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(( RelatedSWTOR Journal (Brembal) Delicate Smiles. The following is on a SWTOR character of mine, Vanessa. She’s a young child currently in Brembal’s care in an undisclosed location. ))

Flashes in the dark. Thudding in the night. In her dreams, she was surrounded, bolts piercing all around her, superheating each slice of air as they cut through. Brilliant yet terrifying points of light, they left her blind and near-singed in their wake. The bolts pummeled the walls behind her as she took cover, hitting with the force of hammer blows and melting the metal. Debris rolled near her feet, the stink of smelted metal filling her nostrils. It was not a welcome smell. It burned in her mind, committing to memory. Like the hot embers of metal bubbling, cooling, and curling at her feet as she pressed against cover, retreating from the danger and heat, all of it was unwelcome.

Voices yelled. Over the blaster fire, she couldn’t understand the words. Perhaps she was in trouble, perhaps they were trying to help. Perhaps they were angry. She was too afraid to look up, to find the source of the voices. The blaster fire was  all around. Kneeling, her head down, she stared at the melted metal collecting at her feet. The thudding grew louder, like heavy boots marching, marching closer, in tandem, ever closer, and with her easily found and snatched up in their grasp.

They? Who? Who’s coming?

Whump, whump, whump, whump, whump.

They’re coming.

With a kick and gasp she woke.

Her bedroom was dark, empty, and quiet save for the lingering pounding in her ears, the remaining echoes of the marching boots that came for her in her dreams. As she calmed down, steadied her breath, the pounding quieted. The thudding in her chest quieted. Though the windows were covered, the occasional muted light of a passing speeder cast light on the walls. She could hear the muffled hum of the engines. they was soothing. In the darkness, she composed herself and wiped away tears that must have fallen during her fitful sleep.

Her eyes adjusting to the light, she withdrew from bed and retrieved the cubes gifted to her by Brembal. Spreading them across her bed sheets, she sat with her legs folded, hands bunching the covers, concentrating. Moments passed, then one of the cubes lifted on its own. Concentrating further, it rotated slowly, a light emanating from it as it gained speed. Still biting her lip in concentration, she smiled. She then tried to focus on a second cube, to lift it also, but the moment she broke her concentration with the first, it abruptly plopped back onto the sheets. 

“Oh,” she said in disappointment, poking a finger at the cube. In spite of its fantastic feat moments before, it was mundane again. Not taking flight.

Thinking, she arranged one cube atop the other, sat back, and concentrated again, focusing on the bottom cube. Both rose slowly, one carried by the other. But as the bottom cube tilted even slightly, the second slipped and tumbled back onto the bed. Tilting her head, Vanessa puzzled over the cubes, arranging them with her hands again, this time side-by-side, their edges touching. They sat almost as one. Concentrating, she lifted them both this time, prompting another excited smile at the achievement. But as she tried to rotate them, their square edges caught up with one another like incompatible cogs. Her concentration broke from the clunky sight and they plopped back onto the bed. 

And so this experiment continued, her attempting new configurations and hoping to float two, maybe even three cubes at once. Finally, she blinked, a realization coming to her. Her hands set two cubes apart, each a length’s distance from the other. Sitting back again, she concentrated. Both rose simultaneously and together, they spun in the same direction.

Oh!” she said aloud. “They’re the same!” Of course, this discovery broke her concentration and they fell again. She giggled, excited at her achievement.

Redoubling her efforts, she quieted and tried again, this time with three cubes. Again they rose, lifting together in tandem off the bed, rotating counter-clockwise and activating the light within them. Together, they lit her room, bringing a warm, welcoming brightness against the dark. Trying out ever-new combinations, trying to lift four, even five at once, she played with the cubes for hours till sleep gently tugged her away again. Splayed atop the covers, she slept with a hand curled around one of the cubes. 

Author Ari
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