This is a series of short... well, I'd call them drabbles, but they're definitely over one hundred words. (I just don't know when to shut up!) The other day, a friend of mine issued a challenge in another fandom, 'Five things that never happened to...
As you can imagine, there are a series of little alternate fics, unrelated, sort of like 'Sweet Lullabye, Rude Awakening'. There are five total. (So far! X_X)
I'll stop babbling now. I do hope you enjoy!
And now, first up....
Each Shard of the Mirror
--or-- 'Five Things That Never Happened to Padme Naberrie'
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
I. I Have Become Death
There is mist on the river tonight. Thin and tremulous, it drifts along the water, as deft and mysterious as the movement of wings. All along the green, night-scented banks, its tide pulling ever onward to the waterfalls' distant roar. It winds around the ebony torch-poles, making the tiny moonstone and far-jade beads tinkle, like the bracelets of a child, lost in the dark. All along the canals of the capital, each flame as become a difuse star, somehow alone amidst its companions. It is a righteous mist, they say, a fiting one. It penetrates every side street, lays like a veil over the whole of Theed.
Theed; where they have come to mourn.
They come in their dark robes, satin and velvet rustling in the length procession. They come in their silken masks of mourning, or with black tear-shapes painted near their eyes. They bare flowers for laying and prayer wheels for burning; they bring their confusion, their sadness-- and they bring their fear. The crowd is large, pressed close in the streets around the central canal. Banners bearing the crest of Amidala-- the ancient Nubian characters for peace and the protective, honorable sword-- shift gently, though the air seems heavy and still. The last blush of violet breathes against the mountainous horizon, silence broken only by the singular, steady notes of the silver lute. Low tones, a bird's low coo, hang suspended and then fade, like drying tears.
No one speaks at this funeral. What is there to say? Fear has closed their throats as surely as it has clouded the future. The closing of her coffin my well be the closing of an era, and the word 'empire' flies, ugly and buzzing, along the airwaves. Unheard and unseen, but poisonous. The pavillion is clear, ringed by mourners, as the twin rows of gray-clad women file in, faces painted ghostly white. A single slash of black cuts through their powdered expressions, a painful contrast. The aburptness of a young death. Now Captain Typho and his guard, the aging man stone-faced, good eye as unreadable as the one covered by the patch. Her handmaidens, palms up, filled with flower petals, faces made into downward shadows by the flickering lights. The crowd stirs a little; the beasts pulling her coffin clomb slowly onward, gentle even if their burden feels it not. Her family flows close behind, swathed in the silver and blue of the recently breheaved. Staring is unavoidable, but gazes are respectfully quick, flickering. There comes the shift of many bodies bowing as the current Queen passes, looking painfully young.
Padme Amidala is beautiful in death, but not the way she was when life shone from her moon-mysterious features, when there was breath to pass her heart-shaped lips. The crowd stirs with memory; of holotransmissions, of public audiences. Here she is at her corronation, bright and ideal, one of the youngest rulers in the history of Naboo. At the Liberation festival, face painted but hair revealed, her smile as blinding as the Globe of Peace the Gungans brought. New Year's speeches, her farewell address. Her brave, unwavering voice, ringing out in the Senate Chambers-- 'wake up, Senators, you must wake up!' Her protests, determined, but drowned out as more and more power flows to the Chancellor. All this, now laid in the silver casket, eyes closed, weeping white-flowers adorning her hair.
Jobal Naberrie reaches a weathered hand down to caress her youngest daughter's cheek. The skin is cold; the hair she tucks back behind an ear-- as she had countless times in the past!-- is silken but dry. Her lips touch the forehead she once smoothed after nightmares, and she backs away with her face in her hands. Sola steps forward, husband and eldest daughter at her side. Ryoo lifts small Pooja up in her arms-- they kiss their fingers, press them to their Aunt's forehead. They say goodbye, turning to look at still and sullen Ruwee, standing some steps away. Padme's father moves slowly, places his hands against her coffin as if it is an effort to stand. His face is distant, confused-- the face of a man who believes he must be dreaming. He cries the way a man does, with short gasps and few tears. His wife comes to lead him away.
A sound comes, distant, rumbling. Within the crowd, some turn their heads. Their eyes are bright with moisture, but wondering-- they look to the east, where the three moons rise, to the west and shadowy hulk of mountains. It is there a storm coming? Is it thunder? It's a terrible noise. At the edges of the gathering, some have turned around completely, staring out into the mist. There are footsteps, an army of ghosts moving in the hazy realm between the living and the dead. A woman steps foward, eyes narrowed in an attempt to discern. In another moment, she is moving quickly backwards, hands grasping wildly for the touch of another living being.
Her mouth opens in a silent scream. The crowd parts, and the intruder passes through.
The unease has filtered through to the Pavillion now, moving like the ripple of a wave. Whispers come, questioning, fighting down panic as tiny, newborn rumors attempt to fly. The sound is closer, like the breath of some terrible forest creature, stumbling for the first time from the safe columns of its wooded fortress. The light from the torches catch on an ebony mask, making the dull eyes look wild. They give him wide berth, so right to be afraid of a storm. His presence brings intensity like the air before lightning, heady, cloying, and alive with death. It is Pooja who sees him first, her small face turning from the Nubian Holy Man and his softly whispered blessings for the next life. Her little face can not disguise her disbelief or her terror. Unable to look away, she pulls at her elder sister's embroided sleeve. The first yank weakened by fear, each tug increases in intensity as He nears. Ryoo's hand moves, swating-- it is only then that Pooja turns, giving the taller girl's long, dark braid a single mighty pull.
"Pooj!" the nickname is hissed, half annoyed and half-scandalized, until Ryo turns her head. Her body rocks a little as Pooja burries her face in her sister's skirts. "It's Death!" Pooja's muffled voice barely carries to Ryoo's ears. "It's Death, and he's come for Aunt Padme!"
"Mother--" Ryoo falters, but Sola has already seen. Everyone has-- and they stare, unable to move, holding onto one another as a great wind pushes the mist away.
He is a death's head in black, each step that of a creature which has clawed itself out of the grave. The sound is his breath, the terrible in and out of a heart that will no more know variation; only pounding, onward to infinity, eternity without end. Behind him, an army of skulls hover, stopping at the entrace to the pavillion. They stand there, featureless soldiers of a black and terrible Lord. He does not slow as he crosses the courtyard-- one arm raises, makes a decisive cut through the air, and the retainers fall away as if physically shoved. Aproaching the coffin as one might approach an altar, he stops, expression carved and unfathomable.
"My baby--," Jobal's voice is a tiny cry, and Sola pulls her back just in time. Ryoo and Pooja crouch together behind their mother, but Ruwee stands alone, head tilting as the intruder's voice rumbles. Only the Naberrie's are close enough to hear it-- Sola and Jobal close their eyes against the very sound, even as terrible possibility pierces their hearts.
"Padme," says the monster. "Padme--" It's not the voice-- not the flat, mechanical simulation-- but the way its said. The name is said as prayer, as endearment and as benediction; it is said with intensity they have only heard once before. "It can't be true," the dark Lord reaches into the coffin, black arms coming to cradle Padme's still form. With none of his family to stop him, Ruwee comes forward, eyes still confused, but also terribly awake.
"Who?" he asks, even as the intruder tenderly lifts his daughter away. "Who _are_ you?" Jobal sobs openly, rocking on her knees and calling to her husband as if she believes he is already lost.
Sobal says, "Papa-- please, come away!"
"He's taking her to the Great Darkness," Pooja says, still held securely by her sister. "He's taking her to the land of the dead." An image comes to Ryoo from an old story, the tale of the Barefoot Princess, who knew the misfortune to become Death's Bride. Laughter, crazy and frightened, bubbles up in her throat-- she smothers it in her sister's light curls.
It is as if the monster does not see Ruwee at all. Instead, he apears to stare intently down at the still face of Padme's corpse, searching for something. Jobal reaches for her husband, draws him back to the knot of her family, staring at the intruder as one. A single step, then another, before the dark Lord falls to his knees.
"Padme," he says, arms almost seeming to rock the body he holds. "Padme, please come back. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, Padme you have.... you have to..." He holds her close, large, blunt hands caressing her hair, brushing against her cheek. "Padme, _please_..."
There is no mist on the river, and Vader's cry rents through the still air, agonized.
To the tune of 'Yellow Submarine':
Mere and her muse, well,
they live for feedback,
they live for feedback,
they live for feedback.
Mere and her muse,
well, they live for feedback,
isn't that a scary thing?
..... *very sheepish* Come on... please?