“My friends— “ Zizi Pao raised his four arms up in the air “—on the ninth hour of every night in my establishment, I devote myself to the second greatest passion I allow myself…” “What’s your first passion?” a random and inebriated voice called out from the crowd gathered outside the pool of gel-filtered light that illuminated the Pho Ph'eahian on the stage. Zizi smiled. It could have been the one night when the Love Song Sing-A-Long was canceled. But it was a favorite pastime not only for himself but the crowds who regularly crossed the bridges and found their way to his tapcafe on the western side of the Cita dav Ilo. For almost twenty years many residents of the capital and its outlying suburbs came to Zizi’s for half-priced drinks, dinner, and off-key singing while accompanied by his signature mandoviol (nicknamed “The Midnight Princess” due to its polished obsidian appearance). “Kind sir, my first passion is living within every moment of joy.” Zizi’s upper left hand strummed two random chords on the strings of the mandoviol. “Joy comes from love, whatever source creates that love.” Applause and whistles from the assemblage who sat in the shadows greeted his declaration. Love was a universal emotion that permeated the lives of every being. Of course this crowd, like every other group who showed up in his establishment every Benduday, would gather around the little circles of artificial greel wood with matching four seats and commune with songs both ancient and new. Zizi strummed the opening notes of a long favorite tune. “I shall begin tonight’s session with a folk song traditionally attributed to Panhalion, the most famous troubadour of the Republic Classic era. He traveled the space lanes, going everywhere playing music in honor of his beloved, a Lady of Deiu whose name is lost to history.” His chuckle was accompanied by a slight whistle, an unfortunate but occasional sound which resulted from a species whose native language included squeaks trying to speak fluent Basic. He shrugged, then hummed the opening notes of “Under the Five Moons of Deiu”, a ballad which matched the evening’s theme. Many nights the songs of love were a celebration of the grand emotion. Tonight was not appropriate for such an exalted state. The death of a long-ago beloved placed sadness into Zizi’s heart, so tonight’s songs would be about the downside of the Grand Emotion. “Panhalion moved from star to star telling everyone who listened about the life and loss of his beloved queen…” he took a deep breath “…who I shall name ‘Mariklare” for the sake of our lyrical narrative.” A momentary quiet permeated the tapcafe, as everyone settled down for the next hour. Zizi took a deep breath, opened his mouth and began to sing… While his words told of a love struck young man hoping for reunion with his beloved, Zizi’s mind wandered to another story. In this tale another troubadour, but also sculptor, first met a beautiful woman on a planet ruled by xenophobia and oppression. The artist/musician had a display on the cobblestone promenade of the capital, which meant everything to the young Pho Ph'eahian who suffered from a perpetual lack of funds due to the higher pursuit of creativity. It was impossible to become an Artist-In-Residence on Sacorria, but somehow the alien’s glass sculptures caught the eye of a major government official. Yvar Trindello was fascinated by daring works of art created by offworlders; his attraction emanated from a snobbish concept of noblesse oblige, but he did believe in generous patronage. Once he granted the itinerant sculptor/musician a temporary residency visa, Trindello championed the progress of his latest favorite token. When he arrived at the Cobblestone Square on that particular morning with his family, the human member of Sacorria’s ruling Triad wanted to inspect the alien’s latest creations. Trindello seemed amused by the glass confections that the four-armed alien created, but the nobleman’s daughter was fascinated by the hand-blown blue and green creations. Mariklare was nineteen, blonde, blue-eyed, and always rosy lipped. (The artist later discovered this pink coloring was the result of a limited edition lip tint from Gwerlayne Interstellar). The young Sacorrian purchased a little glass mermaid on that morning. At some point Mariklare came to visit the artist/musician at his studio, first accompanied by her mother but eventually alone (in disguise). Something that resembled a love affair blossomed between them. The offworlder who happened to be a blue-furred, four-armed alien was never certain if the human girl found his artistic life more fascinating than the fact he was another species. But within his studio and living quarters the alien sculptor and human noble discovered a mutual fondness that grew and flourished. Zizi’s voice rose as he began “The Cycle of Ithassa”, a sextet of ballads that chronicled another doomed love affair derived from the poetry of Sumi Zanthe. Such matters of the heart could not last forever, because two beings inhabiting the same plane could also reside in two separate worlds. It was no different for the sculptor/musician and the noblewoman. Of course her father and the artist’s patron discovered their affair. Yvar Trindello placed his daughter under house arrest, while the artist was escorted under armed guard to the spaceport and placed on a one-way shuttle to Corellia. The heartbroken artist found his way to a planet in The Colonies, where he renounced sculpture and devoted himself to the only other creative pursuit that could never perpetually remind him of a fair-haired, blue-eyed, rosy-lipped lost love. Zizi soon finished the first hour of song. An enthusiastic round of applause, accompanied by the subtle crying among the sentimental folk, proved songs of tragic love were just as popular as the joyous tunes. He raised his two upper arms away from the mandoviol. “Thanks to everyone. Now any brave soul can step up here to the microphone and take my place. I shall return for the last hour to once again join in musical communion with all of you.” More applause greeted this declaration, followed by the shuffle of chairs as a few individuals prepared for their own performances. Zizi retreated into the shadows behind the stage. His destination was a corner alcove near the kitchen, where an upturned delivery crate was set with a plate of confit de quadduck à la Coronetisi and the bottle of sherry he purchased from the rare antiquities dealer. Supposedly the bottle was found in a sealed vault deep within Coruscant, held for millennia by a skeleton. The story was most likely untrue, but the deep emerald smokeglass vessel reminded him of many years ago, when his four arms created similar items that charmed the heart of a Sacorrian girl. He wanted to remember that brief and shining time, instead of acknowledging that Mariklare had grown into a bitter woman who never had any choice in the direction of her life. The news he received that morning of her premature death from chronic ethanol poisoning (what other species including her own called “alcoholism”) forced him into undesired sadness. But that was the price of loving another being: light intertwined with darkness, pleasure intermingled with pain. Once amateur hour was completed, along with his meal, Zizi returned with The Midnight Princess to the stage and the eternal comfort of music.