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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

    Feb 27, 2014
    And now, at long last, on to the next chapter! For this one, I thank both Kahara and Ewok Poet for their beta-reading and valued feedback.

    Tags: Admiral Volshe (anyone else, just let me know)

    Chapter XIV

    “HE’S HERE!”

    The cry shook Zuckuss from a trance he did not realize had seized him. Down below in the glasshouse he saw the golden-eyed girl, now fully conscious, trembling violently in Luyen’s embrace. The other two ruetsavii hovered nearby, trying to comfort and steady her. Again and again she cried out “He’s here!” and “The apprentice is here!” in tones that were half awed, half anguished. The Mark in Zuckuss’s hand crackled anew with each cry. He pulled his robes closer about him; the rain had increased to a steady drizzle, and the wind rustled more insistently in the treetops.

    “There now, there now, sweet one.” Luyen spoke gently, pressing the girl close to her. “What is wrong? Who is here?”

    “Is it Apprentice Zuckuss?” Volokoss spoke before the girl could answer.


    “The young Findsman you met at the marketplace. Zuckuss Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd is his name. Is that who you mean, young one?”

    “Oh yes, . . . yes, that is his name . . . Zuckuss.” A shiver shot through Zuckuss at the sound of his name from the mysterious youngster. This time it was not the Mark but something stronger, something that pierced him to the very heart and lungs.

    Volokoss placed a comforting hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Ah, but young one, Volokoss does not see how he could possibly be here. He is spending the harvest-season holiday period at his family’s home in Rhaguin. Volokoss saw him board the transport himself.”

    “But Viurraanvi can feel that he’s here—in her hand . . .” She clattered the claws of her left hand together as she spoke.

    “In your hand, young one?” Volokoss clacked quizzically, turning to Luyen. “Findslady Luyen, you don’t suppose she could possibly mean—”

    “She is correct. He is here.”

    It was Otila who spoke. She was now on her feet, looking intently around. Her hand was upraised in a cupped gesture as if she were trying to catch the air in it—and indeed, a few of the white-gray mists swirled down toward her hand, circling it. Up on the garden wall, Zuckuss tutted to himself. He knew it was inevitable that his mother, like all Gand parents, would sooner or later become aware of her child’s presence.

    “My younger son is here.” Otila extended her hand to Viurraanvi and lifted her to her feet. “Shall we go seek him together?”

    “There’s no need.” The girl and the three ruetsavii looked up at the sound of a young male voice from overhead. It was followed by a loud rustling and crackling of tree branches, then a muffled thud as someone or something hit the ground. In a few moments a pair of silver compound eyes was visible outside the glasshouse door, and claws were heard rapping on it. The youngster perked up instantly, all her trembling gone.

    Otila opened the door for her son. Before he could say anything, she engulfed him in a massive embrace and touched her antennae to his.

    “My true young hunter,” she murmured, clicking proudly, then lowered her voice to a whisper. “Now listen, be gentle with the young one when you speak to her. She has just been telling us how her parents were killed by the colony governor’s agents.”

    “Yes, of course, Mother. Zuckuss kn—” He narrowly stopped himself. “Yes, Mother.” Gently he freed himself from her arms, then turned to face the golden-eyed girl.

    She was standing motionless, gazing at him. Her eyes shone like two golden stars through the dull, steamlike gloom, full of wonder and full of questions. At the mere sight of them Zuckuss felt his mind flood with all of the things he had ever wondered about her. Why had she placed the Findsman’s Mark on him? Did she even know she had Marked him, or what it would do to him? Where had she learned how to execute Findsman’s Marks and Rhak’zel dust vortex attacks? And why had she shown him—for he was convinced that she had shown him, consciously and deliberately—her memories of parents’ terrible fate? Could he offer her any help or comfort after that terrible loss? He longed to ask all these things and more, but no words came to him. Nor did the continued presence of his mother and his two exalted teachers make matters any easier.

    Finally he gave a slight bow and salute, just as he had done when he first visited her in the garden, and said simply, “Greetings, young one.”

    “Greetings,” came the quiet response.

    For a moment they stood still, looking at each other and saying nothing. Then, in a moment of sudden realization, Zuckuss pulled the tattered, embroidered green scarf from his inner pocket and handed it to the girl.

    “This is yours . . . is it not?”

    “Yes. Gracious thanks.” Tentatively she reached out a hand to take it, then wrapped it around her neck. The fraying gold threads glinted as she did so, as if catching light from her eyes.

    There was silence again, filled only by the now-distant patter of the rain on the panes of the glasshouse. Zuckuss’s hand moved to his chest, directly over the pocket where the scarf had been. Although it was no longer there, its pressure seemed somehow to remain. At last he spoke, and she spoke at the same time.

    “Well, Zuckuss supposes he had better—”

    “Why are you here?”

    Zuckuss crunched his inner mandibles. What a question! Did she really not know? “Zuckuss is here because you brought him here,” he stated, half brusquely. “You, young one, placed a Findsman’s Mark on him, and he is here.”

    The three ruetsavii exchanged thoughtful looks. Then Luyen gestured to Zuckuss.

    “Your hands, please, Apprentice Zuckuss Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd.”

    He extended his hands to her; she took them in hers and examined them carefully. Then she placed a claw between the chitin plates of his wrist, just as Okkfel had done some days ago.

    “There is indeed a Findsman’s Mark on him,” she said at last to her colleagues. “A rudimentary one, but recognizable. Now your hands, Viurraanvi.” The girl also offered her hands, and Luyen examined them in the same way. “And there is the corresponding trace. Most unusual. This certainly calls for further investigation. Honored colleagues?”

    Volokoss and Otila clicked in assent and turned to Luyen, and they began to confer with each other in hushed tones. Meanwhile, Zuckuss and the golden-eyed girl were still looking at each other, both seemingly equally unsure of what to say. Zuckuss found his eyes moving between the golden-eyed girl and the lush, strange growth unfurling from the planter beside her. He supposed he could ask her what it was, just by way of making conversation.

    “Zuckuss was wondering—”

    “If Viurraanvi may ask—”

    Again they spoke at the same time, again they broke off at the same time. The girl lowered her eyes and gave a soft clack.

    “Please pardon Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd for interrupting you, young one. You were saying?”

    “You said . . . what was it you said . . .”

    “What was it Zuckuss said?”

    “Something about a . . . Findsman’s Mark?”


    “Is that . . . really what it’s called?”


    “But Gand is no Findswoman . . .” She paused and inhaled. “Gand had no idea if it would even work . . .”

    “It worked,” Zuckuss rejoined. “And it led Zuckuss to you. But . . .” His voice softened slightly. “What exactly was it that you did? And when?”

    “At the market . . . when you took Gand’s hand to help her to her feet . . . she . . .”

    “Yes? Go on.”

    “She tried sending a . . . a sort of spark of energy into you . . .”

    “Spark of energy?

    “Yes, or something . . . in case it would help her find you again. And then, after it all happened—”

    She broke off suddenly, overcome by sobs and tremors, and buried her face in her arms. The ruetsavii broke from their consultation and looked over to see what was the matter. Otila shot her son a disapproving look, but he barely noticed it, for once again the terrible scenes of the two gardeners’ death were flashing before him: the vibroblades, the blasters, the blood, the bodies on the floor. At last they vanished as she breathed in, looked up, and began again.

    “After it all happened . . . Viurraanvi thought . . . perhaps you would be able to help her. So . . . she tried to . . . to find you. But . . . you found her first.”

    Zuckuss gave a sorrowful pop with his outer mandibles. “Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd is deeply sorry about . . . about your mother and father.”

    “Kind thanks.”

    There was another pause. Zuckuss glanced around, noticing that the three elders had returned to their conversation. He could barely make out something about burial rites and contacting the local authorities. The girl’s eyes were still turned downward, and her hands were tightly clenched. He inhaled and spoke again.

    “But—if Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd may resume to ask—why him, of all the Gand? Certainly you have friends or relations who—” He cut himself off. “Certainly someone else could have helped you.”

    “But . . . but you were the one Viurraanvi . . . saw all those times.”

    “Yes, you said that to Zuckuss before.” Zuckuss noticed the hiss of impatience in his own voice. The ruetsavii apparently had as well, for they were now looking at him again. “But what has it to do with . . . any of this?”

    “Peace now, my youngest,” Otila interposed, coming over to her son and tapping him on the shoulder. “The young one is tired and grieving. She has had enough questions for today.”

    “But Mother, Findslady Luyen, Findsmaster Volokoss . . .” He glanced at the other ruetsavii, who remained calm and immobile. “It simply makes no sense.”

    “It makes perfect sense in light of everything she has told us. Oh, do not be so surprised, my youngest,” Otila added as Zuckuss’s mouthparts clacked querulously. “We have been visiting her and conversing with her daily for more than a week, according to our duty as ruetsavii.” Her voice became quieter as she continued. “Her parents—may the Mists preserve their memory—were most kind in allowing us an hour a day with her, even when it interfered with their garden-work schedule.”

    “In that time she has told us much about the things she has ‘seen,’ as she says,” Luyen continued. “The conversations she has had with Luyen and her colleagues have given them much upon which to consult and meditate further.”

    Zuckuss ground his innermost mouthparts and tapped his claws together. This “much upon which to consult and meditate further” business did not sound promising, especially if it involved him.

    Volokoss, sensing his student’s unease, drew closer, his eyes twinkling. “Does this trouble you, Apprentice Zuckuss? It is only natural that the girl should speak of you. You were the one who helped her and who first told Volokoss and his fellow examiners of her. For which they thank you.”

    Zuckuss glanced from the three elders to Viurraanvi. She was now looking up at him, her golden eyes now illuminated with at least a tentative gleam of cheer. What Volokoss said was true enough; indeed, the same thought had occurred to him earlier when he had seen his mother and the two Findsmasters arrive on the scene. But whatever pride those thoughts might have engendered was now swallowed up by an intense curiosity—one he recognized as a stronger, keener version of the curiosity he had felt during his first conversation with the golden-eyed girl all those months ago.

    What had she been telling her august examiners about these visions of hers, these visions of him? She had told him nothing of them, beyond that she had had them. Were they true visions, the authentic revelation of the Mists? But certainly that was for the ruetsavii to determine, not for him. Meanwhile, there was one small corner of his mind that kept wandering, for no discernible reason, to the moonbow orchid with its three bloom stalks . . .

    “Seleuno crossed with Tattflyssia. Mother and Father gave it to Viurraanvi to be her own little plant. It has never—” She stopped, noticing that Zuckuss’s mandibles were now splayed open in surprise. “Oh. Apologies. Gand did not mean to . . . to . . .”

    “No matter, young one,” he replied as his original clack of astonishment dissolved into smaller clicks of resignation. After all the unusual things he had seen this girl do and heard her say, he supposed it shouldn’t surprise him that she could also read his thoughts. After a moment he spoke again, much more quietly.

    “Well, perhaps Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd should be on his way. He has intruded long enough. With your leave, honored teachers.” He reverenced each of the three Findsmasters with the prescribed gestures. Each returned the gesture in turn, and his mother touched her antennae to his once again.

    “And you, young Viurraanvi.” His glance at her was sidelong, all but avoiding her golden gaze. “May the Mists show you the way.”

    “Wait—” she began, her hand extended toward him. But he was already out the door and halfway up the garden wall. Upon reaching the top he paused again and peered through the hole in the glass roof. Once again, down below among the leaves and steam, the ruetsavii were circled around the young girl, alternately comforting her and conferring with each other.

    Then one of them—it was too difficult to see who—took something small from the pocket of his or her robe and handed it to the girl. She looked at it, then turned quickly to face her examiners. As she did her eyes were like two golden supernovae piercing the gloom.

    * * *

    After parking Gorruss’s speeder in the guest hangar, Zuckuss stood again in the dark, red-lit vestibule of the Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd home. He initiated Sneaking Mist, the Findsman’s discipline of stealth, for he did not want Gorruss to hear him; he was thoroughly worn out from all his traveling and was in no mood for small talk. The Mists padded his footsteps and muffled his robes as he slipped upstairs to his childhood bedchamber. Once there, he took a deep breath and threw himself face-down on the bed.

    But he could not rest. Dark emotions churned within him, and anger was chief among them. He was angry with himself for not having properly boosted his reserve endorphins—his Waking Waters, as the ancient texts called them—before undertaking his journey to N’xid. He was fiercely angry at the governor of N’xid, at his henchmen, and at that foul, accursed black-eyed son of his—for how could anyone doubt that this had all started with him? He felt deep sadness for the gardeners and their daughter; he felt deep regret that he had arrived in N’xid too late to help them. He felt as though none of his own successes mattered in the face of that disastrous loss—not even the fact that he had taught himself how to trace a Findsman’s Mark before even reaching his First Evaluation.

    And once again, coursing like a current beneath all those feelings of gloom, there was that intense, consuming curiosity—about the gardener-girl herself, about her visions, and about what she had said to the ruetsavii. He supposed he could consult the Mists on the subject, but right now he was simply too tired.

    He was not sure how long he had been lying there before that familiar voice burst out with “There you are, brother!,” but he was certain it had not been long enough.

    Zuckuss growled an oath, followed by “Greetings, Brother Findsman Gorruss.”

    “Gorruss thought he would check on you. He would appreciate his speeder keycard back as well.”

    Zuckuss rummaged through his inner pockets. Finally he pulled out the small metal rectangle and reached it over to his brother.

    “Here you are. Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd expresses the profoundest appreciation.” He flopped back down onto his cushions.

    “No trouble at all,” Gorruss replied, snatching up the keycard and stowing it safely in his tunic pocket. “How went your . . . journey?”

    “It was without incident,” came the mumbled reply.

    “Gorruss is gladdened to hear. By the way, Gorruss just received a comm message. He thinks it might be from Mother.”

    “Yes?” Zuckuss turned onto one side. “What does she say?”

    Gorruss took a handheld comlink from his inner pocket and tapped at it with his claws. “Yes, it is from Mother.” He took a deep breath and began to read aloud. “‘Leaving N’xid’—oh, that’s where she went, Gorruss had forgotten the name—‘will be home in two days. Tell little brother if you see him. Regrets couldn’t converse with him longer.’ What does she mean, she couldn’t converse with you longer? Did you see her while you were away, brother?”

    “Yes,” Zuckuss muttered. “Briefly.”

    “So you were in N’xid? Whatever in the name of the Holy Madman’s tunic-straps were you doing there?

    Zuckuss felt his mandibles beginning to grind in anger at his brother’s inquisitiveness, but calmed himself suddenly as a suitable answer occurred to him. “Zuckuss was studying for his First Evaluation, that’s what.”

    “Ah.” Gorruss paused and gave a few quizzical clicks. “You are bold indeed to attempt such a thing in a colony without even a proper subtemple. But whatever suits you, brother Findsman Zuckuss. Gorruss shall leave you to your rest.” He gave a brief gesture of salutation and left the room.

    “A wise idea,” Zuckuss grumbled, not caring whether or not his brother could hear him. Alone once again with his fatigue, his frustration, and his overwhelming curiosity, he rolled over and closed his eyes.

    Just by way of a few reminders, in case they're needed, since it’s been a while since my last update:
    My fanon post on the Gand

  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    =D= Ah I am so glad that Viu is going to be examined and trained officially. Whew. The connection between her and Zuckuss is indeed remarkable. Seems to occur even without a catalyst like the event in the last chapter. She has an awareness of just how his literal thoughts meander. [face_laugh] [face_thinking] This is doubtless a facet of her skill but also of Zuckuss' as well.
    Ewok Poet, Kahara and Findswoman like this.
  3. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    love to see Zuckuss again and I like his brother
    Ewok Poet, Kahara and Findswoman like this.
  4. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Mar 3, 2001
    There’s a wonderfully portentous feel to this chapter, and I like the continuing mystery of Viurraanvi and the connection she has to Zuckuss. With every question answered, there are more to ponder.

    Mentioned this before, but I love the idea of the lungs in Gand being an equivalent to “heart” or whatever the symbolic emotional innards of a culture might be. :)

    Another thing already mentioned, but I really liked Otila here. She’s so genuinely caring and it’s lovely to see that Zuckuss at least gets along with one parent. ;)

    Favorite moment here, because it’s so easy to picture and I like the sort of uncomfortable but “something there” feel of this reunion. Zuckuss and the gardener girl hardly know each other at all, and yet they have had this supernatural link for who knows how long -- I doubt that she chose to try the Findsman’s Mark thing on him by cosmic accident.

    And wow, I’ll just bet that little detail has taken the teachers by surprise! They’re taking it very well though -- lucky it’s them on the scene and not one of the grouchier subset of mentors. :p Okkfel’s going to love having another child of strange destiny wandering around the place… It will be interesting to see what’s in store for Viurraanvi now, since her former home isn’t really an option anymore. At least, I can’t see them leaving her there when the ex-governor apparently has assassins running around town looking for her.

    Zuckuss has found a lot of things to think about on his excursion -- okay, so that’s the understatement of the year.

    Gorruss continues to be a joy. “What in the Holy Madman’s tunic-straps” indeed! [face_laugh] He makes a great contrast to Zuckuss and his more driven personality, and generally just is utterly likable.
  5. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Jul 31, 2014
    Sorry for being slightly late here. The curse of the beta who saw everything already strikes again, yepyepyep. *jumps around*

    Viurraanvi's pain in the beginning is so strong that I can almost feel it myself. :( And once again, some of this feels like The Professional. At one point, her family is there, no matter how seemingly dysfunctional they may be - the next moment, they're gone and she has to rely on the kindness of the strangers, while it's clearly implied that she will be on an eternal run from those who may want to get rid of her, for what she knows and what she is capable of finding out. She does not have Pandora's box. She IS Pandora's box. Not to mention how intrigued I am about anything that could explain us her connection to the plant, that apparently never blossomed (if I got the unfinished sentence right) and the significance of that!

    He knew it was inevitable that his mother, like all Gand parents, would sooner or later become aware of her child’s presence.

    Wait, wait wait! I thought it was a Findsfolk thing and now you say it's all of them who are capable of it? Something like family err, pheromones? I'm intrigued.

    Zuckuss' little slapstick moment brought some light into this otherwise grim situation - thank you for that!

    The further convo alters between some sort of a smitten-romantic vibe and really grim and deep stuff. While Zuckuss is trying to make sense out of what happened and why, there comes Viurraanvi's super-naif story of placing the Findsman's mark on him and even more confusion. And then, there is her knowledge about something she does not even seem to be aware of - and it's about him. So, so, so deliciously creepy.

    And then comes all that secrecy, mindscrew and confusion on top of it - despite how much this young girl caters to him for reasons she doesn't even seem to grasp herself, those who seemed to be most fond of him were conversing with her without him knowing, every day, exposing her to danger - likely for some higher purpose - and somehow, somehow, using him as a bait. Sure, an adult would have rationalised this somehow, but Zuckuss is not an adult. I feel that this will damage him, it's only a matter how and when.

    I have an idea of what those three gave her, yup, I do. [hl=black]It's in her right hand.[/hl]

    And once again, coursing like a current beneath all those feelings of gloom, there was that intense, consuming curiosity—about the gardener-girl herself, about her visions, and about what she had said to the ruetsavii. He supposed he could consult the Mists on the subject, but right now he was simply too tired.

    Zuckuss, Zuckuss, ZUCKUSS. Curiosity killed the tooka!

    Please, don't let it be too long before the next chapter. It's getting really, really interesting! :)
    Kahara, Findswoman and Nyota's Heart like this.
  6. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Jul 11, 2014
    The absolute proof of how good this story is, is that, every time I read a new chapter, I get a few answers, a lot more questions, and I'm left chewing my nails waiting for the next instalment =D=

    To me the big reveal of this chapter wasn't so much the strength of the bond between our two Gand youngsters -- this was made clear, if not explicit, in previous chapters -- but that Viurraanvi has actually been cultivating it. It's very interesting that, as early as her first encounter with Zuckuss, she deliberately placed a Mark on him, even if she didn't know exactly what she was doing, and I like how you showed that she cannot always control herself, e.g. by projecting her memories of her parents' murder a second time, or by reading his thoughts without really meaning to. I'm sure that we will find out more about what Viurraanvi has told the three masters in later chapters, but I'm sure that being kept in the dark is as infuriating for someone as rash as apprentice Zuckuss as it is for me :p No wonder the conversation between them is so awkward -- they both seem to have a lot to say and to ask, yet the social code of this very hierarchical society doesn't allow them to.

    And of course, with this and that, we never found out what Viurraanvi's moonbow orchid has never done, or what makes it so special in the first place.

    The way Otila greeted her son once he couldn't hide anymore was interesting too. It's almost as if she has been expecting him, and it's also nice to see that one parent thinks of him with pride. I am looking very much forward to their conversation once she returns to the family home. Conversely, it was interesting to see that Zuckuss chooses not to confide in his brother. My assumption is that, beyond being tired, he also counts Gorruss among those who are holding information from him.

    And, lastly, I took good note of all the questions that Zuckuss asks himself once he gets home, but also the one he doesn't ask -- namely, what was it that one of the masters gave to the girl while he was leaving?

    EAGERLY awaiting the next chapter!
    Findswoman and Nyota's Heart like this.
  7. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    Thanks as always, you all! :) Sorry that, once again, it's taken me so long to reply; it was one of those situations where I thought I already had, but I hadn't. My bad.

    (Today, incidentally, is my second anniversary here on the boards, so it just feels right that I spent part of it responding to very perspicacious reader comments on a chapter I really enjoyed putting together. @};- )

    Whew indeed, because it certainly is about time her talent was noticed—though there's an element of sadness to it, because it took something so terrible and catastrophic as her parents' death for her talent to be noticed to begin with (if that makes sense). The connection between these two exceptional youngsters is real and portentous indeed, and it will definitely be explored further in coming chapters—nay, it's kind of a central theme of the story.

    Thanks so much! Gorruss (who is completely fanon on my part) is definitely meant to be likable—as Kahara very rightly notes, he's meant to be a somewhat more easygoing counterpart (well, insofar as the Gand can ever be "easygoing") to Zuckuss's more intense and volatile personality. In some ways I kind of ended up reversing stereotypes about birth order (older child being more intense and driven, younger child being more easygoing), and that's fine with me. :D Zuckuss (at least as I write him) is the sort who needs a sympathetic and forgiving non-authority figure alongside all the authority figures he has, and in this case that's his elder brother, Gorruss.

    Thanks! It was one of those things that ust seemed to work, given what the official lore on Gands (at least on the Breather subspecies) has been so far; and things like that "Fill your enemies with primal fear, then fill their lungs with fire!" quote that comes up in the New Essential Guide to Weapons and Technology (see the epigraph to this Wookieepedia page) just serve to confirm it. I admit to having just plain made up a lot of the Gand elements in this story, but it's of the utmost importance to me that they dovetail as closely as possible to the little that's been established officially.

    And of course sympathetic, caring authority figures are another thing he so badly needs. The fact that one ended up being his mother (rather than his father) just sort of happened too, and reflects, to a certain extent, my own experience.

    Awww, glad you like it! I'm partial to this scene as well, because it's influenced by, well, pretty much all RL stories involving that age-old motif of an identifying piece of clothing: Joseph's colorful coat (torn off and bloodstained by his brothers), Cinderella's shoe, Desdemona's handkerchief, the yellow scarf Chang ties to the rock in Tintin in Tibet... the examples go on and on. And in so many of those cases, either the finding or the return (or both) of said item serves to reinforce a bond between characters, and the same thing kind of happened here. I love these centuries-old recurring story motifs, and no doubt more of them will crop up as this story goes on.

    On the issue of the Mark: as she herself confesses, it was accidental in that she didn't realize the effect it would have on him; she just thought it was this little spark of energy that maybe or maybe not would help her find him again if she needed his help, and she thouhgt it likely it wouldn't work at all. But it certainly wasn't an accident in that she knew all along he was the one she wanted to help her. How and why she knew is, of course, another story.

    I promise you'll learn more very soon about what's in store for her. It is of course no accident that these three particular mentors were chosen to be her ruetsavii: they are all people who know Zuckuss well and who are sympathetic to him. (I guess that the fact that two out of three of them are also female plays into it a bit, too; whether that leads to any fanon considerations about the gender of the examiners assigned to a given subject remains to be seen.) As to Okkfel, if he ever comes into contact with this unusual girl, well, he'll just have to deal! :p

    Oh gosh, yes! And in some ways, the number of things he'll have to think about will only increase.

    Totally all right—I've done that myself more times than I can remember. :p

    I know you'll understand what I mean when I say I'm glad to hear Viurraanvi's plight elicited those feelings from you, because it means I managed to portray her and her feelings effectively—so thank you! :) This was another spot where I was afraid I wouldn't get the grief and the sense of loss right, because I haven't had the experience of losing a very close relative (parent, sibling, child or spouse, to name the four "mourning relative" types in Jewish tradition). And you're right that those feelings are indeed augmented by her knowledge that she's in danger—and soon indeed she may [hl=black]find herself in even greater danger[/hl].

    The bolded sentence is just about one of the biggest compliments I've heard any one give this character, so thanks again. @};- It's spot on, because she herself is a big bundle of strange and volatile secrets not all of which even she knows.

    And you did indeed guess the continuation of her sentence (not that it's hard to). The plant is just her own little plant that is now all she has left to connect her to her family and life as a gardener; it's what's happened to the plant (and how it happened) that's more significant. (Cryptic, I know, but it's the best way I can say it for now. :p )

    My headcanon understanding of Gand intuition is that all Gands have it at least to a small extent (but not all of them, of course, have enough of it to become Findsmen). One form that takes is that Gand parents—any Gand parents—can sense when their children are nearby and can sense whether their children have been hurt. For some Gands, of course, that's the only kind of intuitive ability they have. (This is, again, all fanon.)

    You're most welcome! Do you mean the awkward start-stop at the beginning of his conversation with Viurraanvi? My thinking on that is, even very gifted teenagers are still teenagers and therefore still prone to awkwardness. :p

    A lot of the creepy element of the conversation (and yes, I was going for a mix of teenage smittenness and creepiness, or at least oddness, so there too I'm glad things came through effectively) stems from what you so aptly called her Pandora's-box-like nature: she herself is only halfway sure of the things she's feeling and talking about to him. Fortunately for her, she encounters his friendly and compassionate side rather than his impatient side. But just the fact that that pendulum could swing the other way at any time (and indeed we've already seen his impatient side come through once or twice in his interactions with her)... [face_nail_biting]

    Several things will damage Zuckuss to varying degrees over the course of the story, of course. But his teachers really and truly don't have any ulterior motives here. Zuckuss was the first to come across her, and the first thing he did was tell his teacher, Volokoss, about her; Volokoss, in turn, would be most likely to confer on the matter with those who have been most sympathetic toward his student, and thus those three became the girl's three ruetasavii (Zuckuss is not authorized to act as one, being just an apprentice). Their visits to her were all part of their normal duties as ruetasavii; they could never have anticipated the horrible disaster that befell her family in the midst of their doing so, nor could they know that that very disaster would bring Zuckuss onto the scene (because they didn't know yet that she had Marked him). If anyone has had ulterior motives here, it's Viurraanvi herself—but of course ulterior <> malevolent.

    (Hoping all that makes sense!)

    And what is your idea, pray tell? [face_batting]

    Here's a hint: [hl=black]when you've seen people hand parchments to other people in this story, what has it usually meant?[/hl] ;P

    But satisfaction may bring him back! (Sorry, I guess that doesn't have quite the same ring to it.) :p

    Only just now getting interesting? :p Just kidding, just kidding. It won't be too long. :)

    Why, thank you! I'm glad to hear this story is eliciting questions and keeping you interested—means I'm doing my job. :D

    Indeed, she has been cultivating it—the fact that he stood up for her back at the marketplace that time is something that has really stayed with her, especially given what has been revealed about her parents' attitudes toward her. :( Zuckuss was one of the first to ever show respect for her and her special talents, and naturally that's something she'll latch on to. But her lack of control adds more than a touch of volatility to that latch, which causes all those things she does and senses unwittingly. It's a form of volatility that in a way is not unlike Zuckuss's own—and which highlights another way in which he and she are kind of sort of counterparts.

    We will find that out, never fear. And they'll have opportunities to say more to each other. (I must say writing their conversations so far, however awkward and odd, has been rather fun!)

    Ah—on that, see above. :)

    Otila will continue to support him; her support for him has never been in question, and has been unwavering. Gorruss, on the other hand... well, with a sibling I get the feeling it's a little different. This is someone closer in age to him who may have some of the same volatility—and who, even in the strict Gand society, is more likely to give him a hard time! (Heck, he already sort of does that without knowing what it was his brother was doing in N'xid!)

    On that, see above, too! :D

    Coming soon, I promise. :)

    Thank you all once again!
  8. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    This update contains the last chapter of part two and the brief epilogue to part two. I had originally planned to post these on February 27, which was my second anniversary on the boards, but with one thing and another that didn't happen. I considered posting yesterday, February 28, but then I thought, gosh, how often does one get to have a story update dated February 29? So here they are, with about two hours left to go of Leap Day—enjoy! @};-

    As usual, many thanks to Kahara for her beta-reading and support.

    Chapter XV

    At last the holiday period drew to a close, and Zuckuss returned to his studies at the Lhúdanswani temple. Volokoss had returned as well, and was once again supervising his daily lessons as usual. Luyen was still absent, or at least Zuckuss had not seen her in the temple hallways or at the morning and evening sanctuary devotions since his return. This time, however, he was less worried about her absence; he surmised that she must be looking after the orphaned gardener-girl of N’xid, who could not in good conscience be left alone at the mercy of the governor’s henchmen.

    Zuckuss still occasionally thought of the gardener-girl. Images of her would flash in his mind during his meditations—her small form huddled on the floor of the glasshouse, trembling with grief and fear; the ruetsavii around her, comforting and counseling her; the blaze of her golden eyes turning suddenly toward him—though he knew from his studies that such momentary flashbacks were far from uncommon after stressful experiences. Now and then he felt the pangs of that old consuming curiosity about her and her visions, but he was always able to subdue them with his calming disciplines.

    At least that Findsman’s Mark of hers was finally showing signs of wearing off. Its strength had already diminished considerably since Zuckuss’s departure from N’xid, though occasional twinges still recurred. Volokoss checked it every day, helping his student through various self-healing techniques to speed its complete dissolution.

    “Good, good,” he said one day as he examined Zuckuss’s left hand with a small loupe. “Not long now. One level-two Flowing Stillness this evening, another tomorrow morning, and all should be back to normal. Findslady Luyen will be pleased. And before you ask, because Volokoss knows you are wondering”—he tapped with his claw on his student’s palm before releasing it—“she is at the Araswani temple on Kazul-Lokúrei.”

    “The Araswani temple?” Zuckuss noticed the mandible-pop of surprise in his own response. He knew of the place: it was an ancient, half-abandoned temple on one of the highest mountains in R’Kalýma, maintained by one of the more reclusive and ascetic Findsman sects; it seemed an odd place for Findslady Luyen to be looking for accommodations for the gardener-girl. “But Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd thought she was—”

    “She is,” came the Findsmaster’s reply. “Seeing to young Viurraanvi of N’xid, that is. That is what you were going to say, is it not?”

    “Yes, Findsmaster Volokoss. Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd knows it is not his place—”

    “Nothing to be ashamed of, young one,” continued the Findsmaster as he placed the loupe carefully inside a nearby cupboard. “In any case, Findslady Luyen has taken the young one there to further evaluate her abilities and determine her fitness for apprenticeship in the Sacred Trade. Your mother is accompanying them.”

    “But certainly they are not planning to have the girl trained by the Araswani?!

    “Calm yourself, dear boy!” Volokoss shut the cupboard with a thud. “Of course not. The Araswani would never take a female, no matter how gifted. Findslady Luyen simply wished to evaluate her in an environment free of distractions. You remember . . . what state she was in.”

    “Yes, Findsmaster Volokoss.” Zuckuss felt a tiny prickle from the Mark; he clenched his left hand tightly within his right as if trying to hide it, though he knew it made no difference. “If Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd may presume to ask—and please correct him if he is wrong—”

    “Yes, young one?”

    “The Findsmasters of this temple are already . . . at capacity, are they not?”

    Volokoss opened his mandibles as if to answer, but closed them again suddenly and stood in silent thought for a few moments, giving an occasional pensive clack. When he finally spoke, he said only, “Yes, they are.”

    There was uneasy silence for several moments. Zuckuss fidgeted with his hands; Volokoss stood looking at him, then finally spoke again.

    “Now stand up, stretch, and show Volokoss Victorious Light forms one through four.”

    “Yes, Findsmaster Volokoss.” Zuckuss bowed his head in deference, his eyes half closed, then rose and did as his teacher instructed. Neither of them said anything more about the gardener-girl or N’xid.

    * * *

    Days passed, and it became time for Zuckuss to begin preparing for his First Evaluation—the comprehensive examination that would signal the end of the first phase of his apprenticeship and would qualify him to advance to the level of a senior apprentice. His training schedule doubled in intensity. The larger part of his evening rest period was now occupied with intense study of the forms, meditative techniques, sacred texts, and historical and philosophical topics that would be covered in the Evaluation. Volokoss observed him more closely than ever during lessons, making minute corrections to his technique and requiring him to begin forms or meditations anew if his posture or bearing was in any way imperfect. Almost every day he sent his student on practice search-and-retrieval missions either in or around the temple, which varied greatly in type and difficulty. It intrigued Zuckuss to observe that deeper, longer meditation was required to Hunt for a single graystone pebble in the temple’s main chapel than to find a nest of newborn trs’kin on the surrounding mountainside—though the discrepancy naturally stemmed from the different patterns in which Mists flowed around animate and inanimate objects.

    In any case, either Hunt would be fair game for the zaguur-juna—the Hunt portion of the First Evaluation, in which the apprentice would be tasked with searching for, and retrieving, an object or nonsentient being considered near-impossible to find. There were even rumors among the senior apprentices that the most gifted candidates were sent to search for a single grain of sand in the rocky crags of Mount Ryssh’krai, though Zuckuss only half believed them.

    One day, at the end of the evening sanctuary devotion, Zuckuss and two other apprentices were half-ceremonially presented with datafiles outlining the complete schedule of their First Evaluations. Zuckuss scanned it thoughtfully as he made his way back to his quarters. All looked as he expected. Two days were blocked out for solitary meditation and mental preparation beforehand, followed by two for the Evaluations themselves: a half day for the comprehensive examination by the assembled Findsmasters of the temple, and a day and a half for the zaguur-juna. The exact nature of the zaguur-juna was not yet revealed, of course; it would be announced by the Masters at the end of the examination period.

    But as he scanned down the schedule, he noticed that something had been added at the end, squeezed in in small script almost as an afterthought:

    Prepare to present a detailed plan for teaching Stillness of the Fog (level 1 and 2) and Elementary Mist Query (level 1) at the first lesson of a novice apprentice.

    Zuckuss stopped and read this curious addendum through several times to make sure he had understood it correctly. He had never heard of teaching plans of any kind being among the requirements for Findsman evaluations in any sect, but perhaps it was a new requirement for this year. It would certainly be easy enough to find out, in any case. Zuckuss approached one of the two apprentices who had also received an Evaluation, a Non-Breather with grayish chitin who was almost a whole head taller than he.

    “Wiamdi? Greetings in the name of the Mists.”

    “Greetings in the name of the Mists, Zuckuss Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd.”

    “May Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd presume to ask to see your Evaluation schedule?”

    “Certainly.” Wiamdi handed his datapad to Zuckuss, who scanned it. With the exception of the particular dates and times, the schedule was identical to his own, and there was no squeezed-in addendum about teaching plans.

    “Gracious thanks,” answered Zuckuss, bowing his head as he returned the datapad; Wiamdi did the same and walked off toward the dormitories. Zuckuss went to the second apprentice who had received a schedule and asked the same question. There was nothing about teaching on her schedule either.

    Zuckuss thanked her and continued on to his quarters. It was of course puzzling that he alone had been assigned this extra task. At least it did not seem particularly difficult. Stillness of the Fog was one of the most basic techniques of the Sacred Trade, and the first technique typically learned by a beginning apprentice even before being assigned to a Findsmaster; Elementary Mist Query usually came not too long afterward. It would only be a matter of thinking back to his earliest days in the temple, and it would likely occupy no more than a few days of the multi-week study regimen he was already beginning to map out in his mind.

    And it occurred to him, as the signal-chimes sounded to herald the evening study period and as purple-blue evening mists began to roll in, that perhaps this was somehow a testament to his talent. Were his teachers considering instituting him as a Findsmaster at an earlier age than usual? He had, after all, been one of the few apprentice Findsmen ever to have earned both his names before ever entering the temple. In a way, it would only be fitting.

    * * *

    The day arrived. Zuckuss emerged from his two-day preparatory meditation to see the mists glinting red-gold outside the narrow window of his quarters. He leaned over on his meditation couch to pour himself a cup of djelatha from the thermoelectric samovar on the desk nearby. His datapad lay there as well. As he sipped, he activated it and cast one more glance over the requisite historical and philosophical responses that he had prepared, as well as the teaching plan. Between his own early memories and a few pedagogical manuals he had come across in the temple library, he had managed to cobble something together—though he could not help feeling mildly irked that it had taken three days out of his study schedule rather than the anticipated two.

    From afar off the morning signal-chimes began to sound. Zuckuss rose, pulled on his outer robes and his boots, pocketed the datapad, and headed through the glowing-glass temple corridors to the room where he would be examined.

    * * *

    “In the name of the Sacred Visionary Mists of Gand, be greeted and blessed, Apprentice Zuckuss-Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd.”

    Zuckuss jumped at the sound of this salutation. It had been uttered by the Findslady Luyen Dzi’kel, dean of the Lhúdanswani temple, and she was now standing before him, all six other Findsmasters of the temple around her, among them Volokoss and Okkfel. In their presence, there was nothing Zuckuss could do but prostrate himself and respond with the customary words and gestures. Now was not the time to ask Luyen anything about the health or whereabouts of golden-eyed girl of N’xid.

    “Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd offers most humble greeting to you, Findslady Luyen, and to Your Mystical Honors all.”

    The Lhúdanswani dean approached him and waved a hand in a circle above his head. “Position yourself, Apprentice Zuckuss.”

    * * *

    And thus it began. The half-day, the day, the two days passed in a blurred blend of activity, exertion, contemplation: Stillness of the Fog (levels one and two) and its variations Flowing Stillness and Centering Stillness; applications of Elementary Mist Query (levels one through five) and Advanced Mist Query (levels one through three) to intuition exercises from the Mirror of the Mist-Born Light and fragments 39 and 227 of Pseudo-Trynfor of R’gnnath; Ritual of Wayseeking (levels one and two) to chart the roadways and waterways of each of the three villages within a fifty-klick radius of the temple (it being well known to all apprentices that memorizing holomaps was no use, as any worthy Findsmaster could easily distinguish a Mist-revealed mental trace from a memorized one); discourses on the theological and metaphysical aspects of the Sacred Trade, particularly concerning the nature of the Findsman’s Inner Mists; a disputation on whether the Inner Mists proceed from the Outer Mists or vice versa (including a refutation of the Tarvanswani heresy of disparate signatures); a pre-combat meditation based on Flowing Stillness (level three) but incorporating heat-breath techniques; demonstrations of all basic strikes and parries; three repetitions each of First through Fifth Victorious Light (to account for the minor variations typical of the northern and southern colonies); and a final Centering Stillness (level two) to calm his Inner Mists from their exertion . . .

    . . . before the revelation of the zaguur-juna, which would indeed (as Zuckuss noted to his mild amusement) take place amid the rocky crags of Mount Ryssh’krai and entailed a search not for a grain of sand (as Zuckuss noted to his considerable relief) but for the ventral pinion of a fledgling gree-graak. Zuckuss’s examiners were somewhat surprised when he chose to perform only a single preparatory meditation—a basic Wayseeking map—before donning crampons and gear and heading out to the Ryssh’krai highlands himself. The main portion of his Hunt for the feather was conducted on the mountain itself, in the form of walking meditations—much more difficult than the more usual stationary ones, especially in such an inhospitable environment, but (according to some) capable of locating minute objects like the feather with much greater precision.

    For hours he wandered the barren rockscape, his eyes sometimes closed and sometimes open, his hands sometimes outstretched and sometimes clenched, guiding his Inner Mists carefully along each tiny nook and cranny of the rock, ever alert for the intuitive signature of the elusive feather. It took real effort to direct Them so minutely over that rugged terrain, and in some cases real pain and fatigue; more than a few times Zuckuss had to sit down on the rocks either to stretch his limbs, to perform a remedial Stillness ritual, or simply to rest. But he never took more time for any such things than absolutely necessary, and he spent hours at a time traversing the rocks as quickly and tirelessly as if he were a young trs’kin himself. His teachers, hovering nearby in airspeeders to observe him, remarked how much he reminded them of Trynfor the Mad, whose walking meditations in the mountains had been known to go on for days, even weeks.

    Finally, as the mists purpled and the shadows lengthened at the end of the second day, Zuckuss crouched down to retrieve the wispy white nothing from a cleft in the rock. He stood up and sent his Findsmasters a brief comm message to inform them that he had found it, then gazed at it for a few moments, admiring its tiny, silken vanes in the dusky twilight. It occurred to him that he had just completed the last task of his First Evaluation—and that he had never been asked to present that teaching plan he had made for Stillness of the Fog and Elementary Mist Query.

    * * *

    Later, all the apprentices and Findsmasters of the Lhúdanswani temple gathered in the temple’s central sanctuary for the ceremony to confer the status of senior apprentice upon the three who had completed their First Evaluations. Clad in silver-trimmed ceremonial robes, Zuckuss was led solemnly to the front of the room, where his Findsmaster, Volokoss, invested him with the customary armor and gear harness of a Findsman; Volokoss then presented him officially to Findslady Luyen, who as dean officially confirmed his attainment of the First Evaluation and bestowed the status of senior apprentice. Then the mist-vents were opened, and all the Findsmasters and students joined their energy to that of the mists to bless and consecrate the three candidates, who lay prostrate on the floor. Finally, the candidates and the Findsmasters departed in solemn procession, and the incense-lamps were extinguished one by one.

    As Zuckuss milled with the other apprentices in the hallway afterward, accepting their congratulations and exchanging idle pleasantries, he was surprised to see Volokoss come up to him and beckon to him. He followed his teacher down the corridor to one of the teaching rooms—a spacious, round one with blue-tinted windows. No one else was there.

    “Now wait here, please. There is someone for you to meet.”

    Zuckuss bowed his head as Volokoss exited again. When he returned a few moments later, he stayed at the door, holding it open and gesturing for someone else to come in.

    Findslady Luyen entered the room, imposing in her dark red ceremonial robes. Beside her, holding her hand, walked none other than the golden-eyed gardener-girl of N’xid. She looked very different now, barely like the poor, ragged child huddled on the glasshouse floor. Instead of tattered, neutral-colored rags, she now wore apprentice’s robes of a pink-tinged golden-brown color very close to that of her chitin. The frayed foot-bindings were replaced with low-topped synth-leather boots. Besides her gold-embroidered green scarf, which was tucked neatly into her robes, a sash of green satyn encircled her waist. As she saw Zuckuss, she clicked her mandibles slightly and inclined her head.

    “Findsman Zuckuss Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd.” Luyen intoned his name solemnly, almost as she had done at the ceremony earlier. “You have indeed already met Telfien Viurraanvi.”

    Zuckuss bowed slightly. “Pleased to see you again, young one . . . Telfien.” He said the name slowly. He knew of her talents, of course, and that she was certainly worthy of apprenticeship, but that made it no less strange to him to see her standing there before him in the attire of an apprentice Findswoman—and with two names, as a full-fledged talwuine.

    Luyen spoke again. “As you begin the senior phase of your apprenticeship, she shall be your apprentice and your student, and she shall train with you under the supervision of Findsmaster Volokoss. You shall treat her with patience, kindness, and compassion, as becomes an honorable Findsman.”

    Zuckuss inclined his head. “Yes, Findslady Luyen.” Had she just said that the girl would be his apprentice? He felt in his pocket for the datapad with the teaching plan—things were now beginning to become clear . . .

    “And you, Telfien Viurraanvi,” continued the elder Findswoman, “are to render to Findsman Zuckuss all due respect and obedience, for he is your Findsmaster and your teacher in the ways of the Sacred Trade.”

    “Yes, Findslady Luyen.”

    For a few moments they stood in silence. The girl’s gaze shifted nervously from her clasped hands to each of the Findsmasters, then to Zuckuss, and then back down toward her hands. Zuckuss felt again for the datapad. Was now the right time? If not now, certainly soon . . .

    “It is . . . isn’t it, Your Mystical Honors?”

    Volokoss and Luyen exchanged glances, and at least one of them gave a few cheerful mandible-clicks; Zuckuss could not tell who.

    “Yes, indeed it is time,” Luyen said. “Findsman Zuckuss, you may begin.”

    Zuckuss inclined his head toward each of his teachers, then turned to the girl—Telfien—he knew he should try to think of her by her name, though it always took time to become accustomed to such things. Her golden eyes were fixed on him in the same shy, questioning way they had been during the ride on the hoverbus and the exchange in the glasshouse. He inhaled, then took out his datapad.

    “The very first and most basic technique in the Sacred Trade . . .”


    Far in the depths of the Great Temple, in Trynfor’s Vault, Fengor Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd sat alone. He had come there to meditate every day since his fateful discovery of the loss of Trynfor’s Treasure. Even though the vault was now empty, the mystical aura of the treasure still suffused the room, and Fengor was confident that it would eventually lead him to its recovery. But thus far no glimmer of intuition had illumined his path to the missing treasure.

    Until, perhaps, now.

    The odd thing was that he was not meditating. Instead, he held his datapad in his hand, and was studying—for perhaps the thousandth time that week—a comm message that his wife had sent him a few weeks before:


    It seemed so inconsequential somehow. Otila was so often called on to serve as a ruetsa’iiv, and this was not the first time she had told her husband all about those she observed. It was not even the first time she had observed a subject with prodigious Mist talent beyond his or her years, nor one with the potential ability to perform long-extinct Findsman’s techniques. And yet . . .

    . . . and yet, somehow, that perfectly commonplace, routine message had ignited a spark in his intuition. A tiny spark, no more than a minuscule point of light—but a spark nonetheless. And even the smallest spark could ignite the tibanna tank of revelation.

    He did not know why this should be. And yet he did know why. It was something about that particular combination of details . . .

    He sprang to his feet, angry light flashing in his silver eyes. The datapad hit the stone floor with a crack as he threw it down.

    “I shall find you,” he snarled through grinding mandibles. “I shall find you, and you shall be mine!”


    Yes, this is the same Telfien that figures in various stories in my Fragments & Miscellanea. The Book of Gand is as much her origin story as it is Zuckuss’s.

    The First Evaluation is my own fanon, as are all names of locations, colonies, rituals, combat forms, treatises, philosophical concepts, etc. The rather rambling detail-dump about all the material Zuckuss has had to study for it is inspired very loosely by similar detail-dump-type passages in James Joyce’s Ulysses.

    The zaguur-juna is fanon, modeled on the established zaviir-juna (which, in my headcanon, is performed as part of the Second Evaluation).

    “There were even rumors among the senior apprentices that the most gifted candidates were sent to search for a single grain of sand in the rocky crags of Mount Ryssh’krai”: This (and the variation with the feather) is a direct homage to the “Sand and Stone test” devised by leiamoody as a Jedi trial in her excellent story Epiphany. The moment I read about that in her story I thought it would be perfect for the Findsmen. Thank you so much, leiamoody! @};-


    tibanna tank: See the discussion in Fanfic Writer’s Desk that begins about here. Thanks to all who weighed in. (On tibanna gas, see its Wook entry.)

    trs’kin, gree-graak

    Wiamdi (the Wiamdi in this chapter may be him, or a relative—it doesn’t really matter which)

    And, once again, my main Gand fanon post.
  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Woot, on the evaluation success and the official mentoring between Telfien and Zuckuss. :) @};-
    Kahara and Findswoman like this.
  10. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Jul 11, 2014
    I love this story. Yes, I know, I'm repeating myself, but every time you post a new chapter it's just a pleasure to sit and read once, then twice, then a third time, and then come back for a review.

    Exceptionally today my brain isn't fried, so it's hopefully going to be a proper review.

    I'm going to start with the obvious, but Volokoss is clearly a much cooler master than gumpy old Okkfel. Of course, Okkfel's methods were probably good for keeping Zuckuss's ego in check :p but a little bit of trust and understanding don't hurt either -- although, beyond trust and understanding, there seems to be something much larger at work here, with Zuckuss's and Telfien's destinies appearing somehow to be entwined.

    I particularly enjoyed the details about the Sacred Trade and Zuckuss's examination schedule in this chapter. I've read your fanon post several times of course, but seeing these concepts come to life in a story gives them a different dimension. Two other titbits I really liked were the Araswani sect -- you say just enough about them to give us a taste of the different denominations (?) among the Gand -- and the use of a loupe in the beginning of the chapter. Indeed this story is peppered with all sorts of little old-fashioned objects that give a distinctly different flavour to this Force tradition than to what we see of the Jedi on Coruscant, who are very traditional in their own way but also very "modern tech-oriented" in comparison.
    I mentioned Zuckuss's ego earlier on, and, well, it's still there, isn't it? Not that he didn't earn the honour of course, but you do a great job at reminding us that he is... ambitious. Telfien's presence in the temple may have a number of effects on him, and one of them could be that he is not entirely unique.
    This was an interesting detail too. It was made clear at the beginning of this story -- and the end of the chapter was a stark reminder -- that Zuckuss's relationship to his ancestor would play a role in his life. This is probably the point about which I am the most curious for the future. How will that come into play? And now that Zuckuss and Telfien have been paired as mentor and apprentice, I imagine that we will be getting answers to both aspects of Zuckuss's destiny.

    And of course, you had to end part II on a whole new set of questions with Fengor's musings in the epilogue, because Telfien is now connected to Zuckuss also somehow through the theft of Trynfor's Treasure -- although I cannot fathom how. Should I ask Bri to organise another word race in April, so that we find out what happens next?

    Kahara and Findswoman like this.
  11. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Mar 3, 2001
    :) Liked the conversation with Volokoss about Zuckuss’s mark and the whereabouts of Lady Luyen -- and the gardener girl. The use of the loupe as a tool for checking on the Mark as it dissipates is a nifty detail. And the Araswani temple sounds intriguing; I like the idea that there are various kinds of Findsman communities with their own unique quirks, and that some are much more remote from the rest of the world than what we’ve seen so far. Volokoss is wonderful as usual; I really like how patient he is most of the time and how that seems to remind Zuckuss to stay calmer without as much actual prompting as he used to need.

    The idea of having to learn to locate such minute things (or creatures) is really interesting. It’s easy to imagine that being a good way of practicing for other kinds of finding, since almost anything seems like it would be easy by comparison! :eek: The student rumor about having to find a single grain of sand probably doesn’t sound so implausible after having to do that kind of training. ;)

    :oops: … And here we go again, Zuckuss. But I do like how we see him making a few steps forward and then a couple back when it comes to his ego. He is trying to slow down and pay more attention to the world around him (although in a way that seems mostly focused on passing tests), but he still has these issues. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out with him training an apprentice himself. [face_thinking]

    The description of the testing sounds both fascinating and exhausting if you’re the one going through it. I really like how it reads almost like an Earth-style school test. All the levels and fragment numbers and so on really reminded me of the strange state that I sometimes used to get to when cramming for a test -- kind of hyper-focused and dreamlike at the same time. But at the same time there is the mystical, ceremonial stuff all through as well. :) The teachers being reminded of Trynfor the Mad seems to mean something for the future, since there’s a definite linkage between him and Zuckuss. [face_thinking] Old Trynfor is a mysterious figure and it will be interesting to see if we learn more about him by the end. (Of course, I’m the kind of person who is always chanting “visit the library, visit the library” to the characters when reading. ;))

    Really beautiful imagery here! =D= Probably repeating myself here, but I just love that their rite of passage is nothing to do with combat or conspicuous use of power -- those might be capabilities that some Findsmen have, but it’s just not what they value the most. Insight and self--discipline are more important than the externals to them, and the feather search is very suited to that kind of skill.

    Another place where I thought the imagery was especially cool. :) Like the idea of all the swirling mist amidst the rituals, and as we discussed in the beta comments it’s reminiscent of the use of incense in various real-world religious ceremonies too.

    The re-introduction of Telfien is really intriguing, since now the hints about her being linked to Zuckuss are beginning to come into focus. I’m really curious to see how these two get along as teacher and student. :) The change in her clothing already tells us a lot about how things may have changed since we last saw her. And the fact that the scarf is still a part of the ensemble is lovely, since it’s clear that she’s had to leave behind a lot of her past -- some of it bad and some good. And she finally gets a full name (one familiar from other tales), which is fantastic. [face_dancing]

    Meanwhile, Fengor is seemingly coming unglued by whatever he thinks Telfien means to the prophecy. That can’t be good. :eek:
    Ewok Poet and Findswoman like this.
  12. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    I simply love this tale and the depth you are showing in the culture of the Findsman
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  13. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Jul 31, 2014
    First of all: the worldbuilding in this chapter is GORGEOUS. There are certain qualities to it that one rarely sees in profic, let alone fanfic. I especially loved seeing the barren rockscape, in its unusual colours. :)

    I guess this is the moment where I can freely say that I have been aware of Telfien being the gardener girl and her being in your avatar from pretty much the first moment she appeared? :) But I don't think you're bad at keeping things from us - it's just that the colours were a clear giveaway.

    I am starting to think that there's a very, very good reason to keep Zuckuss and Telfien away from each other for a period of time. Perhaps that is how the Finds(wo)man's mark wears out? Perhaps they're both pieces of a much more complicated puzzle? Either way, there's a clear sign that Zuckuss has a certain kind of weakness for her and that it's almost etched into his subconscious, to the point where his thoughts are betraying him and where Volokoss can nearly see through him. Given [hl=black]that his Wook entry clearly states that he's the Uncanny One[/hl], I assume that this comes down to what Luke was told once during the OT, that [hl=black]his thoughts betray him[/hl]. That said, Part The Third will ve very, very interesting!

    Now that I see that Zuckuss' whole path leads him to eventually teaching Telfien, I wonder if keeping them away from each other was just made to strengten their bond as the master and apprentice. This can...ignite his ego. But it can also make him more humble. Knowing him, the latter is an unlikely scenario.

    On the other hand, I guess it takes a lot of lack of an ego on behalf of students such as Wiamdi not to even be concerned about a noticably younger Findsman apprentice such as Zuckuss - he's much younger, but excelling.

    His teachers, hovering nearby in airspeeders to observe him, remarked how much he reminded them of Trynfor the Mad, whose walking meditations in the mountains had been known to go on for days, even weeks.

    Well, that can be both good and bad.

    Fengor scares me at this point.

    He did not know why this should be. And yet he did know why. It was something about that particular combination of details . . .

    He sprang to his feet, angry light flashing in his silver eyes. The datapad hit the stone floor with a crack as he threw it down.

    “I shall find you,” he snarled through grinding mandibles. “I shall find you, and you shall be mine!”

    If any of his sons inherited this amount of rage...well, this will be interesting.

    Eagerly awaiting the first chapter of the next part!
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  14. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    Here are some long-overdue replies. Incidentally, I just happened to glance at the thread start date, and it was precisely two years ago today—April 23, 2014, so it all feels very appropriate to be responding to comments on the last chapter of part two. :cool:

    Thanks! In a way, a large load is off Zuckuss's shoulders now that he's passed this evaluation, though in another way his real trials have begun. Teaching is hard, but it's also a sure way to make sure one really and truly knows one's stuff.

    Well, thanks so much. I'm repeating myself too when I say I very much appreciate that, and I haven't come across any review from you that I don't consider "proper"! ;)

    (Hope it's OK if I combine various people's related points from this point on. Indeed, I may need multiple posts to fully reply to everyone, so I hope the mods will exsqueeze me for doing so.)

    Volokoss is the anti-Fengor: the caring, trusting father figure Zuckuss so badly needs. Arguably, trust and understanding is likely more effective long-term in fixing ego issues like Zuckuss's than strict, Okkfel-like methods. It definitely will be a better fit for fostering the bond between Zuckuss and Telfien, especially given the terrible loss* from which Telfien is still recovering; someone like Okkfel would just plain break her. :( It's likely he would break Zuckuss too, though in a different way.

    Telfien's presence, and the teacher-student setup that's been established between her and Zuckuss, will indeed have some major effects on Zuckuss. On one hand, he will indeed learn that he's not totally unique; on the other hand, it won't be totally simple, because her set of peculiarities are both like his and completely different from his. It will be one heck of a learning curve for both of them.

    Telfien's attire at this point, combining her new apprentice Findswoman's garb with her dear old scarf, is indeed meant to show that Telfien is both changing and staying the same at once; her past and future are eternally melded together, in a way. (Again, a state of being that she shares with Zuckuss, and yet another area where their cases are different and yet the same.)

    Thanks! The various guidebooks and reference sources do stress that Findsmen, unlike some of the Galaxy's other mystical practitioners, don't mind using modern technology like energy weapons, but I always got a slight steampunk vibe from them (though I didn't know for years that that was the term). Perhaps because the steampunk aesthetic fits so well with that mixture of philosophical strictness and technological tinkering (not to mention the kind of attire they're so often depicted with). The existence of multiple Findsman sects has been established in the guidebooks too (though never elaborated on in any kind of detail), so I figured I would make sure to include those at least now and then in the story.

    Part Three will elaborate more of those things, so not to worry, answers aren't too far off! Just one quick thing, though:

    Trynfor the Mad wasn't actually Zuckuss's ancestor—that was Trynfor's best friend, Zukfel Ng'xvi-Ta'al-Lhúd (see Gorruss's explanation in chapter 3). But Zuckuss has kinships and similarities to both those historical figures.

    As to another word race, I would never say no! :D

    Findsmen are indeed trained to be able to find anything, by various means, and honing the perception of minute details would seem like a key skill. (From what I've come across, Gand Findsmen are indeed given high Perception capabilities in some of the old RPG guides.) Once again I have to give a shout to leiamoody 's Sand and Stone trial—the moment I read it, I immediately thought, "Hey, that could be a real actual thing for Gand Findsmen!" :)

    The helpful, polite attentive Zuckuss is as much the "real" Zuckuss as the prideful, overly ambitious Zuckuss. Much of the idea behind giving him a student of his own is of course to further develop the former of those two Zuckusses (Zucki? :p ). Of course the Findsmasters wouldn't have assigned him a student if they didn't think highly of his ability—but as he'll find out soon, there's more to it than that.

    That was the bit loosely inspired by the detail-dumps in James Joyce's Ulysses, and the experience of reading that book fits that same description of being "hyper-focused and dreamlike." It can be hard under those circumstances to see the forest for the trees—especially when one has the issues Zuckuss has here.

    Here's the thing about Trynfor the Mad: he's meant to be a well-known figure of Gand history and legend, so in a way "visiting the library" wouldn't reveal much more beyond what's already well-known about him. At the same time, as with all legendary figures, certain aspects of Trynfor are still shrouded in mystery and unknown—and all "the library" would say about those aspects is just that they're, well, still unknown. But indeed we shall learn much more about Trynfor in part three, and several mysteries will begin to become clearer (at least, I hope).

    Thanks! In my conception of the Findsmen, they are indeed meant to be trackers and mystics first, and warriors only subsequently.

    That was indeed much of the inspiration here. The prostration was also inspired by certain RL customs, too: in some of the Catholic and Anglo-Catholic ordination services I've seen (and I think the Eastern Orthodox may do this too), the ordinands lie prone during portions of the service, signifying their complete submission to God and their calling. And from my own religious tradition, there's also a very central and dramatic portion of the main service on Rosh Hashanah where it's customary to prostrate oneself completely (most Jewish liturgies call for no gesture deeper than a regular bow). Both seemed to mesh well with the Gand ideal of utter humility.

    Thanks again to you all, and now on to the next batch...
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  15. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014

    Thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying reading, because I've certainly enjoyed writing this. :)

    Oh, thanks so much! What a compliment from someone who's a top-notch worldbuilder. :) You know me and colors... it's very hard to resist. :D

    Yep, it's all true! :) I have seen elsewhere that you have a keen talent from guessing important story points before they're revealed in-story, so it didn't totally surprise me that you were able to do so here, and I wasn't trying overly hard to conceal things. One always runs that risk when dealing with things like semi-unusual eye colors.
    You're right when you say that they're both part of a larger puzzle ( [face_whistling] ) and in noticing his deeply ingrained, almost instinctual response to her (and hers to him). Both those things will be elaborated on in part three. There isn't really any sort of conspiracy, on the part of the Findsmasters or anyone else, to keep them apart—things just sort of happened that way—but that wasn't a bad thing for them in the end, and pairing them as teacher and student was indeed the Findsmasters' idea (or the idea of some of them—more on that in later chapters).

    As mentioned in the previous set of responses, this teacher-student setup will indeed have mixed effects on Zuckuss. It could indeed make him both more prideful and more humble at the same time—because, once again, he is both of those things without contradiction.

    Well, after all, this is The Species That Practically Invented Self-Deprecating Behavior! :D I hadn't really noticed it before in quite those terms, but yes, I see where even that small kind of gesture really does throw Zuckuss's egoism into stark relief.

    Indeed it can. ;)

    That tells me that I didn't do badly in writing him, then, because he should be scary at this point! Note too his use of first person—he's of course entitled to it as janwuine, but even janwuine would usually reserve it only for those times when they're completely sure of themselves. Fengor is not only full of rage, he is completely secure in that rage. Which may make things doubly scary. More on this, too, in part three.

    Thanks so much! :) If all goes well, you shouldn't have long to wait; I have it basically written, and I just have to do a few minor tweaks to get things into shape before it's postable. Once all these RL holidays are out of the way that will become slightly easier.

    And now that I have caught up on responses (with apologies once again for being so tardy about it), this is where I offer my most sincere thanks to all of you who nominated this story for Best Epic, and me for Best Author, in the 2016 Fanfic Awards. This really means a ton to me—this story has, in some form or other, been part of my life for near on two decades now, and, well, gosh, what a plum for it to be recognized in this way by such a fine pool of fanficcers. Mange tak, todah rabbah, merci beaucoup, mahalo! @};-
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  16. glitteryboots

    glitteryboots Jedi Knight

    Feb 18, 2015
    Just reading this for the first time, so bear with me on this brief but also very long comment that I'm writing as I read. Brief in that I'm sure I'm missing a lot of things I should have picked up on and compliments I want to make, because this is amazing and a lot to take in all at once. As for the length, me know if I should edit the main text into a spoiler.

    Chapter I: Firstly, your writing style reminds me a lot of Tolkien's, extremely well-written and beautiful, emotive descriptions. I'll admit I know nothing at all about Gand, but you introduce us to it in a way that doesn't expect us to know everything and is also intriguing but not intimidating. We immediately get a feel for the culture, with knowing that generally only third person can be used to refer to the self and that names are earned. Well done since much of it is your own invention, too - it's all very believable.

    The protagonist is likeable and I get the sense from the beginning that he has a lot to live up to, and that his father isn't pleasant to be around but his mother makes up for that. What a twist when he finds the holocube. :D Not sure if it's still relevant, but I would have guessed he's around 12-13.

    Chapter II: Seems that I was right about Fengor. :( Since he treated Goruss so differently, there must be some deeper reason for this... perhaps related to him potentially being the "Uncanny One". Again, very well written, it was chilling when the message came in confirming that what young Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd heard was true. Although I'm happy for him, there's something ominous about it.

    Chapter III: What beautiful descriptions of the city, the mists, the singing, the dome... really paints a picture in the reader's mind. :)

    There's definitely something unusual about Fengor's attitude, especially since he's told Goruss all of this history but not his younger brother. It seems that his youngest son could be the Uncanny One. I'm wondering if he wants to protect his son (or himself) from dangers in the "prophecy". Of course, Goruss is cut off before he can continue explaining, what a cliffhanger. :D

    Chapter IV: I laughed at the "nightshirt with a few runes on it", adds some youth amongst all the, well, grown-ups. Well done on thinking up these riddles - they feel totally realistic. I'd also guess that the answer to the one he couldn't guess could be madness, since it's referred to even in Trynfor as the "Holy Madman". This feels like a very rigorous process that must be especially tiring for a young Gand. I love this description: "Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd felt a new wisp of insight creeping through him like vapor from the surface of a pond at night." and I also giggled at this: "like so many of his mother’s songs, they had to do with something tiresome and sentimental like being in love".

    Wow, just listened to the music. Haunting and I can imagine it being played in the story.

    Chapter V: I felt sorry for Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd during his examination - the reader can really feel the discomfort and of course it's made worse by him not knowing what any of the results are. There's still a possibility he could be going through all of this for nothing, though I doubt it.

    Oh, wow, this vision is frightening and I wonder if his father is afraid it will happen - would explain his treatment of his son - or if the fear is nothing so huge and is simply a metaphor for his not wanting to be outdone by a more talented son, which he's aware could happen. Or are the Mists simply telling him that this, literally or metaphorically, could happen if he continues to behave the way he does towards his son? Hmmm...

    Chapter VI: I'm glad that Goruss supports his brother, at least, after the reactions he's had from his father. This process of making him grow seems extreme and has to be very unpleasant, boring and nerve-wracking. :( And of course his father won't visit him, ugh. I also wondered if him being forced into this body at a young age would affect him later on in life. Ahh, but I'm so happy for him that he finally has a name! :D

    Whoa, the epilogue is very intriguing. So many things this could lead to...

    Chapter VII: Great to see Zuckuss doing well now... and ah, so jealousy is definitely part of his father's treatment. Him being glad to be away from his father reminds me of Harry Potter being glad to escape from the Dursleys. :p Okkfell seems far too harsh and I wonder if he could be jealous, too (saw the comment after I wrote this explaining that it's just his personality, but still makes me wonder what made him like that). It really feels like the reader is there with Zuckuss, experiencing the Mists.

    Chapter VIII: These golden eyes he sees in this disturbing experience must be the same ones he saw during the growth treatment. I wondered as he did if it could be Trynfor himself. I can't blame him for striking Okkfell and I'm glad his examiners saw it the same way. And ha, he proved Okkfell wrong and the others were also amused by it. :D Like I said before, though you explained that's just Okkfell's personality, I still can't help wondering if there's a reason for this... he seems to be full of hatred for Zuckuss with that cold pain and all.

    Got to agree with other comments on loving the grumpy droid! The voices, too. And I also wondered if Zuckuss isn't controlling his own power at this point, or if he's somehow possessed - with the voice speaking through him and him being able to eavesdrop on the Findsmasters, since I imagine that isn't easy to do.

    Chapter IX: Hmm, so now Zuckuss himself is convinced that he's the Uncanny One and he seems proud of this, despite (what I'm guessing are) a few warning signs about his future if it's true. Though he hoped for a second his Findsmaster might be Okkfell, I'm very glad it's Volokoss instead. I'm imagining that this will be the father figure you referred to in an earlier comment.

    I love that the clouds separate the pocket colonies - that's a unique and interesting border - and it's great to see a very different part of Gand in N'xid, which I LOVE the descriptions of - how dingy it is, their clothing, how the clothing corresponds to them having no names. What happens with the girl is an unexpected twist and I wonder if her golden eyes could be the ones Zuckuss keeps seeing. I'm also guessing they might be more involved later on... ;)

    Chapter X: Zuckuss wondering if the girl's growth could have been stunted caught my attention, because that's a startling contrast to how his growth was forced. Just as I loved the descriptions of N'xid, I love this glimpse of daily life there with the automated hoverbus. Oh, wow, I also love the depiction of the comlink and their conversation, with the abbreviations and all. And Zuckuss thinks she's confused by the device when she's actually deciding it is him she saw - and she has a name! :eek: The comparisons to what now feels like his distant experience in the marketplace are poignant, too - in fact, as I read on, her whole experience with what she's seen and her parents' reactions is reminiscent of what happened to Zuckuss, but in a totally different environment. Now I wonder if she could be the Uncanny One.

    I'm very impressed with how you've even managed to make a back garden seem so vivid and interesting - and what could this changing plant be? [face_thinking]

    Chapter XI: I'm surprised that Volokoss (seemingly) doesn't think as much of the girl as Zuckuss and I do! Though maybe he's trying to hide his concern. And things get more and more perplexing as Luyen and Volokoss are absent and someone has placed a mark on Zuckuss. :eek:

    The long form reminds me a lot of the forms that drag on and on in my Tang Soo Do classes - made me smile because I can imagine how tiring and difficult it gets for Zuckuss even without falling ill! And similarly that I'll be in trouble if I lose focus. :p

    Chapter XII: I took a break before this chapter and was definitely thinking "what happens next?" over the couple of days I wasn't reading! Hmm, Volokoss and Luyen still absent... I can't help but wonder if all this has something to do with the mysterious gardener girl. The descriptions of how the mark affects him and also how he's trying to figure it out through the Mists are spot on, the reader really feels it.

    Ah, we finally get to hear the rest of what Goruss was cut off from saying earlier on. It's good to see that he isn't at all bothered by Trynfor's Vault and so can't hold that against his brother. I love his stories of monsters in the cellar. :D

    I knew it! So the girl did place the Mark on Zuckuss. He's shown more impulsive anger in this chapter than usual that I hope doesn't continue, because I can't imagine Okkfel will tolerate it! Or worse, he could end up like his father. I laughed at Goruss thinking him mad.

    Chapter XIII: Oh, no, the death of Viurraanvi's parents is tragic, I almost cried. :( The poor girl too, of course. Perfectly portrayed though - it's visceral - and the flashback fits seamlessly into the chapter. What were the Findsmasters doing here, though? Why were they too late? Where had they been before they arrived? And how they couldn't bring her out of her trance yet Zuckuss simply being there did... I imagine this has to lead to romance now, but it could also be something even huger in the sense of the story overall. Also, somehow the moonbow orchid is incredibly touching - it's like her teddy bear or a pet and because it's a plant, it's tied to her parents as gardeners and the life they once had, so could be her only memory of that now. I guess because of how it became healthy in response to her feelings before (it is that same plant, right?) that it could reflect her as a being and that we might see it again later in this way. Things are definitely heating up and I totally need to keep reading.

    Chapter XIV: I thought Zuckuss' mother might be angry to see him there, so I'm glad she wasn't. "A shiver shot through Zuckuss at the sound of his name from the mysterious youngster. This time it was not the Mark but something stronger, something that pierced him to the very heart and lungs." A beautiful description of first infatuation, love, connection... whichever. :)

    "He longed to ask all these things and more, but no words came to him. Nor did the continued presence of his mother and his two exalted teachers make matters any easier." This parents-making-things-awkward moment in all the gloom made me smile.

    Argh, I can feel Zuckuss' frustration that the Findsmasters know what's going on and he doesn't! I hate that child of the governor and his father, too. I am getting a little concerned about Zuckuss' growing anger, though - I'm pretty sure that's not good in Force-sensitives. Again I love how Goruss is so laid back and doesn't need to know or be a part of everything. NOW I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

    Chapter XV: I'm glad Luyen is with Viurraanvi - she needs a caring parent figure at the moment. I wonder if this teaching plan assigned to Zuckuss will be for Viurraanvi...

    "It intrigued Zuckuss to observe that deeper, longer meditation was required to Hunt for a single graystone pebble in the temple’s main chapel than to find a nest of newborn trs’kin on the surrounding mountainside—though the discrepancy naturally stemmed from the different patterns in which Mists flowed around animate and inanimate objects." I love this - yet another unique and emotive insight into the Gand world. The paragraph beginning "And thus it began" being so packed with information really communicates how stressful and packed the days must be for the apprentices.

    I KNEW IT! Telfien is a beautiful name and I can't wait to see how they work together. :)

    Epilogue: There's something very, very ominous about this and how Telfien and Zuckuss are somehow tied in. Even in this brief appearance Fengor seems to have grown darker, more hateful and completely obsessed with the missing treasure (or rather what that means for him and his ego). I agree with Ewok Poet about it being very worrying that his sons could inherit this rage... especially since Zuckuss has a tendency to get angry.

    Also, just read your comment about how of course his use of first person means he's completely secure in his rage. This is incredibly disturbing. [face_worried]

    Some general comments: because Zuckuss is so gifted, potentially part of a prophecy and/or the "Uncanny One", it could be really easy for him to end up too "perfect", being an empty character other than these external elements, but this hasn't happened at all. You've balanced his positive and negative traits and his life in general perfectly.

    It can't be easy to write most characters referring to themselves only in third person (especially when Zuckuss had no name or only his surname!), but this is done seamlessly, so it is possible to notice when, for example, there is a very relevant reason for it like Fengor in the epilogue.

    And an unrelated comment: I always wondered what your username meant and now I know. :D

    Overall, I loved reading this. Again, I'm sure there's so much I'd like to say that I've missed because this is my first read, but it's truly a masterpiece. And I hope the next part comes soon because I really, really want to know what happens now!
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  17. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    glitteryboots, thank you so much for your wonderfully detailed review! It made my day when I got it and it still does—I really appreciate that you took a chance on this story and took the time to write up your thoughts on it. I’m really sorry that it’s taken me so long to respond properly; it’s a combination of RL and a very strong desire to give my responses the same kind of time and effort that you put into these wonderful comments of yours. :) So here goes:

    Wow, it’s quite a compliment to be compared to the worldbuilder of all worldbuilders—thank you so much. I’m glad that the amount of information on Gand was just enough; I always have to curb myself from either infodumping too much or assuming my readers already know it all. It was really fun coming up with all the fanon and such about them (some of which I’ve outlined in my Gand fanon post); there’s not tons on them in the established lore, but just enough to form a nice basis for expansion. And going briefly out of order to address a point you made toward the end:

    Thank you so much! The third-person dialogue has always been one of the biggest challenges of this story, and I imagine it’s a bit of a challenge to readers as well. But I can’t help but feel it’s worth it in some way, since it's one of those things that seems to make this species extra “alien” compared to many of the others.

    Yes, that’s about the age level I was going for—preteen to early teen (if he were Human, that is—according to one of the age charts I saw in one of the roleplaying game guides, the Gand reach that stage of development at about 10.) You’re right in your assessment of the protagonist at this stage: as the scion of a prominent Findsman family, he has a ton to live up to, and his father’s harshness toward him makes that an especially uphill battle.

    Quoting and addressing these two together, since they’re related:

    Oh yes. Fengor is a real piece of work, and this prophecy about this Uncanny One is on his mind a lot by virtue of his position as Guardian of Trynfor’s Vault—the revelation of the Uncanny One will basically make him unnecessary, and he doesn’t like the idea of that at all. Gorruss does not pose a threat to him in that regard because Gorruss is his eldest son, and thus the one who would inherit the position of Guardian after his death, following the usual succession. But the youngest one who might be the Uncanny One, who might unseat him… he doesn’t want to be giving that young upstart any ideas. :p

    But you’re right too about the other side of the coin: while this is ominous for Fengor, it’s also ominous for his younger son. As he gets to know his own prodigious power better, he’ll also come to realize just how precarious and ominous such power can be.

    Aw, thanks! That part of the temple has been one of my favorite locations to write so far, partly because it is based on the chapel at my college (Oberlin College, in Oberlin, Ohio, US) where the Collegium Musicum (an early-music choir that I was part of from my second through final years) held (and still holds) its rehearsals:
    I guess I just couldn’t help associating the look of the place with beautiful choral singing!

    Glad you enjoyed those passages, and glad too that the mixed-in humorous moments came off all right; it can be a difficult balance. Some of those riddles were the brainchildren of my first beta reader, Beedo, many years ago now, though the “sickness that is the only true healing” one I’m pleased to say I came up with myself. :p And that is indeed a good guess on its answer; originally back in the day I had one specific answer in mind, but I’ve gotten to the point where I’m just as happy to leave it up to my readers. :D

    Thanks! As a musician myself, I always found something rather… uncanny about music boxes (they play automatically, they don’t sound like any instrument that can be played by a human being, they often stop before the song is fully over due to the spring winding down, etc.), so of course I had to put one in this story. :p In my fanon about the Gand, they were sometimes used as meditative aids by the Findsmen of old (this one dates from the time of Trynfor, too).

    And just so everyone knows: if you ever see me put an audio file in a post as an adjunct to a story or story chapter (and it may happen from time to time), it will always be recorded live.

    For this I drew on feelings I had as a kid when I had medical examinations, etc., whose purpose I wasn’t totally sure of, but I just knew it was something I had to do, whether for school or for some activity or just to ease my mom’s worries. It did often indeed feel like I was doing all that for nothing, because the results were never seen by me. But yes, thank the MIsts that he didn’t have to go through it all for nothing—not least because I couldn’t bear to put any of my characters through all that sort of stuff for nothing! :p

    Oh, this one is definitely both-and-and rather than either-or-or! :D

    Yep, I’m afraid I was putting the pour youngster through even more angst and unpleasantness, but again, it is maybe hopefully kind of sort of worth it in the end. :p As others have mentioned, the expedited growth isn’t going to be without pretty hefty psychological consequences later: he’s still got the mind of child (albeit a pretty mature child) even if his body is now that of an adult. And he’s still got his father after him, and in an increasingly ominous way...

    Taking things out of order once again to address two of your points at once:
    Good comparison! :p Yep, it’s definitely kind of like Harry and the Dursleys, except here it’s one wizard trying to stay clear of a different wizard, which makes for a less black-white dynamic. But he does have some much-needed caring authority figures in his new teachers, or at least two out of the three. I may have overdone Okkfel a bit, but yes, in his case too there’s likely some jealousy involved. The cold pain, though, is meant to be more Zuckuss’s own reaction to what he’s “hearing” in his mind rather than anything Okkfel is specifically doing to him. Zuckuss is an extremely driven and intense type, but at the same time the approval and acknowledgment of his teachers matters a lot to him, which has a lot to do with why this one teacher’s harsh words and thoughts are having such an effect.

    Ah, [face_whistling]!

    Thanks! Glad that all came off all right. Zuckuss does indeed have a long way to go in gaining full control of his powers; it’s still erratic sometimes in the way his sudden revelation about the stolen datacube was. So yes, a lot of these oddities are down to as-yet-imperfect control over a prodigious quantity of talent.

    Yep, it is indeed! And whatever youthful callowness might prompt him to say about Okkfel, Zuckuss knows deep down inside that Volokoss is a much better mentor for him, precisely because he’s the polar opposite to the harsh, uncaring, jealous father figure he already has).

    Thanks! The cloud boundaries I can’t totally take credit for, since the pocket colonies floating in the planet’s mist is part of established lore. But other than that the established lore has nothing on what these colonies are actually like, so I basically just had at it. :p The drab-clothing-corresponding-to-namelessness is fanon, though it’s indebted to something Viridian-Maiden came up with in the Fanfic interview thread, which was such a fab idea I couldn’t help but run with it.

    You shall see, you shall see…! [face_whistling] ;)

    You’re not the first reader to make that observation—and indeed, I wasn’t aware of the contrast myself till both of you pointed it out, but yes, it really does contrast quite startlingly. This is why I love my readers. :)
    Aw, thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed those touches—I figure that even on a storied, mystical world like Gand there have to be some things that are quotidian and ordinary. (The “txting” was immense fun to write, and was another attempt to hybridize seriousness and humor.)

    She has worked out to be kind of a counterpart to Zuckuss, which was less the case in my earliest drafts of the story but which I decided to run with once I saw it happening. As to your guess… all I can say at present is, “[face_whistling]."

    Thanks! I’ve always enjoyed a good garden, and in recent years I’ve started trying to cobble together one of my own, which in addition to its own rewards and challenges has also been a really good way to internalize these characters even more. By the changing plant, do you mean the shriveled orchid that she touches, or the garden plants with the ambiguous colors? The latter is mainly just for purposes of, well, color; the former has something deeper behind it, but once again is a bit of a “[face_whistling]” for now.

    I envisioned Volokoss’s main objective in that exchange as mainly to hint to his student not to count his chickens before they hatch; we know from the txt conversation earlier that he’s not totally blind to the girl’s unique quirks and abilities. He just wants his student not to get carried away with speculation.

    I take karate (an Okinawan style based mainly on Shorin-Ryu but incorporating some Shutokan) and have those exact same feelings often myself! Given that there is such thing as Gand martial arts established in canon, I couldn’t help but speculate that they, too, must include interminable forms that one has to do every motion of just exactly so or else one’s teacher gets grumpy. :p

    Thanks! And, as you eventually saw, you were indeed on the right track. :)

    Gorruss is a simpatico, easygoing type, which is also a personality type Zuckuss badly needs to have in his life in order to offset his own drivenness and intensity. As I said in an earlier post, these two brothers sort of ended up reversing some stereotypes about birth order—but not all of them, given that the whole “big sibling freaks out little sibling with scary tall tales” business is still fully in force. :p

    Yep, you guessed right! In a way I wasn’t really covering it up all that much. Zuckuss’s anger isn’t totally without reason; he feels a bit like he’s been had, and he feels a certain amount of resentment and jealousy that a puny little girl from N’xid was able to mark him in this way. But it definitely is a tendency of his, and one of which he’ll have to be extra careful.

    Again, the Findsmasters don’t really have anything in the way of ulterior motives here: they were just following up Zuckuss’s lead on the girl who could perform the Rhak’zél dust vortex attack and were hoping to talk to her further to find out more about her, perhaps in the interest of seeing if she would be good material for Findsman apprenticeship. As they say later, they had had other conversations with her before at the consent of her parents; this was just going to be another one of those routine appointments, but tragedy struck unexpectedly.

    This one, too, is a bit of a "[face_whistling]."

    Yes, it definitely is the same plant, and you are on the right track toward picking up what happened with it (note too that back in chapter X she puts her hands on it and concentrates for a bit). It is indeed her last connection to her parents and to their life as gardeners, as well as being her own special thing that they gave her to take care of. And it kind of did end up becoming a reflection of her, too.

    Awww, thanks. <3 This is, of course, connected to your observation above: I suppose it doesn’t really spoil anything to say that [hl=black]the romance will be there, but it will also be in the company of, and indeed inseparable from, a deeper connection that’s central to the story as a whole.[/hl] I’m not really that good at hiding things from my readers! :p

    Thanks. :) These are, after all, essentially teenagers, and certainly teenagers all across the Galaxy get their style crimped by their parents and elders sometimes!

    It is absolutely not a good thing for Force-sensitives, and it’s something he’s going to have to work on, to say the very least. The fact that he has someone as unflappable and laid-back as Gorruss is a very fortunate thing—just imagine if it had been Fengor he’d come home to!

    As you see, you guessed right! :D (Again, I’m no good at hiding stuff. :p )

    Oh, thanks! The “And thus it began” paragraph was a bit of an experiment as well as an infodump; I was kind of going for James Joyce-style hyperdetail, and I’m glad you felt it fit well into the story. (Plus, it’s the sort of thing I can expand on later for fanon posts, etc.!)

    Thanks! A note on that name: I came up with it when I was first working on this story almost 20 years ago just because I thought it sounded pretty (and the “-ien” is a bit of a Tolkienesque touch, in homage to names like Lúthien, and, well, the Tolkien’s own name). But then later, by way of a chance bit of googling, I found out that “telfien” is [hl=black]some kind of inflected form of the Maltese word for “loss"[/hl]—which turned out to be very fitting too!

    You both are absolutely right to be worried, both about what Fengor might be capable of and what it means for Zuckuss’s own temperament. More to come on that in future installments, of course.

    Thanks! That is something I worried about while writing this interpretation of Zuckuss, so I’m relieved that it worked out. I also didn’t want him to just be a clone of Anakin, so I tried to give him a somewhat different set of problems and issues. (And here is where I ask my amazing beta reader Kahara to whack me over the head with a rolled-up newspaper if she ever sees me writing Zuckuss too much like Anakin! :p )

    And indeed, you are right! :D

    Well, thank you for those very kind words, and I am so glad you enjoyed this. <3 Again, it means a ton to me that that you took the time to read and comment, and I’m only sorry I took so long to reply. Nor will you have to wait long, for I actually have the first chapter of part three in readiness now and plan to post it very soon! Just wanted to take care of your review first, though.

    Thanks again, glitteryboots, and it’s great to have you here. @};- Next chapter to come very soon...
    glitteryboots, Kahara and Ewok Poet like this.
  18. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    At long last, here is the first chapter of part three. From this point I am going to try the best I can to update at least on a monthly basis, though I can make no promises—it all depends on RL. Thanks to all who have stuck with this so patiently thus far! @};-

    At this point I also wish to express my thanks once again to those who voted for this story for Best Epic in Saga in the 2016 Fanfic Awards. What an incredible honor! You're a wonderful bunch. @};-

    Part the Third: The Findsman’s Treasure

    Chapter XVI

    “O most Sacred Visionary Mists, glory of Gand, enthroned above the brooding fogs and swirling within the stars: Bless and guide those who here begin the sacred work of seeking You in vortices of fog, wind, and flame . . .”

    “ . . . and in the confines of chitin, keratin, and flesh.”

    “Thus prays Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd . . .”

    “And the unworthy pupil, Viurraanvi . . .” A pair of golden eyes darted briefly upward, then down again toward the floor.

    “And thus may it be Your sacred will.”

    Zuckuss was still not quite accustomed to initiating this traditional prayer rather than simply responding to it, as in his own lessons with Volokoss. But by now it too was part of his daily routine. No sooner had his First Evaluation and its attendant ceremonies concluded, no sooner had the harness and armor and the title of senior apprentice been bestowed upon him than he had been obliged by his mentors to begin training young Telfien Viurraanvi, the gardener-girl from the colony of N’xid, as an apprentice Findswoman.

    He was not technically her Findsmaster, of course. Technically he only held the rank of a senior apprentice, and though he was now eligible to be addressed as Findsman Zuckuss rather than merely Apprentice Zuckuss, he was far from completing his own studies. But it amounted to almost the same thing: he was teaching the Sacred Trade in much the same way as a Findsmaster would. Certainly, he reasoned, it spoke to his own talent that Volokoss, Luyen, and the other Lhúdanswani Findsmasters saw fit to entrust him with this responsibility. And yet it was somehow so different from what he had expected—and more difficult as well.

    On one hand, Telfien was doing quite well. She seemed to genuinely enjoy her studies, and since her arrival at the temple much of her shyness and sadness had melted away. She excelled at her practice meditations and hunting exercises, and she readily graspedthe new mystical techniques that Zuckuss taught her—no doubt, Zuckuss surmised, she had already at least attempted some of them during her days in N’xid, without knowing their traditional names and functions. Some of the combat techniques were difficult for her because of her small physique and lack of upper body strength, but she pushed herself tirelessly to improve in them.

    On the other hand, Telfien still did not seem quite able to control her powers, and Zuckuss did not know what to do to help her. Strange little things would often happen if she was in a particularly intense meditation or concentrating especially hard on a skill: the air would crackle for a moment as if before a storm, or a gust of wind might whirl up within the room, or a datacube or book might fall off a shelf. Whenever this happened she was immensely contrite, apologizing profusely while demoting her self-reference to “Gand.” Volokoss, who always supervised Zuckuss’s lessons with Telfien, often had to step in to help his student comfort her and return her to equilibrium. More than once Volokoss and Zuckuss had to pool their mystical strength to avert an accident.

    At the same time, Zuckuss’s own studies were continuing with even greater intensity. As a senior apprentice, he began to probe deeper than ever before into the mystical secrets of the Sacred Trade, and he was held to higher standards of precision, form, depth, and mystical engagement than ever before. Volokoss had begun introduce him to new, more advanced techniques of meditation, observation, and combat, including marksmanship and the use of energy weapons. Once his lessons with Telfien were finished for the day, Zuckuss was sent on challenging training and reconnaissance missions around the colony of R’Kalýma—”and soon beyond, soon beyond,” as Volokoss was fond of reminding his student. Other Findsmasters of the temple—sometimes the irascible Okkfel, sometimes Findslady Luyen herself—came by to observe his progress and confer with Volokoss. It did not escape Zuckuss’s notice, however, that none of them—except occasionally Luyen—came to observe his work with Telfien.

    * * *

    One day, Telfien was engaged in a routine practice Hunt for items hidden around the temple. She had found all but one of the required items, and things had gone well thus far: only a few times had the air had stirred slightly in the room, and only one small book had fallen. The last item that remained was Zuckuss’s miniature shellackoid portrait of his ancestor, Zukfel Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd, which he had slid between two storage crates in one of the maintenance closets. Zuckuss and Volokoss watched her in silence as she sat meditating on the round couch in the center of the room, Zuckuss taking occasional notes on his datapad. It had been a little over an hour.

    Then, suddenly and without warning, one of the incense lamps sputtered and went out, then another. A third shattered where it sat. In mere moments all the lights in the room were extinguished, and all was dark—and strangely cold.

    “What in the name of the Mists—”

    “Go! Quickly!” Volokoss urged his student. “Hand of Rescue!”

    Zuckuss sprang from his seat and applied the Hand of Rescue to Telfien. Volokoss had taught it to him when he had begun working with her, but this was the first time he had ever needed to use it. After a few moments she shuddered violently and her eyes sprang open.

    “What?! Oh no, Findsmaster Volokoss, Findsman Zuckuss, did it . . . did Gand . . .” She glanced around, noticing the darkness, the glint of the shattered crystal on the floor, the hunched form of Volokoss struggling to light one of the unbroken incense lamps. “Oh no, oh no . . . oh no, oh no . . . what has Gand done?”

    “Telfien.” Zuckuss crouched down so he was eye to eye with her. “Please do not be troubled. No great harm has been done and Zuckuss is not angry with you. But could you please tell him what . . . happened just now?”

    “Gand doesn’t know . . .” Her voice was tremulous. “Oh, please, please forgive this Gand . . .”

    “Do not worry about that, Telfien. Did you see something during your meditation that startled you?”

    “Well . . .” She paused for a moment. When she spoke again her voice was much quieter. “Who did you say was in the portrait, Findsman Zuckuss?”

    “Just one of Zuckuss’s ancestors from long ago. Why in the Mists’ name—”

    “Peace, Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd,” interposed Volokoss, looking up from one of the unbroken incense lamps. “Let her continue.”

    “Apologies, Findsmaster Volokoss.” Zuckuss inclined his head deferentially. “Continue, Telfien.”

    “Viurraanvi saw him. Your ancestor, that is.”

    Zuckuss gave an incredulous clack. “How can you be sure? You’ve never seen the portrait before. You’ve never seen any ancestor of Zuckuss’s before.”

    “Gand does not know for sure that it was he . . .” She clicked a few times. “But . . . it was someone who looked like you, Findsman Zuckuss. Staring at this Gand. Glaring at her.” She paused a moment. Zuckuss could see she was beginning to tremble, and her mandibles were clattering. “Then . . . he reached forward and grabbed Viurraanvi . . . his grip was like—like metal, like a blade—and then—”

    “And then?”

    “And then Telfien emerged . . . and saw all this . . .” She gestured to the shattered lamp, then turned away from it suddenly, striking her chest with her claws. “Oh, how could Gand—please, please forgive—”

    “Zuckuss does forgive. He already said he is not angry with you. Turn and look him in the eye and believe him.”

    She did so. At the same moment a horrid crash was heard as the incense lamp Volokoss was lighting catapulted from his hands and was dashed to smithereens on the floor. A whirlwind of cold welled up, knocking several holocubes from one of the bookcases to the floor. Telfien cried out. Volokoss ran over beside her.

    “Perhaps it would be best to adjourn for the day, young one,” he said gently. “You will work further with Findsman Zuckuss on controlling your abilities, of course. But your intuition needs to recover from the shock it has suffered. Findsman Zuckuss shall walk with you to the dormitory wing.” His pupil inclined his head in agreement and gave a few encouraging clicks in Telfien’s direction. “Volokoss shall meet you both there presently. He is going to fetch one of the healing-wing servants, just in case.”

    “Yes, Findsmaster Volokoss. Come, young one.” Zuckuss gestured to Telfien, who rose. Both bowed to Volokoss and left the room.

    * * *

    Zuckuss and Telfien walked silently together through the halls of the Lhúdanswani temple. Telfien’s eyes were turned mostly downward toward her clasped hands, but she cast occasional glances upward at her young teacher. Zuckuss, meanwhile, did all he could to avoid her gaze. It was not that he was angry at her; he knew, at least in theory, she had had no control over what had happened. But he was deeply embarrassed for her, and frustrated with himself that he did not yet know how to help her overcome her meditative challenges—even though the Mists knew he had had many of his own early in his studies. He could not quite shake the feeling that her learners’ imperfections somehow reflected negatively upon him. Moreover, it was highly unusual for an apprentice Findsman or Findswoman to be dismissed early from a training session and to be seen walking in the corridors at this time of day—what if another Findsmaster (or, worse, another student) happened to see him?

    They had almost reached the apprentice’s wing when Telfien suddenly turned down a side hallway and stopped in front of what seemed to be the low, unassuming door of a maintenance closet.

    “It’s here, is it not?”

    “Is it?” rejoined Zuckuss, his mouthparts clattering. “What did the Mists tell you?”

    Quickly Telfien opened the door and went in. The closet was a fairly ordinary one, crowded with crates and storage lockers and shelves full of maintenance supplies. She pushed one crate over close to one of the shelves, then stood on it and reached between two of the large cubical storage containers that stood there. When she withdrew her hand, she was holding a small, oval-shaped piece of shellackoid. She held it out toward Zuckuss.

    “Here it is.”

    “It is indeed. Your intuition has served you well, Telfien Viurraanvi.”

    Telfien stepped down from the crate and studied the portrait for a few moments, admiring the finely detailed image of the ancient Findsman. Then she glanced at Zuckuss, then back at the portrait, then again at Zuckuss.

    “It’s beautiful . . . the eyes look so much like—”

    There was a sudden crash as something—it was impossible to tell exactly what—fell to the floor at the back of the closet. At the same instant, Zuckuss snatched the shellackoid miniature from Telfien, pocketed it, and slammed the closet door.

    “Yes, yes,” he hissed. “Almost all the males of the Ng’xvi-Ta’al-Lhúd have those eyes. Zuckuss has them too. Now come. You and Zuckuss have wasted enough time here.”

    * * *

    A few minutes later they joined Volokoss at the entrance to the dormitory wing, and it was not long before Telfien was safely ensconced in her quarters. Volokoss had assigned her a cycle of Healing Stillness meditations to calm her and help her intuitive sense heal from the shock it had suffered. In case of any further mishaps, he had also stationed one of the healing-wing servants inside the door of Telfien’s room. This was the only female who worked in that area of the Temple, a tall Non-Breather with purple-gray chitin and steel-colored eyes, and per Volokoss’s orders she had binders and a stun pistol at the ready.

    “Not because Volokoss and Zuckuss think you mean any harm,” the elder Findsman was careful to emphasize. “This is all purely for your safety and that of the temple.”

    “Yes, Findsmaster Volokoss, Findsman Zuckuss,” was all Telfien could say in response, bowing her head as both Findsmen waved their blessings above her. “The Mists will safeguard you, Telfien,” Zuckuss added hurriedly, still not quite looking at her as he left quickly with his master.

    Once they had gone, Telfien positioned herself on the small meditation couch in the corner, closed her eyes, and began the opening sequence of Healing Stillness—a variation of the familiar Stillness of the Fog, designed to aid in mental and physical healing processes. For several minutes—perhaps an hour—she followed the customary repetitive breathing patterns, sending her Inner Mists to dissipate the Obscuring Fogs that still overclouded her consciousness.

    It had no effect. Dark feelings were plaguing her, hampering the motion of her Inner Mists. She felt bitterly ashamed of herself for what had happened in the teaching room. Inadvertently or not, how could she exhibit such shocking lack of control before her two teachers—her two kind, wise teachers, who had taken her in to the temple and given her the chance to fulfill her potential? It was no one’s fault but her own that they had seen fit to end her lesson early and confine her to her quarters like a prisoner.

    She opened her eyes, shifted her position, and began the opening sequence again. Minutes passed; still nothing happened.

    If something like this had happened during her regular lesson—as sometimes did in the case of beginning apprentices—Volokoss would have asked Zuckuss to sit beside her and join her in beginning the same meditative discipline. That way his intuitive impulse would bolster hers, and she could advance to the realm of the Mists without difficulty. But Zuckuss was not here. There was no one else except for the armed healing servant by the door, who no doubt had been instructed to stun her if anything went amiss. And indeed—Telfien could not help but think to herself—did she really deserve anyone’s help after all the trouble she had caused?

    She looked around. A small green incense lamp flickered on a small table beside the meditation couch. Beside it sat her moonbow orchid in its pot. Its bloom stalks were now tipped with silvery-white buds, one of which had just begun to open. The healer still stood by the door, watching her through steely compound eyes, the pistol and cuffs gleaming at her side . . .

    Telfien turned away and hung her head. Quietly but bitterly the sobs welled up in her crop; her mandibles rattled, her whole body trembled.

    How long she sat there in the throes of her sadness she did not know. She only knew that some time had passed before she became aware of the sound of motion nearby. She looked up—and recoiled in fear as she saw the healing servant standing before her.

    “Please forgive Y’keb for frightening you.” The tall female’s voice was quiet and gentle, and she clicked cheerfully as she spoke. “Y’keb simply . . . heard you and wished to check that everything is all right.”

    Telfien took a closer look at the healer, noticing for the first time that the holster at her side was empty. She craned her head and looked over by the door. There, lying beside it on the floor, were the binders and stun pistol.

    “Apologies . . . Viurraanvi feels so strange now . . .”

    “Can Y’keb be of help?”

    “Well . . .” Telfien shifted a little on her cushions. “Viurraanvi is ashamed to say it, but . . . she cannot seem to begin her Healing Stillness.”

    Y’keb passed her hand slowly over Telfien’s head and then again before her chest. “That does not surprise Y’keb. Whatever shocked your intuition was very strong indeed. May Y’keb presume to ask what it was?”

    Telfien sat silent for a several moments. She was not sure whether to tell the healer, as friendly as she was, about the vision she had had back in the teaching room of the mysterious ancient Findsman—of his blazing silver eyes—of the crushing claws that reached out to grab her—before she awakened to the shattered lamps, the darkness, the chaos—

    The flowerpot and incense lamp beside her began to rattle ominously. Telfien thrust out her hand to silence them, her eyes clenched closed. Thankfully the healer spoke again.

    “Y’keb understands if you do not wish to speak of it now. But would it at least help if Y’keb joined your Healing Stillness?”

    “Yes, gracious thanks.” Telfien gave a few shy clacks as Y’keb sat beside her on the couch. The strange healer was certainly not Zuckuss (who always sat on a separate floor cushion of his own when he assisted with her meditations), nor was she even a Findswoman. But temple healers were versed in several meditative techniques of the Sacred Trade, Healing Stillness among them. There was no reason to doubt she could help.

    Y’keb was facing Telfien, as if waiting for her signal. The small apprentice Findswoman adjusted her robes around herself, then cast a flickering golden glance at her new companion. Then both of them closed their eyes and began.

    * * *

    Later that day, at Volokoss’s behest, Zuckuss went to Telfien’s quarters to check on her. He knocked on her door—slowly, with a single claw, in the prescribed manner—but there was no answer. He tried again, a little more firmly, to the same effect, and he tried the door, which of course was locked. But the doors in this part of the dormitory wing had old-fashioned mechanical locks, so even if he lacked a key he could still crouch down and look through the keyhole. This he did, though it took some effort to concentrate his compound vision onto only one small group of eye-facets.

    Telfien and Y’keb were sitting together on the couch in the corner, deep in meditation. The healer now sat slightly behind the young Findswoman and slightly turned toward her, with one three-clawed hand resting lightly on her shoulder; she had clearly been helping her in her Healing Stillness. But the now the room was filled with gray-gold mists that swirled softly around the two females, cocooning them in a foglike glow. Zuckuss knew from his studies that some meditative disciplines had the potential to summon the Mists physically, but he had never heard of that happening during a simple healing meditation.

    As Zuckuss watched, some of the mists filling the room coalesced into a figure: an ancient Findsman in glowing dark robes, standing absolutely still with his back to the door—was he watching the two figures on the couch?

    Then he turned to face Zuckuss, as if he had sensed he was watching him—and his face and eyes emitted such blinding golden brightness that Zuckuss stumbled backward.

    “Ah, Findsman Zuckuss! May Volokoss ask what you may be doing here?”

    Zuckuss scrambled to his feet at the sound of his Findsmaster’s voice. “Checking on Telfien, as you instructed, Findsmaster Volokoss.”

    “And is all well with her?”

    “Yes, all is well.” He blinked his nictitating membranes. Several of his eye-facets still burned from the bright light.

    “Good. Then come along. You and Volokoss must work on your Striking Mist sparring sequences.”

    Volokoss began to walk down the hallway. Before falling into step with him, Zuckuss took one more peek through the keyhole. The room was now completely clear of mists.

    Resolving to leave for another day the question of whether to tell his master—or his student—what he had seen, Zuckuss turned and followed Volokoss back to the teaching wing.

    Y’keb is named for the character Becky in Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel A Little Princess. Becky is a mistreated servant girl who befriends the novel's heroine, Sara Crewe, who is by way of the star student at a girls' boarding school. One important difference here, though, is that it's the star-student character herself, rather than the servant character, who has the history of mistreatment.

    The prayer that opens this chapter is the same one that opens chapter 7 (the first chapter of this story's part two), describing one of Zuckuss's first lessons; you may notice other parallels as well.

    Just as reminders and refreshers, since it's been a long time, here are links to my Gand fanon post and Wookieepedia's article on the Gand.
  19. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    love how Zuckuss is teaching Telfien. She is a nice character with interesting abilities
    Kahara and Findswoman like this.
  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Glad Y-keb is there to be supportive and helpful but wow, Viu and Zuckuss sure have had some unusual experiences [face_thinking]
    Kahara and Findswoman like this.
  21. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Mar 3, 2001
    The teacher and apprentice prayer to the Mists is wonderful -- liked the line about the "confines of chitin, keratin, and flesh". So cool and eerie. @};-

    It's interesting to see Zuckuss and Telfien adapting to this new mentorship situation. Definitely involves some growing pains, sometimes even more so because they're both young prodigies in their own ways. Though he may not realize it, Zuckuss is probably dealing with a lot of what his own mentors did (and still do) with training him. Quite a heavy responsibility. Lucky that they are getting a lot of help from Volokoss. His steady temperament and wisdom are invaluable here -- especially when objects start jumping around on their own! :)

    Telfien's bursts of uncontrolled Force effects are different though, and one can see it's as worrying to her as it is to her teachers. Interesting that it not only happens out of her control sometimes, but also isn't always something that comes from inner turmoil. It's often more causing her distress than caused by it, it seems. It's almost like she's got access to a lot of energy, more than usual, and her first attempts at tapping into the Mists are activating it all the way instead of in a more subtle way. Or maybe, given all the ghostly presences and such, it's more that something or someone is able to act through her as a conduit? Which could be all kinds of trouble!

    Well, that's a little unsettling! [face_worried] As is her vision of the menacing Zuckuss relative of some sort...

    Zuckuss and his ego. :p Though he generally means well, it's so hard for him to get past seeing Telfien as a test of sorts more than as a person in her own right. (I wonder what parental figure's behavior he could have gotten that little problem from? :rolleyes: Can't entirely blame him for having a chip on his shoulder to do with achievement. But it's too bad, since Telfien is an innocent third party here.) Not that he doesn't care about her or do his best to be a good mentor, but he just can't seem to let go of the idea that his success depends on hers. And it does, at least somewhat. Just to make things more complicated. ;)

    Interesting that Telfien seems to have some kind of significance for Zuckuss's ancestors, and they for her -- strange visions, ancient shellackoid portraits, and all. [face_thinking]

    Though Telfien is treated with relative kindness here, it's such an awful situation and I really feel for her. Poor kid is scared of how her abilities keep acting up, and knows that her teachers have to treat her with caution for entirely practical reasons. :( I'm glad that it turned out that Y'keb was such a compassionate person -- that seems to have helped some where Volokoss and Zuckuss were focusing on the mystical side of things.

    Telfien really seems to be a locus of some sort for some very ancient forces. This was a goosebumps moment for sure! :eek:

    Congrats on the win for Best Epic, by the way! [face_dancing] I was so happy to see that show up in the awards ceremony, and it's well-earned. @};-
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  22. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    Again, I'm glad you like her! I've really enjoyed writing the interactions between these two, and in a way this teacher-learner relationship they're in now will be a learning experience for both of them.

    They have indeed! That's why a warm, supportive presence like Y'keb is so essential right about now. (Not that Zuckuss is being completely cold—but he's just kind of at a loss.)

    Thanks! Glad you like that. I tried to embody in it not only the Gand ideal of total, humble submission to the Mists but also to articulate what the Gand might see as the ideal teacher-student relationship, which is also one of humble submission: it's the student who recites that bit you quoted, the bit that has specifically to do with physicality and limitations.

    He most certainly is—up to eleven, in some instances! "Walking in another's shoes" can be the ultimate character-building experience (as we saw in a certain OC Challenge not that long ago!).

    Many are the reasons why Zuckuss's Masters would never let him undertake the teaching of such a pupil without close supervision—her own prodigious, uncontrolled power, his natural rashness, the fact that she's a girl and he's a boy, etc., etc. Both of them have much to learn from Volokoss's even-temperedness and calm.

    Yes, you're on the right track here. Sure, she does have her share of emotional turmoil, especially given her parents' recent death. But the weird flare-ups of her powers are not due to that so much as to exactly what you said—she has all this mystical energy and power that she hasn't learned to control yet, and of which she doesn't know the full extent yet, so when it bursts out like this it naturally does cause her some distress. As to the ghostly presences, including the "menacing Zuckuss relative" you mention (whom we've seen before), they do sort of figure in this—the power that's bursting out is indeed her own, but there is indeed a linkage of sorts to them—more than that I can't say just yet. ;)

    Again, teaching her is going to be a HUGE test of character for him. And indeed all these hangups on his part are not mutually exclusive with the fact that he does really care for her and does want to be as good a mentor as he can. But as to not letting his own "chips on the shoulder" get in the way of that, well, that is something he does indeed have to work on.

    Much [face_whistling] here. And the shellackoid portrait, of course, is the same one from chapter 7, where it had a mystical effect on Zuckuss too (albeit a very different one). They are both, in some ways, reacting to the same mystical cues, but differently, in a way that makes them counterparts? Opposites? Both? Neither? Etc. ;)

    I really felt for her too, poor dear. :( "This is for your own good" can really sting in an odd sort of way, can't it? And unless their hearts (lungs?) are made of marble, it certainly can't be easy on Volokoss and Zuckuss to have to take that approach with her, even if it is necessary for practical reasons. But Y'keb is in a very different situation from them—even if she was original stationed there to protect against... mishaps, she's not in the same kind of position of authority over Telfien that those two Findsmen were and can thus afford to take a somewhat more compassionate approach. And being a healer gives one a different perspective, too.

    Oh yes, she definitely is a locus of all sorts of things, and this is only the start. :eek:

    Thank you so much! And thank you for all you did to help the story get there—it's benefited so much from your feedback and support. @};-
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  23. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Jul 31, 2014
    I am starting to notice this parallel between Zuckuss and Anakin Skywalker, that may or may not be intentional - both in your and in the little-explored official lore. In some way, Zuckuss is expected to be the champion, even though everybody is more than aware that there are dark shadows looming above him. Similarly, just like Anakin has Ahsoka, Zuckuss has Telfien literally the moment he's no longer an apprentice himself. Of course that is going to mess with his mind. But also hers, sooner or later.

    Thankfully enough, he is still able to be humble. Not sure if this was caused by Telfien's "incompetence" or the overall frustrations brought by being somebody's teacher in general (I'm sure that he appreciates Volokoss' kindness and patience even more now!). And, of course, being a "senior apprentice", he's got so much on his plate that he probably doesn't even have the time to develop an ego...yet.

    Now, what I see as significant is the fact that his work with Telfien is not being observed. I wonder if they have some secret, warped way to observe it *through her*, or if they just trust the magic boy that much? Hmmm. As you say, I will fill this for later.

    Then comes the chilling moment - Telfien's firey meditation. At first, Zuckuss seems a bit "unprofessional" and more or less bonding with her more than he should, but then, once she remarks the similarity between the two pairs of eyes, he becomes almost cruel.

    So, Telfien basically predicts what is going to happen to him and knows that he is dangerous? Hmmm...

    And it's only that, out of all things, that wakes up Zuckuss' little Umberto Ego. Hmmm...

    More and more hmmmm... - I must admit I'm lost. Hope the next chapter clears it up!
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  24. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    Thanks so much for your comment. :)

    I concede that they do indeed have those essential similarities, and I would even say that it's perhaps especially because of those dark shadows hanging over them that they're held to a high standard and expected to be champions. Though as I've said before, if you ever see me writing Zuckuss too much like a clone of Anakin, then please don't hesitate to wallop me upside the head with a rolled-up newsflimsi! :p (Though in case anyone is suspicious, I do wish to point out that Zuckuss and Telfien's student-teaching-student arrangement predates Ahsoka; that part of the story was developed in 2000 and 2001, and The Clone Wars started, I believe, in 2008.)

    Perhaps both-and! As I've said before, when he tries to be humble and cooperative, he really does mean it; it's not simply a put-on, and it exists side-by-side with the more fiery parts of his temperament. And yes, indeed, keeping him so busy at this more advanced stage of his training is meant to keep those tendencies in particular check—and that would be true for any student, not just him.

    Yep, you can file this away for later if you like, though really all that's behind this is the fact that (a) assigning-an-apprentice-to-a-student is a bit of an irregular procedure, and (b) given the dangers involved with Telfien's untapped powers they might simply feel that it's safest for only a select few of the masters—those closest to Zuckuss—have anything to do with her, at least for now.

    Well, given what those eyes have meant for him in the past (see below), it's kind of not surprising that her mention of them would touch a nerve with him, though of course she can't know that.

    For this, I would recommend taking a look back at some of those other mentions of the silver eyes—both as part of visions and as part of regular character descriptions—in earlier parts of the story, and particularly in part one. In particular:

    With whom else does Zuckuss share those eyes? With the ancestor in the portrait, yes, but... anyone else, perhaps someone we may have met?

    It may not be the very next chapter, but I really do promise this will all become clearer along the way. My idea is for the nebulous, perhaps for obvious reasons, to be an essential part of the aesthetic of this story—and I just hope and pray that I can accomplish that in a way that comes off well to my readers. :)

    Thanks once again for this insightful comment! @};-
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  25. Cynical_Ben

    Cynical_Ben Force Ghost star 4

    Aug 12, 2013
    I just finished reading through the whole fic, and I have to say, it deserves all of the praise that it's gotten. This is superb work, Findswoman. It's been a while since I read many stories involving the Gand, and I forgot how interesting their culture and species were. You've done a superb job fleshing them out and adding a sufficiently alien yet still somehow comprehensible layer to their religion and the idea of the Finding Mists.

    I love the work you've done with Zuckuss, a superbly drawn character with his casual arrogance in his own abilities and determination to learn more about his own abilities; he reminds me of Edward Elrich from Full Metal Alchemist in a way. He knows that he's exceptional, and has been learning faster than anyone expected him to, and is only just reined in by the rules and regulations of his elders. He's distracted by training Telfien for now, but I'm sure it will come up again.

    And of course all of the side characters are colorful and lively as well. The grouchy old teacher, the paranoid father, the casual and calm older brother, I could go on and on. But the standout has to be Telfien. She's so believably played as someone who possesses great power, but simply cannot control it. It's been done before, but very rarely is it done this well. She is so full of self-loathing and confusion at her own abilities, and there isn't anyone who can really help her. I foresee a dark end for her, but I hope it isn't true...

    All in all, a superb work. I often forgot that I was reading a fanfic and not something that was done in a more "official" capacity. I look forward to the next installment, and I'd appreciate a notification whenever it goes up. :)