Thursday, January 5, 2017

Upcoming Stories and Story Ideas

This is a list of stories I'm working on, hope to work on soon, and am developing ideas for. Keep in mind that this list can and will change depending on what I'm interested in at any given time and what else is going on in my life.

Currently Working On:

Star Wars Original Trilogy

Fairy Tales

Cinderella - Han Solo is the indentured servant and errand boy for Jabba the Hutt, a wicked troll who runs illegal businesses along with his legal ones in the Kingdom of Naboo. Han's trying to make enough money with runs on his old horse Falcon to eventually buy his freedom. While on a run one day, he, Falcon, and his beloved dog Chewbacca rescue an old man and his twin niece and nephew from bandits. Shortly after, a ball to find a husband for the Princess Leia is announced. Han wouldn't mind going, but Jabba won't allow it, especially after he lost that shipment. But then, the old man he rescued tells Han he'll repay the favor...

Novel/Novella-Length Stories

Tales of the Gold Wookie (Alternative Universe 1930's Adventure) - It's 1939. Layla and Luke Skylark are fresh out of the University of Arizona and ready to change the world. She's an archaeologist; he's a reporter. While Luke is content to be an intern for world-weary veteran crime reporter Benton Kennally, Layla is far more ambitious. She wants to find lost treasures for her idol, museum owner Marta Mothma. Her current obsession is rescuing the (reportedly magical) lost royal jewels of the Kingdom of Alderaan from nasty General Tarkin and the Empire.

Luke convinces her to hire Harry Solomon, a pilot with a dilapidated plane who runs his own charter service, to take them to where the treasures were last seen. Layla's not happy with the idea at first. Harry is rude, arrogant, and only cares about getting his share of the treasure. Not to mention, some of his former bosses make Tarkin look like a kitten. Tarkin has his own formidable underling, the corrupt industrialist Derek Vader. After Kennally gets into trouble with Vader, Luke insists on bringing along venerable old Asian archaeology professor Takamashi Yoda as their guide.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Sequel Trilogy)

The Resistance Kids Go Camping (Alternative Universe 1940's Comedy) - Leia takes the female Resistance Kids on a trip to her family's cabin in the Adirondack Mountains for some much-needed rest and relaxation. Things take a spooky turn when the girls' campfire urban legend may be more than a little true...

Coming Up Next:

Star Wars Original Trilogy

Swashbuckler (Alternative Universe 1870's Action/Adventure) - It's 1877 in the (fictional) European country Naboo. Having fled the invasion of her native Alderaan, the next country over, Leia Organa is currently living with Mon Mothma, a wealthy older woman who also runs a secret revolutionary society. Leia spies for her guardian, keeping tabs on the evil Prime Minister Palpatine and his right hand, Vader. While posing as a socialite in glittering Coruscant, she encounters the mysterious Han Solo and his ward Luke Skywalker. According to the rumors, Han had once been a naval officer, then a pirate...before a bullet in the leg ended his career at sea. He took Luke in as an aide and caretaker after the boy's aunt and uncle died. He refuses to get involved with the country's troubles, claiming they're none of his business or his ward's, no matter how much Leia argues with him over it.

Leia isn't the only one hiding her identity. Nor is Mon Mothma's revolutionary society the only group fighting for the rights of the citizens of Naboo. The Crimson Hawk and his men are legendary figures in the country. They act as local Robin Hoods, robbing from rich nobles and rescuing poor farmers who were unjustly imprisoned. Leia admires this bold desperado, even as she disagrees with his methods. Han scoffs at his antics; Luke admires them.

As she increasingly comes in contact with the Crimson Hawk and his sidekick, the Golden Eagle, she starts to understand why they're continuing this charade...and what Palpatine is really after. 

80's Summer Story (Alternative Universe 1980's Comedy/Action) - Leia and Luke Walker are just out of high school and are celebrating their last two months of freedom before she goes to college for political science and he joins the Coast Guard. Uncle Ben, a local beach bum, owns a series of dilapidated cottages on the beach at the edge of town. He'll let them rent a cottage and keep an eye on them, and they'll run chores and help him with the cottages' upkeep. 

Things go south very quickly when Leia discovers that a nasty corporation wants to buy the cottages, tear them down, force out the permanent residents, and build an elaborate hotel and mall in their place. The Imperial Gang, a motorcycle group, has been threatening the residents and Uncle Ben for months. She and Luke rally the residents, including shady fisherman Hank Solokowski, his British buddy Charlie Bachman, Luke's Coast Guard friend Walter "Wedge" Antilles, and foreign nerds Chip and Arturro, to help fight back.

Remember WENN

Once Upon a Time In the Land of WENN (Alternative Universe Fantasy/Fairy Tale) - Even when Elizabeth and the others leave Port Harbor, looking for the Emerald Talisman, trouble follows. Lady Gloria Redmond has no desire to even discuss the magic that caused her so much grief. There's also the evil candy witch Pavla Nemcova, who has both Jeff Singer and Sir Victor Comstock in her grasp, to contend with.

In Development: 

Star Wars Original Trilogy

Original Snow Queen-Inspired Action/Fantasy - Set in the three years between New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, and my first story set within the regular Star Wars universe. Han, Chewie, Leia, and Luke are on a diplomatic mission to buy supplies from a snow planet that's remained neutral in the battle between the Empire and Rebellion. Leia's hoping to sway them to the Alliance's side. Unlike Hoth, this planet is inhabited, mainly by criminals and nasty goblins. It's queen is a shrewd magician with her own ice-based powers. The goblins, determined to make mischief, get slivers of a Force-sensitive crystal in Luke's eyes and heart. It turns him into the opposite of his usual self...making him cold and distant to his two best friends. Leia, Han, and Chewie have to dodge the planet's shadier citizens and a summer witch with her own plans in order to free Luke from the goblins' spell and find out just what the Snow Queen is up to.

Dark Medieval Fantasy (Han/Leia based fantasy) - Inspired by this Tumblr post. Leia is in search of her missing brother Luke, who was in training to be a wizard before their parents were killed and he was kidnapped. He's not the only one who has disappeared. The queen is dying. Her greedy, power-hungry adviser Palapatine is taking over the throne. The queen once had a son, Prince Hannel, but he vanished and is presumed dead. It's rumored that Palapatine is really a dark sorcerer who worked some terrible enchantment on the missing prince.

Leia finds a man imprisoned in a dungeon in a remote corner of the kingdom. The bedraggled man with the auburn hair had once worn fine robes, but now has no idea who he is. All Leia knows is he's insufferably stubborn, an excellent shot with a bow and arrow, and is always accompanied by an enormous Wookie wolf. The two are eventually joined by an eccentric old wizard and a mysterious unicorn with sad blue eyes as they try to find out who the silent man is and avenge Leia's family. 

Superhero Story (Alternative Universe 1970's Superhero/Action Fantasy) - Leah O'Malley is an intern in corrupt Coruscant City by day in 1977. By night, she's Force Girl, a superheroine who is a member of the Rebel League, a society of superheroes and vigilantes who fight the regime of the evil Mayor Palapatine and the devious Chief of Police/super villain Derek Veder. Lucas Weston is a geeky college kid and major comics fan who discovers that the owner of a local book store/comics shop was once The Negotiator, a great World War II/Golden Era superhero...and that Lucas is the inheritor of a superheroic dynasty. Lucas seeks help from Harris Arietta, a carpenter and handyman whose dog Chewbacca always rides with him and acts as a Team Pet.

Fairy Tales

Beauty and the Beast

Remember WENN 

Captain Victor, Man of Power (Alternative Universe Superhero/Action) - Set directly after the first season episode "There But Before Grace." Tired of dealing with (and being run all over by) sponsors and confused about his feelings for Betty and Grace Cavendish, Victor Comstock imagines himself as one of those new superheroes that have become popular with the kids, Jeff as his sidekick, Betty as the new girl reporter on the block, C.J as a scientist, Ceila as the daughter of a missing scientist and Victor's other sidekick, Hilary as a snooty actress-turned-society-reporter, Mackie as their boss, and Grace as a Dragon Lady-type villaness.

The Best Radio Christmas Pageant Ever - A kind of "missing scene" story set during the early first season. Victor wants to present the story of the Nativity on the airwaves, but the kids starring in the show are unruly, Hilary wants a bigger role, the sponsor is turning the show into a commercial, and Ceila will have nothing to do with it. And there's reports of a major snowstorm heading for Pittsburgh...

On the Edge of the Precipice Series

The Fox and the Falcon - Betty finds herself head over heels involved in espionage when the true leader of the spy ring becomes known...and Victor Comstock returns with startling news...

Remember WENN Fairy Tale Series

Hilary's Story: Beauty and the Beast - Wrap-around segments set day after fourth-season episode "You've Met Your Match." Story based around third and fourth season. Angry at Scott and Jeff for their behavior the night before and in the past few months in general, Betty and Hilary concoct the story of two sisters who discover that the beastly owner and manager of a dilapidated theater may not be what they appear on the outside...or even inside...

Mr. Eldridge and Gertie's Story: The Man Who Minded the House - Set after and based around the fourth season episode "Work Shift." Mr. Eldridge recalls the story of how a man and a woman (him and Gertie) learn that the grass isn't always greener in someone else's work area when he takes over her household duties and she works in the fields.

Story Ideas: 

Star Wars Prequel Trilogy

The Road to Coruscant (Mid 20th Century Alternative Universe) - Ben Kenobi and Anakin Walker are singers taking their vaudeville act on the road. Anakin is forever coming up with moneymaking schemes that get them into a few little problems with the law, to the annoyance of Martin Windu, their long-suffering manager. They have no problems romancing the ladies, either...until they encounter beautiful, elegant dancer Patricia Amidala. Patricia, a genuine noblewoman, is in a heap of trouble with the nasty Count Dooku and Lord Palpatine. Anakin says it's up to them to get her out of it. Ben...wishes they could just go home to Los Angeles, but Anakin is his best friend, so he does it anyway.

Fairy Tales

Swan Lake

Star Wars Original Trilogy

Han Solo, Galactic Private Eye (Alternative Universe) - Han is a laid-back private eye in his dilapidated ship, with his wookie partner Chewbacca by his side. Old Ben Kenobi, who sometimes gives him work, finds him a doozy - help his friend Luke Skywalker find Leia Organa, the daughter of a prince, who was carrying some very vital information to Alderaan when she was kidnapped by a nasty war lord. (Haven't decided if this one is going to stay in the Star Wars universe, or be moved elsewhere.)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Sequel Trilogy)

The Wizard of Oz (Alternative Universe Fantasy-Wizard of Oz-inspired) - Rachel "Rey" Gale lives with her Aunt Leah and Uncle Harry and their two farmhands on a farm outside of Jakkuson, Kansas in 1939. She feels like her life is as gray as the world around her, especially after the nasty man who runs the First Order Manor near-by threatens to take her beloved Westie Terrier BeeBee to the pound and her grouchy cousin demands his share of the farm. A tornado whisks Rey and BeeBee over the rainbow and into the land of Oz. Oz is under the tyrannical rule of the Warlock of the West and his apprentice. Queen Leia was imprisoned in her own magic bubble and banished to the lands of the South, where she amasses an army to stop him. She once ruled with her husband and her wizard brother, but her husband vanished after he was attacked by her son, and her brother is hiding in the Emerald City. Rey has to go to the Emerald City to find the Wizard Skywalker, with the help of a cowardly lion-soldier, a scarecrow who had once worked for the queen, and the Tin Smuggler, who seems to know a lot more about the queen and the Warlock of the West and his apprentice than he'll let on...

Fairy Tales

Little Red Riding Hood

The Frog Prince

Remember WENN

Maltese Falcon Film Noir Spoof II (Alternative Universe Film Noir/Mystery) - Wrap-around set during the late third or early fourth seasons. Hilary and Scott give two different sides of the tale of a dame who may or may not have gotten a private eye involved with smuggling and murder.

Ceila Short Story - Missing scene set during the first season episode "A Capitol Idea." Ceila says good-bye to the station after she's hired by the guy who wanted her to promote Blondie cartoons.

Fairy Tale Series

Jeff's Story - Aladdin and His Magic Lamp
C.J's Story - Jack and the Beanstalk
Victor's Story - King Arthur
Ceila's Story - Goldielocks and the Three Bears
Mackie's Story
Eugenia and Mr. Foley's Story

Original Children's Short Stories

Stories based after childhood memories, including:

Painting someone else's fence.
Little kids running through other people's yards when Mom and Dad aren't looking.
Beach frolics - walking home from the beach.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Sun Is Gone - A Star Wars Short Story

The Sun Is Gone
Rating: PG-13 (discussions of death and grief)
Pairings: Han/Leia discussed
Disclaimer: The franchise belongs to George Lucas and the Walt Disney Company.

My first response to Carrie Fisher's death was a fable inspired by her life, “The Bear Who Told Stories.” I didn't think I could do a story about Leia dying in the “Star Wars” universe...until I remembered I'd been meaning to do a follow-up to “The Stories We Leave Behind.”

Incidentally, how Rey finds out about Leia's heart attack is based after how I found out about Carrie Fisher's death. I had just posted “Leia and the Old Woman In the Woods” at Archive of Our Own. I switched to checking Culturevulture83's Tumblr blog for good photos of the trio for Original Trilogy fairy tale inspiration. The second post on the blog was the headline “Carrie Fisher Dead at 60.” My stomach dropped into my toes, and I'm pretty sure I screamed something.

This is set about two months after “The Stories We Leave Behind.” Title from “The Sun Is Gone” by Trading Yesterday.

This is dedicated to our lost princess. Somewhere in the universe, I hope she finally knows just how beloved she was.

Rey was on the holo-net when it hit her. One minute, she was posting a story she'd found about Han at their memorial holo-site for him. The next, she was on her knees on the floor, clutching her chest. She'd never felt a burning sensation like this. She wondered if her chest was going to burst. For a moment, she couldn't breathe. Shockwaves reverberated through the Force. Something, she knew, was terribly wrong.

She managed to climb back into her seat. She'd switched to a holo-blog she liked right before it hit her. She didn't know Han, Luke, and Leia had so many fans from their Rebellion days. This blog had good, large photos of the trio she often used for reference when adding stories to the Han Solo Memorial Site. They were always so happy together, laughing and smiling and joking. There were no pictures there now. The newest headline on the site made her blood run cold and her stomach drop into her toes.

General Leia Organa-Solo in critical condition after massive heart attack.

Rey!” Luke dashed into her room, clutching his stomach. His face was white as a sheet, and his lips were set in in a thin, grim line. “We have to get to D'Qar. Now!”

But the Falcon's not ready.” Rey didn't like the shocked horror in her master's blue eyes. “I still need to make a few adjustments...”
I have to get to Leia! She's my sister!” he nearly shouted. “MAKE IT WORK!”

She'd never pushed the Falcon so hard. The old freighter probably hadn't flown so fast since Han did the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs. She was pretty sure they broke his record – along with at least six major galactic flying laws – getting to D'Qar. Luke spent the entire trip pacing up and down in the Falcon's main room. Chewie's determined brown eyes were reflected in her own. They would get Luke to his sister. She was all he had, was Chewie's last link to Han, and had been like a mother to Rey in the few months she'd known her.

Luke ran right into Leia's room in the medical ward the moment they arrived. Dr. Kalonia directed Rey and Chewie out to the rather full waiting room. Finn had one arm around Poe, who was muttering prayers in his native Yavinian. BB-8 beeped sadly by his side. Pamich and Kaydel clutched each other for dear life. Jess was playing with a tool from her belt, trying to look anywhere but at the door to the medical ward. Snap sat in one of the nerf-wool chairs, a holo-zine open on his lap. Rey noticed it was upside-down. C-3PO hovered mournfully in the back of the room. Even the black bulldog who was the Resistance's mascot lay by the door, whimpering and waiting for his favorite human on the whole planet to stroll out.

What happened?” Rey asked. “I saw an article on the net...”

It was routine,” gulped Pamich, her dark eyes bright with tears. “It was just supposed to be routine.”

We were flying back from a tour of several planets that just joined the Resistance,” Jessika explained in a soft monotone. “It was all pretty normal...until we started to land, and Poe and I got word that someone in the back was having a heart attack.”

I never thought it was the General,” Poe whispered. “I'd never believed it. This can't be happening. She's too strong. Too vital. She can't leave us now! We need her!” He let out a sob. “If someone had helped her sooner...if we'd done something quicker...if we'd landed faster...”

Finn rubbed his back. “You did what you could. She's a tough lady. She survived the death of her husband at her son's hand. She can survive this.”

Not 'maybe.'” Snap finally looked up, his eyes rimmed with tears. “She wouldn't leave us. She knows she has too much to do. She knows how much she's needed. The Resistance needs her. We need her.”

Chewbacca frowned and let out a growl. Threepio managed an electronic sigh. “I don't know. I'm inclined to agree with Chewbacca, for once. General Leia hasn't been the same since Captain Solo died. It's like the life went out of her.”

Jess nodded. “She's been on auto-pilot for a while now. I don't think she's slept in months. She's been working non-stop, especially after Admiral Ackbar died. She took his work and hers, too. Statura's been trying to get her to slow down, but she says she needs to keep busy.”

Kaydel held her friend's arm harder. “She can't leave us,” she wailed. “She can't! She's the General! She practically raised me!”

Me too,” Poe added softly. “She's my hero.”

The moment Dr. Kalonia stepped out of the room, the entire group swarmed around her. She waved them away. “I'm sorry, but I don't have good news or bad news. She's still in critical condition. Master Skywalker is in there now. We're bringing a cot in, so he can sleep there.”
Can we all sleep here?” Poe asked.

Dr. Kalonia shook her head. “There isn't enough room. We'll let all of you know if there's any change, good or bad, all right?”

It was Rey's suggestion that they all sleep in the Millennium Falcon. “That way, we'll all be in the same place when news comes, and we'll all have each other's backs if something happens.”

We'll keep on doing our jobs, too,” Finn added. “We still have a Resistance to run. She'd want it that way.”

Kaydel leaned over and stroked the bulldog's back. He nudged her palm, licking her fingers. “I'll take care of Gary here, feed him and walk him. He likes me. I used to walk him around the hangers with the General, and we even taught him some tricks.” She smiled and pulled a treat out of her pocket. Gary stood on his hind legs, dancing before he gobbled his treat.

Rey was glad for the company in the next few days. She and Chewbacca worked on the Falcon, trying to get that blasted hyperdrive working after they pushed it so hard getting to D'Qar. Finn trained as hard as he could with the other pilots, including Poe, Jess, and Snap. Kaydel and Pamich continued taking signals in the main room. BB-8 rolled between groups, with Threepio trailing behind him, comforting whomever needed it.

Luke never left Leia's room. Dr. Kalonia brought him all his meals. He slept on a cot next to her bed, when he slept at all. Kaydel said she overheard the doctor telling him twice to get some rest, but he refused. “I abandoned her once before,” he croaked. “I'm not doing it again.”

Every few hours, someone would go to Dr. Kalonia and ask how Leia was doing. “No news,” she said, shaking her head. “All I can tell you is she's still in critical condition.”

Five days after their arrival, Rey woke up early in the morning to do her training. She'd found a lovely little pool in the center of a grove of trees hung with dripping moss that was within walking distance of the base. There still had been no change in Leia's condition. Someone would say she was stable...and then someone else would say she wasn't. She'd seen Luke twice. Both times, he looked haunted and bleary-eyed.

She'd just begun to stretch when she felt it. She gasped, dropping to her knees. The General. Her presence in the Force, up until just then, had been faint, but still there. And now...and wasn't. She was gone. Her light had faded, then vanished all together. She was one with the Force now. One with Han, wherever he was.

Rey ran at a dead heat as fast as her legs could carry her back towards the medical ward. She nearly ran head-long into Snap and Jess, coming from the barracks. “She...they...I felt it...”

Jess saw the horrified, serious look on the young woman's face. “Rey, what is it? What did you feel?”

The General,” she managed to gasp. “She's gone. She's dead. I felt her light go out.”

What?” Jess' eyes widened. “But I thought Dr. Kalonia said she was stabilizing yesterday!”

That can't be true!” Snap added. “Maybe the Force told you something wrong?”

No, I know what I felt!” Rey was already half-way across the hanger. “Jess, could you go get Chewbacca and the others? Anyone who didn't already hear.”

She and Snap made it to the waiting room at the medical ward just in time to hear Poe's anguished screams and hear a little dog's howl of loss and pain. “No!” Poe screamed. “No, that isn't true! That's impossible! You told us yesterday she was stabilizing! It isn't true! It can't be!”

Dr. Kalonia was biting her lip to keep from crying herself. “I'm sorry, Commander Dameron, but it's true. She died early this morning, at first light.”

Poe, Finn, C-3PO, BB-8, and Kaydel were already there. Finn had his arms around Poe, holding his friend as tight as he could. Poe sobbed into his best friend's shoulder, his screams now in garbled Yavinian. Kaydel's small body was wracked with sobs, her face in her hands. She still held Gary's leash between her fingers. Gary continued to howl mournfully by her side. BB-8 leaned sadly against Poe's legs, letting out a sad little beep.

Luke stumbled out of the chamber. He was squinting, like a man who hadn't seen the sun for days. His eyes were red-rimmed, and there were tracks of countless tears running down his thin cheeks. He reminded her of how she felt after Han Solo died. She hadn't known Han for nearly as long as Luke had, but he'd become a friend and mentor to her. They'd both cried together for weeks over their friend.

She remembered how the General greeted her when she first arrived at D'Qar with Chewie and Finn. She hadn't even known her. Rey only knew about the General through stories she'd heard from traders in Jakku. She was a legend, they said. A fighter. A Hutt-Slayer. The last princess of a planet that no longer existed. And she just hugged her. They hugged for a long time. They hugged for a man who had meant so much to both of them. They hugged because they needed someone right then.

The former scavenger put out her arms and wrapped them around her master. She said nothing. Nothing needed to be said. The only sounds were Poe's screams and anguished sobbing from around the room.


They gave Leia a Jedi's funeral two weeks later. Her ashes were buried alongside Han's at Mey's Wood, on the planet of Atlantica “She would have wanted it that way,” Luke said quietly. Some protested that Leia wasn't a Jedi, had never trained to be one. “She's strong with the Force...and she's there now.” The aging master stood his ground. “That's more than enough.”

Rey's eyes trailed along the ragged row of heartbroken Resistance members. Poe and all the members of Black Squadron held up their blasters in a military salute for a fallen General. Poe kept having to lower his blaster to wipe his eyes. Finn stood off to one corner, trying hard not to sob. BB-8 beeped quietly next to him. The First Order had taught him not to show emotion...but they'd never had a General who was as beloved as Leia Organa-Solo. Kaydel held Gary in her arms, tears streaming down her delicate pink cheeks. Pamich had her arms around both of them. She could have sworn even the dog had tears in his eyes. Chewbacca howled behind her, both of the humans he loved best now gone from the galaxy. C-3PO said prayers in several languages, including Alderannian.

As Rey looked up, she swore she saw a figure swathed in black on the fringes of the group. Her eyes widened as his hood dropped. Kylo Ren...Ben Solo...gazed out at the funeral pyre. He clutched his lightsaber in one hand. His face was impassive, but his eyes were almost the same color as his sword, and his cheeks showed the tracks of many, many tears. The scar stood out, bright and angry, on his stark white face. When she tried to move closer to see if it was him, the black robes had disappeared into the crowd.

Later, at least three or four people reported hearing what sounded like a lightsaber tearing apart bushes and small trees and anguished, angry screams deep within the marshes of Mey's Wood. Others said it was merely the wind, howling with loss and pain.

Luke,” she sobbed after it was over, “why did this happen? Why? Why the General? Why now? We need her! The Force doesn't need her, damn it! We do! This isn't happening! Why? Why?!” With each “Why,” she pounded on his chest...until she dissolved in a flood of tears, leaning into his coarse black robe. “Why? Why did the Force take her away? Why?”

Hot, wet drops fell on her head, soaking her hair. “I don't know,” Luke choked out. “I can't pretend to know everything about the Force. I don't understand why it took her, either. She was my sister, Rey. She was the only family I had left. For Poe and Kaydel, she was the only mother they had. She was Chewie's last link with Han. I guess, with all the stress over Han's death and Ben's defection and the losses at Starkiller, it was too much for her heart to bear.”

Rey sniffled. “I didn't think it was possible to die of a broken heart. That's something you hear about in bad holo-dramas.”

Her master nodded. “It is possible. I was told that's how my mother, Padme Amidala, died. She loved Father so much, even after he nearly killed her. The stress of her loss and having twins was too much for her.”

She wiped her eyes with the back of her wrist. Luke handed her a handkerchief made from rough linen. “Thank you, Master.” She dabbed at her eyes with it. “Can we...when we get back to the base, can we tell stories about her? Like we've been doing with Han? It's been such a help with his death.” She twisted the bit of fabric in her hand. “I know it won't bring them back. Nothing will. But it might make us feel better. Especially Poe and Kaydel.”

Luke smiled a little bit for the first time in weeks. “I like that, Rey. We'll tell stories about both of them, and we'll add them to the Memorial Blog. The Han Solo Memorial Holo-Blog is now the Han and Leia Organa-Solo Memorial Holo-Blog.”

Do you think they're together now?” Rey asked as they walked back towards the others. “He regretted leaving her for so long. I got that much from his head before he died. I know he wasn't strong in the Force, but...”

Her master put his arm gently around her. “I know Han. If Leia's there, he won't care about a little thing like not being Force-sensitive stop him from seeing her.” Luke smiled. “I'll bet they're there now, arguing over who gets to be a Force-spirit first and who gets first crack at belting my father in the nose.”

Rey couldn't help her laugh. “I'll bet they both do it at once!”

The two both laughed at that, walking arm in arm as they returned to the circle of their friends, and something like family.

The End

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Bear Who Told Stories - An Original Fable

The Bear Who Told Stories
Rating: G

I wanted to do something to honor Carrie Fisher, a fellow writer, after her death, and then Debbie Reynolds, too. I've seen many fanfics about Princess Leia dying, and while they've all been heartfelt and wonderful, I just...can't bring myself to do that yet. I considered doing her death in the Resistance Kids universe, even got as far as writing story notes for it, but I want that to be a lighthearted comedy series. This was just too sad, too...real. I may eventually do it as a Rey/Luke short ala The Stories We Leave Behind, but right now, it hurts too much.

But thinking about Fisher's relationship with her family, her friends, with Harrison Ford, and her love of writing and telling stories I can certainly relate to, lead me to create this fable. I've written many a fairy tale, but I've never tried a fable before...but I love bears as much as I do writing, Star Wars, and musicals.

So...ladies, wherever you are, this is for you. I'll be the one searching the sky for the falcon and the two brightest stars.

Once upon a time, in the wilds of the western mountains, a brown bear cub was born. She was no ordinary cub. Her parents had once been circus bears, but when the circus shut down, they'd fled into the wilderness together to raise a family. The mama bear danced, and the papa bear sang. When the cub became old enough, they taught her these things. She loved doing them, but she felt she'd never be as good as her parents.

When will I find something that's special for me?” she asked her mama one night, when they were looking out at the stars.

Someday, my cub,” her mother assured her. “You're still young. You have all the time in the world.”

As the cub grew up, she learned all the things little bears needed to know to survive...including dealing with siblings, for her parents had a second cub, a boy, the next year. She learned to how to find food, how to fight off interlopers, how to avoid hunters and their guns, and how to tumble and play with her brother.

Nothing gave her more joy than hearing stories. Every animal she met in the wildlife park where she grew up had a story to tell. Her parents told her about their lives in the circus, about the long hours they'd have to work to train, but also about applause and the lights and the color and glitter. Owls spoke of flying at night and just managing to snatch a mouse before it reached its hole. Deer told her about the forests they'd migrated to and about their narrow escapes from guns and forest fires. Rabbits revealed how they found sweet clover in the summer and hid among the snow in the winter.

She loved hearing stories, but she wondered when she'd have a story of her own. “You'll need to go out into the wide world and find it,” her mother finally told her. She was old enough to be on her own now, no longer needing her mother's protection. Her father had left years ago; her brother was almost ready to leave.

And so, the bear left home. She headed towards the mountain, where she first encountered a very handsome mountain lion with a very fluffy coat. He was proud of that coat, too proud for her liking. She got tired of his ego and left, his praise of himself ringing in her ears.

Surely,” she said to herself, “I can find better stories than that!”

As she headed back down the mountain, she realized how clear the stars looked from here. The sky was filled with nothing but stars. “What are stars, Mama?” she'd once asked the dancing bear, many years before. “Why are they in the sky? Why don't they come down to see us?”

Stars,” her mother explained, “are the spirits of animals after we've passed on. Every star is a little different, just like every animal is a little different. Some shine brightly, while others would rather twinkle quietly in a corner of twilight. They comfort those of us who are still walking on the land.”

I want to shine brightly when I pass on,” said the bear. “I want to shine so brightly, I'll be the first thing people see when they look up in the sky.” She turned to her mother. “And you'll shine brightly, too. Everyone should see us!”

I hope so, dear.” She nuzzled her daughter. “I hope so.”

The bear thought of this conversation as she looked at the stars. She wondered what stories the star spirits had to tell. She wished she could read every twinkle and winkle. “I wish I knew what my story was,” she said. “I wish I had a story to tell the stars.”

I have a story about stars.” The bear was startled. She turned around to find herself face-to-face with a buffalo, a young fellow with a great shaggy beard and round, thoughtful brown eyes. “I have a story, but I need help telling it. I heard you're good at telling stories. Would you help me?”

I'll try,” said the bear. “I don't know if I'll be any good, but I'll try.”

The buffalo lead her down the mountain, to a clearing in a forest in the valley. She was surprised to see other animals there, all chattering and hoping. She'd never seen so many kinds of animals! A lean yellow warbler and a fat little blue bird were just starting to awaken to the dawn. The largest, shaggiest moose the bear had ever seen grazed at the edge of the clearing. A lone brown prairie falcon soared overhead.

Two deer were the last creatures to arrive, just as the first rays of the sun began to filter through the tree tops. The smaller deer with the sandy fur was obviously the younger of the two. His antlers were two little stumps, and he frisked and laughed and leaped over logs. His companion was much older. He had wide, proud antlers, a slow, dignified gait, and a soft fawn-brown nose raised high into the air.

This is ridiculous,” the elder deer scoffed. “Stories about stars! What kind of stories can you tell about stars?”

I like stars!They're so pretty in the night sky.” The deer leaped around his friend. “I'll bet you can tell lots of stories!”

The buffalo told them his stories. He told them there were many spirits in the stars, and they all had tales to tell. There were the tales of his ancestors, the great buffalo who had roamed the plains and protected the animals, until the humans and their noise sticks wiped them out. He mentioned a female bear chief who had been the strongest, bravest warrior ever in the west. She was so brave, she had rescued her grizzly mate from a whole pack of poachers, even managing to kill the head of them with one blow. He spoke of the deer whose father, an aggressive old buck all the other horned animals feared, died saving him from the nasty mountain lion who roamed the cliffs.

Your ideas are wonderful,” the bear began, “but your words aren't. They're awkward and don't fit the characters.”

Yeah,” added the falcon in his long drawl. “Nobody uses all that high falutin' talk you have them sayin'.”

The buffalo nodded. “I know, Falcon. You've told stories for me before. Will you help me tell them again?” He turned to the others. “Will you all help me? Help me tell my stories. I want every animal in the western mountains to hear these tales!”

One by one, they all agreed, even the skeptical old buck. The deer leaped up in delight. “Hurrah! I'll be telling stories!” He jumped...and tripped over a root in his path. His long, slender legs went sprawling.

The falcon pulled him back up with his talons. “You all right, kid?”

I'm always all right!” He laughed again. “Thank you, Mr. Falcon!”

Just Falcon, kid,” he said gruffly. He took off after that, soaring towards a nest on a cliff on the edge of the forest.

He's so beautiful,” the bear said in awe. “I've never seen a bird like him.”

Oh, he's been around.” The deer frolicked alongside her. “He builds nests for other birds, when he's not telling stories. He's good at it. He made a nice nest for his mate and fledglings.” The deer stuck his nose into the nearest tree. “I always wondered how birds could live in trees and on cliffs. Don't they fall out? Give me some nice soft moss anytime.”

As the animals began to help the buffalo with his stories, the bear fell in love with the idea of telling tales. She knew what words to say and which ones worked in the story, could find a better word when the original didn't sound right, and wasn't afraid to tell the others when the parts of the story didn't fit together. Sometimes the animals called her bossy or rude, but they mostly praised her contributions, saying they made the story even better.

The falcon was almost as good of a storyteller as she was. He too knew which words worked and which didn't, and would figure out how to make them sound right for the character. The bear had never known anyone like him. He wasn't a talker, like the always-chattering deer and songbirds. It was rare he spoke at all, but when he did, he had a marvelous, gravely squawk that made the others sit up and notice. He was so handsome and smart, the bear thought he could have been in the circus, doing tricks like her parents did.

She had wanted to get to know him better, but he mostly kept to himself...until one day about a month after they started making stories. She was out walking in the woods when she heard a strange sound, one she'd only heard a few times before. It was footsteps...but heavy footsteps, one much larger than her own. Strange voices, ones that didn't growl or squawk, filled her ears.

She had just enough time to turn around before she saw the barrel of the long noisy black stick...and it was pointed straight at her! She took off as fast as she could, just barely missing the killing noise that cracked across the woods. The poor frightened bear dashed for the safety of a thicket of trees, only to see two more humans with noise sticks there. They smirked and wigged their fingers at her, like they were trying to get her to come near. She knew better than that. She could smell strange substances on them, sweet, acidic scents. She only smelled it once before, when she found broken bottles in the woods with sticky purple drops on them.

Even though she was terrified, she was angry, too. How dare they think she was that stupid? She wanted to reach out and smack those humans.

She never had the chance. The falcon swooped in from the sky and landed right on those humans' heads! He scratched and bit at them, making them yell and drop their sticks. “Come on!” he yelled after he'd bitten the nose of the larger of the two. The bird actually pushed at her with his wings. “Go, go!” They flew and sprinted out of the forest and up to the mountain, until they found a cave where they could hide.

You know,” she said, out of breath, “that was brave of you, but I could have taken them myself. I'm a big bear, after all.”

Yeah, Chief,” the falcon hissed, “and there were two noise sticks right in your face. If it wasn't for me, you'd have pieces of the killing noise in your backside right now!”

The bear reached out to cuff him, but the falcon did something she didn't expect. He pecked her. It was a light peck, more like a nuzzle her parents would give her. “Wha...” she rubbed her cheek. “What was that?”

Why do you think I helped you?” The falcon's lazy grin spread from one side of his beak to the other. “You've got guts, bear. You're all right. We birds peck the ones we like.” He flew alongside her. “Mind if I fly home with you? Your cave isn't far from my nest on the cliff.”

Now she was the one with the grin. “I wouldn't mind at all.”

After that, they were inseparable, the bear and the falcon. He told her stories about flying in the sky, close to the sun and the moon and the stars. He told her how it felt to build, to create a nest a fellow creature could live in with his own beak. She told him about her circus parents and learning to dance and sing and about her encounter with the fluffy mountain lion.

The bear tried to fly a few times, but...whumph! She always landed in a heap on the soft ground. “Sorry Chief,” said the falcon, “but you ain't built for flying.”

Sometimes, the deer joined them as well. There was much laughter as the trio frolicked among the trees, laughing, running, flying, jumping, playing. The deer had lived in many different forests. His family was always on the move, migrating from place to place. He loved mimicking other animals and birds. He got very good at mimicking his two friends, especially the falcon's gruff squawks. The bear tried to imitate them, but it just made her throat hurt.

They told many stories, passing them on to other animals. The creatures of the forest loved the simple folk tales of the good animals who triumphed over the evil predators and humans who tried to take their homes. Those animals passed them on, and their families passed them, and they passed them to their children.

By the time the bear was fully-grown, the stories were now considered legends. Little girl cubs talked about being like the brave female bear chief who saved the grizzly scavenger and won his heart. Boy calves talked about becoming a great warrior, like the buffaloes who fought for the rights of all animals against the humans who wanted their land. Birds chirped about the helpfulness of the fussy warbler and the sassy bluebird. Moose and deer spoke of the grizzly's loyal companion. Even insects whispered of the slug who ruled the underground and the green lizard who could take down any prey, even the grizzly bear.

The bear and the deer loved that the stories had become so popular. “I wish I was a real chief,” the bear said. “Maybe I'd know what I want to do then.”

I think you should keep telling stories.” The falcon soared next to her, as usual. They'd just finished passing on their latest stories, about how the bears, deer, and buffalo had destroyed the cave belonging to the notorious mountain lion. “You're good at it, and it's obvious that you enjoy it.”

I don't know.” The bear sighed. “I like it because it lets me get out my feelings. But is it really special, like my parents being able to dance and sing?”

I think you're the most special creature in the whole woods.” The falcon gently scratched her shoulder with his talons. “You have the eyes of a doe and the balls of an angry buffalo. You could do anything you set your mind to, if you wanted to enough. Just because it isn't something they have in the circus doesn't mean it's not special.”

I wish you could stay with me.” The bear turned her doe eyes towards him. “I'm glad we're friends, but...I wish it could be more.”

Chief, I understand how you feel.” He patted her shoulder with his wing. “But I have to get back to my family. And anyway...well, there's the obvious.” He ran his feathers over her fur. “We're different species. I can't be your mate.” He gave her that lazy grin again. “But I can still be your friend.”

The bear wished that didn't mean so much...but it did. When at last, the stories had all been told, the Falcon went back to his nest, and the moose and the deer and the birds went back to their homes in the woods. She was alone again.

She'd learned two things while telling those stories. First, she was in love with stories, with words. She wanted to tell stories, at least until she could find something really special to do. Second, she did not like to be alone. She wanted to have fun, to laugh and romp with other animals.

The bear continued to seek out other creatures who enjoyed being in packs the way she did. On the way, she had many adventures. Once, she had hope to mate with a fat black bear who showed her how to get into picnic baskets and other human foods. She'd never tasted such delectable, rich food in her life! But the black bear soon got into trouble, and he spurned her. She didn't like that at all! She shook an oak tree, sending nuts raining down so hard, he thought they were the killing noise and ran away.

She passed through a pretty prairie valley, nestled alongside a misty mountain. She looked up and saw an eagle circling the cliffs. “Why are you circling that way? You're acting more like a vulture than an eagle.”

I'm afraid of those cliffs,” he squawked. “I'm afraid predators live there. A hawk who was a good friend of mine swears he saw a family of mountain lions prowling around. What if they come into the valley?”

She laughed. “That's silly. There are no mountain lions there. There haven't been any mountain lions in this area for years. Your imagination is working overtime.”

She left to clean her cave and catch some fish for her dinner. When she came back a few days later, she found a mess of feathers and fur. Birds were surrounding a whole pride of mountain lions, scratching and hissing. The mountain lions fought them off, but the birds dropped acorns and pinecones on their heads.

Her mouth opened, but for once, she didn't know what to say. “See?” squawked the Eagle. “I told you were were predators! My friends the hawks and eagles and me sort of, uh, accidentally drove them out. But we got rid of them!” All she could do was shake her head.

Shortly after, she encouraged two bears she knew to fall in love. They were just friends, but she knew they'd be perfect. It took a while, but they eventually mated and had a family.

The bear finally returned to her family's cave. Her brother had gone off on his own. Her mother the dancing bear was all alone now, her mate having left years before. She stayed with her mother for a while, and the two told stories to each other. Her mother even started dancing again.

That's how I tell stories, dear,” she'd tell her daughter when she would scold her about getting too tired after her dances. “I tell them with my paws.”

She was reluctant to leave home, but it was time she found herself a mate. As it turned out, she wasn't very good at it. One bear charmed her with his songs, but they fought and cuffed each other too often and parted. She remained with another long enough to have a bright little cinnamon-gold cub, and adorable fuzzy thing with big dark eyes like her mother. Her father left, too, but the bear kept her cub.

It didn't help that the bear sometimes ate and drank things, especially human foods, that weren't really good for her. Once, group of humans with the flashing light boxes found her moaning after eating the entire contents of what she thought was a barrel-shaped tree. They called for medical assistance, and she was taken away to a strange, box-shaped cave. She remembered very little about what happened afterwards, other than a week later, she was released back into the wild, with the admonishment to stay away from trash cans and other foods that weren't for bears.

She now tried not to eat as much human food. She had a cub to raise, and a mother to keep an eye on. But most of all, she had more stories to tell. Even when other animals said she was crazy, that her mind didn't quite work like everyone else's, she shrugged and said “So I'm crazy. I still have my stories, and a family who love me.” Indeed, many animals came out to hear her stories, and passed them on.

The bear was getting older now, no longer in the prime of her life. Her mother moved slower these days, but she still danced. The little cinnamon-gold cub grew up to be a pretty little bear in her own right. She shared her mother's love of telling stories. “I like telling spooky ones,” she explained, “ones about scary spirits and dark shadows that make all the babies shiver.” They even had an animal companion, a dog that had been abandoned by humans, who was their constant companion and helped them with all things.

No one in the western woods had ever forgotten the stories about the spirits in the stars. “We want more!” they cried. The buffalo who had first come to them with the stories was no longer young. He no longer told stories. He did encourage others to tell them, to pass on the stories he'd told. He asked the bear to come back. He wanted her stories now, needed her storytelling skills. Besides, many animals loved her wild tales of her adventures.

There was a new gathering of animals in the clearing. Some had gone to the sky since she'd last been there. The yellow warbler looked sad and even leaner without the blue bird by his side. The old moose walked slower, but he was as gentle and loyal as ever. The elderly buck was long gone, his council missed.

There were new animals, younger ones. She laughed as a black river otter waddled over, trying to catch a condor who had flown in from South America. A slender black wolf with thick, dark fur watched the group out of glittering eyes. He was followed by a slender, cunning red fox and an antelope with long, long legs. Her daughter giggled and chased them, delighted to have animals her own age to play with.

The group parted as a wise old buck walked across the moss. He was followed by a little doe, small and delicate, but with large eyes that had seen much. The buck had the most magnificent set of antlers the bear had ever seen. They were so wide and tall, they seemed to touch the sky.

Hello, bear,” he said, a familiar playful grin spreading across his muzzle. “I'm so glad to see you again!”

Brother deer!” She couldn't help it. She gave him a bear hug. “It's you! You're here!”

He nodded. “I'm here, sister bear.” The doe nudged him. “And I brought my new pupil. She's learning to show other animals how to laugh, too.”

The doe leaped into the air. “I'm so excited! I've always wanted to hear your stories!” She misjudged her landing and ended up flat on the grass. The otter and condor helped her to her feet. “This is much nicer than the dry grasslands I'm from. They have rain here, and green things.”

The stories have been passed very far,” the condor explained. “I heard them all the way in South America and wanted to tell them myself.”

We hear them in the river too,” the otter added.

And in the distant woods,” said the quiet wolf.

The bear's brown eyes had already turned to the sky. “Deer, is he...will he come?”

A squawk revealed her answer. A brown prairie falcon, wings now slightly ragged and crooked with age, soared down from the sky. He landed on her back, scratching it gently with his talons. “Hi there, Chief. Did you miss me?”

I did miss you.” She nuzzled him with her nose, then gave him a small, playful slap. “That's how we bears say 'I like you.'” Her big warm eyes sparkled merrily. “You still drive me crazy.”

He rubbed his cheek with his wings and gave her his famous smirk. “I know.”

It seemed that there were even more stories of the spirits in the stars to pass along. For the deer had a doe, a doe who was lost when humans tried to steal her away. She was found again by a gentle otter, who would rather help animals than hurt fish, and the old grizzly and his moose friend. The female bear chief was terribly sad because her cub had decided to help drive away other animals, rather than share the territory. The little doe finally found the wise deer who had once been saved by his father, hoping that he would help her become a great female deer warrior.

That's all?” said the cinnamon bear in disappointment when it was done. “What happens next?”

Oh, we have plenty of time to decide that,” said the bear. “There's still so many stories to tell!”

But there was one story she'd never told anyone. She finally started revealing how close she and the falcon were to each other. It had been so long ago, she decided, it wouldn't hurt anyone if they knew. The falcon joked about needing large owls who knew human laws to stop her...but he didn't try to stop her. No one could stop the bear when she wanted to do something.

I don't think it was a good idea,” she admitted to the falcon a few weeks after she'd passed on the news. “Some of them got very angry at me. They said I seduced you! Me, a crazy old bear, seduced a handsome falcon, not only a falcon with fledglings, but someone who wasn't even a bear.”

The falcon gave her a peck. “Don't listen to them, Chief. It doesn't matter what we did in the past. The future matters now. We both have more stories to tell.”
That's right, sister bear,” the buck added. “Everyone's talking about the new stories. They want to find out if the doe will avenge the death of the grizzly, or if she ever learned to be a warrior, or if she avoided that mean wolf.” He grinned. “They might even want to hear about us old-timers.”

The bear cuffed him playfully. “Who's old?”

The falcon scratched her back. “You still looking for that something special?”

I haven't been, lately.” Her head turned to the stars. “I've been too busy telling stories, and taking care of Mother and my daughter. But I'll find it. I'll find my way to shine yet. I still have time. ”

But she didn't have time.

Just a year after her chat with the falcon and the buck, while on a routine trip back to her cave from telling stories, she felt a pain in her chest. The pain grew and inflamed, until it became unendurable, and she collapsed. Other bears gathered around her, trying to help her breathe, but it did no good. She couldn't breathe, or even move.

Please,” she gasped, gazing up at the stars as she found her voice, “please, let me shine. Let my stories shine.”

Those words were her last. She died, surrounded by her brother and her wailing child and the mother bear and the little dog who lived with them. They were all heart broken, but none more than the mother.

Stars,” she shouted, dancing on her hind legs one last time, “please let me be with my cub. Don't take her away from me!”

She too, finally became a spirit, dying shortly after her daughter. The little cinnamon-gold bear and the brother bear sobbed and sobbed.

It was the buck who came to her after her mother died. “I miss Mama and Grandmama,” the little bear sobbed. “I want them to be here! I want them to still tell stories! This isn't fair. Why did they have to go away? Mr. Buck, why did they leave?”

They haven't left us,” the buck said softy. He nodded his long antlers at the night sky. “There they are! They're still with us.”

The moment the cinnamon bear gazed upwards, the clouds passed, and she saw two beautiful stars. They weren't just any stars. They were the largest, brightest stars she'd ever seen in her life. They lit up the entire night sky, one right next to the other.

There's your mother,” the buck explained, “and your grandmother. I wish they could still be with us, too. I know this must be especially hard for you. They were your world. But you can look up at the night sky, and know they're shining down, dancing and laughing and telling stories, and they always will be.”

The cinnamon bear smiled a little through her tears. “And we have their stories. I'll always pass them on. I'll never forget Mama and Grandmama's stories.”

That's right.” The buck nudged her kindly. “As long as we have stories, the spirits of our loved ones never really leave us.”

As the two gazed into the night sky, the cinnamon bear thought she saw the silhouette of a falcon, it's ragged wings spread wide as it soared as close to the two stars as it dared. The falcon's mournful squawk was joined by the deer's soft cry, the cinnamon bear's small growl, and the keening howl of the little dog.

So if you look into the night sky tonight, my children, look for the two brightest stars in the sky. You're more than likely to see a falcon soaring as close as he can, forever searching for the spirits of the dancing bear, and his beloved chief bear, who never shown brighter than when she was allowing her stories to shine for others.

The End