This year’s winner of the annual Tyranny of Tradition Wookies vs. Vampires writing contest is long time Tyramaniac John Nelson. He will be awarded 50,000 cases of turtle wax and a 3 night stay on the planet of Endor.
And now, without further adieu, we proudly present “Green Hell”…
“We go out tomorrow,” said Isshorevge, gazing at a yellow jungle flower on the viewscreen.
“Fool!” hissed Grozmapia, “We know nothing of what is out there. Do you not find it odd that no animal larger than your fist lives on land?”
“No more odd than a planet filled with wroshyr trees more massive than any found on Kasshyyk. We go out tomorrow,” said Isshorevge, never turning his eyes from the sunset lit flower and its red seed pod. Grozmapia knew better than to argue with the Madclaw and left him to join the other three wookies preparing for sleep.
Isshorevge daydreamed of what they would build on this watery world with its narrow, jungle continents, out of place trees, and ancient ruins. This world would be a restart for the several hundreds of wookiees in the orbiting starship, unmarred by the hypocrisies, failures, and enslavements of Kashyyyk.
The large, brown wookiee traced the image of the flower with a retractable claw. A small creature arrived on the screen, working its tongue in anticipation of a gorge of nectar, as it scuttled into the flower. Once in, the petals closed over the tiny animal. A brief struggle followed, then no movement save for the creature’s rapid, tiny breaths visible through the petals. Isshorevge turned from the screen to look at his crew, then sat down for the first watch.
At sunrise, the five suited up and debarked. Their landing site was a causeway formed from two united branches between wroshyr trees. Scans reported no lethal pathogens, but an attempt to breathe the air was still under debate.
“We will not live in suits, Grozmapia,” said Isshorevge. “I have trusted our machines to fling us across the stars to this system in the extreme rim of the galaxy. You are our scientist! Have you grown superstitious?”
“No, but I will not let ambition replace intelligent caution,” she replied. “Perhaps you should pick someone expendable to remove their helmet.”
Isshorevge almost suggested Grozmapia have the honor, when the youngster, Kallakazaa, removed his helmet. He huffed and sat on the edge of the branch span, apparently not dead. After some exploring, collecting, and speculations on what the forest floor held, the wookiees returned to the ship. Kallakazaa stayed in the airlock, but a cot and double rations of cloned meat were provided for his comfort.
A storm rolled in that night, rocking the giant trees and threatening to fling their small craft. Isshorevge decided the larger ship would not survive the trees, despite the sturdy branches. They flew to the northern ruins as heavy weather encroached again. The jungle shrouded most of the grey complex save for one exposed building. After a near miss due to the rain and fog, they landed on the stone roof.
Because of his exposure, Isshorevge sent Kallakazaa out with a seismic slug to test for stability. He returned successful and so was allowed in from the airlock, though Grozmapia insisted he remain suited. Their pilot, Saltatha, did the clearing work, blasting the dangling limbs as she hovered the ship.
The mother ship landed without incident. The exiled wookiees discussed their plans and fantasies for the new world. Late in the night, a vicious storm pummeled the ship causing it to reverberate in an endless drone. Few slept well–they had grown accustomed to the intense quiet of space on their long trip.
Unexpectedly, the ship was moving, pitching down and forward as the back end caught for a moment and the ship tumbled. Wookies slammed against the ceiling, along with unstowed gear and, after too many seconds, hit the floor hard. A few interminable seconds of near silence passed before the wookies began wailing, weeping, and barking the names loved-ones. Many lay unmoving.
Isshorevge recovered from his initial jolt. A soldier and renegade, he cared little about the suffering of others or himself. For several minutes he roared orders, getting the triage started and all many able bodies working. Keeping them occupied might keep them from tearing him apart.
He grabbed an uninjured male and grunted for him to follow. Isshorevge then moved to the armory, unlocked one of the caches of blasters, and selected two. He handed one to his accomplice then grabbed some lights.
“Let’s go see what the damage is. Liaklanna, right?” said Isshorevge.
The young wookiee nodded, still a bit stunned. Together they left through an airlock on the port side of the ship. The ship was inside the ruin. Far above them rain filtered down through the ragged ceiling hole. There had once been many floors, but they had collapsed leaving nothing but a shell. Airborne masonry dust blocked their lights from penetrating far into the darkness.
The ship was not bad off, save for the collapsed landing gear, an easy repair. A rattle from the other side of the ship cut their inspection short. They brought their blasters to bear and rounded the front of the ship, almost running into the source of the noise. A small sea of standing skeletons, the risen forms of some vanished race, stretched from the gloom.
They fired, Isshorevge’s aim a little truer than Liaklanna’s. It did little good. The skeletons did not miss a limb or a head and kept advancing. Stray blaster bolts revealed more figures standing just out of reach as well as hints of some large beast pacing behind them.
“Get to the ship!” shouted Isshorevge, though he knew it was beyond hope. The horde lurched to within arm’s reach of the wookiees. Isshorevge swung wide with his blaster, bludgeoning apart two skeletons at once. Liaklanna tried to bolt for the other side of the ship but a swarm of bony foes dragged him down and pinned him to the ground. Isshorevge fought with blaster butt, claws and teeth in a vain effort to fend off the mass, but the skeletons overwhelmed him. He hoped his bellows had warned those still inside the ship as cold, bony hands gripped his limbs like iron bands and twisted him into a kneeling position on the rubble.
During the brief pause, Isshorevge looked into the shadows on the edge of the building and saw a lone figure emerge. It was humanoid, tall, pale and lithe and seemed to glide over the crumbled floor. Two points of hellfire served as its eyes. The creature gestured as it strode behind the wookiee. A skeleton grabbed a handful of the wookiee’s hair and pulled his head back and sideways. As he felt the burning pain radiating from his neck, he heard the screams from the ship.