Author: Findswoman Title: You Must Be Garazeb; or, Dinner with the Trilashas Era: Saga–PT (pre-Siege of Lasan) Characters: Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios (age 21 or 22, as a senior cadet in the Honor Guard), OCs Genre: One-shot, family humor, a little mush Summary: Zeb, at this point a senior cadet in the Honor Guard, meets his sweetheart’s family for the first time… and everything goes wrong. Notes: Companion piece of sorts to Dinner with the Orrelioses, and part of the Lasan Series. Once again, many thanks to @Raissa Baiard for beta-reading and helpful advice. A gold-orange afternoon sun hovered languidly over the Gosrrallan Mountains of Lasan's mid-northern continent, casting a lazy glow on the clay-tiled cottages of the mining village of Flowstone Vale. On the front porch of one of those cottages stood Second Corporal Garazeb Orrelios of the Lasan High Honor Guard, his sideburns carefully trimmed and his armor impeccably polished. He double-checked the address against his wrist comm. Yup, this was it, Four Maznaberry Lane. Her house. After smoothing his uniform vest and checking that his medallion and insignia were perfectly straight, he took a deep breath and activated the door chime. Zeb was somewhat puzzled by the sounds he heard next. First, there was a sort of a nervous clattering or bustling sound that seemed to come from an open upper window. Next came an oath in a male voice, probably from somewhere on the ground floor. Then the sound of heavy, probably also male footsteps clomping toward the door, which swung open. “ ’Afternoon.” Zeb was really puzzled now. Who was this scruffy-looking fellow, and where was Shulma? For the Lasat male that was now standing in front of him —similar to him in size and probably also age, sporting a raggedy ruff of a beard and heavy, scuffed dark gray coveralls—was not quite what he had expected. Though, honestly, he had not been sure what to expect. “Good afternoon,” Zeb replied, placing hand over fist in greeting. “Guess you must be Garazeb.” “Yup, Second Corporal Garazeb Orrelios, reporting for—” He checked himself and decided to go with simply another “Yup.” “Chornogar. Shul’s brother.” Ah, all right, then, Zeb thought wryly to himself as he replied with,“Ah, er, how d’you do?” He extended his hand, which his interlocutor took and immediately released. “Mmmph. C’mon in.” Chornogar led Zeb inside to a small, sparse, but comfortable sitting room with a conversation circle and a few chairs. Then, without looking back at his guest, he clomped over to a staircase ascending along one wall and barked, “Shul! He’s here!” The clattering sounds from upstairs intensified suddenly. Zeb ran over behind Chornogar just in time to see Shulma’s face appear and disappear at the top of the stairs. “Oh! Zeb—I—I’ll be down in just a moment, all right?” “Yeah!—Okay!—” Zeb called out, his heart leaping at the sound of her voice. But before he could do or say anything else, another young male Lasat came bounding toward him from the hallway. He was similar in age and stature to Chornogar but with slightly darker purple-gray fur, and he wore a grease- and soot-splotched apron over his coveralls. “Hey there, I’m Chornozod,” he offered, placing hand over fist. Even with the gesture of greeting, Zeb noticed he wore the same gruff expression as Chornogar—literally the same expression, he observed, noting the family resemblance. “Garazeb. How d’you—” “Good. So, everything’ll be ready soon, the roast prongbok calf has just a little longer, Mama’s still workin’ on the squash fritters, and Papa should be home soon, I think there was some alarm in number sixty-two he had to check out, right, Chorg?” (“Yup,” Chornogar grunted in reply.) “And Shulma’ll probably be down soon, she’s just gettin’ ready, so yeah, just make yourself at home on the conversation circle, I gotta go check the roast, so guess I’ll see you in a—” “At least offer him an ale!” called a clear, commanding female voice down the hallway, above the roar of a kitchen fan and the spatter of sizzling oil. And that’ll be her mother, thought Zeb to himself, smiling. Despite the age of the voice, it had the same ringing richness as the one he knew and adored. “Er, oh, yeah,” Chornozod backtracked. “Ale?” “Yes, please.” Chornozod disappeared down the hallway again. With a sigh of resignation Zeb retreated to the sitting room, where Chornogar was now sitting, silent and bolt-upright, at the far end of the conversation circle. Zeb seated himself at the opposite end, still feeling somewhat nonplussed. Sure, Shulma had mentioned her brothers to him before plenty of times—he knew they were four dust seasons older, twins, and miners like her father. And sure enough, they were dressed like miners, and lived in a mining town, and all that. But they were still so… different from her. She was beautiful, soft, learned, refined—and they were… well, more like miners. It was the best way he could put it. Then again, Zeb considered, siblings could be pretty different from each other. He and Priska were both Honor Guards, but their eldest sister Zefora was a weaver, their second-eldest sister Signi was a government computer systems administrator in Lira Zel, and of course Shai was Shai. So maybe Shulma was more like her mother, just as he was like his? Not that he would know; he hadn’t seen her mother yet, just heard her. But never mind that. The most important thing was, when was Shulma finally going to come down? He could still hear her moving about upstairs; his heart fluttered with each rustle and each floorboard-creak, simply knowing it came from her. Didn’t she want to come down and see him? What was keeping her, anyway? Was it one of those female things? Meanwhile, that charming brother of hers was sitting there across from him, not saying a word and looking as though he was bored out of his mind… It was almost a relief when Chornozod reappeared with two tankards of ale. “Sorry about that, there was a little grease flame-up I had to take care of, and then the pastepies almost burnt, and after that I had to go downstairs and broach a new keg, and the roast’s almost done now, just gotta get the firesauce ready, so yeah, enjoy.” He handed one tankard to Chornogar and the other to Zeb, then disappeared back down the hall before either of them could thank him. Well, guess we’ll see what effect this’ll have, thought Zeb, as he raised his tankard in Chornogar’s direction. “Health and honor.” “Yup,” replied Chornogar, raising his tankard perhaps a millimeter. Then both drank, and there was silence for several moments before Zeb attempted conversation again. “So, er… Shulma tells me you’re… er… a miner.” “Yup.” “That… must be… interesting.” “Yup.” “What do you… er… mine?” “Usual stuff. Copper. Tin. Stronch. Quoro.” “Er… stronch? Quoro?” “Strontium and quorodium, if y’like the fancy names.” “Got it.” Well, ask a stupid question, Zeb thought to himself, and there was silence again as each took another drink. Zeb cast about in his mind for what to try conversing about next, finally settling on “Nice ale, this.” “Basalt Mountains Brownblack.” “Basalt Mountains, eh? I’ve got a commanding officer from—” “Don’t care for it much myself, but it’s Chorz an’ Pa’s favorite.” “Ah,” Zeb said again. For his own part, he found the stuff quite tasty—it had a rich, nutty flavor—but he didn’t press the point and simply took another sip. So much for that topic. What else was there to talk about? Weather? No, not like it ever really changed up here in the mountains, anyway. Food? Definitely not, with all the tantalizing scents wafting in from the kitchen; Zeb’s stomach was already growling fiercely as it was. Shulma? Hmm… worth a try, perhaps. What kind of Honor Guard wasn’t afraid of taking a little risk…? “So… your sister.” “Yup?” “She’s really… I mean, she’s quite a… quite something.” “Yup.” “I’m… very, er… very glad I… know her.” “Mmmph.” All right, scratch that idea, then, Zeb thought to himself as he sipped again. And of course Shulma still hadn’t come down, her father still wasn’t home, the meal still wasn’t karabasting ready, and apparently there was nothing to do but sit there waiting and drinking ale in utter boredom and silence. Some end-of-week dinner party this was shaping up to be. Then Zeb heard the sweetest sound he had heard that evening. Footsteps on the stairs. And not heavy, clompy ones, either—graceful footsteps and the rustling of a dress. Zeb put down his ale, got up (noticing Chornogar twitch his ear in irritation but not caring), and headed straightway for the stairs. For Shulma—beautiful, radiant Shulma in a flowing, high-bodiced red-pink gown with her ring-medallion in her hair!—was just coming down, smiling like the growing-season noonday sun, and those eyes and those stripes… well…. just… “Hello, Zeblove. Hello, Chorg.” “Shulma… hey there.” Zeb beamed as he came up to her and took her by the hand. “Took ya long enough,” called Chornogar from the sitting room. “I know, I’m sorry. I couldn’t find my headache pills.” “Aw darlin’, y’feelin’ okay?” Zeb leaned closer and squeezed her hand more tightly. He heard Chornogar mutter something about “you an’ your headaches” but resisted the urge to pound him to a quivering pulp. “Yes, I’m fine now, thanks,” she replied, squeezing his hand back. “I think my currents were just somewhat… aflutter at the prospect having you here.” “Heh heh, sorry about that.” He smiled and took her other hand. “Oh, no worries.” She drew closer. “I’m so glad you are here.” “Er… yeah… same…” He pulled her a little closer, and their lips touched in a kiss (aw yeah, mmm…).This time he thought he heard a snort from Chornogar, but he most emphatically did not care. And then there was the ratchet of a door latch, a very loud, gruff cough, and an equally loud and gruff “Well. This must be Gazareb.” Shulma and Zeb separated immediately and spun to face the figure that had just entered. It was a third male in coveralls, this time late-middle-aged, with a graying beard and several white hairs in his cheek stripes. He was staring at Zeb with exactly the same stern expression Zeb had seen on Chornogar and Chornozod—and Zeb could tell immediately that he was— “Hello there, Papa,” Shulma said, going over to him and giving him a nuzzle and a kiss on the cheek before gesturing to Zeb. “You are correct. Well, almost, because this is Garazeb.” “Er, how do you do, Master Trilasha,” said Zeb, placing hand over fist. “Pleasure to meet you.” “Likewise, likewise,” grunted Shulma’s father, his face still stern even as he made the same gesture. Tense silence reigned for a few moments as he looked from Zeb to his daughter’s glowing smile, then over to Chornogar in the siting room (whose face was buried in his tankard in an unsuccessful attempt at stifling laughter), then back to fix Zeb with the same stern, silent stare… And in that moment, just as Zeb stood there casting about for what to say to that stern, silent stare of Shulma’s father, all chaos broke loose. FWOOOOM! came a sudden loud, fiery roar from the kitchen. There was a clatter of frantic activity, a shout of “KARKIN’ KARABAST!”from Chornozod, and another of “What in the Bogan’s own chaos were you thinking?!” from his mother—and thick, acrid smoke began billowing up the hallway. “FIRE! QUICK! GET TO SAFETY!” All of Zeb’s Honor Guard instincts kicked in at once as he sprang into action as he hustled Shulma and her father toward the front door. “Zeblove—” “GO! I GOT THIS!” Zeb roared as he pushed them out the door, then grabbed a protesting Chornogar from the conversation circle (minus his ale) and hustled him out the door as well. “HOLD ON! I’M COMIN’!” He tore down the hallway into the billows of smoke— —and slammed headlong into a figure tearing up the hallway. A middle-aged female figure in an apron and a now rather sooty lime-green dress, wearing glasses and a long necklace of colorful stones, who smoothed her hair, breathed out a long sigh, and spoke in a semi-familiar rich, ringing voice: “You must be Garazeb.” * * * Once at least some of the smoke had cleared, six hungry Lasat stood attentively around the dinner table. Stretching one hand out over the victuals laid out there, Shulma began the benediction: “Ashla of all being, source of all life, sustainer of all living: be in these fruits of Lasan now set before us, that through them you may live in us. By the meat, strengthen us; by the wine, gladden us; by the produce of the land, brighten our eyes.” With a solemn gesture she traced the Triangle of the Warrior, Child, and Fool in the air. “Sovereign Spirit, for this sustenance, eternal honor and blessing.” “Eternal honor and blessing,” repeated the assembled company (Zeb first and most heartily of all). And with that, they all took their seats on the benches surrounding the table and tucked into their dinner. Such as it was, at least: squash fritters, pastepies stuffed with mixed minced tubers, aromatic gravied greens, the traditional end-of-week wine cordial, and—as the centerpiece—about a third of a roast prongbok calf. The other two thirds still sat atop the kitchen grill in a strange, foul-smelling amalgam of black char, brown grease, and whitish foam, victim of an unspecified mishap (about which Chornozod pointedly refused to provide further details). Fans were activated in an attempt to dispel the burnt spell, opened windows admitted chill but fresh mountain air, and a small, rudimentary cleaning droid whirred about performing its duties. Except for disjointed snatches of conversation about the weather, conditions at the mines, and various family members’ experiences during the day, all was quiet during the meal. Almost too quiet, Zeb considered; at his own family’s end-of-week dinners the house was always packed to bursting with relatives and ringing with laughter and conversation late into the night. Shulma and her mother asked him a few questions about his own day at the military academy, and he said a few things about exercises and maneuvers and upcoming examinations—but, as with every other topic, the only responses from the father and brothers were “yup” and “mmmph.” Under other circumstances Zeb would have found it all a little awkward. But tonight it came as a relief of sorts; some peace and quiet wasn’t a bad thing after all that had happened that evening. For one thing, he was hungry and only too glad to concentrate on eating. The roast, though a bit on the done side, was not at all bad and was accompanied by a quite respectable smoked-pepper firesauce that went well with the geniper-berry wine cordial. (He made a mental note to report on it to his father; Nerezeb Orrelios was himself an accomplished grill master.) For another, Shulma was right there beside him. Beautiful Shulma, eating her supper quietly but contentedly, so happy and at ease among her family members even with all her differences from them. He could just catch a whiff of the scent of her hair—that spicy-earthy-sweet scent he loved, which tonight was combined with a slight smoky tang. And was that her foot he could feel beside his own, under the table…? Well, an Honor Guard knows how to seize an opportunity… The rest of the family were chewing silently. Zeb skewered another piece of meat, then stretched his toe over to stroke hers. Karabast, she was soft, like velvoid… He ventured another nudge, this time with two toes, this time a little further up... —and felt her graceful toe caress his ankle in return! He jumped and dropped both his fork and the piece of roast in mid-bite, jostling the table so that all the plateware and cutlery on his side clattered noisily—and noticed that every eye at the table was now fixed on him. “Er… erm… sorry…” he ventured, gobbling another piece of roast as if doing so would make him invisible. Oh karabast again, they noticed, didn’t they…?! Then, of all people, Chornozod spoke. “Oh, did RMB-4 run over your foot?” “Er, yeah, that’s right!” Zeb’s face brightened. Whew, that was close! “Yeah, that must’ve been it!” “Yeah, sorry about that, it does that sometimes. We really gotta get its sensors cleaned.” “Aw, no worries, no worr—” Zeb stopped short. He knew he had just seen Shulma’s mother wink and smile at her father, and her father wink and crack a thin smile back— —but then Shulma squeezed his hand and his foot and turned to smile at him through those bright emerald eyes of hers, and it didn’t matter. “No worries at all.” * * * Later, after dinner, Zeb and Shulma sat on the back deck, feet interlaced. His hand rested on her knee, and hers stroked his lower arm, tracing its swirling stripes. Together they gazed out over forested mountainsides, inkblack mountain pools, and peaks ascending into starry darkness. Nocturnal birds called watchfully in the distance, and now and then a convor gave a plaintive hoot. “Oh, Zeblove!” she sighed, nestling her head against his shoulder. “What an evening it’s been!” “Heh, yeah, it’s definitely been… somethin’.” “Chorz would choose tonight to spring his latest grilling experiment on us, the silly thing!” “Aw, no worries… it wasn’t half bad, really. Nice smoky firesauce.” “Well, you’re very kind to say that. Usually there’s much more of it and much less of the smoke.” She smiled wistfully, eyes downturned. “And I hope things weren’t too awkward for you with Papa and Chorg, either. They’re just… like that, I fear.” “Aw, they were just fine. Nothin’ I couldn’t handle.” “You’re very kind to say that, too. But they’ll get used to you. I think Mama quite likes you already.” “Heh, well, that’s awful nice of her…” Zeb trailed off with a sheepish chuckle. He wasn’t sure whether he wanted to mention to Shulma—who at that time had been outside to avoid the smoke—that his first meeting with her mother had been almost knocking her down while barreling back through the smoke-filled hallway. “What is it, dearest?” “Aw, nothin’, nothin’.” Maybe sometime, he decided, but not just yet. “Just… that’s awful kind of her, that’s all.” Shulma relaxed against him. He slid an arm around her, drawing her closer and inhaling the smoky tinge that still hung in her hair. For a few moments they sat together in silence, listening to the distant birdsong. “Well, at least we have some nice quiet time together, now, after it all,” she said at last. “Best part, if y’ask me.” His voice was a husky whisper. “No offense to your family or anythin’, but…” “Absolutely none taken.” And they leaned toward each other beneath the mountain starlight… ...when suddenly the deck door flew open with a thunk-whoosh and the gruff, stolid voice of an indeterminate Trilasha brother shattered the silence: “ANYONE FOR A GAME OF PAZAAK?!” Spoiler: Notes Gosrrallan Mountains: Fanon, first named in Sparks and named after the historic mining town of Goslar, Germany. Shulma’s parents and brothers are of course also OCs and have come up previously in Sparks, Light of Lasan, and Shaman, Traveler, Oracle. Her parents’ names are not mentioned in this story, but they are Ormgar Trilasha and Yokheva Barzellati Trilasha. Shulma’s prayer is fanon, of course. The gesture of the Triangle that she traces is the creation of Raissa Baiard; see our Lasat fanon post. Nerezeb Orrelios, Zeb’s father, is Raissa Baiard’s OC (as always, I thank her for the loan), and his grilling skills are also mentioned in Raissa’s The Beginning of Honor and my Dinner with the Orrelioses. RMB-4: Fanon. As is probably obvious, it is a not very originally named GFFA Roomba-type droid. pazaak: a card game that comes up in KOTOR, chosen here just because I wanted something recognizable but different from sabacc.