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Saga - Legends The Book of Gand (mostly OCs)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Findswoman, Apr 23, 2014.

  1. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Title: The Book of Gand

    Author: Findswoman

    Timeframe: Approximately 10–15 BBY (still working this out)

    Summary: The chronicle of a young Gand’s early years and apprenticeship in the ways of the Findsman, all (or mostly) taking place on his home planet.

    Characters: All OCs except one—it will eventually become clear who. :) A few names that may be familiar from canon sources are dropped here and there just in the interest of creating some small measure of continuity.

    Genre: I guess maybe drama, just because it’s serious rather than humorous.

    Rating: PG for the occasional violent passage.

    Related stories: The Book of Gand | Box of Visions | Between the Porch and the Altar | Hoses, Masks, and Canisters | What She Saw | In Your Vault, In Your Mists, In Your Song

    [​IMG]
    (Best Epic, Saga)
    A special thanks to those who voted for this story in the 2016 Fanfic Awards!​

    My first-ever post of an actual piece of fiction on this forum, which I make with great trepidation! This is the beginning of my recent attempt to rework and tighten up a long, sprawling, still-unfinished story that I’ve been working on in some form on and off (unfortunately mostly off) since at least 2001, and which I’ve never posted on the interwebs before.

    Anyway, I welcome constructive commentary and criticism. In particular, I’d be glad of feedback on the following:
    (a) whether the cultural and biological details seem plausible and workable in light of what’s already been established;
    (b) your impressions of how old our protagonist seems to be at this point in the story (I have an idea on that, but I’m curious to know if your ideas match mine);
    (c) whether or not to capitalize Findsman (cf. the capitalization of Jedi and Sith); and
    (d) whether or not something like Findsmaster might work better than Master Findsman (this is a term that will come up more in later chapters).

    And finally, if any of the formatting seems off or otherwise doesn’t come through, please let me know, since I’m still new at this!

    TrakNar’s excellent Bedlam stories on the SW Fanon Wiki were part of my inspiration to revisit this story and start getting it into postable form, and her Wook and Fanon Wiki articles served as indispensable references. I thank her sincerely for both.

    I am grateful to Goodwood for his support and encouragement, and for his help in negotiating the logistics of posting in this forum.

    Kahara, Nyota's Heart, and Ewok Poet have provided astute and much-appreciated beta-reading assistance at various points throughout the story. The chapters they have beta'd are greatly improved for their having done so, and their feedback and encouragement has helped me get unstuck on more than one occasion.

    And finally, thanks in advance to all who read and enjoy!

    Note that the chapter numbering is continuous throughout (rather than starting again at the beginning of a part).

    Part the First: The Findsman’s Son
    Chapter I (below, in this post)
    Chapter II
    Chapter III
    Chapter IV
    Chapter V
    Chapter VI and epilogue

    Part the Second: The Findsman’s Apprentice
    Chapter VII
    Chapter VIII
    Chapter IX
    Chapter X
    Chapter XI
    Chapter XII
    Chapter XIII
    Chapter XIV
    Chapter XV and epilogue

    Part the Third: The Findsman’s Treasure
    Chapter XVI
    Chapter XVII
    Chapter XVIII
    Chapter XIX




    The Book of Gand
    Part the First: The Findsman's Son


    Chapter I

    Far on the outskirts of charted space, the mist-shrouded planet of Gand orbits an uncharted star. Its swirling mists, churning fogs, and brightly colored clouds are revered as divine by all its inhabitants. Though most travelers’ guidebooks state that this most mysterious of worlds is governed by an absolute monarchy (and, indeed, its temporal government is still controlled by members of the Pngrud dynasty), even the Supreme Monarch himself had to defer to the immeasurable spiritual power wielded by the hierarchy of the Findsmen, the mystical hunter-priests who were at once shamans and enforcers of the law.

    Even during the Galactic Civil War, and the time of turmoil that followed, Gand remained untouched and at peace, her pocket colonies floating tranquilly among swirling clouds as they had for countless millennia before. During these years, in the large and prosperous pocket colony of Rhaguin, there lived the Master Findsman Fengor Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd. Fengor was one of the most celebrated Findsmen of his generation, the scion of one of the most ancient and highly respected Findsman families on all of Gand, and he could trace his lineage back almost a full millennium. As Chief of the Council of Master Findsmen and the most senior of the ruetsavii—the ritual examiners of worthy Gands—he occupied a very exalted place in the hierarchy of Findsmen, practically second only to the Elders of Gand themselves. Fengor’s wife, Otila, of the family of Khassvani, was herself a well-regarded practitioner of the Sacred Trade and the chief keeper of the archives and library at the Great Temple, the central shrine of the Findsman hierarchy situated at the north pole of Gand.

    The fame and talent of both had earned them the highest honor possible in Gand society: the privilege of janwuine, authorizing them to refer to themselves in the first-person singular instead of the third-person used by most Gands. But Fengor also held an honor far more exalted even than janwuine, an honor available only to the first-born males of the family of Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd and one of which even the Supreme Monarch himself stood in awe. Fengor was the Guardian of Trynfor’s Vault.

    More than a millennium ago, Zukfel Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd—Fengor’s distant but direct ancestor—had been the closest, most faithful friend of the greatest Findsman that Gand had ever known: the legendary Trynfor the Mad, who wore robes of all black and whose golden eyes were said to gaze upon the Mists in Their true, divine form. According to legend, it was to Zukfel alone that the Holy Madman, on his deathbed, had entrusted his greatest treasure, which Zukfel had then entombed deep in the crypt of the Great Temple. From that day forward, none except Zukfel and his direct male descendants knew what this secret treasure was, for Trynfor had bound his friend with a mystical oath never to reveal its identity to anyone. It was said that this mystical bond was so strong that no son could know what was in the Vault while his father still lived.

    * * *
    Fengor and Otila had two fine sons. The elder had almost completed his apprenticeship in the ways of the Findsman, and in the course of his studies had earned the use of both his family name and of the given name Gorruss. But the younger son of Fengor and Otila still had no name and knew nothing yet of his family’s illustrious history, or of the mystical secret it was so privileged to guard. All he knew was that his parents and brother were great and powerful Findsmen, and he longed to be like them. Someday, he hoped, he too would be apprenticed to a Master Findsman and become initiated into the secrets of the Sacred Trade, for ever since his early childhood he had been fascinated by its ways. Whenever his father or mother went to the meditation chamber in the library of their home, he would sneak in after them and watch as they chanted, prayed, and meditated. Occasionally he would pull down some of the large mystical books in the library and try to read their arcane script, for which his father berated him frequently. When his elder brother visited home, he would beg him to tell him all about his studies and missions, then tire him out play-dueling with brooms, sticks, and his toy dart gun. When his brother was not at home, he did the same with other children who lived nearby, most of whom were also children of Findsmen.

    Gand had a circle of playmates his age, most of them children of Findsmen, with whom he joined every week in mock Hunts. They would make blasters and vibroblades out of sticks and twigs and household implements, and wrapped themselves in their parents’ dressing gowns, pretending they were wearing the Findsmen’s traditional long robes. Some children would hide in trees or behind parked speeders, and their playmates would “Hunt” for them: sitting in trees or on the ground, they would chant and wave their hands around in childlike imitation of the Findsman’s ceremonies. After a few minutes, pretending to have received intuition, they would spring up and run off in search of their “fugitive” friends. Once the “prey” was found, much make-believe dueling and stunning would ensue. Their parents watched these games with great pride, for they more than mere children’s diversions: they also served as an important introduction to the Trade for those hoping someday to become apprenticed.

    One particularly overcast day, under a sky hung with dull, blue-gray mists, young Gand pulled on his heaviest tunic, jumped into his sturdiest britches, and cinched up his belt. There was an eager gleam in his eye as he rummaged in his closet, pulling out various survival accoutrements and mock weapons and attaching them to his belt: a small glowrod, a child’s plastoid knife, and his favorite: a little dart gun looking like a scaled-down snare rifle. He was preparing for a mock Hunt, as he had done many times before; he and six others would be Hunting for one of their playmates, called Gand like all the rest of them, in the Secular Capital—the seat of Gand’s civil government and the largest city in the colony of Rhaguin. Previous mock Hunts had been confined to single districts or parks or subdivisions, but this time the quarry could be hiding literally anywhere in the Capital.

    Gand strode downstairs to the anteroom to meet his father, who would accompany him to the central rendezvous appointed for this mock Hunt. The parents of the participating children often served as chaperones in these mock hunts, making sure that all the participants behaved in accordance with the Findsman’s codes of honor, and today Fengor Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd was appointed to be one of the three adults serving that function.

    His mandibles clicked open in surprise to find his mother waiting there instead, clad in full field attire, her hands clasped palms-up in front of her in a traditional gesture of blessing. He had not expected to see her, because for the last several days she and the other archivists of the Great Temple had been investigating the loss of a very valuable holocube from the archives. She had told him about it just the other day—it was the only surviving copy of the log of Ossluk Noslee, a great Findsman from several millennia ago.

    “There you are, dear son,” she said. “Are you ready?

    “Yes, Mother, but . . . what about Ossluk’s holocube? Have you found it yet?”

    “No, Khassvani has not.” His mother exhaled with a hiss; her demoted self-reference by birth-family name bespoke anxiety and shame. “No one has found it yet, though the entire staff of the archive is still searching day and night.” She paused; her son gave a quiet clack of sympathy. “But no matter. Otila thought a nice mock Hunt in the city with you would help ease her mind, so she asked your father if he would let her take his place today. Naturally, he agreed.”

    Gand gave a few clicks of amusement, which his mother returned. Every time his father had been called in to chaperone a mock Hunt, he had grumbled and muttered about how he had better things to do than play children’s games.

    “Now let us be off,” she said. And so they were.
    * * *
    The Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd family lived in the area known as the Ridge, the refined suburbs of the Capital, comfortably free from the urban hustle and bustle, yet still within convenient distance of the city center. Thus it was not long before Gand and his mother reached the initial rendezvous point for the day’s mock Hunt—in this case a small temple near the beginning of the city’s main street. His mother blessed him and brushed her palps on his forehead.

    “Remember,” she said, “don’t forget to engage the safety on your dart gun when you’re not using it, and don’t spend any of your pocket money unless it is an emergency. Mother loves you.”

    Gand took his leave, twitched his tunic about his shoulders, and headed off toward the city center. He had never been there alone before. When he had been in the past to accompany his parents or brother to the specialized tailor’s shops that purveyed Findsmen’s garb and equipment. He knew there was a marketplace because it was on the way to the tailor’s shop favored by his parents, but he knew no more than that. It exhilarated him to think that soon he would walking through the city all alone with only his intuition to guide him—and not for any boring visit to the tailor, either. For adventure, quarry, and reward!

    Downtown consisted mainly of tall, nondescript buildings, into and out of which harried-looking businessfolk and guildsfolk poured in a continuous stream. Gand slipped into an alley here and there to do some sneaking around in the shadows—again, not only in imitation of his elders, also in order to practice the important Findsman’s skills of hiding and sneaking. At the end of one alley, he saw a large square looming before him, more crowded than any of the narrow streets he had just seen, with the colorful pennants of guilds and vendors flying high overhead. This, no doubt, was the marketplace.

    Gand stood and pondered for a moment. It didn’t seem probable that his quarry would be in such a public, well-populated venue. And yet . . . could the milling crowd itself be his hiding place?

    Armed with this hunch, Gand rushed head-on into the swarm of marketgoers. He went from booth to booth, searching each one from top to bottom. But none of the Gand children he saw was the right one. For the next several hours he examined everything he could get his stubby, undergrown little claws on—wares, storage containers, parked speeders, anything that was not nailed down or too heavy. Yet his efforts yielded no new clues, only the righteous indignation of vendors and customers.

    “Young one, have your parents ever taught you the meaning of ‘Do not touch’?”

    “Young one, please be so kind as to take your dirty hands out of Ooqlib’s fruit at once.”

    “Young one, if Rnnok ever catches you in his cargo hold again . . .”

    Escaping as quickly as could from the marketplace down the first alley he could find, Gand hunkered down on a closed rubbish bin and sulked. Precious hours wasted in that befoggèd market for nothing but the nagging of crusty money-grubbing Seculars. To make things worse, some three-quarters of his pocket money now belonged to a portly, purple-chitined crystal merchant, one of whose largest and most ornate vases he had inadvertently sent to a clattering death. So much for his mother’s warning.

    He racked and racked his brains, but no new ideas were coming to mind. Only his original hunch remained insistently in his mind: that the quarry was somewhere in the marketplace, using his very visibility to hide himself. A tempting possibility, but it would require some meditation. So Gand crossed his legs under himself, folded his hands in his lap, and closed his eyes, just as he had often seen his parents do.

    But no sooner had he assumed this meditative position and closed his eyes than loud, youthful voices broke his reverie.

    “Look! He’s meditating!”

    “Does he really know how?”

    “That’s what they say, but Gand doesn’t believe it . . . ”

    Gand opened his eyes to find himself surrounded by children his age, the other participants in this mock Hunt. Gand sat up as tall as he could and looked the others squarely in the eye.

    “Greetings,” he said calmly. “How goes the Hunt?”

    None returned his greeting. “What in fog’s name do you think you’re doing?” demanded a lad with black eyes. “Sitting on your abdomen here in the alley while we’re all out here cracking our chitin looking around for Gand with the green eyes?”

    Gand calmly ignored his peer’s use of the first-person plural, a shocking breach of his species’s self-referential etiquette.

    “Gand is meditating,” replied he in the loftiest tones he could manage.

    “Meditating? But of course,” answered the black-eyed Gand. “Oooh, akauóne vi Trynfor . . . Nyni prisniv viki vikov . . .” His fellows joined in as he closed his eyes and waved his arms exaggeratedly, chanting nonsense words in a mocking, singsong voice.

    Gand ignored this too. “And what are you doing?” he asked the group.

    “Hunting, of course.”

    “For whom?”

    “For Gand with the green eyes, of course, like you,” hissed the black-eyed youngster.

    “Well, then, go hunt him. He’s the quarry. Does this Gand look like he has green eyes?” He tapped his chest with one claw.

    “But these Gands came to Your Mystical Honor,” taunted another rather thickset young male, bowing exaggeratedly, “because they know of Your Mystical Honor’s peerless intuitive talents and wished to ascertain if Your Mystical Honor has received intuition as to the quarry’s whereabouts.”

    Well, Gand thought, perhaps this means none of them have found him either. His middle mandibles clicked as a scheme formed in his mind.

    “Well, listen, then,” he began. “Here is what the Sacred Visionary Mists have revealed to this Gand. Gand with the green eyes, the quarry, is currently hiding in the utility shed out behind your house”—he jabbed his claw into the chest of the thickset lad, whose mandibles clacked open in surprise—“in the Green Fogs District at the northern edge of the Ridge.”

    “Really?” answered the lad, his mouthparts gaping open stupidly.

    “Yes, really.”

    “Just a minute,” piped up the black-eyed Gand. “If this is so, then why are you still here? Why aren’t you in the Green Fogs District apprehending him yourself?”

    “Because Gand believes in helping his friends and wants them to have a sporting chance at the quarry. Is that an acceptable answer?”

    All was quiet for a moment. The black-eyed boy fidgeted uneasily.

    “No good hanging around here,” someone said at last. “Off to Green Fogs.” They all trooped away down the alley.

    Gand clicked smugly to himself. His plan had worked. No sooner had the group of boys turned their backs than he made his way back toward the marketplace. His hunch about his quarry’s whereabouts felt stronger than ever, as if confirmed by the Mists themselves. His exchange with his playmates had been just as effective as meditation, in a much shorter amount of time. And he had not even needed to use his dart gun.

    With these happy thoughts in his head, Gand strode confidently into a produce booth at the edge of the marketplace. And sure enough, there was Gand with the green eyes, his playmate and the quarry for whom he had Hunted long and hard that day, browsing through a colorful array of fruits and vegetables with a tall and genteel-looking Findsman, no doubt his father. Gand walked up to his young playmate, grabbed his arm securely in his claws, and uttered the traditional formula for apprehending quarry:

    “By authority of the Findsmen Elders of Gand, you are apprehended in the name of the Sacred Visionary—”

    He broke off suddenly. A completely new intuition had burst in on his mind like an exploding bomb. Without releasing his grip on his green-eyed friend, he turned slowly toward the father, who was browsing through a basket of round blue fruit. Then, suddenly, he thrust his free hand into the deep pocket of the father’s robe, grabbed something from it, and turned tail and ran as fast as he could, pulling his bewildered quarry along with him.

    For a moment the Findsman was immobile with surprise and disbelief, then took off after him, eyes flashing angrily.

    “What do you think you’re—STOP!”

    But young Gand did no such thing. Still pulling the other youngster behind him, he bolted through the market as fast as he could, weaving dexterously through the crowd of marketgoers. His friend’s father was in hot pursuit but was less fleet on his feet due to his age and heavy gear, and Gand quickly outstripped him. Even so, he did not stop until he had finally reached the temple that served as the rendezvous point. Besides his mother and the two other adult chaperones, three other imposing-looking Findsmen in elaborate ceremonial robes were there, one with an impressive-looking shockstaff.

    “The quarry is apprehended,” he announced in lofty tones, bowing as he handed the other youngster over to the assembled adults in the traditional manner. “And Mother . . . look.”

    He handed her the object he had taken from the green-eyed Gand’s father—a small, iridescent golden cube.

    “By the Mists . . .” she breathed, and began to examine it on all sides. “The inscription is correct . . . so is the acquisition code . . . Young one, where did you get this?”

    Before Gand could answer, the quarry’s father burst in.

    “What is the meaning of this?!” he blustered. “Give that back at once!”

    “From him!” said Gand to his mother, gesticulating with his claw. “From his pocket!”

    “Why, you miserable little thief—”

    “Otila’s son is not the thief in this case,” said Otila, eyeing the father coldly and holding up the recovered holocube. “It apparently was you, Syrok Vrixx’tt,who made off with one of the most valuable pre-Trynforian holodocuments in the archives of the Great Temple. You are under arrest for grand theft by the authority of the Sacred Visionary Mists, and you shall answer to the Zigaatsavii-taa.”

    Finding himself confronted by none other than the chief archivist of the Great Temple and faced with an appearance before the highest legal court on Gand, Syrok fell into crestfallen silence. One of the parental chaperones clapped stun cuffs on him, and the Findsman with the shockstaff escorted him from the temple, occasionally prodding him in the shoulder with his weapon. Another of the parents put a comforting arm around the green-eyed son and led him out.

    For several moments all was silent in the barren stone interior of the temple. The remaining adults were clustered around young Gand; four pairs of gleaming compound eyes were gazing on him in combined curiosity and awe.

    At last, one of the two newcomers in ceremonial robes nodded to his companion, who pulled a small strip of parchment from inside his robe and began to write something on it with a gree-graak quill. When he finished he handed it to young Gand and saluted him with a hand cupped across his chest; the others did the same.

    Gand read in muted tones:

    “By the Will and Authority of the Sacred Visionary Mists the Ruetsavii and Findsmen Elders of Gand hereby declare that Gand, son of Fengor saa Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd and Otila saa Khassvani uur Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd, by virtue of notable accomplishments beyond his years, has been deemed worthy of his family’s name, Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd. Their visionary blessings be upon him always.”
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2019
  2. Goodwood

    Goodwood Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 11, 2011
    A very, very excellent start, Findswoman!

    Of particular note, I like how you give the family's backstory in the first part, as well as hints of possibilities to come. Your research into the available material is readily evident throughout, right down to the characterization of interactions between Gands. I find this young Gand to be an endearing little scalawag, and look forward to reading more about him!

    If I had to point out one small fault, it would be a couple of Earthisms where Star Wars equivalents are known, and both are in the same sentence ("flashlight" instead of "glowrod" and "plastic" rather than "plastoid/plasteel").

    Your depiction of Gand society as a whole is very plausible, and gives life to an underdeveloped species.
     
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  3. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Thank you so much, Goodwood! That's all high praise coming from you. :) Really appreciate your taking the time to read this and comment.

    Yoicks, you are absolutely right about those Earth words! :eek: I've fixed them, and I took another look at that "Earth words and their SW equivalents" thread. Gosh, it's amazing how fine the line can be with those matters—I'll be sure to watch out for it in further chapters. (Actually, that makes me wonder whether "parchment" is OK, too... I didn't see it in that thread, but one never knows.)

    So, how old does the little scalawag seem to you? Just out of curiosity... ;)

    Thanks again!
     
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  4. Goodwood

    Goodwood Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 11, 2011
    I think use of the term "parchment" is quite acceptable...it's a "traditional" writing medium as opposed to the flimsiplast used in the "civilized" galaxy (remember, flimsiplast dissolves in water).

    The little tyke has an interesting career ahead of him. I like him, he's got spunk! :)
     
  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Fascinating start. Your cultural details - very well sketched. I would say the protagonist is about 13, such that puberty/adolescence is bringing out his talent. [face_thinking] Unless he's precocious and a few years younger, which would startle the Masters even moreso.
     
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  6. Goodwood

    Goodwood Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 11, 2011
    I'd say he's about ten Standard years old, maybe a little younger than that, because Gands reach "maturity" at a younger age than Humans. There's a table somewhere on Wookieepedia with a comparison of lifespan, adulthood, and sexual maturity between the species, might be on someone's user subpage (try Enochf or Eyrezer, or ask on #wookieepedia). Just my two kopecks on the subject, since you did ask and I forgot to offer an opinion.
     
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  7. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Thank you both so much for weighing in! Nyota's Heart, your guess is close to what I was going for: about the equivalent of a 12-year-old Human boy, just hovering around puberty (which, as you rightly point out, is certainly playing a role). Glad to know he comes off about that age to other readers, too (gosh it's hard to write young folks, of whatever species).

    So I guess that works out to the equivalent 10 or so Standard years you mention, Goodwood? I know there was a chart like that in one of the aliens guides (both of which I've now ordered used from Amazon), but although I've searched and searched the Wook with every combination of search terms I can think of, as well as checked those two users' pages, I haven't found it yet. Maybe I'll ask them via Facebook, and/or in the "Fanfic Writer's Desk" thread in case anyone here happens to know.

    Again, many thanks! :)

    EDIT: A few folks shared some info on Gand age range from the Ultimate Alien Anthology, and yep, it does indeed look like a Gand aged 10 Standard years is roughly equivalent to a Human of about 12.
     
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  8. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Here's the next chapter. For some reason I find it especially apropos to be posting this update relatively soon after the infamous Disney EU announcement: whatsoever the powers-that-be may say, I'm going to keep on writing this story till I come to the end, because I believe in this story and in finishing what I start. (and it's probably not terribly likely that they'll tamper much with the esoteric corner of the SW universe I'm working in anyway, though one never knows)

    I'm also trying out a new font, just for fun, and would be interested to know whether people prefer this one or the one I used in chapter 1.

    Onward!

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Chapter II

    As the weeks passed, the story of young Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd’s recovery of the stolen holocube spread throughout the colony of Rhaguin. He became alternately awed and feared by the children with whom he still participated in mock Hunts, and they always went to great lengths to win him to their side and enlist his meditative help, for he was the only one of their number to have achieved the distinction of a name. Otila’s pride in her younger son knew no bounds, and she continued encouraging him in his mock Hunts; it became her dream, as well as his, to see him eventually apprenticed to a Master Findsman in order to learn the Sacred Trade.

    But with his father it was different. The first time his wife and son told him about the incident, Fengor responded with disbelief: it was simply not possible for a child, he insisted, as yet untrained in the Findsman’s sacred meditative arts, to receive such sudden information from the Mists, whether about his quarry’s whereabouts or the location of the missing holocube. Children were always pretending at such things during mock hunts, he said; that his son’s make-believe intuition had come true, he claimed, was mere chance. Even when his fellow ruetsavii stopped in hallways of the Great Temple to congratulate him—for the elaborately clothed Findsmen his son had seen upon his return to the rendezvous point had indeed been ruetsavii—he responded with angry glares, growls of displeasure, or both. With his young son he became distant and irritable; even more troublingly, he continued referring to the boy simply as Gand, as if he had never earned a name at all.

    Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd did not understand his father’s reactions. They had been exactly the opposite when his older brother, Gorruss, had first shown his intuitive potential—gaining him his family name—and had become apprenticed to a Master Findsman. Back then, his father been unable to contain his pride and elation; he had lavished Gorruss with praise, talked effusively about his son’s accomplishments at every possible opportunity, and even before his apprenticeship brought him along to assist him on his own missions. But now it was different, and it made no sense. Why should any Findsman not be proud and grateful to see his child gifted with the gifts of the Mists? Why was his father showing such coldness to him when had he been so proud of Gorruss? But even so, he still respected his father as a great and powerful Findsman, and the colder Fengor became toward his son, the keener his son became to win back his father’s good will.

    One day, when one of his mock Hunts in the Secular Capital was called off because of inclement weather, young Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd pleaded with his father to bring him with him to the Great Temple for the day. Fengor grumbled and fumed, protesting that the ruetsavii were holding a very important meeting that morning. But his son persisted, and he eventually consented.

    “Very well. But I do this only because your mother is engaged in her research and not present to look after you. I hope that is clear.”

    “Yes, Father.”

    “You will behave yourself accordingly before the honored ruetsavii. Do you understand?”

    “Yes, Father!”

    “And don’t grind your mandibles at me, boy!”

    “Sorry, Father.”

    Soon Fengor and his youngest son were walking together through the halls of the Great Temple at the north pole of Gand. The father was an imposing presence in ceremonial robes of deep midnight blue, edged with silver trim that perfectly matched his eyes. The mystical words of the First Revelationary Ode were embroidered around the edge of the shoulder cape that betokened his rank as one of the chief ruetsavii. A jeweled pocket chronometer hung from his belt, inlaid with the family emblem of the Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd: a black clawed hand grasping a golden orb, crossed by a dagger and an old-fashioned toothed key that looked almost like a weapon, both black. Findsmen and servants bowed to him as he passed. His son shuffled nervously beside him in a stiff-collared white tunic and a lightweight knit cape that fell to his knees.

    Several corridors and two locked doors later, they reached the Guardian’s Quarters, the private Temple apartments that were Fengor’s privilege as the Guardian of Trynfor’s Vault. Off to one side of the gold-ceilinged round central room was a dark-curtained meditation alcove. This Fengor entered in order to spend a few minutes of meditative preparation before his meeting, as was his custom. While his father meditated, the young Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd paced about in the central room of the apartment, admiring the large statue that adorned it.

    Crafted of smooth black stone that glinted with tiny flecks of golden mica, the statue portrayed two figures that were slightly larger than life. The first was an older male Gand in Findsman’s attire of an ancient style, reclining on his side on a bed with bedcoverings draped over him from the hips down. He was turned toward a second figure, another Findsman, who was kneeling beside the bed; the two figures were clasping hands in a gesture of sincere friendship. Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd marveled at the meticulous detail of the sculpture, from the eye facets and mouthparts to the flowing folds of the drapery and the mystical runes that encircled the entire bottom edge of the bedcovering; they were in the ancient, arcane script of the Book of Light, intelligible only to initiated Findsmen.

    After some minutes Fengor emerged. The two left the Guardian’s Quarters, proceeded through another series of corridors, and arrived at last at the council chamber of the ruetsavii.

    “Now you will stay on the bench and will not wander off. Nor will you make the slightest sound. Is that absolutely clear?”

    “Yes, Father.”

    With that, they entered. The council chamber was a round, high room with stone walls and lit with sodium-vapor sconces that cast a misty golden light. Several high-ranking Findsmen and Findswomen sat at a round table of white stone. As Fengor entered and took his place they rose to their feet, simultaneously saluting and bowing. Fengor took his place and returned the gesture. His son retired obediently to a bench off to one side.

    The meeting began. First came an opening prayer for the guidance of the Mists, chanted in monotone by all present; then a few minutes of meditative silence; then a slow, solemn reading of the order of business for the meeting, also in monotone chant; then another moment of silence for the recently departed . . . Young Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd had never seen a meeting of the ruetsavii before, but he quickly came to the conclusion that there was not much to see. He closed his eyes and let his thoughts wander, wishing he could be out play-Hunting with his friends in the city. Or even really Hunting, like Gorruss, who just the week before had departed with his Master Findsman to R’Kalýma, the most mountainous of Gand’s pocket colonies, to track down missing and fugitive mine workers. That was real Findsman’s work . . .

    Mountains. Slowly, like an image coming into focus on a viewscreen, they appeared in his intuition’s eye, standing noble and ice-capped as they had for hundreds of generations, their peaks reaching upward to the misty stratosphere. Among them was Mount Rhangneth’tha, one of the tallest peaks in R’Kalýma, conspicuous by the numerous precariously balanced rock formations lining its slopes. He noticed Intuition’s Hand, the largest and most distinctive of these formations, in whose palm Trynfor the Mad once sat and meditated three stormy days and nights in a row.

    “Mount Rhangneth’tha . . . ” he whispered. “Intuition’s Hand . . .”

    He shifted uneasily on the bench. A nearby Findsman with greenish chitin, friendly silver eyes, and slightly hunched shoulders turned to look at him, thinking he had heard something from the lad, but decided that he had not and turned again to his colleagues. In any case, young Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd had not seen him, for all he could see now was Mount Rhangneth’tha and its curious rocks. He thought he saw two Findsmen—his brother and his brother’s master—making their way along the rocky ledges slowly upward toward Intuition’s Hand. And he knew he saw Intuition’s Hand move . . . and he knew what would happen next.

    “Intuition’s Hand will fall.”

    His voice was louder this time, but only by a little, and still calm. A few of those assembled turned their heads toward him.

    “Did the young one speak?” asked the Findsman who had looked at him a moment before.

    “INTUITION’S HAND IS FALLING!”

    “YOU! Did I not tell you to keep quiet?!”

    Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd jolted awake to see his father standing over him, glaring down at him angrily with flashing silver eyes. Several of his colleagues turned their heads toward them in uncomfortable curiosity.

    “Sorry, Father, but—it’s there . . . Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd can see it . . .

    “See it? See what?” barked Fengor. “What in the name of the Holy Madman are you talking about, young one?”

    “Intuition’s Hand . . . Oh, there goes the second claw! And Gorruss is almost there . . . ”

    “Gand, what is this?” Fengor was almost shouting. “How dare you waste my time and that of the honored ruetsavii with your childish outbursts!”

    The hunched, greenish Findsman, who had first heard the boy speak, leaned over to Fengor and tapped him gently on the shoulder.

    “Friend Fengor,” he volunteered, timidly, “If Volokoss may . . . if it is true . . .”

    “Do not interfere, Ratokk,” growled Fengor in reply, barely looking at him. “Now, you, young one, not another word, or I’ll—”

    “Oh, the third claw’s down . . . and the palm . . .”

    “GAND!”

    “THE PALM! GORRUSS! TURN BACK!”

    “YOU WRETCHED LITTLE—”

    Fengor grabbed his son by the collar of his knitted cape, lifting him from the bench as he did so. All at once the younger Gand’s eyes and mandibles clacked open to their fullest, as if he had snapped suddenly from a trance.

    “Sorry, Father! Please—”

    With a grumble Fengor released his son into the bench, then returned to his place at the council table. “Apologies, honored ruetsavii,” he mumbled.

    The meeting continued as before. The young Gand himself curled up in a ball, his head turned downward and away from the assembly so they could not see him trembling and sobbing. How could his father be so angry? It was not as if he could close his mind to the revelation the Mists had given him—no good Findsman could . . .

    “Begging the pardon of Your Mystical Honors.”

    All the heads in the room turned toward the doorway, where a servant in a slate-blue coat and a green sash stood with a folded printout in his hand.

    “Gand has an important message to deliver to His Mystical Honor Fengor Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd.”

    Fengor rose and approached the servant, who bowed and presented him with the printout. He unfolded it and read it, then sank dejectedly back into his chair, his eyes half-closed in shame, his forehead resting in one hand.

    “By the Holy Madman . . .”

    “What does it say?” asked a nearby Findswoman with copper-colored eyes.

    Fengor took a long hissing breath out and read aloud to the assembly:

    “Narrowly escaped rockslide on Mount Rhangneth’tha. Intuition’s Hand toppled taking several other formations with it. Almost took one step too far but heard voice of little brother in head calling out. Master Findsman Okkfel safe. On way home. Regards to Mother. Your devoted son, Gorruss Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd.”

    An awed silence fell over the room, punctuated only by the occasional soft click of mandibles snapping open in surprise. The glowing, orblike compound eyes of the assembled ruetsavii turned toward young Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd, still huddled on the bench in the corner.

    “The young one . . . Friend Fengor . . . ”

    It was Volokoss, who had drawn closer to Fengor and touched his shoulder. He gave a hesitant click of his inner mandibles, then continued:

    “Has the Uncanny One appeared at last in your lineage?”

    At this a flurry of awed whispers whirred up from those assembled, only to be silenced with one glance from Fengor’s angry silver eyes. Volokoss slipped back to his place and said no more.

    But even Fengor himself barely spoke for the remainder of the meeting, and when he did, he called himself by his first name or family name, rather than by the first-person pronoun that was his privilege as a januwine. And on the way home he was almost completely silent, occasionally eyeing his son sidelong and mumbling the words:

    “The Uncanny One.”

    * * *

    The next day, another Temple servant in a slate-blue uniform arrived at the Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd home, this time with another message for the younger son of the family:

    The Findsmen Elders of Gand hereby bestow their blessings and congratulations upon Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd, son of Fengor saa Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd and Otila Khassvani uur Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd, and charge him to appear before them ten days from the receipt of this message, so that he may be evaluated for initiation into the sacred ways of the Findsman.
     
  9. Goodwood

    Goodwood Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 11, 2011
    "And don't grind your mandibles at me, boy!" :D

    Wow, that's pretty awesome stuff, Findswoman! The little tyke's emerging abilities may have been influenced by the nexus of the mists that was the Great Temple, but there's no doubt about it, he could definitely be the Uncanny One alright. Once more your narrative is rich with descriptors and flows like a river of honey in the mind's eye, bringing forth visuals both startling and sublime. The richness of Gand culture continues to expand; I have no idea whether you've based this off of source material or not, but it makes no difference. You bring an air of authenticity that few profic authors, at least in my experience, have done or are capable of doing for Star Wars. I am seriously looking forward to more!

    I also kind of feel sorry for little Ng'xvi-Ta'al-Lhúd, apparently his father is so devoted to his firstborn that he can't—or perhaps won't—admit to having sired an even greater prodigy...

    BTW as for the font, it looks like it is no different than that used in your original post. Though that could be changed using the forum's own post/edit pages...
     
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  10. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Oh, thank you, Goodwood! Once again, I'm glad you're enjoying things so far, and I truly appreciate your taking the time to comment.

    I never thought about the location influencing meditative ability, but I certainly suppose it could, especially in a place like the Great Temple (and I guess in "Of Possible Futures" it's remarked that meditating in hyperspace has a distinctive quality). Would it help if I worked that into the narrative somehow? One could also interpret young Ng'xvi-Ta'al-Lhúd's overwhelming eagerness to come with his father to the temple as a sign that he had received some sort of intuitive hint about the heightened revelation he would experience there. And yes, you're very right to pick up on his father's reaction...

    Gand culture: There's really only very minimal cultural background given in the official sources, so I did indeed make up a lot—namely, basically everything except the very basic information about the nature of the Gand species and home world; the terms findsman, janwuine, and ruetsavii; and the naming and self-reference practices (thank you, Michael Stackpole! @};- ). To my knowledge, there are no official sources that describe life on Gand in any detail, and very little on how findsmen learn their trade, so I just went wild and made up all sorts of things about that. ;) Somewhere I have a glossary of places, things, terms, and cultural elements in the story that I made up some years ago, noting which were official and which weren't. (At some point I'll have to incorporate the very nice contributions made by The Old Republic, too.)

    On the font: does it change if you read the thread on a different device? On my iPhone and on my husband's iPad the font does indeed look the same, but on my laptop and my work PC the different font for chapter 2 shows up: I just used Times for the first chapter and tried Garamond for the second chapter. (Can anyone else out there see the difference?)

    Again, many thanks!
     
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  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Ooh, he saved his older brother's life. That is a true blessing personally, although I am also baffled by the father's shift in attitude. ~~ Yes, tne new font shows up for me too. @};-
     
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  12. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Glad things are showing up well—here's the next chapter, also in Garamond, just for fun. (It seems an appropriate choice somehow. ;) )

    * * * * * * * * *
    Chapter III

    “It is not right,” grumbled Fengor. “Not right at all.”

    It was the tenth day after the young Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd had intuited the fall of Intuition’s Hand during the meeting of the ruetsavii. Fengor Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd was seated at the helm of his ship, a repulsorlift-driven light transport by the name of Guardian’s Glory. Beside him sat his wife, and their youngest son was strapped into one of the rear passenger seats. They were cruising high above the golden-orange mists of Rhaguin toward the Great Temple in answer to the summons of the Findsmen Elders.

    “What is not right, dear Fengor?” asked his wife. “Are you not proud that the Mists have so lavishly bestowed their intuitive gifts upon our son? To keep those gifts from being nurtured and developed is a dreadful offense against the Mists and against all Gand.”

    “Gifts or no gifts, he’s far too young,” declared Fengor. “The Findsman’s rituals are dangerous for those who are not ready for them in body and spirit. The Findsmen Elders know that. If they think that one measly mock Hunt and a childish outburst in front of the chief ruetsavii makes one worthy of initiation in the Sacred Trade, then they have gone out of their minds.”

    “Do not speak of the Elders so,” Otila reproached him, with a scolding clack of her mouthparts. “Besides, that ‘childish outburst’ saved your first-born’s life. You saw the message yourself.”

    “That is precisely what is not right, Otila. Gorruss is the elder son; he has almost completed his studies, so why could he not see in the Mists that the rocks would fall? And yet his puny, nameless infant brother could.”

    “But remember, dear one, the prophecy specifically says . . .”

    “BLAST AND BEFOG THE PROPHECY!” sputtered Fengor, his mouthparts clattering. Otila recoiled from the droplets of spittle that went flying from them. “It was all happenstance, nothing more. The intuitive power that flows through the Great Temple sometimes has . . . unusual effects on the minds of the young and untrained. And in any case, true Findsmen go about their business quietly and do not make fools of themselves before their betters.”

    “There was a time when you would have begged to differ,” clacked Otila. “I suppose you think his finding of Ossluk’s log was coincidence also?”

    “It is still not right.”

    In the rear of the transport, young Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd gazed absently out the window, trying his best to ignore his parents’ conversation. Since his revelation in the ruetsavii council chamber, he had heard the same complaints from his father over and over again, day by day, and the same attempts from his mother to plead on her son’s behalf, which his father always ignored or dismissed. Fengor always became especially indignant whenever his wife mentioned “the prophecy”—whatever that was; Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd never quite got up the nerve to ask. But it didn’t matter so much now, for he finally had the opportunity he had always dreamed of: he was on his way to the Great Temple of Gand to prove his own intuitive talents and hopefully become apprenticed in the ways of the Findsman. Maybe then his cantankerous old father would finally be convinced.

    At last, as dusk was beginning to fall, Guardian’s Glory emerged from a lambent cloud cover of shimmering gold interspersed with red-orange mist. From his window Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd could see the alabaster spires and domes of the Sacred Capital reaching devotedly upward, wreathed in the glowing vapors. Far below, rich gardens full of jewel-like colors twined around the spired buildings, adorning the city as with garlands of flowers. An immense golden dome, encircled by white towers far taller than any in the surrounding city, loomed up from the edge of what looked like a wide, deep sea or lake, from whose silvery surface wispy white vapors ascended to join the golden mists above.

    A droid’s voice crackled to life on the commlink.

    Guardian’s Glory cleared for landing on pad four.”

    Fengor steered the ship downward toward a landing pad in the middle of one of the gardens. Within minutes he had touched down, and he and his family disembarked.

    Besides a small detail of honor guards in slate-blue uniforms and armor, several others were stationed on the landing pad waiting for them. First there were the same three ruetsavii who had visited the mock Hunt, again dressed in ornate ceremonial garb. One, seemingly the eldest of the three, carried a tall staff topped with a crystal orb that glistened in the light from the clouds. Standing with them were a Master Findsman and his apprentice, the latter being none other than Gorruss, the elder son of Fengor and Otila. Young Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd recognized his brother’s master as Okkfel Taagu, an old friend of his father’s who had visited his household often; he was large and bulky, with knobbly, snarling mandibles.

    As Fengor, Otila, and their younger son disembarked, Gorruss came up and embraced them, tapping their arms and shoulders rapidly with the claws of both hands as he did so. Then the family approached the three ruetsavii, who greeted them with great deference and ceremony, bowing low to Fengor and Otila and bestowing all the usual gestures of blessing upon their two sons, particularly on the younger. He beheld them with great awe and curiosity as they hovered over him and blessed him. The intricate embroidered patterns on their robes seemed to shimmer as they waved their hands above his head, shoulders, and heart, pronouncing their benisons in solemn and lyrical tones.

    When they had had done with the formal greetings, the whole group walked together down one of the Temple’s many corridors, with one guard in slate blue leading them and another taking up the rear. The ruetsavii and Okkfel conversed with Fengor and Otila in the manner of old friends reuniting; it was hard for Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd to make out exactly what they were saying, but he did hear his name mentioned often. He walked behind the adults, with his brother beside him in his apprentice’s robes, his steel-gray eyes directed straight ahead of him.

    Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd looked around him as he walked. They were in a shadowy echoing hallway that seemed, judging by the echo of their boots on the floor, to have a vaulted ceiling. Occasionally the gloom was broken when the entire hallway seemed to be transmuted into a tube of smoothly undulating colored light that seemed to swim alongside the walking group. One hue melded gracefully into the next, much like the shimmering mists outside in the sky. Another turn, and they were again submerged in dim, echoing darkness—but this time small patches of bright colors occasionally gleamed through the shadows. The young Gand thought he could hear music far in the distance, strangely beautiful and ethereal music sung by some faraway choir.

    “‘THE PALM! GORRUSS! TURN BACK!’”

    He spun around suddenly at the sound of his brother’s voice, combined with a playful claw-flick to the side of his head.

    “It was the strangest thing to hear you shrieking like a rutting trs’kin right inside Gorruss’s head,” he continued. “Gorruss has heard Mother and Father do that many times, but never you. Anyway, Gorruss supposes he should congratulate you, little brother.”

    “Thank you, brother Findsman Gorruss,” replied his younger brother quietly.

    “So Gorruss hears they are planning to make an apprentice out of you, too. You know what that means, of course. You will spend about half a day with crusty old Master Findsmen who will be either asking you silly questions or poking and prodding you all over. And the entire time you will be wearing nothing but a nightshirt with a few runes on it. Can Gorruss count on you not to soil the holy words of the Book of Light while you are lying on the examination table?”

    Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd winced. “Of course, brother.”

    “Gorruss is really only being facetious. Certainly it will not be so bad for one of your talents.” He gave his brother another flick to the side of he head. Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd winced again but took no real offense; his brother had always been like this.

    They walked on a little farther through the glowing, echoing hallways, saying nothing to each other. Eventually Gorruss tapped his brother on the shoulder and said:

    “What’s wrong, little Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd? Is this really the fearless little Gand who stole back Ossluk’s log and foretold the fall of Intuition’s Hand in front of all the ruetsavii? You’re about to be evaluated for apprenticeship in the Sacred Trade, for fog’s sake. Why so full of gloom?”

    Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd gave a hiss of resignation. There was no use hiding his feelings any longer. He moved closer to his brother and lowered his voice to a whisper.

    “It’s . . . it’s Father.”

    “Oh, you should know better by now than to let Father get under your plates, little brother,” clacked Gorruss.

    “No, no, it’s worse,” insisted Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd, then told him of his father’s reactions to his recent accomplishments. “But back when you caught the entire group of mock fugitives that time in R’gnnath, he was beside himself with joy. Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd remembers. Why is he so different now?”

    “Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd regrets he does not know,” replied Gorruss. “But do not take it to heart, little brother. Father is just a cross old thing and always will be.”

    They walked on in silence. It seemed that the flowing colors on the hallway’s walls were growing dimmer and duskier, and that the adults’ voices ahead of them were becoming more and more hushed, rendering the distant music clearer and clearer.

    Suddenly a thought burst into Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd’s mind. He tapped his brother on the arm with one claw.

    “Brother Findsman Gorruss?”

    “Yes?”

    “What is the Uncanny One?”

    Gorruss’s mouthparts popped open quizzically. “Why do you want to know about the Uncanny One, little brother?

    “Because . . . because Father said—”

    “What, does Father think you’re the Uncanny One?!”

    “Brother, not so loud!

    “Apologies, apologies! Don’t get your abdomen out of joint!” He inhaled and lowered his voice. “Well, you know that Father is the Guardian of Trynfor’s Vault, and that Gorruss will be the Guardian after Father dies . . .” He broke off and clacked scoldingly. “Oh, for fog’s sake, little brother, didn’t Father ever tell you about any of this?”

    “NO!” The younger brother stamped his foot, causing a clattering echo off the vaulted stone around them. At once the procession halted, and all the adults walking ahead of the two brothers turned to face them, glaring down at them sternly with glowing compound eyes. Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd gripped his older brother’s arm as he heard the unmistakable censorious crrick-crrack of his father’s mandibles.

    “Apologies, Father . . . Mother . . . Your Mystical Honors . . .” he whispered, bowing his head. Without a word the adults turned and began walking again.

    “So Father never told you?” asked Gorruss in muted tones as they continued their progress through the stone corridors. “How strange. He told Gorruss all about it when Gorruss was your age. Well, you certainly know about Zukfel Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd, your and Gorruss’s ancestor.”

    “Yes. The tarnuur of Trynfor the Mad.” The younger brother could not stifle a click of pride. “Everyone knows that.”

    “The very same. When the Holy Madman died, he had no children, so he entrusted his secret treasure to Zukfel and bound him and his first-born descendants to guard it forever. Those are the Guardians, and Father’s one of them. But the Holy Madman also prophesied that the treasure would finally be revealed to all of Gand by a descendent of Zukfel who would be blessed with prodigious gifts from the Mists but not a first-born. That is the Uncanny One. And when that happens—”

    Suddenly Gorruss broke off and began tapping his brother urgently on the shoulder. The group had just arrived in a tall stone rotunda. High above their heads, tall windows of the same strange organic glowing colors that had adorned the corridors—full of the same swimming misty forms as the hallways, yet even more airy and beautiful—stretched upward toward a softly iridescent golden dome. Just below each window was a metal grille, seemingly a vent of some kind. In the very center of the room, steps descended to what looked like an empty pool, large enough to hold an average-sized adult Gand. Nine other august and richly clothed Findsmen and Findswomen stood around this pool, facing the newcomers. Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd found his attention drawn to the very top of the dome, from which an otherworldly golden light, like a piece of a star, glowed down at him. From the center of that glow the strange, beautiful voices poured forth more clearly than ever.

    The three Findsmen leading the group stopped and turned to face the Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd family. The elderly male carrying the staff inhaled deeply—the hiss of his breath echoed on the round walls—and began to speak in solemn, lofty tones:

    “Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd. In the name of the Sacred and Visionary Mists of Gand, we bid you welcome.”

    He paused. The youngster glanced up briefly, noticing that the ethereal singing had suddenly become hushed. The strange old Findsman spoke again.

    “We have heard that you have shown through your recent accomplishments an unusual and precocious talent in the powers of the Mists,” he said, his lofty words echoing on the stones of the Temple. “We wish to see this talent for ourselves, to determine your readiness for initiation into the mysteries of the Findsman.”

    The elder struck his staff on the floor with a loud crack that echoed through the round room. Young Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd snapped to attention as the faraway voices burst forth once again. Out of the corner of his silver compound eyes he noticed that the hand on his shoulders was no longer that of his brother but that of one of the three ruetsavii who had met them at the landing pad, a tall, stately female in dark crimson robes. A second dignified-looking personage, a male with greenish eyes, stood at his other side.

    “Take him and prepare him for the evaluation.” The elders command boomed above the singing voices. “And you, young one, have no fear. The Mists have shown you great favor.”
     
  13. Goodwood

    Goodwood Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 11, 2011
    Oooooooooh, the vapors! And that ethereal singing...such majesty, such imagery, you really do have a gift for that, Findswoman!

    I can't wait to see what happens next!
     
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  14. Space_Wolf

    Space_Wolf Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Great start. I will read Chapters 2 and 3 tomorrow.
     
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  15. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2001
    Chapters 1-2

    I haven't caught up to chapter 3 yet, but wanted to note that 1 and 2 were fantastic. The introduction into how the young Gands train for searching is simultaneously cute and unnerving -- such little hunters! I like the development of the protagonist's character. He's fairly ordinary (if a bit mischievous), but we can see how his flashes of insight are starting to seem... uncanny to the adults around him. The conversation with his brother was one of my favorite scenes. It's a nice look into their family life, and makes some sense of their father's reaction. He really, really gets set on his plans, I've gathered. ;)

    The description of the city in chapter 2 was wonderful. Makes me want to paint a Gand city. (I don't paint. Barely ever draw any more, though I'm working on that again.) Just beautiful, illuminated, full of peace. I can really see why the character would love his homeworld. It's fascinating and a bit unexpected. Based on what little I've read of the EU sources, it sounds like their society also has a distinct cruel edge. That we barely see that so far, just the mentions of how the Findsmen have to go hunt for mine workers and offhand details like that, seems very lifelike given the protagonist's age and experiences.
     
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  16. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Thanks so much, Goodwood, Space_Wolf, and Kahara. I very much appreciate your taking the time to weigh in. :)

    Kahara, I would be tickled pink to see how you would draw or paint a Gand city! (But only if you did indeed decide to do so, that is.) Ever since I started this thing years ago I've dreamed of seeing pictures of it. Although I've tried now and again to sketch out the occasional character or location at various points during the writing of this, I really don't have any visual-arts talent to speak of, so I'm stuck with the "thousand words" approach.

    And you are absolutely right to point out the cruel edge to Gand society, which certainly exists (the fugitive slaves, some of the ruthlessness in enforcing conventions of self-identity, and so on). I admit that in earlier drafts I went out of my way to minimize those aspects, but now that I'm revising things and (hopefully) marching onward toward completion, I'll have to think of some ways to bring them back in. Just an edge, of course, to keep things interesting. ;)

    And finally, apologies for being so sluggish to update with the next chapter—it's just a matter of having the time and energy to sit down and make the necessary fixes, and recently I've lacked both. But it should happen sometime in the coming week. And if all goes well, there will be a little additional extra thrown in. ;)
     
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  17. K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku

    K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Jedi Grand Master star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 18, 2000
    Very nice work! You have a done a great job describing the world and culture of the Gand. I am hooked and looking forward to reading more. And you are doing a great job with writing the young Gand. You are right - it is really hard to believable young characters, particularly without making them sound too old. You've hit a good balance. I also like how what appears to us as a cruel edge to Gand society is completely normal to the characters. I find that is sometimes hard to pull off. Can't wait for the next installment! :)
     
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  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Excellent post. Otila speaks sense and her spouse should listen. :p The evaluation should prove enlightening especially in light of the Prophecy. [face_thinking]
     
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  19. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Thanks so much for the comments—they're very much appreciated. @};-

    K'Tai, it is indeed tough to write convincing youngsters! And the thing is, I didn't realize what a challenge that really was until I had one of my own and got to experience firsthand exactly what a child really is and isn't capable of saying. (My son is much younger than the protagonist of this story, but it still provides perspective.)

    Nyota, ah, isn't that always the case with husbands and their wives? ;) More shall be revealed soon...

    Here at last is the promised update—really sorry it's taken me so long, but things have been hectic these last weeks. Keep reading for a special little treat at the very end...

    * * * * * *
    Chapter IV

    In silence the two ruetsavii led their young charge down a dimly lit corridor to the testing wing of the Great Temple. First he was brought to a small but comfortable curtained alcove, where he was instructed to change from his regular clothing into the garment that lay waiting for him there: a long, baggy gown of white linen with mystical script embroidered along its hem, neck and sleeves. It was indeed “a nightshirt with a few runes on it,” just as his brother had told him, and it was extremely large on him, trailing on the ground.

    After he emerged, he was led down a short hallway into a round stone room. Its walls were lined with tall shelves, filled to brimming with not only with all manner of books and parchment scrolls but also strange, quaint weapons and contrivances of all descriptions, no doubt taken from the inner pockets and gear-pouches of Findsmen of long ago. A round meditation couch, draped in dark purple cloth embroidered with mystical inscriptions, sat in the very center of the room, directly below a small, round white lamp that was the room’s only source of light. Beside the couch sat a small three-legged table. Floor cushions of sundry shapes, sizes and colors lay scattered about the stone floor.

    The two elder Gands motioned for Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd to take his seat on the round couch. After he had done so, they sat down upon two of the cushions on the floor and closed their eyes. It looked to him as though they were meditating, or at least reflecting; all he could do was watch.

    The Findswoman in the crimson robes, apparently the elder of the two, opened her eyes first. They were a deep metallic cobalt blue, and although the dim light made them dusky, they seemed to Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd to be even more piercing and searching than any of his father’s glares.

    “They darkens the eye but clarify the mind,” she intoned, clearly and slowly, as though she were pronouncing a mystical incantation. “What are they?”

    “The Mists,” Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd replied, taking a quick breath in.

    “As a flicker, it strengthens you, but as a bonfire it burns you down,” added the green-eyed Findsman.

    The young Gand thought for a moment. “Anger?”

    Again it was the Findswoman’s turn. “What can you catch and hold, but never touch?”

    “Air? . . . Breath.”

    “When you are all alone, to whom can you turn?”

    “To yourself,” answered Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd, relieved that it was nothing harder.

    Thus they continued, taking turns asking him riddle after riddle, question after question, in quick succession. It reminded Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd a little of when his parents used to read riddles to him from the big red book of riddles in the family library, then ask him to guess the answer. After much practice he had eventually learned the answers to all of them. But most of the riddles he was hearing now were new to him; he often found himself just guessing their answers, and the dispassionate bearing of his examiners offered him no clues whatsoever as to whether his answers were right or wrong.

    Finally, after almost a full hour, it was the younger Findsman’s turn again. His green eyes glinted almost mischievously as he leaned close to Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd and said to him:

    “It is the sickness that brings the only true healing. It is the weakness that brings the only true strength. It is the captivity that brings the only true freedom.”

    The young Gand paused and racked his brain. How could sickness bring health, or weakness strength, or captivity freedom? He did not know how long he sat there, eyes to the ground, not knowing what answer he could give the two august Findsmen who were waiting for him. It was the voice of the cobalt-eyed Findswoman that finally rescued him from his chagrin.

    “He is still too young for that one, Ussar,”she said to her colleague, laughing and clacking her mandibles a little. “He will learn the answer in due course.”

    With that, both closed their eyes and fell silent once again. No doubt they were engaged in another meditation, consulting the Mists for Their authoritative verdict on how the youngster was doing so far. Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd tried to dissipate his restlessness by trying to decipher the inscriptions embroidered on his gown and woven into his the coverings of the couch. The script was just different enough from everyday h’zav’Gand—the everyday Gand vernacular—that he could not.

    Again the blue-eyed Findswoman emerged first from her reflection, followed shortly by her green-eyed colleague.

    “Glance around yourself, Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd,” she said, “and describe thoroughly everything that you see.”

    The young Gand took a leisurely look around the room and was about to throw one more cautionary glance at a bookcase he had missed, but the green-eyed Findsman clacked in disapproval.

    “Do not look again,” he chided. “Use your intuition only.”

    “Apologies, Your Mystical Honor . . . Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd saw . . .” He closed his eyes for a moment and took a few slow breaths in and out. “Seven shelves, four full of books, three full of tools and weapons—”

    “Name some of the books that were there.”

    Again he paused, closed his eyes, concentrated. “Diaries, ships’ logs, Temple records, atlases . . . a Book of Light with a jeweled cover . . . Kyvr Yuun’s travel diary . . . the epic of Zuika . . . Trynfor’s complete works in three volumes . . . ” He clenched his eyes tighter, fighting the temptation to look back at the shelves. “And about ten small white books the size of Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd’s fist.”

    “Which are what?”

    “The Great Temple’s account books for . . .” He paused and fidgeted a little with his sleeves. “Gardeners and landscapers. From the last . . . two centuries.”

    The two examiners looked at each other for a moment, then closed their eyes in reflection again. Having finished, they turned again to face their young subject.

    “And now describe the contents of the other three shelves.”

    “One had all weapons, if Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd remembers correctly . . . vibroknives of all sizes . . . from tiny shivs the size of Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd’s little finger to blades as long as Your Mystical Honor’s arm . . . shockstaff cartridges . . . shockstun capsules for snare rifles, most of them broken . . .” Again he gripped his sleeves nervously. “There was one with medicine bottles . . . healers’ tools . . . scalpels and probes and tongs . . . one of the scalpels was all of platinum . . .”

    “And anything else?” Ussar’s voice seemed tinged with disappointment.

    “No—that is—yes, Your Mystical Honor . . .” Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd closed his eyes tightly, ground his innermost pair of mandibles together, and clenched his firsts as he tried to glean some last slivers of insight.

    “Ussar will put it another way. What is the most rare and valuable of all the artifacts in this room? Ussar is surprised that it did not register in your intuition.”

    “Most rare and valuable . . . most rare and valuable . . .” The young Gand knew he sounded awkward repeating those words, but he did not care. “There’s the miniature portrait of Zukfel Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd, but that can’t be . . . is it . . . is it . . . the box?”

    “Which box?”

    “The box . . .” For some reason Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd felt a new wisp of insight creeping through him like vapor from the surface of a pond at night. “The box on the shelf with the healers’ tools . . . A medicine box. It contains three jeweled collar-clips, a small lump of scented powder-stone, and a vial of k’zoor-root tonic.”

    “Good, good,” said the blue-eyed Findswoman, giving a few serene mandible-clicks. “You are mostly correct about its contents: there are four collar-clips, not three, and only two of them have jewels. But that is indeed the most valuable object in this room.”

    She rose quietly from her cushion and carefully reached an ornate lacquered box down from its shelf, taking care not to disturb the numerous curious and fragile artifacts that surrounded it, and set it on the three-legged table for young Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd to see.

    It was a beautiful piece of workmanship. The smooth black lacquer was adorned with finely detailed scrollwork reminiscent of coiling mists, though with flowers and foliage intertwined. Amid these delicate decorations, in the center of the lid, was the image of a Findsman sitting deep in meditation, cupped hands upraised toward the surrounding swirls.

    “Can you say anything else about this box, now that it is here before you?” asked the Findswoman.

    Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd put out his hand tentatively, barely touching the lid, then drew it away.

    “It has . . . it has clockwork,” he said. “It plays a song.”

    “Yes indeed, young one, though anyone can tell that from the key underneath.” She clicked her mandibles enigmatically. “And what song does it play?”

    Ussar’s mouthparts popped open in surprise. “Stavrien, how could he know that unless he—”

    “He can,” his colleague interrupted him quietly but firmly. “Stavrien only asks him this because she knows he can. Young one, if you need to, you may take time to . . . ponder the question.”

    “Yes, Your Mystical Honor.”

    Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd squeezed his eyes closed and ground his inner mouthparts pensively. His two distinguished examiners were showing so much confidence in him; he could not bear the thought of disappointing them. What song did it play? Findsmaster Ussar was right: how could he know?

    Would the Mists know? It was said they sang constantly, in tones inaudible to mortal Gand . . .

    He began breathing. This time he would not even try to visualize the Mists—only to listen to Them, to try against all odds to hear that unheard music of Theirs. For many, many breaths he sat there, hearing nothing but the silence of the testing room, of his examiners’ expectation. But at last he became aware of distant, airy tones that began slowly to join themselves into wispy strains and finally into familiar melodies, flowing one into another as they wafted through his consciousness: a hunting song his father and brother used to sing while preparing to go on missions . . . a solemn temple hymn . . . one of the traditional meditative chants . . . a tender lullaby his mother used to sing to him . . .

    Ng’xvi-Ta'al-Lhúd thought for a moment about that lullaby. He could never remember the words—like so many of his mother’s songs, they had to do with something tiresome and sentimental like being in love. But he had always rather liked the tune. . . . Forcing air through his triple-layered mandibles, he began to whistle.

    As he did, Stavrien opened the lid of the box. There was a metallic click, then little invisible bells began to tinkle forth the very same tune, in the very same key.

    Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd opened his eyes and fixed them on the box as he continued whistling. The inside of the lid was decorated with the same delicate, quasi-floral scrollwork as the outside, though with a very different image in its center: this time the Findsman was trampling some miserable, struggling captive underfoot while thrusting a large discharger staff at his throat. The main compartment of the box did indeed contain four metal clips, a small lump of soft pink stone, and a miniature glass vial of bright green liquid.

    Ussar, meanwhile, shifted nervously on his own cushion and gave a few nervous clacks.

    “Yes, a beautiful old song,” he interposed. “But everyone knows it, of course.” And he began to sing with the silvery, enigmatic melody:

    “Strike and wound and heal, O fierce beloved!
    Clap this heart in binders, and then it shall be—”

    He broke off as he hit a sudden harsh discord with both the music box and the younger Gand.

    “What?!” he exclaimed. “But that’s not how it goes . . . Ussar swears . . . ”

    Yet, even as he protested, Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd continued whistling in perfect time and unison with the music box, even as the melody slowed with the winding down of the clockwork. At last Stavrien closed the lid, silencing the music.

    “Yes, everyone knows this beautiful old song,” she said. “But not everyone knows the longer variant version sung in the colony of Rhak’zel three hundred years ago. That version survives only in the clockwork of this box, which was a courtship gift from the Holy Madman to the Findslady Isthien. It is never taken from this room, and, as you know, the testing wing of the Great Temple is guarded with the utmost care.” All three pairs of her mandibles clacked open and closed as she leaned toward the young Gand sitting on the couch before her. “So how is it that you know this song, young Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd?”

    For a few moments Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd lowered his head and fidgeted awkwardly with the baggy sleeves of his gown. Then, with a sudden resolve, he drew himself up, looked Stavrien in the eye, and said:

    “Because the Mists sang it to him, Your Mystical Honor.”

    “You must tell Findslady Stavrien the truth,” put in Ussar abruptly.

    “Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd is telling the truth!” He sprang to his feet, fists clenched; the heat of anger was rising within him, heedless of the high rank of those he addressed. “Your Mystical Honors allowed him time to ponder the question, and while he did, the Mists sang him this song!”

    Ussar rose as well. “Your impertinence is unseemly, young one,” he growled. “If you wish to learn the Sacred Trade, you must learn to have humility before your elders and betters. And how to tell the truth.”

    “Vlee! Peace!” ordered Stavrien, gripping her colleague’s arm in her claws and forcing him back to a seated position. “Why should you and Stavrien doubt him, after what has been told to us?”

    “But—”

    “Young one, do not fear.” Stavrien was still looking at sternly her colleague as she spoke these words. “We are not angry, and you have done no wrong.”

    “Thank you, Your Mystical Honor.” Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd’s response was a near whisper.

    Once more Stavrien closed her eyes, and Ussar did the same. Another seeming eternity of silence passed; as it did, Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd glanced over at the lacquered box on the table, now silent as its lid showed once again the peaceful image of meditating Findsman. At last both examiners opened their eyes and rose. Young Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd did the same, as was proper.

    “Thank you, young Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd,” said Stavrien. “We have heard all we need to hear.”

    * * * * * *
    And finally, here's the little promised extra: a live recording of the tune from the music box, played by me on the celesta stop of an organ. (My original plan was to embed the sound file, but alas, the silly forums won't let me.) It is entirely likely that this song (and its full text) will return later in the story. ;)
     
  20. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2001
    Oh wow. :eek: Don't think I've ever come across a writer's own music performance in a fanfic before. Fantastic. And it has that haunting sound... really, this whole chapter just brings goosebumps.

    Just... wow. Okay.

    The questions and answers were great. All these little glimpses into the world of the Findsmen make me feel like we're seeing the tip of a very large iceberg.

    Talk about certain points of view. At first I thought I had the answer -- and then another one occurred to me. Now I'm unsure whether it's either of those guesses. Neat.
     
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  21. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    You have a beautiful story here about the Findsmen
     
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  22. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh, that was some test not only of knowledge but of emotive reactions. And the gorgeous melody -- a lovely, ethereal sound. Bravo on its composition! @};-
     
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  23. K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku

    K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Jedi Grand Master star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 18, 2000
    I love the tune! =D= Don't suppose you have it transcribed and would share it? :D

    I also really like how the adults don't quite believe him. I think one of the hardest things to do is take a child at face value when they show you something that challenges your experience. I also think it is very interesting that the Findswomen seem to be more willing to believe and be supportive than the Findsmen.

    Good job! Definitely looking forward to the next installment, whenever Darth RL lets you post it.
     
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  24. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Thank you all once again.

    earlybird-obi-wan, I appreciate that compliment very much—beauty is something I value in writing (even though that's not necessarily a popular opinion nowadays).

    Nyota's Heart, you're right that the emotive reactions are a very important part of what's being tested here—perhaps even more so than actually answering the riddles correctly. And the lack of a reaction is, of course, also a reaction!

    Kahara, I'm curious to hear what your two possible answers to the riddle were! I always was afraid the answer would be too obvious; there's one in particular I have in mind, but that's not at all to exclude other possibilities and further discussion. :)

    K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku, yes, I do indeed have the music written down! Here 'tis, inside the spoiler tag (and I hope it will show up large enough):

    [​IMG]

    I've written in the two lines of text sung by Ussar in the story at their appropriate place ("Strike and wound and heal..."—I do have a full text written for the song, which I hope I can incorporate later in the story). The "modern" version of the tune that Ussar knows (and which the protagonist's mother has sung to him) goes through measure 16, then skips to the penultimate measure, hence the sudden discord.

    And it's interesting that you point out the imbalance between the supportive female authority figures and the unsupportive male authority figures. That was something that worried me in early drafts (where it was even more pronounced), and then I realized it was down to "writing about what I know" from my own life experience. When I was writing this scene with Ussar vs. Stavrien, I was mostly trying to conceptualize the difference in supportiveness in terms of age (she's older, he's younger), but the gender difference ended up in there as well. Still, I do have at least one caring, supportive father figure planned for our young protagonist, so hopefully things will eventually balance out. (Remember, his brother supports him, too; he just has a wry way of showing it.)

    Incidentally, the name Ussar Vlee might be familiar to those who have read the X-Wing: Rogue Squadron books, because he's one of the three ruetsavii who comes to observe Ooryl in The Bacta War. I pulled him in mainly just so this story wouldn't be completely detached from official continuity; this is supposed to be him in his younger years, just getting started as a high-up in the Gand hierarchy.
     
  25. Goodwood

    Goodwood Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 11, 2011
    Glad I finally checked up on this story, Findswoman!

    That is some awesome music, to go with a really interesting chapter...and yes, that last riddle...

    Madness?

    THIS. IS. GAAAAAAAND!!!