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Saga The Poem Of Those Who Wear Masks (Siri, Obi-Wan, OC - drama, vignette)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Valiowk, Mar 1, 2014.

  1. Valiowk

    Valiowk Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Apr 23, 2000
    Title: It Could Not Have Been Otherwise
    Author: Valiowk
    Timeframe: Immediately before and after Jedi Quest: Path to Truth
    Characters: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Siri Tachi
    Genre: angst, friendship
    Keywords: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Siri Tachi, Marina Tsvetaeva, ‘Mne nravitsya’, ‘I like it’
    Summary: A companion vignette to It Could Not Have Been Otherwise, exploring the relationship between Siri and the Pyccian slave girl mentioned in it. Can also be read prior to It Could Not Have Been Otherwise or independently of it.

    Being a Jedi is not simply about being a swashbuckling hero. More often than not, it is about balancing the desire to right the wrongs of the galaxy against the priorities of a mission and living with the memory of those whom one was unable to save. But it is also about being present for others when they are weakest.

    A tale of Siri Tachi, in her years undercover.

    Author’s notes:

    1) I changed the timeline so that Siri leaves the Jedi Temple in 33 BBY (one year before TPM), when she is 22 and Obi-Wan is 24, and Path to Truth takes place in 31 BBY. This has the effect of fixing a few problems in the timeline (e.g. in Jedi Quest: The Dangerous Games, Siri’s Padawan Ferus Olin is said to be two years older than Anakin, but Anakin is 13 in Path to Truth, and we know from Jedi Apprentice: The Rising Force that Jedi pupils need to become Padawans by their thirteenth birthday; also, if Siri supposedly left the Jedi Temple two years after TPM, then Anakin should have been acquainted with her prior to Path to Truth).

    2) The simplified etymology of the word ‘mammoth’ given in the story is true, up to transportation into a different language. ;) The children’s poem ‘Mishka’ (‘Teddy bear’) was written by Russian poet and children’s writer Agniya Barto in 1934. The poem ‘Mne nravitsya’ (‘I like it’) was written by the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva in 1915. Both translations are my own. Finally, I apologise for the profuse references to Russian literature.

    Many thanks to Estora for a magnificent job in beta-reading this vignette! [:D]



    The Poem Of Those Who Wear Masks

    ‘What would you all like to hear about today?’

    The Jedi initiates were seven years old and excitable, buzzing with adrenaline from the lightsabre practice session just before, but the group eventually managed to seat themselves on the parquet floor of the antechamber in anticipation, gazing up at Siri Tachi and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

    The practice session was customarily followed by a short sharing session conducted by volunteer Knights, during which the Knights were given the discretion to engage the younglings with a story, a historical tale, an account of their experiences on a previous mission, or any other activity which they deemed would be beneficial for the students. The session was viewed as an opportunity for initiates to interact with Knights in a formal environment, but without the pressure that arose from participation in a tournament or a class, and functioned on a rotating basis of volunteer Knights, so that both initiates and Knights alike would have more occasions to mingle with each other within the Jedi Temple.

    In view of Siri’s recent return to the Jedi Temple after her two-year-long undercover mission to infiltrate the operations of the slave trader and raider Krayn, Obi-Wan considered the session to be an excellent opportunity for Siri and the younglings to become reacquainted with each other, and had invited Siri to accompany him in leading his session, an invitation to which Siri had readily agreed.

    Murmurs arose as the younglings conferred among themselves. After a short while, a bubbly Gran girl raised her hand. ‘A story about courage and tenacity!’ she exclaimed.

    ‘Tell us a story about friendship in unexpected places,’ a keen-eyed Bothan boy seated at another corner requested.

    ‘A story about courage and tenacity, a story about friendship in unexpected places,’ Siri repeated as she locked eyes with each of the initiates who had made requests. Turning towards a section of the group who had not yet made their requests, she prompted, ‘And what would you all like to hear about?’

    The twelve-year-old helper initiate who had assisted the instructors during the practice session raised his hand. An older helper initiate was present at each practice session, both to impart to the younglings the confidence that the katas they were learning could be mastered not only by Knights and Padawans, but also by initiates closer to their own age, as well as to provide an alternative source of aid for initiates who might be nervous to approach a Knight for assistance.

    ‘You just returned from an undercover mission to take down a slavery ring, didn’t you, Knight Tachi? Would you tell us about someone you met on your mission who left a deep impression on you?’ the human boy asked.

    Siri deliberated momentarily. ‘A story about someone I met on my mission. Shall I tell you about a Pyccian slave girl whom it was my honour to meet?’ she asked, exchanging a quick glance with Obi-Wan to ascertain his approval. Obi-Wan responded with an eager nod, and Siri continued, ‘A story about courage and tenacity, about friendship in unexpected places.’

    ***​

    Krayn was livid.

    It did not matter what the reason for the slave trader’s anger was, nor whether or not it was valid. When the pirate was incensed, one tried to appease him as much as possible.

    The T’surr towered over the slaves, his shaved head giving him a sharp, brutal edge. The slaves were newly-acquired, captured just a few days earlier in a raid on a passenger ship from the planet Pyc, and were now assembled before him on the main deck of the ship. Their hands and feet were bound in chains.

    ‘Give me your names!’

    Kneeling in a row, they whimpered their names one-by-one—until a human girl, who looked to be around sixteen or seventeen, remained stoically silent.

    Krayn bared his fangs. ‘What is your name?’ He growled.

    His menacing tone appeared to have no effect on the girl, who continued to glare wordlessly at him. When he received no response, he sent her to the ground with a blow from his meaty hand. ‘What is your name, girl? Or do you not understand Basic?’ he roared.

    A slim holobook fell out of one of the girl’s pockets as she crashed to the floor and Krayn pounced to seize it. The girl’s demeanour turned vulnerable as the slave trader threatened to crumple it in his fist.

    ‘My name is Alya. You can punish me in any way you want, but please, please return the holobook to me,’ she begged, shuffling forward to clutch at Krayn’s sleeves.

    The spectacle of this previously insubordinate young woman now grovelling at his feet seemed to amuse the pirate. He yanked his arms free and activated the holobook.

    ‘Looks like Pyccian poetry, huh? I can’t imagine that a slave like you’—the slave trader emphasised the word with scorn as he reached out his right hand to stroke Alya’s cheek lecherously, and the girl jerked backwards in disgust—‘would have any use for poetry.’

    The T’surr hurled the holobook to the floor, where it landed at the boots of one of his associates, who picked it up gingerly. Krayn glanced over his shoulder to see where the holobook had landed.

    ‘We have a rule on this ship,’ he spat, once more addressing Alya. ‘No kindnesses towards slaves. That means no incentives, no rewards for jobs well done, no confiscated items returned. Feel free to use it as fuel, Zora,’ he said, directing the last sentence towards the pirate who had picked up the holobook.

    The slave trader eyed the kneeling slaves again. ‘Punishment in Hold Four for three days,’ he snapped, before storming away from the deck.

    *​

    Zora’s real name was Siri, and she was in fact a Jedi Padawan. She valiantly attempted to ignore the stench of decomposing organisms and pungent odour of chlorine in Hold Four, as her gaze flicked over the slaves scouring the floor and walls of the ship’s grimy junkyard, repeatedly returning to the girl who had defied Krayn three days ago.

    The slave girl was not particularly pretty. She had large green eyes and an aquiline nose set in a plump face framed by a short bob of wavy light brown hair, and was of a lean, boyish build. If she could be reckoned slightly good-looking, it was by virtue of the natural beauty possessed by all young females. Siri’s attention was drawn, instead, to the intelligent look on her face, her distinctive bearing and the defiance that she had dared to show in Krayn’s presence. After a few days in captivity, most slaves realised that it was better to be inconspicuous. It was not possible that Alya had not had this insight; rather, she had deliberately chosen to remain herself even under the present circumstances.

    The girl’s abrupt change in demeanour at the loss of her holobook was an enigma to Siri. How could the presence or absence of a holobook transform a girl from proud and scornful to submissive within seconds? Siri had perused the holobook, seeking a clue unsuccessfully. Krayn was probably correct in identifying it as a book of Pyccian poetry, as she could only recognise the distinctive curves of Pyccian but did not know the language, and there were no additional notes in the holobook.

    I must have looked the same as her when I had to trade the warming crystal Master Adi gave me for food, Siri thought. She still hoped against hope to recover it.

    That settled the matter. Siri withdrew the holobook from her tunic and pretended to thumb uninterestedly through it while watching Alya out of the corner of her eye. The slave girl’s discreet observation of Siri for the past three days had not gone unnoticed by her. Affecting a look of frustration at being unable to read the holobook, Siri placed it on the bench beside her.

    Raising her voice so that it could be heard over the din of the slaves, she shouted to the slaver seated across the hold, ‘Rashtah! Let’s send them back to their cells and go for a drink!’

    The one-eyed Wookiee nodded and grunted, and Siri headed to join him as the slaves crowded upon the exit upon hearing that their punishment was over.

    The holobook remained on the bench.

    *​
    Siri stared blankly at the foreign alphabet that littered the datapad on her desk. A fine mess Krayn has got himself into, she thought to herself. The pirate had been blowing his own trumpet for acquiring several thousand slaves in the Pyc sector for a bargain. Only when the slavers began updating the slave trading records did they discover that the records turned over by the Pyccian slave traders were entirely in Pyccian—a language with which none of Krayn’s crew were acquainted, relying on Galactic Basic to communicate in the Pyc sector—with the exception of a few cover slides to conceal their deceit. Exacerbating matters, the Pyccian slave traders had used an abbreviated lingo that automated translation systems rendered as junk.

    Siri sighed. Deficient slave records might hinder Krayn’s trade, but they posed the greatest risk to the slaves in question. Slave trading records contained information about a slave’s physical attributes and their medical history. Without access to the information, slaves were prone to contracting and dying from viruses (such as Toli-X, for which a vaccine existed but was not administered in sectors that had not encountered instances of the virus) when they were brought to another sector, which would cause a considerable financial loss for the traders. Moreover, few slave owners were willing to purchase a slave without records. More worrying to Siri, however, was the fact that without the records, a basic danger such as a hidden transmitter or an allergy could go unnoticed. The problem had to be rectified, regardless of whether Krayn stood to benefit by doing so. Not to mention that Krayn had unceremoniously tossed the task to the newest of his associates.

    It was clear to Siri that she would require the help of a native Pyccian. Instinctively, her thoughts flew to Alya. She will not survive long on this slave ship, she thought. She has too free a spirit, too proud a backbone, to be cooped in a cage.

    Siri rose from the desk to make her way to the Pyccian slave quarters. I will not let Krayn get his hands on her while I am around.

    *​

    ‘Will you be able to translate this into Basic?’ Siri asked Alya, having explained to her the state of affairs and shown her an example of the records.

    Alya nodded. ‘Yes, Mistress Zora,’ she answered.

    ‘Good. Don’t try anything funny,’ Siri warned. ‘You’d only be harming your fellow slaves.’

    ‘Yes, Mistress Zora.’ Alya’s voice was solemn.

    Siri sighed. Being addressed as ‘Mistress’ was getting on her nerves. ‘One more thing,’ she added. ‘If you’re going to work under me, you’ll call me Zora. Not Mistress Zora. I’m a slave trader, not a slave owner.’

    She thought she saw a flicker in Alya’s eyes, but it swiftly disappeared. Alya merely responded with a nod. ‘Get started translating, then,’ Siri ordered dismissively.

    Alya stood still for a few more seconds.

    ‘Yes?’ Siri questioned.

    The slave girl appeared to contemplate whether or not to speak, before eventually uttering, ‘Thank you, Zora.’

    Siri stiffened. She knew what Alya was thanking her for, but she could not acknowledge Alya’s gratitude, not if she wished to appear a hardhearted slave trader. She kept her face impassive and snorted. ‘What for? Giving you this work? A poet like you would die of boredom translating this before you died of the fumes in a spice factory.’

    If the girl were a kindred spirit, she would understand Siri’s words.

    *​
    ‘Congratulations,’ Siri drawled to Alya after dismissing the slave guard from her work quarters. ‘I’ve got more work for you.’

    The girl reached for the datachip Siri held out for her, eyes raised. ‘Thank you, Zora,’ she responded smoothly. Two could play this game. ‘I thought you weren’t going to accept any more records in Pyccian?’

    ‘Someone tried to take advantage of our lack of knowledge of Pyccian to sell us some unhealthy slaves,’ Siri explained. ‘I pulled his bluff by pretending to understand his conversation with his partner.’ It had been a lucky guess, really—a twitch in the Force that said that the seller was lying. Nevertheless, Krayn had been impressed by Zora’s perceptiveness, and had lamented afterwards that Zora did not actually know Pyccian. ‘It would’ve seemed suspicious if I’d insisted that the records be translated into Basic. Besides,’ Siri added, looking pointedly at Alya, ‘we have someone on this ship who reads Pyccian.’

    Alya pondered the matter for several seconds. Finally, she asked, ‘What if you did know Pyccian?’

    Siri blinked at the slave girl. Was the girl offering to aid her in purchasing slaves? ‘Aren’t you afraid I’d put you out of work? I’d take your job and you’d be back preprocessing spice.’

    Alya smiled mordantly. ‘I believe you’re the one who said that one could die of boredom translating slave records. You’re a slave trader. Translating records is a chore for slaves.’

    Siri continued to stare at the Pyccian girl. Finally, she softly asked, ‘Why would you help a slave trader?’

    ‘I’m not helping you.’ Alya’s derisive smile deepened. ‘I’m helping myself. Once I’m done translating, it’s back to spice-preprocessing for me. But I know you, Zora. If you decide to learn Pyccian, you won’t give up without mastering it. And I’ll get a steady stream of records to translate.’

    Siri was lost for words.

    ‘It’ll also help you with commanding the new slaves around,’ Alya continued, as though oblivious to Siri’s stunned silence. Then her expression softened. ‘I know you reassign the slaves so that their duties match what they are able to handle. The slaves don’t realise it because they believe that you want to cause them trouble, and the other slavers imagine that you enjoy toying with the slaves.’

    But I know was left unsaid.

    ‘I’m a slave trader,’ Siri said, regaining her composure. ‘Only healthy slaves are of use to me. Dying slaves are useless.’

    Alya considered Siri’s statement for a moment, then responded, ‘You don’t demonstrate this philosophy in Krayn’s presence.’

    Siri snorted. ‘Contradict Krayn’s orders in front of him? I’m not as brave as you, girl. Now, enough about the slaves,’ she said, changing the topic. Alya’s observations were striking too close for her comfort. ‘When will the first lesson be?’

    ‘How about now?’ Alya asked. A look of mischief blossomed on her face. ‘We’ll begin with Pyccian profanities.’

    Siri gawked. Is she truly suggesting something so uncouth? she wondered—then she recognised the teasing inflection in Alya’s voice. They burst into simultaneous chuckles—their first shared laughter easing the taut atmosphere.

    ‘Just kidding. Let’s begin with the Pyccian alphabet…’

    ***​

    Siri recounted her lessons with the Pyccian slave girl to the younglings, delighting them with anecdotes that she had learnt from Alya about Pyccian words that had been borrowed into Basic and how their meanings had sometimes changed subsequently, (‘Did you know that the word “mammoth” comes from the Pyccian word “mamont”? It does. However, in its original form, “mamont” meant “earth”.’) and translations of children’s poems that Alya had taught her. (‘They dropped my teddy on the floor, / And even tore off teddy’s paw. / Still I do not abandon him— / Because he’s a good teddy bear.’)

    ‘Did Alya ever tell you about her background, Knight Tachi?’ the helper initiate asked.

    ‘No,’ Siri answered. ‘She said that it wasn’t necessary to know it to have a healthy slave, hence I would not do her harm if she withheld it from me.’

    ‘What happened to her?’ a Teevan boy asked.

    Siri fell silent for several moments, head bowed, before returning her gaze to the younglings, their eyes wide with concern for Alya’s fate.

    ‘The story doesn’t have a happy ending, does it, Knight Tachi?’ the Gran girl who had spoken at the beginning said, voice quavering.

    ‘No, it doesn’t,’ Siri murmured. ‘It doesn’t.’

    ***​

    The slaves had been summoned out of their quarters in the middle of the night after Krayn received a communication from Komarovsky regarding his intent to make a purchase. Komarovsky was a slave owner in the Pyc sector notorious for desiring only slaves of the highest quality: the strongest, most beautiful, or most intelligent. To him, slaves were not merely forced labour; they were also trophies that proved that he owned the very best in life. The man paid very well—unlike other slave owners, he never haggled about their price tag, paying the asking price if he judged a slave worth the coin—but if he were cheated, the slave trader concerned would wake up to find their reputation ruined. He took a similar attitude towards his slaves: those who met his expectations and demands were well fed and clothed, but those who disappointed or angered him, he had no qualms about flogging to death.

    Krayn applied his whip liberally. Numerous slaves fell at the onslaught, tumbling others. A few paces from the trader, Siri watched, distraught, as the mishap infuriated Krayn and he brandished the whip harder. Every fibre of her Jedi training willed her to stop the pirate, but no one interrupted Krayn when he was in one of his moods, and Siri could do naught but stand by if she wished to maintain the façade of a cruel slave trader.

    Krayn landed another brutal whip, and a column of slaves toppled one over another. Siri’s mouth opened in shock as she spied Alya within the line. Worse yet was that during the fall, several items had tumbled from the slaves’ pockets—mostly foodstuffs they had sneaked into their quarters, but among them a familiar holobook that Siri silently prayed would slip past Krayn’s sight.

    Her prayers were in vain. The T’surr stepped briskly towards the distinct item, scrutinising it before turning to its owner.

    ‘We have a thief in our midst!’ Krayn snarled. ‘Did you steal it from Zora when you were translating records for her?’ He slapped Alya, sending her tumbling to the ground again.

    Siri was about to step forward to refute him—I returned her the holobook; I broke the rules—when Alya locked eyes with her and shook her head slightly, her lips forming the word ‘no’. Several thoughts coalesced: From Alya and anyone else’s point of view, she stole the holobook back from me, even if I let her. Krayn has a policy of never keeping slaves meant for sale for too long. He says that it’s a waste of resources feeding unsellable slaves. She’s exactly the kind of slave Komarovsky seeks. A free spirit like her will never survive under him; she’d rather die than yield.

    It did not matter whether or not she intervened now, Siri realised. The harm had been done from the moment Krayn recognised Alya. Siri’s mission dictated that she should not run the risk of exposing her cover—but it still cut deeply to look on with folded arms as Krayn decided Alya’s fate.

    ‘You’ve been with me for a long time. More than a year, I believe? It’s your lucky day. I won’t punish you. Let’s see whether your new owner Komarovsky will be as kind to you.’ Krayn drawled, then tossed the holobook to Alya. ‘Let’s see whether a holobook can save you from Komarovsky’s wrath.’

    Siri closed her eyes. Forgive me, Alya, she thought before rapidly reopening them—she could not risk a fellow pirate finding her behaviour suspicious. The slave girl gazed back at Siri as she was dragged away by slavers, her expression resolute.

    Stoit,’ the girl breathed. Siri’s heart clenched. The message was in Pyccian, so as to be unintelligible to Krayn. It is worth it. Siri cursed herself for not being able to help. ‘Stoit!’ Alya shouted.

    Other Pyccian slaves would suppose that Alya deemed being sold to Komarovsky worth it to have her holobook back, but Siri understood Alya’s message: it is worth it being sold to Komarovsky, so long as Krayn does not suspect that the real Zora is not the ruthless slave trader he believes you to be.

    The doorway shut behind Alya, and Siri turned her eyes away.

    ***​

    ‘Did you ever find out what happened to her, Knight Tachi?’ the Teevan initiate asked quietly.

    Siri swallowed and forced her voice to be steady. ‘She was flogged to death by Komarovsky in less than a week. He could not force her to recite poetry to his guests even after he confiscated the holobook from her.’

    She lowered her head.

    ‘She did not know what she died for.’ Her voice trembled. Obi-Wan saw that Siri was trying to hold back tears in front of her young audience. ‘She sacrificed herself for a slave trader who revealed nothing about herself to her, and who knew barely anything about her.’

    ‘No, Siri, she knew,’ Obi-Wan said, grasping her hand in his. ‘Would you allow me to say a few words?’

    Siri nodded, grateful for his intervention.

    ‘You knew that Alya loved Pyccian poetry more than her own life. That she was a free spirit who would languish in a cage of slavery. She stopped having a purpose in life from the moment she was taken captive. Your friendship, teaching you Pyccian, gave her a reason to live. You knew her, Siri, at the end of all things,’ Obi-Wan said.

    ‘She didn’t know what she sacrificed herself for,’ Siri whispered.

    Obi-Wan recalled how, after he had encountered Siri working for Krayn’s organization without knowing that she was undercover, his knowledge of his friend over the years and memories of her integrity, courage and fierce commitment to the Jedi path led him to the conclusion that she had not betrayed the Jedi Order.

    ‘She knew, Siri. Not just from a blind faith, but by observing you,’ Obi-Wan answered, now addressing the entire gathering. ‘She had her pride. She would not have taught you Pyccian if she did not believe in you. She knew that whatever your cause, it was worth her sacrifice. She would be proud of you.’

    Siri deliberated Obi-Wan’s words. ‘Thank you, Obi-Wan,’ she finally responded. Turning back towards the younglings, she let a smile come to her face. ‘And Knight Kenobi saves the day again.’

    The younglings beamed, and not a few thought, This is what it means to be a Jedi Knight.

    *​

    Obi-Wan turned towards Siri after the Jedi Knights had seen the younglings out of the antechamber.

    ‘I hope you didn’t mind me telling the younglings my view, Siri,’ he commented.

    Siri regarded him warmly, a smile gracing her face. ‘Of course not, Obi-Wan,’ she answered. ‘Thank you for helping me.’

    ‘What are friends for?’ Obi-Wan responded, returning her smile.

    Having ensured the cleanliness of the room, the helper initiate approached Obi-Wan and Siri.

    ‘Thank you for assisting the initiates’ training today, Ferus,’ Siri said. ‘Obi-Wan and I were very impressed by your skills and your interaction with the students.’

    ‘It was a pleasure helping out, Knight Tachi, Knight Kenobi,’ Ferus replied. ‘Thank you for sharing your story with us.’

    ‘You’re welcome,’ Siri responded. Had it been the correct decision to tell the younglings this story, when she herself had not come to terms with Alya’s sacrifice in the manner a Jedi Knight was supposed to?

    There is no emotion, there is peace.
    There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
    There is no passion, there is serenity.
    There is no chaos, there is harmony.
    There is no death, there is the Force.


    However, looking upon Ferus, Siri felt that the younglings had benefitted from the story, although she could not say how.

    The Knights and the helper initiate parted at the door to the antechamber. As Ferus Olin glanced back at the Knights walking beside each other, it seemed to him that although they were but newly minted Jedi Knights, the Force shone within them with a light as though from old Masters.

    ***​

    Siri burst into her quarters and sat on her sleep couch, burying her face in her hands, unconcerned that she might smudge her red facial markings. Had one of the slavers present at that morning’s negotiations with Svidrigailov, a slave owner well known for his taste in beautiful women, witnessed this, they might have believed that Zora was upset at being demanded by Krayn to play a more tender side to please the Pyccian slave owner. The slave owner had found it alluring that Zora was conversant with Pyccian and derived pleasure from inundating her with sexual innuendo. However, that was not the reason for Siri’s distress. Lecherous slave owners, Siri Tachi could manage. The source of her anguish was the news about Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn’s death on Naboo at the hands of a Sith Lord.

    Although several years had passed since the Jedi Padawan had been on a mission with Master Jinn, Siri had always held him in great respect and felt his loss keenly. However, of greater concern to Siri was how Obi-Wan Kenobi would take the loss of his Master. Although the friendship between Siri and Obi-Wan had grown strained seven years ago after the two Padawans had developed feelings for each other but made the decision to bury their feelings in order to continue on the Jedi path, Siri continued to care deeply for Obi-Wan, even though she did not allow herself to exhibit so outwardly.

    I should be there for Obi-Wan now. Instead, I am on a slave ship, having to entertain a slave owner at Krayn’s request! Siri reflected, her thoughts turning acrimonious. The scene in the holonews—Obi-Wan bowing respectfully before Queen Amidala of Naboo—was fresh in her mind. We have foolishly let our bitterness at being forced to give up our relationship affect our friendship for too long.

    When Siri had left the Jedi Temple under the guise of a severe disagreement with her Master, Adi Gallia, to go undercover, Obi-Wan had sent his friend several messages persuading her to return, but Siri’s circumstances had not permitted her to respond to them. Not that I knew how to respond to his messages, Siri thought. But it has been long enough. When this mission is over, I’ll offer an olive branch.

    There was a knock on the door of Siri’s quarters, followed by the voice of the guard, announcing that he had brought Alya to Siri. The female Jedi rose slowly from her sleep couch and allowed the Pyccian slave girl into her quarters. Their routine was to start with Siri’s Pyccian lessons, after which Alya would translate slave trading records while Siri either continued practising Pyccian, occasionally consulting Alya for guidance, or worked on other administrative matters. Today, however, Siri severely lacked concentration.

    Forgive me for not being there for you, my friend. Forgive me for having to pose as a slave trader, unable to stand up for the slaves on this ship, while you face the evils in this galaxy on your own.

    Alya’s voice abruptly interrupted Siri’s thoughts. ‘Are you all right, Zora?’

    Siri hastily gathered herself. ‘I’m sorry, Alya. I just can’t handle these idioms and proverbs today.’

    ‘It’s all right,’ Alya replied, understanding. She paused in thought briefly, then continued, ‘Let me teach you something else: a poem that always makes me feel better whenever I am sad.’ She looked at Siri for approval, and Siri nodded faintly.

    Alya reached towards a pocket of her tunic, but then seemed to think better of it and reached for Siri’s datapad. ‘It is a poem by Marina Tsvetaeva, a poet whom I hold close to my heart. I call it “The Poem of Those who Wear Masks”,’ she explained as she entered several lines into the datapad. Once she finished typing, she began to read the poem to Siri.

    Mne nravitsya, chto vy bol’ny ne mnoi,
    Mne nravitsya, chto ya bol’na ne vami,
    …’

    ***​

    ‘I like it, that your thoughts dwell not upon me,
    I like it, that my thoughts dwell not upon you,
    That never shall this planet’s heavy sphere be
    Careening from beneath our feet without cue.
    I like it, that I can be funny, silly,
    Play fast and loose—though not with words before you,
    And find no wave of blushes smothering me,
    When with unruly sleeves I brush against you.


    I like it too, that in my very presence
    You so composedly embrace another,
    And cast me not in brimstone fire as vengeance
    To burn in hell, for having kissed some other.
    That I possess, my tender, the assurance
    That not by day nor night my name you’ll utter…
    That never
    shall a choir—amidst the silence—
    Above us sing in chorus: Hallelujah!


    I thank you with my heart and hand sincerely
    For—though this sentiment you’d never construe—
    So loving me: for my reposing soundly,
    For twilight rendezvous that number too few,
    For non-walks under the full moon’s glory,
    For the bright sun, that shines not on me, nor you,
    For that your thoughts—alas!—dwell not upon me,
    For that my thoughts—alas!—dwell not upon you.


    ***​

    ‘It’s beautiful,’ Siri commented. Glimpsing the dedication at the top of the screen, she asked, ‘Who was M. A. Mints?’

    Alya’s reply could not have been more unexpected. ‘He was Marina’s brother-in-law.’

    Siri’s eyes widened. ‘She was in love with her brother-in-law?’

    Alya shook her head. ‘They were friends, dear friends; kindred spirits, if you will, who shared the same dreams and supported each other in all their endeavours. There was nothing romantic between them. What Marina wrote—that she was glad that they could be friends without all the awkwardness of lovers—she meant it truly. At least, that’s scholarly opinion.’

    ‘What’s your opinion?’ Siri enquired.

    Alya was silent for several moments. ‘I think,’ she said at last, ‘that there was someone else whom Marina loved very much, whom she could not be with, but to whom she wished the very best; someone else she had in mind when she wrote this poem, but to whom she could not publicly dedicate it. I think she was even afraid to admit to herself the extent of her feelings, and thus wrote this poem, cloaked in falsehoods and duplicity. Perchance, while writing it, she realised that it could also be interpreted literally, and hence dedicated it to the friend who’d always supported her, because she could not dedicate it otherwise.’

    ‘A poem of those who loved each other, but could not be together. Or perhaps not a love poem at all,’ Siri echoed. She paused to collect her thoughts and consider her situation. ‘A poem of those constrained not to reveal their thoughts. Do you think they were able to acknowledge each other’s feelings one day?’

    The gaze that Alya returned Siri was warm. ‘Yes, I think they were.’

    A small smile formed across Siri’s face. Grasping Alya’s hand, she stated, ‘Thank you for sharing this poem with me, Alya. It means a lot to me.’

    The Pyccian slave girl looked deeply into Siri’s eyes. ‘Then let this poem be a gift from me to you. A gift from a teacher to her student. The poem of those who wear masks.’

    Fin
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2018
    Jedi Knight Fett likes this.
  2. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    A great story. Love how your write Siri as Zora
     
  3. Valiowk

    Valiowk Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Apr 23, 2000
    Thank you! As Adi Gallia admitted to Obi-Wan, Siri's mission was dangerous and she had to risk much. I like to imagine that in Siri's time undercover, there was someone who was a source of support for her, even if that person was not aware of her true identity and there were still secrets between them. :)
     
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  4. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Gorgeous and touching. The poem speaks to many facets of secret love/yearning =D=
     
  5. serendipityaey

    serendipityaey Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 24, 2004
    Liked the bit with the younglings and Obi supporting Siri with his thoughts, the end was beautiful, a bittersweet thought on love and the masks we have to wear, sad but lovely and it touched me. Those who love each other but can not be together, perhaps not a love poem at all. Thanks for sharing!
     
  6. Valiowk

    Valiowk Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Apr 23, 2000
    Thank you for your review! :) The first and third stanzas of the poem were put to music for the Soviet television film The Irony of Fate; I loved the song even back when my Russian was not good enough to understand it just by listening to it. [face_love]



    There is a fascinating article in which Marina's sister Anastasia (Mints' wife) explained the 'official' meaning of the poem. According to her (my translation),
    However, I personally believe that even if Marina intended the poem entirely in gratitude to her future brother-in-law, she was troubled by a relationship of her own (unrelated to Anastasia and Maurice) that influenced her unconsciously when writing it.

    I'm delighted that you enjoyed the part with the younglings and Obi-Wan comforting Siri! The plot is weaker in those scenes, but I was reluctant to remove them for sentimental reasons. (I completed drafting the story three and a half years ago, but only got down to polishing it recently.) Changing interests have resulted in me no longer being unable to write the fan fiction I wrote in the past, hence what I have written is dear to me and it means a lot to me that you like it. [:D]