An Atton/Female Exile Snippit
She prepared herself the only way she knew how. Kneeling in the dark room, hands clasped before her, she meditated. She fought off the fears, the doubts, the worries that plagued her, and thought only of the triumph and the peace that awaited her on the other side of the victory that was nearly hers...was good as hers...
Sweat gathered on her upper lip. She licked away the salty moisture, the small motion disturbing what little rhythm she'd managed to obtain in her breathing. Frustrated and knowing the challenge ahead of her was soon, far, far too soon and that she wasn't nearly ready, she forced herself to inhale, exhale...thinking only of serenity, she let all other thoughts and emotions bleed away...
Then his face flashed through her mind's view, and with a curse her control evaporated. A vase on the table against the far wall exploded. Standing up from the carpet and her folded position, she paced the darkened room like a caged cat.
Never before in her life had she given into the fear and the anxiety that threatened to be the downfall of all Jedi before facing their mortal enemies. Never. Yet here she was...
Stalking to the window, she found herself wrapping her arms around herself against an imagined chill. But this foe...not even Kreia had known her so well, not even Kreia could instill the kind of fear of pain and loss that this man could. He alone could send ripples of terror of the unknown through her. There was just one thing between her and long sought-after peace. Just one thing to do...just one..
She moved from the window, taking in a deep, shuddering breath.
Alright, if meditation couldn't prepare her mentally, at least she could be prepared physically. Calling her saber to her from where it lay on the bed, she ignited the deep deep purple double blade en route to her hand with her mind. The hilt met her palm in the middle of a swift turn of the heel. She sliced at an invisible opponent, then ducked for leverage in a swift upper cut. She whirled on the balls of her feet, still in a crouch, hacking at nonexistent ankles. She whirled again, coming up to a standing position as she turned, whirling the double blades end over end in a deadly dance of light. Sweat beaded on her brow, but she ignored it, despite the fact she'd never sweated during a fight- and this was only a weak warm-up!
Fear lanced through her, even as she swallowed it and gave another jab with her lightsaber. She would beat this demon. She would not let her fear rob her of this victory! She wanted it more than anything, she truly, truly did. She'd waited for it, worked for it, cultivated it and nurtured this moment for years...she wouldn't let it go now...not now...
Faster and faster she twirled, jabbed, slashed, hacked, parried, flipped, ducked, sliced, cut, jumped and twirled some more.
Keep going, her inner voice whispered. Not much longer, and it'll be time, then soon it'll be over...and you'll never again have to be afraid. Never. The deed will be done, and it'll be over.
The sudden invasion of a real voice, from a real person and not a voice in her own mind, had Aelyn jumping into a defensive position as she came about to face the now open doorway. Light poured in from the brilliantly lit corridor beyond. A silhouette stood in the doorway. The person who'd called her name stepped into the room, and the difference in light suddenly let Aelyn view her features. Blinking sweat out of her eyes and breathing heavily, she let a shaky smile spread on her lips, a smile that did little to hide the terror in her eyes.
"Mira." She switched off her lightsaber, and made a move to clip it to the belt that wasn't there. That's right...she'd have no need for a belt where she was going... She swallowed harder, her grip on the saber becoming perilously firm. Mira stepped closer, taking the weapon from her hand.
"Hey, easy, you're going to need that," she told her, the redhead's lips quirking. Red fabric swirled around her ankles as she cocked one hip to the side, planting one agile and on that hip and waving Aelyn's lightsaber in her face with her other hand. Aelyn tried to snatch it back, but Mira's nimble limbs had her prancing out of the exiled Jedi's reach.
"No way, you know the rules. You remember the deal that was made."
"Forget the rules- I need that! I won't get through it without it-"
"Bullshit." Mira snapped, but there was genuine affection behind her sharp tones. "Stop your whining; you'll make it through it without it, we all know you will."
Aelyn took a deep breath, raising a hand to smooth her hair, then stopping when she remembered the complex knots that kept her burgundy locks out of her face. She'd need them out of her face. Last thing she needed was to be shoving hair out of her eyes throughout the whole thing... It would give him just the opening he needed for countless after countless tauntings.
Another figure came in behind Mira. Gossamer red fabric was slung around her shoulders and arms to drape down with a flowing skirt. Worry became etched on her face the moment she took in Aelyn's sweaty, raggled appearance.
"Idiot!" The former Handmaiden seethed. She stalked into the room and slammed the door behind her, flicking on the light with a wave of her hand.
"You know the ancient laws!" The white-haired pixie snapped. "If they're not upheld, what you're about to put yourself through will be for nothing- it won't be honored by the natives here! And good luck getting out of here without their approval, whether or not you get through this!" She snatched Aelyn's lightsaber from Mira's hand, glowering at the older woman -clearly believing she'd had a part in Aelyn's decimation- and tossing it back on the bed. She pointed to a chair. "Sit," she commanded, and she was obeyed.
Aelyn, in the chair, endured as Brianna the Handmaiden repaired what her self-spar flurry had destroyed.
"At least you hadn't changed into the ceremony robes, yet," the Echani woman grumbled, going to the wardrobe and removing a confection that had Aelyn smiling for the first time all day. Her lips spread in a wolfish grin. Mira helped her out of her sweat-stained, favorite old Jedi robes. A quick rub down with no-water-needed fresheners, and into the loose, nearly sheer and ridiculously flowing robes she went. Mira and Brianna stood back, admiring their handiwork for a long moment, wristful looks on their faces.
The door opened a third time. With a nearly sheer red veil that matched her gown, suspiciously similar to the ones worn by Brianna and Mira, covering her eyes the Miraluka was nevertheless blatantly serious. "They're ready," she said. If her eyes had been visible, one would have been able to see that she was looking Aelyn square in the eye when she added, "He's ready."
Aelyn closed her eyes, fought to center herself, and then opened her eyes while releasing a deep breath. Looking at her three female companions in turn she answered, "So am I." Then she smiled. "It'll all be over soon, then we can all celebrate." She smiled serenely. "It'll be good to celebrate this, finally."
"You're telling us," Mira muttered on her way out, Brianna following. "We've been having to listen to you freak out for days..."
"I heard that."
"Behave," Brianna and Visas admonished as one voice. Exchanging solemn, yet amused grins, the moved ahead of the bickering Mira and Aelyn in the corridor outside.
They followed the familiar path through the alien building to a room they'd been shown only once, but the native guide assigned to making sure that things were arranged properly. The noise inside was deafening- so, so many had shown up to witness what would be a most memorable confrontation. Aelyn clenched her fists and fought to keep her knees from locking. She took deep breaths and blinked rapidly, thinking calming thoughts to keep her heart from racing. She would get through this. They all would, then they'd go home and put it all behind them.
All of it.
No matter what happened...
On either side of the massive door, two of the natives in festive garb stood guard. A moment later a third came running up from around the corner. It was the one responsible for them, apparently, as he'd really been the only one to have anything to do with them since they'd arrived. In his arms he carried four individual, unusually large items. He solemnly handed on to each of the women, then with a low bow to Aelyn, he slipped into the room. The guards seemed to do a count, then together began to ram the butts of their staffs into the ground in a rhythmic, definite beat.
A split moment later the beats were joined by another compilation of unorganized, rapid beats. Footsteps, a pair of heavy boots among them.
"Canderous, lovely of you to join us," Mira drawled.
"Shut it," the for once unmasked Mandalore snarled as he moved to stand beside her. While he merely stood there, tall and proud, Mical behind him actually offered his arm to Brianna. She accepted delicately. Bao-Dur fell into step beside Visas, and she placed her arm on his without preamble, easily avoiding the blue light that would deliver quite a sting.
The beat of the staffs picked up as Mira, Visas, and Brianna -with the men- arranged themselves in a line in front of Aelyn. Visas turned and motioned to her veil, reminding Aelyn at the last minute of yet another native rule that had to be observed, and with a scowl she reached behind her and pulled a white contraption fixated to her hair up and over her head, concealing her face. Two more layers remained cascading from the back of her head. A veil of her own.
"Lets get this all over with," Mandalore growled.
"Amen," Aelyn muttered.
The staff-beating halted, and suddenly the doors in front of them spread wide open and music from within flared up. Matching a subtle beat within the music, Mira walked into the room, holding the huge single flower in front of her like it was poisoned, but managing to look like she didn't care that it was poisoned. Visas emerged second, as serene as always. Only those who knew her would notice the unusual stiffness to her shoulders. Only Brianna was entirely unaffected, although she walked quicker than the other two. Mical looked uncomfortable, but given the ceremonial garb he was stuffed into, that wasn't a surprise.
The music changed.
Aelyn took a deep breath, cursing the situation that had landed her here...
In a gabble and blather of alien snorting and choking, they were admitted into a large, impressive conference room. Or cavern, as Mira muttered descriptively under her breath. Aelyn tossed the fellow redhead a 'behave' sort of glance, including Atton and Mandalore in that look while she was at it. Mandalore, while normally quite capable of restraining himself, had had to deal with numerous natives staring and laughing at him quite blatantly, and none of them could figure out why.
At the far side of the huge, long table made of something that looked like a hybrid of both wood and stone sat three stately looking natives. Long tendrils of flesh-like hair dreadlocks were bound with cords of gold and silver, and ropes of bone and gems draped low around their necks. Wide-set glassy eyes blinked at them solemnly as they stood and bowed low. Aelyn and the others, when they reached their side of the table, bowed just as low.
"Thank you for seeing us," Aelyn spoke, knowing that they understood their language, even if only she and Brianna understood them. "We have come on behalf-"
"Forgive us." The leader spoke, and Aelyn struggled to make out his more formal syntax. "The veiled one among you must be female, correct?"
After exchanging odd glances with her fellows, Aelyn then nodded to the Chief. "Yes, Visas Marr is female, but-"
"But you...and the other redhead...and the white-haired one...you are shaped the same, as females of your species, yet you wear no veils as she does, despite obvious sexual maturity. Why does only one of you observe proper modesty? Why do your husbands not stand beside you?" He motioned to the men, most of whom happened to be standing somewhat behind the girls.
Aelyn suppressed her embarrassed cough better than Brianna suppressed hers. Thank the Force they were the only two who knew enough of the native language to understand him.
"None of us are married, Chief. These are not our husbands, but our companions, our friends. They travel with us and-"
"In your womanhood you travel with men not your husbands?" It was a sharp demand. Then tension in the room, formerly nonexistent suddenly rose, sharply and abruptly. Brianna and Aelyn exchanged wary glances.
"Yes," Aelyn replied honestly, ignoring how the men in her group and the other women had started when she mentioned husbands. They were definitely curious now as to what exactly they were talking about. "Does this offend you?"
"It offends all laws of nature and modesty, the laws of marriage and of the laws governing males and females." The glassy eyes of the Chief flashed.
"That would be a yes," Mira murmured, despite having not understood the Chief.
"And you are the leader of this entourage?"
Aelyn hesitated, then nodded. "Yes, I am the leader, if there is one."
"Then you are thrice blasphemous for your lack of an example," he told her sagely.
"Hey, wait a minute," Atton suddenly cut in, stepping forward to stand beside Aelyn. Even thoug he'd only understood half the conversation, for the sharper-than-he-acted-like scoundrel, it was enough to get the gist of what was being said. "Are you telling me that you're going to give us a hard time because Aelyn isn't married?"
"I will not give a 'hard time,'" the Chief drew himself up, as if offended. "It is not our way to punish the uneducated. Rather, we educate." With Brianna translating that quietly to Atton, the Chief looked back to Aelyn. "We will aid you in rectifying your mistake, in the hopes that your followers will do the same. Would you have one of your male followers speak for you, or would you have another?"
"My apologies, it is not my wish to offend, but I have no desire to be married at all," Aelyn responded, quite firmly. Her lips quirked. "And I doubt any of 'my men' present would speak for me." She didn't see the sharp look Atton gave her, but the Chief did.
"One already has- was he not the only one who rose to speak to your defense but a moment ago?" He looked to Atton, who raised an eyebrow. Aelyn flushed while gritting her teeth.
"Forgive me, Chief," she patted herself on the back for managing to still sound under control and polite. "I will not be getting married, to any of 'my men' or any other. I apologize for our lack of understanding of your customs before arriving, but I'm afraid there's no help for it. If I may suggest, the sooner we proceed with the negotiations, the sooner we may leave and cease to insult your ways with our presence."
"No, Leader of the Blasphemous," the Chief responded coldly. "It is I who must apologize, for I have not made myself clear. You will not be permitted to leave until we have fulfilled our duty in educating you and your followers. Now," he added. "Will the male beside you speak for you?"
Aelyn and Atton looked at each other, the glower in her gaze clearly stating, 'don't you dare.'
Then he opened his mouth, and nothing good came after that.
Aelyn sighed. The scoundrel'd had a point- they had to get off this rock somehow, and annulments were plenty easy to get...
She ignored the sudden queasiness she felt rise in her stomach at the very thought. Just nerves. Nerves and rage, she told herself. Plenty of rage...
The music restarted- she'd missed her cue. Pulled out of her reverie, reluctantly, Aelyn took a deep breath, thought of all the things she'd do to Atton when this was all done, and stepped into the light of the entrance, and peered through the white veil as far ahead as she could see.
There he was.
The man she was about to marry.
"Oh, frack," she muttered under her breath, and walked down the isle. "That boy is so dead..."
And here we have the obligatory 'accidentally gets roped into getting married due to randomly weird yet plausible cultural oopsie.' Just had to do it... -grin- Eventually I'll do a genuinely romantic one, but this was too good to pass up.
This snippit probably wasn't up to par with my past ones, but I figured I owed you guys something, regardless. I've been out of the game for a while now, been so busy with work and school and, -drumroll- My own (genuine, not culturally forced) engagement. SQUEE! That's right folks, I'm getting maaaaaarrrrrieeeeeeeed...married, hooked, linked, handfasted, tied down, hitched, etc. Not for another year, though, so I've got some time before things get really insane again, and until then I hope to squeeze in a couple good fics.
Anyways, hope you all enjoyed, and until next time! Ciao!