Winter Sunlight

SGA fic: Artisan

Title: Artisan
Word Count: 1200
Season: pre-series; a mild spoiler or two for "Sateda"
Summary: A boy makes a choice; his parents have other ideas.



On a low wall beside Chieftain's Pond, the boy lay full-length, a sketchbook propped up on his knees and charcoal stick in hand.

Across the pond, courting lovers strolled arm-in-arm. With small touches of the chisel-tipped charcoal, he added suggestions of their figures to his landscape. Short strokes on the pond's surface suggested the sun glimmering from the choppy water.

"Ronon-nee!"

The boy sighed and ignored the first few repetitions of the call, but when it came nearer, he closed the sketchbook and tucked the charcoal into the little custom pouch in its spine. Leaping down from the wall, he trotted around the ornamental shrubbery.

"Mother."

Her fingers latched around his arm. Twelve and gangly, Ronon was already nearly a head taller, but she dragged him along without breaking a sweat. Her eyes took in the sketchbook; she said nothing, but Ronon fought against the urge to hide it behind his back.

She didn't speak until they'd left the park behind, heading into the maze of streets of the Old City, towards home. Streetcars rattled past, drawn by slow-moving, many-horned drayhorses. Slowing to a fast walk, his mother wove her way expertly through the foot traffic. "Your father is home," she said at last, in a clipped voice.

"Okay."

"A package came for you today, from the capital. Your father signed for it."

Ronon's stomach fell straight to his boots. "Okay," he said, numb. He hadn't expected the bureaucracy to move nearly that quickly; he'd planned it to come next month, while his father was on Ring deployment.

"Ronon-nee, what were you thinking?"

"I don't know," he said, because really, he didn't. As a minor child, he'd need both parents' signatures, and he knew there was a lot more involved besides. His mother might be convinced, over time. His father ... never.

"I mean, think of your family! Think of your responsibilities to the city!"

They turned into the yard of the Dex house -- a small, flat-roofed structure, with a vegetable garden out front. Little sister Temmit, kneeling and weeding among the kaft tubers, gave him a cheerful wave. Ronon didn't have the heart to wave back.

"Think of your sister!" his mother hissed, too low for Temmit to hear, as she dragged him into the house. "Besides the fact that the necessary fees and bribes may bankrupt us, don't you know that we'll owe one child to the priesthood as a tithe to the Ancestors?"

"They don't still do that," Ronon protested, feeling sick. He'd always thought it was just a rumor; he'd read the legal codes at the library, cover to cover, and there was nothing in there about appeasing the Ancestors by turning over a lastborn child to the priests, no matter what Merron Shand at school told him.

His mother had her mouth open to speak, but just then his father straightened up from the chair in front of the fireplace, the top of his head nearly brushing the ceiling. All Satedans were tall by the standards of other worlds, but the Dexes doubly so. "Ronon," his father rumbled, ominously.

"Sir." Ronon straightened his back and clasped his hands behind him, clutching the sketchbook in a tight sweaty grip.

His father's arm swept an arc through the air, flinging a fat wad of forms to the floor. "What's the meaning of this? You're twelve years old. You'll be joining the Academy in the fall, like all your ancestors before you."

Ronon's back stiffened yet further. His peers at school thought him a coward, because he was soft-spoken and wouldn't use his bigger size against them; he'd heard them talking. But he wasn't afraid of anything, not even of his father. "No, sir. I want to apprentice to the Artisan Guild in the fall, sir."

His father snorted. "You're Sky Moiety, boy; you were born to Sky, and Sky you'll remain. The Ancestors take this absurd modern idea that filling out a form can change what you're born to." He crossed the room in three great strides, and gave a hard yank to Ronon's short hair. "You can't change your forefathers with a form and some fees; they're in your blood and bone. What do you have to say to that?"

Ronon cleared his throat, tilted his head to look his father in the eyes. "I want to be an artisan, sir. I don't want to be a soldier. The codes say that --"

"Ancestors take the bloody codes!" his father roared. "You haven't a choice! You were born a soldier; you'll take on your duty just the same as every other Sky-born boy in this city."

"You can change it, sir," Ronon pressed on doggedly. "Merron Shand, in my year at school -- he was born to Water, sir, but he renounced it and his parents filed the paperwork for Sky last year. He always wanted to be a soldier. He'll be in the Academy, come fall."

"Blasphemy! Heresy!" Sherren Dex's hand drew back, and for an instant, Ronon thought his father might strike him, something that hadn't happened since he was a small child. Instead, the fist lowered; his father threw his arms in the air and stalked off. "See if you can reason with the boy, Keth. He's beyond sense."

His mother took his arm cautiously, and, playing on a mother's intimate knowledge of her son: "If you join the Water Moiety, Ronon, you won't be able to legally marry Melena."

The boy's lips pressed together and firmed. "I know. We've talked about it. We're okay with that."

"Your father won't allow this, Ronon-nee. And we can't afford the transfer fees, not at all."

"I'll get a job and pay them."

"Ronon ..." Her eyes were sincere; he didn't want to meet them. "You can't, don't you understand? We simply can't allow it, and it isn't just a matter of your father's religious convictions. Sateda doesn't need artists and historians and philosophers right now; it needs soldiers."

Words seethed in him, but he'd never been good with words; they came out jumbled up and wrong. Trembling with the effort of self-control, he pushed away from his mother, resisting her sympathetic touch. He could feel the iron walls of the future slamming shut around him, locking him away from his art into a lifetime of servitude to the state, just like his father.

You don't care, he wanted to say. You don't understand. His mother was Water Moiety, of course; how could she not understand? She'd apprenticed to the Historians' Guild ... but she'd left to raise her children; it wasn't important to her.

Shivering with pent-up rage, he stormed upstairs, fingers so tight on the sketchbook that he left imprints in its leather binding. In the room he shared with Temmit, he flung it against the wall and watched it fall to the floor, open, the pages bent and smudged.

It didn't matter. It wasn't important. Not to his parents -- and not, he vowed, to himself, either.

So they'd won. He was twelve, still a minor; he didn't have a choice, after all. They wanted him to be a soldier, did they? He'd be the best damn soldier this world had ever seen.


Author's Note: Yes, this is in continuity with the doodles in the scrapbook in Pictures for Jeannie. I just LOVE the idea of Ronon as a slightly closeted artist.
Ronon-fic! Ronon-fic! Ronon-fic!

I love this and the connection to your Pictures for Jeannie and flushing out what Sateda was like when it was alive and functioning and Ronon not wanting the military - wanting a different life, but doing what had to be done (and determined to be the best at it...)

*squees*

I am curious though, in your development of the the culture - you say that if Ronon switches he won't be able to marry Malena, but later you indicate that his mother is Water and his father Sky - what makes one okay and the other not? (or, um, did you not think that complicatedly? which is okay too...)
Thank you! ^_^ I love the idea that Ronon didn't want to be a soldier; he just turned out to be really, really good at it. If he'd actually done what he wanted with his life, he'd have been culled along with everyone else.

you say that if Ronon switches he won't be able to marry Malena, but later you indicate that his mother is Water and his father Sky - what makes one okay and the other not?

Yeah, I think I might have left out a vital part of the explanation.

They're exogamous (have to marry someone from the other moiety) and patrilineal (count descent through the father). Ronon is Sky because his father is Sky, so he and his sister have to marry someone from Water. But if he switches to Water, everyone in Water is off-limits for marriage. Melena would have to be in Water (otherwise she wouldn't have been eligible for marriage to Ronon in the first place) so if he switches, he can't marry her.

It was all very clear in my head, but I don't think I gave enough context in the story itself!
Thank you! ^_^ I love the idea that Ronon didn't want to be a soldier; he just turned out to be really, really good at it. If he'd actually done what he wanted with his life, he'd have been culled along with everyone else.

Yep. I've actually been playing with a similar idea in my head - though considering going the science/engineer approach after his comment in "First Strike" about wanting to learn the science so he can be useful, but I kinda like your idea of him and art even better.

Oh, sweet! I love seeing cultures fleshed out like that - and it does make sense. I was wondering while reading, both the question you asked, and how many moities there were - only Water and Sky or possibly others also. Would also be interesting if boys get their father's moiety and girls their mother's. Still, I'm kinda excited you thought it out like that.
Oh, the scientist/engineer idea would be cool! I'd really love to see you write that.

A moeity is, by definition, half of a society; there would only be two. (Which I think is where I went wrong above, because my inner anthropology geek started writing instead of, you know, my brain, so to me it seemed perfectly logical that I wouldn't have to mention that if Ronon was in one moiety Melena would have to be in the other one -- completely forgetting that my readers are not going to KNOW this stuff!) But, yeah, there are SO many things you can do with kinship when you get to invent it from the ground up; there could be moieties AND clans in which membership could be entirely gender-based (boys in the father's, girls in the mother's), and maybe also secret societies in which you'd have to be inducted ... oh, many possibilities!
Oh, the scientist/engineer idea would be cool! I'd really love to see you write that.

Me too. As soon as I'm finally done with the darn ficathons and inspiration finally truly strikes.

You know, now that you say that about a moiety, I'm realizing I knew that and was being not-thinking-it-through. Definitely possibilties - which have so much cool potential between secret societies and what other rules might affect marriages and such.

I love having Stargate cultures fleshed out more.
Thank you so much! I really love the idea of Ronon the artist, and it hurts to think how many things about Sateda are gone forever, dead along with its people.

(And it's nice to see you back online! I get a little worried when people just ... disappear.)
It seems fitting that he would grow up in such a strict setting, judging by his general demeanor and the way he "follows orders", but what I liked the most is his lack of fear in front of his father. It felt very true when he just stood there and stated exactly what he wanted and how he felt, not mincing words in any way. It's such a rare thing to see anywhere--including real life--but it's very Ronon. And it's so sad that, despite such confidence, it didn't make a difference. And what was equally telling is that he just accepts and moves on.

I'm curious -- do you think Ronon continued to sketch? I spent a summer working as a tour guide at an armory museum (long story), and the last thing I worked was a large exhibit on the "armor" of the Second World War (from tanks to flak jackets). Local veterans were encouraged to bring their mementos and share their stories, and one was an artist. He had drawn small sketches of his fellow soldiers while stationed in the Pacific: sitting in tents in Iwo Jima, playing cards on a cruiser, things like that. They were all beautiful. Now I can't help but wonder, did Ronon keep his sketch book and do the same?
Thanks! It was interesting to explore Ronon's childhood, since we know a bit about him as a younger man but nothing really before the last days of Sateda. And, yes, that lack of fear, and that ability to accept and move on -- to put something behind him, if not put it away entirely -- is very much him, and very much a part of what enabled him to survive his seven years alone.

I like the idea that he didn't give up art completely. There's certainly no reason why one couldn't be a soldier and still draw; I know a lot of soldiers stationed in Alaska have done art on the side (not really much else to do, I suppose). And I also like the idea that he sketches sometimes on missions with the SGA team, keeping a sketchbook and drawing during their downtime.
Your details of Satedan society are rich and wonderful. I love seeing the Pegasus Galaxy through your eyes.

An artist pulled away to follow other expectations at 12. I wonder if he and McKay know they share a similarity.
Thank you so very much! And that's an interesting thought about Ronon and McKay that had honestly never occurred to me when I was writing this! Hmm...
Is that a plot bunny I see hopping your direction? *pokes the bunny toward friendshipper*
(Anonymous)
ooo a very nice view of Ronon indeed. I can really see him doing art.
...I'm late, so late, but - you used the word "moiety" in a fic!! I LOVE YOU! I cannot contain my excitement at that! Because, see, now this is what I'm talking about! This is the kind of culture where an anthropologist could spend many happy years - 1200 words, and your Sateda is already a richer and more fascinating place than any of the Pegasus Galaxy planets we get to see on the show.

Okay, that was the anthro geekery - the story itself is lovely, and it did new and interesting things to the way I think of Ronon, and Sateda. The last line just breaks my heart. Oh, Ronon!
Lovely story, and poor Ronon, not being able to follow his heart. The society you outlined was interesting and entirely possible within canon.

I wonder if Ronon might start drawing again (I know he does in Pictures for Jeannie), and what would Lorne think if he found out he wasn't the older artist/soldier on Atlantis - they could bond over that...

*ooh, look, is that another plot bunny heading your way? Shall I poke it towards you?*
Ok, this was all kinds of awesome. It broke my heart a bit, mostly because I'm an artist, I think. Still it was beautiful. And reading the comments, I realized how ignorant I am of anthropology, the word "moiety" in particular. I just thought it was a native word you made up for the story. But I learned something, nonetheless, which is cool. :)

But, yeah. I like how you've fleshed out Satedan culture. Ronon being unafraid in facing his father was awesome and fits his character. His mother being a historian, his father a warrior, and then Ronon at such a young age, being fine that he couldn't marry Melena, that they had already discussed it even. (I don't think that was a complete sentence) Anyway. Thanks for writing this. :)