Actions

Work Header

those immortal dead

Work Text:

Longumque illud tempus, quum non ero, magis me movet quam hoc exiguum.
I care more for that long age which I shall never see than for the little of Time that I hold.

 

i. 
there is a story among the Naboo, about a girl who went down to the shore and saw a man drowning, there in the deep water. She was a great swimmer (children of Naboo are) and so she shed her clothing and came out to him with strong, sure strokes. Yet he was desperate and flailing and would not heed her, and in his panic he dragged her down with him, into the dark water.

Her lungs were not so deep as his. She drowned.

this is a lesson, the mothers of Naboo tell their children. sometimes, to be strong and good-hearted is not enough to save yourself.

No one on Naboo seems to remember the name of the girl who went down to the shore. Girls in tales don’t need names.

(this story is different among the gungans. They say: there was a girl, and as she sank down into the darkness and the mud, she opened her eyes and breathed in, and she became a gungan, for nothing is made and nothing is destroyed, and all water that was once snow comes around again in rain.

Death is a rare thing, the gungans say. The rest is just a change of states.)

 

 

ii. 
Leia finds Mon Mothma looking at her sometimes. Sidelong and not often, but enough, her eyes pale in the light of the makeshift council chambers they’ve erected on Yavin IV. Leia doesn’t like scrutiny (not even Han Solo’s, however warm and heady it makes her feel) and from the Senator, it’s unsettling. She feels very young, beneath that gaze.

“Something you need from me, Senator?” Leia asks, one night when she’s too short on sleep and testy, over-eager to be away from confines of the control room.

“It is nothing,” Mon Mothma says, cool and poised, as she always is. “Only…very rarely, you remind me of an old friend. From my senate days.”

“Oh,” Leia settles on, uncertain how else to reply.

“Yes,” Mon Mothma says, and there is something almost-human in the timbre of her voice. Something like sadness. “It is a great compliment, Commander. Take it as such.”

“Yes, Senator,” Leia says. “Thank you.”

The conversation is forgotten.

 

 

iii.
Coruscant celebrates the death of the Emperor in chaos and fire, as the homes of the federal district are ransacked, police speeders sent careening from thrown debris. The Imperial security forces flee as statutes of Palpatine are pulled down, smashed amid cheering and fireworks.

The next morning dawns bright, and clear as the Coruscanti sky ever gets through the haze of exhaust fumes. Someone has defaced the gates of the Federal District, painted over the reliefs celebrating the Glory of the Empire—in the days following, it will come to be known as the Victory Mural.

Victory’s face is small and pale, her hands cupped around the red flame of the Alliance. She wears a blue mantle that stretches behind her like the sky, and smiles like a woman who knows she’s already won the argument.

(The artist copied her from an old holo he saw once, of a gathering of Republican senators. He thought she had kind eyes.)

 

 

iv.
This is a ghost story.

There is a boy in a strange house with high ceilings, that sits on the water and sighs when the wind blows. He was invited there with his mother and father, by a wealthy man and colleague of his mother’s, who saw how pale and tired she looked when the Senate called its recess. The lake country was supposed to be very restful, restorative; it would be good for them to get away from the chaos of Chandrila. Everything would be taken care of, everything was arranged.

The boy mostly is worried about the nightmares. They are always worse, in strange places.

(the boy doesn’t remember a time before nightmares, when there wasn’t his father or mother at his bedside as he shook and screamed himself awake—hands on him, voices in the dark saying, it’s all right, it’s all right you’re safe they are lying to you don’t listen it is not all right you are more than safe, bigger than safe, ‘safe’ cannot hide or protect you ben, breathe; please breathe, ben—

someday, the boy will stop sleeping. it will be easier then.)

That first night, the strange house with high ceilings sighs around him and he dreams of dark, death; a voice in his head, in his ear, a darkness heavy as sand and choking, pouring down his throat like an hourglass, filling up his belly, sinking him further and further into the dark—

The next morning, the boy says, how does the story end? the one about the frog-princess.

his mother and father exchange a glance. what story?

the one about the frog-princess and her fish knight, the boy says impatiently, the one you were telling me last night. 

his mother says, you didn’t call for me, ben. I did not go in your room last night.

yes, you did, the boy insists. you woke me up from my nightmare, and said, ‘not here. you cannot suffer here.’ You sang me a song about little silver fish.

ben, his mother repeats, I did not go in your room last night.

the boy says, you had blue flowers in your hair, and you stroked my forehead and you started telling the story about the frog-princess and the fish knight but I fell asleep. (I know it was you, the boy does not say, because I was safe, I fit inside safe as I fit in your arms and that is what it is, to be a mother’s son.)

no, ben, his mother says. I was not there. It must have been a dream.

The boy stays in the strange house on the water until the leaves begin to curl against the cold, and does not dream of the not-his-mother again. But the nightmares abate, and for a little while he is just a boy—careless and unthinkingly cruel, but lighter. Sweeter. Something like the child his mother and father had hoped for, when they first held him in their arms.

(Even when he is not a boy any longer, and has turned his suffering outward, unleashed it on stars and other, softer things less deserving of it, he will think fondly of Naboo. He could not suffer there.

He wishes he could remember the woman’s face.)

 

 

v.
“Kriffing ‘History of the New Republic’,” Nysdan grumbles, pulling up xir textbook on the datapad and frowning. The Academy quadrangle is mostly quiet in the afternoons, but it doesn’t make the prospect of studying any more appealing. “The New Republic’s only been around for thirty years, that can’t be enough history for a whole exam…”

“Why does a pilot need to know this shit anyway?” Zacha sighs, tucking her hands behind her head. She doesn’t even try reaching for her datapad. “Will understanding the role of the Jedi in the rise of the Empire help me navigate an assault starfighter? I don’t think so.”

“Might tell you whether it’s right to fire the cannons though,” Poe says, not glancing up from his own datapad. The backlit text is almost obscured by thick underlining, cramped notes in the margins—

“Oh no, Dameron fell in love with some dead political figure again,” Onir sniggers.

Poe’s head jerks up. “I’m not—again? when have I ever—?”

“Last week,” Nysdan says cheerfully. “And the week before. The week before that. Whatever state your species gestates in, probably.”

“The first time we met, you were so engrossed in the Naberrie Papers your fork kept missing your mouth,” Zacha says, smirking.

“The Naberrie Papers directly impacted the new Galactic Constitution,” Poe protests, sitting up straighter. “They’re some of the last truly democratic writings to come out of the late Republic—”

There is the collective groaning of people who have Heard This One Before.

“No one even knows who wrote them, Dameron,” Nysdan says. 

“And they were published in the most radical holojournal on Coruscant, it was practically Separatist during the Clone Wars. For all you know, you’re swooning after some Count Dooku-wannabe,” Zacha adds.

Poe is squinting at them. “I thought you laserbrains didn’t pay attention during History?”

“Yeah, but you’re kind of hard to ignore, especially when it’s 0100 and you’ve had too much lum,” Onir says with a shrug. “We know a lot about Leia Organa too. And how to care for Force-sensitive trees.”

“You need a friend, Dameron,” Nysdan says gravely, poking at xis datapad to refresh the screen. “A sex friend. Hopefully one who doesn’t mind listening to you talk.”

“You kidding?” Zacha laughs. A cluster of x-wings roar over their heads, and the next words are almost lost: “If you aren’t an x-wing or a dead philosopher, you’d have to drop out of the sky to catch Dameron’s attention.”

 

 

vi.
Tasif has been to a lot of backwater planets. Force-forsaken rocks and windy uninhabited nothings, filthy mining colonies and lava planets…anywhere or on any ship offering work and food, and enough room to lay his head every twelve cycles. He’s not a complicated man; the rest he can take care of himself.

Jakku, though—Jakku might be the sorriest sandy asshole of the galaxy he’s ever had the misfortune to land on. He wouldn’t spend more than a few months here, no matter how many credits he was offered.

Still, there’s nothing to do about it now but wait, and watch the captain haggle with the ugly bastard who seems to own the place. Tasif is hunkered down with his back to the ship, picking out half-remembered songs on his hallikset. (He learned that lesson seventeen planets ago—always have something in your hands that isn’t a weapon. It keeps people from seeing you as a threat until you are one.)

He doesn’t notice the girl until her shadow falls over him.

“What’s it called?” the girl asks. She’s nearly as skinny as the staff she’s got in a white-knuckled grip, her expression only slightly less grudging than a scowl. She looks like she’d happily beat him to death, then leave him to whatever creature scavenges on this planet. Something with teeth.

“What’s what called?” Tasif asks anyway, because he’s been a smartmouthed son of a bantha since he was born, and it would be a pity to give it up now.

“The song,” the little desert rat says, and now it is a scowl. “What was that song called?”

“It’s ‘The Queen’s Lament’,” Tasif says. He strums his hallikset idly, picking out a few of the main chords. “It’s an old Core song.”

“Oh,” the girl says uncertainly. “Is it…is it supposed to be sad like that?”

He glances up at her through his lashes, still plucking at the strings. She looks very young, this desert rat. He wonders what sort of songs she’s heard before, who sings them to her.

“It’s a sad story. Long long ago, a queen and a Jedi Knight fell in love,” he says, shifting to a sour chord and back again. “It was forbidden for Jedi to develop attachments in those days, you see? Still, she married him in secret, had his children—but he fell to the Dark Side, and killed her. The song is her singing about the grief of it.”

“Oh,” the desert rat says. “That is sad. What,” she stops, swallows. “What happened to her children?”

“The song doesn’t say. They were lost.”

“Lost,” the girl echoes quietly.

The next time he looks up from his fingers moving over the hallikset, she’s gone.

 

 

vii.
This is a ghost story too.

There is a boy (not really a boy, not for a long time now) who won a war, and around him he keeps his dead. He talks to them, sometimes, when he is lonely. 

He is very lonely these days, alone on the great sea with his ghosts. 

He says to them, tell me about my mother.

The eldest ghost is called ‘Wisdom’. He says, mm, not one of us, she was, and turns away, for Wisdom cannot fathom those reasons reason does not comprehend.

The next eldest ghost is called ‘Grief’ for the way he wears sorrow stitched into his robes (they pool at his feet and spread out from him like an ocean, such is his desolation.) The ghost called Grief says, I held her hand when she passed from the world, I failed her, for Grief is selfish, measuring space only in relation to itself.

The youngest ghost is called ‘Father’, and scars ripple across his skin, fade. His eyes are full of light (dark. light. dark—) The ghost called Father says, listen.

there is a story among the Naboo.