The appearance of a man calling himself the ‘Master of Ceremonies’ in Vaiken Spacedock had not gone unnoticed. His arrival had been swiftly followed by Imperial Edict GR-1NC4, which stated, amongst other things, that the celebration of ‘Life Day’ was beneath the Empire’s dignity. It was a Wookiee holiday, after all, and no primitive alien pageant had a place within the Sith Empire. Participation was forbidden, and while the Master of Ceremonies had somehow managed to retain his trading licence, all of his goods were to be considered contraband.
The results were frustratingly, infuriatingly predictable.
Anyone with even a little sense could see that telling the Sith not to do something was a sure fire way of ensuring that they went out and did it at the earliest opportunity. And if the Sith were surreptitiously visiting the Master of Ceremonies in the middle of the night – when they thought nobody was observing their actions – to take part in this ridiculous event, then the Mandalorians wouldn’t be far behind them. And then younger officers started to question why they couldn’t buy little gifts for their loved ones, and before long it seemed like everybody was ignoring Imperial Edict GR-1NC4.
Well, not Mezzeni. She didn’t care what everyone else was doing, she wasn’t going to engage with this whole ridiculous affair.
And yet, when she returned to the Phantom after observing the Master of Ceremonies and his customers, there was a small box sitting in the middle of the floor a metre in front of her. It was clumsily wrapped in creased paper with a geometric snowflake pattern, and a handwritten note that said, simply, ‘for Mezzeni’.
Mezzeni frowned. Very few people knew that name. To most of the Empire, she was Cipher Nine. The list of people who knew her real name was very short… and none of them seemed the type to send her a present. “Hey, Kaliyo? Did you see who left this?”
“Left what?” Kaliyo asked, emerging from her quarters. “Ooh, you got a gift. What’s in it?”
“I don’t know,” Mezzeni said. She hadn’t even picked it up yet; a niggling caution warned her against touching a box of unknown source and contents.
“There’s something written on the back of the note” Kaliyo said.
Mezzeni reached out to carefully turn the note over with one finger, trying not to touch the box itself. In the same uneven, scruffy writing, the note read:
‘Sith are red, Chiss are blue,
The next gift is near green goo.’
The author of the note probably considered this to be poetry. Coupled with the handwriting, which was uneven and only barely legible, Mezzeni didn’t think whoever was responsible for this had a particularly sophisticated mind. Though if this was a trap of some kind, it was an unnecessarily complicated one.
Cautiously, Mezzeni picked up the box, still half-expecting it to explode. It didn’t, but she still hesitated to open it. Instead, she pondered the ‘poem’ on the note. “What’s this about ‘green goo’?”
“There’s kolto in the med bay,” Kaliyo suggested.
With a shrug, Mezzeni made her way through the ship to the medical bay, where there was, indeed, a small box sitting atop of barrel of kolto. It was wrapped in the very same snowflake motif paper, and bore another scrawled piece of poetry.
‘By the light of the galaxy,
You will find gift three.’
By the stars, these rhymes were terrible. Mezzeni felt her intelligence dropping just reading them. And she still didn’t have the slightest clue who had left them here. “Are you sure you didn’t see anything?” she asked.
“I swear if I’d seen this weirdo creeping around the ship, I’da shot him,” Kaliyo insisted.
Mezzeni sighed. Clearly they were dealing with someone capable of making themselves hidden, and that meant only two possibilities: someone equipped with a stealth generator, or someone capable of using the Force. Neither of which really narrowed down the possibilities.
There was also the fact that whoever it was knew she liked poetry… insofar as these insanity-inducing rhymes could be classified as such. It seemed like they were going to an awful lot of effort in an attempt to… what? Impress her? Intimidate her?
Just what was going on here?
“Well, I guess the next one will be near the navigational computer,” Mezzeni said at last, not sure she really wanted to carry on with this game, but knowing she would never find out who was responsible for this until she’d found all their little gifts.
The third box was indeed sitting next to the holographic map of the galaxy in the ship’s cockpit. It was a little larger than the other two, and had yet another utterly awful poem attached to it.
‘When you lie down to sleep,
Know the next box is for you to keep.’
The unknown intruder in her ship had been in her bedroom!
Now Mezzeni proceeded with her weapon at the ready, and quickly located the box that had been carefully placed on her pillow. This whole situation was creepy beyond belief, yet if she wanted answers, she was going to have to find all the boxes, read all these terrible poems, and hope that the stalker – or whatever the hell they were – had left some vital clue about their identity.
The note attached to the box on her pillow said:
‘One more gift I will bestow,
To the engines you must go.’
Given how completely ghastly the previous poems had been, Mezzeni had to admit that the usage of the word ‘bestow’ was more than she’d expected her unknown gift giver to be capable of. There clearly was something more complicated going on here than an overly convoluted assassination attempt. But Mezzeni still couldn’t think who would possibly want to do this. Well, under other circumstances, she might have suspected Kaliyo, but Kaliyo would not have been able to keep a straight face this long.
Mezzeni made her way to the back of the ship, where lo and behold, the final box was balanced on top of the engines. She reached up to take it, and read the attached note.
‘I hope you’ve enjoyed this little hunt,
And have not taken affront,
Accept these little tokens please,
We don’t need to be enemies.’
Now utterly perplexed, Mezzeni stared at the final ‘poem’. All of these gifts had apparently been left by someone with whom she’d had a disagreement, who also knew her real name, and knew that she enjoyed poetry. That excluded… pretty much everyone she knew. There was nobody she could think of who fitted all those criteria.
Hoping to find more information about this mysterious giver of gifts, Mezzeni carried all five boxes into the ship’s living area, and sat down on the couch to open them. There was a glass orb that looked like a miniature version of Csilla, Mezzeni’s homeworld; a book of Sith poetry, with handwritten translations into Basic; a small purple crystal; an unusual-looking vibroknife with an ornate hilt; and what appeared to be some kind of advanced stealth generator. This last item included another note explaining that it was a prototype from ‘Purple Gizka Technologies’ based on Kubaz designs, and it was supposedly superior to the standard Imperial stealth generators.
It was, overall, a collection of thoughtful gifts from someone who genuinely seemed to want to make peace with her.
But who was it?
“Haven’t you figured it out yet?” Kaliyo asked.
Mezzeni shook her head. “I can’t think of anyone who would do this.”
Kaliyo reached over and flipped over the final poem, revealing the name written on the back.
“Lord Kallig?” Mezzeni said aloud, frowning in confusion. And then realisation dawned. That arrogant Sith with the lightning fixation. The one she’d argued with every single time they’d ever crossed paths. She had quite forgotten that the first time they’d met, travelling to Dromund Kaas on the same transport, she hadn’t yet had a code name. Back then, she had been Mezzeni, and he had been Zavahier. And he’d seen her reading poetry. Now she remembered that too.
But the real question was…
“But why?” Mezzeni asked. “What’s he trying to achieve with this?” Then she paused, tilting her head as another realisation sprang to mind. “And you knew the whole time!”
Kaliyo chuckled. “Yeah, I did. He made me promise not to tell, and I thought hey, why not. Watching you running around getting increasingly suspicious was funny. I did check each box to make sure there weren’t any bombs, just in case.”
Mezzeni considered the gifts once again, and found herself feeling… oddly touched by the effort that Zavahier had apparently gone to seek out things he thought she would like. Maybe there was more to him than rage and hate. And if he wanted to make peace with her, to begin again without all the aggression and hostility between them, then the least she could do was respond to this offer of friendship in kind.
So with a little smile, Mezzeni began composing a poem of her own. A little note of thanks for the Life Day gifts.
Maybe this Wookiee holiday wasn’t such a waste of time after all.
For the 2nd December prompt in the Pint-sized Prompts on Reddit. This was one of those ideas that really took on a life of its own once I started writing. “Likes poetry” was nothing but a note in Mezzeni’s character bio, something I thought would never be relevant in anything I wrote. I’m delighted to be proven wrong!