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Saga - OT The Cruel Brother - Celtic Song Challenge

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by GregMcP, Jan 4, 2019.

  1. GregMcP

    GregMcP Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 7, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2019
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  2. GregMcP

    GregMcP Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 7, 2015
    The Cruel Brother

    The bride and groom danced.
    They swirled around on the beautiful handwoven carpet placed on the sand in the center of the tent. Her dress was long and green, representing a fertility that few guests at this wedding had ever seen. The dress was quite a shock of contrast to the rest of the families and friends who were generally wrapped in whites and greys and sand browns of their desert. Her shoulders bare, which would risk the wrath of the dual suns normally, and her brown hair flowed freely.

    The groom, tall and lean, wore a perfectly ironed and precisely assembled grey Imperial Captain’s uniform. His little cap, his rows of blue and red badges upon his left breast. Together they turned around and around as the little band played, eyes gazing into eyes. Thoroughly in love.

    Families and friends stood around the carpet smiling back, wishing them well in their hearts, and two by two couples would gain courage and step out to join the bride and groom and dance along with them. A tottering little girl in a cute satin white dress with frills around the hem hopped across the carpet. She waved her hands dramatically to the music as she spun around, making folk laugh.

    Grandpa and Grandpa also tottered around, holding each other close, still in love, after so many decades of weddings like this. Grandpa’s robes were held closed by a grey-blue belt woven from Bantha fur. The honourable sign of being a leader of the Farmers Militia in the years long ago when farmers protected their own lands from the Sandpeople. But now Troopers and the Empire were here to keep them safe and the Militia were disbanded.

    More couples stepped out and others watched on from the sides happily. For poor moisture farmers whose lives were the heat, sweat and leathered skin, this was a rare and special joy.

    Alone on a table at the back of the tent, sat John.
    “It’s not right.” he muttered to himself. He took a swig from a bottle. “You can’t marry... “
    Another gulp of liquor. “He’s a figgen Stormtrooper!” he thumped the table with a fist. “It’s not right!”

    His wife Iona was beside her sister-in-law Anna, clapping along to the music. She looked back and saw her husband working himself up into making a scene.
    “Hey! Drunkard! Hush now.” she yelled. She tapped Anna on the shoulder. “Just a tic dear.” and turned and strode over to her husband.

    “Keep quiet you fool. Don’t you dare make a mess of things tonight.” she scolded her husband as she stood over him.
    “And what are we doing sitting back here, eh?” John grumbed and took another swig.
    He had snuck a bottle of good honest Uruk-hai Bantha Blood into the celebration, despite there being fine off-world wines and spirits freely offered to all. Wine was a rich man’s, worse, an Imperial Officers (hack, spit), kind of drink. Not what a real sun dried Moisture Man would put in his belly. Bantha Blood was fermented black fungi from deep underground, mixed with the bile syphoned out of a living Bantha’s gut. It was brutally alcoholic and toxic. Burns your guts like the suns burn your flesh.

    “You know perfectly well why we’re back here”, Iona said sternly. John’s sisters refused to sit near him. It always ended in fists between husbands, and today especially he was considered an irritation. He had arrived at the wedding drunk. Before a single vow had been offered.

    A Treadwell droid, repurposed as a waiter for the day, rolled by with claws clutching plates of snacks. Dried spiced Batha meats, curds from Batha milk, jellies made from Batha hooves. John grabbed a handful of meat as it rolled by.
    “She didn’t even talk to me. She shoulda asked me what I thought. And I damn well woulda told her.” he complained to his wife. “And he. Him. That Imperial bastard. He talks to everyone else. Pa and the girls. And they all love him. Love him. Not me.” he stabbed at a bit of Batha on his plate with a knife, lifted it into his mouth and chewed for a bit. Another swig to wash it down. “blerg. Bloody Imperial.”

    ---

    “Good men and women all! May I say a few words!” from the carpet the groom, that damned Imperial Captain, began his speech. The crowd around him cheered. “Speak! Speak!”
    Iona gave up on her husband. “Sit here in your misery, drunkard.” She waved a hand at him and walked off to be part of the crowd again.

    “I remember that sunny day about a year ago, when three lovely little women walked into our compound to work in the mess. Good, honest girls from the desert. Master Lowen, you raised your daughters right, I must say that. And one little lady… this lovely woman” he put his arm around his bride and gave her a squeeze “with those big brown eyes and a smile to soften the hardest soldiers heart, well, how could I not fall in love.”

    And onwards he spoke. Praise for the daughters, for father, for dear mother, rest her soul. For the proud, hard-working farmers of the desert.

    “So much respect. Sure.” Spat brother John standing up. “Respect. Huh.” He walked forwards as the crowd turned.
    “No no no”, muttered wife Iona.
    “The honorable outpost troopers. Keeping the order. Protecting us all. The lives of us here farmers are so much safer now that you are here.”
    John pushed his way through the guests to stand on the carpet, with his Bantha Blood flask in hand.
    “Sister Marie! You know how your dear husband protects the order of the land, yeah? When him and his Stormtrooper boyos roll out every morning.”
    The table of officers, who up till this moment had be smiling and drinking, all turned and looked seriously at John.

    “That's enough son.” Pa called out.

    “Keeping the Sandfolk from straying too close to Mos Eisley. Good. Good. And also lookin’ for the contraband of naughty folk on the wrong side of the law. Uncovering the tax-free an’ guns an’ such. Sometimes that needs a bit of hard love, yeah? A farmer gets a bit of a beatin’. A whole bunch of beatin’ sometimes, yeah?”

    John's two brother-in-laws, huge stern looking fellows, got up and stepped with purpose towards him.
    “Hey lads! You know I’m not lying! These Trooper lads. You know what they do. You’ve got a thumpin’ or two from them. Just like me.”

    With dark seriousness in his face, brother-in-law Roger, Anna’s husband, said “Shut your trap and get out of here now. Or do I gotta slug ya one?” and put a big paw on John’s shoulder, pushing him back a little.
    The guests gaped and the bride, poor Marie, in tears could only say “John. No. He’s not like that. Stop”.

    John looked at his father. “And now the Trooper boyos come home after a hard day’s stealin’ and terrorizin’, and their captain lies in bed beside my sweet sis. Your little girl, Pa.”

    *SMACK* a meaty fist to the face knocked John off his feet. Some of the women screamed. Marie stood with hands over her mouth, in sobbing tears.

    Dazed on the ground, the two in-laws grabbed an armpit each and lifted John up.

    “You useless bastard! Damn you! I should never have let you come! Your sister! She insisted! She loves you, you stupid bastard!”, and on Pa ranted as they dragged John out.

    John looked back at her sister Marie, crying into the shoulder of her Imperial husband. His dear little sis. The words “I’m sorry” formed in brother John’s mouth as that man put his arm around her, and just for a moment, John swore he saw a little smile. A wicked little smirk on that Stormtrooper bastards face.

    They dragged him out the flaps of the tent and into the long shadows of a red evening. He squinted at the suns with no goggles to protect his eyes. Blown sand cut across his face.
    “Ya know I’m telling truth, boys. Ya think they’ll go easy on us if we give ’em our pretty ones.”
    And they dropped him at his beaten old speeder.
    “Nothin’s gonna change. Not nothin’.”
    With a struggle, Jack got himself off the ground and climbed in, his wife at the wheel, all tight-lipped furious.
    “Take him home Iona. Put him to bed.” said Roger.

    “Ya know I’m right brother”, said John, looking up at his brother-in-law with a red bloody cheek. He slumped in his speeder chair, defeated, in pain, so drunk.
    Iona hit the pedal angrily and off the their speeder whizzed, blowing up sand behind them.

    Roger watched them drive away and turned back to the wedding tent.
    “Yeah. I know brother.”

    ---

    They drove through the darkness, headlights across the desert sands. The eyes of creatures out to feed in the cool night air occasionally shining in the light, before scampering off.

    The two sat side by side, silent. One furious, the other, well, a mess.
    Finally Iona spoke in sharp clipped tones. “You think bein’ a farmer’s wife is so great? That what you think? Sittin’ in a dirt hole in the ground to hide from the heat and the sand. Wit’ a useless drunkard for a husband that tells you what he thinks with a slap and a kick?”

    Their speeder zipped past a bunch of red eyes and a huge rectangular shape. A family of Jawas and their Sandcrawler stealing equipment from an unguarded drill rig. In a moment they were long gone behind them.

    “You want that life for your sis? Nothin’ but gruel and Bantha meat. By the Force I am sick to my heart of Bantha.” She twisted her mouth in disgust. “Your sis gets to escape. Good on her. Gets to go into town, and gets pretty things and to sleep on a soft bed. Good on her. Good. On. Her. Get away from this misery life.”

    They drove on, Iona still ranting, but John had stopped listening. He was stewing. The image of that stuck up Imperial's smirk rolled around in his head.

    Soon they hummed up to their homestead. A simple white dome peaking above the surface with stone stairs leading down underground. Iona stepped out of the speeder and walked on down to her bed and the end of this damned night. She wasn’t bothered what John did. He could sleep in the speeder for all she cared. Sand People could ride on by and put a gaffi stick in his head. Tonight she’d be just fine with that.

    “Bastard.”
    Alone in the night air, John grumbled to himself. His head throbbed. His face ached.
    “Yer all Bastards.”
    Then in a moment of decision he pushed himself over to the driver’s seat and jammed his foot hard on the accelerator and the speeder zipped off.

    Iona came running up the stairs. “John!”
    She watched the headlights fade into the desert.

    ---

    Eventually the wedding had gotten back on track. The band played on, and with some goading people danced again, perhaps with less enthusiasm. The fiction of a joyous occasion eventually returned somewhat.

    But now the night was coming to an end. Guest lined up outside the tent to wish the couple farewell. A shining white Military Speeder, generously leant by the Regional Commander, floated at the end of the line. An Honour Guard of four Troopers in shining white armor stood to attention beside the vehicle.

    Marie and her new husband walked along the line. Marie hugged her sisters and friends, her dear Grandpa and Grandma gave her kisses and blessings, and then finally there was her Pa. He squeezed her tight. Tears filled both of their eyes.
    “I know. I know. I wish Ma was here too.”

    Out of the darkness rumbled in John’s speeder, and before it had come to a full stop he had jumped out of the cockpit. He walked with serious purpose towards the married couple.

    “You stupid man.” growled brother-in-law Roger, who did his own angry walk towards John.
    “No Roger. John. Come hug your sister. Give me your blessing.” called his sweet Marie.

    But John lifted his arm. And a blaster. He pointed it at her husband.
    The Stormtrooper Guard drew their weapons. Uncharged and useless on this happy ceremonial occasional.
    His hands shaking. Tears in his eyes. Pain in his head and heart.
    John squeezed the trigger.

    “John!” cried Marie and she stepped forward before her husband as the blue bolt flew.

    End.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2019
  3. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Intense and full of conflict, due to political views & military choices. Loved reading that! =D=
     
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  4. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    A very creative and thought-provoking take on the song—and great job transporting it and its difficult, violent themes into the GFFA! The “brother John” of the song isn’t a very sympathetic character at all, but the way you’ve set things up here, we readers do have a certain amount of sympathy with your “brother John”: the Imperial presence on Tatooine can’t be a happy thing for the moisture farmers there at this period of galactic history, and that’s putting it very, very lightly. Roger seems to not disagree with him, even if he’s not so hot on the exact way John is expressing himself. Likewise, Iona’s resentful grumblings about her new sister-in-law’s social advancement are coming from a very understandable place. Did I ever tell you you’re very adept at these GFFA socio-economic distinctions and dynamics? :cool:

    So now, to that final climactic trigger pull... if I have it right, Marie is stepping in front of her husband and taking the blaster bold meant for him? Because that would definitely be taking the ballad in a very interesting and new direction. (Poor Marie is so caught in the middle here, to the point that that’s just about all she can do to make a difference to the situation. =(( ) But even just the fact that John is shooting the Imperial husband turns the song around, in a way, because it’s the sister, not her husband, that gets killed by the brother in the song. Whichever way you cut it, though, it’s murder, and horrible, and definitely “not nice,” as you say; what started as a joyful day becomes one of death and sadness. But an immensely compellingly well-written one, in true GregMcP style—thanks so much for sharing and bringing your talents to this challenge! =D=
     
  5. GregMcP

    GregMcP Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 7, 2015
    Definitely a story that after some clear air from writing it, I would rewire it a bit.

    The end is too minimal and vague. Yes. Maybe another sentence or two is needed.
     
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  6. Vek Talis

    Vek Talis Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Oct 12, 2018
    I like not 'exactly cheerful'. :D

    with some goading people danced again It's funny what a cattle prod is good for. ;)

    Good, dark stuff.
     
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  7. GregMcP

    GregMcP Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 7, 2015
    My real life world contains relatives who love a Dinner-Dance. A band up front playing old tunes and someone walking along the tables grabbing people by the arm, "Come on, get up and dance" and trying to drag them onto the floor.

    It's hell.
     
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  8. KithuraVess

    KithuraVess Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 19, 2008
    Dang! That was great! Murder ballads are the best. =D
     
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  9. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    This is definitely a dark story--but with it being based off such a dark song, nothing less would do.

    You have done a very good job of taking this ballad and recreating the story in a GFFA culture--in this case, the moisture farmers of Tatooine--which both changes it in some ways, while the essential structure remains the same. But even if I didn't know the ballad in question, I think I would know, from quite early on, that this one is not going to end well. All the elements for a tragedy are in place at this wedding where Marie, the kitchen-girl turned bride, the "local girl made good" is marrying the man in charge of what is, all niceties aside, an invading force. There's every reason to think that most, if not all, of what John says of the local troopers and their commanding captain when he barges forth with his speech is the truth.

    And everyone there knows it. Even brother-in-law Roger (once John is no longer there to hear him) admits as much. Their issue is John's speaking this truth--and at an occasion where it couldn't be less socially appropriate.

    John is an interesting character. While the Brother John of the song, as we discussed in the challenge thread, remains a cipher, we know his thoughts, and his resentments, and what motivates him--and that makes the tragic ending all the more worse. He's certainly much more sympathetic, and the choice he makes there at the end actually makes sense, if a terrible one. But at the same time, I could see outside his perspective to understand how his relatives might view him: he drinks (and what a drink he's drinking!--I can't but wonder if it's based off something alcoholic from this world I haven't the pleasure of being acquainted with) he drinks quite a lot, and this is obviously far from the first scene he's caused.

    And then: if John was telling the truth about the stormtroopers, I know Iona was telling the truth as well that he takes out his frustrations physically on her. While she probably does resent Marie a little, I think, on the whole, she is truly glad to see her leave their harsh farming world for something better. As for Marie, there's a lot we can't know about her mind, due to John's limited pov; but she truly loves both her husband, and her brother, which puts her straight in the middle of the conflict figuratively even before that is made literal at the end.

    As an aside, I don't usually hear characters' voices when I'm reading a story, but this one was an exception: during the captain's speech, I could almost literally hear his crisp, educated, proper Space English/Coruscanti accent--and then John's own utterly different rough, loud, demanding voice.

    Finally, thank you for writing this for the challenge!
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2019
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  10. GregMcP

    GregMcP Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 7, 2015
    Thanks.
    Glad it got one more read.

    I do agree that the Bride Marie is underdone, but that's how the story flowed. It just didn't fit to expand her role. But she deserved more. I don't think I had a sufficiently clear vision of her and her motivations in my head.

    And I don't think John's rant was enough. It wasn't quite enough to get punched in the face. I think he needed to make even more dire accusations. It could have been assembled better.

    Anyway, thanks for your great discussion if it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2019
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