned from Master Stellan. The words that had obliterated all argument when Vernestra was his Padawan. The ones she hoped would have an equally silencing power with her own apprentice. A line etched in the sand for him to recognize and respect. A boundary not to be violated with impunity. “This isn’t up for debate.”
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2022
  2. Oddly_Salacious

    Oddly_Salacious Jedi Grand Master star 1

    Dec 5, 2005
    This was a beautiful moment in itself. Very nice!
  3. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Clash of Titans Winner star 6 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 21, 2006
    a great angst fic with the likeable characters of the high republic
    Kahara and devilinthedetails like this.
  4. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Admin of Comms star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @Oddly_Salacious Thank you so much for reading and commenting on this fic! I must admit that the part you highlighted was one of my favorite parts and has a special place in my heart[face_love] so I'm thrilled beyond words that you found it to be a beautiful moment in itself. I really appreciate your kind words!

    @earlybird-obi-wan As always, thank you so much for being a faithful reader and reviewer of my High Republic fics[:D] I'm so glad that you found this to be a piece of great angst (the first and last lines I received for this challenge were a wonderful jolt of inspiration for me) and that you found these High Republic characters so likable! It's always a treat for me to write about them:D
  5. Findswoman

    Findswoman Ammonia-Breathing Fanfic Mod in Pink star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014
    Very nice job with your first and last lines! I fear I know zero about this era and these characters, but you definitely made them—and their thoughts and feelings—come alive here. I loved the contrast between Stellan’s calm and Vernestra’s whirl of turmoiled feelings—very understandable ones, I might add, for someone new to teaching. Stellan’s counsel to her was spot-on, showing her that that fine balance between firm and compassionate is not beyond her reach, and she really puts that into action when she talks to Imri afterward: both accepting his gift of reconciliation (I can tell he’s got a fiery temper but a good heart) and laying down limits. I especially love how you took a last line that could have made for a harsh, angsty ending—“This isn’t up for debate”—and made it such a positive thing! I’m glad I found this and gave it a read—wonderful work, and thanks as always for sharing! =D=
    devilinthedetails likes this.
  6. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Admin of Comms star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @Findswoman As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting on my stories![:D]

    I'm so glad that you felt I did a nice job with my first and last lines. I always find that challenges that give me lines of dialogue can get my creative juices flowing in wonderful ways!

    I'm also super happy to hear that you felt that I could make these High Republic characters and the era itself come to life in this piece because the High Republic era and characters have become my latest Star Wars obsession and I hope to do them justice whenever I write about them in fanfic:)

    It's always a treat for me to write about the relationship between Stellan and Vernestra so it is awesome to hear that you loved that contrast between Stellan's calm and Vernestra's anxious whirl of emotions. I agree that Vernestra's emotions are very understandable ones for someone new to teaching, and I am glad that she has her former master to consult for advice and support as she navigates these new waters as Imri's master. Stellan did indeed have perfect counsel for her that helped her achieve that delicate balance of firm and compassionate.

    And I think you are absolutely right that Vernestra did a great job putting what Stellan told her into action in her conversation with Imri. She accepts his gift of reconciliation with gentleness but also firmly lays down limits with him and ultimately assures him that she cares about him and that he is a good Padawan. And I one hundred percent agree with your analysis of Imri as someone with a good heart beneath that fiery temper. A lot of his grief is coming out as anger right now, but Vernestra will be able to help guide him through that as his Master, and over time, he should be able to get that temper under control and show more and more of his good heart!

    When I first got my last line, I definitely pictured it as leading to a harsh, angsty ending, but I very much wanted to end this story with a reconciliation between Vernestra and Imri rather than a feeling of tension. So I decided to make the last line a reflection of that balance Vernestra is striking between the firm boundless and the sincere compassion and affection she is showing to Imri. So that the "This isn't up for debate" declaration would be softened into a softer, more positive thing exactly as you describe, and I am so thrilled that was a highlight for you:D

    Thank you again for reading and for the kind words that made me smile the biggest smile[:D]