[Beholder]

Oct. 20th, 2011 09:42 pm
ansketil: (palpatine - sith master)
[personal profile] ansketil
Title: Beholder
Disclaimer: I do not own Anakin, Palpatine, or Star Wars. Just having fun with them. Innocent fun!
Rating: G
Characters: Young!Anakin and Palpatine
Word Count: 330
Summary: Palpatine takes Anakin to a gallery. 
Author's Notes: Because Anakin needs culture. Just a little thing - a welcome back present for [livejournal.com profile] elegyforziggy. :)

The pitch maw yawned, teeth cut into vicious diamonds, chiselled with sharp glyphs. Fleshly tendrils fell away from its cheeks and its eyes were cruel crystals, amber facets glittering wickedly. It was a nasty thing, massive and meant to scare. Anakin stared up at it on its plinth. It roared silently down at him, raging against its static fury, rebelling against its ornamental pedestal and aching to bite down on the serene patrons who passed it by.

He read the plaque: 'Massassi Head: discovered in the Ziost System and at least one million, five-thousand years old, this stylised, black glazed head is believed to depict a warrior of the now-extinct Massassi race.' 

The head didn’t frighten Anakin, but he took a step back, his back hitting heavy velvet fabric, and a soft wing settled on the boy’s shoulder. “Beautiful, isn’t it? Exquisite workmanship.” came the cultured baritone behind him, as the other wing of stately robes rustled against Anakin, both of the Supreme Chancellor’s hands coming to rest on Anakin’s shoulders as the boy gazed up at the Massassi Head.

It wasn’t beautiful at all. Padmé – with her pale, luminant face and warm, dark hair – was beautiful. This was a terrifying, wild thing; a monster that snarled at the galaxy. Anakin wrinkled his nose and shook his head, but he didn’t move; he liked the smell of the Chancellor’s robes and the touches which were so rare in the Jedi Temple. He liked Chancellor Palpatine, who was nice enough to invite Anakin to the gallery – just like an adult! He wasn't confident enough to contradict the Head of the Republic, so he said nothing, both of them continuing to stare at the ancient sculpture.

Red shadows kept back the other beings. They pointed and chattered at a distance and bowed respectfully to Palpatine. Going to a gallery with the Supreme Chancellor was fun - although he felt a little guilty for everyone who had to wait behind the crimson wall of security. Every so often there would be the disconcerting flash of a camera, but Anakin didn't mind - the attention was inclusive, unlike at the Temple. 

“You disagree?” The Chancellor asked.

"It looks ugly to me, sir... sorry.” Anakin said slowly, with the splendid gravity of a ten year old.

“Perhaps it can be both. The Massassi were holy warriors who once served the ancient lords of the Horusnet and Ziost systems… this sculpture would have been placed above the gates of a city, a warning to anyone who dared think crossing under it with ill intent… a sacred guardian, a symbol of order and justice.” He let go of Anakin and stepped around him, reaching up to stroke the face of the furious, black sculpture, ignoring the politely worded ‘Please refrain from touching the art’ engraved at the base of the thick pedestal. The gallery staff were still smiling happily.

“Like the Jedi?” Anakin wouldn’t want to be a spy or a thief going under the gate.

“In a way, my boy,” Palpatine chuckled, drawing back from the Massassi head and ruffling the young padawan’s short hair, giving Anakin a small, conspiratorial smile and gliding into the next room. Anakin gave the ebony head one last curious glance before hurrying after the Supreme Chancellor. “Do you know,” Palpatine confided quietly once Anakin caught up with him, “I think I will acquire that piece – how do you think it might look over the doorway to my office... would it aid in negotiations, perhaps?”

Anakin laughed and took Palpatine's hand.
 

Date: 2011-10-20 04:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wyncatastrophe.livejournal.com
This is a quirky little fic. You've got an interesting juxtaposition going here, ostensibly in Anakin's POV but plainly not in his voice: I can't imagine Anakin describing anything so fulsomely as you do in the opening passage, certainly not at ten. It's like talking about his thoughts, rather than through them: sort of a modified third person omniscient, because while we never see anybody else's thoughts, you preserve that sense of outsiderness. It creates a feeling of distance for me, reading it.

Really love the last bit, with joking Palpatine putting Anakin at ease - it's a nice nudge toward Anakin's later dependence on him.

Date: 2011-10-20 09:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ansketil-rose.livejournal.com
Hee - thank you. I thought about writing it in Anakin's voice, but that meant I couldn't open with luscious descriptions of the archaic Massassi head - which wasn't an option, really. Not sure what the distance did to it - I didn't really think about that.

Joking!Palpatine was fun. ;D

Date: 2011-10-20 11:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wyncatastrophe.livejournal.com
You're totally making me want to reimagine this in Anakin's voice right now. Stop that! Bad Ansketil! I object. :)

Yes, the effulgent description of the head, very Palpatine-esque. It sounded vaguely French, but maybe that's just because I associate that sort of writing with Louis XIV - it's very ornamented. Hm. Must think further.

The distance broke the urge to side with Anakin, as the victimized party. Or, I mean, I think so, anyway….

Date: 2011-10-21 12:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ansketil-rose.livejournal.com
Haha, yay! Anakin!voice!

I'm usually quite sensitive to voices, like with my Harry Potter story where the two characters have very different thought styles and vocabulary, but sometimes I just have to splurge and write in my own style, which is a bit baroque, I have to admit, because I just can't bear not to lay description on thick. Associated with Palpatine and Louis XIV, you say? WIN! Mmmm, Louis XIV has the best palaces and heels...

Hmmm... that's an interesting result of the voice.

Date: 2011-10-21 12:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wyncatastrophe.livejournal.com
No Anakin!voice! You already had cookies!

You remind me of both, dear. :) And, yes, "baroque" is the word I would use. I shied away from it in the comment because I have recently heard it used as a negative distinction, which I didn't intend.

Isn't it? I be fascinated.

Date: 2011-10-21 12:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ansketil-rose.livejournal.com
Thank you for the cookies, btw! Their virtual goodness was very tasty! ;)

I've always been more of a fan of Louis XV, aesthetically speaking. But I have nothing but admiration for Louis XIV's style. Few men have legs that impressive.

I've heard it used that way too, but everyone's tastes are different. I've always been a fan of rich prose, provided it's serviceable as well.

I think it's that "sophisticated" distance Palpatine was thinking about in your story. It turns everyone into ironic specimens under the microscope. God, I need me some de Laclos now...

Date: 2011-10-20 09:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] veronicaprof.livejournal.com
I liked this very much -- I always enjoy stories that explore Palpatine's "hiding in plain sight," and this one is very charming. :)

Date: 2011-10-20 09:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ansketil-rose.livejournal.com
It was fun - I like that theme too; it's fun to play around with - thank you. ;)

Date: 2011-10-20 11:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lumy12.livejournal.com
Delicious little morsel!
Welcome back Ziggy?

Date: 2011-10-20 11:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ansketil-rose.livejournal.com
Maybe, she told me she was nosing around again with a new journal. They seek her here, they seek her there... She is a mystery wrapped in an enigma, is our Ziggy. :)

Thank you!

Date: 2011-10-20 11:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lumy12.livejournal.com
Yay I hope she decides she can't bear to be away from LJ!

Date: 2011-10-21 07:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elegyforziggy.livejournal.com
A prezzie for me! How delightful! And you do know how much I love this period of Anakin's life, and Palpatine's as well.

That said, I was torn by this piece as I read it. I was wondering at Anakin's response to the head, wondering whether his notion of beauty was essentially unsophisticated, or perhaps the clear perceptions of a child have much to offer.

The head sounds vividly impressive, intimidating, and I am reminded of my mother's African mask collection, which used to terrify me near to death as a child. I would run past certain fanged and snarling masks and refuse to look at them, while my mother thought them beautiful.

I'm not certain precisely what I'm trying to articulate here--perhaps only that you've done a a wonderful job with this portrait of childhood, its simplicity and honesty (perhaps best embodied here with this wonderful line: "It looks ugly to me, sir... sorry.” Anakin said slowly, with the splendid gravity of a ten year old.), in contrast to the complicated sophistication of adulthood. Which is the better, I do not know...

Date: 2011-10-21 08:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ansketil-rose.livejournal.com
I'm so happy you like it! I wrote it thinking of your story The Honour and the Glory. That sense of introduction to the future through narrative and objects.

There's that question, isn't there? Whether it's better to see the beauty of the sculpture, or be repulsed, responding to the intentions of the sculptor to scare and terrify.

Oh, gosh, those African masks sound very scary. Were they warrior masks? I find this with a lot of Maori art - people say it's culturally insensitive to say it's ugly, but the truth is that a lot of it was made to frighten enemy tribes! This piece was inspired by my trip to the renovated Auckland Art Gallery - where I also found interesting 3D versions of the art in your icon, oddly enough, amongst other curiosities.

Date: 2011-10-22 07:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elegyforziggy.livejournal.com
I think it's entirely legitimate to see beauty in terrible things, and certainly this is something that happens more frequently as one ages, and yet with that also comes to temptation to deny the terror and only see the beauty. It is children who more often recognise the true nature of such things as the Maori and African art (which I have no doubt were warrior masks that could very easily reduce their enemies to piddling little bits without so much as the shake of a spear!).

I'm so pleased that you took some inspiration from my little story. I often think of it as a bit overly precious and artificial, but I'm still rather fond of it.

Speaking of the Auckland art museum, I recently developed some photos at work from someone who had holidayed in New Zealand and taken photos of the most recently signs and posters for the museum. It was rather disconcerting to see that and know that you had probably been there more than once!

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Date: 2011-10-22 01:56 am (UTC)
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