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Beyond the Saga "The Winter Queen" | A gothic romance from the future of Hoth | Reposted

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Pandora, Aug 7, 2019.

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  1. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Title: The Winter Queen
    Timeframe: A long, long time after Return of the Jedi.
    Characters: All original.

    *This is a revised version, more than a repost, of a story I originally wrote and posted here in the autumn of 2005. Thanks to the truncation, vast swaths of the original are gone daddy gone, which meant I have had to write much of it all over again--and of course, there isn't any way I could write the same story I did fourteen years ago.

    *If you have ever read my 2016 diary "Something is shining like gold, but better" aspects of this story may well seem familiar, and understandably so.

    *There are a few elements in here from the Legendary EU, but (as befits the story's 2005 era origins) absolutely nothing, not one thing, from anything of Disney's.

    *"I forget what eight is for."

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


    The Winter Queen


    1.


    When I arrived on Hoth, I was wearing a long black fur coat. It was made to resemble the fur of some bear roaming through some mystical wildlands. I don’t remember what it was once called. They used to hunt it down for that fur, but there isn’t any need for that sort of thing now. My coat was artificial, but it smelled like that animal must have, like its warm panting breath. Anyhow: I had known it would be cold here, the sort of knife-toothed cold I hadn’t ever experienced before, and this coat was the best I had to wear. I still wasn’t prepared for just how cold it was when I set forth into the air of the hangar, where the governmental aide was waiting for me.

    She watched me with a sullen locked frown: she was, I guessed, in her middle thirties, and plain, with bland brown hair and watercolor-damp blue eyes. She wore a blinding white jumpsuit that matched with the heavy snow outside, and the sleepy sky hanging over it. There was a little girl standing next to her, the first child I had seen this close in over a year.

    The girl stared straight ahead at me, her face a blank (a secret-hiding sneaking blank) mask, and her hands shoved into her coat pockets. Her hair was done up in two rope-knotted braids, and it was the same dull color as the aide’s hair. I wondered, without much thought, if she was her daughter.

    “Well, I see that your trip has been successful,” the woman said, and then: “Governor Creager wishes to welcome you to Hoth City, Miss Ving.”

    “Tell her I offer my gracious thanks,” I said.

    The hangar was a huge shadow-grey dingy cavern: it was so large that I could just make out the dayplanes parked nearby, and I couldn’t at all see the duracrete-rock ceiling up in the darkness that hovered overhead. It was kept heated for the sake of the ships—and I could smell the sunburned dry dust from what they were using—but I couldn’t feel any resulting warmth, and my breath still blew out as steamsoft white smoke.

    The aide had not introduced either herself or the girl. She continued to watch me, and my nightblack bear coat, in patient silence--and even with my hyperspace-dulled wits, I knew the nature of that look. It had the desired effect of making me feel silly and lumbering and somehow, overall, wrong, and I did not like that. I let her wait another moment more before I spoke.

    “Now that we’ve met, shouldn’t we be getting on with things?” I said.

    She blinked, and made the attempt to snatch her role back. “Of course,” she said. “Of course. If you will follow along with me.”

    She led me down a long bright white hallway through the main house. It was mercifully warm, which I hadn’t known if I should expect--and then, after a few minutes, it was too warm. The air seemed to hum from the heated overhead lights, and I was beginning to flush with a stuffy thick sweat. Several groups of varied people passed us, and one woman with elaborate dark braided hair, walking in a trot on deer-hooved black boots, turned her hard business quick eyes towards us.

    “Ho there,” she said, acknowledging Vittoria, and Vittoria nodded back.

    The little girl trotted along next to us, with a stiff bounce of her braids. It was easy for me to forget to see her there. She had yet to speak one word, and I wondered if she was (only, merely) shy—or if the aide had impressed upon her that good girls remain silent. I didn’t know much, from an adult perspective, about how children tended to behave, but now I needed to figure it out.

    We arrived at a parlour. Yes, a parlour: a large room with tall windows glowing with the white light outside, and a polished-bright dark wood tile floor. It looked too clean, too impossibly clean, and I would know soon enough that the house-maids clean it every day on their hands and knees.

    There were several older ladies sitting on one of the plump cream-white sopha, holding bone china cups locked in their little hands. They were dressed all in white, in puffy suits like the one the aide was wearing. Then behind them, on the far side of the room, several men were working on the guts of a computer-unit and talking amongst themselves. I could gather from the low murmur of their voices that they took their task to be a terribly serious one.

    “Well, well, well,” said one of the ladies.

    The aide bared her teeth in a nerf-cringing smile. This woman wasn’t the actual governor, but she was important enough for her. “This is Lysinora Ving, the new teacher,” she said.

    The woman set down her cup with a clockwork tick. She had grey hair in a fist-clenched chignon, with a long diamond-eyed hairpin stabbed through it, and dry dark eyes—and while she was past middle age, she was the youngest lady present. “I know. And we are all pleased to see you, Miss Ving. I do hope the asteroid field didn’t give you too much trouble. It’s been a while since I last braved it myself. We don’t tend to get out of here very often.”

    “The ship survived intact,” I decided to say.

    The woman threw off a little haha. “But I should introduce myself. I’m Erzebet Antilles. Yes, yes, I know—another Antilles. But not one from Corellia. I have proper blood, not rocket fuel, in my veins, thank you very much.”

    She had obviously used this line before, and I put on a politely arched smile while the aide, and one of the women, went through the motions of laughing. The little girl watched them in continued, and disinterested, silence. E.A. turned, and indicated the aide with a twitch of her hand: “And—since I know she won’t have introduced herself—you have already met my modest assistant Vittoria Sade.”

    The Ladies had a shared bird-pitch twitter from their places in the background, and Vittoria Sade looked down, modestly indeed, at the light blur reflected in the glossy floor. Finally, when they left off, I went through the expected pleasantries: “It’s been a pleasure to meet you.”

    E.A. snapped her eyes in a blink. “Now that we are all introduced, you must want something to drink. Of course, you do. You’ll learn that we take our teatimes seriously around here.”

    I could see that already, but I kept that thought to myself. I took advantage of that opportunity to take off the smothering weight of that coat. Vittoria was there hovering to snatch it away from me before I could think to ask. My skirts snapped with static-sparks. I was wearing an old dusk-grey dress with a velvet collar. It didn’t fit quite so well at my waist, but it was the plainest thing I owned—and since it was wool, it was also the warmest.

    But even then, I stood out. I don’t think it is much arrogant to say that I’m pretty. It’s only stating a fact: my mother designed me, even before I was conceived, to be that way—to be tall (because she is short for the Hapan female), and slender, with blue-tinted white skin and the graceful cold hands of an artist. Otherwise, I haven’t turned out to be what she wanted, but then, I suppose that not many people make their mumsies completely happy.

    That day, my hair was a dark fushia flower pink. My hair was originally grey—and yes, my mother planned that out as well—so you should be able to understand why I keep it dyed. I have it changed every several months or so. Right now, it’s purple. This may be a colony in the midst of a winter wilderness, but I can still do my hair.

    The Ladies were presiding over a teapot and a silver plate half filled with pink petit cookies set out on an old wooden coffin sea-trunk they used for a coffee table. The tea, which I poured for myself, was a bark-black tea that was still extremely hot after sitting in the pot. I’m not mature enough to like tea, but I made myself drink it. The little girl appeared and sat down, with a defiant kitten glare, near me on the sopha opposite the Ladies.

    I took one of the petit-cookies. The little girl hunched towards the table, and lifted her hand, and E.A. said: “I’m sorry, dear, but we have to follow Vittoria’s rules. Those are for ladies.”

    She snatched her hand back into her lap, and the other Ladies nodded with approval. I could see how things worked here. Vittoria rushed over to pour more tea for them. When she filled the one Lady’s cup, she turned away towards the windows, and took out a small perfume-sized flask and added a gulping big dash into the tea. Oh, I could see how things were.

    E.A. watched me from across the table. When I set my teacup down, she said: “This place takes some getting used to, Miss Ving. And one can’t really imagine it beforehand, as I should know. Vittoria knows all your details, but I can assume you’re from a temperate world--”

    “Of course, she is,” said one of the other Ladies. She swatted at some pink dust crumbs in her lap. “There are only a few amongst us who are not!”

    The men hadn’t turned their attention away from their loving care of the computer even long enough to notice my arrival, but now I remembered them as the background noise of their voices burst into a loud flock of thunder-deep hahahas. The Lady turned towards the sound with a fondly sweet smile. “That Mattio. He’s almost as amusing as they all think he is.”

    “She’s right,” I said, with a tossed-off shrug. “There is but one lovely and well-behaved season on the world of New Alderaan. I haven’t ever even seen snow.”

    “That doesn’t surprise me,” E.A. said. She squinted at my dress for a long poking-sharp minute—the plain dress with the velvet collar and the star-stone glittered buttons. I had figured out her point, but she just had to speak: “Far be it for me to dispense the false pearls of my advice. But you might wish to start your time here by—reconsidering your wardrobe.”

    I knew better than to actually tell her this, but I would rather take my chances, and continue to wear the clothes I had, than be dressed up like a swollen snowmaiden in the sort of get-ups they were all wearing. Really. And I could tell already that the building in general, and that parlour in particular, were kept so well heated I wouldn’t ever be that cold or that desperate.

    Then the little girl spoke for the first time, suddenly thrusting her hard little voice into the pause in the conversation. “There isn’t any snow at all, on your entire planet?”

    Before I could even decide on an answer for her, Vittoria had snapped around from her place standing behind the Ladies, and: “Adé! The ladies are having an adult conversation!”

    “Really? I hadn’t any idea,” I said. Then I turned to look at the girl, at Adé. I can’t say that I have a gift for knowing how to speak with children—but when I took this position, I had known that I would have to figure out some way to communicate.

    She had her mouth locked into a sullen frown, and she blinked in rapid wing movements, but she had heard me. I continued: “Well, there is actually some snow. But it’s all up in the mountains, and most people avoid it. That would include me, because I haven’t ever been up there.”

    E.A. arched her eyebrows, but refrained from actually commenting. One of the other Ladies said, with a daydreamed sigh: “Well! You should see the mountains we have.”

    The other Ladies nodded, and turned their attentions back to their tea, and there was merciful snowpale lit silence for a few minutes—before one of the men came over. He had an ironblack beard, and wore an indoor tan wool coat, and mountain hiking boots.

    “Ladies,” he said, with that manly haha lurking in his voice, and acknowledged me, and Adé, with a nod. “If I know you, and I do, you have a few extra of those cookies for me.”

    “Perhaps, Jasen! But you will have to ask,” said E.A.

    Jasen poured himself a cup of the steam-breathing tea, and took two of the cookies at once in his other hand. Vittoria met him next to the sophas, and when she held out the knife-flash of the flask held in her discreetly fisted hand, he nodded, and she dripped some into his cup. There was a thick muffled smash of sound behind the windows that I assumed came from the snow. I reached out and took up one of the last few of the cookies. The Ladies pretended not to notice.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2019
  2. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    I like the idea that this takes place far, far into the future. Hoth has become a civilized, prim world; New Alderaan has been established for many years now. As with so many of your characters, Lysinora has set herself apart from the rest. The fact that she wears a huge fur coat instead of the puffy white snow suits is just the outward difference. She is a stranger here, learning the way that the community works. She is a tutor, not a technical worker or one of the ladies. And she seems to notice the one thing that everyone deliberately sees right past -- Adé.

    It's interesting that Adé's mother hasn't shown up yet. You'd think she would want to greet the woman who will be spending so much time with her child personally. There's a lot in hiding, and Lysinora has to determine the truth that lies beneath.
     
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  3. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    divapilot: I like the idea that this takes place far, far into the future. Hoth has become a civilized, prim world; New Alderaan has been established for many years now.

    Well, I don't know if Hoth has become all that civilized outside the Ladies' parlour--they have done, and will continue to do, their damnest to tame the place, but there's probably some old saying about how "the storms take it all back." And yes, New Alderaan has been the only Alderaan for centuries. Since I first wrote this story, in 2005, I have thought more and more than that having a new Alderaan to replace the lost one is a bad idea--there are some things you can't recreate, no matter how you try. But that doesn't mean they wouldn't still try, so it remains in the story.

    As with so many of your characters, Lysinora has set herself apart from the rest. The fact that she wears a huge fur coat instead of the puffy white snow suits is just the outward difference. She is a stranger here, learning the way that the community works. She is a tutor, not a technical worker or one of the ladies. And she seems to notice the one thing that everyone deliberately sees right past -- Adé.

    Lysinora is about as prepared for the winter life on Hoth as I was when I went off to first grade (and my mother was a teacher once too) armed with a yellow crayon instead of a pencil and a Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox. But she's a reasonably fast learner, and she does notice just about everything.

    It's interesting that Adé's mother hasn't shown up yet. You'd think she would want to greet the woman who will be spending so much time with her child personally. There's a lot in hiding, and Lysinora has to determine the truth that lies beneath.

    It must be pretty obvious that, despite Lysinora's initial impression, Vittoria is not actually Adé's mother--so yes, that is interesting. The truth on that should be out soon.

    Thank you for reading, and commenting!
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2020
    Findswoman likes this.
  4. Oddly_Salacious

    Oddly_Salacious Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 5, 2005
    There are rich, well-crafted descriptions in here. I came away with a sense of: And did I just read myself some undertones of steampunk? I enjoyed this. Nicely done @Pandora!
     
    Findswoman likes this.
  5. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    I recently rediscovered this as part of the 2020 Reading Challenge, as it’s one I remember meaning to start following last year but hadn’t gotten to. With this beautiful, smart newcomer recently arrived from a temperate world, this opening chapter definitely gives us a “fish out of water” vibe akin to the one you explored so skillfully in “Something is shining like gold, but better.” In a way, Miss Ving is getting a warmer (!), more helpful welcome on Hoth than Miss Taffe did on Tatooine—which makes sense for the extreme conditions. And a good thing, too, because as has been pointed out, she doesn’t seem quite prepared for just how extreme those conditions are! But I can tell she is a close observer of those around her: both the ladies, the aide, and young Adé (whom I’m finding intriguing too, and wondering if there is more than meets the eye in the way the ladies keep shutting her up, withholding cookies from her, etc.). It looks like there might be some kind of hierarchy of the sexes at work, too, given the more menial, manual labor the men are doing (they too do Not Necessarily Get Cookies, either) And perhaps my biggest point of curiosity: who actually is the Winter Queen of the title? Someone we haven’t met, or have we yet? Hope you continue this so we can find out more—always great to see you back and writing again! :)
     
  6. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    Love the title (there's something very mystical about it) and the creative premise. You have a gift for painting a very detailed, vivid sense of setting especially in parts like this:

    When I arrived on Hoth, I was wearing a long black fur coat. It was made to resemble the fur of some bear roaming through some mystical wildlands. I don’t remember what it was once called. They used to hunt it down for that fur, but there isn’t any need for that sort of thing now. My coat was artificial, but it smelled like that animal must have, like its warm panting breath. Anyhow: I had known it would be cold here, the sort of knife-toothed cold I hadn’t ever experienced before, and this coat was the best I had to wear. I still wasn’t prepared for just how cold it was when I set forth into the air of the hangar, where the governmental aide was waiting for me.

    We learn so much about the setting and what the character is wearing with these details that all are included in a way that feels natural rather than forced. It's great how much information you could include with good flow in this first paragraph. Nice job!

    The hangar was a huge shadow-grey dingy cavern: it was so large that I could just make out the dayplanes parked nearby, and I couldn’t at all see the duracrete-rock ceiling up in the darkness that hovered overhead. It was kept heated for the sake of the ships—and I could smell the sunburned dry dust from what they were using—but I couldn’t feel any resulting warmth, and my breath still blew out as steamsoft white smoke.

    More details that feel very real. Sunburned dry dust and steamsoft white smoke are particularly strong phrasings. Almost a poetic quality to the prose here.

    Thanks for an enjoyable, richly detailed chapter!
     
    Findswoman likes this.
  7. mavjade

    mavjade It's so FLUFFY! Fanfic Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Sep 10, 2005
    I really love the idea of Hoth having at the very least a colony. It would not be an easy place to live, but I could totally see it happening. As others have said, your descriptions are fantastic and really give you a visual and feeling of how things are. And I do think the ladies take their tea time quite seriously, but I wonder if it will come back to bite them in the future for being mean to the little girl?

    And like Finds, I'm very curious as to the title, who is the Winter Queen?
     
    Findswoman likes this.
  8. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    I like the idea of the ladies trying to make their parlour the most over civilised and pretentious place on Hoth. Definitely reminds me of our history where middle and upkeep class women in the ‘colonies’ tried to outdo each other by repeating everything they did at hole but on a much grander and more snooty scale.

    Wonder what both child (when she’s not in the company of all the ‘ladies’ and mother will be like).


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  9. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2001
    I know you mentioned that this shares roots with your 2016 diary, but it definitely has a feel all its own. A Winter Queen to match the Desert Ladies of your Tatooine stories -- I was really intrigued by the change in setting and how much is different even though some things remain the same from one part of the galaxy to the next in some ways. People are people, after all, and the pecking orders, the injustices large and small, and the moments of beauty are to be found anywhere. [face_thinking] But the world, and Lysinora herself, feel quite different.

    The synthetic (because nobody needs to hunt, or because that would be too messy for these very indoors Hoth residents, I wonder) bear coat is a wonderfully atmospheric bit of wardrobe, and I love how it gets that "Gothic" vibe mentioned in the title line in there right away. :cool:

    Lysinora is perceptive of what these fancy Hoth folks really are under the surface -- and I love that her sympathies are on the side of the kid who just wants a cookie! And she has no compunctions about speaking her mind if she pleases. :p There's definitely a sense that everyone in the room except for poor Adé (and that naming scheme seems familiar...) lives a very deliberately insulated life in more ways than one. The big, overdone layer-y clothes on the ladies, and the never-mentioned mystery substance that seems to be a soporific -- or some other drug -- only add to that stuffy, trapped feeling. No wonder that Lysinora doesn't seem like she's having a great time!
     
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  10. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Oddly_Salacious: There are rich, well-crafted descriptions in here. I came away with a sense of: And did I just read myself some undertones of steampunk? I enjoyed this. Nicely done @Pandora!

    Thanks! As for overtones of steampunk--you're not wrong, and there shall be more to come. (No zeppelins, though. I'm afraid the appeal of those completely eludes me.)

    -----

    Findswoman: I recently rediscovered this as part of the 2020 Reading Challenge, as it’s one I remember meaning to start following last year but hadn’t gotten to. With this beautiful, smart newcomer recently arrived from a temperate world, this opening chapter definitely gives us a “fish out of water” vibe akin to the one you explored so skillfully in “Something is shining like gold, but better.”

    Yes, it's certainly a theme I have explored before--I don't know much about "plot" (since I learned in a college fiction writing course that "having things happen" didn't make a plot, and then nearly instantly didn't care) but I can always go with the basics for getting a story started--Someone comes to town, someone leaves town. When I began this story, I started with a character arriving on Hoth, and virtually nothing else.

    Also: I have a tendency towards writing about alienation, and when someone doesn't fit, in such an obvious way, that theme just leaps right in.

    In a way, Miss Ving is getting a warmer (!), more helpful welcome on Hoth than Miss Taffe did on Tatooine—which makes sense for the extreme conditions. And a good thing, too, because as has been pointed out, she doesn’t seem quite prepared for just how extreme those conditions are!

    There are some things you can't ever really be prepared for--and besides that, I don't think they even have adequate winter gear for Hoth on all those temperate planets.

    But I can tell she is a close observer of those around her: both the ladies, the aide, and young Adé (whom I’m finding intriguing too, and wondering if there is more than meets the eye in the way the ladies keep shutting her up, withholding cookies from her, etc.). It looks like there might be some kind of hierarchy of the sexes at work, too, given the more menial, manual labor the men are doing (they too do Not Necessarily Get Cookies, either)

    I hadn't realized that about the hierarchy of the sexes: for what it's worth, Antilles is really just messing with Jasen in this scene regarding the cookies. But it is true that there is a hierarchy, and the Ladies are sitting on the top of it. The aides are all women, and they are pretty much relegated to menial jobs too, even if it's not manual labor.

    And perhaps my biggest point of curiosity: who actually is the Winter Queen of the title? Someone we haven’t met, or have we yet? Hope you continue this so we can find out more—always great to see you back and writing again!

    The Winter Queen is a mystery that has yet to be introduced into the story at this point. And as for the story in general: yes, I have continued it--I'm not done, but I must have around 25000 words of it together--I just have to get to editing the second bit in order to post it.

    Thanks for reading, and commenting!

    ------

    devilinthedetails: Love the title (there's something very mystical about it) and the creative premise. You have a gift for painting a very detailed, vivid sense of setting especially in parts like this:

    When I arrived on Hoth, I was wearing a long black fur coat. It was made to resemble the fur of some bear roaming through some mystical wildlands. I don’t remember what it was once called. They used to hunt it down for that fur, but there isn’t any need for that sort of thing now. My coat was artificial, but it smelled like that animal must have, like its warm panting breath. Anyhow: I had known it would be cold here, the sort of knife-toothed cold I hadn’t ever experienced before, and this coat was the best I had to wear. I still wasn’t prepared for just how cold it was when I set forth into the air of the hangar, where the governmental aide was waiting for me.

    Thanks. And yes, I have been known, in several lives, for pretty writing (though in a review of one of my very few published works, the reviewer accused me of going with "style over substance," at least I had style). I wrote the original version of this first post in 2005 in this weird free-for-all mood I can no longer access--when I would open a fresh word processing file on a whim and just bang something out--and I threw the title on top of it in the same way. So if it works, I couldn't tell you how I did it.

    We learn so much about the setting and what the character is wearing with these details that all are included in a way that feels natural rather than forced. It's great how much information you could include with good flow in this first paragraph. Nice job!

    The hangar was a huge shadow-grey dingy cavern: it was so large that I could just make out the dayplanes parked nearby, and I couldn’t at all see the duracrete-rock ceiling up in the darkness that hovered overhead. It was kept heated for the sake of the ships—and I could smell the sunburned dry dust from what they were using—but I couldn’t feel any resulting warmth, and my breath still blew out as steamsoft white smoke.

    More details that feel very real. Sunburned dry dust and steamsoft white smoke are particularly strong phrasings. Almost a poetic quality to the prose here.

    To be honest, sometimes I think I may be putting too much work in getting across what a place feels like--but what I can say, I wasn't meant to be a minimalist. (Though I don't think I would resent them, Gordon Lish in particular, quite so much if minimalism hadn't been the law of the land in writing rather than one style amongst many for years upon years, but I won't go into that further.) Anyway! So I'm glad to hear that the details worked for you, and flowed with the paragraph, rather than landing with thuds.

    Thanks for an enjoyable, richly detailed chapter!

    You're welcome, and thanks for reading and commenting!

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

    mavjade: I really love the idea of Hoth having at the very least a colony. It would not be an easy place to live, but I could totally see it happening. As others have said, your descriptions are fantastic and really give you a visual and feeling of how things are. And I do think the ladies take their tea time quite seriously, but I wonder if it will come back to bite them in the future for being mean to the little girl?

    The Hoth colony is certainly a place for the bold--or those who decide it is better to take their chances in a frozen "winter wonderland" than continue to live in the crowded depths of the underlevels on Coruscant or another world that is "all one big city."

    I am glad the concept worked for you, because if it doesn't, the entire story falls apart from the beginning. (Yes, I admit to worrying about it a little.) It does seem unlikely that worlds like Hoth would be settled in the saga time--and after all, with so many, many temperate worlds--it seemed like 3/4th of the worlds in my guide to planets and moons are described as temperate--there would be no reason to. Hence those nicely uninhabited worlds for the rebels to hide a base. But this story takes place hundreds of years later, so the galaxy has obviously changed enough to make this colony possible.

    And like Finds, I'm very curious as to the title, who is the Winter Queen?


    All will be revealed in time.

    Thanks for reading, and commenting!

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

    Kit': I like the idea of the ladies trying to make their parlour the most over civilised and pretentious place on Hoth. Definitely reminds me of our history where middle and upkeep class women in the ‘colonies’ tried to outdo each other by repeating everything they did at hole but on a much grander and more snooty scale.

    The Ladies certainly have made their parlour into the most civilized, and well-heated, place on Hoth--though when your competition is wampa hunters (I think that might be a spoiler, but oh well) that isn't saying much. I can't say that I consciously created them in the image of similar women in Australia and other British colonies, but the resemblances are probably so natural I didn't have to. The parlour is indeed a "piece of home away from home."

    Wonder what both child (when she’s not in the company of all the ‘ladies’ and mother will be like).

    That should be revealed in time.

    Thanks for reading!

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

    Kahara: I know you mentioned that this shares roots with your 2016 diary, but it definitely has a feel all its own. A Winter Queen to match the Desert Ladies of your Tatooine stories -- I was really intrigued by the change in setting and how much is different even though some things remain the same from one part of the galaxy to the next in some ways. People are people, after all, and the pecking orders, the injustices large and small, and the moments of beauty are to be found anywhere. [face_thinking] But the world, and Lysinora herself, feel quite different.

    The funny thing about that is that I started my 2016 diary when this story was a broken truncated mess--and I'm restoring this story while the diary has been stalled in place for over two years. So the two stories have never really existed at the same time. But this story does feel different to me from the diary, even if they do have the same basic story (a teacher from a nice planet comes to the frontier town), so I'm glad, and relieved, that it feels different to you as well.

    Lysinora is certainly different--I have the feeling, in a way I never before have had with characters from two different stories of mine, that if she and Miss Taafe from the 2016 diary were to meet, they would loathe each other. A whole lot.

    The synthetic (because nobody needs to hunt, or because that would be too messy for these very indoors Hoth residents, I wonder) bear coat is a wonderfully atmospheric bit of wardrobe, and I love how it gets that "Gothic" vibe mentioned in the title line in there right away. :cool:

    The coat was more supposed to represent that the residents back on New Alderaan have no need to hunt--but it's true that the Ladies aren't exactly going out toting laser-rifles either. And I do like to get the vibe of the story set up straight away.

    Lysinora is perceptive of what these fancy Hoth folks really are under the surface -- and I love that her sympathies are on the side of the kid who just wants a cookie! And she has no compunctions about speaking her mind if she pleases. :p

    She certainly has those Ladies figured out (well, more or less, anyway). Cookies have to be earned, and they are not for children!

    There's definitely a sense that everyone in the room except for poor Adé (and that naming scheme seems familiar...) lives a very deliberately insulated life in more ways than one. The big, overdone layer-y clothes on the ladies, and the never-mentioned mystery substance that seems to be a soporific -- or some other drug -- only add to that stuffy, trapped feeling. No wonder that Lysinora doesn't seem like she's having a great time!

    They want to stay inside, in the parlour where it's warm (and civilized, of course), and I suspect some of the Ladies' teas are at least 50% booze. If there's a stuffy, trapped feeling, that is no wonder--they're inside nearly all the time while the winter-world howls outside. But Lysinora has only just gotten there, and there is much for her to learn--sorry--about this place.

    Thanks for reading, and commenting!
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2020
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  11. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    ---------------

    2.

    They call this colony Hoth City, and they want it to become a city. Well, they might want that, but I could see straight off that it wasn’t ever going to happen. The Mansion, which continues to be the one main structure, might as well be a pastewood stage set against the snow and the hovering glaring blue skies. The windows are double-layered plexi, and they still tremble in the hard sneering winds that attack on the coldest nights. They have the one paved street that ends just past the few outbuildings. The house engineers put up a system of heat pipes underneath the pavement floor I haven’t ever seen: it is always covered with a stamped flat sheet of snow.

    It was the first permanent settlement on the entire planet. I read about that when I researched the place before I accepted the teaching position—though there hadn’t been much written about it to read—and I have been reminded of this fact many, oh many, times since then.

    They built it on the site of an old hunting base hunched down near the foothills of the tall jagged mountains that didn’t have any names before someone christened them as the Hella Range. As it turned out, the wampa hunters, with their macho blasters, their macho clenched grins, and fang-bitten scars, still made use of the area. They were to stay out of sight and mind in the outbuildings.

    But it was no longer the one lone settlement. They had founded a second town, near the grey bone walls of the ancient ruins the exploring corps had found, on the opposite hemisphere—thousands of klicks away across the snow plains, and the frozen broken mirror of the ocean. When I made my arrival, Governor Creagor was staying there to supervise the construction of the town meeting house. She is there still, even though they finished with that over a year ago.

    I have yet to meet her, though I have seen her call image. She is a nightdark blue Pantoran woman with large staring lavender eyes who hardly looks sixteen years old, though I know that she is, of course, much older than that. The imaging shows the exact pastel lavender color of her eyes, but the audio part cringes across the distances, and I have only heard her voice as a static-echo.

    And yes, I know: the sea does not actually look like mirror glass. I was being fancifully poetic about that. It is only what it is--a heavy ice ceiling the mysterious world of water beneath, which even the explorers have mostly left alone.

    It isn’t at all surprising that they named the place--after the Ladies used the mining guild’s money to raise the Mansion into existence, and they had their first building—Hoth City. It is the only name they could have gone with. I lived for too many years in New Aldera, and I do know.

    When I arrived, they had only recently started work on a third outbuilding at the far end of the “street.” According to E.A., it was going to be an all-purpose store. Trust me, I did not pick that location, she said. Those dear little boys must be trying to improve us, but the joke will be on them. There isn’t a woman here who will go that far for a bit of shopping. Ha ha.

    I was the first new resident to have made an appearance in some time. When I inquired into what that meant exactly, both E.A and the aides were vague with their answers. It had “been months.” It had indeed been months, as I learned eventually, and closer to a standardized year. As the Ladies are so fond of saying, Hoth City is only for the brave.

    They were waiting on the promised arrival of an entire family unit. The woman, the mumsy, was Lady Dorabella’s granddaughter: and she had her husband (who couldn’t find a suitable job as a systems engineer on the entire world of Eriadu) and her three children, all of whom were too young to be my students, and therefore were of no interest to me. But for now, they just had me.

    3.

    After teatime in the parlour (I shall dispense with the proud capital the others use), Vittoria showed me to my room upstairs on the women’s hall. There was a glass bubble lift, but thankfully, Vittoria led the way up the staircase. I knew she was probably doing so for selfless reasons—like the petit-cookies, the lift was for Ladies—but I prefer to walk when I can. Her mouth was still locked in a polite cringing smile. I suspected—and soon enough, I would know—it wasn’t because of any genuine emotion she felt. She couldn’t help it. She was so used to smiling, and pleasing, that she went on doing it, when she didn’t even like me.

    We came to a stop in front of a door in the middle of the hall, and she stayed to watch while I took the keychip out of my dress pocket, and the door unlocked with a hiccupped snap. The room inside was flushed with pale snow light from the one window. It smelled like laundry soap, and the bed, the stainedwhite mattress, was blank and unmade. And—I needed to thank something out there for this—I could see the opened door for the fresher-closet.

    I had known beforehand that I was going to have one of their best rooms, but they hadn’t been so clear on the fresher situation. Now that I knew we all wouldn’t be sharing one, I felt a relief I hadn’t dared to hope for. I could not have endured that.

    I mean: who wants to have to smell other women, their panting underskirts, their skin, and their showerwater steam. The Ladies, I knew, all lived on this floor. And if those of us who were younger were all going to menstruate on the same cheerfully communal cycle, I didn’t want to know about it. I menstruate in private—I prefer to knock out the gnawing cramps, and back pain, with a nice powerfully muscled painshot, and I don’t discuss it with anyone.

    Once when I was ten, and had just started with the womanly cycle, my dear mother told me about a Dathomiri menarche ritual she had been reading about. It was as terribly savage and stupid as one would expect. She had used her arched drawling voice, the one that heralded an attack of her wit, but I had actually snarled in response. Yes, snarled. I wasn’t old enough to figure out that she was telling me this to make fun of it.

    Vittoria was still standing over by the doorway when I emerged from the fresher.-closet again. Her smile had relaxed somewhat, and I waited for her to get to her point. “So,” she said.

    “So?” I said, ceasing to wait. The heater-unit had turned on in the hallway, and the air it blew in was as dry as burned paper leaves, with a stuffy fur smell. It was turning out to be too warm: and while Vittoria had to be used to it, I wasn’t quite ready to tolerate it.

    As I wrote earlier, she didn’t like me. But I don’t know that she disliked me either. Vittoria tends to have the most predictable responses, and she wouldn’t have thought much of me at all: She would assume that someone who was tall and beautiful—beautiful especially compared with her--with garish dyed hair, would have to be stupid. I can’t say that I’m terribly intelligent, but I know one can be a genius, and still wind up wriggling in a bronze bra in a Hutt funded pleasure club.

    She looked around the room with a critically-squinted eye. “The housebots ought to have brought in your luggage by now. I’m afraid they don’t always work as they should.”

    “Oh, that. I’m not concerned.” And I wasn’t: because if those androids, or someone else, did not bring my belongings to me soon, I intended to return to the hangar and hunt them down myself, and if I had to kick manners into an android to do that, I would have kicked it hard.

    “There are some linens in the closet for your bed,” she said. “And Adé and I have the suite several doors to the left, if you ever need to find me.”

    “Thank you,” I said, even though I wanted her to leave. My mother used to say it was the done thing to be polite with “social inferiors”—though since she was Hapan, she thought everyone, and that included my father and possibly me, were inferiors. Then: “I take it Adé is your daughter?”

    “Oh, no!” she said. I wondered then if she was her niece (or cousin, or even much younger sister of her father’s autumn-time romance) but before I could go through with asking that, she answered the question for me: “We’re not at all related. I was pressed into looking after her when her mother died. Madame Antilles made me her official guardian when she was one.”

    “I see,” I said. I had gotten trapped in this excruciating conversation, and now I didn’t know what the next move ought to be. “That’s quite the responsibility to take on.”

    “Of course, it is,” she said. “But Adé needed me, and well. I won’t ever be able to have my own children, so you could say that this way, I get to have a daughter.”

    She said the last few words with a drooping sigh: no doubt, she was feeling, predictably, a lurch of guilt over having the motherly duties that rightfully belonged to Adé’s long dead mumsy. I had no idea what I was supposed to say—and thankfully, I refrained from making an attempt. It would be one of the many subjects that she considers unacceptable to speak aloud.

    She continued to watch me, and I said, in a painfully insincere rush: “Well! I shall be certain to let you know if I should need anything in the future.”

    “Of course,” she said. And good—I was beginning to suspect she was going to offer to make up my bed for me. “And I should be returning to the Parlour about now.”

    Once she had removed herself, I closed the door on the emptied hallway. I made up the bed with the practical white linen sheets stored on the closet shelf. My father doesn’t have any housebots, so I learned to do that myself. When an android, an older model with a shaggy lace trimmed purple velvet patch over its missing eye, showed up with the luggage, accompanied by Vittoria and Adé, I had, in lieu of the nap I wanted, settled into reading a novel.

    “There you go!” Vittoria said--as I lurched off the bed onto my feet, and the android entered, shuffling with rusted-squeaking knees, its red mouth perched in an arched smile.

    Adé wasn’t allowed to set one foot into the room that I couldn’t quite think of as belonging to me, but she hovered outside the doorway and watched.

    There isn’t much else worth relating about my first few days living here. I had another day of holiday time, during which I observed the rituals of the women’s hall, and was introduced to its members. I nodded through conversations at dinner. I finished reading the novel. Then it was time for me to walk downstairs one storey and prepare the room they had given me to be my classroom.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2020
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  12. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Wonderful detailed descriptions, both of Hoth City, its look and layout and materials, and of Lysinora's new digs; it is indeed reassuring that she'll have some privacy even in this very structured, very communal settlement, and I'd like to say that shows that her hosts have some respect for her. Though I'm curious about why she seems so sure Vittoria doesn't really like her, or why she seems to look down on her so much, when Vittoria seems to have been nothing but friendly and hospitable to her so far; I guess maybe that's something that will be revealed later on. Now we know some important new things about Adé, namely, that she's by way of an adopted daughter to Vittoria—and given the ages mentioned, it looks like Vittoria's pretty much the only mother figure she has ever known. All in all, it looks like Lysinora is about as settled in on this Strange New World as she is likely to get, and I will look forward to seeing how her first days of teaching go! Glad you're continuing this; keep it coming. :)
     
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  13. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Findswoman: Wonderful detailed descriptions, both of Hoth City, its look and layout and materials, and of Lysinora's new digs; it is indeed reassuring that she'll have some privacy even in this very structured, very communal settlement, and I'd like to say that shows that her hosts have some respect for her.

    Lysinora does appreciate her privacy (and perhaps she also likes to keep others at an emotional and etc. distance as well? You'll have to decide for yourself on that). And yes, her hosts have respected that--I suspect they used the fact that she would have "one of the best rooms" as a selling point during the hiring process. I doubt there were too many candidates interested in a teaching post in the remote snowbound wilds of a winter planet such as Hoth.

    Though I'm curious about why she seems so sure Vittoria doesn't really like her, or why she seems to look down on her so much, when Vittoria seems to have been nothing but friendly and hospitable to her so far; I guess maybe that's something that will be revealed later on.

    That may be because--and I think it's pretty clear even when they've only just met--Lysinora doesn't much like Vittoria either, on an almost instinctual level. Or at the least, she doesn't trust her. Yes, she is friendly, but she's doing so because that's a requirement of her role, and Lysinora both at the time, and in retrospect, finds it all to be fake. And she isn't entirely wrong: as I see her, Vittoria (like several people I have encountered in real life over the years) has worked in a service job for so long that she is no longer really capable of behaving in a genuine fashion.

    Now we know some important new things about Adé, namely, that she's by way of an adopted daughter to Vittoria—and given the ages mentioned, it looks like Vittoria's pretty much the only mother figure she has ever known.

    That's true--but as you may have noticed, though she is the closest to a mother-figure Adé has ever known, Vittoria doesn't identify as Adé's mother, but as her guardian. There has to be much more to the iceberg (sorry) of this little girl's story.

    All in all, it looks like Lysinora is about as settled in on this Strange New World as she is likely to get, and I will look forward to seeing how her first days of teaching go! Glad you're continuing this; keep it coming. :)

    You will be seeing the first glimpse of the classroom in the next post, so--stay tuned?

    Thanks for reading, and commenting!
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2020
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  14. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2001
    Hoth City may not much impress Lysinora, but it is taking on a life of its own with every new revelation and bit of scenery-setting, and I'm really enjoying finding out more about it. Of all the places to set up shop -- but just the kind of place that these residents somehow would find their way to. It's a little place with big ambitions, which seems to suit the hint of pompous pride that Lysinora sees in the Ladies.

    [face_laugh] Straight to the point, as usual!

    Very interesting -- are these the same guys that we saw in Chapter 1? In any case, they're a stark contrast to the indoorsy Ladies. It sounds like they were around before the "city" and so I'm guessing they're not related to the newer settlers. The more we learn, the more curious I am about this town and why it came to be.

    There are so many "New __" in this world, and I guess that kind of stunning creativity is not limited to Earth. :p I like how you can just about hear her tone of voice through the narration in comments like this.

    Wow, this place is about as isolated as it gets! And interesting that it seems to be kind of last option not just for Lysinora but maybe also for some of the other residents.

    Can't be getting any commoner germs in the Ladies' lift, I suppose. :rolleyes: Vittoria may not like the newcomer much, but I have to wonder if the fact that the feeling is so very mutual has something to do with that. She might be used to being a people-pleaser, but that may also mean she's all too aware of when someone isn't delighted to meet her. Still, I can see why Lysinora doesn't trust her -- and I get the impression she's not one prone to trusting easily in the first place. (Given what we've seen of her mother, hard to blame her for that one!)

    :eek: DYED HAIR. THE SHEER AUDACITY. Lysinora certainly has ideas on how others see her, though in this case I get the feeling she may not be far off the mark. I can imagine that this outsider with her garish dyed hair might in fact be a bit of a sore spot for Vittoria, who is so used to conformity. Having to fade into the background and caretake the Ladies all the time probably would make someone else NOT doing that extra irritating.

    [face_rofl] Oh Lysinora. Yeah, I imagine she and Miss Taafe would not get along so well.

    Poor Adé! It sounds like Vittoria can't quite decide if she's a burden or an opportunity to play the socially acceptable parent-figure, and either way that's kind of a difficult thing for the kid. It'll be interesting to see if she shows up in Lysinora's class, and what she's actually like. [face_thinking]
     
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  15. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Kahara: Hoth City may not much impress Lysinora, but it is taking on a life of its own with every new revelation and bit of scenery-setting, and I'm really enjoying finding out more about it. Of all the places to set up shop -- but just the kind of place that these residents somehow would find their way to. It's a little place with big ambitions, which seems to suit the hint of pompous pride that Lysinora sees in the Ladies.

    The Ladies do have their delusions of grandeur for their Little Colony That Could in the frozen winter wonderlands, and Lysinora certainly doesn't share their delusions (because she's right, as not many people are brave, or desperate, or etc. enough to come to Hoth City to make it the size of a village, let alone a city) nor does she take them seriously. But she's right there with them, so I suppose that says something about her too.

    "They call this colony Hoth City, and they want it to become a city. Well, they might want that, but I could see straight off that it wasn’t ever going to happen."
    [face_laugh] Straight to the point, as usual!


    Just telling it like it is.

    Very interesting -- are these the same guys that we saw in Chapter 1? In any case, they're a stark contrast to the indoorsy Ladies. It sounds like they were around before the "city" and so I'm guessing they're not related to the newer settlers. The more we learn, the more curious I am about this town and why it came to be.

    No, these are a completely different group of men from the ones living indoors in "Hoth City"--who are probably rightly afraid of them. They were indeed around before the Ladies and their entourage first landed on Hoth, and the two groups have come to some sort of agreement that leads to them both remaining in the area--while having as little to do with each other as possible. As for how the colony came to be--well, hopefully more on that shall be revealed with time.

    There are so many "New __" in this world, and I guess that kind of stunning creativity is not limited to Earth. :p I like how you can just about hear her tone of voice through the narration in comments like this.

    If the Official Guide to Planets and Moons is anything to go by, this sort of stunning creativity is legion in the galaxy far far away--with many a capital city on many a "temperate world" named for the planet itself. Her tone has been well earned.

    Wow, this place is about as isolated as it gets! And interesting that it seems to be kind of last option not just for Lysinora but maybe also for some of the other residents.

    As the Ladies are so fond of saying, it takes a special sort of person to come to Hoth--but everyone there has their own reasons, some of which may come up. As for Lysinora, I suppose that--at least in the abstract, before it became a real place--Hoth has something she needs.

    Can't be getting any commoner germs in the Ladies' lift, I suppose. :rolleyes: Vittoria may not like the newcomer much, but I have to wonder if the fact that the feeling is so very mutual has something to do with that. She might be used to being a people-pleaser, but that may also mean she's all too aware of when someone isn't delighted to meet her. Still, I can see why Lysinora doesn't trust her -- and I get the impression she's not one prone to trusting easily in the first place. (Given what we've seen of her mother, hard to blame her for that one!)

    Oh, Vittora was probably well aware, and quite soon, that Lysinora hasn't taken to her, though from Lysinora's perspective, it is difficult to know how much effect that had. Vittoria is probably used to dealing with people who don't like her (or underestimate her) and remaining gracious. It is also a certainty that Lysinora doesn't understand her: she says that Vittoria is predictable, which means that she knows what she will do in most situations--even what she'll say--but she doesn't understand why Vittoria does these things.

    :eek: DYED HAIR. THE SHEER AUDACITY. Lysinora certainly has ideas on how others see her, though in this case I get the feeling she may not be far off the mark. I can imagine that this outsider with her garish dyed hair might in fact be a bit of a sore spot for Vittoria, who is so used to conformity. Having to fade into the background and caretake the Ladies all the time probably would make someone else NOT doing that extra irritating.

    I KNOW.

    I have the feeling that Vittoria thinks that once a woman has reached the age of about twenty-five, she is too old for such things as garish dyed hair. (Unless she is a Lady. Now that I think of it, there has to be at least one with them who has her hair dyed a permanent fake dark red.) And you're right that she may resent the fact that Lysinora--who has pink hair, and is six feet tall--stands out even more than she has to. Vittoria doesn't believe in standing out.

    "And I wasn’t: because if those androids, or someone else, did not bring my belongings to me soon, I intended to return to the hangar and hunt them down myself, and if I had to kick manners into an android to do that, I would have kicked it hard."
    [face_rofl] Oh Lysinora. Yeah, I imagine she and Miss Taafe would not get along so well.

    That's an understatement.

    Poor Adé! It sounds like Vittoria can't quite decide if she's a burden or an opportunity to play the socially acceptable parent-figure, and either way that's kind of a difficult thing for the kid. It'll be interesting to see if she shows up in Lysinora's class, and what she's actually like.

    It certainly can't be easy being Vittoria's ward. And yes (I don't think this is too much of a spoiler) Adé is indeed in Lysinora's class, and you shall be seeing more of her soon.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2020
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  16. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    *Drags in new post after a year of computer problems like a cat proudly offering up a dead chipmunk.*

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

    4.

    Before it was delegated to be my classroom, I think the room the administration gave me had been used for storage. It was a long narrow space with blank windowless walls, and a bone-hard steel concrete floor underneath the boot heel scuffed wood-tiles. It hadn’t been kept heated, and when I opened the door for the first day of classes, the air hissed out in a silky ice-toothed breath. Adé followed me inside, with her coat cuffs dragged down to her ghost-white fingertips. Arty Three, the android with the eyepatch, who E.A. had assigned from her office, trotted in after her. They both stood in a hunched wait while I made haste to the heating controls and snapped it on.

    We had another hour before the other students would begin to make their appearances, and there was still work left to do: Adé swept the floor with a limp rusted-dry broom, and I unpacked the set of books that Mirah, one of the aides, had donated to my cause. They made a surprise supplement to the books I had already managed to assemble: those included books from my own collection, and a few holobooks that Vittoria had from her office.

    Arty Three took an eyelet-lace handkerchief out of her work apron pocket, and began wiping at the long school-table, though I had already cleaned it the previous afternoon. Her one remaining eye blinked with faded golden light, and: “Oh dear,” she said (again), in her flute-whispering voice. “I don’t think there is much we can do with this place, Miss Ving.”

    “There isn’t,” I said, turning back to my pathetic school library. “But unless they build a schoolhouse for me next, we are going to have to make do with it.”

    The heater was working, and I could smell the weak greasy air seeping forth from it, but it wasn’t anywhere near warm, even with the doorway open. I was wearing the fingerless sweatergloves I had run back up the stairs the day before to fetch, and a black flannel wool dress, but my skirts felt about as warm and sturdy as artpaper against the air of that room.

    Adé had paused in her sweeping in the drowned-dim shadows at the other side of the room, where the overhead light fixture had burned dead, and rubbed at her nose with her fisted hand. “They’re never going to do that. Besides, nobody would ever dare leave the Mansion to go outside for something like school.”

    Arty Three gave a dusty flutewhistle sigh. “She’s right about that.”

    Adé had made an attempt to look nice for the first day of the new school: she had the ends of her grimly done braids tied with midnight sky blue ribbons, and I could tell she was wearing a nice dress, probably her best one, from the hem peeking out underneath her heavy dumpy-large woolen coat. It made a dry leaf swish as she moved about with that broom.

    I was relieved to claim my seat at the head of the table and sit down. I was still in the process of adapting to the planet’s short days, and I can’t say it was going well. I opened my data-book and the screen woke up with a howling glare of light. Once it had faded back to normal, I looked over at Adé. “So, Adé,” I said. Her eyes turned big with a full moon stare as she gave an electric-jerked startle. She didn’t even attempt to hide it away. “I haven’t had the chance to meet with any of the other students yet. And I would suppose you must know all of them.”

    She shrugged. “There are only six of them. Besides me, of course.”

    I had reviewed my notes about the students the night before: there were, as she said, only seven children here signed up for the school. I knew how old they were—the eldest was a fifteen year old boy, and the youngest was a girl who was only, absurdly, four years old—and their names, but not any of the details that would assist me in actually teaching them anything.

    Adé continued to speak: “Well, there is Padma Narmlesdottir’s baby, and Dr. Mannen’s little kids, but I figure they’re not really people yet, so they don’t count.”

    “Oh, that was quite the scandal last year with Miss Padma,” Arty Three told me, in an imitation of the gossiping tone the aides used at dinner.

    “That was because of that one wampa hunter who used to stop by here, though I wasn’t supposed to know about it,” Adé said. “She thought he was so romantic, with all his scars, and that beard stubble he always had, and then there was his smell. It was ewwww.”

    “Yes. I am not really qualified to judge on these matters, but I well remember how she used to refer to his aroma of utterly savage manhood.”

    “Well, that would be one way of describing it,” I said.

    “Yes,” said Arty Three. She tucked her rag back into her pocket. “So we weren’t all that surprised when Miss Padma made her big announcement. Miss Vittoria did try to make an issue out of it, but personally, I did not have a problem. It seems part of the natural order to me. And if we wish for the colony to grow, we need all the more babies.”

    “You’ve a very practical mind,” I said. I lifted my feet onto the bottom chair ring, and away from the icehard floor lurking under the table, and finally got around to opening, with a delicate stab of the relevant key, the file for my lesson plans. “Not everyone does.”

    Adé had wandered back to the far side of the room, but I knew she was listening in. I don’t have even the smallest of Force-gifts, but I could practically hear it.

    “Thank you.” Arty Three flashed her eye in a lamplight blink. “And dear me! Miss Padma’s daughter has her first natal day next twomonth. You must realize how important that is. That baby is only the fifth person to be born on this planet. She is one of the first true Hothans.”

    “Really,” I said, though with admittedly not much interest. “And the other four?”

    Arty Three was pleased to continue discussing this: “Oh, there was a little boy, a Pantoran, born in Abrill some months ago. That makes him the sixth to be native born. There are a few other children there, though I gather the majority of the other sentients are bachelor-men, and rather crude. Then there is Miss Adé over there. She is only the first child born at Hoth City, before it was even named as a colony. She is the very first Hothan.”

    “I know all of that, “Adé’s voice said behind me. She walked back to us with smackedloud thud for each footstep, and leaned the broom back in its place before she sat down at the table.

    “Of course, Miss Adé,” Arty Three said. “But Miss Ving didn’t.”

    “Vittoria Sade has divulged a little history to me,” I said. It had been only a little: she had indicated that Adé was still very young when she became her guardian, and I had deduced from that that she had spent most of her life here—but I had not then figured she had been here for the entirety of it. “What happened to her mother?”

    Adé was setting up her outdated book-pad, but she replied for Arty Three, without looking away from the activity clicking on her screen: “I don’t remember her. She died when I was born, so I never could have. I just know what everyone else tells me about her.”

    “I did know her,” Arty Three told me. “And if I remember correctly, and I believe I do, she was unusually beautiful. But it was a painful sort of beauty. Perhaps you know of it—the sort the poets compare to that of a lakerose. There was always something so--sad about her.”

    Adé didn’t add any further comments. But then, as she had said, she would have heard all of this before. Arty Three walked over to the doorway, and turned her head back and forth as she looked out into the hall. The time on my data-pad was still set to another time, to the current hour on New Alderaan, but I expected the first students would be making their appearances soon.

    They showed up too soon at that. Without even the warning sound of footsteps, the first two students were coming in through the doorway. I had seen them before, in passing in the dining room, with their mother Dr. Rania Mannen and the two little siblings, but I hadn’t once spoke to them. The boy was called Sayid, and the girl was his younger sister Rosamunda.

    I had heard a few things about them from the discussions at the dinner table: when there had been a meteor-bombardment the month before, most of the children, including the fifteen year old boy, had been forced to hide in a rather small meat storage refrigerator in the kitchen hallway until hours after it was over with. I had wondered, though in silence, about what kind of fifteen year old would tolerate that sort of indignity. Now I would know.

    They were both dressed for the elements, and carried matching CAC issue satchels. Sayid gave me a tiny shivered smile, but his bonynarrow shoulders were slumped, and he had a doleful wary look. Rosamunda was much more at ease. She had her bouncing dark brown curly hair tied in two tails with red yarn, and walked over to the table with several long loping steps, banging the floor in the old boy-sized army boots she was wearing.

    And then while I was helping them settle in, a group of the others showed up They stood hovering, and blocking traffic, in the doorway at first, but once they saw Sayid and Rosamunda were seated with Adé, they went about selecting their own places. That left one student left to go. I stepped out into the hallway, and I was allowed only a few moments by myself before I saw Narcissa Belle, the aide who always wore her bright black hair in a towering braided topknot, stalking towards me with a little girl in a wine silkvelvet dress attacked to her hand. That had to be her daughter Livia, the four year old. And Vittoria was with them. She hovered just behind them while Narcissa helped Livia into her seat, without consulting with me first, smashing her layers of paper-lace petticoats flat.

    I thought Vittoria would make haste over to Adé’s chair to check in with her, but instead (after smiling desperately for Narcissa’s benefit) she turned to me: “Well! It looks as though everything is in order here for your first day, Miss Ving.”

    “I should certainly hope so,” I said, and Arty Three nodded in agreement.

    Vittoria turned to address the group of students. She intended to support my authority, but I didn’t figure that out until hours later. As she spoke, I thought she was undermining me: “You will have all met Miss Ving by now. She is your teacher, and I am sure that you will all respect her, and remember how one behaves in a classroom.”

    “Thank you, Miss Sade,” I said—and oh yes, she would have noticed my stiff tone. But she couldn’t actually acknowledge that, which meant I wouldn’t have to personally hear how ungrateful I was for her assistance. “Now, we need to get on things.”

    I think I can say that that first day of class went well enough. Of course, that was in part because I had my lesson plans to cling to for guidance. But the students all behaved: most of them were little, and had been vigorously taught to be seen and not heard. They hadn’t had much schooling, so I had to alter some lesson details on the spot. Sayid was old enough to have a cause to rebel, but he could not have been more polite. He was also up on his studies, though I could tell later that night, when I read his essay sample, he wasn’t a very imaginative thinker. But he could learn that.

    It did occur to me--in a daydreamed whisper-thought while I was busy with doing something else entirely--that he needed a more proper teacher. He needed a real teacher. But proper teachers have proper positions at universities, and they wouldn’t ever be mad, bad, and desperate enough to come here. I was, and I had to do.

    When we paused for the lunchbreak, he stayed earnestly hovering around me, along with Adé, as we wandered in a crowd downstairs to the dining room. Rosamunda took the lead, charging down the steps, and Arty Three followed behind us. I could just hear the ice-cracking creak from her rusted stiff joints. That, and her mumbling whistling voice: Oh dear oh dear.

    We were all pleased, I think, to enter into the stuffy woolen-dry heat of the dining room. The usual groups of aides and engineers were at their separate tables, and there was the dull percussive thud of pots from the cooks back off in the kitchen. The actual meal they had prepared smelled tolerable. While I waited for Arty Three to finish making her way across the room to join us, I reflected on how I might go about having the heat situation in the classroom improved. It would involve dealing with Jasen and shocking him with my ignorance. But even that didn’t seem like such an obstacle.


    5.

    Still: I was relieved when classes were over, and I could make a retreat to the sanctuary of the inside of my room. The heater had gone into hibernation, and when I went over to the window, I could see the sky was blurred with the first actual snowfall I had seen. The glass glowed with the cold just behind it, but I just stood there for several blank minutes and watched. Oh, I shouldn’t have been tired, after all that hard work of sitting for hours, but I was. I felt as though I had been holding my breath the entire time, and my back was as numbed as a clenched fist. And of course, I had to keep on doing this, starting again the next day—but I didn’t have to worry about that yet.

    I sat down on the side of the mattress, and then dropped onto my back and snapped my eyes shut. My legs felt as heavy as soggy melting snow, and I let my hands fall at my sides, useless, and with no need to be useful. I didn’t have to do anything else for that moment.

    But I never did fall asleep. I laid there in the dust-soft darkness, my mind stumbling along, and awake, the entire time. There was a soft silver toy-bell noise from outside, that turned out to be snow landing on top of the fresh loose snow. After a while, I gave it up, and dragged myself off the bed, and went over to turn on the hard white overhead light. It was nearly time for dinner.

    The dining hall was a glossy-hot bright blur of lights and noise, and I would have preferred to eat my dinner in ignored peace. But (of course) Mirah and Padma, the aides present at the table, just had to know my opinion on how well the school was doing.

    “This was only the first day,” I said, and watched a wind come crashing up against the sunward windows. The lights shivered. “I think I should wait a while before I know that.”

    Mirah nodded (sternly, you might say), and then everyone watched on while Vittoria wrenched control of the conversation. “Of course, Miss Ving. But what do you make of the students so far?”

    “You have all taught them well,” I said—and Mirah smirked before she snapped her gaze back down to her plate, and started loading her fork.

    Vittoria nodded, too emphatically for the point, and: “You must have taken notice of Livia Belle. Oh, Narcissa is certain that one is destined for the galaxy, and I agree. Did you know that she taught herself to read when she was only three years old? Fancy that.”

    “I did notice that she knows how to read,” I said. And she did: she was already on the same reading level as Angeline, who was eight. But I was dubious that this meant she was a literal genius. And I wasn’t about to go with Narcissa’s rose-eyed opinion. My own mumsy used to go stalking around claiming I was “a superior intellect,” but she was sadly wrong.

    After that, Mirah introduced another subject: that afternoon, she had taken a message from the exploration leader, with the announcement that they were about to start their return trip to the Mansion. Of course, I hadn’t yet met any of the exploration members—they had already been gone for weeks when I arrived—so I let the others manage that conversation.

    “And yes,” Mirah had said, with a sigh sniffed through her nose that appeared to be for Padma’s benefit, “They are all fine. They wouldn’t wait until they returned to spread the news if one of them had a brush with death. You know that.”

    The students had left class with their first homework assignments that day—and I had my own homework, which I used to excuse myself. But once I was back in my room, I laid down on the bed again, and rocked onto my side. My flower petal hair swayed into my eyes, and I shook it away. I had only had it this color for two months, but I considered dying it again. Perhaps a dark evening sky blue. I hadn’t had that color for a while.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2021
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  17. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Great to see this continue, and especially to meet Lysinora's class! They're a pretty quiet bunch (a good thing? a less-than-good thing? I guess we'll see), and they seem pretty diverse in backgrounds and antecedents; definitely all of them have some kind of story in their background. I definitely agree with Lysinora about the undermining vibe she's getting—from Vittoria, of course, who clearly has some sort of bone to pick, but it looks like also from Narcissa Belle, too, and even a bit from Mirah in the conversation after class. They all seem very keen on getting Lysinora to make some sort of Official Pronouncement about her impression of the students, and I don't blame her for feeling wary and not ready to do that yet, because as she says, it's only been one day! I must say, I like Arty Three so far—she knows a lot and picks up on a lot, and I could see her being a good ally to Lysinora as she navigates the ins and outs of this place. I like Adé, too; Livia may be the one touted as a genius by her mom, but Adé actually shows herself to be perceptive and smart (even if she's a little blunt about it sometimes—she's still young). Very curious to see how things will continue to proceed; thanks for sharing, and keep it coming! =D=
     
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  18. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Findswoman: Great to see this continue, and especially to meet Lysinora's class! They're a pretty quiet bunch (a good thing? a less-than-good thing? I guess we'll see), and they seem pretty diverse in backgrounds and antecedents; definitely all of them have some kind of story in their background.

    She does seem to have gotten lucky with this group, as there isn't a single hell-brat in the lot--although since I'm sure the students were told in no uncertain terms that they were to behave around the New Teacher, especially Adé given that she's Vittoria's ward, it's probably not just luck. But as you indicate, maybe they're too quiet--and yes, they all have stories, especially Sayid, the fifteen-year-old boy who had to hide in a meat locker. (He actually originated from a news story I read way back when I was first writing this, about this trend of women having their kids hide in the trunks of their cars in the parking lot at work so no one would know they were there and get concerned, with resulting overheating far worse than if they had been in the vehicle proper. One of the kids mentioned was a fifteen-year-old, who was in the trunk with several other kids. Aside from wondering how they all fit, I couldn't get over the abject humiliation that kid must have felt. But I hope that's just the beginning of who he is.)

    I definitely agree with Lysinora about the undermining vibe she's getting—from Vittoria, of course, who clearly has some sort of bone to pick, but it looks like also from Narcissa Belle, too, and even a bit from Mirah in the conversation after class. They all seem very keen on getting Lysinora to make some sort of Official Pronouncement about her impression of the students, and I don't blame her for feeling wary and not ready to do that yet, because as she says, it's only been one day!

    I don't know if I would go quite so far as to say that every single human interaction is a power struggle, but there are definitely power struggles going on here. Techically, as the teacher, Lysinora outranks the aides. But they've been there longer, and Vittoria and Narcissa both are painfully aware of how to keep their standing with every gesture and word they use.

    I must say, I like Arty Three so far—she knows a lot and picks up on a lot, and I could see her being a good ally to Lysinora as she navigates the ins and outs of this place. I like Adé, too; Livia may be the one touted as a genius by her mom, but Adé actually shows herself to be perceptive and smart (even if she's a little blunt about it sometimes—she's still young).

    Arty Three has been with the colony since the very beginning, and she is always happy to share information, and tell stories. While, I should note, not being involved in the ongoing social power games. As for Adé, she does tend to be blunt (and you can probably imagine what Vittoria thinks of that) but she doesn't see any reason not to get to the point.

    Very curious to see how things will continue to proceed; thanks for sharing, and keep it coming!

    Hopefully (since I do have about 25000 words of this written, and just have to edit the next post) I will have more up soon. As always, thanks for reading and commenting!
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2021
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  19. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    *I can't believe it's a post--and yet it is!*

    Tomorrow will be the Sweet Sixteen anniversary of the first first story post I made here. (My registration date is April 13, as you can see over to the side, but I didn't start posting until the next month.) I'm posting this a day early because I still have irregular internet access at home (I shall spare you that long boring story) and since I'm at work today, and people are out hiking and stalking antlers at the local Game Range, rather than visiting museums, I thought I might as well take advantage of the opportunity. So.

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

    6.

    It was over a week before the exploration corps made their oh so dramatic return. We had our usual classes that day, but I went down to the hangar during the luncheon break to see them. Adé and Sayid accompanied me, and as we walked along through the hallways, they competed to tell me what they knew about the exploration missions. They were presently exploring the Hellas, and taking notes on any animal species they encountered, and tracking the weather patterns. Vittoria had told me they were also scouting for sites that might serve as a location for the mythical third settlement.

    I had responded to that with a tossed-off witticism I can’t even remember now. But while it was true I wasn’t interested in Governor Creagor’s hopeless expansion plans, I was curious to know what they had found out there, in the winter wilderness that none of us had ever seen. And I had noticed, during recent dinnertimes, that Adé shared that interest.

    “Everyone’s been so worried about them,” Adé was telling me as we walked down the long snow white tunnel of the last hallway. “They’ve never been out there this long before, and anything can happen out there. Last year, Crix Lu had a run-in with a wampa. It almost attacked him, and he could have been killed.”

    “Ah, I see,” I said. “But at least it only almost attacked him.”

    “He’s never made much out of it,” Sayid said, rushing in to speak before Adé could. “Actually, he seems to think it’s only an amusing joke. Sort of the way you do, Miss Ving. Anyway, he does a lot of the map work. Galen Starkiller is the lead pilot. And Lakassa is the mechanic.”

    “She’s a wookiee,” Adé said.

    “I think Miss Sade might have mentioned that,” I said—and then I paused as the tall hangar doors were suddenly looming in front of us, and I felt the first breath of icebright sharp air. As I pushed the doors open in front of us, I was greeted by the sound of a communal masculine hahaha. My breath whooshed out in a blur of magic show smoke, and I could feel the muscles of my legs clench up into tightfisted knots as I took on the cold.

    I hadn’t been to the hangar since the day I had arrived. It was a huge rock-walled cavern that looked as though it could have been part of the landscape—and oh, it was cold. I could hear a telltale bird-pitched squealing from the heaters, so they were on full blast, but believe me, I couldn’t feel any of the resulting heat. Several of the tauntauns, with their fur-lashed eyes, were standing together by the fence in the corner pen, and a sharp-beaked black messenger was parked, proudly on display, in the middle of the space.

    Several of the colony aero engineers had made haste to come spend some time with it. I recognized them in the group of unfamiliar men standing next to it.

    “You know what I think?” one of them was saying as we approached into earshot—and he then proceeded to inform them: “We ought to name at least one of those mountains after you. If not the whole range. What do you say? Think Antilles will go along with it?”

    They all roared with a shared thunder crashing hahaha, and one of the explorers--a young man with ash-white hair--gave him a typically loving and masculine back slap. The engineers might not have been explaining to me, in detail, just how I was wrong about something—which was their wont when I spoke with them—but I was still beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t have wandered in there. That did not mean, however, that I was about to turn and leave.

    Behind them, I could see a wookiee—who could only be Lakassa—perched on the roof of one of the ground transports, fixing something with a lighttorch in a shower of golden sequin sparks. Adé jumped up and down, waving her arms in her direction. Lakassa saw her: she made a few more touches with her torch before she set down below her on the roof floor, shook her paw-hands, and then climbed down, and was coming over towards us.

    “Lakassa!” Adé screamed, her voice flying off into the hangar sky.

    Lakassa returned her greeting in what I could only describe as a laughing bark. I had no idea what she was saying: do I even need to explicitly state that I don’t know Wookiee? But clearly, Adé did. She went leaping ahead to meet Lakassa, and continued in conversation with her. Sayid remained silent, with a demurely-slight smile, but he looked as obviously confused as I must have.

    When we met them, Adé said, rather unnecessarily: “This is Lakassa.”

    Lakassa barked a greeting, and I looked up, and up, at her. I shouldn’t have to say that she was tall, and I had known that beforehand, but now that I had met her, and she was real, I wasn’t certain how I felt. As I mentioned before, I’m tall—and since my father is tall, not just because of my Hapan half—and I’m accustomed to being taller than all of the women, and some of the men as well, around me. Lakassa towered inches above me.

    Lakassa had noted my confusion—and most likely, she had expected it—because she touched the translator button she wore on a purple choker ribbon. There, a gravel-rough voice said. This tends to make things easier for people. You must be the new teacher Adé was telling me about. It’s nice to finally get to meet you, Miss Ving.

    “I am indeed the new teacher,” I said. “And likewise.”

    I would have thought that all of the other corps members were with the herd standing next to the messenger ship, but when I looked past them, I saw two new men walking over from the command-ship parked in the shadows at the far side of the hangar. They stopped to talk with the others, and after a moment, there was the mandatory eruption of laughter. Then: one of them turned his attention away, and saw us. I watched him as he excused himself, and came over towards our group.

    I had noticed him instantly, which is how I knew he hadn’t been around before: he had pale spring sky blue skin, and bright black hair done up in a fat bun. He had a slinkinghard cat walk, which I suppose you could say was only typical of his species. But I wouldn’t say that: I thought then, and I continue to do so now, that it was his distinctive way.

    “Lakassa,” he said, once he reached our group. That close, he smelled like ice-melted air, and the wool musk of his layers of coats. “I see you’ve been receiving our visitors.”

    He must have understood when she replied with a series of untranslated barks, because he nodded. Then he looked at me—the one person he did not recognize—and: “I’m the new teacher,” I said. “You might have heard about me. And you are?”

    Before he could so much as open his mouth, Adé said: “Miss Ving! This is Crix Lu.”

    Crix Lu smiled, and arched his black ribbon eyebrows. He had cat-pointed canine teeth. “Yes. Thank you for the introduction, Adé. And I have heard about you, Miss Ving, though the report was sadly lacking in detail.”

    He extended his hand, and I took it, and awkwardly folded my fingers over his. I didn’t once look away from him: his eyes looked black, as black as night and as space, though I would realize later in different lighting that they were actually a dark dusk brown. I was taller than he was, but only slightly, by an inch or so. He would have noticed, but he would have also not cared.

    “Did you find anything exciting out there this time, Crix?” Sayid said.

    “That depends on what you find exciting,” Crix Lu said. “And no—before anyone asks— I did not risk certain death at the teeth of something new. But I can live without that.”

    I can safely say the only “thing” with teeth around out there was myself, Lakassa’s translated voice said. Then she barked, and I admit—I laughed a little with everyone else.

    While we were talking, some of the other men wandered over to see us. Of course, I was already acquainted with Simeon and Mattio, the engineers. They allowed Crix Lu to introduce me to the other members of the exploratory team: the young man with white hair was Sebastian, and the man I had seen with Crix Lu turned out to be their pilot, and obvious leader, Galen Starkiller.

    Galen Starkiller was tall and quiet. After he greeted me, in a low fursoft voice that matched his demeanor, he didn’t speak again. He wore a long parka-coat with a fur trimmed hood that made his face a shadow mask, but I could make out a faded moonwhite scar cut over his right eyebrow. Sayid watched him in impressed silence—in a way I hadn’t ever seen him be with the Mansion engineers. But let us just say that I could very well understand that.

    Meantime, Simeon was talking: “The Ladies are having a social to-do in the Parlour later on this afternoon, and they’ll be expecting all of you to make at least a guest appearance.”

    “Goodness,” I said. “What could you have done to deserve that?”

    There was a moment of awkward thudding-loud silence: apparently, the men did not share my opinion on the Ladies, and their entertainments. I turned and stared off into the merciful darkness of the hangar shadows, and Simeon moved in to cover things up. “You’re all invited. Everyone is. They must be in a collectively very good mood. Ha, ha. And since we have that new shipment in from Bespin, I’ve been hearing good things about the refreshments.”

    Then I remembered our time was limited, and: “Well!” I said, my voice much more perky and snapping than I felt. “We’re here on break, and we should be getting back to class. So this is where we have to excuse ourselves.”

    Thus excused, I flitted, and Sayid and Adé didn’t need any prodding to keep up with me. We were walking back through the white hallway and into the rest of the house. I didn’t dare say anything, even with them, and I remained silent until after we were back in the classroom, and I was required to speak. They both knew enough to follow my lead.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2021
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  20. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    -------------------------------

    7.

    That afternoon, I had time to reflect, as I went about my tasks, about the moment when I had delivered my comment. I didn’t want to worry over it, but there was something beyond how witty it was, or wasn’t, that bothered me. I had wanted to amuse them—and it’s true enough that people like me best when I can make them laugh—but worse than that (though I didn’t think I had looked over in his direction) I had wanted to impress Crix Lu with the depths of my cynical mind. Sayid had said he approached things as though they were only jokes--just as I do. But really, I should have known better. I didn’t care what the engineers thought of me, and I had only just met Crix Lu.

    I didn’t have to imagine my mother’s response. My father would have found it baffling that I had given the matter even the first thought, but she would have smirked with the sort of amused disgust she denies she ever feels: Oh, come now, Lysinora. All that for a man?

    I wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of attending the Ladies’ little social, regardless of the promised treats. But I knew that, with my position, they would notice if I didn’t show, so I would have to make at least some sort of appearance.

    After the last two students had drifted off, I snatched up my things, and made haste for my room, while Arty Three locked up. A few of the Ladies would use this gathering as an excuse to look nice, so I had my own excuse to change. I took out my antique wine velvet dress, and got into it—but when I tried the zipper, it clenched its teeth just at my waist, and wouldn’t budge. It had fit the last time I had worn it (and though that was over a year before, I had not “filled out”), and I kept at it. I don’t think I had pulled at it all that hard when the zipper burst apart, and that was the end of that.

    When I arrived at the parlour—even more fashionably, and nonchalantly, late than I had intended—I was wearing the same dress as before. I didn’t want to, but I noticed Crix Lu straight away: he was standing over by the southward windows with a group of other men, where Jasen was presently dominating the climate tech discussion. The Ladies were holding court over on the sophas in the seating area. E.A. saw me first, and arched her eyebrows up at me.

    Adé had been one of the first ones to leave class, and I didn’t know where she had gone until she had appeared behind me in the hallway with ghost-soft tiptoed steps. Now she followed me over to the table, with its promised refreshments. But the Ladies had seen her, and when she came in too close, Lady Wynestra lashed out with her blackwood walking stick. Adé jumped back just before it would hit the side of her leg.

    The other Ladies—and Padma, who was hovering in attendance—watched on as Lady Wynestra shook the stick in her soft fan-boned grip, smacking it back and forth through the woolendry air, and: “Naughty girl! Bad girl! That food has been provided for your betters!”

    “You’re not my better!” Adé said, issuing each word with a vicious biting snap. But it wasn’t any use, and she knew it. She was backing away even as she spoke. “You’re nothing, and I hate you!”

    E.A. sighed in the background, and Lady Wynestra looked pleased. She was a shrunken doll-woman, hardly taller than Adé herself, with android metal bones in her legs, and her grey hair was a matted blanket-tail down past her waist. She also possessed (Vittoria had told me in confidence) great heaps of inherited money, which explained everything about her. Padma guided her back over to one of the sophas, and the other Ladies seemed to wilt with a shared flush of relief.

    But after that, I reached the refreshments table, and no one interfered with me when I took several of the white velvet cakes with lace frosting, and a few other offerings. The sugared grapes were freeze-dried, but even the Ladies weren’t about to pay up for fresh fruit. As I walked back over towards the sophas, I noted that Padma bent down to splash some of her favored black gin into Lady Wynestra’s cup. The others must have wanted her occupied.

    Adé had made her disappearing act when I wasn’t paying attention. I took a look around the room to be certain, but I could already tell she was gone. I could sneak several of the cakes, and other additional treats, to get to her later on that day. I would have only made things worse if I had interfered –and oh yes, while Lady Wynestra had needed to learn the painful way that it was best if she didn’t try to take her stick to me, I didn’t doubt that she might forget and try to whack me again.

    Then I took my seat on the sopha near E.A., and Padma moved back into her place with a discreet shadow-swishing of her skirts. She wore a woolen cloche cap over her faded red hair, and she had long chapped-sore red mouth arranged into a smile.

    E.A. turned her attention on me: “Miss Ving,” she said. “I’m pleased to see that you have chosen to brave the wilds of this parlour. How were things today at school?”

    I shrugged. Honestly, I wasn’t confident in my performance as a teacher that far—Arty Three had assured me more than once that I was doing “very well indeed,” but since she was programmed to do so, I took her compliments, but didn’t trust in them—but E.A. was in charge of my paycheques, and so I couldn’t be honest with her. “Oh, I won’t complain.”

    I had deliberately sat where I could face the south windows. The skies on the other side were so clear, so pastel bluebell bright, that I could see the tall ragged snow-blanketed mountains off in the far away distance across the snow plains. The Ladies didn’t require that I contribute to their ongoing conversation, and after I waited a few minutes, I took one of my cakes, and went over for a closer look. The thick glass shivered from the force of the winds lurking outside, and I could feel the cold pressing in against it. The exploring and engineering gathering hadn’t taken notice of me, and I could stand there and look out over the picture of the view in peace.

    Well, mostly: behind me, Lady Onaline was sharing around a portrait-shot of another baby added to her family, and Lady Mericat literally shrieked. “He’s a little doll!”

    Nearby, Galen Starkiller was saying to his group: “There are caves out there. We know that much for a fact. But we haven’t yet had the opportunity to learn more than that.”

    “But we will,” Crix Lu said after him. “It is our duty to explore them, and we shall find a lost princess, suspended in sleep in the ice for lo—many thousands of years—waiting for the moment when she will be revived by the heat of wookiee breath!”

    They all laughed at that, and while I didn’t—since I was listening unnoticed and in silence—I did feel myself smile. Then Jasen said, “Then I can only hope Lakassa is up to the task.”

    The Ladies were all gasping in a chorus now, and one of them—it sounded like Lady Dorabella—said above the din: “Oh, Mericat! You’re just too utterly terrible!”

    The sky was beginning to fade towards evening, and the dim reflection of the table lights tossed in the windows had begun to swell with brightness. The snow on the mountains had a moonlight glow. (I know, I’m having another poetic moment—but that’s how it looked.) By then, I was prepared to face the room, and I returned to the refreshments table for my errand before I left. As it happened, I arrived there at the exact moment Crix Lu did. And he looked straight at me.


    8.

    While I was wearing the same dress, Crix Lu had changed out of his wilderness exploration gear: he was wearing a black outfit, with a long narrow skirt with silver and dust-blue embroidered flowers on the side, and a wooden knife-pin stuck through his bun. My father could have informed me what that meant in his culture, but all I knew was that the style looked vaguely familiar. He turned to pour some of the steam-breathing hot tea into his cup, and I looked down as I picked up one of the tulip glass cups, but I was aware he was there, standing next to me, the entire time.

    Then: “Say, Crix!” Sebastian shouted, his voice charging across the room. “Since you’re already there, could you maybe bring back something for me? I’d like a few of those cute little cakes. The white ones Simeon told me about.”

    The Ladies were all a-giggle in a flurry of knife-sharp birdsong shrieks. But when I looked over at Crix Lu, I could hear him perfectly when he spoke. “He’s going to have to try better than that if he hopes to get even one of those cakes from me. Hullo, Miss Ving.”

    I hadn’t had one thing to say the minute before (and I won’t dignify the fluttering-ragged leaf thoughts I had been capable of by writing them down) but now I did. I returned his greeting, and: “I wouldn’t even bother gracing that with a response.”

    Crix Lu hesitated a moment before he dared the first sip of his tea. The light from the windows caught in the curved line of coinbright silver rings in his left ear. “Oh, I think he got my message.”

    He poured a snowfall of cream into his tea, and tested it again. He seemed to find it good enough this time. Then he stood in wait while I selected several more cakes, and a stuffed-fat pink cookie I knew would be to Adé’s liking, set them on a plate, and covered it with a crochet-lace trimmed handkerchief, no doubt an heirloom from Lady Mericat’s Eriadu home. When I had finished, he spoke: “Shall we go then, you and I?”

    He kept a shrugged-off light ironic note in his voice, allowing me to take it as a joke, only an easy meaningless joke, if that was what I wanted. But I couldn’t tell what he meant underneath that. I decided to take my own risk: “Yes,” I said. “Lead the way, oh wild explorer.”

    I followed him, balancing my teacup and the plate, over to one of the side seating areas, where he sat on the edge of the wooden scholar’s chair, the one Vittoria and Padma used while they were on duty. I took the cream stuffed armchair, another Eriadu heirloom, sprawled next to it.

    When I leaned down and set the plate on the floor, in the shadows under the chair, he lifted his eyebrows in a questioning arch. “That isn’t actually for me,” I said. “It’s for Adé. I don’t think I would be spoiling her too much if I get this to her.”

    “I wouldn’t worry about it for one second,” said Crix Lu. “So long as Vittoria Sade continues to draw breath, that is not ever going to happen.”

    After another moment, he said, switching the topic: “So. I can assume you must have overheard us planning our future treasure hunt in the mountains.”

    “I didn’t hear very much,” I said--and then, in a rather painfully arranged lunge: “I wasn’t there so I could do any eavesdropping.”

    “Well, considering the volume of Sebastian’s voice, you wouldn’t have had to.” He tapped his fingers against the side of his cup. I would have thought, from his general effect, that he would have long, pointed, elegantly-sharp nails, but he actually kept hem bluntly bitten down short.

    “I did notice that,” I said. (I allowed.) “But no, I didn’t hear anything in specific about a treasure hunt. Though I gathered some of them would like to find something magical out there.”

    He looked thoughtful when he said: “Quite. After all that, I think we’ll actually be disappointed when we don’t find a mysterious artifact left by some dead ancient culture, or the grave of one of their lost winter princesses. Of course, as you know, this is a scientific exploration, and we are interested in making different discoveries. But I do understand the appeal.”

    “If you ever did find a princess, it would be the ice princess of the wampas,” I said. “An ancient race of sentient wampas. Think about it. Her fangs shall be as diamonds, and her fur shall gleam with the light of moonlight upon the fresh snow.”

    “I like it,” he said. “But Galen would not be pleased. He didn’t care for wampas before that one came after me. It couldn’t help itself, of course—I had cut my hand earlier that day, and it could smell the fresh blood straight through the bandages.”

    “I have heard about this incident,” I said. “Sayid told me in some detail. He also said that you made the whole thing into a joke.”

    “Believe me, I wasn’t laughing at the time,” he said. “I don’t think I need to see one of them quite that close again. And I can tell you that Galen still doesn’t find it amusing.”

    “Galen sounds as though he’s very serious,” I said.

    “He is very serious. I think--though he’s never said as much--that he considers having a serious demeanor to be one of the burdens of leadership.”

    While we wandered back towards the refreshment table, I asked him about the expedition. That is (unless, of course, one is doing time on a Hapan world) the polite thing to do in conversation, but I hadn’t been motivated by the rules of manners. I wanted to know more about it. But when I mentioned what Sayid had told me about his role as mapmaker, he said: “That’s true enough. But I’m not actually a cartographer. I just draw well enough to play the part. You know how it is here.”

    Oh yes. It was as Lady Jessamine had said during one of my first days: We do what we must here. It’s a good thing we’re all exceptionally-minded people.

    The Ladies were all still gathered on the sophas, though E.A. had excused herself while I had been away. Several of them had turned to watch us, and I could tell from their knowing-sighing smiles that they were attempting to eavesdrop. I ignored that, and: “I know. After all, I didn’t take my degree in education. Then what, if I may ask, is it that you usually do?”

    “You may ask, and I’ll answer. Before I came here, I was an astro engineer,” he said. “Yes, believe it. Considering that all of my people are engineers—yes, every last one of us—I didn’t really have a choice.” He spoke in a dry flat voice, and I understood his point. “I did my time in the Kuati design offices and all. But then I ran away off to art college. That was when I found out we have, against all the odds, actually produced a few artists over the millennia.”

    Lady Mericat took her chance to interrupt: “Oh, Master Lu, I can’t believe how much you’ve accomplished—and while still so young! How old are you again?”

    He smiled at her. This was the first time I had seen him interact with any of the Ladies, and he seemed actually fond of them. “I’m thirty.”

    “Thirty,” Lady Mericat said, with a sniff. “Don’t even think of telling this audience that you’re not that young. You’re an infant.”

    “Don’t worry,” he said—and it did sound like a shared joke. “I wouldn’t dare.”

    Before that, I couldn’t tell how old he might be. I had already hoped, without having to think much on it, that he thought the same of me. And it is true enough that I was designed to “age well”--and that is besides the fact that my Hapan half means I would have anyhow. But there are too many things you just cannot escape from, and one of those is the date of your birth. Lady Mericat decided to give that one up for me: “And I hope you’ve remembered to respect Miss Ving here. She’s a veritable infant herself, and she’s still your elder.”

    He looked at me—and he was (I noted, and remembered later on) nowhere near as surprised as I would have thought: “You can’t be that much older than I am.”

    “Three years older,” I said, and then hahahaed. “It looks like Lady Mericat wants to start letting all the secrets out. Yes, I’m afraid I’m old.”

    That was when one of the men—I couldn’t tell which one it was—called to Crix Lu from across the room, and he tossed his eyes with a drolly-done sigh: “They need to be careful, or they’re going to wear my name out. But I should probably go tend to them.”

    “Good luck,” I said, and the Ladies all enjoyed a shared blushing giggle.

    He bowed to me, and then to the Ladies, and then over to Padma at her position standing in wait behind the sophas. “Thank you. And Miss Ving: we don’t live on Naboo, and therefore, you are still young enough for me, and certainly enough for these Ladies.”

    The sky outside the windows had darkened to an indigoink blue, and I could only just see the moonlight gleam of the mountains through it. It was time to excuse myself, and the Ladies nodded together without any objections. Before I left, I remembered to return to the armchair and retrieve the hidden plate of food. I let the Ladies, and Padma, think that I meant it for myself.


    9.

    The sky remained clear throughout the rest of the night, and later, hours later, when I was the only one still awake, I walked up the last set of stairs to the open observatory. I had known--even before Jasen delivered his lecture during dinner--that this wouldn’t happen again soon. The sky hovered just outside the glass ceiling walls, and after a minute, once my eyes had adjusted enough, I could see the scattered bright white pinpricks of the stars. It was completely quiet there: the constant whispered murmur from the reading instruments was lost inside the empty air.

    The room was no longer dark when I sat down on the floor. This time when I looked up, I could see that one of the moons was full. It was the small bloodstained one, the moon with the most stable orbit (and I am forced to thank Simeon for my knowing that), and it seemed to lurk just above the mountains, burning with a halo of light. Of course, that was only an illusion, and the light it wore was reflected off the system sun. But it was still very poetic.

    I had developed a stuffy headache after dinner, and even though I had taken a pain-shot, I could still feel a gasping wind moving through the caves of my sinuses. And I should have already gotten to my bed, and to sleep, for the approaching school day. But I didn’t move.

    Yes, I knew what I had come here looking for: several years ago, I read, in a profile of Leocadia, my starsign, that those of us born underneath the reign of that star spend our lives “seeking peace.” The obvious implication behind that statement, of course, is that we never find it.

    I couldn’t say that I belonged, that I fit here, on this winterworld. But then I haven’t ever felt that I belonged--in that true, pure-minded way--anywhere that I have lived: there are refugees who, as soon as they leave the New Aldera worldport, become Alderaanians in a way I never was, even though my father’s family has been there for one hundred years, and I lived there for most of my life. And of course, I was a visitor during the entire two years I wasted on Arabanth.

    The stars outside weren’t the ones I saw on the night streets of New Aldera. It was possible that that sun was up there amongst all those lights, but I wouldn’t know where to look for it. There is an art in reading the patterns of the stars, and seeing constellations, but nothing I had known before could apply to what I saw in the sky here.

    Then: one of the stars moved, and whistled down the through the sky, catching fire in the atmosphere, and then crashing, with a scream I could only imagine hearing, far out in the snow. The instruments had turned into a frenzy of ticking, but now they calmed back down. It was a meteor, but too small (only a small broken piece of rock, and too far away) to be of any danger.

    I went back downstairs into the long shadowed nightlit hallway. That was when I heard an actual noise out in the silence—a thump, and a chronowork click, as a door slid shut. I still started when I saw a ghostglimmer of movement at the corner, and someone appeared. It was Adé. I could tell from her size, and the flicker of her matching braids. Then she was gone, and I continued on my way to my room. I already knew I wouldn’t mention the sighting to Vittoria.
     
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  21. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Caught up! Wow, so much going on in this recent group of entries. It's neat to meet the famous (!) Crix Lu (whom I'm going to guess might be at least part Chiss, which would make sense on an ice world)—a nice guy, as well as seemingly very good at his job, and I see he is making quite an impression, of some kind, on Miss Ving. I wouldn't be surprised if he and his team (well, I guess it's technically Galen's team, but you nkow what I mean) do make some kind of exciting archaeological discovery beyond the routine scientific research they usually do. Once again, it's hard to know what the Ladies really think about the explorers; they definitely talk as though they are interested and supportive of their work, but knowing them, that could well be just show. Still, it's a good sign that Crix seems sympathetic to young Adé—and that Lakassa seems friendly toward her, too, whom I'm also liking a lot so far. I wonder if Adé's friendship with the explorers is part of why the Ladies (and especially Vittoria) are so down on her? And what is she sneaking out at night for at the end of that last entry—also something to do with them? I'll be curious to see what that leads to, and how the return of the expedition will alter the face of life in this settlement (it already has). Looking forward to more! =D=