Saga - OT Return Again (Zeb revisiting Lasan, introspection, vignette)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Findswoman, Nov 16, 2019.

  1. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    Author: Findswoman
    Title: Return Again
    Era: Saga—OT, somewhere during Rebels (between 4 and 0 BBY)
    Characters: Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios; mentions of other Ghost crew members
    Genre: Introspective vignette; drama
    Summary: Zeb returns to Lasan for the first time since its destruction and the genocide of his people.
    Notes: A belated birthday gift to Tumblr user and fellow Zeb and Lasat aficionado fuzzydemolitionsquad; posted on Tumblr and AO3 as well. Part of the Lasan Series. Many thanks, as always, to @Raissa Baiard for beta reading. @};-

    It was the soil that did it.

    Not that the sights from the Phantom’s viewport hadn’t already brought him to his knees, and not just figuratively. Even the first brief glimpse of the once-familiar purple-bronze glow in the sky (it was just dusk, local time) had almost been too much for him. Then there had been that horrible, sickening feeling of blankness, emptiness, goneness that had seized him the moment the cliffs had hove into view—the charred, blunted cliffs. The rubble-choked valleys. The gaping expanses of thirst where the lakes used to be. The crumbled, moldy ruins of Lasan’s once-magnificent capital—his hometown. A landscape that had been torn asunder into its component parts, just as its people had been—

    No. Mustn’t. He’d staggered against the bulkhead and turned away.

    But it was the soil that really did it.

    Even on Lasan itself there was nothing like the fine, siliceous, lilac-gray soil of the cliffs surrounding the capital. The cliffs that themselves were home, where he had gone on many a childhood adventure, many a bracing climb, many a maneuver with the Honor Guard. And now, once again, with each step, that same soil was making that same silky crinch-crunch under his footpads—pressing chalkily up between his toes—rubbing itself into his fur. Yeah, there was a reason his people never wore those silly things called shoes!

    And the scent of that soil! The scent that for years he only knew from the little sack of dust he kept hidden at the back of his gear locker in his quarters—now rising from his every footfall. The scent of home—

    He sank to his knees; the soil crunched around them, too. Karabast, why?! Why had he come back here in the first place?!…

    Well… he knew why, and there was no real use denying it. Hera had told him that the Ghost would be passing near the Coreward edge of Wild Space en route to their next mission. And she had looked at him in that searching, meaningful way of hers—and even though he wasn’t some kind of mystic like Kanan or Ezra or old Chava, he could read in his commander’s face what she was going to ask him: shall we make a detour to—to—(come on, be an Honor Guard and say it to yourself!)—to Lasan?

    He didn’t know if it had been something in her voice, or something in her eyes—but, like a karking fool, he had said yes.

    So here he was. Alone—he’d made sure of that—this was no one else’s business, after all. Alone, gazing upward at his broken cliffs, peering outward toward his dead city. Alone with the soil. The soil that would not stop grinding into his feet and legs and knees, entering every pad and joint and nail even though he wasn’t moving. As if to say, hey, remember me? I’m the reason your people don’t wear those silly things called shoes…

    No, karabast, NO! He was captain of the Lasan High Honor Guard and an officer of the Alliance to Restore the Republic and there was no way in the Bogan’s own Chaos he was going to—

    Too late. He sank down—all the way to the ground, this time—and lay there, letting the silky violet grit envelop him. Deeply he inhaled its scent, pressing his face to it so that it coated his cheek and beard. And there he stayed, as the purple-bronze dusk slunk away into night: a son once more in his mother’s arms, a lover once more in his beloved’s embrace. ¶

    The title is from this song, with text and music by Shlomo Carlebach, performed by Neshama Carlebach. It seemed appropriate, somehow:
    Return again,
    Return again,
    Return to the land of your soul.
    Return to who you are,
    Return to what you are,
    Return to where you are
    Born and reborn again...

    Last edited: Nov 16, 2019
  2. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Mar 3, 2001
    Zeb gives himself little credit for his courage in returning to such a wrenching vision of his homeworld, but it shows so clearly in that he's willing to go at all. It seems like Lasan does her best to welcome Zeb home even though his people and much of the landscape have been devastated. The smell and nature of the earth remain the same, and that is such a poignant touch. The scents of a familiar place mean so much though they may go unnoticed most of the time. This is one of those stories where there is so much that it's hard to describe, but in short that song suits it so perfectly. @};-
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2019
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh how heart-wrenching :_| You do such an exquisite job setting the emotive and literal scene! No surprise there. @};- =D= I cannot even imagine how devastating such a return would be... Before all thoughts of home would be as it was when it was whole and he was surrounded by family and friends and great accomplishments. Now it would be hard to think of the happy times without superimposing how things are in the now. [face_thinking]
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  4. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    Thank you both so much for reading. @};-

    What overcomes Zeb here is exactly that fact: that something about Lasan is somehow still the same after all the planet has suffered, and especially that is something so elemental, so fundamentally bound up with basic qualities of Lasan-ness (to coin a word of sorts). Back in the day, when all was well, he probably did take those familiar scents and textures for granted; now, with everything so drastically altered, they mean the world (literally!) to him. I’m so glad you enjoyed the song—it’s one I remembered from a while ago and felt really fit with the scenario. @};-

    Thank you, and I’m so glad you found this to be a touching piece! The idea of Zeb returning to visit Lasan after the siege is one I’ve tossed around in my mind for a little while now, and the birthday of a fellow Zebficionado friend gave me the perfect excuse to finally execute it. It was a huge wrench for Zeb even just to bring himself to say yes to the idea of coming back, and he’s uncertain about it even here and now, precisely because it brings back those contrasts—between the happy then and the tragic now—so forcefully. It’s when he notices that even just a few things about the place are still the same—the soil, its feel, its scent—that he realizes that he was perfectly right to say yes. @};-

    Again, thank you both so much! :)
  5. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Nov 22, 1999
    This is such a beautiful, powerful vignette! You do such a marvelous job capturing Zeb’s emotions here as he returns home for the first time since the Empire laid waste to Lasan and all but exterminated his people.

    Of course it’s Hera that suggests it to him (though I have a feeling she was only putting into words what was already in Zeb’s mind and heart) and I know just the expression you’re talking about. Hera knows her crew like no one else, and I think she knows that this is an opportunity that Zeb needs to take, painful as it will be, that he’ll come to regret it if he doesn’t. It’s a step forward in processing his grief and mourning his losses, towards healing some of those wounds, though the scars will never fully fade.

    And it is exquisitely painful for him to return home—simultaneously not the home he remembers and the same in so many ways. The contrast between what Zeb sees—the ruins and wreckage of
    (what an evocative phrase that is, so haunting and so apt, given the Empire’s use of disruptor rifles that literally tore their victims apart)— and the smell and feel of the soil itself, exactly as he remembers it. These sensory details have the power to bring back all the memories and emotions Zeb’s been holding in check, and he surrenders to them—the smell, the feel, the memories—embracing his homeland (literally) and letting it embrace him.

    No one writes Zeb like you and I give you kudos for the fact that even as he’s working through all these painful emotions, he remains the same bluff, plain spoken Zeb we know and love.
    This made me smile, even amidst all the feels this story evokes.

    Bravo on another fine and moving insight into our favorite Lasat:zeb:
  6. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    Thank you so much, and I’m glad you enjoyed this. I’ve long wondered how he would feel to come back to his homeworld under such circumstances, and have toyed for a while with the idea of speculating on it in fic form—and I’m glad the results were to your liking and effective in your estimation. <3

    With Hera’s keen insight into each member of her crew, it just seemed to fit to have her be the one to bring it up to him—and I know no other denizen of the Ghost could bring that painful subject up as kindly and gently as she could. But yes, in a way, it was a thought that pretty much occurred to both Hera and Zeb at the same time, and Hera was just giving voice to a feeling she could already sense from Zeb. Still goes to show just how well she knows her crew and how deeply she cares for each of them! And I could see where hearing it from Hera would actually strengthen’s Zeb’s resolve more than if he had made the decision silently, on his own.

    Just being back nearly tears him asunder into his component parts! =(( The sameness of the landscape and the soil hits him almost just as hard as the near-universal destruction, precisely because it immediately causes all those memories to cascade back through his mind. But there is that cathartic effect, too: he’s been holding this all in for so long, which hasn’t necessarily been a good thing for him either, and he definitely has a certain sense of release in being able to embrace his homeworld and inhale its scent once again.

    [face_blush] Aw, shucks, well, thanks... that is quite an amazing compliment from someone who’s so skilled at characterization, and I appreciate that very much. This character really touched my heart, what can I say? :zeb:

    Glad you liked that bit! The idea was to mirror his own similar observation earlier—an observation that almost seemed to bring his confidence back for a bit! But when the soil itself seems to remind him of his connection to it, that’s another matter entirely—that’s where he breaks down. (Perhaps because it means that, despite it all, Lasan is still kind of alive, in a way? Kinda sorta? [face_thinking])

    Thank you so much, as always, and once again thank you for your indispensable role in beta-ing and advising. I’m so glad we have this universe to write and love! :zeb:
  7. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Nov 30, 2005
    Oh but this is heartbreaking and lovely. I love the idea that you've made that purple-lilac such a fundamental part of the life of Lasan, not just some funky color for a particular character based on an animator's whim. It's integral. The color of the soil is the color of Lasan, which is the color of its people.

    This reminded me so, so much of one of my favorite poems: Elizabeth Bishop's One Art . The idea that you have to ease into grief- you can't just submerse yourself into it. It's too overwhelming. Grief is all the little details, it's the voices you won't hear again, the feeling of a hand in yours that you will never touch again. And to compound it by a trillion-fold here in the loss of an entire world, an entire culture and people. He sees the cliffs and remembers climbing them, he sees the lakes with the water violently evaporated and he remembers them full and lush, he sees the crushed and shattered cities and remembers them alive with people. The conflict between what is there and what should be there is too much.

    So he is reduced to ash, to soil, to the fundamental. That lilac-gray, silky soil that still dares to cling to him, that forces its way through the spaces of his toes, that attaches to his beard. This soil is what is left, what covers the remains of his former life. The persistence of the soil forces him to reconcile his memory with reality, and to finally acknowledge -- say it -- the disaster.

    Beautiful and poignant.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2019
  8. Oddly_Salacious

    Oddly_Salacious Jedi Master star 1

    Dec 5, 2005
    Again my perspective on Lasan and its peoples trails your literary footsteps, @Findswoman. This moment-in-time invoked a sense that Zeb had accepted the physical wasting of his homeworld up to the point required for his daily survival. Returning to this place, filled with history and gauze-like familiarity, seemed more Zeb's longing for a self-defining piece that had been prevented.

    Who doesn't feel a jot of pain when some concrete and brick from our past is discovered to be no more? Perhaps some garish reality stands in its place, figuratively or literally. Have you ever journeyed and stared up into the great leafy boughs of a tree from your childhood days and wondered: "Do I look as unfamiliar?"
    Crap, Finds... this was insightful! Your writing and the story were brilliant.
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  9. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    Thank you both for reading and commenting. It means a lot to me! @};-

    Thank you so much! That is a wonderful compliment and I'm so glad this story spoke to you. Zeb's color really is quite striking, and because of that I always wanted it to be a fundamental color and quality for his planet and people—and so when @Raissa Baiard and I were creating our Lasat fanon that’s exactly what we made it.

    That is one gorgeous poem! I’d never known of it before, so thank you so much for introducing it to me! And it’s got it so bittersweetly right about loss being a process or progression: all those little things one doesn’t even notice when they’re gone, but then once the loss progresses to that high point of disaster, one most certainly does notice those things are gone. The lose of those little details is what really makes it a disaster in the end, and this is indeed exactly what Zeb is learning (the hard way?) by making this trip back to his ravaged homeworld.

    Couldn’t have said it better myself! <3 That soil is the one thing that’s left, the one thing that hasn’t changed even after the disaster. And in a way, he is noticing it now more than he ever did during his Lasan years, for that very reason. His people’s shoeless connection to the soil of their planet has a very specific meaning for him now, and he does indeed literally embrace it more than he ever did before.

    Thank you so much—I do try! @};-

    Thanks as always for coming to read and comment, Odd! Yes, I imagine that by this point Zeb thinks he’s come to terms with the loss of his homeworld—thinks being the operative word, of course, and as you say it really is only just enough so that he can get by from day to day. The return visit to Lasan forces him on one hand to realize that he hasn’t quite come to terms with it as completely as he thought—but it also helps him comes to terms with it by realizing he’ll never fully come to terms with it, if that makes sense. The loss is part of him now, and in that way he really is “returning to who he is.”

    Oh yes, I definitely know the feeling you mean! I get that way almost every time I visit the neighborhood of Chicago where I grew up. But of course for Zeb in this case, it’s multiplied by about a trillion. =((

    Thank you so much once again, Odd, and I’m so glad that this story spoke to you, too! :)
  10. Mira_Jade

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

    Jun 29, 2004
    I've honestly tried to sit down and put my thoughts into words a few times as far as this vignette is concerned. I still don't think I'm entirely able to do your words justice, but I'm going to give it my best shot.

    First off, the lyricism of your prose was stunning! The gaping expanses of thirst and silky crinch-crunch of the soil and the purple-grey dusk! I really felt like I was there, and I could feel the sense of desolation and devastation that Zeb was experiencing through your words. But there was also a sense of homecoming too, no matter how much it's tied to grief and heartache.

    Oh, such beautiful characterization all around! Of Hera, who of course knows, and Zeb through his inner monologue. He really is as honourable and brave as they come, no matter how he is unable to see the best parts of himself as we see them. He's still an Honor Guard, through and through.

    I appreciated this bit of characterization, too. Zeb really is closed mouth about his past, both for simply being as unable to talk about it as he understandably doesn't consider it anyone elses business. No matter how much his newfound family has grown on his heart, otherwise!

    Gah, gah, gah - my heart. This really just dug in deep and twisted. Because the Lasat are so tied to the stone and dirt of Lasan itself, and for it to be that detail that undoes him - understandably so - was incredibly poignant to read. Like a mother, like a lover - your prose was so heavy hitting here, in the best of ways. Really, truly well done saying so much with so few words! =((

    Thank you for sharing yet another gem in your 'verse. [face_love] =D=
  11. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    Really sorry I missed replying to this wonderful comment—thank you so much, Mira! <3

    Well, I have to say you did an awesome job, as usual! Your comments are always day brighteners for me—thanks again. @};-

    Thank you so much! What a wonderful compliment from someone who is such an ace at creating immersive settings herself. :) Yes, the concept of homecoming is always going to be bound up with grief and heartache for Zeb, for pretty much the rest of his life. He knew that would be true for him when he chose to visit his homeworld again—but an Honor Guard does not shy away from doing what's difficult. :zeb:

    Indeed so, and he will never stop being one! Like a good manager-combined-with-mother-figure, Hera knows, and she can see Zeb's inner honor and courage even when his loss and grief keep him from being able to see them himself. She would not have suggested what she suggested if she didn't think he was brave and honorable enough to take it (and more than just take it—go all out with it, as he does).

    Zeb's closed-mouthedness about his past has always stood out to me, because he's so loud and forward about so many other things. I have kind of mixed feelings about it, in a way. On one hand, it gets across just how severe his loss was—some losses really are too hard-hitting to share even with those closest to one. On the other, in my saltier moments, I sometimes wonder if it wasn't at least partly an easy way out for the writers, who then didn't have to get into all the Heavy Genocide Stuff. But be that as it may, it does in a way fit with the character, and of course part of the whole raison d'être of the Lasan Series is to speak that unspoken past.

    Thanks once again! That you found this moment so effective means a lot to me. It meant a lot to me to be able to write this in tribute to this character.

    You are very welcome, and thank you once again for being here and reading! That really means a lot to me. @};-
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2020
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  12. Mia Mesharad

    Mia Mesharad Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Sep 2, 2012
    Beautifully written, Findswoman. There's a lot of emotion packed into so few words, and every feeling and vivid image the story evokes is perfectly heartbreaking. You've got a great sense of who Zeb is, as well as the loss he carries with him. While it's obviously a very different feeling reading this, some part of it all nevertheless really spoke to the spirit of what I'd hoped to see from Zeb setting foot on Lirasan for the first time, back in season two. In short, I really enjoyed it.
    Findswoman likes this.
  13. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    Thank you so much for coming by to read and review, Mia! I appreciate it very much and am glad this little piece spoke to you. This is a character and a planet that are very dear to my heart, so it meant a lot to me to be able to write this moment for them both; it’s an image that had been on my mind for a while. And yes indeed, I too can imagine Zeb’s first view of Lirasan being at least as emotional, at least as hard-hitting as this—hmm, perhaps that’ll be a companion piece to this sometime! :D Many thanks again; always great to have you here! :)
    Mia Mesharad likes this.
  14. Kurisan

    Kurisan Jedi Master star 4

    Apr 26, 2016
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2021
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  15. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    Great to see you back here again, Kuri, it's been a while! I'm so glad you enjoyed this little effort of mine, and I'm glad it spoke to you—deepening the emotion is exactly my goal here, and I've always felt that this particular character, Zeb, has a lot of hidden deep emotions that the screen can only partly convey. Thanks so much for coming by to read, and don't be a stranger! :)