Nine Months Ago
Grief tasted of ashes, seawater and brine, and copious amounts of blueblossoms, everliliess, rojos and lorchads. The vibrant bundles of flowers made the air almost sickly with their airy, heady scent, mixing noxiously with the other smells hanging nearby. Terran breathed shallowly, catching a vague memory of a woman with blooms in her hair on the roof of his mouth with every inhalation.
The floral display was, he'd been told, a favorite on peaceful, blooming Selen. He did not know exactly how many people, from where, had laboured to see these flowers here now; but the red-eyed and hollow-stared mourners seemed grateful for them.
“As we commend your souls to the Force, to the Light of the Stars and the Dark of the Void and the Embrace of Eternity, blessings of the moon and sun upon you, for you are the salt and earth of this land, our beloved...."
Atyiru's voice was strong and rose over the near-silent congregation. Her copper and silver features were tired with grief, but she stood tall and delivered the last rites of any Selenian with a compassion that hummed deep to his bones. Terran silently hoped for her peace, knowing she was going to carry every death here like she'd caused it with her own hands.
Just as silent was the lie of that hope.
There were, of course, no bodies, and there would be no burial in any family crypts or graves, no ashes consigned to the empty and starlight of space. They'd had to burn every corpse in the mass pits they'd dug, to be sure the plague wouldn't spread any further while inoculations were delivered. Even those who had died of some other cause at the time — a murder or two, some accidents, an overdose — had been included in the cremation. The risk was too great that the disease could've found a home with them.
Thus, they had all come together for this makeshift, heartfelt ceremony.
He broke his vigil over the immense display of personal effects, flowers, and various offerings to various faiths that had been brought by so many survivors; so, so many holos of their dead family members, wives, husbands, children, grandparents, friends, so many trinkets and candles and messages on scraps of flimsiplast. The piecemeal shrine presided over the scene, and Atyiru stood at its head, as far as the citizens were concerned, as the Principal Trustee of the Commonwealth of Selen.
Her speech changed then, as she finished the last of her recitation, pausing before its closing lines. Faces rose from where they'd lowered, some confused, some expectant. What would she say?
"I know now how terrible this is, how nothing can make better our pain or return what we have lost, how deep this wound," the Consul murmured, clear and quiet but suddenly sharp, like a mountain peak. The crowd rustled around her, the sentence hanging in the air a long, long few heartbeats, silence speaking more for all the dead than anyone still breathing could. Terran felt in the center of his chest a tendril of the Force, light and small and sweet, a caress, and knew that she was reaching out — to him, to them, to every heart and mind here, enfolding them in calm.
"I know," she went on eventually, turning to sweep her blindfolded face over the assembly, "there here is a sorrow too terrible to name. We are going through that which nothing I say can encompass, that which has no words; we are going through the unimaginable. But here, too, is this truth: we are alive. And we are not alone."
Her face was so very kind. It was full of true answers and love and heartlight and it made the hope she spoke of seem a tangible thing. Like the free-floating petals around them that tried so hard to cleanse any lingering smog or stench of sickness.
"We are alive and we are not alone," repeated the robed Miraluka. "I know it is just as unimaginable to hope right now, but though hope is frail, it is hard to kill. And our hope is alive. It is in all of you. We must remember that in the days to come. We must rise each morning and know today is a better dawn than the previous dusk, for we are alive, and we hope, and we stand together. Together, we have withstood the plague that assailed us.Together, we begin rebuilding efforts immediately. Together, we will nurture and reap the new crops soon coming. Together, we will join hands as one and cross this river, overcome this which is unimaginable. The Force is with us all, my friends, my family. We builders, we survivors, we who hope so strongly. The Force is with us all! And we are all with each other."
Her smile was bright with better bright beneath, like copper-gilded gold. Terran noticed a few tentative, teary smiles directed back.
"So come, my friends. Come and live with me. With each other. With those who have gone still alive in each of us."
Bending, Atyiru placed a bundle of green springs before the flames of a brazier at her feet. Then, lifting her arms, she called out one last time.
“Farewell, daughters and sons of Selen. May we soon meet across the stars.”
“Farewell,” the entire congregation echoed, voices mingling, some strong, some scratchy, some bearing the weight of the entire world. Their mournful wish seemed to hang in the air, perhaps trapped by the oppressive flowers and smoke, perhaps so heavy with grief that the words could not reach the next realm.
Atyiru doused the fire. Another crisp mountain breeze whisked away some of the lingering scents, cluttered with flower petals. Silently, in groups and one by one, the gathered witnesses, friends, acquaintances, and various debtors walked away. The Shadow Lady smeared ashes over her delicate cheeks and lowered her head in what had to be prayer, standing there until even the longest lingering had gone.
Terran wondered if he should maybe go shake her, eyeing some of the other Summit members who seemed to be thinking the same, glancing at the prone Miraluka for a cue. Others marched off, Timeros never one to spend more than a necessary second on any task, Kordath probably needing to lie down before the booze did it for him. Zujenia escorted the man off, Uji stood away conversing silently with a woman, and Lucine left swiftly as soon as it seemed courtesy was done. But their leader of endless Sunshine and Rainbows...
Other eyes wouldn't have caught it, but the Kiffar's did, crystalline and sharp: Atyiru's shoulders gave a fine tremble, her mile of hair hiding her face. Was she crying? Or doing whatever an eyeless woman did to cry?
He almost went to her.
But then Ishwarr's heavy, furry paw settled on his shoulder, nudging him along, because of course — he was the one that had argued these people were his responsibility now, the he couldn't leave them, that he owed them care. He had work to do.
The Quaestor turned away, muttering to his Wookiee companion about her nagging, if only for show. The glint in her eye told him she knew better, but he wasn't about to give her the satisfaction of acknowledging it. They climbed up the steep mountain path to the plateau where the Citadel lay, crossed the long bridge. Work to do. Hope to be had, if Atyiru was to be believed.
She didn't join them inside for a very long while.
The monument had been defaced again.
It was nothing new, exactly, not recently. The scrawl was done in cheap paint, and one of the weird religious crowd of what he thought of as regulars was already scrubbing at it furiously, muttering about respect for "Our Lady of the Night." The Selenian's fellow zealots, a small enough group to avoid violating the new assembly restrictions, were leaving flowers and talking at the stone and hopefully not leaving any blood behind this time. Terran eyed them a second longer just be to be sure nobody was cutting their hands open.
The smooth, low wall of obsidian rock was full of fine crystal edges that glittered in direct sunlight and made the whole thing almost iridescent every day. Thousands of names were imprinted on it, row after cramped row, lines of neat, laser-cut Aurebesh. Standing above the wall as she had above the crowd at the memorial was a woman's figure, smiling and eyeless but otherwise relatively vague in feature; long hair morphed into flowing robes morphed into the edge of the wall as if water flowing to the ground. The obvious parts were her prayer-folded hands and her upturned lips. She watched over the plague victims like some shepherd for the dead.
The sculptors hadn't caught but a piece of her fire, but it was, admittedly, a pretty fancy piece. He wondered whether or not she'd have hated it.
The Kiffar Proconsul sighed heavily and turned his cool gaze back to the tiered city sprawling out below him. The memorial was a good spot to see from, not so distant as the Citadel tower but nearer to the edge of the Huscar ring than the plateau — exactly the reason they'd even held the service in this location.
His view was a dismal one. He knew, logically, that it was just his tiredness and mood that made Estle look grayer, but that knowledge didn't prevent the effect. And it wasn't any trick of the eyes that things were patently worse: buildings having been burned, others falling into disrepair, more and more graffiti sprayed in the streets while the number of bodies idling in those same walkways increased. Signage mostly reminded of curfew time and the feeding hall schedule for the day now instead of advertising local entertainment. Troops in full kit patrolled in small groups, constantly on alert for signs of simmering violence. Citizens skipped work that either couldn't pay or couldn't function and milled about on their stoops and roofs and flung invective about the heat, about their power still being out, about their rations. Everything was just...hungrier, angrier, crueler.
And they were responsible.
First, big congratulations to Luka on ascending to Knighthood! Well done! Things have a been a bit quiet the past month (and a half) as we get things lined up for the Clan event of Sins, and reordering our report release schedule so as to avoid overlap.
Since the last report, there’s been little public movement on Club news outside of various DC reports, which we’ll be linking below. Look forward to a major event in the works come winter! On a more light-hearted note, the Summer Puzzle Series recently ended with a victory for our very own Rhylance!
Tali asks a few
So this wraps up July/August, keep an eye out for an announcement about the start of Sins Episode IV! Also, big shout out to Terran and Satsi for penning up the intro fic to this report and all their hard work on the event!
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