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Fic: The Hidden Face--Chapter 2: The Hooded Woman, part 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Fic: The Hidden Face--Chapter 2: The Hooded Woman, part 1
Okay. Finished the non-fic piece (why is that always such a harrowing experience?), so I can get back to my story. Yay.

Anyway, when we last left Our Heroine, fourteen-year-old Shmi Skywalker, she had been taken into slavery by pirates who killed her family, including her favorite brother, Jeztiz. She is allowed to keep two masks involved in a religious holiday--the Leil-in (the face of the hidden) and the Anak-in (the face of the protector). She was bought on the world of Zhemess by a mysterious man named Akris who is trying to buy his way back into his tribe on Tatooine, and a fortune-telling priestess named Telpi convinced him that Shmi could help him do this. Telpi also understands Shmi's language, and doesn't think much of Shmi's people. Akris is not enthusiastic about following Shmi's suggestions.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Chapter Two: The Hooded Woman

Shmi had been in Akris's household for three weeks--three weeks of frustrated advising, of broken sleep on her hard cot, trying not to dream of her brothers and sisters and parents, especially trying not to dream of Jeztiz, leaping out from the shadows and falling in a rain of laser fire--when she was called to his study.

He handed her a datachip. "You will take this to Telpi at the Magorhaz," he said. "You will return before sundown."

Shmi cast her eyes down, which generally seemed to keep Akris in a more pleasant temper. "What is the Magorhaz?"

"The Seeing Place of the priestesses. No man may go there. You will take this to Telpi."

She chanced a glance up. "Akris..."

His eyes flared above the veil.

"I'm sorry," Shmi said quickly. "Master."

"You would do well to remember this, Shmi Skywalker."

Shmi bit her tongue, hid within herself, and said, "Master, I don't know the way."

He glared at her for a long moment, trying to find some kind of rebellion in her. She was careful to show none. Finally, he turned away, dismissing the entire conversation with a wave of his hand. "Go through garden gate. There is a path. Follow it up the mountain. It leads to the Magorhaz. All paths up the mountain lead to that place."

"Yes, sir." She started out.

"Girl."

She stopped. "Yes?"

"I cannot follow you," he said, and held up a small metal device. "But don't imagine yourself free. The range is quite large."

Shmi just stood and blinked. It was the first time Akris had mentioned the explosive that had been planted in her bloodstream.

He said nothing more.

After a long time, she turned and left the house.

It was the first time she'd been outside since the market, and she'd nearly forgotten the golden mists that shrouded the world. Stepping out of Akris's home, she found herself wrapped in a white cloud that reached up to her hips, and soft, sunlit streams of vapor eddied around her as she moved. The mountain swam up before her, emerging as a wavery shadow, finally taking substance as she came through the garden gate and set her feet on the path.

The ground mist held for what seemed a very long time, only beginning to dissipate far above the village. Trees clung to the rocks here, and in some places, the mountain flattened out into meadows, many ringed with trees and inviting-looking glades. The sun played along a stream that ran beside the path, and made the dewy grasses sparkle. For the first time since Inazkai, Shmi felt a real smile rise to her lips.

More paths joined the one she was traveling, and ill-tempered village women came and went on them. Shmi tried to greet them, but they ignored her entirely.

The Magorhaz wasn't at the summit of the mountain, as Shmi had half-expected it to be, but it was nearly as far up as one could comfortably build. Behind it, the mountain rose in a sheer face of rock that ended in a jagged edge. A large, reddish day-star glimmered atop this short close horizon.

Shmi stopped on the large stone apron that spread out before the door, and turned to look behind herself. The path she'd walked disappered down into the mists, and the world itself was hidden beneath them.

"Took your time, didn't you?"

Shmi jumped, turning to find Telpi standing close behind her, dirty dress hanging loosely on her frame, a walking stick planted firmly on the stone. Shmi curtside. "I am sorry. I didn't know the way, or how far it would be."

"Hmph." Telpi shrugged and led her inside. "Akris thinks you'll try to run. He sent me a message to watch out for you to show."

Shmi's heart started beating faster. "Please, ma'am... I did not mean to be late. I simply... I enjoyed the walk..."

"Your time isn't yours to enjoy, girl."

"Yes, ma'am." Shmi held out the datachip. "Master Akris sends this to you."

Telpi opened the door to a large room, taking the chip and inspecting it closely. She paid no attention to several other women who sat on stone benches beside high windows, meditating with their hands turned up and resting on their knees. One of them, who wore a red robe with a deep hood, turned her head slightly in Shmi's direction.

"She is not your interest," Telpi said without looking around.

"I'm sorry," Shmi said. "I just--"

"I wasn't talking to you, girl."

The hooded woman turned away again.

"I'd put her out if I had a choice," Telpi muttered. "Foolish Old Mother had a soft spot for her. Well, come. I'll check this. You can never trust a man to pay fairly. Let that be your lesson today."

"Yes, Ma'am."

Telpi led the way into a small office at the head of the meditation room, and closed the door behind her. Unlike the outer room, the office was indifferently maintained, with piles of ledgers spilling from the shelves and dishes scattered in various handy places, mainly around the computer near the over-laden desk. Telpi sat down in front of it, and dropped the datachip into the reader. "They'll cheat you if they can," she said. "Any time they get a chance."

"Men?"

"Men. And Akris... his people... if you can call those animals people..." The data started to come up and she scanned it with acute interest. "This looks right. He's learned that I check. And he knows the law here will do the bidding of the Magorhaz. They're easy enough to... convince." She smiled in an unpleasant way. "The Jedi tried to convince them otherwise once. But I'm stronger. And I give them something back, which the brown-robes don't."

"The Jedi have been here?"

"Why? Did you have a nice little fantasy of being rescued?" Telpi stood. "Get past it, girl. They came, they left. We are beyond their meddling." Her nose wrinkled. "Filthy beast actually came here. A man. In the Magorhaz."

"Master Akris said that it was forbidden..."

"It is forbidden. But that ridiculous girl..." She flapped a hand at the door of the sanctuary. "She invited them. And they wouldn't leave until they had seen her. Gave them a perfectly good boy-child. We could have sold him at market and made a decent profit when he was old enough to be useful to someone, and she got nothing for it." Telpi shook her head and muttered incomprehensibly to herself about this vast injustice.

Shmi looked at her own feet. "Is there anything you wish me to return to Master Akris?"

"What?" Telpi broke out of her raving. "Oh, yes." She turned back to her computer, typed several sentences out, saved them, and retrieved a chip. She handed it to Shmi. "It tells him that you brought his payment safely. And it tells him to listen to you. Remind him that my prophecy is only true if he pays attention to what you say. If he doesn't, it's on his own head, and he'll never make it back to Tatooine. Personally, I'd consider that a reward, but he doesn't."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Go now. You've got two hours to get down the mountain. I think you won't have time to enjoy the walk this time."

Shmi nodded and back out of the room. She fled through the sanctuary, ignoring the stares of the preistesses, and ran out into the sunlight. She might have simply barreled onto the path, heedless of the steep slope, but someone was standing at the head of it.

The hooded woman reached out with a casual motion and grabbed Shmi's arm, pulling it forward, jerking it so that the loose sleeve of the work tunic fell back. She drew a large, heavy bracelet from her robes. Before Shmi knew what what was happening, it was securely on her arm.

"You are under the protection of the Magorhaz," she said quickly, and let go. She faded back toward the building, and before Shmi could react, Telpi had come running out, scolding and screaming. The hooded woman simply folded her hands and walked serenely inside, ignoring Telpi's agitated harangue.

Shmi looked down at the bracelet, which covered most of her forearm and was made of beaten metal. It was nothing of any great intrinsic value, but it was marked with the symbol of the daystar over the mountaintop--a symbol. The Face of the Magorhaz.

She glanced up. The daystar had sunk partway behind the horizon.

Time was short.

She flew down the mountain.

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Comments
sreya From: sreya Date: July 3rd, 2005 07:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Interesting timing for Shmi's climb up the mountain -- I was imagining it to be quite like Mt. Sinai, which I climbed last week.

So the Jedi came and picked up the son of a priestess? Very interesting! I'm half-guessing this boy was someone of importance, since I can't see you putting in a random detail like that.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 3rd, 2005 01:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
For the story, the woman herself and her choice are more important. But feel free to speculate on who her "boy-child" is. ;)
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 4th, 2005 04:25 am (UTC) (Link)
wondering if it could be Obi-Wan? or maybe Qui-Gon? hmmm...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 3rd, 2005 01:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was imagining it to be quite like Mt. Sinai, which I climbed last week.

Oh, and may I just say, "Neat"? :)
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: July 3rd, 2005 03:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Okay, finally got a chance to read through all of this. I won't leave a comment on each chapter, because that's just silly. Thoughts as I went:

It took me all the way until "for that moment Jeztiz Skywalker was Anak-in, was the face of the protector" to see the name. I like it. The whole things, really, is good. I've never read anything about Shmi before, so this is new territory for me. Great story overall.
darth_pipes From: darth_pipes Date: July 3rd, 2005 11:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very nice, Fern. Looking forward to more. :)
From: marciamarcia Date: November 7th, 2005 08:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really rather like this story. Will you be doing more of it when "Shades" is done? Or is it dead in the water?
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