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Saga The Grey Book | An anthology of brief fictions

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Pandora, Mar 17, 2013.

  1. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Title: The Grey Book
    Genre: Drama with occasional tragedy


    Author's Note: This thread will serve as an anthology of short pieces, many of which will be inspired by Ultimate Drabble Challenge prompts, both past and present, and other prompts I've picked up around the internet. Since I do not have an aptitude for drabbles (to put it as kindly as possible), this will quite obviously be independent of the actual drabble challenge.

    Most of the pieces will stay in the Saga category, though I may on occasion travel beyond that into the past and the future.

    *

    The Index:

    (The face that sees you from the mirror should not be your own)
    Entropy
    Triptych/this will hurt you more than it hurts me
    Dear Pelly:
    Come to Dust
    Versé, transformed into a flower
    "Getting it on"
    Dutiful
    Fantastica



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Title: (The face that sees you from the mirror should not be your own)
    Genre: Possible AU
    Characters: Sabé
    Inspired by: baby/child/teenager/adult/old age (from the 7th Ultimate Drabble Challenge)


    (The face that sees you from the mirror should not be your own)


    When Sabé was little, she would make up stories about the mother she could not remember. The Sisters had told her she was a housewife in Theed, and that the man who supported her was a minor government official. But Sabé wasn’t old enough to care about what her mother did. She only imagined her dark hair, and the dwarf snowlilies she wore clipped just above her chignon, and her (matching, commonly pretty) dark eyes. She would watch her mouth open to speak, but only a rose-scented breeze sighed out.

    She must have wept when she left Sabé behind with the Sisters, murmuring the name Sabé would never have again.

    Sabé would never know the truth: that when the Nursery Sister laid her in the cot, when she told the other Sisters what a quiet, good baby she was, her mother had become pregnant again. She looked in the mirror over her vanity, touched her bread-swelling stomach, and smiled.

    *

    Sabé was only a child for a few years. The Sisters soon enough bullied her out of her daydreams—about her mother, and the places she saw in her dreams—and she would soon look back on them with an embarrassed cringe. She was always quiet. She stayed quiet even when she was tired, after hours and hours of training with the other maidens, or the last few times she wanted something for herself, and was angry to have to live without it.

    The girls in her class all received their first blasters when they were ten, small silversleek things that showed their distorted reflections.

    You have been chosen for a higher purpose than mere ordinary life, the Sisters would tell them, over and over again until the words became a meaningless blur.

    It would finally make sense the day Sabé saw a picture of the new Princess of Theed. It was like looking into a mirror at herself. She won’t be Princess for too long, the Sister said, while Sabé studied the girl she had already started to daydream about. You will suit her well.

    *

    After Amidala turned eighteen, she took a weekend holiday at her family’s house in the Lake Country. Sabé was surprised (and of course, delighted) when Amidala asked her to accompany her. Captain Panaka would have preferred she chose one of the other handmaidens, (so the public could look at Sabé and think their queen was still dutifully, relentlessly, at work), but she only listened to him when she wanted to. It was, Sabé would think for years, the best time of her life. She slept with Amidala in her huge sleigh-bed, and braided her hair while Amidala read a political history book Senator Vancil had given her.

    There was one moment in particular that Sabé would remember: She had been standing on the upstairs balcony with a glass-mug of tea when Amidala came up the beach-path. She wore a white silk shift with a long bloody-red overdress that dragged behind her, the same frock she had worn to an earlier luncheon with the local governor--but her hair was a wet, tangled mess, and she was barefoot.

    Sabé couldn't believe she had thought, even recently, that she resembled her.

    When she had convinced others (including Governor Bibble, who ought to have known better) that she was the Queen, she should not have believed it along with them. But she had wanted to--when she was Amidala, she knew what to say, and people heard her.

    She had never been in love—all handmaidens took a promise of celibacy the night before their service began—and she would never learn how. This was the closest she came.

    When Amidala joined her on the balcony, she never mentioned if she had looked up and seen Sabé, or her shadow-silhouette against the burning sunshine. Sabé didn’t tell Amidala that she had seen her. They merely stood together looking out across the lake.

    *

    When Sabé went to Alderaan, Amidala had been dead for nearly five years. She had lived without interest, or purpose, for all of those years. She had moved back into the training school, and had taught the intermediate etiquette classes in a dreamstate. She knew her students did not like her, and she hardly bothered to remember their names. That changed when she found out that Queen Breha Organa of Alderaan was looking for a tutor for her daughter, the Crown Princess Leia. The Princess’s father, Bail Organa, had been one of Amidala’s closest colleagues when she was in the Senate. This was a purpose worthy of her.

    The Princess Leia was five years old. She would have been born during the last days of the Republic. She looked like Sabé’s own childhood holostills, with her long easily tangled brown hair and dark eyes—and one of the Queen’s Maidens told her the Princess was adopted, and that she had heard the birth mother came from Naboo.

    Sabé would also have an unexpected second student—Winter, a girl the Organas had taken in after her mother died in a speeder crash. She was the Princess Leia’s companion, and her friend, and nearly her equal. She was taller, with moonlight-white hair, and could not have been a convincing decoy. But Sabé still knew her for what she was.

    That may have been why she favored the Princess Leia. She tried not to admit it even to herself, but once they were old enough, both girls knew it to be true.

    When they were twelve, the Princess Leia and Winter wondered--when they didn’t think Sabé could hear them--why Sabé had never gotten married, and why she didn’t have a life outside their classroom and her small nun-plain room.

    They wouldn’t have been able to understand, and so Sabé never told them. They expected her to be like the Queen’s Maidens who, when they were not attending their queen, would spend their days out in the city. They would go to plays at the university theatre with their friends, and meet up with their lovers for romantic meetings in the gardens during their breaks. They still knew their families. They did not have to keep any of this secret from the Queen.

    Sabé did not know how to like them. They had tried to befriend her during her first year at the palace, but after that, they left her alone. They told the new Maidens, who came in to replace women who left for marriage or other careers, to do the same. She’s from Naboo, they would say. They do things differently there, and we need to respect that.

    *

    A handmaiden, the Sister who taught Sabé’s first class in the politics of loyalty would say, can only live into old age if her mistress does the same. Sabé would never forgive herself for outliving Amidala. She envied Moteé, the handmaiden who had failed to take Amidala’s death for her, who committed suicide days after her funeral. Sabé wanted to follow her example. She would never know why—after she took long walks along the most dangerous river-cliffs, and kept a set of razors wrapped inside a silk handkerchief inside her purse, and after she bought a bottle of dream-pills—she did not. She would only take a single one of the dream-pills when she was unable to hide away inside sleep.

    Sabé was only forty-seven, twenty years older than Amidala would ever be, when the Death Star, a small moon hidden inside the sunbright sky, blew Alderaan into smashed, floating-loose pieces. She could not have seen it before it happened. She was walking in the palace gardens one minute, and then the next, she was gone.

    But if she had known, if she had looked up and seen the death moon open its red eye, she would have stood still and waited. She would have been, in that last moment, relieved.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  2. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Great insight into Sabé's character! The last line especially is very poignant.
     
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  3. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Thanks, Tarsier.

    *

    Title: Entropy
    Characters: Original and minor ones.
    Setting: After the Battle of Coruscant, and the Empire.


    Entropy


    The senate rotunda looks just as it did the last time I was here. I was startled for that one, first moment, but I shouldn’t have been: the rotunda has not been remodeled, or altered, in over one hundred years. I have seen the moments frozen in holostills to prove it. It even smells the way I remember it, of the silksmooth, recycled air and carpet wool. I did hear (in various, handed-down rumors) that after the Senate was disbanded, it became a locked-shut monument. But today, for the first open Senate session of the New Republic, it is just cleaned, the pods all gleaming with reflected lights. They wanted it to look the same.

    I stand back in the velvetsoft shadows of one of the entrypoints, where I have a good view across the abyss of the rotunda. More than a few of the pods are empty—despite all the best wishes and intentions the leaders of this new government have, not all of the worlds that were part of the Old Republic are interested in joining them.

    But most of them go along with this government as easily and thoughtlessly as they ever did when it went under other names, and the rest of the pods are occupied. The people--the beings, I still have to remind myself—inside look like the little pocketdolls I used to have, their faces made out of dinner plate porcelain.

    Several of the pods have floated out into the middle of the senate’s sky, and the Senators inside have stood, have leapt to their feet, in a frenzied argument. I did not catch the beginning, so I don’t know what their initial objections might have been.

    They’ve clearly moved on to another subject, because the new Chancellor, Mon Mothma of Chandrila speaks up, her voice amplified with a slight static buzz: “That is enough, Senators. I sympathize with your concerns, but I fear we lost the point moments ago.”

    “My apologies, Chancellor,” one of the Senators, a man with a gravel-rough voice, says. I can just make out the sway of his heavy furtrimmed robes. “I do think I have made my points, so I will relinquish the floor for now.”

    “Thank you, Senator,” Chancellor Mothma’s voice says.

    His pod sails off out of sight towards its spot, and the second pod follows. The senator-dolls, and their aides, turn their faces to whisper with each other. After several minutes of that, and a secrethushed conference at the Chancellor’s podium, the Vice Chancellor announces what I have been waiting to hear: “The Senator from Naboo will now take the floor!”

    The woman standing at the front of the pod as it floats out into its place in the center of the rotunda is Senator Pooja Naberrie. She has her honey-brown hair caught and done up in an elaborate style, with a glinting pirate silver headdress, and she is wearing a bruised-purple dress with tiny lake pearls scattered about the skirts. I have seen her close enough to know she doesn’t look much at all like the old holoportraits of her infamous aunt. She takes after her father, though—since he left the family behind when she was only a year old, before she would remember him, for a position as an architect and another wife on one of the Ceilian Moons—she does not take much pride in that fact.

    But the rest of the Senators look at her and still see Senator Amidala instead. Senator Amidala’s luscious, elaborate dark hair. Senator Amidala’s purple dress.

    “Senators,” she says, in a coldly flat little voice. She sounds like the little girl her aunt was when she was first presented in this rotunda, instead of the grown woman I know her to be. She looks about the chamber, and her pale moth-blurred face, her gaze, goes past me. She wouldn’t have seen me even if she could. I am too far beneath her notice.

    “It is an honor for me to see the Senate restored to its rightful place as the head of a democratic government,” she says. “I shall endeavor, as I did under the Empire, to serve the best interests of my people, following Senator Amidala’s example.”

    That takes me aback—she referenced Senator Amidala, as I expected she would, but she did not make mention of their personal connection. She never shied away from doing so when the Imperial Senate met here, partly out of a defiance she is too well-bred to admit to. She pauses, and I don’t attempt to think over her reasons.

    “The majority of my people are pleased, and relieved, to see our world become a part of this new Republic. But, alas, this feeling is not unanimous—and while the dissenters may be a minority, they have been a troublesome one of late. I fear that if the recent tensions escalate any further, they may flare into civil war. I cannot allow this to happen.”

    She pauses again, to give them time to think it over, her face clenched into a glare. Then she continues: “I have realized that I have no choice but to ask this Senate for military aid. Hopefully, their mere presence will be enough to diffuse the situation. Chancellor Mothma, you knew Senator Amidala. You know what it would have cost her to make this request, and what it costs me. But I hope you will make the best decision.”

    Another pod floats out to meet hers. The pod from Kuat. Their new senator, Loisa Darsk, steps into her place in front. This is not going to go well.

    “I mean no disrespect, Senator Naberrie,” she says, her voice echoing over to me. “But this sounds more like a local planetary matter, and as you know, our resources are still limited. Your own government should be able to handle it themselves.”

    Queen Amalina, fifteen years old and newly elected, had asked Senator Naberrie (had, I did not doubt, pleaded with her in a voice no one else should hear) to have the senate handle it. “If that were possible, we would have,” Senator Naberrie says. “Now that the Imperial garrisons are closed, we have no military forces of our own.”

    “Shame, shame, Senator,” Senator Darsk says, with a condescending shake of her head. “I would have thought you would know better than that by now.”

    Another pod comes out to join them, and before Senator Naberrie can give her reply, the Vice Chancellor is demanding order. But I am distracted by the whisperedsoft footsteps in the hall behind me as someone comes over to join me. “I’m impressed. He just sent that Kuati woman back into her place like a freshly whipped schoolboy.”

    “That’s one way of keeping order,” I say. I know who I will see before I turn away from the scene in the rotunda. I haven’t seen, or spoken with, Agrippa for years, since the morning I left to return to Naboo. I had left my post with the senatorial delegation only days before. I heard from one of the other aides, months later, that he moved to one of the districts on the other side of the planet, but I hadn’t decided if I wanted to contact him while I was here. It seems that choice has been made for me.

    “I didn’t expect to see you here,” he says.

    I shrug before I decide to say: “I didn’t think I would come. This place is in my past now--and I've realized it needs to stay there."

    Agrippa doesn’t ask what I mean. He already knows. I look back down into the senate. Senator Naberrie is arguing, her voice strained into feedback-whine, with the one remaining Senator, and: “How do you think this will turn out?” I say.

    “The Chancellor will approve her request,” Agrippa says, leaning against the wall. “Oh, they’ll fight over every tiny detail, but when it’s over, they will send a pair of ambassadors to begin negotiations. It will be almost like the old times.”

    “To be sure,” I say, absently playing with the one plain silver ring I wear, which had been my grandfather’s marriage band. I only had it altered a little—he was a small man.

    I remember, for the first time in years, that the senate of the previous republic sent pairs of Jedi as ambassadors whenever the general peace and order were threatened. They did not give aid to social revolutions; they stopped them. This new senate would do the same—except the Jedi Order, only recently moved back into the restored temple, does not have enough fully trained members. I do not know who they will send instead.

    Agrippa looks well. He wears a long black frockcoat and copper nail polish, with peach and bloodyred and night-blue ribbons braided into his hair. He hardly looks older than when I first met him, when he was Senator Cassia Mallow’s companion, her paid boy. I know I look like the senior aide I have been for nearly three years. When I looked into the large antique glass mirror in my rented room this morning after I brushed out my hair, my inkblack dress lying over the back of the chair behind me, I saw a ghost blur with burning-hard eyes. I wondered if that is how I looked when I told Lady Jain I was resigning my position.

    “I understand that you won’t want to stay on-world too long,” Agrippa says. “But if you have time, I hope you can join me for dinner. I know of a very good place.”

    He does not have to tell me it will be kilometers away from the Senate District. “That would be fine,” I say. “I should be able to manage that.”

    There is a sudden rainstorm burst of applause from the senate. Senator Naberrie watches the rest of her colleagues show their approval. I didn’t catch what she said to inspire it, but that is of no matter. This new version of the Republic has begun, in the same way its two predecessors did, to go about its work.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  4. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Really interesting take on the new Senate! I love your descriptions of the rotunda and the Naboo Senator.
     
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  5. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Really interesting take on the new Senate! I love your descriptions of the rotunda and the Naboo Senator.

    Thank you, Tarsier.

    *

    Title: Triptych/this will hurt you more than it hurts me.
    Summary: One of Queen Apailana's handmaidens is caught up in the consequences of her actions.

    So, I originally wrote this in March 2013. I have sat on it since then for one main reason: I meant it as a companion story for my earlier story "Lumina," which was then lost--to the permanent truncation on this site, and to irretrievable breakdown on my end--and I didn't know how it would work on its own. But finally I stopped waiting, and rewrote the missing parts of "Lumina," and now--here it is.

    You can read "Lumina" here.

    *

    Triptych/this will hurt you more than it hurts me.


    The first time I saw Agent Garen Borreno, I had gone out for a wandering, solitary walk through the Royal Gardens. It was the first hour of evening, and the palace offices had all closed for the day, and the Queen had returned to her personal quarters, and the small life she was permitted to have there. She had held a tense, private meeting with the Governor and several of her advisors that morning. Aimeé had accompanied her, but she had not told the rest of us what she had overheard. Brisaé had been on Coruscant—no, I should be safe and change that to Imperial Center—for nearly a fortnight.

    I hardly noticed him when I passed him on a path in one of the oldest sections. It was opened to the public, and I had already seen several women I didn’t recognize on one of the other paths, admiring the early flowers. He was dressed in a safe, and conventionally dull, middle class style, in a suit that had been the fashion last year, and he was too old—in his mid-thirties, or trying to look younger—for me to know him.

    Besides: my father was twenty years older than my mother. She married him when she was eighteen—the same age I am now—without even starting on a degree. I had seen how well that worked out for her. So I have never seen the appeal in older men.

    I was standing on the freshly-raw blond wood bridge over the creek, letting the waternoise fill up my mind so I didn’t have to think, when he came to stand next to me. “Good evening,” he said, looking out at the creek.

    I returned the obligatory greeting without turning to look at him--I wasn’t dressed in my handmaiden robes, so it was all right for him to see me: Good evening.

    He waited several minutes before he said, “You seemed worried about something.”

    That would be because I was worried. I had too many reasons--the sort that I must have fretted over in the dreams I didn’t remember when I was awake—for that. But I only answered him with a twitched shrug. He didn’t push me; I would know soon enough that he had learned that tends not to work. Instead, he said: “I have my own concerns. And it seems worse when you can’t share them with anyone else.”

    We stood there in silence. The only sound was the trees in the nearby grove shaking their leaves in a small river-cold breeze. I could have told him that I did have people to confide in. We didn’t burden (or I often thought—though it was untrue, and unfair—annoy) the Queen with our problems. We shared those amongst ourselves. But we hadn’t truly talked about the problems with the Empire, and the way the Queen continued to respond to them. I had begun to think that was because we didn’t want to admit what we knew the truth to be.

    Finally I said: “Who are you?”

    “I’m irrelevant,” he said. “But the work I am part of is not. I’m here to look into certain matters—the same matters, I suspect, that worry you.”

    “Perhaps,” I said, only risking that one emptied word.

    “Are you concerned about the Queen?” he said. When I turned to nod back at him, he was as serious as we were, when we attempted to mention—even in the most vaguely hinted ways—the worries we never forgot. “You have reason to be.”

    --

    Inquisitor Mevath had started out the session by attempting to put me at ease. I took a seat on one of the ridiculous slippery-silk pink sophas when he asked, when he told me to, and he sat down across from me. But I had seen him in the throne room, and I wasn’t fooled. I sat in a rigid perch on the sopha’s edge, my legs clamped tighttight together. I couldn’t relax, even when he started out by telling me, in a kinder voice than the one he had used when he spoke to the Queen, that he regretted the inconvenience.

    “I want to be here as little as you do,” he said. I wondered if he was going to go on from there to ask me what my favorite novel, or boardgame, was.

    It was easy to tell him I didn’t know what he wanted to hear. I knew what everyone in the upper levels of the palace did--that the Queen wished any Jedi looking for refuge on Naboo to be welcomed here. She was as clear as ever on that point. But that was all I did know. I haven’t got time to remember all the things whispered in gossip.

    But if I had known, if I had actually seen a Jedi for myself, I would have told him the same thing. I felt more pure, more right, in knowing that than I think I ever shall again.

    Inquisitor Mevath leaned forward, with a hard clenched-fist smile. I could tell that he had to use more than a little effort to make himself do it. He was losing his patience with me. (And: good, I thought, the word floating through my mind.)

    “It’s been my experience that people often know more than they’re aware of, Caité,” he said. “Think on it. You may have seen, or overheard, something that seemed a bit off, a bit out of place, but you weren’t quite certain of it.”

    “I haven’t,” I said.

    My reflection drowned into the eyepiece he wore. His other eye, the ordinarily brown one, fixed itself on me. I looked back, but without quite seeing him. “I suggest you give it some more thought before you decide you’re that certain.”

    After another hour of that—which crawled by one slow, leaking, raindrop at a time—he stood and walked away from me, over to the table where he had set up his datapad. He had looked, in the instant before he turned away, as though he wanted to hurt me—either through his torture-droid’s needle arm, or even by hitting me—and it annoyed him that he was this bothered by another arrogant little girl.

    When he had called the Queen that, right in front of her face, I had known he was capable of anything. He had rules, but they weren’t the ones we followed.

    I watched him, my hands clenched together in my lap. My breath shook out when I exhaled. I could see him now, once his voice was no longer echoing Tell me, Caité, this may be difficult, but you need to tell me. He might have had odd nightmare-glaring eyes, but he was still only human. He wasn’t even really ugly. Then he turned back, and I hoped I was ready to endure whatever he wanted to ask me next.

    --

    After her meeting with Moff Panaka, the Queen shut herself in her private sitting room for several hours. Sorsché told me that she wanted to be alone. That wasn’t like her, and I did not have to ask what Moff Panaka had chosen to discuss with her. After we had our own awkwardly-silent dinner, I knocked at the closed door. She must have been expecting that, and she did not ask me to identify myself before she invited me in. She was sitting near the window, her hair a loosened, sleep-dull mess over her shoulders. She had left a datapad, the screen glowing with rows of crowded black words, out on the tea table.

    When I apologized she said, “Oh, there’s no need for that. I think I’ve sulked more than long enough. I’m worse than a schoolgirl with a bad exam grade."

    She did not smile when she said that. She moved over to the sopha, and I waited for a moment before I sat down with her, and waited for her to speak. I wouldn’t have to wait long. She knew she didn’t have to keep secrets from us.

    Then she looked down into her lap, and played with the ring with a ragged mountain amethyst she wore on her left hand, on her marriage finger, and: “Moff Panaka is not pleased with me. I hardly need to tell you why. But he has never—spoken so bluntly before.”

    “He must have felt it was necessary, Your Highness,” I said.

    “I don’t doubt that,” she said. “He told me that I truly wish to be of assistance to any surviving Jedi, it won’t help to offend the Empire, even over the smallest matter.”

    I remembered my recent--and most likely, the final—meeting with Agent Borreno, and said: “I’m afraid I must agree with Moff Panaka on that point.”

    “You’re both right,” she said. “It pains me to admit this, but I should have seen it years ago. But—I cannot bear knowing we have to be a part of this Empire. If we give up the only references to the Republic we still have left--”

    “It’s only a word,” I said. She looked skeptical, and while I couldn’t blame her for that, I could not get distracted into a discussion on linguistics. I had to convince her she already knew what to do. “The governmental processes inside the buildings won’t change.”

    She nodded. “That’s probably the best way to look at it. Thank you, Caité. I can only hope that my public servants will be so accepting.”

    “I am pleased only to have served you,” I said, with the formal tone I had not used since the day I had given her my oath. She would have understood what that meant.

    --

    Later, when I only had to remember my time with Inquisitor Mevath, I kept seeing what had never happened. This time, when he came back over to the sophas, he looked at me for another moment, and then, with a disgusted sigh, hit me across the face. He would have done it quickly, before he could feel my skin, and it would have slammed into me like a door falling shut. My head would snap over to the side. It would not have improved his mood. He would have waited until I had pulled myself together before he said: Maybe that will help you reconsider. I could hear his voice saying it, even though it hadn’t happened.

    Several days after that, his handprint would have turned into a bruise on my right cheek. I would have borrowed the Queen’s pot of whiteface to cover it over, but I would know, even if no one else saw it, that it was still there. It would have been a birthmark stain through the frost-white makeup. When I touched it, it would answer with a whimper of pain.

    When I looked in the mirror this morning, while I was putting my hair into the style Aimeé had decided on, I was actually surprised when I didn’t see it.

    --

    Agent Borreno was waiting for me in the grand steps in front of the palace. I sat down next to him, and looked out down the avenue. It was emptied at that time of night, with only a few loose driedbrown flower petals scattered in the torchlight on the pavement. The statues of the sister warrior-queens loomed overhead, with their proud, stonewhite, dead eyes. I pulled my grey wool cloak tighter around me, and waited for him to speak. I had told him that I could only manage ten minutes before one of the others noticed I was gone.

    “I’m glad you were able to make it,” he said. “I just received word from my superiors this afternoon. This will be the last day of my holiday here.”

    “How many roles are you playing?” I said. I couldn’t have thought he would actually give me a truthful answer. I must have wondered what he would tell me.

    “That would be telling,” he said. “But I have never had more than three of them at once—and I couldn’t tell you which one wasn’t an act. That may be the best reason agents should not marry. Spouses have a tendency to want to know who you are.”

    “Then I take it that ring is for show,” I said, looking over at the sunlight-gold wedding band he had worn on his left hand. I had noticed it the first time we met.

    “I didn’t say we aren’t permitted to marry,” he said. The shadows of the statues stretched out across the avenue, and I could hear a streetcleaner whine off in the city. “I don’t have any actual figures, but based off my observations, I would say most of us do. People have a tendency not to make the best decisions.”

    Then: “I am known in my other persona for my devoted work habits. I will try to excuse myself away again, but I can’t make any promises. Regardless, I hope you will continue to consider what we’ve discussed. I trust you will know what to do, handmaiden.”

    He still didn’t know what my name was. I would have told him if he had only asked, but he never had. “I have no doubt that I will,” I said.

    After another minute, he stood up, and I did the same. My skirts were still cold from the icehard stone step. “Good night,” he said, with one last nod.

    He walked down the steps into the avenue. When I looked back, just before I returned to my place inside the palace, I couldn’t tell he had ever been there. The only movement came from the petals shaking into a dance in the new, and suddenly brightly cold, breeze.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  6. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Gorgeous and haunting.
     
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  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Excellent Pandora. The one about Sabe was touching! And the second one - yup, some things never change :p #3- liked the details and the sense of things changing for the Handmaidens in particular.
     
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  8. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2001
    The first story does a great job of showing a shadowy side to Naboo's traditions. Really interesting and unlike any take on the handmaidens and their training that I can recall. Sabe's life of endurance and control -- and the toll it takes on her ability to connect with people -- is fascinating and the little details cut straight to the bone. Poor kid, longing for a parent who never cared, finding some semblance of a true home as Amidala's guard -- and then she goes and dies, and then drifting through life on Alderaan unable to be a part of it except for Leia. :(

     
  9. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    divapilot: Thanks!

    Nyota's Heart: And the second one - yup, some things never change
    It certainly seems that way--but as the title implies, entropy is ever at work, despite their best efforts.

    Kahara: This is a pretty dark view of the handmaidens' traditions, and not the one I normally use in fanfiction. It is inspired mostly by various fan written stories--I've noticed in my years wandering through the world of fanfiction that the handmaidens, even when they're fairly prominent characters, tend not to have families or personal histories of any sort; or really, connections to anyone besides Amidala. I just decided to take that to its logical conclusion.

    Sabé does have a lonely--I might even say, a barren--life, but she doesn't know that. She has her absolute loyalty to Amidala, and then to her memory. But that's all she has, and absolute loyalty isn't exactly going to keep you warm at night.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading your comments. Thanks for reading!

    -----------------------


    Title: Dear Pelly:
    Characters: All original
    Summary: A Kuati aristocrat writes to his telbun.
    Inspired by: Write a letter to an absent loved one (week two prompt at the Writer's Block Discussion Thread).

    This takes place in the same world as my story "Or."

    *

    Dear Pelly:


    Yes, I have received the book you told me about. It arrived—and I think this should please you—only this morning. I brought it into the offices with me, but I should admit I haven’t managed the opportunity to actually read through it. I had to spend my afternoon break on an unexpected trip up into orbit. While I haven’t received an official word from Gailesia’s father that he wants the cause behind it hushed up, I suppose it’s best if I don’t go into the details. I don’t doubt you could carry the secret to your grave if you thought it necessary. But honesty compels me to tell you you can find better gossip. It was so boring you wouldn’t remember it for that long.

    But I have looked over several of the poems. Aina was always one of your favorites, and yes, I remember how you used to recite her sonnet sequence aloud to us before bedtime. I was the only little brat in my peer group who knew the details of the sonnet structure—or even, I daresay, what a sonnet was. You did not tell me just how rare this edition was—I was taken by surprise when I saw it. It must be from one of the last limited paper runs. It ought to be kept in an archives. I might look into that when I can steal the time.

    I know enough not to ask you to reveal your source. But I do wonder how you paid for a book like this one, since Liliana told me our mother had your allowance cut back last month, and she certainly wouldn’t have bought it for you. She has other things to spend her money on: she has to have her eyes tinted lavender, the color of a bleeding summer-rose, and she has that new companion. But I shouldn’t go into all that with you. You have never complained about her, and I don’t wonder—though when I was younger, I used to—at why you don’t even seem to be keeping it back. I don’t want to know what emotion you feel towards my mother, but you have always understood her better than I have.

    Liliana told me about her visit with you last week. I shouldn’t have to tell you what she found out. And while I have never actually flung a datapad into the wall, I can understand what may have inspired it. But you know, since we’ve discussed this before, that you shouldn’t drink so much. She’s concerned about you—and I’m concerned about you.

    I would understand if you wanted to enjoy a glass of wine with your poetry datapad at night. Lately, I usually have several glasses. And my dear dearest mother can pay for that. But you enjoy several bottles, and you have been warned what that might do to your heart, let alone your stomach condition. Liliana was not impressed when you told her about the med-droid you saw. She doesn’t think much of the medical acumen programmed into those things, and I have to agree with her. It told you what you wanted to hear.

    But I don’t want to start in on scolding you. You don’t have much, but you do have your life, and I can’t tell you what to do with it. Liliana and I only want to be honest with you. Yes, honest, of all things. Perhaps we learned it from you.

    I will take the book along with me to M--------. There is always a chance I can take a few moments away from the planning meeting for a tea break. You know where to reach me there, but I should warn you: the cleaning droid is more likely to pick up. They’re going to keep me very busy this time, and I know House Kohlvalt’s lead engineer.

    Before I leave, I will have a new datapad shipped over to you. Liliana and I have one already picked out. It seems the least thing I can do for you.

    Annachie
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  10. mavjade

    mavjade It's so FLUFFY! Fanfic Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Sep 10, 2005
    Lovely letter!

    You can really get the feel that Annachie is very concerned and cares very deeply.

    Wonderful job!
     
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  11. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Another lovely letter. @};-
    Pelly seems to be a very complicated person (he? she?) and must be going through a difficult time. Annachie cares about Pely without being overbearing, a delicate balance to master.
     
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  12. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Thanks for reading, mavjade and divapilot!

    *

    Title: Come to Dust
    Genre: An alternate universe beginning in Attack of the Clones


    Come to Dust


    The sky never turns actually dark at night on Coruscant. I have heard that it is otherwise in the lowest levels of the city, where the light is a constant dustgrey twilight, but I have only ever gotten to know the upper levels. The sky hanging over the rooftops of the buildings was the usual dull velvetsoft purple color. It was filled with the constant motion of speeders, their headlights glaring fish-eyed stars in the gloom, the only stars I had ever seen there. None of the moons were visible. I watched it all from the open doorway before I made myself look down, and face the landing pad floating out ahead of me.

    It could not have looked more unremarkable. It was lit with the soft glow of the perimeter lights, which may have only been standard procedure, or (I realized a minute later than I would have recently, only days before) a ship was expected in for arrival. I didn’t know how much time I had left before it pulled in out of the sky—and I needed to use it. I walked out towards the pad, into the petrol stained wind, leaning on my new walking cane.

    The pavement was a clean blank raingrey again—there wasn’t even a single scorched bruise mark left from the explosion. But of course: they would have cleaned it up after the security forces were finished with the area, and I ought to have expected that.

    It wasn’t a monument. It was still, it was only, a landing pad for interstellar traffic in this part of the senate district.

    It reminded me of the tiny cuts cracked into my face. I must have gotten them from the jagged insect-winged shrapnel flying from the wreckage, though I hadn’t felt it happen. When I had looked in the mirror, the morning after I was released from the embassy medical center, they had already faded into my skin. I had barely needed to use any of Milady’s whiteface powder. They wouldn’t even leave scars behind, and that didn’t seem right. I should have had my face scarred and pocked like the surface of an asteroid.

    Instead, I would be just as pretty as ever, according to one of the assistant-droids, as it stared with its violet candy eyes. My leg would heal and soon I wouldn’t need the cane; I wouldn’t even walk with a limp.

    I stopped near the center of the platform. The wind tugged at the back of my dark winterwool cloak, the one I had bought nearly a year before I entered Milady’s service. It wasn’t one of the many gowns, and cloaks, in my wardrobe, that I wore to match up with her, and the latest of her many frocks. I didn’t know what I would do with those, since I hadn’t any reason to wear them now.

    (It had been a fog-blurred morning when we had arrived on the planet, after several weeks of traveling through hyperspace, and the royal mirror-polished starship Milady hadn’t wanted to give up, came to a landing on its tiny bird feet. Or perhaps the sky had been clear, and the fog I remembered had only ever been smoke--)

    After several minutes, I heard someone moving behind me. It might have been their carefully whispered-soft footsteps, or the air they breathed out. I have learned to notice the details other people don’t. But then, I had become (by my own choice) one of those details. I jerked around, and felt at my hip before I remembered that I wasn’t carrying a blaster.

    “What are you doing here?” I said, tossing my voice away into the shadows where I could make out another person, another being.

    “I could ask you that same question,” a young man—a boyish and very young man—said back to me. He tried to sound hard, but his voice shivered with the last two words.

    “I don’t have any reason to explain myself,” I said. “But you do. You’re not here on some sort of official business, or you would have shown yourself.”

    “I’m sorry. I didn’t—expect to see anyone else here.” He came towards me, and into the glow from the platform lights.

    He was a tall gawky-thin blond boy in a dark cloak slinking behind him. I didn’t recognize him, but I noticed that he had a scrawny braid of hair that dangled down to his shoulder, which meant he was a student-Jedi. His eyes had a fierce, forest-hawk glow to them—and then I realized it came from tears. He looked away from me to wipe at his eyes with his sleeve and swallow, and then:

    “This is where it happened.” He looked back at me—but I couldn’t be sure that he saw me, instead of someone else. His voice had a raw heartbeat-throbbing quality that he shouldn’t have shown in front of me, and we both knew what he meant.

    “Yes.” There was nothing else I could have said. But I knew who he had to be now—and I had seen him before, though only once, ten years before, as an image over the holonet. Anakin Skywalker was the only young Jedi who would need to see the place where Milady (and oh yes, the other people whose names I could have told him) had died.

    “It had been almost ten years,” he said. “But I still thought that someday, the Force would work it out, and we would meet again. But now—we never will.”

    “Oh. Then I’m sorry.” Milady had never so much as mentioned him to me. We discussed the present, not the past. But I knew—better than most people—that she had had an idealistic, even romanticized view of the Jedi that hadn’t changed since she was a little girl. Her experiences during the Trade Federation invasion had only enforced it.

    “She remembered you fondly,” I said. “I’m certain of that.”

    He shrugged, and his voice was clenched: “Yeah, she remembered me as a cute little boy who just happened to save her entire world. But I didn’t save it. She was the one who did that. It was always about her.”

    I walked away from him, and across the dance floor of the platform, towards the circle of burning theatre lights. And the sky looming around it. Several private speeders flowed past, and I could just hear the polite felix-purrs from the very expensive engines. I would only have to take several more steps to fall down into the sky. The shock would kill me (or so I had heard, though not from a reliable non-fiction source) before my body crashed and broke into pieces.

    I took the first step forward. You should do it you stupid slag, the echo of my voice thinking inside my head said. Maybe that’s why you came here to begin with.

    I had wondered—as I lay in the dream-daze from the painkillers at the medical center—what I might have done to save her. But I only knew what had happened: that I had given in to my primitive animal instincts to save myself when the world, or the tiny fragment of it we were in, had exploded around me.

    She died alone, I could have told him. Oh, Captain Typho had been there to watch her gasp out her last breath, but she was already alone in the darkness inside her mind. Versé (Versé, whose body had been cremated in anonymity on this city-world, whose name had not been included in any of the holo accounts) was already dead. And: I had been trapped across the platform from her, my leg smashed into breadcrumb rocks underneath a piece of the wreckage, and later, though still only that morning, they would remove broken shrapnel fragments from my face, from my right breast, from my arms. I had only felt the pain that belonged to me.

    “Handmaiden!” Anakin Skywalker said behind me.

    The wind smacked against my eyeballs as I looked back to him. I couldn’t move my mouth enough to speak, and he continued: “You don’t have to do this. I know you must feel worse than I can ever imagine, but—she wouldn’t have wanted that. I knew Padmé well enough, and long enough, to know that much about her.”

    “You’re right about that,” I said, when I could force my mouth open. I took several jerking-stiff steps away from the edge. “She wouldn’t have.”

    Then, finally, the shadow of a starship came floating towards us, followed with the sound of its draigon-breathed engines. Anakin Skywalker and I didn’t speak as we hurried across the platform and down the walkway to the dark hole of the opened door. I arrived there seconds behind him, thanks to my still lurching walk. He was already gone.

    --

    I returned to the apartment at 500 Republica. There was nowhere else on this entire world, this entire city, where I could go. The upper storey, where Milady had lived, was locked up and dark with underwater shadows—Queen Jamillia was, I had heard, considering selling it, but she would take the next Senator’s opinions into consideration. The closets were still stuffed full with Milady’s wardrobe. I couldn’t imagine what they would do with that. The new Senator (who the Queen must have selected in private) wouldn’t want it.

    I went downstairs to our private quarters. There was a single rose-shaded lamp glowing in the sitting room, but the rest of the apartment was full of a dead and emptied silence. Dormé would have been asleep. No: I hoped she was only asleep.

    I had just taken off my cloak when I saw the sheet of cream-pale thick paper lying on the sopha near the artificial fireplace—and then I saw the thorn of the poison dart lying on a rosepetal silk bit of handkerchief. I knew how it would work from my history classes. It would only take a slight prick to bring on a painful dragged out death.

    You should have died instead of her, the note read, as though the author had heard my own private thoughts. I hadn’t seen the writing before, but it was in a distinctly feminine style. This should help you remedy part of that.

    I don’t know how I managed to keep from screaming, from roaring, with the rage that suddenly blurred my thoughts away. I ripped the note into a heap of little snowflake-sized pieces, and watched as they burned away into black ashes in the electric glow of the fireplace, and the words were gone. I wanted to stomp the dart into dust beneath my foot, but it was far too dangerous. I put that into the garbage disposal unit.

    I could not allow Dormé to find this. She would (I was afraid that I knew) take the instructions seriously. That is--unless she was the one who had left the note and that dart for me to find. She might have wanted me to pay for my continuing life.

    --

    Dormé had spent that day, as she had every day since the assassination success, since the explosion, in constant and silent tears. Her hair was a wind-pulled tangled mess, and she had insisted on wearing one of Milady’s white nightgowns with the lace cuffs, even though she was inches taller than Milady, and it didn’t quite fit her. She had spent the last several nights sleeping in Milady’s bed, and she had only returned downstairs after someone--and I suspected Captain Typho—changed the access codes. She had stopped speaking—and that was just as well, since when she had, the afternoon I was released from the medical center, she had still, days after it was too late, wanted to cover up Milady’s death for the sake of that vote.

    “It’s the last thing we can do for her. You should have understood that,” she had snapped at me, wiping at the glossywet tears on her face with the sleeve of her dressing gown. Her eyes had been smeared with pink flowerpetal bruises, and her mouth was chapped.

    Typho had only let his breath out in a sigh, before he looked away at the sky outside the window. He didn’t bother to mention what she already knew: Milady would never have had one of us take her place in the Senate, and it wasn’t because she knew we wouldn’t be able to pass through the routine retinal scans, though that was true enough. That was the role only she could play.

    When I looked into her room, using the override code to unlock the door, she was lying in bed, locked down inside sleep. She had left a small radio-unit playing, a female announcer with an icehard Coruscanti accent giving the coverage on Milady’s death. She must have put a recording on repeat. I wanted to turn it off, but I didn’t dare to move towards it.

    --been no word from Queen Jamillia, but sources within the Naboo delegation say that she intended to replace Binks as the Gungan representative, the woman, the being, went on. There is no word yet on who the Queen has chosen for Amidala’s successor, and she is not expected to make any announcements until after the funeral.

    I closed the door, and let the automatic lock click back into its place, and then I slumped down to the floor, leaning my cheek against the wall. My leg whined with pain, but I didn’t mind that. I still had the capacity to feel pain at all.

    The voice glided on inside Dormé’s room: Binks is expected to represent Naboo in the vote on the controversial military act, which is still scheduled for the floor during the opening session tomorrow morning.

    --


    There are many ancient songs on Naboo about the figure of Death, usually represented as a starved old crone in a cloak the color of funeral ashes. But there is one poem—of which there are only several fragmented stanzas left, by a poet whose name has been lost in history—in which death was portrayed as a man. He had come to take an aristocratic maiden dying of some sort of fever. She resisted him at the first, but--and when our ancient literature teacher blushed, I knew I had read it correctly--it was intended to be erotic. She didn’t just give in and accept what was inevitable. She enjoyed the dance of death.

    I have seen a painting on the subject in a small art museum in the last city near the northern pole: It shows death as a gaunt figure with an exposed bony smile, covered in a black cloak, hovering over a naked girl with messes of red-gold hair.

    Come along with me, Death says in that story, in all of them, in a whispered dry voice like dead leaves, in a cold sexless voice. I am death, who makes all beings equal.

    Milady used to play down her family background to make it sound more humble than it actually was. Yes, she originally came from a small mountain village near the Lake Country—a village her father’s family had ruled over as the landowners for three thousand years. I think one of her second cousins holds the title now.

    But when death came for her, none of that mattered. She snatched at Versé’s hand, and they joined up with the two junior guards and danced away, in a swaying hand in hand chain, made equal at the last. The third guard, who died from his internal injuries the next day, would have chased after their distant, ink-black, darting figures, but he would never catch up.

    --

    Before we left the apartment for the final time, we watched the broadcast of Senator Amidala’s state funeral in her sitting room. It was early evening in Theed, and the riverside road was crowded with people holding small flicking candles as the procession came past—with Queen Jamillia, along with two of her handmaidens, leading the way, and then Boss Nass with his attendant, and General Panaka, and Princess Araminta. And oh yes: Former representative Jar Jar Binks, having just arrived after he gave his pivotal vote, the one that gave the Chancellor permission to start up his army. I couldn’t believe he had the nerve.

    Milady’s body, the beautiful porcelain-stone doll the morticians had made her into, was laid out in a white coffin-sled. The camera zoomed in over her, stroking her face as kindly, as zealously as Death ever had. Her dark hair was filled with the white stars of flowers, and you would never know how much of it was a hairpiece. She was surrounded by an honor guard from the Senate in full mourning dress. None of her handmaidens were there—and that was, despite what the Queen’s chief of staff said, a travesty.

    The people walking behind her were an older couple, frozen into regal, public composure, who had to be her parents. Of course, I had never met them—she didn’t need us when she was visiting her family—but I had seen several of their official holoportraits. Her mother worked in the administration at the university in Theed, and her father was a well-known architect. I could only just see the woman (the sister Milady had mentioned only several times), and the little girls in their shadow-grey mourning cloaks, who came after them.

    Dormé sat in a slump at the other end of the long roseyellow sopha. She had her hair trapped in a single braid, and she was no longer weeping. She couldn’t. Her eyes were burnt-dull and far away, and I could see the reflection of the funeral floating inside them. The hem of her violet traveling cloak with stamped with dust.

    “What are you going to do next?” I said. She did not turn away from the crawling progress of the funeral procession, but she snapped her eyes in a blink—and I knew she had heard me.

    “I don’t know,” she said, letting each word fall like a stone into a pond.

    “Have you gotten in contact with your family?” While I had never been close with Dormé, it was only since Milady had died that I had realized how badly I knew her. I couldn’t think of one thing I knew about her. I was making an assumption that she even had any family, but it was an educated one--she must have had the people who were her parents, even if they were only dead memories now. Everyone has that much.

    “They’re irrelevant,” she said, and then: “You’re asking the wrong question. Cordé, Senator Amidala was my life. I loved her more than I have ever loved another person—more than I should have, I know, but I can’t regret it. I don’t see how I can—continue living without her.”

    “You weren’t her life,” I said. My voice came out like a winter knife wind, colder than I had intended when I knew what words I wanted to use. Even though I had not mentioned it to her, I could not forget (and oh, I wanted to) the note, and the thorn-dart inside it. “I can assure you that had you been in her place, she would have continued on living quite well.”

    Dormé’s face didn’t change. She must have already known that, then, and obsessed over it when she was alone in her bed. But she blinked her eyes shut, and the first glass-smooth raindrop of a tear rolled down her cheek.

    She turned back to the street and the nightshadowed river on the screen, and: “I’ll go back to Theed. I have had more than enough of this world to suit me. After that, I don’t know. Perhaps I can find a place with the Queen. I can’t think on it just now.”

    She stood up and turned the holo dark with a whipcracked snap. She didn’t look back as she walked away. “I’ll meet up with you downstairs.”

    After I heard the whisper as the door slid shut, I picked up my cane from the sopha and pulled myself to my feet. I had only to turn out the lights, and enter the lock code into the main door, for one last time before I followed after her. I thought—I fancied—I could hear all those dresses I had spent so much time tending to rustling like dried flower petals inside the dark.

    --

    When I had finally made my way out of the dreamfog of the painkillers, Typho was sitting in a chair near my bed. He had bacta gel smeared over a scabbed dark cut on his face, but otherwise, he had made it out without any serious injuries. He was reading something on the screen of his datapad, and I wondered how long he had been there. My mouth was woolthick and dry, so dry I had to struggle to swallow. I pushed myself up against the bedstand, careful not to move my wooden-stiff doll leg, and Typho looked up. He went to a table in the blurred light across the room, and returned with a glass of water.

    It had a miniature starflower floating inside it, and tasted faintly of limon. One of the helper-droids I had seen through my daze must have brought it in. I had to drink nearly all of it, in large shaking gulps, before my mouth was wet again.

    My voice was burnt-dry when I set the glass down on the nightstand table, and: “I’m sorry, Captain Typho. I failed the Senator—and I failed you.”

    “There’s no need to apologize.” He leaned towards me in his chair. “Cordé, you played the part we gave you. You did your duty. No one, and I mean no one, should be able to fault you for that. None of us could have known how things would go.”

    He must have pressed a button, because a helper-droid came floating with another glass of water. It set it down with a chrono tick on the bedside table. Its face glowed at me, and I realized that I could not remember seeing one of the medics, an actual human, that close. Of course, I hadn’t. They knew (or believed a whispered rumor that may as well have been the truth) who I was.

    After the droid left, I tried to jerk my mouth up into a smile. “I wish I could believe you.”

    “My uncle told me something once,” he said. “I had just accepted my post on the Senator’s staff, and I had asked him for his advice. He said that in the end, our job, the job all guards take on, is to keep them alive—for as long as we can. Senator Amidala made some dangerous choices. But we did our part. We kept her alive as long as we could.”

    I thought back on what he had said, his words echoing inside my mind, once again as we met with the passenger ship on the landing pad near the embassy. Dormé stood off by herself, hidden away inside her bruised-purple cloak. The others, including Typho, stayed away from her. Her face had a moonlight gleam in the shadows of the hood, and she stared directly ahead, towards the workers preparing the ship for take-off, but I don’t know what she saw. I only knew that I didn’t want to.

    I hadn’t been able—at the very end, in that one flashed second of time I might have had—to save Milady. And it wasn’t (of course, it wasn't) my responsibility, my duty, to save Dormé. If she had written that letter (and soon, it would only be a scar in my memory, and my history, that I had learned not to understand) she had meant it for herself. She wouldn’t want any help, or any attempted kindnesses, from me.

    The workers smacked the cargo doors into place, and the forewoman nodded over to Typho. Several of the guards—young men I knew by sight, but had never spoken with—boarded first, and then Dormé walked towards the ship. Her cloak floated up in a whisper-thin breeze, and I saw her skirts, the color of the night sky when it falls down over the mountains behind my mother’s house. It remains dark even after the first white lights of the stars blink on.

    Then she was stepping past Typho, and his hovering hand, up onto the boarding steps. I waited until she was inside the ship, through a long sky-swollen moment, before I went ahead to meet it. The landing platform shivered underneath my feet, but it was only the wind. It would move on.

    *
    Golden lads and girls all must,
    As chimney-sweepers, come to dust;
    All lovers young, all lovers must
    Consign to thee, and come to dust.

    --William Shakespeare, Cymbeline Act IV, Scene II
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  13. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Pandora Wonderful descriptions of the scene and of the intense emotions. Fascinating AU here where A/P do not form a romantic relationship [face_thinking] I like seeing more of your Handmaidens. :cool: Woot, on the Cymbeline quotation. One of the perhaps lesser known Shakespeare plays, but also one of my favorites. :D
     
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  14. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Nyota's Heart:
    Yes, in this universe A and P never get the opportunity to meet again--which means that Luke and Leia never come to exist. But I would imagine that, on the galactic scale, some things will remain the same--Palpatine will still rise to power, and eventually, like tyrants tend to do, he will fall. I'm not certain about how this will change Anakin's fate, but I do think he will find someone else to replace Padmé (or rather, his idealized version of her) to fill his considerable emotional needs. But Cordé lives on a much smaller, personal scale. She just gets to live this time. What she (and this would apply to Dormé as well) does with her life is up to her.

    Woot, on the Cymbeline quotation. One of the perhaps lesser known Shakespeare plays, but also one of my favorites.

    It's definitely one of his lesser known plays, but I did have the opportunity to see it performed some years ago. The company even kept the Ancient Britain setting instead of doing an update. (For those of you not familiar with the play, the lines I quoted were, if I remember correctly, recited by two Long Lost Princes over the body of their sister, who was dressed as a boy, and not actually dead. It's a romance, after all, not a tragedy.)

    Wonderful descriptions of the scene and of the intense emotions. I like seeing more of your Handmaidens.

    Thanks!
     
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  15. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Title: Versé, transformed into a flower
    Summary: "Handmaidens never leave. They only vanish inside their cloaks."

    Notes: This is a revised version of a story I originally posted in 2005.


    --


    Versé, transformed into a flower


    Now that she is dead, the woman is beautiful. She lies inside the nightdark wooden boat of her coffin, her hands folded together on her chest. They are mostly lost inside the dropping snow-lace cuffs of the dress she was put inside, but I can make out the kitten-clawed tips of her fingernails. They have been polished (by her mother, or her grandmother) to a palesoft candlelit glow—and I remember that, contrary to the old country stories, they did not continue to grow in the minutes after she died. She doesn’t look as though she is only sleeping. She doesn’t even look like a person. Her skin is made of glass-smooth doll porcelain.

    Her eyes are shut underneath two stained-pink white joibels, a flower that appears instantly in the fields, and the gardens, every spring. It’s so common that it isn’t even named for some long ago and long dead queen. I think one of the others picked these from the tangled mess at the back of the cemetery.

    The woman’s hair is spilled loose over her shoulders, and brushed out into artfully wind-tugged curls. Her dress—the one that her grandmother would have chosen—is a watersilk thing the color of a sweetheart rose, or of old menstrual blood. Her feet are hidden underneath the closed theatre curtains of the skirts, but she will be barefoot.

    She has to be—I have heard her family is conservative, and that would mean that they follow the old myths. I imagine that the nails are polished clean, but that her heels are black with smoke-bruises and dirt.

    I don’t know how long I have been standing here, hovering alongside her coffin-boat, watching over her. We are all watching her, hidden in our dark winter cloaks. None of us has once dared to break the glasssmooth air by speaking—I can only hear the faint breeze of the woman breathing next to me, and a slight rustling sound.

    I imagine that it comes from the twitch of the dead woman’s skirts, but I know that it isn’t so, and that it is likely, certainly, the leaves shaking on the trees in the shadow-blurred darkness behind us. I might like to attempt to write poetry, but I’ve never confused a pretty daydreamed image with reality.

    When she was alive, the woman’s name was Versé. That is one of the very few things I know about her. I never met her. But then, most of the other women here wouldn’t have known her either. We didn’t come here for that reason.

    The woman to my left has allowed her hood to droop down. She has snarled curly hair heaped up into a lace snood, and her mouth is painted a dirt-dark black. She isn’t familiar, and I wonder if she is one of the Queen’s handmaidens. She turns towards the shadow of another woman, and her voice is a snake-hissed whisper. The other woman nods in response, and:

    When they drift away, back towards the well-tended main path, I know they have to be with the Queen. She may not even know they have left—they couldn’t be here if they were on duty—but if she has noticed, she will know not to ask them where they were.

    Then: She looks well, one of us says, in a snowsoft voice I have never heard before, and I feel relieved. I knew most of these women once—in another life, in the identity I left behind like an old dress—but I don’t remember how to talk with them.

    She died in the explosion that was meant to kill Senator Amidala (along with the other handmaiden, the decoy, the one whose name died along with her) but the embalmer on Coruscant made a good job of covering it up, before her body was crated up for the hyperspace journey, and before her parents stood over the opened box. I can only just make out the rotted-brown rose petal bruise smashed on her forehead.

    “You could say that. But I think she looks dead,” Dané says next to me. She has lowered her hood, and her redrose hair is covered with shadows.

    “There isn’t much else to say,” another woman (Yané, perhaps. Or it could only be my imagination that she left her husband in Keren for this) says.

    Of course, there isn’t anything else to say. When you become a handmaiden (even the sort of handmaiden Dané and I were, waiting in training for the girl-queen I only knew from her portrait and her frozen little voice) you only listen. When you do speak—and according to Saché and Miré, I was good with this—your voice is only an echo.

    Several more women fade away into the darkness. It only takes a blinked second, and they’re gone. When I shake my head, my thoughts flutter about like moon-moths. I’m reminded of the line in a poem I wrote, during my gap year after I left service: Handmaidens never leave. They only vanish inside their cloaks.

    Dané nods at me before she follows after them, walking off in the direction of the main public gate. There are only a few of the others left, and I haven’t any reason to wait around here until I am alone with what is left of Versé.

    The air has turned into a breeze as I walk towards the gates, and it tastes like ice water. The joibels might freeze to dried-stiff paper tonight. When I look up into the sky, I see one of the moons--burning with theatre stage lights, from the sun and the cities on its surface--has floated to the top of the sky. I walk through its light back out to the street.


    *
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  16. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2001
    Lovely, ethereal glimpse into how the handmaidens might pay tribute to their dead; I really liked the Naboo traditions (bare feet, the water burial like we see in ROTS, the fingernails.) Liked the little details of how the gathered handmaidens do and don't express their grief -- not to mention the probably ever-present thought that it could be any of them next in their dangerous duties.
     
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  17. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Beautifully done. Your and maiden stories are always so lyrical.
    I like the juxtaposition of the beauty of the corpse and the ugliness of the violence that killed her.
     
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  18. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    SO GOTH.

    VERY BAUHAUS. BELA LUGOSI VERSE' IS DEAD.

    *ahem*

    While I am guilty of not having replied to the thread I asked you to re-open and many other things of yours yet and the amount of well-written mini-stories in this very thread will make me feel guilty for replying only to the last one at this point, I had to. And it had to be preceeded by a stupid comment related to your taste in music and the black and red username colour thing from elsewhere.

    There are a couple of people on here who choose what I believe is a very non-traditional approach to the idea of women writing about other women. It's easy to write about her, when she is the one falling in love, getting pregnant, giving birth, bickering with other girls or even seeking some sort of a minor revenge; but all those things are sort of "meh, seen it", to the point where I sometimes consider them to be a waste of a writer's potential - in the cases where authors just cannot see a female through anything other than typical plots.

    This is why things like this make me giddy! Not to mention that the idea of reflection on the death of somebody one didn't know very well is omnipresent in older children's literature, then young adult and, eventually adult literature; so this is a topic that needs to be explored more.

    Then, there is your worldbuilding for Naboo, the history, the little details that seem to swim to the surface in every single of the Naboo vignettes of yours I read. Elaborating on little details from the prequel trilogy. Giving each handmaiden, all of whom are often ignored in favour of the most famous one, her voice. The contrast of flower petals and the warm feelings for the spirit of this woman compared to her cold body, in cold water, on a cold winter's day.

    Just brilliant. Thank you for having shared this with us.
     
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  19. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Kahara: Liked the little details of how the gathered handmaidens do and don't express their grief -- not to mention the probably ever-present thought that it could be any of them next in their dangerous duties.

    In the original version of this story (now lost to time and truncation), I had one of the characters actually come right out and say that--that it could have been any one of them in Versé's place. It looks like that line wasn't ever necessary; it's implied throughout the entire story.

    Thanks for reading!

    divapilot: I like the juxtaposition of the beauty of the corpse and the ugliness of the violence that killed her.

    A corpse may be made to look beautiful--but it is still a corpse. (Well, that was a cheerful, but realistic, thought.)

    Beautifully done. Your and maiden stories are always so lyrical.

    Thanks!

    Ewok Poet: There are a couple of people on here who choose what I believe is a very non-traditional approach to the idea of women writing about other women. It's easy to write about her, when she is the one falling in love, getting pregnant, giving birth, bickering with other girls or even seeking some sort of a minor revenge; but all those things are sort of "meh, seen it", to the point where I sometimes consider them to be a waste of a writer's potential - in the cases where authors just cannot see a female through anything other than typical plots.

    This is why things like this make me giddy!

    Well, I should admit that I have nothing against writing about those expected topics in The Heroine's Journey*--I think I include at least half of them in my one and only WIP on the boards, and I hope (obviously) I've done so in ways that are at least interesting. But I do also go for unexpected plot options. It isn't as though the narrator and the other women in this story haven't fallen in some sort of love (she specifically says Yané is married, and she most likely isn't the only one), or had varied personal conflicts, or even had children (though I don't want to have children, or read about "baby stuff," I realize most people are not like me), and etc. outside this story--but I chose to write only the snapshot of these limited moments when they gather together.

    Not to mention that the idea of reflection on the death of somebody one didn't know very well is omnipresent in older children's literature, then young adult and, eventually adult literature; so this is a topic that needs to be explored more.

    I haven't seen much of it in literature myself, so that may be part of why I've explored it. In this case, the other handmaidens at the funeral might not have known Versé as a person--but they had their shared duty, and ideals, connecting them to her, so in most ways, that didn't matter.

    Then, there is your worldbuilding for Naboo, the history, the little details that seem to swim to the surface in every single of the Naboo vignettes of yours I read. Elaborating on little details from the prequel trilogy. Giving each handmaiden, all of whom are often ignored in favour of the most famous one, her voice. The contrast of flower petals and the warm feelings for the spirit of this woman compared to her cold body, in cold water, on a cold winter's day.

    When I first started writing fanfiction, I had a rather grandiose plan of writing at least one story for all of Padmé Amidala's handmaidens; yes, all nine of the ones shown in the movies or stills from scenes deleted even from the Blu-Ray release. I'm almost certain now that I will never finish that project (for various reasons), but I have given some of the women frequently known only as Padmé's identical reflections their own voices. And part of that has been building the world they come from--including showing the aftermath of events, and the cold days, that were not in the movies.

    Just brilliant. Thank you for having shared this with us.

    You're welcome.




    *Though instead of "falling in love," I have characters enter into dysfunctional things that produce "love scenes" that make people want to stab themselves in the face.

    *The bats have officially left the belltower.
     
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  20. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    I finally got around to reading this thread last night and now I'm doomed, because I need to go and read the rest of your stuff. These stories are all extraordinarily well-written and your focus on lesser-known characters or types of characters makes them all the more intriguing. I seem to remember that you've had a long-time interest in Naboo (you used to run an index about it, IIRC) but reading your handmaiden stories made me understand why. In this thread alone you built with an impressionistic a very rich, very believable but also very sad world for the handmaidens -- the strict rules, the closed environment, the absolute dedication that is required of them nicely mirror the less appealing aspects of a Jedi's life, which is fitting, seeing as they serve a not-entirely-different purpose. Thank you so much for sharing this!
     
  21. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Chyntuck: Yes, I did indeed run the Theed Palace Index in the resource for a while. It was fitting for my one (and likely only) attempt at that sort of thing, since the Naboo handmaidens are the reason I started writing fanfiction to begin with after I saw Attack of the Clones three years late in 2005. And since there is virtually nothing exploring the handmaidens further in the EU/Legends (which isn't that surprising--considering that they are usually regarded as reflections/clones of Padmé, a character who isn't even that popular herself, they are not ever going to be fan favorites), I have had to do most of the work of figuring out their roles, and their world, from the fragments in the movies. And I suppose the results can come across as quite sad. It is a life not unlike that of the Jedi, and it is definitely not one I would ever choose for myself.

    But it is (or at least, there is nothing in the movies that contradicts this) what the handmaidens have chosen, and I don't think they would see it as a sad, restricted life. They would serve a monarch, or senator, who leads an equally restricted life, and has to do it while being held up as a near goddess-figure on a pedestal. They would understand each other. And after four years, or eight years, their Queen would leave politics for another life, and they would do the same--at least, presumably. That's something else that has been left to fanfiction to explore.

    Anyway, thanks for reading, and commenting!
     
  22. pronker

    pronker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 28, 2007
    I am tickled to find this [Verse story] here! I'd enjoyed and recc'd it some years back. Thanks for reposting.
     
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  23. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Your stories are sad, but wonderful. They have the elegance of carnival masks from Venice. And remind me of Gothic poems. @};-

    And you manage to give all the women who served their queen Amidala interesting back stories. AU or not doesn´t matter.
     
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  24. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    I just now read "Come to Dust" and "Versé, transformed into a flower." My gosh, I can't believe I missed commenting on these the first time around—both are gorgeous in true Pandora fashion. You have such a distinctive writerly voice that stands out for its smoothness and elegance and, of course, its Gothic touch. I always love reading your descriptions, and these stories don't disappoint in that department, from Padmé's corpse as "porcelain-stone doll" to Cordé's voice as a "winter knife wind" to the "glasssmooth" air to the thoughts fluttering like moths. So evocative and so ethereal at the same time!

    Your glimpses into the world of the handmaidens are always such a treat to read because you give them so much nuance and complexity. They're more than just pretty little clones of their Lady, and yet very much aware that they have to be just that, too. If that makes sense. Like Ewok Poet points out, it's refreshing to see a depiction of female relationships where the main topic of conversation isn't just love interests or birthing or makeup. (Not that those things can't be done well, of course!)

    I echo what she said about your Naboo worldbuilding too—so cool the way you integrated the Totentanz motif (and the "Death and the maiden" motif) into Naboo lore. I can just picture Padmé, Versé, and the two other soldiers dancing off into the darkness in something along the lines of this painting. :cool:

    Very intriguing AU at work in "Come to Dust," and one that's very believable in its way: it really could have been any of them in that explosion at the beginning of AOTC, after all. As well as being just plain providential (because it looked like Cordé was considering [hl=black]jumping[/hl]—right?) it was fitting, somehow, that both Cordé and Anakin both made their visit to that fateful landing pad at the same time to commemorate the Lady they knew in very different capacities. I can completely imagine Anakin being deeply remorseful about like that (not to mention that you got his voice just about perfect—I could just hear Hayden Christensen here), and I love that that was what drew Cordé back. Given what you go on to say about how the handmaidens don't really know each other that well despite working in such close quarters with each other and with Milady (because heck, aren't so many RL coworker relationships like that too?), I kind of like to imagine that what saved Cordé here was just meeting someone else who knew Padmé differently (if still platonically), and perhaps better, than she or most of the other handmaidens did. That heightens the impact of the scene with Dormé, who knew Padmé in yet a different way (definitely not platonic, if I'm understanding aright).

    It's hard to know what to say about "Versé, transformed into a flower" besides that it's just plain gorgeous and haunting, from the description of the beautifully prepared, doll-like corpse floating in its water to the cold, moonlit evening to the whispers and rustling of the long-cloaked women. The mini-conversation they have about whether Versé looks well or dead is believable not only as an example of the understandably halting, awkward way people so often talk at funerals even in RL; it also perfectly sums up the questions you raise (not only in this story but also in "Come to Dust" and in your responses) about how much the handmaidens really know about each other and what they are and aren't supposed to say to each other. Yes, if you're in some ways meant just to be a walking, sometimes-talking cloak, this is how such a cloak would talk! If that made any kind of sense, which I hope it did. :)

    Beautiful work—always a treat to read your stories. @};-
     
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  25. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    pronker: I am tickled to find this [Verse story] here! I'd enjoyed and recc'd it some years back. Thanks for reposting.

    You're welcome. This isn't quite the same story as the one you read before (though I'm sure that lost version shall be magically restored to its place in the original 2005 thread when they totally fix all the truncated posts--ha ha ha, no, they totally won't) but I do like to think it is an improved one.

    --

    AzureAngel2: Your stories are sad, but wonderful. They have the elegance of carnival masks from Venice. And remind me of Gothic poems. @};-

    Thanks!

    And you manage to give all the women who served their queen Amidala interesting back stories. AU or not doesn´t matter.

    Well, to be honest, if they had been given any development (beyond the perhaps one sentence on Eirtaé's family background in the visual dictionary for The Phantom Menace) in the legendary EU, I most likely would never have felt the need to write them. But that didn't happen, they only developed Teckla, the servant girl in Attack of the Clones, just to predictably kill her off, and so here we are.

    --

    Findswoman: I just now read "Come to Dust" and "Versé, transformed into a flower." My gosh, I can't believe I missed commenting on these the first time around—both are gorgeous in true Pandora fashion. You have such a distinctive writerly voice that stands out for its smoothness and elegance and, of course, its Gothic touch. I always love reading your descriptions, and these stories don't disappoint in that department, from Padmé's corpse as "porcelain-stone doll" to Cordé's voice as a "winter knife wind" to the "glasssmooth" air to the thoughts fluttering like moths. So evocative and so ethereal at the same time!

    Thanks! Yes, I suppose I have a distinctive voice--and once, I was also known for it under my legal name, so I can only hope that no one from that previous, and extremely literary, life will ever stumble over these works. (Short story made even briefer: I have an MFA, and yes, once upon a time I was a poet.) I don't want to have to explain to them what "fan fiction" is.

    Your glimpses into the world of the handmaidens are always such a treat to read because you give them so much nuance and complexity. They're more than just pretty little clones of their Lady, and yet very much aware that they have to be just that, too. If that makes sense.

    One thing I have always kept in mind about minor characters is they don't realize that is what they are--in their minds, they're the protagonists in their own stories. But what I find interesting, and rather sad, about the Naboo handmaidens is that this doesn't apply to them. They know, and they are at peace with, the fact that they are only minor players in a far more important story. (Obviously, their lady--Amidala--is the only protagonist to them, so their story is not the actual one, the prequel trilogy, in which they appear.)

    So yes, that makes sense: they have to be the pretty little clones, the invisible ladies-in-waiting, to most of the people around them, who see them without actually seeing them.

    Like @Ewok Poet points out, it's refreshing to see a depiction of female relationships where the main topic of conversation isn't just love interests or birthing or makeup. (Not that those things can't be done well, of course!)

    Well, since one of the handmaidens' duel roles--the Naboo obviously believe in multi-tasking--is that of the traditional lady-in-waiting, I would not be surprised if they discuss makeup sometimes. But more seriously: even though it wasn't shown in the canon (the handmaidens never interact with each other in the movies--not even once) I have to assume they had various, and complicated, interpersonal relationships amongst themselves.

    I echo what she said about your Naboo worldbuilding too—so cool the way you integrated the Totentanz motif (and the "Death and the maiden" motif) into Naboo lore. I can just picture Padmé, Versé, and the two other soldiers dancing off into the darkness in something along the lines of this painting. :cool:

    Several weeks after I wrote that story, I was listening to Bruce Cockburn and a line in his song "How I Spent My Fall Vacation" caught my attention--about that guy in The Seventh Seal watching the newly dead dance across the hilltop. I hadn't seen that movie in years, so I didn't consciously repeat that image in there. But I don't think it was a complete coincidence either.

    Very intriguing AU at work in "Come to Dust," and one that's very believable in its way: it really could have been any of them in that explosion at the beginning of AOTC, after all. As well as being just plain providential (because it looked like Cordé was considering jumping—right?) it was fitting, somehow, that both Cordé and Anakin both made their visit to that fateful landing pad at the same time to commemorate the Lady they knew in very different capacities. I can completely imagine Anakin being deeply remorseful about like that (not to mention that you got his voice just about perfect—I could just hear Hayden Christensen here), and I love that that was what drew Cordé back.

    Yes, Cordé was considering jumping from that fateful landing pad--and though I don't think she would ever know just how serious she had been about it, it was still a good thing Anakin was there at that moment. He was rational enough, even as he was dealing with his own regrets, to tell her what she needed to hear. He reminded her of who her lady-- behind her political image--had been as a person.

    Given what you go on to say about how the handmaidens don't really know each other that well despite working in such close quarters with each other and with Milady (because heck, aren't so many RL coworker relationships like that too?), I kind of like to imagine that what saved Cordé here was just meeting someone else who knew Padmé differently (if still platonically), and perhaps better, than she or most of the other handmaidens did.

    It's true that in this universe Anakin would mostly know Padmé when she was as close as she ever came to being "an ordinary girl"--he had a crush on her, not the Queen of Naboo--whilst the handmaidens only ever knew her as a galactic senator. So he did have that advantage. And there's a reason why Cordé had such a distant relationship with Dormé--Dormé was so devoted to her "Milady" that she didn't spare much thought, or time, for the women she worked with. Cordé had a much different, and considerably closer, relationship with Versé; yes, she hardly mentions her, but I think that shows how painful her death is for her. She can't touch that wound yet.

    That heightens the impact of the scene with Dormé, who knew Padmé in yet a different way (definitely not platonic, if I'm understanding aright).

    Yes, Dormé's feelings for Padmé were not at all platonic--as she says, she loved her lady more than she has ever loved anyone else--and they were completely one-sided. She knew, oh perfectly well, that Padmé did not return her feelings.

    It's hard to know what to say about "Versé, transformed into a flower" besides that it's just plain gorgeous and haunting, from the description of the beautifully prepared, doll-like corpse floating in its water to the cold, moonlit evening to the whispers and rustling of the long-cloaked women. The mini-conversation they have about whether Versé looks well or dead is believable not only as an example of the understandably halting, awkward way people so often talk at funerals even in RL; it also perfectly sums up the questions you raise (not only in this story but also in "Come to Dust" and in your responses) about how much the handmaidens really know about each other and what they are and aren't supposed to say to each other.

    Most of the handmaidens at the funeral didn't serve together, and many of them, including the narrator, are no longer in that profession. That would mostly explain why they don't know each other, and why none of them knew Versé--but they are there out of respect for the larger purpose they had shared with her, and with each other, so that doesn't much matter. This is the one part of their lives they can never share with the women they serve. (I also considered that the Royal Guards would have similar rituals for their fallen members, and though I doubt I'll ever write about it, you can consider that fanon.)

    Yes, if you're in some ways meant just to be a walking, sometimes-talking cloak, this is how such a cloak would talk! If that made any kind of sense, which I hope it did. :)

    That actually made quite a bit of sense--it sums up, and rather sadly at that, who the handmaidens are in the movies-- when they're not playing decoy so Padmé can take off from her duties and get together with Anakin*. Walking, and occasionally talking, cloaks. (With hoods that are terribly impractical for a bodyguard, but that seems to be a galaxy wide problem.)

    Beautiful work—always a treat to read your stories. @};-

    Thank you--and thank you for your detailed comments!


    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    *And that was another ooooh snap!
     
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