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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: "Getting it on"
    Characters: Original Jawas

    Notes: And now--for something completely different. I originally wrote this for a writing exercise on the old OC Writers Anonymous thread in 2006, for which it won an imaginary prize. This is the original, unedited text and "footnotes," but the title (with thanks and apologies to Marvin Gaye) is new.

    *

    "Getting it on"


    It had to be the way he wore his robes. Oh, they were as dusty and ragged hemmed as all the others', but somehow, they looked different on him. His eyes gleamed with an electric, masculine glow as he helped Wikka load the trash can like droid onto the ramp. His voice was commanding.

    "No!" he barked. "Like this!"

    Wikka apologized, though, since he was a Jawa, he didn't sound very sorry. He was a young male who tended to whine. Aura didn't care. She was watching him: Sora.

    She couldn't take her glowing eyes off him, actually.

    Suddenly, one of the Elders came jibbering up behind her and jabbed her bum with a stick. "Hurry up! Hurry up, lazy!"

    "All right, Old Woman!" Aura growled and snapped her teeth, but she went off to help two other younger females load some stuff up onto the transport. None of it was particularly in good condition, but that didn't mean they wouldn't find some moisture farmer, or his no-good, hungover and whining son, to buy them.

    "Hurry!" said Sora, in a commanding jitter.

    They hurried. The other females were watching him, and Aura hated them, but they worked at moving stuff as quickly as possible, without any complaint. Inside the transport, it was dark, and the droids shuffled their feet. The usual junk.

    Aura and the other females set down their load. A red astromech whirred at them, but they ignored it.

    Sora was there.

    He moved in, looking around at the females, who twittered. Aura paused to glare at Mun, who was about to enter her maturity. She was young and fresh, unlike Aura, who had been mature for two seasons, and had nothing to show for it. Mun rested for a minute, since there were no female elders to jump on her and beat her for it. Outside, someone shrieked. Possibly just to be annoying, Aura thought.

    "Hey!" said Sora.

    "Hey!" said Aura.

    "Hey!" That was the other female.

    They all stared at him, their eyes glowing, in the particular mating call way. Well, Sora was the most eligable male that season. He had already fathered two babies in the tribe. He was strong, and healthy, and had several scars from a fight, or rather a shrieking, punching fit, with an old male. He had even fathered a new daughter on one of the old females. His sperm was magic. He was ready to prove it again.

    But not now.

    With a seductive yap, he turned, and went back to Wikka, who actually did most of the running of the transport. Aura sighed. But she watched his sturdy back, and the dust on his robes, as he walked away.

    -----

    *All Jawa talk has been translated into English.

    *The author makes no pretense to any accuracy about Jawa mating habits.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  2. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Hah, love this! I've been curious about this piece ever since you first mentioned it to me, and it doesn't disappoint at all. It totally figures that Jawas would potentially select mates on scavenging abilities (and, conversely, that they would hope that their scavenging abilities might attract a mate—at least that's how it looks to me), given the importance of scavenging in their culture. (Could be some interesting fanon, perhaps, "accurate" or no...) And, of course, the dialogue is absolutely sparkling. Utinni! :D

    It occurred to me that this story is just about a perfect match for the song that I received in the Chart Hits Challenge (and still haven't done anything with): Carly Rae Jeppesen's "Call Me Maybe." Even the ending of this story, with the two males going off together, has a bit of a similarity to the end of that music video. I almost feel like I should give you that song and let you retroactively add this to that challenge, since you probably did better with that basic theme than I ever could!

    Fun stuff, and thanks so much for sharing. =D=
     
    AzureAngel2 and Ewok Poet like this.
  3. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Adorable. I love that "hey!" is their mating call. And the line about his sperm being magic - [face_blush][face_laugh] well, of course it would be. And that sexy dusty robe.

    Too funny! I guess even Jawas have the hots for each other.
     
    AzureAngel2, Ewok Poet and Findswoman like this.
  4. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Getting It On

    I believe that this is the second non-Human mating scene on this boar(d) in 2016? And definitely the funnier of the two. :p AHAHAHAHAHAHA! I don't even know where to start and what to single out.

    The first two things that made me laugh was how loading droids was sexy (and that sentence confused me, you forgot a hyphen between "can" and "like", I think!) and then the idea that they never sound serious. Cue: the key-key folks from Spaceballs.

    Utinni! Come to my place...I have a lot of...dusty...trash. :D

    Yes, it makes sense that hoarding is sexy, too.

    ...

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

    Also, this is a great opportunity to comment on a story I was leaving for some other time - the masterpiece that is this story. It often takes me a while to warm up to something you wrote. I won't lie, there are often too many descriptions of clothes and things that are probably causing me to lose my concentration and miss the actual point, but this is probably the difference between your kind of an escapism and mine.

    But here is where they completely match, at least when it comes to the way I see things. I absolutely and totally adore this story and it comforts me in a strange way, like some kind of a warm blanket. There are all these...all these handmaiden stories all over the internet where they function like actual independent beings all life long and, if they stay alive, they magically recover from the dependence that they had been groomed into. And that's something I cannot quite understand, as I just cannot see how they would not question their integrity at every single step they make. They're like unwilling celebrity fans, in a way. It's a special flavour of control that makes them deliberately submit to their fate. Or to think it's their fate. Anyway, I see them as unable to function on their own, without being in an inferior position to somebody else and this story depicts it flawlessly.

    Knowing about the femslash vibe to most of your handmaiden stories, once I'd read this one, I came to believe that it's a thing of submission, too. Perhaps...perhaps even expected? Men are a no, these young women are like Japanese idol singers and of course that they would a) resort to homosexuality; b) assume that desire implies submission. This is so more complex than what I thought about that particular aspect at first.

    And, to sum it up, sudden death by explosion is very welcome at the end here and no, I don't think that Sabé should have survived it. If nothing else, these pieces are loose, floating and allowed to go where they please.


    Dear Pelly:

    There's something that slightly, but just slightly reminds me of the tone Anton Chekhov used in this letter to his brother, Nikolai. I guess it's the tone and the age difference - Annachie and Anton are younger than Pelly and Nikolai, yet they advise them. In this case, it's far more drastic.

    And my heart cries for Pelly.

    I also wonder what happened here:

    Another great play on submission4lyf, I think. No matter how much Annachie cares about Pelly, he will always feel he's superior to him, [hl=black]not even knowing that this man is his father[/hl] and that it's not a coincidence that he displays all these traits himself.

    That said, REALLY happy that I commented on this *after* your entries on Kuat and telbuns themselves.


    Entropy

    Well, this is different. It's interesting how the whole structure with pods is supposed to represent harmony, yet the fact that many "peas" are missing from the "pods" and they are "toy dolls", complete with fancy gowns and heated debates, while underneath it all, we have...

    ...history repeating. And looks like only the narrator is aware of it. A great look at how cyclic, yet...hived politics are, everywhere.

    The history repeats itself in another, almost sinister way. Basically, it seems like Pooja Naberrie is acting - she's repeating Padmé's lines and kind of acting like

    If that's what it is, since all these stories share the basics of the same theme, then you've got to be one of the most skillful people around here when it comes to writing things that are about denial of one's true self and invention of an artificial self. Which is meta, sort of.

    ...

    I still need to read Come to Dust and Triptych more to give you some coherent comments, but yeah, why not comment on things one likes, whatever the comment may look like? ;)
     
    AzureAngel2, divapilot and Findswoman like this.
  5. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Ewok Poet's comments above inspired me to go back and re-read those earlier works, and I'm reminded of how gorgeous your writing is. Your use of invented words that carry new meaning ("waternoise" for example) are so poetic and lyrical.

    This passage, from Triptych, reminds me so much of Stanley Kunitz's poem The Portrait

    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.
     
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  6. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    He leaned in towards her and touched her arm with a light brush of his paw, and--his voice a sexy, dusty squeak, he said: "Utinni."

    More romance, Jawa-style.

    *

    Findswoman: Hah, love this! I've been curious about this piece ever since you first mentioned it to me, and it doesn't disappoint at all. It totally figures that Jawas would potentially select mates on scavenging abilities (and, conversely, that they would hope that their scavenging abilities might attract a mate—at least that's how it looks to me), given the importance of scavenging in their culture. (Could be some interesting fanon, perhaps, "accurate" or no...) And, of course, the dialogue is absolutely sparkling. Utinni! :D

    It's been over ten years since I wrote this, and I came up with it on a lark, so I can't say that I put a terrible lot of thought into world-building. But it seems that what I did worked--yes, they would emphasis the ability to scavenge when considering potential mates. (Well, that and if they can make the generic Jawa robes look good.) As for the "talk" (that's what they call their language, as far as I'm concerned, nothing "snooty"--it is almost a literal translation from the Jawaese), it just made sense that they have exclamation marks at the end of everything they say.

    It occurred to me that this story is just about a perfect match for the song that I received in the Chart Hits Challenge (and still haven't done anything with): Carly Rae Jeppesen's "Call Me Maybe." Even the ending of this story, with the two males going off together, has a bit of a similarity to the end of that music video. I almost feel like I should give you that song and let you retroactively add this to that challenge, since you probably did better with that basic theme than I ever could!

    Now I need a picture of a Jawa (representing Aura, of course) holding her hand up by her ear in the "call me" gesture--and I do not have the ability to draw it.

    Fun stuff, and thanks so much for sharing. =D=

    You're welcome, and thank you for reading!

    ---

    divapilot: Adorable. I love that "hey!" is their mating call. And the line about his sperm being magic - [face_blush][face_laugh] well, of course it would be. And that sexy dusty robe.

    He has the most magical sperm in the whole--transport. It has made many babies. And everyone might wear identical dusty robes, but his robe is the sexiest. And perhaps the dustiest.

    Too funny! I guess even Jawas have the hots for each other.

    Birds and bees do it--and Aura only wants to do it with Sora.

    Thanks for reading!

    ---

    Ewok Poet:
    Getting It On

    I believe that this is the second non-Human mating scene on this boar(d) in 2016? And definitely the funnier of the two. :p AHAHAHAHAHAHA! I don't even know where to start and what to single out.

    Well, technically, they're still in the courtship phase--oh, they will mate, but (and I quote the short sentence that has to be its own paragraph) "not yet." And I'm sure that it is funnier than any other non-human love/mating scenes out there; it is definitely fluffy and silly, but it was meant to be. Aura would probably wear a candy-pink robe if those existed.

    The first two things that made me laugh was how loading droids was sexy (and that sentence confused me, you forgot a hyphen between "can" and "like", I think!) and then the idea that they never sound serious. Cue: the key-key folks from Spaceballs.

    Yes, there should be a hyphen in there--that's one of the results of posting unedited. Usually, I would never re-post anything this old without revising it, but for some reason, I left this one alone. I've never seen Spaceballs, so I don't know the key-key folks--but it is hard to sound serious when you end every sentence on an exclamation point.

    Utinni! Come to my place...I have a lot of...dusty...trash. :D

    Yes, it makes sense that hoarding is sexy, too.

    "The Jawa male displays his strength and sexiness to potential mates by the size of his junk collection." (Not coming to a fanon post near this board.)

    *

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

    Also, this is a great opportunity to comment on a story I was leaving for some other time - the masterpiece that is this story. It often takes me a while to warm up to something you wrote. I won't lie, there are often too many descriptions of clothes and things that are probably causing me to lose my concentration and miss the actual point, but this is probably the difference between your kind of an escapism and mine.

    When I was in graduate school, my classmates said on more than a few occasions (while, I should make it clear, complimenting me) that they had to read something of mine several times to fully get it. Of course, that was in the days when I was known as a post-modern meanie who made the reader work just too hard, and I think my work is more accessible now. But I do know that my style is not for everyone.

    But here is where they completely match, at least when it comes to the way I see things. I absolutely and totally adore this story and it comforts me in a strange way, like some kind of a warm blanket. There are all these...all these handmaiden stories all over the internet where they function like actual independent beings all life long and, if they stay alive, they magically recover from the dependence that they had been groomed into. And that's something I cannot quite understand, as I just cannot see how they would not question their integrity at every single step they make. They're like unwilling celebrity fans, in a way. It's a special flavour of control that makes them deliberately submit to their fate. Or to think it's their fate. Anyway, I see them as unable to function on their own, without being in an inferior position to somebody else and this story depicts it flawlessly.

    I have been writing stories about the handmaidens, on and off, for over eleven years now, and I still don't feel like I have them figured out. There's a reason for that: as far as I can see, they are in the movies--regardless of the fact that they make sense in-universe as a ruler's attendants--solely for the use of the decoy plan; once that is no longer necessary for the plot, the handmaidens are no longer necessary either. They were never developed in the old EU, while characters with even less screen time and lines were. Basically, like the characters around them, you are not supposed to see them at all--and most people don't. My brother only just last year, for the very first time, noticed twelve-year-old Kiera Knightley as Sabé in the parade scene at the end of TPM.

    I have had, in general, a darker view of their roles and their lives than most of the other people who have managed, almost defiantly, to see them. They might be teenaged girls, like their queen, but I just cannot (though obviously, other writers can and have) see them having a light-hearted slumber party atmosphere--ever. But this is still the darkest version of their world that I have ever done, and I do think of it as an AU. It is definitely an AU to the rest of my handmaiden stories.

    Or perhaps not: it's like Bob Dylan sang in a song once, "you gotta serve somebody." And if the handmaidens can only function in minor serving roles, well, there is no shortage of those situations out there.

    Knowing about the femslash vibe to most of your handmaiden stories, once I'd read this one, I came to believe that it's a thing of submission, too. Perhaps...perhaps even expected? Men are a no, these young women are like Japanese idol singers and of course that they would a) resort to homosexuality; b) assume that desire implies submission. This is so more complex than what I thought about that particular aspect at first.

    Not all of my handmaiden stories have femslash vibes--but, that said, this one most certainly does. And I should point out that I posted this in 2013, when the board rule forbidding all same sex romance/attraction/anything between canon characters was not only in full effect, it didn't seem like that would ever change. So it was probably right on the line, but I got away with it.

    And, to sum it up, sudden death by explosion is very welcome at the end here and no, I don't think that Sabé should have survived it. If nothing else, these pieces are loose, floating and allowed to go where they please.

    No, Sabé's story ends the way it must. She is what her training has made her to be, and she doesn't even know how to want to be "free." Or what that would mean.

    *
    Dear Pelly:

    There's something that slightly, but just slightly reminds me of the tone Anton Chekhov used in this letter to his brother, Nikolai. I guess it's the tone and the age difference - Annachie and Anton are younger than Pelly and Nikolai, yet they advise them. In this case, it's far more drastic.

    And my heart cries for Pelly.

    I wrote this after I found myself wondering what happens to telbuns after they're older and "put out to pasture." (I'm pretty sure the thought never crossed any of the EU writers' minds.) Annachie, and his sister Liliana, are genuinely concerned about him, but they only know certain ways to express it. Hence Annachie writing practically with advice to the much older man he views, even with fondness, as a sort of old nanny.


    I also wonder what happened here:
    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 left the details intentionally vague--after all, Annachie would have no need to tell Pelly details he actually lived--but basically, he was in a bad emotional place, he had been drinking, and he broke his datapad.

    Another great play on submission4lyf, I think.

    I don't know why I'm drawn to examining these sorts of characters--I have an original novel in progress where the protagonist (who would be criticized, if I were to ever show it around, for the failure to sufficiently "protag") definitely fits the "submission4lyf" description. But it seems I am. Wait--is there another group of barely examined characters in Star Wars somewhere who fit this description that I can mess about with?

    No matter how much Annachie cares about Pelly, he will always feel he's superior to him, not even knowing that this man is his father and that it's not a coincidence that he displays all these traits himself.

    That is definitely what I was trying to get across. And actually, Annachie does know that Pelly is genetically related to him, but would never think of him as his "father." That is made quite clear in the canon lore on the telbuns.

    That said, REALLY happy that I commented on this *after* your entries on Kuat and telbuns themselves.

    Most of the people who read those posts have not read the stories, of which this is one, where I worked out that fanon (and to be quite honest, that was what I expected). So it's interesting to see how reading one influenced the other for you.

    *

    Entropy

    Well, this is different. It's interesting how the whole structure with pods is supposed to represent harmony, yet the fact that many "peas" are missing from the "pods" and they are "toy dolls", complete with fancy gowns and heated debates, while underneath it all, we have...

    ...history repeating. And looks like only the narrator is aware of it. A great look at how cyclic, yet...hived politics are, everywhere.

    It would seem that setting up their "new" (yes, the scare quotes felt necessary) Republic in the same place where the old one failed and became an Empire would not be a good idea; that new governments require new symbols. But instead they're taking their knowledge of history to go on and repeat it. I doubt that the narrator is the only one who can see it--but those others who do are probably keeping their dark, cynical thoughts to themselves.

    The history repeats itself in another, almost sinister way. Basically, it seems like Pooja Naberrie is acting - she's repeating Padmé's lines and kind of acting like

    All the world's (fine--galaxy's) a stage, and everyone is acting--but some people are acting more than others. Pooja Naberrie probably learned rather quickly that it was to her benefit to use her aunt's image. Though I should point that the narrator only knows her as a public figure, not as a person, so her view of her is not entirely accurate.

    If that's what it is, since all these stories share the basics of the same theme, then you've got to be one of the most skillful people around here when it comes to writing things that are about denial of one's true self and invention of an artificial self. Which is meta, sort of.

    Sometimes, you choose your themes--but in this case, perhaps it really did choose me. I suppose we'll have to see if the next story I write for this thread fits in with it.

    *

    I still need to read Come to Dust and Triptych more to give you some coherent comments, but yeah, why not comment on things one likes, whatever the comment may look like? ;)

    There is still world enough and time to comment on those two stories. Thanks for the comments on these ones, and thanks for reading!

    ---

    divapilot: Ewok Poet's comments above inspired me to go back and re-read those earlier works, and I'm reminded of how gorgeous your writing is. Your use of invented words that carry new meaning ("waternoise" for example) are so poetic and lyrical.

    This passage, from Triptych, reminds me so much of Stanley Kunitz's poem The Portrait

    Thank you! And I remembered, once I started reading it, that Kunitz poem from one of my classes in graduate school. I could still almost hear, in my mind, my professor's voice as she read it aloud.
     
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  7. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Title: Dutiful
    Characters: Mostly original

    Notes: This was originally posted under a (long neglected and pointless) sock in 2006, but since I have posted it elsewhere under this penname, I might as well openly claim it here. I have taken the truncated fragment left on the original thread and rewritten it back to the end--hence, and not surprisingly, it is somewhat different from the first version. But I can say that the basic story has remained the same.

    ----

    Because I wanted to, and because I can. (The original tagline from the 2006 post.)

    *

    Dutiful


    The first time I know I saw him, I was walking through the hallway near the Emperor’s office on one of the Senator’s errands. There was only a dried leaf, dead leaf whisper from the circulator fan moving in the velvetsoft, empty air—and the one aide I had passed had continued on away from me in a soft tiptoed scurry, with a mouse droid darting along after him. It does not do (as I was told during the blur of my first hours of service here) to disturb the Emperor. I was walking along past a tall coffin-thin picture window, and the sky looming behind it, when he came around a corner. He turned his head, and the dark visor on his helmet, towards me.

    Oh, I couldn’t doubt--then or afterwards--that he had seen me. But I wasn’t a threat he needed to manage, and I wasn’t of any other interest. His bright red cloak swished behind him in a sighed out whisper, and he was already walking on past me. Then he was gone.

    Then I exhaled a long whipped out breath. My heartbeat was a twitching, rat clawed frenzy, and I had to pause in front of the window view for a minute. But at the same moment, I realized my mouth had slid out into a smirking coy, amused smile. I can’t know what he saw when he looked at me, but I hoped that had been it.

    After that first nervous-shocked minute, I was interested. I can admit to it now. You see, it was more than unusual to see one of the Emperor’s personal crimson guards about—I had never heard, at least personally, of one single incidence. When I had seen them before, the few times I had stood guard over the Senator during the private meetings he insisted on, I had only just dared to look over in their direction while the Emperor spoke in his burnt-dark voice:

    The two guards stationed at the doors might have been statues, in their wounded-red, nightmare-red cloaks, the rest of the room reflected inside their blinded-black visors as they stared straight ahead. I should have recognized that look, but I didn’t.

    He may have been one of them, on any of those occasions, but I couldn’t know. No one knew, with objective certainty, one thing about the crimson guards. But there had to be something to know, even if it was only the words of their names—everything has some sort of name.

    And then: I shook my thoughts back into order, and continued on my way. The glass bubble of the lift was empty when it opened for me. While it floated up towards the floor where the Corellian delegation still had its offices, I stared ahead at my reflection floating inside the wall. That day, I was wearing a lilacpink gown with a recently fashionable narrow skirt, the one that Amaria had chosen for the Senator’s subcommittee luncheon meeting. My face looked like a pale lily-doll mask I was wearing. I don’t know that I shall ever be used to that.

    But I had enough time to think, and I could not help but wonder about that crimson guard, and the errand he must have been out on. Oh you won’t be able to believe (I thought, as I planned what I would tell Amaria and Lissa later on) who I saw today.

    And: when the guard had walked off, and his cloak had breathed out slightly behind him, it was just enough so I had seen his surprisingly dainty feet.

    ---

    Perhaps I should add this here: my mother had sent me a red velvet dress for my birthday, my twentieth one, the month before, though it had arrived through the embassy customs several days late. When I had taken it out of the box, and the snowwhispered layers of papersilk, and shaken the curtain of the skirt open, it had smelled like warm sunlight, and it had shivered with electric-glitter, like a tuskcat’s fur, from the recycled dry air in the apartment. My mother had had her personal seamstress make it; I recognized her fine hand, and (of course) she would have still remembered my measurements exactly.

    Lissa watched on from the doorway of my private room, and made the appropriate impressed ooohed sighs. “You must try that out,” she said—and of course, only a moment before her com-phone snarled awake, and Captain Mercado’s voice broke through.

    It was the sort of dress I had worn during my former life when I was playing around at parties and art studies on Theed, when I was well-known as her daughter, when I knew how to get people to see me. I had three different rosered, bloodred frocks then. Oh yes—no one who knew me would have ever thought I would fade into the shadow-role of a handmaiden, and I never could explain it through in a way that they understood.

    (That was the girl the seamstress, a sway-backed woman with little bird teeth, had in mind when she accepted my mother’s request with her usual chirped Oh yes, muhlady.)

    I haven’t worn this new dress in public even once. But later on, when the Senator had sent us downstairs to our apartment, I had tried it on inside my closed room, and examined the results in the door of the mirror propped up in the corner. I listened to its swishing whisper as I walked back and forth. After only several minutes of that, I climbed out of it again.

    ---

    That night, Amaria accompanied the Senator to the Empress Surelia theatre, while Lissa and I remained behind at the apartments. Captain Mercado had finally accepted a night off, but that still didn’t leave us with much to do. I felt my blaster nudge against the side of my hip as I made the rounds through the silent hallways, and then back to the Senator’s bedroom. My blaster. It is one of the sleek new Royal models, with mirrorsilver skin, though mine is smudged dull with fingerprints. It’s turned out that I am a good shot—though I was just as surprised as the others at that first target practice. I had never so much as seen a blaster before that. After all, we are still supposed to be pacifists.

    I can’t say that it is a skill that I have much pride in, though I do the appreciate the fact that I possess it. But I should admit that I have only ever shot at the hovering metal target droids—and never at a person, a living being made from meat and bone. And I don’t much need to repeat what the Senator said when she saw the mess I had made of the one droid.

    “So,” Lissa’s voice said from the wardrobe. The Senator’s dresses rustled together with a windshaken hiss as she sorted through them. “What do you think his purpose was?”

    “I couldn’t possibly say,” I said. I looked down at my (useless, drooping, bored) hands, and my pallid fingernails. I had them painted with a sleek, invisible, clear polish. The Senator has her nails done the same way, and Amaria insists that we follow in her example.

    “Oh, I’m aware that you wouldn’t know.” Lissa’s footsteps came back out into the room, and I didn’t have to look back to know her expression. “But I asked what you thought.”

    I shrugged: I could still feel the nervously-warm giggling flush as I first told them, and I didn’t want to think too long on what it meant. “Let’s just hope it was some mundane matter.”

    Lissa watched the dress she was holding in a fainted heap over her arms as she said: “Perhaps. But I don’t think the Emperor sends his personal guards around on minor errands. I know that I’ve never seen one of them around like that.”

    “It is possible that he was only off duty,” I said—and yes, I should admit that until that moment, when I spoke, I hadn’t so much as thought of that. That might indicate something about my intelligence, except I don’t think many other people would have either.

    Oh, I see.” Then Lissa give a crystal-pitched giggle behind the fan of her hand. It sounded, as always, like an artificial music box noise, but I don’t suppose I shall ever know what her natural (and no doubt, improper and lacking in subtlety) laugh is.

    And then: “That would mean they can’t be droids after all.”

    That is only one of the few rumors circulating amongst the junior political aides, the ones who can talk in loud, free, floating voices—though most of them are of the opinion that the guards are actually clones. I have never much believed either thing: actually, even though I knew what the Senator’s views would be, I still believed that one whispershushed remark I overheard at the Embassy, during my first month in service, that they are from Naboo. It makes the most sense. After all, we’re taught the importance of planetary loyalty from the first hour of childhood.

    But I only shrugged again, and: “I don’t suppose that we’ll ever know.”

    Then Lissa moved on to another topic, though I don’t remember most of what we discussed next. While she stayed behind, to work out the morning floral arrangement for the Senator’s office, I excused myself and retreated to our apartment for the next few hours. Really, there wasn’t much else left to say about the crimson guard. I didn’t think that I would ever see him again.

    ---

    When I did, it was several weeks later, and the Senator was in attendance at an afternoon salon at the famed hanging gardens at the Alderaanian embassy. It was another bland and tasteful warm day in the senate district, and the crowd was there for the sake of art—and that included, I had learned to notice, several Imperial hardliners someone had known to invite. The Senator was hunched down in an earnestly whispered conversation with Cassia Ormond, and Amaria watched on with a blank look only I knew as the resentful hovering glare it was. They didn’t notice when I walked away, when I became only another person wandering the paths.

    It was that easy: and I couldn’t quite believe it as I walked down the promenade path, my mouth arranged in a slightly arched smile. And I continued on past the main gathering, and through the flung out shadows of a herd of ornamental trees with fragile boned trunks and a thick mess of lace-fan leaves, a species we don’t have on Naboo.

    I don’t even know that they are Alderaanian in origin. There were several discreet display card-screens set out glowing with facts, but I still don’t know what their name is.

    The embassy office floors were empty, and the wide corridors were lit with sunwhite light from the opened windows. I have to admit to raising a bemused eyebrow at that. A wind swished inside, and I could hear the buzzed snarl of the chorus of socializing voices above.

    Then: an Imperial guard appeared with a smartly paced swish of his rubydark red cloak. He came walking forward, towards me, out from the shadows where the corridor turned. It was too late to avoid him—and I could only step aside and wait, my back clenched into a locked wooden door, for him to continue on past me.

    Of course, I didn’t think he could be the same guard I had seen before. Of course, I was more concerned with what his presence meant--that the Emperor had to be on the premises.

    His long sleek helmet was pointed at me, and I thought I could see my drowned reflection inside the blinded black visor. My mouth was still frozen, from years of memorized habit, in that polite gesture of a smile. Then he spoke:

    “You seem to have wandered away from your post, handmaiden.” His voice was blurred with a static hiss from his speakers, but it was still his natural deepwater voice. I blinked back at him. “But then, you’ve done that before.”

    “And how exactly would you know that,” I said. Later, when I looked back at the ghost-fading memory of that moment, I didn’t know how I had found the nerve to speak.

    “This isn’t the first time our paths have crossed,” he said. “And I should not have to tell you what your duties are. Your place is with Senator Naberrie.”

    Oh, of course, he would have to mention her: Senator Pooja Naberrie, the niece of no one other than Amidala. She would have been still discussing the same earnest trivialities with Lady Ormand up at the salon. It seems shallow to refer to her as beautiful—but it also seems necessary. It is the reason she is known, to a few leftover 2000 senators, as “a shining reminder of democracy.” I hardly need to write down the fact that I don’t look at all like her.

    Amaria is supposed to (since—though this is another secret--she is the assigned decoy), but even she has only a faded resemblance. The Senator is perfect: with perfect—and splendidly done up—hair, and perfect doll-sized hands, and perfect eyes, and perfect tits.

    “She doesn’t need me right now,” I said.

    “That is not what I meant,” he said. “There has been talk that Senator Naberrie is not as loyal in private as she is in public. She might very well have need of you. It is your duty to know that, and I should not have to remind you.”

    “And what does that matter to you,” I said. My voice took on a slightly whined squeak, but I felt a rush of emotion that I couldn’t think of how to name. It was resentment. No, it was anger—I was moved to a sullen, pathetic anger I knew I didn’t deserve to feel.

    He lowered his helmet in a nod, and his voice was less severe when he spoke again: “It doesn’t. And now, I must excuse myself.” He walked on, and I suppose it is to my credit that I did not turn my head to watch him leave.

    I was still standing there when Amaria arrived. Since there was no one else around to see her, she had turned her usual whispered walk into a hard stride, and she was looking for me. She didn’t ask me what I had been doing—which was just as well, as I don’t know what I would have thought of to tell her. I left with her, and we returned to our places behind the Senator.

    ---

    And yes: I would see him again after that. But I do think I have already implied that would happen. It was one of the last hours of the night when I sneaked out into the apartments courtyard, and the darkness-- lit only by the rushed blur of speeder lights out in the sky--gave it a soft dreamed feeling. I wore a cloak the color of the dark air. He was waiting for me in front of a moonpale marble statue, of a man locked into the armor of another, long dead, Empire, that I knew only from my vague memories of an hour of a college history class. The guard might have been a statue himself, in his well-carved armor and the crushing wave of his cape.

    Until: he reached up and took off his helmet, and he was finally revealed as human. He had short static-rumpled dark hair, and the dim light made his dark eyes look truly black. He lifted his crooked eyebrows at me. I only watched back.

    Elara, he said—and he knew my name, the name that has become a secret, but he learned it through the most ordinary of ways. I told him.

    When he told me his name (and he would, since I had given him my own secret) I recognized it. There were two boys at my primary school who were named Jeren. It means—the teacher us during the first class of the one term I took on the old Naboo language—peace.

    The air thrashed up into a breeze, the way it does sometimes during the night, and then I heard the blaster-fire burst of someone laughing in the nearby darkness. He turned in that direction only long enough to dismiss it. I pulled the sheet of my cloak in closer. Underneath it, I wore the sleek thin watersilk peach dress I had changed into in a hurry, in private.

    He moved first. He took a step towards me, into the space between us, and I didn’t know how to imagine the next minute: Elara. Tell me what your duty is.


    The name Jeren being the Naboo word for "peace" comes from fialleril's tumblr.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  8. brodiew

    brodiew Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 11, 2005
    Hello Pandora. I just read 'The face you see in mirror...'. It well written an captivating in its sadness and beauty. I like the progression of her timeline. The Leia connect was a great idea. Ive written about Sabe in the past. I was glad to some else doing it as well. Excellent character piece.
     
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  9. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    "Dutiful": This is a super-interesting concept, very compellingly and evocatively explored. I had never thought about it before, but there really are a lot of parallels between the Naboo handmaidens and the Emperor's crimson guards: sure, we think of the former as belonging to the "good" side and the latter to the "bad" side, but in the end both are nameless, faceless, uniformed servant-guards who are meant to fade away into the background, to not really be seen or acknowledged, who are always working together in a group to serve one particular exalted authority figure to whom they are expected to be almost mechanically loyal (whether Elara likes Sen. Naberrie or not is completely immaterial to whether or not she's loyal to her). It all makes perfect sense. And Elara's curiosity about Jeren and what he's up to makes sense too, because she better than anyone knows that those sort of people aren't supposed to be off doing their own thing, doggone it. (OK, I doubt "doggone it" is a turn of phrase Elara would use, but you get the idea.)

    As in all your stories, the evocative descriptions of the whisperstiff, faded-rose-petal atmosphere in which Elara lives, works, and moves are a real treat to read. Here, though, there's a bit of an added dimension, because we're invited to imagine that the same kind of atmosphere might hold true for Jeren and his fellow guards. And then, once Elara and Jeren actually talk to each other, the bombshell is dropped, and the metaphorical watersilk veil is torn: Elara learns that he's been keeping an eye on her just as she has on him, and that he's figured out something—whatever it might be—about Sen. Naberrie and her loyalty (or lack thereof). Which, in turn, makes their meeting at the end all the more chilling—because I think I know what they might be plotting to do, and what Elara's new "duty" is going to be. :eek: (It can't be an accident that their real names come out only at that point, too.)

    Mighty fine work—thanks for sharing. :)
     
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  10. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Here Elara uses an interesting phrase to introduce her story - the first time I know I saw him. She has probably seen him before, but up until then he had been unnoticed, invisible - exactly her job.

    What does she mean by "it?" by "that"? She sounds like a woman who is flirting with a man here. But how do you flirt with a man whose face you can't even see?


    To name something is to give it a distinct identity. Again to contrast with the handmaids, they have names but they are also decoys. Their names are irrelevant when they are grouped together as a collective, and the name they are called by may not be their own. Nobody knows anything about the crimson guards but she knows that each one is a unique man, with an identity of his own. Which leads to...
    Not what one thinks about when considering the Emperor's guard but it definitely shows that she has found a way to define this particular guard. The way this line is juxaposed against her comments about the awkward lilac outfit that she is wearing that day seems to suggest that he may be as uncomfortable in his uniform as she is in hers. Then the comment about his feet is bookended by the story of her own red dress - wildly inappropriate for a demure handmaid. The red of his crimson guard uniform makes him blend in; the red of her dress would have made her stand out.



    Without even saying it I know how Elara feels about the Senator. Useless, bored, clear, pallid. A shine over nothing in particular.


    It doesn't occur to those junior political aides in their loud voices that the idea that the men must be droids could be insulting. They are so taken by the sound of their own voices. And being Naboo, no one will tell them otherwise for fear of being disloyal.


    She slips from being a handmaiden to being a person. Someone who has the right to wander wherever she might go.


    The guard who is currently guarding nobody tells her she has left her post, and reminds her of her duty. He states what Elara should be doing, but he doesn't tell her to do it. It's as if he is simply noting that she has wandered.




    Does he mean that if the Senator says something seditious, it is Elara's duty to report it to the authority? Or does he mean that the Senator may trust her and have need of her, and it is Elara's duty to follow the Senator's commands - that from-birth loyalty so indicative of the Naboo? Is he breaching a loyalty by telling her that there has been talk of the Senator?

    Here he removes his helmet, in the darkness of the garden, and becomes a real man and not a guard anymore. She gives him his name - the name that identifies her as a unique woman, not one of the interchangeable handmaidens. And she learns his name, making him a unique man among the faceless guards.



    And here is where the story takes a totally unexpected turn. The flirtation that was hinted at in the beginning seems to be coming true, he is stepping toward her, his face revealed, and then - he gives her a command. Tell me what your duty is.


    Is it to go back to the handmaids, to her role in the silent, invisible background as he had admonished her to do before? Or is it a duty to herself, to wear that red dress, to color her nails whatever shade she chooses, to live a life with a man? Is he breaking his own duty to even present this to her? Duty is all either of them know. It would always come first. And with that, he seems to be breaking her will to be her own person.

    Gorgeous, as always.
     
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  11. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Should have seen this coming - two designated non-persons with their designated non-personalities, side by side! Two different kinds of beings created to serve, of different gender and background, wearing different garb, but essentially the same underneath it all are meeting here. And even the colours of their cloaks are, in a way, similar - just undefined shades of red, in a way, like the blood they would be expected to spill should the situation call for it.

    And they're both smaller when not wearing that garb, less powerful. And it seems that this young woman who is telling us the story is unable to identify with anything other than her duty, her artificial persona...until she meets this individual, which prompts her to put that red velvet dress on again. However, she is dutiful and she discards it quickly, because...who needs individuality, anyway?

    The scene with the Lissa and the protagonist is chilling - they mention artificial things a lot, they're almost bored without their Senator and then, it turns out that Lissa lacks individuality to the point where the protagonist knows that her laughter is learned. Then again, does this mean that she still has a tiny bit of individuality to hold onto herself, given that she is actually aware of this?

    The final moment, when Elara and Jeren's masks fall down and they turn out to both be Naboo - apparently - is very powerful. But what is more powerful is how Jeren got her to talk - by challenging the idea that she was not dutiful enough.

    Another excellent story!
     
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  12. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Regarding "(The face that sees you from the mirror should not be your own):"

    brodiew: Hello Pandora. I just read 'The face you see in mirror...'. It well written an captivating in its sadness and beauty. I like the progression of her timeline. The Leia connect was a great idea.

    That comes from the now Legendary EU, but even though people have widely accepted it for Sabé's life after she was a handmaiden, it has always been of dubious status. Apparently--and one had to really dig to track this down--Sabé's position as governess was mentioned in the guidebook for a game I never did remember the name of; but Sabé herself never appeared in the game, and thus she is never actually shown in the role. For that reason, I still have mixed opinions about the whole thing, but it worked for this story, so.

    (As an aside: I don't know if the actual canonical source said that she knew Leia to be Padmé's daughter, but most people seem to believe that to be the case. Obviously, I don't--and I don't believe for one minute that Bail and Breha Organa would have ever told her the truth if she did have suspicions. This is definitely a case where the fewer people who know, the better.)

    Ive written about Sabe in the past. I was glad to some else doing it as well. Excellent character piece.

    There are actually a fair amount of stories out there about Sabé--and no, I am not counting the ones where she is a devoted side character without a life. (Of course, in my story, she's a devoted main character without a life.) I would say, without actually checking the stats, that she is probably the most written about handmaiden. But there is always room for one more.

    Thank you for reading, and commenting!

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

    Regarding "Dutiful:"

    Findswoman: "Dutiful": This is a super-interesting concept, very compellingly and evocatively explored. I had never thought about it before, but there really are a lot of parallels between the Naboo handmaidens and the Emperor's crimson guards: sure, we think of the former as belonging to the "good" side and the latter to the "bad" side, but in the end both are nameless, faceless, uniformed servant-guards who are meant to fade away into the background, to not really be seen or acknowledged, who are always working together in a group to serve one particular exalted authority figure to whom they are expected to be almost mechanically loyal (whether Elara likes Sen. Naberrie or not is completely immaterial to whether or not she's loyal to her). It all makes perfect sense.

    That similarity first occurred to me after someone posed the question in the Royal Handmaiden Society thread of what Palpatine's handmaiden equivalents might be. People tend to downplay, or dismiss, any impact of Naboo culture on Palpatine, but it is his homeworld--and while he may not respect its traditions, he would use them as tools, or even weapons, if the need for such arose. I was wandering through my answer when I thought of the crimson guards, and the rest was obvious.

    (Though I will note that the crimson guards--though they are literally nameless and faceless and identical, while the handmaidens, at least to those who pay attention, are not--got their own comics in the legendary EU. I still remember the article in Star Wars Insider in the late 90s about that--with the ooooh, what's with those guys in red/they look so cool angle. The handmaidens got maybe three appearances, and never by name.)

    As for loyalty--it seems to transcend whether or not the authority figure in question is "good" or "bad" (after all, that is frequently in the eye of the beholder). There may be more on this matter in further replies.

    And Elara's curiosity about Jeren and what he's up to makes sense too, because she better than anyone knows that those sort of people aren't supposed to be off doing their own thing, doggone it. (OK, I doubt "doggone it" is a turn of phrase Elara would use, but you get the idea.)

    Yes, you never do get the sense from the movies that these matching characters would do something as mundane as take time off. (In my fanfiction, they do--if only from the practical standpoint that a bodyguard needs downtime in order to do their job properly, and I should hope that the Naboo characters are treated decently behind the scenes; Padmé would know the only loyalty that counts is loyalty that has been earned.) I'm fairly sure the phrase "doggone it" would not exist on Naboo, but of all my handmaidens, I actually think Elara would be the most likely one to use it. In italics too.

    As in all your stories, the evocative descriptions of the whisperstiff, faded-rose-petal atmosphere in which Elara lives, works, and moves are a real treat to read. Here, though, there's a bit of an added dimension, because we're invited to imagine that the same kind of atmosphere might hold true for Jeren and his fellow guards.

    There are indeed some similarities between the atmospheres they both live in--and while Elara probably figures it out mostly unconsciously (after all, she still thinks, as she has been taught since her earliest years, that there's a difference between total absolute loyalty to "good" and that to "bad"), it may be why she can actually see this guard as a person.

    And then, once Elara and Jeren actually talk to each other, the bombshell is dropped, and the metaphorical watersilk veil is torn: Elara learns that he's been keeping an eye on her just as she has on him, and that he's figured out something—whatever it might be—about Sen. Naberrie and her loyalty (or lack thereof).

    That's the first bombshell, when he actually speaks to her, and reveals that (like the handmaidens) he sees a good deal that he keeps to himself. The second bombshell, for me, is when he reveals his name--and reveals without any doubt that Elara's suspicions were correct, and he is as Naboo as she is.

    Which, in turn, makes their meeting at the end all the more chilling—because I think I know what they might be plotting to do, and what Elara's new "duty" is going to be. :eek: (It can't be an accident that their real names come out only at that point, too.)

    That's an interesting possibility, if not one I had considered--but the truth is, I never did decide what would happen the moment after this story ends, and there will almost certainly never be a sequel. So that is left entirely to the readers.

    Mighty fine work—thanks for sharing. :)

    You're welcome--and thank you for reading and commenting!

    *

    divapilot: Here Elara uses an interesting phrase to introduce her story - the first time I know I saw him. She has probably seen him before, but up until then he had been unnoticed, invisible - exactly her job.

    Apparently, only the invisible can see the invisible. And he is even more invisible than she is--the guards are all identical in identical cloaks--so she may never know with certainty when she has seen him before.

    What does she mean by "it?" by "that"? She sounds like a woman who is flirting with a man here. But how do you flirt with a man whose face you can't even see?

    She was hoping he had seen her smug, naughty smile. And I would suppose that she was flirting more with the idea of him than the man himself. He's the unknowable, and the forbidden: after all, he serves the man she knows the woman she serves (regardless of her public image) despises.

    To name something is to give it a distinct identity. Again to contrast with the handmaids, they have names but they are also decoys. Their names are irrelevant when they are grouped together as a collective, and the name they are called by may not be their own. Nobody knows anything about the crimson guards but she knows that each one is a unique man, with an identity of his own. Which leads to...

    and: It doesn't occur to those junior political aides in their loud voices that the idea that the men must be droids could be insulting. They are so taken by the sound of their own voices. And being Naboo, no one will tell them otherwise for fear of being disloyal.

    As she says, everyone has a name that is their own--even these men in their identical crimson cloaks, whose helmets make them literally faceless, which then leads to making them seem less than human, hence the droid rumors. And the clone ones--and I should point that there were people posting on the boards who seemed to truly, honestly believe that Padmé's handmaidens were clones. I'm fairly certain that Palpatine never used decoys in the canon, though it would be in character for him, and would fit with his Naboo political background. (Unless you believe Captain Panaka invented the decoy plan just for Queen Amidala, as I have seen hinted at in wookieepedia sources. I don't.)

    Without even saying it I know how Elara feels about the Senator. Useless, bored, clear, pallid. A shine over nothing in particular.

    Elara's view of the Senator is biased, and probably not entirely accurate, so keep that in mind. (Though that also leads into why she sees this woman--who she should be prepared to die for with one last apology--in such a light.)

    She slips from being a handmaiden to being a person. Someone who has the right to wander wherever she might go.

    And since the senatorial handmaidens are not hidden away in cloaks like the ones around the Queen (well, at least most of the time--and I note that the official pics only showed the AOTC and ROTS handmaidens in cloaked garments), she can just blend into the crowd. Elara has learned her loyalty well, but she used to be another person--and this person, who was the one her mother sent that red dress to, apparently near reveled with being seen. It's possible she became a handmaiden because she thought it would be a good way to see Coruscant. Well, if so, ha ha--she was in for a shock.

    The guard who is currently guarding nobody tells her she has left her post, and reminds her of her duty. He states what Elara should be doing, but he doesn't tell her to do it. It's as if he is simply noting that she has wandered.

    and: Does he mean that if the Senator says something seditious, it is Elara's duty to report it to the authority? Or does he mean that the Senator may trust her and have need of her, and it is Elara's duty to follow the Senator's commands - that from-birth loyalty so indicative of the Naboo? Is he breaching a loyalty by telling her that there has been talk of the Senator?

    When I wrote the first version of this scene (over ten years ago) I got to the point where the crimson guard had to speak, and I did not know what to write next. Then it occurred to me: when your life is based entirely around your loyalty and your duty, you don't know how to talk of anything else. So it is the only way he knows to communicate with her, which means he might be well be hinting at other things. As for the Senator: the guard might not hold her--or her possible, though unconfirmed, rebel leanings--in high esteem, but he also believes that regardless of her actions, Elara owes her absolute total loyalty. The same way he is loyal to his Emperor regardless of what he thinks of his actions. It seems to be the Naboo way.

    Here he removes his helmet, in the darkness of the garden, and becomes a real man and not a guard anymore. She gives him his name - the name that identifies her as a unique woman, not one of the interchangeable handmaidens. And she learns his name, making him a unique man among the faceless guards.

    This is indeed the moment when the masks (or the helmets) are dropped. Originally, I didn't reveal the guard's name in this scene, but when I was rewriting it from my less than perfect memory--and thanks to the permanent truncation issues for making that necessary--I realized that, because of what it would reveal, I needed to do so--and better yet, I found a name for him.

    And here is where the story takes a totally unexpected turn. The flirtation that was hinted at in the beginning seems to be coming true, he is stepping toward her, his face revealed, and then - he gives her a command. Tell me what your duty is.

    Is it to go back to the handmaids, to her role in the silent, invisible background as he had admonished her to do before? Or is it a duty to herself, to wear that red dress, to color her nails whatever shade she chooses, to live a life with a man? Is he breaking his own duty to even present this to her? Duty is all either of them know. It would always come first. And with that, he seems to be breaking her will to be her own person.

    As I mentioned to Findswoman above, I have never decided what would happen next, and I don't expect that I will write about these characters again. So it's up to you as readers to imagine the sequel.

    Gorgeous, as always.

    Thank you, and thanks for reading and commenting!

    (This has gotten quite long, so I'm going to end here. My response to Ewok Poet shall be along shortly in the next post.)
     
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  13. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Ewok Poet: Should have seen this coming - two designated non-persons with their designated non-personalities, side by side! Two different kinds of beings created to serve, of different gender and background, wearing different garb, but essentially the same underneath it all are meeting here. And even the colours of their cloaks are, in a way, similar - just undefined shades of red, in a way, like the blood they would be expected to spill should the situation call for it.

    They are indeed--when one gets past the surface trappings of Naboo/"good" and Empire/"bad"--very much alike. They weren't literally created to serve, but they did both come from a culture where that mindset was strongly encouraged in children from a very early age. I'm fairly sure that I'm the only one to see the similarity in their roles, or at least to write about it; of course, I could be wrong, and there shall soon be multiple stories under the "Handmaiden (Naboo)/Crimson Guard" tag I started on AO3.

    And they're both smaller when not wearing that garb, less powerful. And it seems that this young woman who is telling us the story is unable to identify with anything other than her duty, her artificial persona...until she meets this individual, which prompts her to put that red velvet dress on again. However, she is dutiful and she discards it quickly, because...who needs individuality, anyway?

    The red dress is a symbol of the person she was before she went into service--a person that her mother doesn't know has (mostly) ceased to be. She can only try the dress on briefly, and in private, before she returns to being the nameless Handmaiden Jeren saw in the corridor.

    The scene with the Lissa and the protagonist is chilling - they mention artificial things a lot, they're almost bored without their Senator and then, it turns out that Lissa lacks individuality to the point where the protagonist knows that her laughter is learned. Then again, does this mean that she still has a tiny bit of individuality to hold onto herself, given that she is actually aware of this?

    I do think Elara still has that shred of herself that she holds on to--and she knows that as she has changed, Lissa (not to mention the dutiful, and yes, love-struck decoy, Amaria) must have as well. Lissa probably had a laugh that was too loud, too raucous, for the delicate, and subtle, sensibilities of Naboo, and she had been encouraged to "tone it down" for years.

    The final moment, when Elara and Jeren's masks fall down and they turn out to both be Naboo - apparently - is very powerful. But what is more powerful is how Jeren got her to talk - by challenging the idea that she was not dutiful enough.

    In the original version of this story, Jeren wasn't from Naboo. It only occurred to me as I was doing this rewrite that it would make all the sense in the world, sorry, galaxy, if the crimson guards were from that world--Palpatine is from the culture, and regardless of what he thinks of good ol' Naboo loyalty, he would know how to take full advantage of it. (I hardly need to say that is most definitely not the case in any version of the EU.) I don't know what Jeren hoped to achieve, or if he was looking to achieve anything, when he first spoke to her--but he managed to bring out her long dormant defiant side.

    Another excellent story!

    Thanks, and thank you for reading and commenting!
     
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  14. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Title: Fantastica
    Rating: I for Innuendo
    Characters: Original

    Notes: This was originally written for the lgbtfest on livejournal in 2008. The ficfest title alone should explain why I didn't post it here at the time, but that reason had been part of history for a few years now, so I have brought this one forth into the internet again.


    -------


    Fantastica


    There was a party, or a little get-together, at Vittoria’s salon the day after I came back. The day, the afternoon, after I came back to our city for good, so I hadn’t expected her to know to send me a ring. I hadn’t left my apartment in the city yet. Actually, I had mostly been lounging around my sitting room with a book that I looked at, but didn’t read. I had cracked my window open, and outside, it was bright and full of shaking leaves. That isn’t the sort of thing I would have noticed, once upon the time, but living on Coruscant must have changed me more than I thought.

    But then I had received the note from Vittoria, or rather, from her messenger-girl. It was a small, handmade piece of paper with her wobbling, awkward handwriting. She probably hadn’t written anything by hand for months.

    Everyone seemed to be there. I could tell, even as I was going up the garden walk to her house. Their air-chariots, and a few sunlight yellow and purple speeders, were all parked together in a herd near the street.

    It simply wouldn’t be the same without you, Vittoria had written.

    I didn’t want to be nervous, but as I went up to the door, my mouth was too slippery with spit, and I swallowed several times. It didn’t even help that I had taken a pill, and just one, before I left. One of the little, sleep-white, relaxation pills. Oh, I was trying not to use them so often, but I wasn’t trying very hard.

    I hadn’t done much with my appearance. Since most of my clothing was still packed up, I had worn the first gown that had shown up in my wardrobe. It was nice enough, and it had to be fashionable, and the thing, or it wouldn’t be there. Then I had brushed my hair, while looking away from my ghost-blurred image in the mirror. I was still spacesick, from the two week trip from Coruscant. They would (more or less) understand. And: these people had been my friends, or were my friends. I didn’t have to impress them.

    But I still painted my nails copper, a sleek, android color, and wore a pair of black velvet shoes that I had found, and that I hadn’t forgotten.

    They had gathered in the sun-room that time. I could tell because the parlour door was closed, and the hallway was echoing with quiet. I paused, near the little set of stairs that led down to the garden doors. The glass had just been polished clean, and I could see the path leading away into the trees, and then down the path towards the clearing, where the gazebo was. It was large enough to use as a stage, and Vittoria liked to host recitals there during the late summer. And—

    (One time, I had been sitting there in the grass, watching the boys put on a poetic play Crispin had written, while Mattias sat next to me and complained, almost but not quite whispering, and I had drunk of glass of blackrose wine. My skirts were damp with rain-dew. Then he was quiet, and I had looked up to see Amarant, who I was still in love and affection with, standing behind the group, and on purpose, and then)

    I shook the rest of the thought away, and went on, charged on, along the hallway. I couldn't remember that day, and that next moment, where I was right now. Perhaps I could manage it later.

    When I reached the sun-room, I could only stand in the open door for a moment, and then longer, and watch everyone. I was so quiet they didn’t know I was there. The new girl, the little ingénue, Jolenta, was sitting at the pianoforte, picking out the high, raindrop notes. Everyone else was sitting over the window, drinking iced caf and listening to Vittoira. She was sitting on her settee in front of the window, wearing a bloody-red silk dress, with her breasts clenched up in the bird-boned bodice, and her (rouged) nipples about to peek-a-boo out. Once, I would have known what that meant.

    One of the girls, the women, Salmacis, looked up: “There you are, Ayaira. I hope Vittoria didn’t say anything just now to scare you off. You know how she is.”

    “Well, if she did, I didn’t hear it,” I said.

    “Ayaira!” said Vittoria. “You naughty thing! How long have you been standing there and spying on us?”

    “Oh, at least an hour,” I said. I smiled, and walked into the room. It was the same as all the other times I had been there. It had the same plush, bony legged, antique furniture, and green silk wall-paper, and black wood floor. Vittoria didn’t really care for carpets that much. The windows were glowing with sunlight, even if it wasn’t quite that warm outside. I sat down on the couch with Salmacis and another girl I knew, but wasn’t friends with. She pushed herself over, just a little, so I would have enough room.

    “So,” said Vittoria, and leaned towards me. She had just cut her hair, into a little schoolboy style, and I could see the powder on her face. “I’ve heard, but I didn’t want to believe it until you had told me yourself, that you’ve resigned from Locke’s staff.”

    “It’s true,” I said.

    “Somehow, I have the feeling there’s more to it,” she said, but I could tell that she wasn’t going to push me.

    But she didn’t say: Oh, and I suppose you’re still playing with that boyfriend. You ought to have told me to introduce you to a nice woman if you needed help.

    “Oh, it’s only the beginning of a long, long story,” I said, and accepted a glass of iced caf, which I don’t like, but don’t dislike too much, from Salmacis. She smiled, and her legs clicked like a teacup as she crossed them. Her hair had faded into a rosepetal pink, and she was wearing black wool trousers. The other girl made moon eyes at me, and I wondered, though only in passing, what I might have done in front of her.

    It was as though nothing, nothing at all, had changed. I could almost believe that, as I drank my coffee, too fast, and looked around the room: Jolenta was playing an ancient, sweetheart minuet. Crispin had sat down near Vittoria’s feet, and was reading through a little datapad flashing with poems. I wanted to believe that, but I couldn’t.

    Of course, they all remembered what had happened right before I had returned to Coruscant with Senator Locke, for what I think I already knew was the last time.

    --

    Finally, it was Salmacis who mentioned Zirphil.

    We had just gone out into the gardens. The air was plush and pale, and I could see the dark red flowers that I used to want to pick, years and years ago, though my governess had known not to allow it. I don’t remember what their names are. Vittoria’s manservant had set out a tray of little cakes, and I had just eaten one. My teeth were sticky with crumbs, and I had been mostly listening to the others talk. They had been teeheeing over Crispin, who had walked down one of the hidden paths with his new boyfriend.

    “Don’t you think it’s a little early in the day for that?” said one of the girls I didn't really know, a country bred girl--no, young woman--with huge tits and acne scars who Vittoria had picked up.

    “Oh, it’s never, never too early, or late, for those two,” said Vittoria. She shook her fan in front of her until it looked like a flapping white bird.

    It all sounded familiar, and almost boring, and I wandered off, past several fruit trees with panting warm leaves, towards a point where I could look out and see the street, and the pavement that was swept clean, too clean, like a floor. The grass was flattened behind me with my footprints. There was a pair of lover’s trees growing straight ahead, two bony-thin trees with white bark, and I almost reached out to touch them.

    “—Zirphil Hale was there,” Salmacis was saying, and I looked back at them. “You know him, don’t you, Ayaira?”

    “Of course she does,” said Jolenta. Sweet Jolenta, with her bobbed blonde curls, and flushed porcelain skin, and birdsong voice. She still looked so innocent, but she almost glared at me, and I wondered what Juno had told her. Juno had taken up with her, and dragged her into bed, almost as soon as she had entered our group. Juno had wanted to do the same with me, but hadn’t had the same luck.

    “Right,” said Salmacis. “But I didn't recognize him at first. The last time I saw him, and I think it was several years ago, he was all awkward and cute and bouncing around in this outfit. He's changed."

    Somehow, I didn’t say: Oh, he has changed. I know because I shagged him.

    “That reminds me, Ayaira,” Vittoria said, and I tried not to clench my teeth. “Have you seen Zirphil since you got back?”

    “No, I haven’t,” I said, and I knew I sounded irritated.

    “Then I won’t pry,” said Vittoria, and we both knew what she meant. “It's true that Juno could have been more tactful, and I know that. But we were all taken by surprise. It's as though you're a different person now--"

    “Really? I don’t feel any different,” I said, and my voice turned up too loud. Jolenta stepped back. The girl, Melia or Metis, looked down and shuffled her feet. “Even if I have been involved with a boy. Perhaps you didn’t know me so well as you thought.”

    “What do you want me to tell you?” said Vittoria.

    There was a breeze that yanked at my hair, and I was tired. It would be best not to say anything, and to pretend nothing had happened. “Nothing. I just want you to know that I didn’t sleep with Zirphil to betray you, or to be normal, or anything like that. I only did what I wanted.”

    She didn’t say anything else. Jolenta had gone off, in an almost skipping rush, with her dress hitched up to her knees, to join the others in the clearing. Salmacis and Melia or Metis followed, and after a moment—an endless, breath held moment—Vittoria went after them. She must have realized, and even understood, that I wished to be alone. She may have wondered if, after enough minutes had passed, and she had remembered to come back, I would still be there.

    --

    Zirphil and I had just come out of a coffeeshop near the theatre district. It had started to rain a handful of scattered drops, and he had leaned over and (well, he had never wanted to hide anything, and he hadn’t known how to be ashamed) kissed me. His cheek was just slightly rough with stubble. I wasn’t used to that. I had hahahaed, and then kissed him, and bit into his lower lip. But nothing more than that. I didn’t realize, until a minute later, and too late, that Juno and Jolenta, hand in hand and giggling flushed, and Cassandra, who I had known since my first year of University, had seen us. They might not have believed it then, but they would.

    --

    Well, it seems I wasn’t quite butch enough for you, Juno had (actually) said.

    You just need to wait a little longer for the right girl, Cassandra had said, trying to sound understanding, but mostly sighing and condescending.

    No woman will want to go around with you now, Melia or Metis had said, as though she were being helpful.

    --

    There was a book in my adoptive mother’s library that I used to read, when I was twelve, and then thirteen or so. It was a heavy book, made out of paper, and it was old, perhaps eight or even nine thousand years old. My adoptive mother would not have approved of me handling it, but she never found out. It was called Fantastica, about a world, and a universe, made from a girl’s dreams. It was the same story every time I read it, but I knew there was another edition, and that meant that it could change. That it could be like one of the girl's dreams, that caused the continents to stretch.

    She could change the rules, and everything, if she wished it.

    (I hadn’t contacted Zirphil yet, and I tried not to look at the communication unit, and the red-eyed message light, and wonder what I should do, and if I should send him a ring. I wondered what the rules even were.)

    I used to lie on my bed, and read the same chapters, the same paragraphs, over and over and over again, until I had to go back to school. That was when I returned it to the library, and the exact place on the shelf where I had found it. Then I had forgotten about it, though I would still imagine, before I fell asleep, and my mind slammed shut like a door, that world with a purple sky, and lilac-white clouds, where anything, anything was possible.

    But now I remembered it again, and I wanted, all of a sudden to read it again, though I would have to go to my adoptive mother’s estate for it. It was there. I just had to find it.


    *
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
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  15. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Wow! This is really quite something. Let me see if I am understanding things aright. It seems to me (said Booker T.)...

    ...that the sort of decadently glamorous demimonde exemplified by Vittoria's party has served as a sort of Fantastica-like world for Ayaira for a number of years now. But that opinion is changing now that she's found love with Zirphil—an M-A-N. The others in Vittoria's circle are picking up on it, of course, as is Vittoria herself; she takes Ayaira to task for seeming like "a different person now," but what's really changed is not Ayaira herself the dynamic between herself and this group of friends. (And whatever Ayaira may have done, the change in dynamic originated not with her, but with them.)

    And it's this change in dynamic, and its attendant disappointment (just guessing here) leads her to seek out once again the far-off fantasy world she first encountered in her adoptive mother's library. Maybe? Because, contrary to Ayaira's hopes, the real-life fantasy world of Vittoria's circle turned out not to be a place where "anything was possible" (such as falling in love without being taken to task for it).

    The descriptions of the outfits, the scenery, and the semi-hemi-demimondish nature of this circle of women are gorgeous, of course, in true Pandora fashion. I was reminded of your Naboo handmaiden stories, since here too we're dealing with an inner circle of frills, fancy food, and dainty luxury where everyone knows but doesn't really know each other.

    And now I have to wonder if Ayaira herself is Naboo, or any of the other women in the group. Or, hmmm, wait a minute...

    Ayaira has an "adoptive mother"—this gets me wondering whether Ayaira is actually Leia? Certainly at this point she knows she is adopted (the "war orphan" story), even if she doesn't know who her birth parents were. Though in that case, if the time frame is what I'm guessing it is, it's going to be a bit difficult to get back to her adoptive mother's estate...

    And could the red light on the message unit be from Zirphil, letting her know about Alderaan? :eek:

    And even if all this is just idle speculation on my part, but I enjoyed this all the same! @};-
     
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  16. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Sadly, there's no much to say after Findswoman has drained all the possibilities, but I took had a thought that this young woman, who can have anybody, regardless of gender, and have everybody look the way she wants and do what she wants (whether it's shagging each other or being just mildly provocative like Vittoria in that peek-a-boo moment), is living some sort of a Neverending Story. A thought-provoking read for sure!
     
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  17. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Findswoman: Wow! This is really quite something. Let me see if I am understanding things aright. It seems to me (said Booker T.)...

    ...that the sort of decadently glamorous demimonde exemplified by Vittoria's party has served as a sort of Fantastica-like world for Ayaira for a number of years now. But that opinion is changing now that she's found love with Zirphil—an M-A-N. The others in Vittoria's circle are picking up on it, of course, as is Vittoria herself; she takes Ayaira to task for seeming like "a different person now," but what's really changed is not Ayaira herself the dynamic between herself and this group of friends. (And whatever Ayaira may have done, the change in dynamic originated not with her, but with them.)

    It's too soon to tell if Ayaira has actually found love, true or otherwise, with the mostly unseen Zirphil. This is actually a sequel to the story I wanted to write for the livejournal ficfest, but which I didn't have time to write properly, which would have made their relationship a good deal more clear. Basically, though: the whole thing rather took her by surprise, but she's going along with it to see how it turns out. But it is definitely not the sort of relationship follies the group is accustomed to seeing from her. Before this, Ayaira had always known, on some level, to only show them what she knows they want to see.

    I actually see Vittoria as being one of the more understanding of the group. (She's also, I think, one of the more mature ones--they are all in their early-mid twenties, and it shows.) She wants to explain to Ayaira why other people--such as Juno--are acting the way they are.

    And it's this change in dynamic, and its attendant disappointment (just guessing here) leads her to seek out once again the far-off fantasy world she first encountered in her adoptive mother's library. Maybe? Because, contrary to Ayaira's hopes, the real-life fantasy world of Vittoria's circle turned out not to be a place where "anything was possible" (such as falling in love without being taken to task for it).

    Yes, that is exactly it: she did turn to Vittoria's group looking for a fantasy world (and to be fair, most of the others probably did as well), which meant she expected it to be something it could never be. There are always rules, spoken and assumed, in any group. When she went along with them, everything went along fine. But then, as she did here, she stepped over one of the lines.

    The descriptions of the outfits, the scenery, and the semi-hemi-demimondish nature of this circle of women are gorgeous, of course, in true Pandora fashion. I was reminded of your Naboo handmaiden stories, since here too we're dealing with an inner circle of frills, fancy food, and dainty luxury where everyone knows but doesn't really know each other.

    They are the sort of group where someone will say (during a particularly overly dramatic moment on another member's part) "Get off the stage." And fine--they probably bear more than a passing resemblance to the artsiest of 90s era students at a certain liberal college that once had the erroneous belief it was the Harvard of the Midwest, and which I shall not name here. Only even richer, and better dressed.

    And now I have to wonder if Ayaira herself is Naboo, or any of the other women in the group. Or, hmmm, wait a minute...
    [Spoiler cut was here until the code kicked it out]

    And even if all this is just idle speculation on my part, but I enjoyed this all the same! @};-

    That is an interesting speculation--but in the case of this story, Occam's Razor applies. It is exactly what it appears to be, no hidden meanings or twists lurking underneath the surface waiting to surprise. I will also say that Ayaira isn't Naboo, nor is the story set there. It's set on an original planet that I haven't written about since I wrote this story, but the exact planet doesn't really matter. It could indeed just as well be Naboo.

    Thanks for reading, and commenting!

    *

    Ewok Poet: Sadly, there's no much to say after @Findswoman has drained all the possibilities, but I took had a thought that this young woman, who can have anybody, regardless of gender, and have everybody look the way she wants and do what she wants (whether it's shagging each other or being just mildly provocative like Vittoria in that peek-a-boo moment), is living some sort of a Neverending Story. A thought-provoking read for sure!

    Well--while Ayaira entered into this group because she found something she was looking for there at the time, and likely the same things she was looking for in the fantasy-land of that book, she certainly isn't able to call the shots, a la Bastion Bux, and write the others' actions for them. (See my above comment about Occam's Razor.) And as an aside, I'm glad you caught my reference to The Neverending Story--for those who don't know, Fantastica is the English translation of the name of the magical world in German author Michael Ende's novel The Neverending Story. It was translated as Fantasia for the movie adaptation.

    Thanks for reading, and commenting!

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

    The Fanfiction Awards are now over and in the past, but I can still mention that two of the stories in this thread received nominations: "Getting it on" for the "Best Headslode Moment;" and "Dutiful" for "Best One Shot." While neither of them won, it is indeed always an honor to be nominated, and I would like to thank everyone who nominated and/or voted for either story.
     
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  18. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    The Fanfiction Awards are now over and in the past, but I can still mention that two of the stories in this thread received nominations: "Getting it on" for the "Best Headslode Moment;" and "Dutiful" for "Best One Shot." While neither of them won, it is indeed always an honor to be nominated, and I would like to thank everyone who nominated and/or voted for either story.

    You are an excellent writer and the latest update clearly shows how versitile you are.
     
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