Fandom: Star Wars , Rogue One
Personaggi: Cassian Andor, Jyn Erso, Winter Celchu, Leia Organa, gente, un sacco di gente.
Generi: fantasy, space-fantasy, mythological influences, adventure, romance, pew-pew
Warning: norse mythology in space!AU, mystic beings in space!AU, angst
Note: scritta per la seconda settimana del Cow-T di maridichallenge. Per la versione betata aspettate che posti su AO3. La concezione di destino e di tempo spiegata nella storia è ripresa dalla concezione di tempo e destino nella mitologia norrena, quindi lo spiegone è entrato nella storia. Che culo! Ci sono alcuni richiami a The Raven Cycle di Maggie Stievater perché ho appena finito The Raven King e l'ho adorato - il titolo del capitolo è proprio uno di questi richiami, btw.
1. trees in her eyes, stars in her heart
Jyn Erso was one of the sisters of time.
They weren’t really sisters, but that didn’t matter. They were the last nornes of their generation, although not the last of their kind. They had been together for years, long enough for her to forget the face of her mother; it was sad, but in a comforting way as she hadn’t been abandoned.
She was never alone, nor were her sisters. No matter what part of the planet they were walking, they could always feel each other’s presence, they could always communicate. It was the will of the three, the will of the universe, the Mægen was keeping them together, as it had done before, as it would do in the future.
She smiled, hearing a bird chirping in the yard. She loved animals, the only living creatures she and her sisters were allowed to meet, except from the guardian.
The guardian was always with them, the guardian was always present.
She knew there were people on the planet, she could feel their livestream in the air, in the snow, in the roots of the ancient tree and she envied them more than anything as, in her eyes, they were free.
“Something has changed” she muttered, looking at her own hands.
Leia chuckled, looking at her sister from her room: “She doesn’t know, does she?”
“No. None of us ever do”.
“What do you mean I have to embark on a fucking journey? I’m already on a journey, I’ve been on a journey for months”.
“It doesn’t matter how long you have been travelling, Captain. The point is not the amount of time, it’s what you have learnt during that time”.
“Thanks, Doctor,” Cassian didn’t feel exactly thankful in that moment, but he knew it wasn’t Galen Erso’s fault.
“I just hope you are awaited, or you’ll have to face the consequences”.
“What kind of consequences?”
“Your life, Captain, for the Mægen’s well is not a place everyone can get to with ease. The guardian won’t let you pass if you are not awaited”.
Cassian nodded and turned around towards the direction that the Doctor had pointed out a few minutes prior and he started walking. Galen Erso looked at his back, slowly curved under the thrust of the cold wind, and he never shifted his eyes until the man disappeared in the snow-covered forest. He hoped the stranger knew what he was looking for, he hoped he was expected, he hoped he was the one who’d set her free.
Cassian was irritated and annoyed and pissed. He had crossed galaxies and planets and moons and when he thought he had found what he had been looking for… well, there he was, walking in a bloody forest, crossing the damn whole planet on foot, because “You have to find the crystal palace”. Fuck the crystal palace, fuck that stupid journey, fuck him, fuck-
He stopped, the forest was getting thicker and the wind colder. Big snowflakes were falling from the skies, covering his steps, covering the trees, everything was white and everything was the same. Cassian turned around in the small glade he had just reached and realize he didn’t know where the fuck he had been coming from. He shivered, while becoming gradually aware of the situation: he was lost and he was going to freeze to death.
“Well done, Cassian Andor, you are an idiot, you could have at least asked how long it would have took, but no, let’s get going. Is it snowing? Is it cold? Oh, well, it will be easily to get fucking lost and die!”
He felt the urge to sit down and think, but he didn’t want to get wet nor to get his clothes damp, so he just stood there for a while, covering his eyes with the palms of his hands, cursing his own stupidity.
The snow kept falling, murmuring into his ears, whispering slowly, landing with grace to the ground while calling him. He couldn’t hear it. What Cassian heard, though, was the crunching sound of footsteps on the white mantle covering the earth. Someone, something was walking in his direction.
It was a matter of seconds, he took out his blaster ready to shoot. A conditionate reflex he had picked up during the years in the rebellion: he was a man of war and war followed him wherever he went. Like a curse.
Not on Wyrd, though.
The deer looked at him, his eyes were dark, yet Cassian had never seen an animal with such a bright spark in his eyes. He had never even seen a deer before and he found it majestic, and beautiful. The animal jumped back, distancing himself from the man, it turned around and tilted his head looking at him, his mouth was closed, but he was whispering. Cassian couldn’t hear him, but he felt compelled to follow it.
The man and the deer walked through the forest, the only sound was the rhythmic cracking of the snow under their feet. The trees were white and thick, and the storm was intense and cold, its intensity kept growing, swirling around his face, pulling him out of balance. Until they reached a small river, covered in ice.
As they crossed it Cassian realized the sky was bright and blue and although the surface of the planet was still covered in snow, the climate was now much warmer and comfortable.
“What the heck did just…”
Cassian blinked a couple of times, trying to understand how such a thing was possible, trying to wrap his head around what just happened. There wasn’t the time, though, in front of him stood the crystal palace, a majestic and massive construction made of stones and ice, or maybe it was glass. He couldn’t tell from where he was.
“I’d be damned…” he muttered, quietly, “I found it”.
As he got closer he noticed flowers sticking out of both the walls and the snow, they were peering from the stones, fighting to reach the sun, trying to escape to the light; there were snowdrops and roses and hydrangeas and camellias, they were everywhere. They seemed accustomed to the climate, to the cold temperature and the wind. A soft breeze ruffled his hair, urging him to move forward towards the huge arch working as an entrance.
There was a woman standing there, her eyes were sad as it was her smile, she looked at him for what seemed like a lifetime. There was knowledge in her eyes. She pointed a finger towards the courtyard, moving on a side: “She is waiting,” she said.
Who was waiting she didn’t specify and Cassian didn’t ask, it wasn’t necessary.
It seemed only logic that she, whoever she might have been, had been waiting for him: after all that time, all his travels, he was there. He had found her.
Standing still, half hidden behind the frozen fountain in the middle of the garden, was a girl. Her hair was dark and her lips were red, as bright and vivid as the flowers she was holding in her hands; she was looking at him with excitement, with joy.
Cassian smiled, for he was searching for hope and he knew he had finally found her.
She had never met a man before, well apart from her father, but that was a long time ago, and she had forget. Despite her lack of physical experience, Jyn Erso had a wide and extended knowledge of men, she knew them, all of them. She had been watching humanity for a while, running, screaming, living; she could say it’s some sort of hobby of hers, and the well has always been condescending.
Jyn knew the Mægen’s will, and the Mægen knew hers, it was a mutual exchange. She served as its hand and it let her see the world, every world, in every time. Voices said the nornes were the keeper of fate, of time, immortal beings that existed beyond the physical plane. Which was true. Which was false.
There were Nornes and there were nornes.
Jay was one of them and she wasn’t, she existed, yet space and time were abstract concept that had the tendency of getting mixed in her mind. She could see the future, though, every future, never her future. And she had been waiting for a particular one to become real.
Then the man stood in front of her, his eyes were dark and warm, filled with a new-found hope. He reeked of life and battles and space, he reeked of fire and earth and his hands were covered in blood and mud.
“You are late, Cassian Andor.”
“You know me? Were you expecting me?”
Jyn smiled at him, she had been expecting him for centuries – or maybe years, months, days. She wasn’t sure. But she had been waiting for him, to travel, to change the universe: trees in her eyes, stars in her heart.
“I’ve always been,” she replied, softly. A gentle murmur that reminded him the voice of the wind, the whisper of the snow, and he suddenly realized she had been talking to him all his life.
“I don’t know your name,” he said, and he was sorry because he felt like he should have.
“Oh. I’m Jyn Erso” she replied, taking his hand and pointing toward the main entrance, “You have to go in, Winter won’t like your presence here if you linger”.
“Also my guardian, yes”.
She was smaller than he had imagined. Well, Cassian had imagined a lot of things and he most surely had every intention to recruit a man, but apparently those who were gifted were only the women.
“Not gifted, chosen,” Jyn pointed out.
“Wait, what? Can you read my mind?”
“No, but you were going to ask me.”
She let him sit around a large oval shaped table, it was white as everything else on that planet, but the room was not cold despite its dimension and the complete lack of isolation.
“This place, it looks like-“
“Yes, it is indeed centuries old, the stones here have seen hundreds of nornes, hundreds of sisters coming and going, walking through its corridors”.
“Can you please stop doing that? It’s unnerving”.
“Doing what?” she demanded with an estranged look.
“Answering me before I actually ask the questions”.
“It’s not my fault if I already know what you want to ask me, you are just being too slow,” she muttered, somehow irritated, “And you took so long to come here that I thought I’d grow roots”.
“Well, I’m sorry I couldn’t find thins godforsaken planet anywhere, you could have left on your own if you wanted so desperately to leave”.
“Don’t be silly, we can’t leave without the blessing of the Mægen.”
“Is there something you actually know? I can’t understand if you are stupid or just ignorant.”
“Do you realize that you and your world don’t exist, according to the rest of the universe? What knowledge am I supposed to have? And just so you know-“
“Yes, yes, you know a lot of things, you are an intelligence agent. What’s an intelligence agent?”
“What’s the Mægen?”
She rolled her eyes, looking at him with a blank stare; she was giving him the same look that Bodhi used to give him every time he was talking nonsense.
“Come with me, I’ll explain everything,” she said, her voice was stern and exhausted, and Cassian felt the urge of telling her that if it was so boring and wearing talking to him she could have left to do something else. But then he remembered how long he had been travelling, and all the sacrifices he had made, the blood he had shed, and he shut up. Jyn smiled. Wise man.
She led him through an intricate labyrinth of rooms and corridors, there were flowers as decorations and portraits on the walls. He realized he knew some of the women that were painted on them, they were queens and heroines and historical figures: there were temples and buildings and statues dedicated to them. He opened his mouth, but he didn’t say anything.
Jyn kept walking, crossing the entire castle, a library with primitive printed books, a ballroom decorated in gold and covered in dust; she guided him upstairs, then outside, over a door-window made of glass and silver foils, over a stoned bridge, protruding above a lake whose surface was completely frozen. They crossed it and ended up on a small rounded island covered in snow and fallen leaves: green, red, yellow. They were everywhere on the ground. Cassian had the impression that the snow was slowly absorbing them, transforming them into dust, into snow. It was not just an impression.
The leaves were falling from a tree, a tree so big and magnificent it occupied almost the entire surface of the small island. Its roots were wild, gnarled and disproportioned, they creeped into the ground and broke the ice of the lake, falling into its depths. Its branches were ramose and huge, they stretched out towards the sky, running upward for meters and meters. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t been able to see it before, he should have been able to see it from the sky.
“Magic,” Jyn said, smiling.
She pointed at a split in the tree cortex, it was big enough for someone to pass through; Cassian noticed her hands were small and pale and steady. He thought they must have felt soft. And cold. He followed her into the tree.
He was a Captain and a traveller, he had been inside a lot of things: spaceships, caves, building made of glass and metals so rare that they were no longer available. Never before had he been inside a tree. He didn’t really know what to expect, shadows and darkness mostly, a damp atmosphere maybe, certainly not that bright light, nor the wide space.
There was a rounded room inside the tree. It was circular and white, so white that he had to shield his eyes from the light. The ceiling was a dome and it was filled with stars, not painted ones, but real stars and galaxies and old planets; they were real yet they were just there on the ceiling inside a tree.
The dome was supported by a sequence of thin, elongated columns, each one was decorated with ash leaves and small flowers embed on the white surface of the marble. In the middle of the room there was a fountain from which sprung the clearest water he had ever seen. It had no bottom.
“What is this place?” he asked.
Jyn smiled, her hand softly caressing the edge of the spring.
“This, Captain, is the Mægen’s well, inside the Yggdrasil’s tree” she replied, looking at the stars, “It’s the mirror of time: what once was, what is coming into being and what shall be”.
“You mean like you can see the past? Or present, or future? Just by looking in these waters? You look in this thing and see what will happen tomorrow? Well, that does explain how know everything”.
“No. You are thinking of time as a line, but it’s not like that. It’s more like a ring or a stormy sea, where every wave could bring you back or change the course of your journey.”
“I don’t understand”.
“That’s because you look at the Well and you see the water, but you forget the tree”.
“What’s the matter with the tree? It’s a magical tree, okay, I get that, but it’s a tree, on a planet”.
Jyn rolled her eyes and sat on the fountain’s border, inviting him to sit beside her.
“Look up, Cassian Andor, what do you see?”
“A ceiling. A dome,” he stubbornly refused to tell her there were galaxies and stars.
She laughed and slowly nudged him.
“Stars. I see stars”.
“We are inside a tree,” she remembered him.
“That’s why I didn’t want to say it, just saying it makes it sound stupid”.
“It’s not, though, as the Yggdrasil’s tree and the Mægen’s well do not exist in a single physical location, they are ethereal, non-existent, they dwell within the invisible heart of the universe and they reach everything and everyone”.
She stretched her arm to touch the water, as her fingers moved it a sequence of waves disrupted the surface.
“The waters of the well collect what once was, it is the biggest and oldest memory of the universe, some sort of giant archive that nourish the tree, that makes it grow. Yggdrasil is what is happening right now, is your life, my life, the life of those stars. As time ticks away the water turns into dew and it drips from the leaves of the tree into the well”.
She breathed, lowering her gaze so that she could see him in the eyes.
“There is no line, here time is cyclical rather than linear. The present returns to the past, where it retroactively changes it. The new past is reabsorbed into a new present that is a mirror of the mutual exchange between the waters of the well and those of the tree. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy. Everything is in movement and never still”.
“It’s like time is evolving,” he muttered, unsure of his own words.
“Does this mean that there is no such thing as a fixed destiny? Because I never believed that kind of shit”.
“There is not, indeed, or at least every being have the possibility to actively modify said destiny. It is cyclic, once again, it follows the course of the water.”
“I’m not sure I get this, I-”
“You don’t have to. It’s not now that you have to understand this.”
“Yes, yes. I’m not supposed to know. Not this again, Erso.”
“You will have to call me Jyn. You can’t let Winter hear you say that name.”
“That’s your father’s name”.
She looked at him with utter confusion, as if she didn’t understand what he had just said.
“I don’t have a father”.
Except she had, because Cassian had met him and he was very much alive.
“No. I’m one a norne, I exist beyond time”.
“Is that what you are? A mystic being of power? You control time?”
“Oh, no, I’m not one of The Nornes, I’m a norne. I can control magic, I hear the call of the Mægen, but time… no one can control time.”
“But you can see the future” he noticed.
“I can see a lot of things, Cassian. I can see the present and the past. And yes, I can see the future, always the future, never my future”.
The sky above them rumbled, as if startled by an undesired presence.
“Winter has come. Winter is here” Jyn whispered “She won’t be happy”.
Cassian swallowed, thinking about Galen Erso’s words about a guardian possibly killing him; but he was expected, wasn’t him?
“Time had been wasted”.
A woman in white entered the room. Her eyes, her robe and garments as well as her hair and skin, everything was white or, anyway, it was incredibly pale. Cassian looked at his own hand: it was covered in sweat and callous and tanned. The contrast was stunning and somehow daunting. Nevertheless, he tried to speak:
“I know who you are. You are not welcome”.
“But Jyn said that I-“
“You are still not welcome”, the woman hissed, closing the distance between them with a few steps.
Jyn moved forward, her eyes reflected the stars and Cassian felt his earth skipping a beat; she was as majestic as she could have ever been, despite her small stature and the softness of her features. It wasn’t pointed toward him, but he instantly knew that that stare could stop armies and inspire souls.
“He is the one,” she said with kindness in her voice, she caressed the woman cheek “And you have to let me go. You have to let us go.”
The woman lowered her eyes in anger and frustration.
“I see everything,” she replied.
Her voice was almost broke, but she didn’t cry.
“I know and so do you,” she turned slowly towards Cassian and offered him her hand, “We have to go, the guardian awaits.”
He shook his head, confused.
“I thought you were the guardian,” he said, speaking to woman in white.
“No, I’m Winter, I’m a norne”.
“Oh, I thought Winter was like a code name for something”.
“Actually, it’s my name,” she smiled faintly, amused.
He followed them back to the castle without saying a word. His thoughts kept going back to what Jyn had told him about time and about that place. He hoped that all that knowledge, all that power had made his travel worth, because somewhere, far from there, his friends were dying. He had left searching for hope and he had to bring her home in order to win a war that was decimating the galaxy. Every galaxy.
They reached the first room and Winter pointed the table, inviting him to sit down.
“The guardian wants to speak with you,” she said and Cassian recognised an order hidden within her voice.
He sat down and waited until the woman he first saw at the entrance arrived and sat in front of him.
“Tell me of the world, Captain,” she asked “Tell me of the war.”
Cassian raised an eyebrow, perplexed.
“How do you know of the war.”
She didn’t look at him.
“There is always a war, tell me of the war.”
“We are losing it. What can I say? The rebellion is facing an enemy we cannot withstand” he told her, there was no resignation in his voice, he was just stating the facts as they were, “We are losing men and armies, and the Empire gets stronger by the second. They have someone, a magician, he has powers of incommensurable strength. We never stood a chance.”
The woman eyes shone with tears, but the tears did not fall.
“He is a man. Or at least he was once. A very different man.”
“You saying he can be killed?”
“No, I’m saying he can be understood and won. There’s still good in him”.
“Look, lady Guardian, I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t give a flying fuck about understanding Darth Vader.” Cassian hissed. “He’s a murderer and an enemy. I don’t feel empathy”.
He stopped for a moment, considering if there was any need to continue, eventually he decided to go on.
“It’s not that I hate him personally,” he then added, with a careful tone, “I just despise everything he represents: the empire, the complete loss of free will, the slavery, the weakness, the death. I was born a free man and I want to die as one. I might not value life as much as I should, I am a soldier after all, but I know I value freedom. He doesn’t.”
“He was a good man, a kind man, he-“
He didn’t hear her entering the room, this new girl was younger than the others and he wasn’t sure she was even in her twenties. Her hair was dark and pulled into buns on the side of her head, the outline of her face was known to Cassian but he couldn’t remember where he had seen her before.
“They have to go,” she said, “And you are talking too much.”
“Ever the charmer diplomat,” chuckled the woman, smiling. It was a sad smile, though, and Cassian felt somehow broken.
Jyn stood up and took her sisters hand in a gesture filled with love and knowledge and possible futures. They said nothing for words were not necessary among them and they would have just felt like stones, blocking the flow of the water.
Then, suddenly, she turned to him and offered him her hand.
“Bring me with you Captain, we will conquer the stars”.
And just like that, they were gone, over the frozen river, crossing a forest now silent and calm, walking over the cracking snow, until they reached the village where he had left his spaceship.
There was Galen Erso, waiting, looking for the stranger to return, waiting to see her.
Jyn didn’t flinch, she didn’t move, she didn’t recognise him. He knew this was going to happen so he didn’t protest. Cassian gave him a strange look, but the man just shook his head, it was a long story, a complicated story, a story for another time.
“You were gone for quite some time, Captain.”
“I was gone for what? 15 hours?”
“More like a week,” the man replied.
“Time flows differently inside the tree,” Jyn pointed out, “Beside it’s a stupid concept, time can exist out of time, but there is no place in the universe that-“
“No, no, no, no. Stop this,” Cassian waved his hands in front of her face, “I’ve had enough of this shit, get on board lady. On the ship, now.”
“Well, perfectly fucking rude” she replied, and there was a spark in her eyes that was not there before.
Cassian couldn’t know, but she was waking up.
He took her hand and helped her boarding the spaceship. Galen Erso watched as the stern glass of the external window closed upon them. She would remember, eventually.
Captain Andor started the engines, passing his hand through his hair, feeling at home in the well-known cockpit of his ship.
“Hold on, sit still,” he ordered, she didn’t question him.
While the spaceship rose to the sky, Cassian glanced at the planet for the last time, he had the feeling he would never be able to forget that tree.
“What does Yggdrasil mean?” he asked, out of nowhere.
“The ash tree of the horse of the terrible one.”
“Well, that’s quite a meaning. Long. Intimidating”.
“And what does Mægen stands for?”
Jyn looked into his eyes and smiled faintly.
“There is a word in the modern language, although the meaning is not exactly the same, you would call it The Force”.