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Before the Saga The Kyberkerk of Jedha | Very distant past, OCs, drama/tragedy | Epic, award-fic for divapilot

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Chyntuck, Sep 26, 2017.

  1. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Chapter III: The Chill of the Dark

    The ovation echoed so loudly across the city that one could feel the stone of the mesa vibrating underfoot, as if the thousands of beings assembled on Initiation Square sought to reassert ownership over their world against the laws of physics that had plunged it into darkness. The entire crowd reprised the chant that Genade’s mischief-makers had initiated, and soon it became clear that the proceedings for the election of the Lord of the Budallenjsh had come de facto to an end. Audience members flung their hats, bonnets and wigs up in the air and sang ‘Nowell! Nowell!’ in celebration as the Mistress of Ceremonies announced gleefully that the mysterious alien named Ino was the undisputed winner of the evening’s contest. There was more laughter when her assistants had to give her a leg up so as to enable her to slip the crown around the tips of his horns and place it on his brow, and the throng shifted a little to allow the beast of burden that has soiled Sinunu’s shirt to come in front of Pilgrim’s House.

    The long-necked quadruped’s humping back was now furnished with a monumental howdah inlaid with crystals that projected eerie beams of light into the glow of the eclipse. Sinunu caught a glimpse of Jindi Korkuu, whose face was illuminated by one of the shimmering shafts. The Weequay had jostled her way to the head of the crowd during the coronation; she was now standing by the giant lizard and watching the mahout guide Ino to sit atop the carriage. Something indefinable in her expression, in the intensity of her gaze, in the way his goat-like head swung anxiously from one side to the other as if he could sense a presence whose precise identity he couldn’t determine, hinted at a form of unspoken communication between the two, but it was only a fleeting impression. Genade climbed behind the newly-minted lord on the back of the mount and unfurled a gaudy banner that hid the beggar from view; horns blared, noisemakers were rattled and torches were lit; and the living tide that had been ebbing and flowing in Initiation Square began to pour out into the Passage of Cognizance, from where it formed into a procession and began its meandering course through the streets of the city. The revellers were due to march across every neighbourhood and share the merriment with those who, for one reason or another, had been unable to attend the ceremony, before finally dispersing on the parvis of the Kyberkerk.

    “But I want to go, Mommy!” a child whined somewhere to Sinunu’s left. “Everyone is going, why can’t I go too?”

    “You will not go anywhere near that monster, Stathee, do you hear me?” a woman replied angrily. The bard recognised the voice that had protested Ino’s presence in the city.

    “You are absolutely right, Lady Kaz!” another woman said. “This is such a bad omen!”

    Sinunu looked askance and saw Kaz, a plump, elegant matron who was hugging fiercely a five-year-old boy as if she feared that he might be snatched from her embrace by invisible forces. She shook her head in dismay. “I cannot believe that this is happening, Dora! This Cjap, of all beings, elected Lord of the Budallenjsh? What is the High Priest thinking?”

    The bard rolled his eyes. He had read explorers’ accounts of how some oft-repeated superstitions of the people of the Moon of Melodies had evolved into the sort of terrifying myth that parents told disobedient younglings to coerce them into compliance, but he had not expected to hear one of those legends stated as fact on his second day. This was an opportunity for him to display his knowledge of such matters – and perhaps to make friends too, if he managed to reassure the two women and persuade them to follow the procession together. Dora was carrying a large plate on which he could discern a few leftover sweets, and the grumble of his stomach reminded him that he had not eaten since morning.

    He took a step towards them. “Put your minds at ease, dear mistresses,” he said importantly. “Many scholars from the Core have studied this issue at great length. They are unanimous in saying that the Cjap do not exist.”

    Dora raised an ironic eyebrow. “Oh, do scholars truly say such things back in the Core? Perhaps they should come here and have a look for themselves.”

    “But many have come and gone,” Sinunu insisted, taking another step closer to the cakes. “They have written books. There is no proof whatsoever –”

    Lady Kaz let her son slip to the ground. He immediately plucked a sweet from the plate and stuffed it in his mouth. “The scholars can claim what they wish, young man, but we know. We know. None who wander out in the desert ever return to the Holy City. The Cjap seize travellers and steal their souls.”

    “Not true,” the boy piped up in-between mouthfuls. “The Jevgy are out there all the time!”

    “The Jevgy have the magic of the crystals, Stathee,” his mother explained. “No one would dare take them on.”

    Sinunu raised a tentative hand towards the cakes. “What of the scholars?” he protested. “They went out to explore the desert, and –”

    “The Cjap know when to hide,” Dora breathed in a frightened whisper. She hugged her tray for protection, removing it from the bard’s reach. “They want to keep their existence a secret.”

    “They allowed the scholars to walk free, and now Core Worlders dismiss us as ignorant and gullible,” Kaz added. “But if you stay here long enough, you will learn to see the truth.”

    Sinunu sighed. “What of this Ino, then?” he asked, gesturing towards the last of the procession that could be seen leaving the square. “How could the Cjap be a hidden species if one of their kind is right here in our midst?”

    “Have you ever seen anyone like him?” Dora countered.

    “No, but –”

    “There you are! What more proof do you need? He’s a Cjap!”

    To this there was nothing Sinunu could answer.

    Lady Kaz tugged at Stathee’s sleeve. “We must go now. You are a newcomer, young man. Listen to my advice: do not leave the city, and do not go anywhere near Ino, unless you want your sojourn on this moon – and your life – to be cut short before your time.”

    “And have a wash!” Dora called over her shoulder as the trio walked away, taking with them the bard’s hopes for a semblance of a dinner. “Perhaps customs are different in the Core, but no one would sell sauropod urine for perfume here.”

    A mortified Sinunu remained alone in his little corner of Initiation Square, although there were still a good hundred bystanders in the open expanse, mostly elderly and disabled beings who could presumably not follow the procession in the city’s potholed streets. This might be a suitable audience for his poetry, he thought, as they seemed to be in no rush to leave, and he needed to obtain credits urgently if he were to afford any sustenance and a bed for the night. He straightened his clothes, hoping that the chilly breeze would disperse the stench of his shirt, and once he felt ready, he stepped out into the square and inhaled deeply to begin his chant.

    A girl appeared on the corner of the Passage of Cognizance and shouted, “Nilamani!”

    And with that single word, Sinunu’s prospective audience vanished. Every being on Initiation Square livened up and left swiftly through the narrow street before taking a turn in the Long Way and disappearing in the direction of the Kyberkerk.

    The bard exhaled the deep breath he had drawn in and ran a hand through his hair. Initiation Square was deserted now, save for a lone silhouette in the far end. He considered asking the passer-by for help, or perhaps just for an explanation – he had never heard of a nilamani before, nor had he ever encountered the word in the books he so loved to read – but the all-too-familiar sound of a myriad little bells stopped him dead in his tracks. This had to be Jindi Korkuu. He stifled a gasp and retreated to the shadow of the alcove where he had been hiding in the city walls.

    The Weequay strode past him indifferently, pausing only for a fraction of a second to sniff the air before she continued towards the ramparts. Sinunu wondered where she could be going until he saw her disappear down the flight of stairs that led to the Gate of Laments, and it dawned on him. The portico at the foot of the mesa was likely a gathering place for those who slept rough in the Holy City. It was safe, sheltered, protected from the elements and the chill of the dark. Thus, the bard concluded, it was the sort of place where he should be heading himself. He had been through more than enough humiliations for the day to not want to confront the cashier’s ironic gaze if he were to return to Pilgrim’s House – he could remember quite vividly the sign that was posted behind the counter and read ‘No credit unless they’re your credits’ – and he knew that the temperature would drop even further after sunset, when the eclipse was over.

    The thought that he had sorted out where to spend the night was a relief of sorts even in the absence of dinner, but there were still two important problems. The first was to choose another gate, given that Jindi Korkuu had been less than amenable to the idea of sharing a street corner with him, and he doubted that she would be willing to cede as little as a cubit of her sleeping space for him to crouch. This was however fairly easy to resolve, as the Holy City had seven gates that were accessible to the public – the eighth, in the back of the Kyberkerk, was sealed – and the Gate of Light was only a short walk away. The second problem was altogether more pressing: Sinunu stank. He stank of sauropod urine, and the smell was unlikely to gain him the favour of any companions he encountered for the night. There were no two ways about it: he needed a clean shirt.

    This second problem was not insurmountable, although it would certainly make for an unpleasant experience. Sinunu owned no other shirt than the one on his back, and the mere idea of wet fabric against his skin was sufficient to send a shiver down his spine. Still, a wet but clean shirt in a sheltered area was better than a dry shirt and no shelter at all. He sighed in resignation and trotted back to the Well of Prosperity, marvelling at how much shorter the distance appeared to be now that the square was empty. A little ferreting about revealed a piece of soap that had been forgotten in a crack of the fountain’s edge, and soon he was bare-chested, rubbing his only garment vigorously to fight off the bitter cold that pierced his skin like a thousand needles.

    He wrung the shirt as best he could, flapped it a few times to smooth out the creases and steeled himself before slipping it back over his head. It was freezing. There was no time to lose if he didn’t want to catch a head cold. He jogged to the end of Prosperity Alley, took a turn in the Long Way and headed towards the Path of Judgements. He was still new to the Holy City, but he was fairly certain that this was the shortest itinerary to the Gate of Light.

    The town’s main thoroughfare was eerily deserted, a far cry from the hustle and bustle that could normally be found during the day when all manners of mystics, monks and prophets wound their way between the shops, the food stalls, the browsers and the sellers to enlighten the populace. The only sounds to be heard came from the Bomarristan, where the poor souls who had been driven to madness by the vibration of the crystals moaned and wailed in constant pain. Sinunu gave the building a wide berth and went on his way. He had been as eager as any denizen of the galaxy to gain initiation into the secrets of the Kyber, but a small part of him was grateful that his infirmity in this area meant that he would never join the ranks of the insane.

    As he went on he could make out a growing hubbub ahead. The sauropod’s head emerged from the Path of Judgements seconds before he reached the junction, followed by the thousands who were still celebrating the election of the lord. The sight of Genade’s auburn hair atop the beast, just behind Ino who was grinning stupidly on his throne, sent him hiding in the shadows once more. There was a third problem to add to his list now: the road to the Gate of Light was taken over by the procession of the Budallenjsh, and it might take him as long as an hour to cover the distance to his prospective shelter in this crowd. This was something he couldn’t afford in the chilly darkness. No matter, he told himself – he would proceed towards the Kyberkerk and take a left to reach Whisperers’ Gate instead.

    He scrambled across the throng and sprinted up the Long Way, cursing himself for having come so woefully unprepared for the frigid climate of the Moon of Melodies. The outline of the tall, tetrahedral mass of the Kyberkerk against the silvery sky gave him courage, and he was about to dive into the Street of Shouts – or was it the Street of Murmurs? he couldn’t remember – when he saw the golden glow of a bonfire ahead. His face broke into a smile. The fortunes were finally conspiring to help him in his predicament. He would go and warm himself by the fire, he would dry his shirt, and who knew? Perhaps he would find at long last a suitable audience for his poems and succeed to eke out the credits he needed for the night.

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

    Endnotes
    The layout I made up for Jedha City in this story is based primarily on the old city of Jerusalem. I will be posting a map (hopefully) soon in the Fanon Thread together with background notes. The various street names are my creation, with the exception of the Path of Judgements, which is canon. The name of the main street, the Long Way, which runs from the Gate of Laments to the Kyberkerk, is inspired from the Roman thoroughfare in the old city of Damascus, the Via Recta (i.e. Straight Street), known in Arabic as the Long Market (al-Suq al-Taweel).

    The word ‘Bomarristan’ was Sith-I-5’s brilliant idea to adapt the word Bimaristan (‘house of the sick’ in Persian) to the GFFA.

    The idea that ‘Nowell! Nowell!’ would be a chant for celebration is borrowed directly from Hunchback, where the chant is ‘Noël! Noël!”. A bit of research told me that the word ‘Nowell’ was used to mean ‘Christmas’ in old English songs and carols.

    The names Stathee (Greek for ‘upright’), Kaz (Azerbaijani for ‘goose’) and Dora (Greek for ‘gift’) are loose adaptations of the names Eustache, Oudarde and Mahiette from Hunchback.

    The Cjap and the Jevgy are my creation; more about them will be revealed in upcoming chapters.

    Sauropods are not a SW species, but a type of RL dinosaur. I also borrowed the words howdah, mahout and cubit from RL as they seemed suitably obscure, exotic and/or outdated for the needs of this story.
     
  2. gizkaspice

    gizkaspice Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Nov 27, 2013
    Can you please just publish this already so everyone can read this glorious detailed goodness? :p The addition of sauropods is just so interesting (this is really beginning to make me think of something out of Dinotopia now, which makes this all the more awesome). So Ino is a Cjab--a mysterious species. Looking forward to knowing more!
     
  3. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    gizkaspice Thanks for the review! I wish I'd written it all already, so that I could post it straight away :p Unfortunately I'm working from an outline here and I post as I renew my little stock of buffer chapters.

    I went back and forth a lot about the species of the beast of burden; initially it was a dewback but I didn't notice any familiar animals on Jedha in RO and I wanted something that feels even more ancient. As for Ino... is he a Cjap? Or do the Cjap not really exist? Read on to know more! [face_mischief]

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by to read! I cleaned up the next chapter this morning, so here goes...
     
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  4. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Interlude: Sinunu

    The only thing Sinunu loved was lore.

    This wasn’t to say that he didn’t care for his family. He knew that his parents were good, decent, kind-hearted people who had bled themselves dry to give a proper education to their only son. His father was a hulking colossus whose superhuman strength was always at the service of those who needed a helping hand in hard times, and as a child Sinunu felt nowhere safer than in his gentle embrace when Papa’s muscular arms lifted him off the ground. His mother was slim and petite, but lean and sinewy, with calm compassion and a steely resolve that matched her husband’s vigour; she had no tolerance for those who sought to exploit the weakest among the inhabitants of Cannon Town and it was her steadfastness as much as the threat of her man’s intervention that prompted the mobsters, the hoodlums and the loan sharks to back down. The workers’ township around the spaceport on Coruscant was awash with all manners of criminals whose sole purpose was to take advantage of the neighbourhood’s rampant poverty, and had it not been for Sinunu’s parents and a few friends and relatives who subscribed to the same values, the situation in their little community would have been much worse.

    This was something that Sinunu understood from a very young age, and he admired his parents for their courage and their dedication to protecting the most vulnerable. He was fully aware that he lacked their boldness and determination, and he often felt deep shame for his own pusillanimity. It wasn’t only that he didn’t have the physical strength to stand up to the ruffians – he had inherited his father’s tall stature, but not much else, and he had found himself more than once on the receiving end of the neighbourhood bullies’ unwanted attention when his mother and father were not around – but the truth was that, as much as he hated to admit it, Sinunu was a coward. He feared physical pain and humiliation, and when confronted with adversity his solution of choice was to flee. The sound beatings that he had experienced every time he’d tried to stand up for himself only reinforced him in the belief that he was not meant to take up his parents’ banner and defend the modicum of justice that prevailed in Cannon Town.

    Like most residents of the township, and indeed like their ancestors before them, Sinunu’s parents were casual labourers in the spaceport. Papa’s ability to carry the heaviest loads without so much as batting an eyelid meant that he naturally found himself recruited on the teams that rebuilt the hyperspace cannon’s frames after each launch, while Mama’s slight features were often required for tasks that involved crawling in maintenance shafts and ventilation networks that larger-bodied beings couldn’t access. It was hard and dangerous work, but it was work – and with it came the income that enabled the family to live a comfortable life, or as comfortable as life could be in the glum environment of Cannon Town. Their home was little more than a shack, but it was a shack that didn’t leak when the skies of Coruscant poured torrents of rain on the planet’s people; it had windows that kept out the draught and a door that kept its inhabitants safe from thieves and vagrants. They were able to purchase food, clothes, energy for lighting and heating and every other necessity, and Mama and Papa could even afford to take a day off every other month to spend a day on the beach with their little boy. Most importantly, they were able to enrol him in school. Few children in the neighbourhood ever got to complete the initial learning cycle and even fewer proceeded to secondary learning, but Sinunu’s parents had high ambitions for their son. They hoped that he would graduate as an accountant or a technician so as to secure a permanent job with the company that managed the hyperspace cannon; sometimes they even dreamed that he would become an engineer and join the research teams that worked to improve the technology of ships equipped with their own hyperdrives. It was exceedingly expensive in those times to travel on a craft that could propel itself autonomously among the stars, and most sentients who chose to set out and discover the worlds of the galaxy knew that they would never return to Coruscant, unless they were headed for one of the few planets of the Core that were sufficiently affluent and populous to warrant a hyperspace cannon of their own.

    The issue, however, was that Sinunu didn’t express interest in any of the trades his parents had in mind for him. He was a studious child and he always performed well in school – he knew how much Mama and Papa were sacrificing to grant him this privilege, and he didn’t want to disappoint them – but deep down he was a dreamer. There was nothing he enjoyed more than being told stories of faraway places and mysterious beings whose existence was documented by those who travelled away from Coruscant and were able to afford the journey home. He had no wish to become an accountant, or a technician, or even an engineer. What he truly wanted was to become a storyteller, to listen to the spacers, the scholars, the explorers who scouted the galaxy, to build with his words an image of the fantasy world that enchanted him and to share it with others so that they could see the universe through his eyes.

    There was one tale in particular that captivated his imagination like no other, and as a young boy he demanded that his mother tell it again night after night. It was the story of a fair maiden whom the fortunes would not allow to know love; her beauty, kindness and compassion were her undoing and little Sinunu cried every time Mama reached the moment when she died at the hand of her tormentors. It was said in Cannon Town that the fable had originated on the distant Moon of Melodies, a magical world where crystals came alive and sang, and after Mama was done consoling him and tucking him to sleep, Sinunu remained awake in the dark for many hours, dreaming himself a knight in shining armour who protected the maiden and defied the fates that led her to her doom.

    By the time Sinunu was in his early teens, he had taught himself the language of the bards. He was halfway through the secondary learning cycle and he was even able to contribute small amounts to the family’s wages through his poetry readings in the weddings, funerals and other ceremonies that were occasionally held in Cannon Town. It was not much, and Mother always insisted that he should save his earnings for his own needs, but he felt that, being nearly a grown man, it was time he contributed to his upkeep; and the extra credits had certainly come in useful when a heavy metal beam crushed Father’s left hand, preventing him from accepting more work until his bones had mended. He had brought up in passing with his parents his aspirations to become a strolling minstrel, and he knew that they disapproved of his plans – but there were still several years to go until he completed his education, and he was confident that he could persuade them to come around to his view.

    It was around this time that he met a spacer who had travelled far and wide among the stars, and Sinunu spent hours every day listening to his stories in a dank cantina where adventurers of every breed liked to congregate. He took great care to hide this habit from his parents, for he expected them to be thoroughly dismayed if they knew of his new, shady acquaintances; he always made sure that he was home before the end of their shift, and he stayed up late at night to study lest his school results suffered from the time he gave over to leisure. But the spacer’s tales attracted him irresistibly to the cantina afternoon after afternoon, and he often caught himself daydreaming in class to retell the stories in his own words, to put them in verse and to create the tune to which he would chant them. It was an investment for the future, he told himself to silence the nagging voice in the back of his mind that advised him to focus on the technical subjects through which he could obtain employment at the cannon. A day would come when he would be the most celebrated of minstrels, and this would be due in no small part to the stories he had collected on these lazy afternoons.

    The spacer left once more to travel the galaxy, and for the next few years Sinunu’s life felt empty. The man had been an endless source of inspiration for his compositions, and even though he was increasingly prized as a bard in Cannon Town’s festivities and had built up a little nest egg for a rainy day, he was now repeating the same tales over and over and he feared that his skill with words and rhythm would run dry. Moreover, his discussions with his parents about his future had come to a head. Both Mother and Father were adamant that troubadour was not a sustainable profession; they had made it clear to Sinunu that he needed to secure a livelihood, not only for himself but also for them, for the time of their lives when they wouldn’t be able to work at the cannon anymore and would depend on his support. He could continue to write poems and sing hymns on his free time, they said – but first of all he needed a job to put food on the table, and poetry had never fed anyone. The rational part of Sinunu’s mind could see that they were right, and he redoubled his efforts to complete his accounting course with top marks – but the cold numbers and calculations made him feel that he was stifling his true self, and this added to his self-doubt and his uncertainty about his talent.

    The sight of the spacer’s returning ship in the skies of Coruscant as he headed to school one morning during the last year of his studies brought him unmitigated relief, and as soon as the day’s classes were over he headed to the cantina. The spacer was sitting in his usual corner, tousled, unkempt and unshaven, nursing the same tankard of ale as he always did. On the table before him lay a rough stone the size of his fist. Sinunu took a chair at his side and looked at him eagerly.

    “Still hungry for stories to listen to, uh, kid?” the man asked. “Got a whole bunch of new ones to tell you, and there’ll be plenty of time for that. This” – he pointed his chin at the stone – “is my ticket to a comfortable retirement.”

    The teenager glanced at it curiously. “What is it?”

    “Uncut crystal from the Moon of Melodies, good-sized one too. Worth a small fortune, it is. I’m gonna sell it, and you’ll see me here every day.”

    With the spacer’s approval Sinunu reached for the stone and took it in his hand. It was warm and light to the touch, and as he lifted it to his ear he thought it emitted a few notes. He shook his head and tilted it closer. The music was still there; it was clear enough that he could hum it.

    The man stared at him in awe. “You can hear it?”

    For the next several, glorious months, Sinunu lived in the belief that he was a Jedh, one of the select few whose heart is so pure that the fortunes granted them the power to hear the song of the crystals. He gave the spacer every credit in his possession as a downpayment on the stone, and he took up an accounting job immediately upon graduation to finish paying him off. At night, after Mother and Father were asleep, he brought out the stone to listen to its tune, and he imagined himself standing among the Dreamsingers of the Kyberkerk, leading the choir in a magnificent psalm while the High Priest delivered his oration to the worshippers. He spent every free hour of his days in the libraries, travelling sometimes long distances to read every book there was about the Moon of Melodies and learn about its customs, its mysteries and the religious orders that officiated there – it was thus he found out that the tale of the fair maiden he had so loved as a child was thought to be a prophecy of things to come – and as soon as he had settled his debt to the spacer he began to save in order to purchase a ticket on the next outbound ship to the desert world.

    He considered discussing this project with his parents, but in the end he ruled against it. Mother and Father were not particularly religious people, they had little time for tales of preternatural powers that defied the laws of everyday existence, and they always took accounts of the reality of other worlds with a handful of salt. They would not understand the importance of his ability to hear the crystal and they would discourage them from seeking adventure beyond the boundaries of Cannon Town. His mind was made up: he would travel to the Moon of Melodies on his own, he would join the Dreamsingers, and, once he had settled down and established himself in the Holy City, he would send word for them to come and reunite with him in his new life.

    The next ship was due to launch in less than four months, after which no departures for the moon were scheduled for at least two years. Sinunu didn’t want to wait. He deprived himself of everything so as to be able to leave at least half of his earnings for his parents when he was gone, and he carefully budgeted his needs for the trip down to the very last farthing. He walked the six kilometres to Market Town and back so as to purchase the foodstuffs he would eat during the journey for the best price. He rummaged through the cupboards to borrow the oldest, most ragged piece of fabric that his parents wouldn’t miss to wrap them. He collected his monthly allowance of soap from his employer and tucked it in the parcel. He took his shoes for resoling to Father’s cobbler friend down the street; he made sure that the clothes he would wear were the newest in his possession and that his socks were darned. He kept a handful of credits for water during the trip and for his first night in the Holy City; he procured a few cheap notepads and styluses so as to continue writing down his poems; and, on the morning when he was due to travel, he waited for his parents to leave for their shift, he wrote them a long letter explaining where he had gone, and he departed to the spaceport.

    Despite his experience speaking in public when he conducted poetry readings for weddings and naming feasts, Sinunu was still a shy and reserved man, and he kept mostly to himself during the journey through hyperspace. There was little to do and nothing to see in the lower decks of the ship on which he travelled among a group of faithful who, like him, hoped to be initiated to the secrets of the Kyber. He rehearsed silently the speech he had in mind to introduce himself at the Kyberkerk, he jotted down ideas for poems, he composed new hymns. He was cautious not to purchase any more water than he needed for drinking and he washed only every other day to save on the sanisteam fees. He didn’t even notice the moment when the craft reverted to realspace, and it was the turbulence caused by entry in the moon’s atmosphere that told him that they had arrived.

    His first impression of the Holy City was that it was cold and dark, but then it was late at night and the Gate of Laments was deserted. He followed his fellow passengers to Pilgrim’s House, paid for his bunk – he was happy to see that his frugality had allowed him to set aside credits for a second night, in case the High Priest couldn’t host him in the citadel immediately – and the next morning at dawn, he washed his face, combed his hair, flapped his clothes, slipped them on and straightened them. He checked that his uncut crystal was safely tucked away in the pocket of his trousers, he rehearsed his introduction speech one last time and he headed to the Kyberkerk.

    The vast tetrahedral temple was empty at this time of day, but a tall, hooded figure in dark blue robes stood by the altar. Sinunu walked up to the man and bowed deeply in salutation; he handed him the stone he had bought from the spacer and poured out his speech in a single breath.

    The High Priest blinked a few times through the eye slit in his hood and held up the jagged stone. “Quite nicely done,” he said. “My apologies, young man, but one must be a Jedh to join the Dreamsingers.”

    The bard stared at him in disbelief. “But I am a Jedh!” he protested. “I can hear this crystal’s music, I –”

    The High Priest let out a sepulchral laugh. “A worthy imitation, to be sure. The audio system is certainly well camouflaged. Reinforced glass strips and a miniature mallet, I should think.” He gestured towards the altar, where numerous smaller crystals were displayed. They were clear as water, with sharp, clean, geometrical edges. “These are true song crystals. Yours, young man… the cloudy nature of its material is an obvious indication that it is but a cheap trinket.”

    “But it can’t be! The man said –”

    The High Priest returned the stone to him, together with one of the crystals from the altar. “I am sorry. I hope that, with time, you will find your way on this moon.” And with that, he spun on his heel and left, his long robes floating behind him as he walked out of the venerable shrine.

    Sinunu found himself alone in the Kyberkerk, his phoney crystal in one hand, the one he had had just been given in the other. He brought them both to his ear to confirm what the High Priest had said. The stone sold to him by the spacer on Coruscant played its little tune as he moved it, while the one from the Kyberkerk remained silent. It was true, then. He could not hear the music of the crystals. He was not a Jedh. Like most sentient beings in the galaxy, he was a mere Sord. He was also a fool who had been conned into buying a worthless bauble for an exceedingly high price, and he had spent his last credits on a one-way ticket to the Moon of Melodies for nothing.

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

    Endnotes
    All elements of worldbuilding in this chapter are my own fanon, with the exception of the word ‘Dreamsingers’, which Gamiel created as one of his lost Force traditions.

    The word ‘Jedh’ presumably needs no explanation ;) Its antonym, ‘Sord’, means ‘deaf’ in Catalan.
     
  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    I love this interlude with insights into Sinunu's character: his aspirations and temperament. His mom and dad sound wonderful, hard-working, compassionate, and practical minded.

    I like also that his dreams do not revolve around a prominent career but legends and traveling to exotic places and sharing tales. :cool:

    Yikes, how absolutely disappointing that the crystal he acquired from the spacer was a phony one. :( He totally would have been compensated and more if he could hear the genuine one. @};-
    So now we readers get the sense of his being totally adrift. I've come here for nothing, now what? [face_thinking]
     
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  6. CairnsTony

    CairnsTony Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    May 7, 2014
    I love the way you've fleshed out the character of Sinunu here; that's the sort of detail that breathes life into your protagonist!

    He's a Dreamer; an explorer, as much of himself I think; and he's been laid low... where to now? ;)
     
  7. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    How did I miss TWO updates? And what gizkaspice said. Wow. Just, seriously, seriously, WOW. ^:)^

    The rich descriptions, the world building, all lyrical...and this isn't even your first language!!! ^:)^^:)^^:)^

    I did especially like the explanation of Sinunu's background; feeling a little sorry for his parents. They obviously care about him deeply, sacrificed a lot and now, with the nature of early space travel being what it is, they will probably never get to see him again. :(

    But wow. Wow.

    [face_hypnotized][face_hypnotized]

    WOW!
     
  8. gizkaspice

    gizkaspice Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Nov 27, 2013
    Actually when I meant publishing, I meant you really, really should consider someday publishing this in bookform--it needs to reach the bookshelves, libraries of the world, not just a SW forum! Because it's actually extremely interesting and the attention to the world building and characters is exceptional.

    This chapter provides a great insight into Sinunu and who he is and where he comes from---I'm going to admit that I'm a huge sucker for character background stories and you did not disappoint! The amount of detail here is great, and I love how his family are just regular, hard-working people trying to make a living with great title aspirations for their child, which every parent has. But a child will have their own dreams and Sinunu wants to be a dreamer and storyteller and loves all these stories and poetry, but knows he needs a practical job that actually puts food on the table---I think many creative individuals can certainly relate to this.

    The concept of a crystal that few can hear its music is fascinating--I'm glad you didn't just directly jump into something Force related which is what SW would naturally do. And what a bombshell revelation at the end--Sinunu can't actually hear the music of the crystal... :(

    So to summarize:
    1) please publish something and become a best-selling author so I can buy your awesome books
    2) Sinunu is cool
    3) music crystals FTW!
     
  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Yeah, LOL fact. I felt that way about Necessity Beyond Sway. [face_love] [face_love]
     
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  10. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and reviewing! I have a new chapter for you today; it's a rather short one but it's important for the story, so I'm going to keep it a separate entry. But first a few replies:

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thanks! For all his feeling of falling short of his parents' courage and dedication, Sinunu has actually learned a lot from them. He doesn't care about pride and glory and he wants in his own way to make the world a better place, even if it's just by giving common people a form of relief through his tales and poems. But he's, well, a bit naive, and he got conned. Now he's stuck out there on Jedha, and he doesn't have the faintest clue what he'll do next.

    CairnsTony Thank you! I actually had some difficulty writing Sinunu when I started out on this fic, because his "parent" character from Hunchback is pretty much a loser and a pompous prat, and I'm not too comfortable building a narrator for the sole purpose of making fun of them. But then I figured out his true role in this story and it helped me give him some redeeming qualities. For now, however, he's in a spot of trouble and that's going to last for several more chapters.

    Mistress_Renata Thanks so much! *blushes purple* Writing this fic is a blast; I think I mentioned to you that this story took over my mind once it had formed in my head and I couldn't focus on anything else until I'd written it. I'm glad you're enjoying it.
    If you're familiar with the plot of Hunchback you already know that this story won't have a happy end for most characters; but in Sinunu's case I like to think that there will be a silver lining. After everything is over, his parents, not seeing him come back, will travel to Jedha to find their son, and they'll be reunited – although they won't find what they expect! This is a little spin-off I might write at some point, but after this fic is over.

    gizkaspice Thank you even more! *blushes a deeper shade of purple* You're in for a treat if you like character backstories, because every character in this fic (except one) will be getting his or her little interlude at some point. It's a useful narrative tool to keep the story moving without having to resort to endless walls of dialogue and flashbacks :p
    Thanks again! The idea that the crystals produce a sound that only Force-sensitive individuals can hear, as implied in Rogue One and new EU material, is something I really liked, and I thought it would be a good entry point for a story about the early days of Force sensitivity. I'm glad to see it's working for you too :)
    [face_laugh] Ayooshification 3.0 [face_laugh]

    Thanks again for your comments, and thanks to everyone who stopped by to read! Next chapter up straight away.
     
  11. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    (Note: this chapter is my entry for the December 2017 OC Revolution Challenge)

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

    Chapter IV: The Crystal Dance

    The parvis of the Kyberkerk, between the northern wall of the citadel and the cluster of houses that separated the temple from Whisperers’ Gate, currently held a much smaller crowd than the throng that had been in Initiation Square for the feast of the Budallenjsh – with his inimitable common sense, Father, were he present, would describe it as ‘more than a score but less than a grand’, Sinunu thought with a pang of sorrow – but there was palpable excitement in the air here as well. Many in the assembly were clapping their hands to the rhythm of an old-fashioned tambourine whose jingles pierced the hubbub; the bard could sense their trepidation in anticipation of an experience whose importance he did not understand. He circled the esplanade cautiously to come closer to the bonfire at the foot of the monumental staircase that led to the temple’s ceremonial hall. As he arrived near a basement window where someone had abandoned a plate of food and a jug of water, he came into view of the spectacle that had attracted this gathering.

    A woman was dancing in front of the fire, a woman more beautiful, more delicate and more beguiling than any being Sinunu had ever encountered. Everything about her, every ounce of her being was so graceful, so charming, so captivating – the sparkle of her eyes, the fullness of her lips, the golden brown of her skin – that the young man believed for a moment that he was in the presence of one of the fabled angels that were said to dwell on the moons of Iego in the legends of old. Her feet barely skimmed the sandy ground as she bowed, twirled and leapt to the sound of her tambourine, and her glossy black hair swung behind her like a wave of water come alive. The outline of her lithe body against the glow of the fire projected jittering shadows across the parvis, adding to the otherworldliness of the scene.

    Sinunu couldn’t tell for how long he had forgotten to breathe at this exquisite sight when the reflection of flame on metal brought him to his senses. It was only then that he noticed the copper buckle in the shape of a shining light sheltered by open wings that clasped her belt around her waist, the elaborate set of occult symbols that were embroidered on the hem of her skirt and the long-eared desert felid that stood at her side. Disappointment surged in his soul. Alas! He had not stumbled upon a supernatural creature whose tale was yet untold. The woman was merely a Jevgyi.

    Still, it was Sinunu’s first brush with one of the mysterious nomads of the Moon of Melodies. Little was known about the Jevgy that wasn’t fiction or myth; some stories described them as vagrants, beggars and thieves who were shunned by the sentient community of the mesa while others spoke of them as shamans, sorcerers or even gods – Lady Kaz’s comment that they had the magic of the crystals came to mind, although what she had meant by that the bard did not know. The only solid fact established by scholars and explorers was that the Jevgy roamed the deserts and came sometimes to barter and trade in the Holy City, and Sinunu’s ever-inquisitive mind was, as always, curious to learn more. Furthermore, as unremarkable as a Human from a primitive tribe might come across in comparison to an angel of Iego, the dancer’s beauty held him in its thrall. Like the remainder of the audience, he continued to observe her with fascination.

    There came a moment when he understood that something out of the ordinary was happening, although it took him a while to pinpoint where this feeling stemmed from. The dancer had stopped drumming on her tambourine; her arms were now spread out at her sides and she was whirling upon herself in a dizzying spin. Sinunu thought at first that the silvery light of the eclipse, combined with the blaze of the bonfire, was playing a trick on his eyes, and that the twinkling specks around her feet were particles of sand and dust that she was kicking off the ground. Then a melodious hum rose from the chest of a few beings that were dispersed among the crowd: an elderly man dressed in the unassuming outfit of a labourer, a fierce-looking Wookiee with a bundle on her back, a small child huddled against his older sibling – all intoned the same tune, as if an invisible voice were whispering in their ear and prompting them to unite in an improvised choir. The bard’s gaze travelled from one singer to the next to unravel this mystery as the music grew louder, settling finally on the Karakal felid that was now lying flat on its belly and cowering in awe. When he returned his attention to the dancer, he let out an astonished gasp.

    The woman was still twirling, her eyes tightly shut, her face as immobile and stony as that of a statue. Her skirt flared around her as she spun on and on in an endless pirouette, and – Sinunu blinked twice to ensure he wasn’t asleep and dreaming – small crystals were soaring from the dirt and spinning alongside her, engulfing her in a whirlwind of glittering light.

    It took the bard a conscious effort to persuade his jaw to close, and he remained there, staring at the scene in disbelief as he tried to process the idea that one of the most outlandish tales he had heard about the Moon of Melodies was true. This woman – this wanderer, this street dancer, this witch from a tribe of primitive nomads – was not a Jedh in the sense that he had fantasised himself to be; she was not like those audience members who were singing to the tune of the crystals that flew in an upward spiral in front of the fire. She had the ability to actually manipulate the translucent stones, to extract them from the soil, to bring them to the surface and to lift them in the air solely through the power of her mind, as if she could wield the elemental forces that had given birth to the stars and planets in the days when the galaxy was yet to come. He reminded himself of accounts he had read of the existence of such a power; he had dismissed them at the time as preposterous fabrications so often retold that they had evolved into old wives’ tales – yet he was now witnessing the effects of this power with his very own eyes, and he couldn’t deny its reality anymore.

    Up and up the crystals circled as the woman continued to whirl. Her steady, regular step to the pace of the singers’ voices enticed the congregation to a form of hypnosis, the erratic movement behind her eyelids indicating that she had herself reached a state of trance. Sinunu’s gaze followed the shimmer of the stones against the dark façade of the Kyberkerk, wondering how high she would raise them. Would she reach the apex of the triangular pyramid where the Kyber itself was stored? Would she lift them above the city and into the skies? The bright pinpricks danced on the outer wall of the temple, creating the impression of a second starry night against the silvery heavens of the eclipse, a world of magic and enchantment within the only world that the young man could see. He stood there marvelling at the sight and he wished with deep longing that he were more than a Sord – perhaps not a Jedh as powerful as the dancer, but one who could hear the music of the crystals and join into their song.

    He was pulled out of his reverie by the appearance of a shadowy figure on the terrace atop the Kyberkerk’s majestic stairs – a tall, hooded man in flowing robes resting against a ceremonial staff. Sinunu could only imagine what the High Priest made of the sorcery that was unfolding before this most sacred place of worship; despite not being able to discern his face he could sense that he was casting a disapproving glare on the scene from above. A hint of motion told him that the prelate was going to intervene, but before he could even take a step forward a lugubrious voice cried out. It seemed to emanate from the ground itself of the plaza where the young bard was standing.

    “Curse you, demon of the desert! Curse you, daughter of the winds! Thief of love, thief of children! Curse you, curse you, curse you!”

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

    Endnotes
    The dancer’s belt buckle is in the shape of the future symbol of the Jedi Order.

    As mentioned in chapter III, the Jevgy are a nomadic tribe of my creation who roam the deserts of Jedha. I borrowed the name from RL Albanian, where Jevg is the non-derogatory term to refer to the Albanian-speaking Roma (Gypsy) subgroup. In this story, Jegvy is the collective name of the tribe, Jevgyi is the noun that applies to a single individual and Jevgyan is the adjective.

    The Karakal is my (transparently) starwarsified version of the RL caracal wild cat.

    The temple of the Kyber in this story is shaped like a tetrahedron rather than a flat triangle with an indentation running down the apex, as seen in Rogue One. There’s a reason for that, but you’ll have to read until the end of the story to find out.

    The dance described in this chapter is inspired from the Egyptian version of the whirling dervishes’ dance, called tannoura (i.e. skirt) in Arabic, in which the dervish removes several layers of skirts and dances with the fabric as he spins around. This dance is traditionally performed by men; you can watch a video of a modernised version here and the traditional version here.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2017
  12. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    And of course, it doesn't take a genius to see that our dancer is meant to be Esmerelda.
     
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  13. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Captivating and exotic details of the dance :cool: You can see the Jevgyi are held in low esteem by others in the society due to misconceptions and exaggerations [face_thinking] I cannot wait for the two of them to meet, curious as to what will bring them together.
     
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  14. gizkaspice

    gizkaspice Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Nov 27, 2013
    Aw, Sinunu has a crush! :p I just love the description of the dancer---exotic details, but also the sense of movement really sweeps the audience along with it! And just the little details like that Karakal felid (...attention Karakal felid--you are now on my radar and I must know more about you!). The Jevgyi definitively don't seem very well-regarded at all--the High Priest's harsh words pretty much confirm it.
     
  15. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Chapter 3:

    So the people think that Ino is a Cjap, a mysterious alien “boogyman” who snatches souls who dare to enter the desert at night? Interesting. Of course, Ino is different and therefore he must be evil or malicious, so he gets what’s coming to him. For his part, Ino seems to be swept away with the crowd. I’m not sure he even understands what’s going on.

    I like the idea that the holy city is based on the layout of Jerusalem. That gives me a mental idea of what it must look like.

    Interlude: Sinunu

    So here is the backstory for Sinunu. I like that he came from a Coruscant of small villages and beaches, where actual weather would affect the citizens. Such a far cry from the megacity that has encompassed the entire world! And the other touches - the rarity of a space traveller, whose tales of adventure would have been so unusual that Sinunu would sneak off to hear them; the idea that if you go off world, you better be prepared for a very long and expensive journey; and the thought that those who ventured into the outer reaches would do so at the expense of never seeing their family again.

    The exhilaration of acquiring the stone that sings for him, then the brutal let-down to discover that it was all a fraud - how devastating that must have been. The spacer gave him purpose and fulfillment on one hand, with his tales of adventure, and took it away with the phony kyber crystal with the other hand. But that’s life, kid. :cool:

    Now he has to make it on his own. Sinunu’s smart; I’m curious how he is going to work this out. He’s stuck here. He has no money to go home (i doubt his parents even know where he is, and even if they did, they can’t afford to send him back to Coruscant), so he’s got to use his wits to stay alive here.

    Chapter 4.

    Another clever little dancer to grace the Chyntuck universe! I immediately thought of The Dancer and the Thief, which is not altogether inappropriate here.

    This:


    …is simply gorgeous writing. You have fully fleshed this character in (count ‘em) two sentences. Beautiful.

    And here:

    …calls back to the very beginning of the story, an unending thread that connects this day to the first day.

    So we have the beautiful Esmerelda, who summons the Force as a natural, organic thing, and now the entrance of the High Priest - presumably a Jedi master. Interesting switch up that the Jedi temple priest is setting up to be the antagonist! I like the way you have a spectrum of Force users, from the dancer’s artistic (and possibly commercial) use of the Force to the idea that the Force is sacred and not to be used by anyone else but a temple denizen.


    Another wonderful set of otherworldly chapters, rich in description and lush in setting. I wish I wasn’t so busy these days so that I could respond to this exquisite story in a more timely manner.
     
  16. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Oh, man. Again, your description is so amazing. I could see the whole scene taking place as if I was watching a movie. Interesting that the minute Sinunu realized that the dancer was Jevgyi, she suddenly seemed less magical, less lovely even. Fascinating to see that some of the crowd seemed to 'hear' the song of those crystals and were humming along.

    And the High Priest appears... I get a strong whiff of jealousy off of him.

    This just continues to be utterly WOW.^:)^
     
  17. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and reviewing! It's update time, but here are a few quick replies first:

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Welcome to this story [:D] Indeed, you don't need to be a genius to recognise Esmeralda here – not only because she's a street dancer, but also because this chapter (and the upcoming one) follow very, very closely the equivalent chapters in the novel :D

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you :) The Jevgy are this story's SW equivalent of real-world Gypsies, with everything that entails in terms of accusations of sorcery, child theft and spreading diseases, but also the fascination of mainstream culture for them and their presumed supernatural abilities. And yes, Sinunu and the dancer will indeed meet face-to-face a few chapters down the road, although the circumstances will be (I hope) unexpected!

    gizkaspice Thanks again! "Sinunu has a crush" is a good way of putting it :D and up to a point he's in luck, even though he doesn't know it yet. Also, you need to tell me your birthday, because now that the Karakal is on your radar I owe you a crack!fic in the style of the genealogies of the Book of Genesis to explain how this felid is (of course!) Millicent's distant ancestor! [face_laugh]

    divapilot Thank you so much for your long, detailed review! I know how busy you are these days and I'm doubly grateful that you're taking the time to comment here. I feel that I must remind you however that this story is your gift and that you should primarily enjoy it, no strings attached :)

    In response to your various comments:
    A lot about Ino will be revealed in chapter 6 and the next interlude, so I won't elaborate here, but yes, this is very much how he is perceived, and indeed he doesn't quite understand what is going on. He sort of blundered his way into the election of the Lord of the Budallenjsh, like Quasimodo in Hunchback, probably with some help from a mischievous soul that thought to pull a prank on him.
    I'm working on an actual map of the Holy City that I'm hoping to post very, very soon in the Fanon Thread. I just need to polish chapters 7 and 8 first, so as to place all the streets and locations on the map, but that should be done in the next couple of weeks. I'll add a link to my fanon post in this thread too of course!
    The GFFA in general and Coruscant in particular would have to be very different such a long time before the Saga, and I was lucky to get a lot of ideas from the fanfic hive mind when I asked about it in the writer's desk. I also used my other distant past story, If This Is a Man, as a point of reference for this one. In ITIAM, which takes place some 5000 years after the foundation of the Republic, space travel is a "normal" thing because this would be a requirement for the existence of the Republic, even though many worlds were only recently colonised and some areas of space remain uncharted territory. Furthermore, in ITIAM, Coruscant is already mostly built up, but it still has a few oceans and rivers and the construction consists mostly of one- or two-storey buildings rather than skyscrapers, which have only just begun to make their appearance in the urban landscape. So for this story, I just worked back from there and threw everyone's suggestions into the mix, for the result we have now. I've had some difficulty maintaining the medieval feel in my description of Coruscant though, because I was mostly inspired by stories dating back to the industrial revolution like Emile Zola's Germinal; the only obvious medieval element I ended up keeping is the idea that neighbourhoods are organised by profession (e.g. Workers' Town, Market Town) which is what you'll often find in medieval cities where all the shops selling one particular type of item would be found next to each other in the same street. (This is actually still the case in many cities in the Arab world, and even in smaller towns in the Balkans to some extent.)
    Like many young people of his age, now that he left his parents' home Sinunu is discovering how sheltered his existence had been so far. He was able to contribute to the family's income with his poetry readings over the last few years, but that worked only because he had the support of his parents; and, if he hadn't assumed that he knows better than them (again, a mistake that many people of his age would make), they might have told him to take the stone to a proper authority about the crystals instead of swallowing the spacer's tale hook, line and sinker :( Let's see now if he learned his lesson about being so naive and gullible, although with him being a hopeless dreamer I wouldn't count on it!
    Thanks again for all your kind words! I seem to have a thing with artists, dancers and poets, don't I? So, I called Azalea's Dolls to the rescue once more, and it provided me with this portrait of the dancer (spoilered for size):
    [​IMG]
    I'm happy you made the connection between the dancer's powers and the prologue. I was hoping that it was obvious, but not too obvious ;)

    About the relationship and the contrast between the dancer and the priest, well, that's kind of the core of this story, isn't it? So of course I'm going to have to resort to using all manners of evasive smileys [face_batting] [face_shhh] [face_whistling] What I will say though is that the High Priest isn't really a Jedi Master, since the Jedi don't exist yet, but given his position as a cleric he should – repeat, should – be a good guy. But then again, maybe not!
    Thanks again, again and again! It's a true privilege to be writing this story as a gift for you, it forces me to put my best writing out there!

    Mistress_Renata Thank you :) For all his culture and sophistication, Sinunu isn't immune to prejudice, and while he's curious about the Jevgy he initially doesn't hold them in particularly high esteem – until he realises what the dancer can do with the crystals, of course, which goes beyond his wildest dreams. As for those in the crowd who can hear the crystals, there's an idea here that I borrowed from divapilot's fanon about Mehr: in a small, closed community where people intermarry over several generations, the number of Force-sensitives would grow exponentially if there were a few Force-sensitives among the population's ancestors in the first place. In the case of Jedha, this would definitely be the case, since the first colonisers were drawn to the moon because they could sense the crystals on the surface. Because, seriously, why would anyone stop by on a desert moon like Jedha when there are so many larger and more hospitable worlds to explore?

    Thanks again for all the reviews, and thank you to everyone who stopped by to read! Next chapter coming right up.
     
  18. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Chapter V: Voices of Ill-Omen

    The dancer was too deep in her trance and most of the crowd too ensconced in the spectacle to take note, but the eerie, haunting scream caused Sinunu and a few others around him to jump in fright. The bard stared at the High Priest in disbelief. Uttering such a vulgar curse was entirely unbecoming of a prelate of his stature, but most importantly Sinunu wondered how the strange, shrill voice that was most unlike Priest Lam’s could have emanated from the plaza itself. The explanation came from a young man at his side who, after catching his breath and lifting a terrified toddler in his arms, muttered: “To Chaos with the Recluse!”

    Sinunu followed the man’s gaze to the basement window where the plate of food and the jug lay abandoned. The sight he found there sent a shiver down his spine.

    A ghostly, emaciated woman was looking at them, her head level with the ground. She appeared to be some sort of prisoner, for the window had bars that she was grasping and shaking with her spider-like hands. Her face was the hue of pasty white that comes only to those who have not seen the sun in a long time; her grey hair was dishevelled and dirty and her eyes gleamed with manic hatred as she stared at the dancer. “Hide your son,” she whispered conspiratorially to the father. “The witch will take him away.”

    The man gave her a pained look and took a few steps away from the basement window. Sinunu followed suit. “Who is she?” the bard asked.

    The man shrugged. “They say her name used to be Asteria Flowersong. She lost her daughter many years ago, and...” – his voice trailed off; he merely tapped a finger to his temple to indicate that the woman’s sanity was questionable. “She blames it on the Jevgy and she always makes a fuss when one of them comes here. A shame, really.” He gestured towards the dancer. “I was hoping to enjoy this for once; it isn’t something you get to see every day. My son can hear the crystals, you know,” he added with a hint of pride, angling his chin towards the child in his embrace. “Maybe he’ll be able to lift them someday too.”

    Sinunu gave the boy a smile that he hoped did not come across as exceedingly envious and returned his attention to the dancer. Her step was slackening and she slowly emerged from her rapture as she lowered the floating crystals to the ground. The assembly broke out into thunderous applause and several younglings rushed forward to collect the precious gems from the dirt. The woman took a bow, then beckoned to her Karakal to come forward. She placed the edge of her tambourine between the felid’s jaws and shooed it towards the audience.

    “Thank you kindly, ladies and gentlebeings,” she called as all manners of coins began to rain into the instrument. “Thank you kindly for your attention and your generosity, and may the uzh of others be with you!”

    Sinunu thought he heard the High Priest mutter “Sacrilege!” over the brouhaha of the crowd that was assembled around the bonfire, but a more pressing issue soon presented itself. The Karakal had reached the corner of the parvis where he was standing, the credits jingling merrily against the zills with every step. The bard dug into his pocket for a druggat without thinking – only to remember that it was empty. His cheeks took a deep shade of crimson. “My apologies, felid,” he said with as much dignity as he could muster. “I have no change on me.”

    The young father with whom he had been chatting gave him a disapproving look and stepped away after dropping his alms in the tambourine, and Sinunu felt that the Karakal itself was frowning as it stood in front of him for a few moments longer before moving along. People were staring at him. His blush turned darker. He thought of justifying himself aloud, but he could not bring himself to do it – it was one more humiliation to add to the long list of humiliations he had been subjected to over the past two days. He took a step back, then remembered the Recluse who was gnashing her teeth in the dark and opted to stay where he was.

    The felid soon completed its assigned task and trotted back to its master. The dancer took the tambourine from its maw and poured the contents in a money pouch hanging from her belt. She then looked up and smiled at the crowd. “And now, good people of the Holy City, in gratitude for your munificence, my dear Djali will entertain you. You should know that she is the smartest Karakal on our moon and she will surprise you with everything she can do!”

    The audience clapped cheerfully. The dancer sat cross-legged on the dusty street to be closer to her pet, scratched her between the ears and held out her tambourine. “Djali, which day of the week is it today?”

    The Karakal raised a paw and hit the tambourine three times. It was indeed the third day of the week. The little assembly applauded.

    “Something more difficult now,” the woman said. “Djali, which month of the year is it?”

    The Karakal rapped the tambourine eight times, and again she was correct; it was the eighth month of the year. There was more applause. The dancer bowed her head in acceptance of the praise.

    “Even more difficult! Djali, how many crystals did we lift off the ground today?”

    The felid sat back to raise both of her front paws off the ground and drummed the tambourine frantically. The audience burst out laughing and a voice snarled, “Heresy!”

    The dancer glanced over her shoulder to see who had spoken, and she caught a glimpse of the High Priest who was glaring at her from the top of the monumental staircase. She pouted her lips in the prettiest grimace Sinunu had ever seen.

    “Oh, is it this wicked man again grumbling at us? Well then!” She turned back to her pet and whipped her long hair off her shoulder defiantly. “Djali, show us something please. How does High Priest Lam look at us when we dance before the Kyberkerk?”

    The Karakal, who was still sitting on her rear, straightened up and stretched her neck to hold her head high, tilting it ever so slightly to the side and half-closing her eyes to mimic the priest’s contemptuous expression. Many in the audience had to stifle a chuckle.

    The dancer’s eyes sparkled. “Djali, how does High Priest Lam walk in the streets of the city when he stoops to gracing us commoners with his blessings?”

    The felid stood up on her rear legs and took a few steps towards the crowd, nodding left and right as if to greet passers-by condescendingly. The chuckles were clearly audible now.

    A lighthearted smile played on the woman’s lips. She was visibly greatly enjoying herself, and it was clear that she, like Sinunu, could hear the cleric’s constant muttering. “Djali, how does High Priest Lam address the faithful when he delivers his sermon after the service?”

    The felid stood even taller and began to meow loudly as she gesticulated with both front paws. Her imitation was so perfect that the audience seemingly forgot that the target of the dancer’s sarcasm was standing just a few fathoms away and erupted into oblivious laughter.

    The dancer’s smile went from playful to mischievous. “Djali, what does High Priest Lam do when he is alone at night” – she paused for effect – “and admits to himself that the Jevgy are the most knowledgeable about the magic of the crystals?”

    The Karakal lay flat on her belly, rubbed her paws on her eyes as if wiping away tears and cried mournfully. The crowd roared with mirth – it occurred to Sinunu that the High Priest was probably not much liked by his flock – and the prelate shouted, “Blasphemy!”

    He stroke his staff on the stone of the temple and stomped down the first few steps of the stairs. His fury was such that Sinunu began to fear for the dancer’s safety, and he wondered what the audience would do if it came to blows – but a loud clamour in the Long Way suddenly drowned the commotion on the parvis. The bard spun around to see the light of torches illuminating a sauropod topped with a monumental howdah, where Ino was still grinning under Genade’s gaudy flag.

    The procession of the Budallenjsh had reached the parvis of the Kyberkerk.

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

    Endnotes
    Asteria Flowersong is a loose English translation of the name of the equivalent character in Hunchback, Pâquette la Chantefleurie (going on the assumption that ‘Pâquette’ is intended to be a bastardised version of ‘Pâquerette’, ‘daisy’.) .

    Djali is the name of Esmeralda’s pet in Hunchback; I only changed her species for this story (in the novel she’s a goat).

    Both this chapter and the previous chapter follow quite closely the equivalent chapters of Hunchback, where Esmeralda is first introduced as a dancer and then has her pet perform tricks. In these chapters, like in the novel, the dancer remains unnamed.

    The fathom is an outdated French measurement unit, chiefly equivalent to two metres.

    The druggat is a currency unit from the SW universe. Its exact value is unclear, but given that it is used on Tatooine I am assuming here that it’s a small coin of little value.
     
  19. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_laugh] Yay for the dancer and her jibes at the priest. Happy the crowd was entertained.
     
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  20. gizkaspice

    gizkaspice Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Nov 27, 2013
    Chyntuck That’s very kind of you, but only write said crack!fic if you want to (bet it’d be awesome though!)

    Now onto this chapter: I just love that name “Asteria Flowersong”, Asteria meaning relating to the stars. This is just so appropriate for a SW story, even in the distant past.

    So the Karakal belongs to the dancer and collects the coins--- what an intelligent and loyal felid! And that High Priest better watch himself ….If Djali just happens to be the theoretical ancestor of Millicent, he’s sure to get a ‘surprise’ in his shoe if he keeps grumbling at the dancer…..

    And this: “She pouted her lips in the prettiest grimace Sinunu had ever seen” is very cute :D
     
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  21. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    I even missed 4 updates in a row and had to do quite a marathon to get here, but the text was so enchanting that I had no problem finding my way back into the story.

    Thanks for being such an enchantress, Chyntuck. I even forgot about my stomach problems that I have since the rich Greek food & drink that I had with friends last night.

    What I like, apart from your usual electrifying character building and creating a foreign world, are your spoiler explanations. It is interesting to see how you juggle around with languages and cultures from planet Earth.
     
  22. CairnsTony

    CairnsTony Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    May 7, 2014
    Right, I'm all caught up! Great stuff here Chyntuck! With the introduction of the dancer, my interest just increased still more if that were possible! And this is pre-Jedi? I'm excited to see where you take this character. And the Jevgy are just the sort of outsiders I find fascinating... if what you say about Force Sensitivity applies to them. I love the backstory of how Force Sensitivity might be 'concentrated' and spread in a community. It makes perfect sense!

    Being a natural historian, I'm always keen for references to the real world, in this case the amazing, acrobatic Caracal, which can pluck birds out of the air! Try and ignore the awful music...



    And as ever your worldbuilding leaves me breathless! Most impressive!
     
  23. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    And it continues to be wonderful! Clever Djali, that is one well-trained Felid. But our pretty dancer is definitely running a risk, antagonizing the High Priest like that. And Sinunu is still trying to figure things out...the Recluse IS very creepy!!
     
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  24. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Such a wonderful exchange. The dancer is smart and clever, and she knows just how far to push it. She easily won the crowd to her side and made her escape from the High Priest just in time. (Coincidence? I don't think so!)

    I could completely see the Jevgy dancer with her clever little felid sitting on the steps of the temple. The old woman shrieking from the barred window and the father with his young son were also clear as day. You have such a talent for creating vivid images! Speaking of, I love the picture of her. Beautiful.

    I hope you will come back to this story soon. It's brilliant.:D