Slayers of the Old Republic
Book IV: Kashyyk
By Michael Weyer
Buffy had never gotten the opportunity to see a Wookie in a full-on rage. It was a much more intimidating experience than she had expected. She was barely able to duck the swing of his blade as he went at the group. Carth and Canderous pulled up their blasters to aim at him but Vance waved them back. “We don’t want to hurt you!” he yelled at the Wookie.
Freyyr snarled. “Lies! Outsiders always lie! Corrupt! Destroy!”
“We came with your son!” Buffy yelled back. “Zaalbar!”
Freyyr halted, his blade held high over his head. “My…son? My boy still lives? And he's made friends of outsiders? Is he a slave?"
Buffy shook her head, glad to see he was listening. “No…no, he swore a life-debt to me and my friend, Vance.”
“A…life-debt?” Freyyr lowered the blade, frowning. He sees something of worth in you both. I will listen...cautiously. Gullibility has harmed me in the past. If I had seen through Chuundar's lies, he would be exposed as a slaver."
"Can...Can you tell me what happened with Zaalbar?" Buffy carefully asked.
"Zaalbar is a bright lad, always has been. He learned Chuundar was dealing with Czerka, leading them to our hunting parties and blaming their disappearances on the dangers of the Shadowlands. Zaalbar was crazed when he found out. He attacked his brother with his claws. I thought he had gone mad - shed his honor."
“So you exiled him.” Faith hadn’t meant to say it with such accusation but it came out that way. Thankfully, Freyyr didn’t seem too upset by it.
"The failure to see treachery was mine. When my sons fought, I followed tradition and believed the elder boy. But less than a season after that, Chuundar started spreading rumors that I had also gone mad. His Czerka allies tried to kill me. I had to flee for my life."
"That's when I found him," Jolee explained. "I helped his pursuers lose him for a moment, helped get to safety down here."
"I am sorry for attacking you, but it has been so long since I have offered my trust or accepted that of another."
"The more I hear of Chuundar, the more I would like to expose him for the dishonorable creature he is," Juhani said.
"Chuundar is powerful, especially surrounded by his Czerka allies, but there is a chance I could appeal to the traditions of our people. It will take much to convince my people that they have been lied to."
“What would it take?” Bastila asked.
Freyyr thought briefly before speaking. “Bacca’s blade. Bacca was a great warrior who united our tribes and people. During his hunt, he found a crashed starship, our first hint of outsiders. He was a cautious old wook, fearing the taint of invaders. Constructing a great vibroblade from the wreckage, it has long symbolized our independence. Only destined leaders have held it."
"Where could we find it?” Buffy asked.
"It was damaged long ago in a ritual battle. Chieftain Rothrrrawr fought the Great Beast, his arrogance outstripping his ability. The blade was broken, stuck inside the Beast. Our tales say the Gods took it because we had become undeserving. The hilt remains with Chuundar..."
“So, find the blade and you’ve got yourself a way to rally the people,” Carth noted. “Why do I think it’s not going to be that easy?”
“Because you’ve been hanging me too long,” Buffy answered.
At Freyy’s directions, the group made its way to the ceremonial site. The area seemed to be circular, like some sort of arena with a large stone tablet nearby. Vance rubbed the dust off it and read
“The beast comes when summoned, if you are generous. It comes to battle, if you are worthy and wise. It grants you glory, if you are fearsome and brave. Feed the beast and it will heed your call. Take the vipers from their lair and hang them from above. Let blood scent the ground of our ancestors.”
“Instructions on how to bring about painful death,” Faith noted. “How considerate.”
Vance checked out the vines. “These look strong enough to hold one of those spiders. Maybe the scent will bring this thing out.”
Bastila frowned. “I am not sure if…”
Buffy was already moving, her lightsaber flashing on as she vanished into the bushes. There was a flash and a squeal and she came back, dragging a spider behind her. Jolee chuckled. “Nice to see the Jedi haven’t quashed her spirit yet.” Bastila merely sighed as she and Vance set the spider on the vine and hung it up.
The group waited a few minutes as the scent of blood and flesh wafted through the air. The silence of the Shadowlands was interrupted by the rumbling of hard footsteps. A monstrous creature burst from the shadows into the clearing. Brown and greasy, it had spikes growing out of its backbone and a strange set of teeth coming out of the corners of its mouth. Large limbs were ended with sharp claws that may have poison in them. From its back was a shiny piece of metal embedded in its skin.
“Great stars!” Bastila gasped. “A terentatek!”
Buffy knew of these monsters from the Jedi archives. There were creatures of the Dark Side, with poison in their veins and skin as hard as rock. “Go for the legs!” Carth yelled. He, Canderous and Faith moved up and opened fire. The creature roared in pain as a shower of blaster bolts struck its legs, which were far less armored than its main body. It stumbled and fell to its knees on the ground.
Instantly, the Jedi were on it, lightsabers out and slashing. They went at it from all side, the various colors of their blades lighting the dim forest as they hacked away. Finally, with a loud gasp, the terentatek went down, expelling foul gas from its pores.
“Well,” Jolee gasped. “Nice to know…after twenty years…the planet still has some surprises.”
Vance wrinkled his nose at the foul smell as he reached over to grab the broken blade. He tugged on it, gritting his teeth as he tried to get it out. Faith brushed past him, grabbed the hilt and with little effort, pulled it out of the monster’s body. “Here ya go,” she said, tossing it to him.
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Sure, rub it in.”
Vance held the blade up, admiring its design. “Wow, this is impressive.”
“The Wookies do take pride in their craftsmanship,” Jolee noted. “Yet another reason I like them. A shame the Order wouldn’t accept any.”
That surprised Faith. “Why not?”
“They are too emotional,” Bastila stated. “Their rage can get the best of them. Zaalbar is proof of that. If they cannot maintain emotions, they cannot be trained to use the Force.”
Juhani’s yellow eyes narrowed at her. “My people have difficulty with our emotions,” she hissed. “I know the touch of the Dark Side. Are you saying I should not be with the Order?”
“She’s got a point,” Buffy intoned. “I don’t have to tell you what kind of an attitude I had when you started training me, Bastila. Why should the Wookies be different?”
Bastila licked her lips, realizing she was getting on a dangerous thread. “I simply mean that the Jedi way is not…proper for Wookies. We are ambassadors for the Republic at times. It is required that we be…” She thought for the right words. “Presentable.”
Canderous let out a loud laugh. “Ah, I knew it! Underneath all that fancy talk, you Jedi have as many prejudices as any other species!”
Bastila sputtered. “It is not prejudice, it is…”
“Bullshit,” Faith spat. “You don’t think Wookies would fit in with the great picture you like to paint. Just admit it!”
“Hey,” Carth interrupted. “As much as I enjoy seeing Bastila taken down a few pegs, maybe we oughta continue this somewhere less dangerous?”
Buffy nodded. “You’re right. Let’s get this back to the Big Chief. He can decide what to do next.”
Freyyr’s eyes lit up as he saw them return with the blade. “This…this is something I never thought I’d live to see!” He held the blade up and nodded to them. “My thanks, outsiders. I see now you are worthy of my son’s debt to you. Now, I must return. It is time to take back what is rightfully mine and send these slavers where they belong!”
“We’ll be helping you,” Buffy said. “But we have a couple of things to take care of first…”
They made a quick stop at Jolee’s home where the aged Jedi packed a small bag of items. “Here we go,” he said as he walked with them. “Nothing really to keep. I figure the Wookies might want to use this place for a haven for trips in the future. I always try to be considerate to others.”
The trip back up took a bit longer but eventually, the group returned to the wooden walkways of the village. It took a short time to get back to the main village and the home of the Keeper of the Laws.
“Outsiders,” Worroznor stated. “Why have you returned to me?”
“We’ve got something you may want to hear about,” Faith said as she took the bolt casing they had found and handed it to him.
Worrroznor looked over the bolt casing. "It is Jaraak's. The family insignia is there. How did you get it?"
"We found Rorworr's remains in the Shadowlands. That casing was from the bolt that likely killed him." Carth explained.
"Oh my, very distressing. It would seem that Jaraak had a hand in his death, then. I can't ignore this. Wait here, outsiders, while he is fetched. I hope he can explain this. I really do."
It wasn't long before Woorwill and Jaraak were brought before Worrroznor, standing in the open room in his home. Woorwill was confused and frightened, while Jaraak looked tired and downcast, expecting what was to come.
"Jaarak, you know why you have been summoned here,” Worroznor said in an official tone.” As Holder of the Laws, I ask you to explain. Do...do you recognize this bowcaster bolt casing?" Worrroznor asked.
The Wookie sadly nodded. "The casing is mine. It bears my family runes, and markings for the creatures I killed."
"Yours?" Juhani asked. “Then…”
"Jolee was correct," Bastila said with a sigh. "This can only end in sorrow."
"On Rorworr's body? He is dead? It can't be!" Woorwill seemed shocked at the news.
"Don't listen to him, Woorwil,” Jaarak barked. “Outsiders only lie when their mouths are open. Didn't I teach you?” He faced the group again. “I won't answer. I can't answer. Must my son be here to see this?"
"Woorwill was Rorworr's student. Since Rorworr has no family, he is allowed to stand here." Worrroznor seemed exasperated. "Jaraak, please speak. If you are guilty, it means death and this outsider inherits your possessions. Do you wish that?"
"Is there no alternative to death as a punishment?" Vance asked.
"If there were mitigating circumstances, perhaps another punishment could be considered. It depends on what was behind it."
"Good thinking," Carth said, pulling the datapad from his bag. "Jaarak didn't murder without reason. Take it. Show it to the judge."
Jolee warned, "I urge you caution. This may seem like the right path to follow, but you don't know these people as I do."
The elder Wookie took the datapad and read its contents. His eyes widened with shock and then sadness. "This is a failure of honor. It is very serious. Jaraak, are there any factors to be aware of?"
The older Wookiee shook his head. "I killed Rorworr. I will accept whatever punishment is given, Holder. It is better if my honor alone it tainted."
Woorwill shook his head, his face marked in shock and betrayal. "Why did you do it, father? Why? Rorworr was a hero!"
"You only need to know that I did it. The reason is not important. Woorwill, I am sorry."
“Uh-huh,” Faith said, moving forward. “I’m not letting you take the fall for that guy!” She held the datapad up. Rorworr was dealing with slavers. Carth and Juhani found the slaver contract on him. Woorwill was going to be the next one he sold to Czerka!"
"What are you talking about?" Woorwill howled. "That's not...it can't be."
"Don't do this,” Jaarak pleaded. “Rorworr was admired. They need to believe in him. I am old and unimportant. Let Woorwill and the other children have their hero. Don't listen to the outsider's lying, please."
The younger Wookie was looking at the datapad and the others could see the shock as something within him died. “It…it’s true…All those others…my friends…He was only teaching us so he could…sell us at better prices…”
Jaarak gave a huffing sigh. "I'm sorry, Woorwill. I never wanted you to know. So much is against us. You need someone to look up to. I couldn't let him betray you...betray us all. Outsiders are a threat by themselves. We don't need traitors of our own."
"In light of this, Jaarak, you are declared innocent and shall be released." He turned to the party. "Well, I must say you are the first outsiders I have been glad to know. You have surprised me. Perhaps some of you are indeed capable of honor."
"It feels like the right thing to do," Bastila said. "But to destroy a hero..."
"What's gonna happen?" Faith asked.
Worrroznor patted her shoulder gently. "It will cause a stir, and much pain. But it will pass in time. We will be disappointed in him, but we've other enemies to face. You are strong and good - all of you."
"Ah, a painful end," said Jolee. "But perhaps it was the only way. We shall see..."
The door burst open and a flushed Wookie entered. “Freyyr has returned! He carries Bacca’s blade and is on his way to confront Chuundar!”
The entire hut was emptied in seconds.
The crew pushed their way into the Chieftan’s hall. Worrroznor led them to the Chieftain's Hall and threw open the doors. It was a deadly stalemate now, Chuundar and his Czerka guards on one end, Freyyr and his supporters on the other. Zaalbar and Mission hung in the middle.
"And your clan of outsiders comes as well?" Chuundar shook his fist at them. "Everyone is here now! Quite a reunion!"
"Yes, my son,” Freyyr barked. “By the blade of Bacca's sword, I've come to end your treachery. No more will you sell your own people!"
"You've the blade, father? Hah! So what? I have the hilt, held by each true High Chieftain in recent memory. Even you claimed it was all-important. We have our ancient trinkets, and who will the people follow? You? You are old and weak!"
Zaalbar blocked both of them with his body, shoving the apart before blows could start. "Shut up, both of you! This will end now! I will not see Rwookrrorro suffer any more! Put down your blades NOW!"
"Aw right! You tell 'em, Big Z!"
Chuundar holds the power here, Zaalbar," Canderous warned. "And if you overthrow Czerka here, they will return and will double their efforts to destroy you."
Vance stepped forward. "Zaalbar, you are someone of great conscience and honor," she said evenly. "And you may be right in saying there is no need for blood to be shed here."
"We work together. It will be hard," Zaalbar said. "But I will not have us slaughtering each other when the true foes surround us! The fighting stops NOW!"
Freyyr looked across at Chuundar. "I have no desire to shed shared blood, Chuundar. Despite all you have done, you are still my son. Kashyyyk can grow stronger under our hands."
Chuundar raised his blade. "What does it matter? I have Czerka's support. You will all die!"
"Brother, NO!" Zaalbar stepped before Chuundar, blocking his strike at Freyyr. He shoved Chuundar back, but he needed a weapon!
From the corner of his eye, he saw Mission pull her vibroblade. Like a single mind in two bodies, she threw the blade to him and he caught it. They had done this so often on Taris, it was as natural as breathing. It was barely a large dagger to him, but a weapon enough.
The room was filled with violence in seconds. Faith, Carth and Canderous didn’t bother with their blasters but went for hand-to-hand. The Slayer was right in her element as she savaged a pair of Czerka guards with kicks. A Wookie lunged at her but she managed to knock its knees out from under him and kick him in the back of the head. The creature was only stunned but Canderous was there with a mighty double-fisted blow to send him down.
The Jedi were cutting the Wookies loyal to Chuundar down, the creatures thrown by their lightsabers and Force abilities. In the middle, Chuundar and Freyyr dueled. The Chieftan struck his father with a backhand and made to stab at him.
"Father!" Zaalbar roared as he attacked his brother. Zaalbar savagely backhanded Chuundar. Chuundar swiped back, gashing Zaalbar's arm. Zaalbar swung back with his fist and blade with all the savagery and rage brought on by his long years of exile. His mind went blank, and he was dimly aware of Chuundar's face before him.
He grabbed Chuundar by the shoulders and threw him against the wall, continuing his savage assault. Chuundar made a couple attempts to strike back, and Zaalbar was wounded in several places. It didn't even register with him. The pain of his body and the pain of his heart fused together.
Chuundar gasped as Zaalbar’s hands clenched around his throat. He had realized too late how far he had pushed his brother. The pain of the long exile was getting to Zaalbar and making him lose himself in a full on rage. The false chieftan gripped Zaalbar’s hands, trying to pry them off but it was as if they were made of solid steel. His eyes bugged out and his breaths became chokes. Zaalbar’s face was marked in fury as he kept choking the life out of the greatest betrayer his people had known.
With a final rattle of breath, Chuundar gasped and then slumped. Zaalbar kept choking under he heard the crush of his brother’s windpipe Only then did he let go. Chuundar’s body slumped to the ground, eyes open but unseeing. Zaalbar heaved with breath and turned to see his father standing before him. He became aware that the battle was over, the Czerka men and Chuundar’s followers dead or badly injured.
The elder Wookie held up his hands. “My son is no mad-claw! Let it be known to all!”
“Father…I grieve with you."
"Zaalbar, my son. I am truly sorry. You have suffered a great wrong, a great shame. I was blind. I have no excuse."
"I can forgive, Father. I have learned much over the years."
"What will be done about the slavers?" Buffy asked.
"We will fight them. It will be difficult, but they shall not take another of my people without bloodshed. I'll send my best climbers to other villages to rally a defense. We must guard against this happening again." Freyyr nodded to the crew. "Your kind will be the only outsiders welcome here for some time. It will be a change for the better, I think."
Mission walked up to Zaalbar. "I'm gonna miss you, Big Z, but this is your home and family. I wish you all the best."
Mission frowned. “Wait…you’re not staying?”
"Returning home has lifted a great weight from my mind...but it has been painful as well."
"You have a place at my side, Zaalbar," Freyyr said. "I would be honored if you would take it."
After a pause, Zaalbar shook his head. "I cannot. Not yet. I'm just used to being free, and not just from the slavers. And I have a life-debt to honor. Now that my life is truly my own, honoring that agreement is all the more important."
Freyyr beamed with pride. "Listen to my son! His insight humbles me. Take that good judgment with you, and all the stars will come to revere Wookie wisdom!”
Faith fixed Bastila with a look. “Something to think about, isn’t it?”
The Jedi just glared at her while her Padawans snickered behind her.
“I have one request, Father." Zaalbar said. "I request to carry Bacca's Sword."
"Well, Zaalbar, that is quite a request. I am tempted to say no, but perhaps I should consider it an investment. Do you realize what this means? It is the legacy of our people, held by chieftains and future chieftains."
"I understand, Father. And I will return with it in hand when this quest is over."
"My son shall carry Bacca's Sword!" He handed the sword to Zaalbar, beaming with pride. "Carry it with pride and wield it with honor. We await your return."
“Speaking of return,” Carth announced. “I think it’s time we got going before the revolution gets into full swing.”
“Before you go,” Freyyr announced. “I wish to say this. You have returned to us our pride and honor. You have given us our hope back. You have given us the strength to strike back and take back our home. From this day forth, you are all considered honorary members of our tribe. You are each welcome to return at any time.”
“Thank you,” Vance said, meaning it as he and the other Jedi bowed.
Freyyr turned to Jolee and smiled softly. “So you finally leave us, Hairless One? The Shadowlands shall not be the same without you.”
“Ah, don’t get maudlin,” Jolee retorted. “That place was around a long time before me and it’ll be around long after I join the Force. Feel free to use my place though.”
“We shall honor it as a memory of a great aid to us.” Freyyr moved to exchange a long hug with his son and then nodded. “Farewell and may the Great Spirts watch over you all.”
“With us, they’ll need a lot of watching,” Buffy joked as the group made to leave.
There was one more stop the group had to make as they made their way back to the docks. Eli was still at his station, that oily smile on his face as the other approached. “Ah, some of my favored customers. What can I…” The smile froze as Buffy brought out the droid head.
Oh, a droid head? Possibly Czerka surplus. Nothing of value..." Eli blanched. "
"Like hell that's Czerka surplus!" Matton's eyes went wide as he grabbed the droid head and examined it. "That's D-AO2, my ship's repair droid! Why was it in the forest?"
Jolee folded his arms. "I think you ought to listen to its last recording."
Faith pressed the playback. The last moments of the crew played through again, and the recording ended in a chilling staccato of screams and blaster fire.
The two men were frozen, Matton wide-eyed with shock, and Eli just a step away from cowering. Matton threw the droid head aside and lunged for Eli.
"You lied to me, you Hutt! You murdered my crew while I repaired your freighter and have the gall to keep me as a slave, lying and saying my crew jacked the ship without paying the bill!" He grabbed Eli by the lapels and slammed him against the landing strut.
"Well...that is...Oh, for all you know it's a fabrication! A good mechanic is hard to find, and..."
"Lying Jedi? I don't think so, Eli. I thought I owed you! You tricked them into the Shadowlands and killed them, didn't you?"
"Matton, this isn't…it was just business, I tell you!" Wrenching away in a panic, he darted off past the safe point, heading towards the Wookiee village and Shadowlands entrance. Jolee grabbed Matton and held him back as Eli vanished into the night.
"Let the natives or the Shadowlands take care of him. He's finished."
"They…they were my friends. I knew they had…and not…"He looked up. "But what will I do now?"
Faith looked around. “Well…the shop needs an owner and the Wookies could probably use someone mechanically inclined.”
Matton thought about it and slowly nodded. “Yeah…yeah, I guess you’re right.”
Buffy leaned in, her voice dropping. “I’d recommend you find a place to stay out of sight the next few days. Things are going to get hot for Czerka around here.”
Matton smiled. “Really? I think that’s going to make some of the ground crew around here happy.”
“If any Wookies find you, just tell them you’re a friend of Zaalbar.” With a final nod, Buffy turned as the group headed to the ship.
The four Czerka guards aimed their rifles as they came up. “Hold it right there,” the leader said. “Chuundar said you don’t get to leave.”
“Well, Chuundar isn’t saying much of anything now,” Buffy happily noted.
The guard shook his head. “I’m still not authorized to-----“
A loud howl echoed through the forest, throwing everyone. The sound of blaster fire echoed from the far edge of the landing dock, followed by several screams. The guards immediately ran toward the source of the chaos as the crew exchanged smiles. “Well, the old clock on the wall says it’s bout time we got going!” Buffy announced as they piled into the Ebon Hawk. Within minutes, the ship was rising up and taking off, leaving the hapless Czerka officials to deal with a full-scale Wookie rebellion.
Bastila sat in her small quarters, taking stock of the situation. Kashyyk had been a bit more complicated than she had expected, especially given Buffy and Vance’s actions there. The presence of Jolee was also a complication she did not expect. However, they had gotten another piece of the puzzle so the mission was still in good shape.
She was looking over the Star Map on her datapad when the door opened and Jolee entered. She frowned. “Jolee? What are you doing here?”
The elder Jedi crossed his arms, a stern expression on his face. He wiggled his fingers and the door shut hard behind him. His eyes were cool as he looked at Bastila. “I want to talk to you about your Padawans.”
Bastila frowned, trying to calm the stab of nervousness in her. “Buffy and Vance? Why? What about them?”
Jolee’s face was still hard as he stepped forward. “I may have been a hermit, girl but do not ever think I am a fool. You know damn good and well what it is about them.”
Bastila blanched and swallowed. “You….you know…”
Jolee leaned in, his eyes colder than ever. “So….like I said. We’re going to have a nice…long…talk.”
Well, another book down and things are picking up. Next up is a trip to a famed desert planet where, as all KOTOR fans know, the most popular character of the game makes his appearance.
Coming next: Book V: Tattoine