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Saga The History of the Queen's Tears [OC Dueling Circle response]

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Pandora, Sep 1, 2006.

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  1. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Title: The History of the Queen's Tears
    Timeframe: Three or so years post ROTS

    Author's Note: This was written for the OC Dueling Circle challenge. I'm not sure how well it turned out, but I've decided to throw it out to swim or drown on its own.

    Oh, and I must credit the WQGL roundrobin for the idea that one generation of extremely young, earnest Naboo politicans goes on to mentor the *next* generation of extremely young politicans. It makes sense. Because you have to do something after you're retired and over the hill at the age of twenty-five.


    *

    The History of the Queen’s Tears



    Queen Sofonisba was the youngest ruler ever elected in our history. She was only eleven years old. I have seen her holo portrait at the Royal Museum, but it was done when she was seventeen or so, towards the middle of her term. She looks like Amidala, but that is mostly because of her white face paint and the matching red dots on her cheeks. She had dark hair, and doe innocent eyes, but that could describe anyone. Her image stares ahead at nothing, just as it did when the portrait was made. Her eyes are glass blank and cold. She is regal, and just what a Queen should be.

    Yes, I visit the museum lately, when I have time. Usually, I sit here on a pale stone bench in the Hall of Queens, near Queen Sofonisba’s portrait. I should admit that her portrait is not my favorite. Not that I even have one. It’s only an accident that the bench is arranged here, near the gurgling and giggling water sounds of a nearby fountain.

    The holobooks I read in school said that Queen Sofonisba was a political and tactical genius, even at the age of ten. Maybe that was true. But I know that her term was unexceptional, and she did nothing worth remembering. Perhaps it was only because she ruled a sleepy, peaceful planet, and had no monsters to fight, and defeat.

    Like Amidala did.

    Today is the third anniversary of her funeral. The Queen offered me the morning off, and I accepted. I think that surprised her. Outside, the streets were quiet, though not empty. There was speeder noise, and I could see that people were stopping at the tearooms, and moving about their errands and ordinary lives. The governmental offices are closed down, but most of the businesses are open. Governor Bibble wanted to make this day into a formal holiday, but (oddly) it was Amidala’s parents who wished otherwise.

    She’s not a legend yet, her father said. Let history decide her image.

    And history will.

    I look away from Queen Sofonisba. She’s dead, and has been dead for over three hundred years. I shift on the bench, and cross my legs. Soon, I should stop and get a caf in the outdoor café next door, but not yet. Not yet. After her term ended, Sofonisba disappeared from history, the way most, if not all, rulers do. No one knows what she did or became after that, and no one is interested.

    A chrono stops tick ticking to announce the half hour, and I know I should leave soon. I need to be back at the palace in less than an hour.

    Someone whispers, and I look back up. Several women are walking past, down the Hall of Queens. I don’t recognize them, but I can tell they are matrons, probably in their early thirties. Or perhaps they are older; I’m not good with ages. Most women look the same to me. These women wear proper, dumpy dresses, and fashionable headdresses. They keep quiet, mostly because of what day it is. I know. That was how they whispered, the citizens of Theed, the Naboo, at the funeral procession. I wasn’t there, but I heard.

    They don’t look at me. I am wearing a dark blue, but almost black dress, plain, but clearly expensive, and my hair is done up in a hairstyle that noblewomen have worn in various ways for at least one hundred years. I look normal. They have no reason to know what I am, but that is what I wanted.

    --

    Before I leave, perhaps one of the women looks over at me. Perhaps I only imagine this, or perhaps she really does look, and then whispers to her friend, who is peering up close at the death portrait of Queen Yarm at the end of the hall, her endless, night brown hair full of floating, moth white flowers. My mother has always hated it for being too depressing, too morbid. Of course, they admire it, because they are supposed to. Most people are like that. I think I hear her voice: Did you see that girl?

    Yes, the other one says.

    (Don’t you think she could become one of those girl-queens, like Sofonisba or Amidala or Theodosia? You know. Another young and blushing earnest and suitably naïve girl who must be studying politics, and preparing to serve her people through what my mentor at college, Elaieva, called the noblest art. Elaieva had been elected, not appointed but elected, the governor of Kaadara when she was fifteen, another prodigy, though her career hadn’t gone any further, and sadly so. She would know.)

    Don’t you think she looks like the Queen?

    --

    Because: Yes, she does look like the Queen.

    --

    Queen Apailana is still in a routine meeting with the Advisory Council when I return. It isn’t anything important, but the advisors do like to talk, and the Queen knows that she must respect them. She should be finished in another twenty or so minutes. I know, because it is one of my duties to keep track of the Queen’s schedule. There is no need to hurry, so I make myself relax as I go upstairs and down the hall to the Queen’s rooms to change back into my handmaiden gown. I pass one of the guards, but he doesn’t notice me. All is well, I tell and reassure myself. It usually is.

    But not always.

    My room is right behind the Queen’s bedchamber, more of a closet than an actual room, though it is big enough and good enough for me. My dress is where I left it, lying across my neatly, tightly made bed. Today, we are wearing summer green dresses, with plush, furry warm velvet hoods. It is one of my least favorite frocks, but I won’t complain. I never do. I hear someone’s footsteps out in the Queen’s room as I change.

    It must be Aimeé.

    No, I don’t know how I can tell, but when I come out into the room, with my hood still slumped down, Aimeé is there. Aimeé is one of the eldest handmaidens, a serious, earnest girl with tragedy dark eyes. Odd. Aimeé is cheerful, so I don’t know why she would look sad, but she usually, if not always, does. She is arranging brushes and glittering glass makeup jars at the Queen’s vanity table. She doesn’t have to look up to know I’m here, nor does Sorsché, who I can hear rustling about in the Queen’s wardrobe, picking out the Queen’s afternoon gown. Brisaé and Caité must be attending the Queen.

    “Hullo, Esteé,” Aimeé says. “How was your time off?” She must be finished with her duties, because she turns around to face me. I can see her shadow shift in the glossy, polished clean mirror behind her.

    I shrug. “It was all right.”

    “Did you do anything exciting?” she says, and she widens her eyes, but her voice doesn’t change. We all believe that Aimeé lacks a sense of humor, and so I assume she isn't joking.

    “She wants to know if you met anyone exciting,” Sorsché says, coming out of the Queen’s closet. She is carrying a pale, rain grey gown the Queen hasn’t worn yet in a pile over her arms. “Perhaps a handsome young man? One who doesn’t work here as a guard.”

    “That is not what I meant,” says Aimeé. Severely. “Just because you want to meet a nice boy—and yes, I do mean boy—doesn’t mean we all do.”

    “No, I didn’t,” I say. “I didn’t meet any young men, exciting or otherwise. In fact, I didn’t even see any. I was at the history museum, and the only people I could have met were some earnest, patriotic matrons. I think the young men were somewhere else.”

    “Well, of course they were,” Sorsché says. “Everyone knows that handsome, or not handsome, young men don’t hang around at museums.”

    They giggle.

    “Let’s not discuss this,” I say, and they must think they hear the Queen’s voice, not mine, because they are quiet, almost apologetic. I didn’t even use the voice, that voice, though I am trained to do so. Sorsché starts brushing off the skirts of the Queen’s gown, and Aimeé, suddenly modest with sweetheart lowered eyes, goes off to find the matching shoes and hose. She doesn’t even have to think about it. I stay behind, to recheck a few of the security points. Since I’m the Queen’s decoy, I seldom help with the wardrobe. I have other duties. I do carry a blaster, but I have never shot it outside of practice. So far.

    --

    The other handmaidens think I knew Apailana before she was the Queen, or even the Princess of Theed, since we grew up in the same city. Instead, I met her for the first time shortly before she was inaugurated. I was the first handmaiden chosen, and approved of by the new chief of security, Captain Bibble. Apailana had spent most of her time in conference with Senator Amidala, usually by holo, but sometimes in person. I have never asked her what they discussed. During that time, Captain Bibble and his lieutenant made certain that I could shoot, and walk without being heard or seen.

    Apailana was twelve years old.

    That was the first thing I knew about her, since I had been living in Kaadara until several months before. She was only twelve, the youngest Queen to be elected in several hundred years. I remembered that, just as I remembered that she was only about four or five months my junior. The other handmaidens would be older than she was, and so I would be the youngest.

    Of course, I remember the first time I met her. She was in her personal sitting room, which was still dark and somber and oh so masculine, the way it had been when King Veruna had left it. She was having all of the rooms redone, of course, but that would take time. I think the interior decorators were still working on the bedchamber.

    “You must be Esteé,” she said.

    “Yes, Your Highness,” I said.

    “Please sit down,” she said.

    And she smiled, slight and perhaps, yes, nervous. I did so, sitting in a heavy black leather chair. We looked at each other. Captain Bibble did not entirely approve of the decoy plan that Moff Panaka had favored when he was at the palace, and he had told me that most likely, I would never be called upon to play that role. Most likely. But she knew why I had been chosen, and it was not because I had studied history before I agreed to go into politics, and knew and almost memorized the biographies of all the Queens of Naboo. No, it was because I was supposed to resemble her, enough to be her sister, if not her twin.

    That first day, I didn’t think she looked like me.

    This was before I knew her, and before we were friends, or companions, or confidants. The others have never had to know that.

    Or at least, she didn’t look like the reflection I saw in the mirror. She had black hair, the way I did, and pale brown skin. But that was all. Her face was-- Different. My face, I was certain, was sharper. Meaner. We were not the same.

    --

    It was Elaieva who suggested I go into politics. I still remember the afternoon I met with her in her office, towards the end of my final college term. Outside, it was pale with sunlight, and smelling of the overripe fruit on the trees outside the humanities building, and the reek where they had been squashed onto the sidewalk. I had hurried in after lunch, three minutes early. I knew, because I had checked the silly tick ticking watch I wore pinned to the front of my blouse. It had been the latest fashion, and my mother had bought it for me.

    Elaieva was busy with something at her desk, but she looked up as I walked in.

    “Well, hullo, Estella,” she said. “How are you doing?”

    “Fine,” I said.

    I sat down in the stiff, wooden backed seat across from her where I always sat. I crossed my legs at the ankles, and waited while she checked something in her databook. Her hair seemed to glow on fire from the light coming from the nearby window, which she had just cracked open. I could smell the grass outside, and I wanted this meeting to be over. Especially since she would ask me something I might not have an answer for. It wouldn’t be the first time.

    She turned back to me. “It’s been a while since I’ve been able to speak with you, Estella. How are you doing in your classes?”

    “Fine,” I said.

    Again. I think she almost sighed, since I knew she was impatient, or even annoyed, with the way I only spoke when I absolutely had to. She was beautiful. I should say that here, though I never actually thought that. She had pale, see through skin and heaps of pale brown hair that was also cream and cold and peach streaked. Some of the other girls, possibly including me, admired it. It must have gone down to her waist, though I never saw her with it set loose. She had little feet, which I could almost see under her elaborate, political skirts, and she wore delicate, black silk shoes. The sort that I thought would break if she walked in them.

    “Are you still thinking about that boy we discussed last time?” she said. Elaieva would have been only about twenty-two years old, but she smiled in an indulgent, condescending, matronly way that was too old for her.

    “No!” I said.

    “I’m glad to hear that,” she said, and I felt something so huge and wrong I didn’t know what to say. I had already regretted, again and again, telling Elaieva about the boy in the philosophy program who I had started to fancy. He seemed to like me, as well. We had held hands a few times, but nothing else had happened. I remember his name, but I haven’t thought of him in years, and have trouble remembering what he looked like, or what his voice sounded like. It’s gone, and I won’t mention it here. I still remembered my exited, earnest, and giggling voice as I had told her about him. I should have known better (I told myself, angrily and blushing). Really. I should have realized she couldn’t understand.

    “There will be time enough to think about-- boys later,” she said. “Now. Have you given any thought to what you want to study at University next term?”

    “Not really,” I said.

    “I see,” she said. I watched her as she looked through her datapad for my recent test scores. Some birds shrieked out too loud and too close to the window. “Here. It says that you expressed interest in either politics or history. Well! History is an important profession, to be sure, but there is no higher calling than politics.”

    “I don’t know,” I said. “I think I would like to go into history. Everyone seems to be pushing me into politics, but I’m not sure I would like it.”

    “Well,” said Elaieva. “It’s too late for you to become another Amidala, but then, we are all in her shadow. You won’t be a prodigy, then, but there is still so much you can do. You could work for the Governor, or even become the Princess of Theed. Remember, Princess Araminta was over sixteen when she was elected. It’s not too late, no matter what people might have told you.”

    “I’m still not certain that’s what I want,” I said.

    “This is, of course, your decision,” said Elaieva. “But there is no nobler art, than to serve one’s people. One might almost say that it is your duty. Think about that, Estella.”

    --

    Estella.

    That was my name before I became a handmaiden, and I changed it, but only slightly, to honor the Queen. My parents named me for one of my father’s great-great aunts. She was, the few times that I saw her, a prim and proper old maiden with moonlight white hair and tits to her waist when her corset was loosened, which was often, and a creaking door voice. She kept a house in the lake country she had inherited when her mother died. I remember that my brother and I threw rocks into the lake while my parents made nice and kissy with the old lady inside. A long time ago.

    --

    The Queen is standing by the window, staring out at the gardens, when I come in. I make certain to close the door, firmly but gently, behind me. Whatever the Queen is thinking or feeling, she smiles slightly at me. I know: She wants me to be reassured that everything is all right. She is wearing the dove grey, tear grey dress Sorsché picked out several hours ago, with wide sleeves and dark holiday ribbons wound around and around her wrists. Her headdress sways and glitters with beads, but I only notice her makeup. She is wearing the usual balanced red dots, and the scar for remembrance.

    “I’m so glad to see you, Esteé,” she says.

    Estella.

    But that isn’t my name now, though it will be again someday.

    “What is it, Your Highness?” I ask.

    “I don’t know where to begin,” she says. “But I received a message from Moff Panaka about an hour ago. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but the Emperor has heard the rumors that I have aided the Jedi. He is planning to send his Inquisitor to the palace, to see for himself just how true they are. Moff Panaka said he wanted to warn me.”

    I start.

    “How did Moff Panaka obtain this information?” I say.

    “I didn’t ask,” the Queen says. “I doubt he would have told me. Oh, he has his ways, but then, so do I. Inquisitor Mevath won’t find anything here on Naboo, or in Theed. He can’t. But we must take precautions. I take it, Esteé, that the storage rooms in the lower levels are all empty?”

    For a moment, she looks like Queen Amidala might have.

    Leading her troops to victory, or to death.

    Or Queen Theodosia, weeping glass heavy tears over the body of her handmaiden, her decoy, who had drunk the glass of wine poisoned for her, in a long ago time. There’s a diamond called Queen Theodosia’s tears, that is used for necklaces and bracelets. No one knows what the decoy’s name was, and no one cares. And why should they?

    No. I haven’t time to think about stories that belong back in history books.

    “Yes,” I say, looking towards the window, and the gardens outside. I can only see the pale, washed away sky and nothing else, but I can smell the winter flowers. The walks in the garden are covered in a shifting, bruised delicate carpet of their pink bruised white petals. “They were all cleaned out just a few days ago, and there was nothing there. I saw to it myself. We should send word that we can’t take any more guests for a while.”

    “Good,” the Queen says.

    She is silent, and so am I. There is nothing more to say. I don’t look over at her, but I can feel her breathing, and I know what I would see. I have never seen this Inquisitor Mevath, but I know enough about him. Mostly from rumors and whispering, but some of it must be true. He has a reputation for being almost kind while he plays with his victims’ minds, before he uses physical torture. And when he does, they tell him what he wants to hear. They will tell him anything. He breaks them—

    You will make a good handmaiden, Estella, Elaieva said, the last time I spoke with her. Perhaps this is what you were meant for all along.

    When a Queen weeps, it is her handmaiden’s face that is wet with the tears, a poet wrote during the last year of Queen Sofonisba’s term.

    I feel a long, endless shiver down my back, but I ignore it. The temperature must be turned down too low in the room, and it doesn’t mean anything. The Queen looks over at me, her mouth slightly breathed open in a question mark. She wants to know if I am all right, and I smile. Because I am. I have to be.

    *
     
  2. oqidaun

    oqidaun Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Jul 20, 2005
    Fabulous!!!

    I love the backstory and fiction within the fiction!

    Wow.


    It was beautiful, as always but I think the most poignant part of the story had to do with the siginficance of names.

    Estella.

    That was my name before I became a handmaiden, and I changed it, but only slightly, to honor the Queen. My parents named me for one of my father?s great-great aunts. She was, the few times that I saw her, a prim and proper old maiden with moonlight white hair and tits to her waist when her corset was loosened, which was often, and a creaking door voice. She kept a house in the lake country she had inherited when her mother died. I remember that my brother and I threw rocks into the lake while my parents made nice and kissy with the old lady inside. A long time ago.

    ...

    "I?m so glad to see you, Esteé,? she says.

    Estella.


    =D=
     
  3. Healer_Leona

    Healer_Leona Squirrel Rangler of Fun & Games star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jul 7, 2000
    Wow, that is most intense. I loved the flow of the world of Esteé and the history you've woven of past Queen's. It's the end that just makes my chest thump though. Part of me wants to know what happens with Inquisitor Mevath, another part is thrilled you stopped where you did.

    Outstanding response.
     
  4. VaderLVR64

    VaderLVR64 Manager Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2004
    Wow! That was simply breath-taking. Amazing. I don't have enough words to describe how beautiful it was.

    You will make a good handmaiden, Estella, Elaieva said, the last time I spoke with her. Perhaps this is what you were meant for all along.

    When a Queen weeps, it is her handmaiden?s face that is wet with the tears, a poet wrote during the last year of Queen Sofonisba?s term.


    That last line about the handmaiden's face being wet with tears was one I'll always remember. =D=
     
  5. PadwanKayla

    PadwanKayla Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 2, 2005
    That sent chill up my spine, knowing what was likely to come for her. What a wonderful character and you've developed an amazing history. Really well done.
     
  6. Rogue_Pilot_2347

    Rogue_Pilot_2347 Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    May 16, 2005
    Wow. That was beautiful. I loved the imagery, and the background you set. For some reason, I feel like the sun didn't shine once through that whole story.

    The characters were amazing. Especially Estella. I felt like I really knew her by the end.

    Great job!
     
  7. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    oqidaun: Yes, I like playing with names, because they are so connected with one's identity. I've developed the idea that the handmaidens alter their names in homage to their mistress before (I mean, the handmaidens are the only Naboo women in the movies besides Padmé to have the "é" at the end of their names). But this is the first time I have shown much of a handmaiden's identity before she went into service.

    I do feel bad for how I've treated Esteé in that other story, so I wrote this to give her a voice. I'm the god who moves the chess pieces, but I'm a sensitive, caring god.

    Healer_Leona: I loved the flow of the world of Esteé and the history you've woven of past Queen's. It's the end that just makes my chest thump though. Part of me wants to know what happens with Inquisitor Mevath, another part is thrilled you stopped where you did.

    I'm glad you like the history.

    The end is meant to be ominous--though of course, the narrator, Esteé, doesn't realize quite how much there is to be afraid of. Let's just say that it's obvious that something bad is going to happen as the result of the Inquisitor's visit, and that is enough for this story.

    VaderLVR: That last line about the handmaiden's face being wet with tears was one I'll always remember.

    Glad you enjoyed it. That line sort of came out of nowhere. I was just typing along towards the end, and there it was.

    PadwanKayla: You are right to feel a chill, unfortunately. The Inquisitor's visit will have effects, and not good ones. My history probably contradicts any number of EU stuff I know nothing about, but I'm glad you like it.

    Rogue_Pilot_2347: For some reason, I feel like the sun didn't shine once through that whole story.

    That's an interesting way of putting it. I think I mention that the sun is shining in the scene where Esteé meets with her advisor, but there is such an ominous, heavy shadow over the story, because of where it will end, I can see where it would have that feeling.

    The characters were amazing. Especially Estella. I felt like I really knew her by the end.

    Thanks!
     
  8. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    *flicks wrist*

    You do not see this double post.
     
  9. slow_dawn

    slow_dawn Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Apr 18, 2006
    Great work. Very nice development of the character Esteé--the backstory was really well done.

    When a Queen weeps, it is her handmaiden?s face that is wet with the tears, a poet wrote during the last year of Queen Sofonisba?s term.

    I feel a long, endless shiver down my back, but I ignore it. The temperature must be turned down too low in the room, and it doesn?t mean anything. The Queen looks over at me, her mouth slightly breathed open in a question mark. She wants to know if I am all right, and I smile. Because I am. I have to be.


    Really brilliant ending, especially the line about the queen's tears. Great work.
     
  10. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    slow_dawn: Really brilliant ending, especially the line about the queen's tears. Great work.

    Yes, the line about the Queen's tears does serve as the defining point of the story--it is the example Esteé holds up to the as ideal example of loyalty to one's mistress--and not only, or mostly, as the figurehead of the World of Naboo, but as a an individual. However, perhaps especially because she doesn't see it this way, it is also an ominous image.

    I'm glad you liked Esteé. She is a minor character in another one of my stories, and for various reasons, I wanted her to have this story to stand in the spotlight.

    Thanks for reading!
     
  11. correllian_ale

    correllian_ale Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 20, 2005
    I love it, a very unique look at a Naboo Queen's handmaidens, without just creating another one for Amidala. Beautifully done, and you still weaved Padme indirectly into the story.

    =D=
     
  12. Meredith_Kenobi

    Meredith_Kenobi Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 20, 2005
    Fantastic! I loved the depth of this story - you made it seem real, like everything and everyone had a story. Like they were real people.
    =D= =D= =D=
    Very, very well done.
     
  13. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    correllian_ale: It is fun to write about the other queens' handmaidens, and in many ways, I've noticed, it feels more freeing than it is to write about Amidala's handmaidens. There is very little official information about Queen Apailana, a character who appears for less than one minute in the movies, and there isn't much fan speculation either--which means that, within certain broad limits, I can decide who she was, and therefore, who her handmaidens were. Of course, I then have to do all the work, but I actually prefer things that way.

    Beautifully done, and you still weaved Padme indirectly into the story.

    Yes, Padmé got in there--I think it's almost possible to write a Naboo fanfic, at least within fifty years of the Saga, when she is not at least mentioned in passing. In this story, she appears mostly as the legend she is becoming post mortem, and an as an influence the other characters feel unable to live to up.

    Meredith_Kenobi: I loved the depth of this story - you made it seem real, like everything and everyone had a story. Like they were real people.

    That's something I try to do in my writing, though I can't always know if I've succeeded. I'm glad to know that, for you, I have.
     
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