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New fic: Folklore

Fandom: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Rated: PG
Category: Past Obitine. Original Characters.
Time Frame: Post-ANH (barely) intended, but open.
Spoilers: Nothing specific, but one needs to know Satine.
Word Count: 1993
Summary:  They say that no one is truly dead until they are forgotten. Good thing, then, that folklore has a funny way of keeping stories alive.

Folklore - noun - traditional customs, tales, sayings, dances, or art forms preserved among a people.

Mandalore was an advanced society. Technology was a huge part of life for people there. The guards of the royal palace were no exception. They used all the most modern weapons and liked their holos as much as the next person. Still, once or twice a year, the powers that be set up a “primitive weekend” for them. The higher-ups insisted that these were required to keep the guards in a ready state in case of power failures and the like. They had a point, and the guards knew it. So, while they complained quite a lot about them, the guards actually thought of their “primitives” as both necessary and great fun. The break from the monotony of patrolling the palace grounds day and night was welcome. They still patrolled, but they bunked in tents and ate by campfires instead of their usual routine of barracks and cafeterias.

And like all campfires since the dawn of time, theirs inspired conversation. Tonight, there was only one fire in the camp, and it bore witness to two men, just coming off shift, as they warmed their dinner and bickered.

“I’m telling you, I know what I saw,” said the younger guard, giving his comrade a glare.

“Yeah, yeah,” replied his partner, waving him off.

“I mean it! There was someone there!”

“The only people there were you and me, and I didn’t see anything!”

The guard sighed in frustration, “I told you, you had already gone around the bushes! You couldn’t see it from where you were!”

“Convenient, don’t you think?”

“I didn’t imagine it!”

“Oh, just shut up and eat,” said the second guard, thrusting a bowl into the first’s hand.

The first man took the offering and shoved a spoonful of stew into his mouth, still glaring. After swallowing hastily, he spoke again.

“It was there, Eddie,” he mumbled.

Eddie sighed. “Mac, we’ve all seen things out there. Especially at night. Let it go, man.”

“No! I know what I saw!” replied Mac, standing up to argue and pointing his spoon at Eddie.

Just then, another guard joined them.

“What’s going on here?” asked Commander Sotsky, stepping up to the fire from the darkness of the surrounding camp.

“Nothing, sir,” answered Eddie, standing to greet the Commander as Mac sloppily assumed attention.

Sotsky waved her men off. “At ease, gentleman, at ease. Sit down. But do it quiet-like. You’ll wake the whole place if you keep yammering on like that.”

“Sorry, ma’am,” said Mac, sitting back down and taking another bite of his stew.

“Won’t happen again, ma’am,” said Eddie, starting in on his own meal.

Sotsky laughed out loud at that. “Yes, it will, gentleman. I wasn’t born yesterday, and you aren’t my first recruits to have an argument late at night after coming off a long shift. It happens. But you didn’t answer my question. What’s this about?”

Eddie gave Mac a slidelong glance and then answered slowly. “It’s really nothing, ma’am. Honest.”

The commander raised an eyebrow at his answer and then turned to Mac. She didn’t say anything. Her long experience with young recruits told her she didn’t have to. Sure enough, a moment later, Mac started speaking way too quickly, like they always did.

“Well, you see, ma’am, we were out on the grounds. The far west corner. And I saw… Well, I thought I saw a… you see, there was a…”

Sotsky waited the young man out and finally, Mac got around to his point.

“I thought I saw ghost, ma’am,” he said, mumbling the last part and then hanging his head in embarrassment.

A slow smile was the only response Sotsky gave for some time.

Eddie, for his part, stayed silent, wondering if the commander was going to force Mac into a psych eval.

Mac, when he finally looked up, interpreted Sotsky’s smile as disbelief, and started stumbling over himself again.

“I know it was probably just a trick of the light, ma’am. I mean, surely it couldn’t have been…”

Sotsky interrupted to save the young man from his misery.

“You say you were in the far west corner of the grounds?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“By the tomb?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“It’s creepy over there.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Lots of shadows, with the hedges and all.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Eddie felt like he was watching a netball match, head swiveling back and forth between the other two as they had their mostly one-sided conversation.

“And you haven’t been on the night shift for long.”

“No, ma’am.”

“So you’re probably tired.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Easy to see things in situations like that.”

“I suppose, ma’am. Must have been my imagination.”

A short pause followed Mac’s words, and Eddie leaned back with his bowl, now enjoying this a little too much. After all, he’d just proposed the same thing, and Mac had denied it. Funny how the story changed when it was told to their commander.

Serves him right, thought Eddie.

But after a moment, all victorious thoughts vanished from Eddie’s head as Sotsky spoke again.

“Oh, I didn’t say that,” she said, with a teasing note to her voice.

Eddie and Mac both rounded on their commander.

“Excuse me, ma’am?” said Eddie.

A slow grin spread over Sotsky’s face. “You’re sure it was the far west corner?”

“Yeah,” said Eddie, forgetting the niceties of rank, as Mac just nodded.

“It wasn’t your imagination,” said Sotsky, eyes taking on a gleam. “It was the Jedi.”

Now it was Mac’s turn to be skeptical. “There are no more Jedi.”

“Maybe not,” admitted Sotsky, “but there were Jedi here on Mandalore years ago.”

“What does that have to do with this?” asked Eddie.

“Well,” said Sotsky, no longer a commander and now just one of the troops as she leaned over the fire and looked around to be sure no one else was listening, like she was telling a secret, “they say one of them never left.”

Both Mac and Eddie laughed nervously.

“Yeah, right,” said Eddie.

“Sure,” said Mac. “Look, Commander. Thanks for trying to make me feel better, but you can’t expect us to believe that there’s some Jedi prowling around the grounds.”

“Of course not!” said Sotsky, laughing along with her men for just a moment before speaking again.

“Well, not literally, anyway,” she said plainly.

Eddie and Mac stopped laughing and looked at Sotsky expectantly.

“What do you mean ‘not literally’?” asked Eddie.

Mac made a shushing gesture toward Eddie. “I’ve heard about this. Jedi could project themselves to other places sometimes, right?”

Sotsky snorted. “I don’t know about that. But I do know they can be ghosts, and we’ve got one right here on the grounds.”

Eddie shook his head. “No way. Ghosts aren’t real.”

“Well,” drawled Sotsky, turning her attention to Mac, “when you saw it, did you get a chill up your spine like you’ve never felt before?”

Mac nodded.

Eddie rolled his eyes, “Oh, come on! Everybody feels that way over in that garden! You said it yourself, Commander! It’s creepy over there. Especially at night.”

Sotsky ignored him and kept her gaze fixed on Mac.

“And what’d you see, exactly? A robed figure, maybe?”

Mac nodded again, and this time Eddie stayed silent.

“And you’d swear it was real ‘til your dying day, even though you know you shouldn’t?”

Mac nodded yet again, and Sotsky went on.

“And was it by the tomb?”

Mac finally found his voice. “Yeah, yeah. Like, kneeling by it, all solemn like.”

“And it was so quiet all of a sudden you could hear your own heartbeat but nothing else? Then it picked its head up, almost like it heard you, before it vanished?”

“How’d you know that?” asked Mac.

“Because I’ve seen him, too,” said Sotsky, almost reverently.

Eddie scoffed. “No way!”

Sotsky silenced any further argument from Eddie with a look. “Yeah, I have, man. Bunch of other guards, too. He’s real as you and me. You won’t convince me otherwise.”

Mac blinked. “Seriously?”

“Yeah,” said Sotsky. “You guys really haven’t heard about this from the others yet?”

Eddie and Mac both shook their heads slowly.

“Man, we must be slacking. Back in my day, everyone got this in training.”

“Got what?” asked Eddie.

Sotsky sighed. “The story, man.”

“What story?” asked Mac.

“Well, nobody exactly knows the whole story,” said Sotsky, “but I heard he was her lover.”

Eddie gaped, suddenly intrigued. “The Duchess? And a Jedi? I don’t believe it, but wouldn’t that be one for the ages if it was true? I mean, the pacifist herself with a soldier of the Old Republic? Man! I’d have liked to see that!”

He giggled like a teenager then, and Mac rolled his eyes.

“There’s no way, man! Everyone knows Jedi didn’t do that!”

“Do what?” asked Sotsky.

Mac shrugged. “You know… that,” he said. “Have, um, relationships.”

“If you believe that,” said Eddie, “I’ve got a condo on Coruscant to sell you.”

Sotsky laughed. “I’m with him,” she said. “I’ve never believed that for a minute.”

“Believed what?” asked a new voice, cutting into the conversation.

All three guards started to jump to attention, mirroring the arrival of Sotsky earlier, but they were again waved back into their seats with a gesture.

“Sit down,” said the newcomer. “Just came to warm up a bit. It’s cold out there tonight and I’m not as young as I used to be.”

“Captain Rusk,” said Sotsky. “What are you doing on patrol?”

“Eh, some recruit called in sick. Figured I’d take a shift for old time’s sake. Can’t stay locked up in the office all the time. Makes me grumpy. So, what’re we talking about?”

Eddie, never one to be shy, piped up. “Whether Jedi had relationships.”

Rusk snorted. “Well, none of you are old enough to remember, but take it from one who is. They did.”

“But I thought it was forbidden,” said Mac.

“And you do everything you’re told, do you?” asked Rusk, giving the trio a look. “Like how you’re supposed to turn in after your shift instead of hanging around out here?”

Sotsky grinned. “Point taken, sir,” she said. “We’ll head in now.”

“Go ahead if you want,” said Rusk. “But then I won’t have anyone to tell my story to.”

“What story, sir?” asked Mac.

Rusk shrugged. “Oh, just the one that explains how I happen to know that at least one Jedi didn’t exactly adhere to their silly code. Right here on Mandalore.”

He winked at his men then, and they grinned back.

“Care for some stew, sir?” asked Eddie, grinning wider.

Rusk smiled back and reached for the ladle in the pot over the fire and an unused bowl.

“Don’t mind if I do,” he said, filling the bowl and sitting on the ground with the others.

Once he was comfortable, he started to speak.

He told a tale of young, forbidden love. Of responsibilities and requirements. Of reunions and regrets. Of war and loss and how they said that on still nights, you could still see the Jedi, lurking over the tomb of the Duchess, mourning his lost love.

When he was finished, he turned in, as did his listeners.

Rusk drifted off that night with a smile on his face, content in the knowledge that he’d gotten to tell his story one more time. After all, he’d been there, and he considered it his duty to pass on what he knew. As for the others, they all fell asleep wondering how much of the story was true, but believing enough of it that they would tell it countless times more in the future, until it became legend for all of Mandalore.

Of course, half the time they told it, or when others passed it along, it was because someone swore they saw a ghost in the far west corner of the royal grounds.

In this way, Mandalore never forgot the Jedi… or Duchess Satine.

And somewhere in the Force, Obi-Wan Kenobi smiled.


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