Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

The Road to Rediscovery
Part 3 - The Wookiee

The victory tour traveled to the Koros System. After spending one waking day visiting all seven inhabited planets in the system, there was a grand celebration on the glorious capital planet itself: Empress Teta. Thanks to the celeverly-timed arrivals and departures, the events of the day had taken far longer than one standard span from sunset to sunrise. And even after the sun set on Cinnagar, the day was not yet over for the heroes of the Republic. Empress Evenam would not be satisfied without a formal state dinner in honor of her guests.

Night lights glittered through the vaulted windows of the Tetan Imperial Palace as the heroes of the Republic did their best to stay awake on their feet while mingling with members of the royal family, senatorial delegation, and other exalted Tetans.

When her Royal Highness the Empress Evenam had had her full of chatting and announced that she would be turning in for the night, the visiting heroes were only too glad to be escorted down a quiet, private corridor to the shuttle that would take them to their accommodations for the night. The ever-present representative of the Chancellor's office, Essra Imlium, and her Tour and Celebrations Committee would have had them sleeping on their ship, en route to Kaikielius. That is, if it would not been a major breech in formality to deny Empress Evenam's hospitality, so they stayed on Empress Teta.

A woman in the sharply tailored green jacket of a Tetan Special Forces pilot with thick brown hair spilling out from beneath her cap welcomed them with a smile as they entered the hangar. “I wanted to welcome you to Koros, but I'm sure you have heard that plenty enough already,” she said with an air of familiarly, “I had to pull all sorts of connections and whisper into several ears to be given the privilege of being your pilot-escort this evening.”

Carth, at the front of the line, started at her through bleary eyes. “I'm sorry, but I don't remember your—” he started.

“Oh, you're the woman Kionee introduced us to on Coruscant, marrying her brother,” Ev brushed brightly by him. Carth was convinced that Ev's alertness at any hour of the day, no matter how long the day, was some kind of Jedi trick. “Laurel, wasn't it?”

“Well, I'm impressed,” Laurel beamed back, “With all the names fired at you in the last two weeks, that you could remember mine.”

“Trust me,” Ev laughed, “I try to forget most of them. I make an exception for family of friends.”

“Well, you all look exhausted,” Laurel stepped aside, giving them a clear path to a small shuttle's boarding ramp, “Please come aboard, and I can get you to your lodgings.”

The Starlight Gem had the most opulently decorated interior of any ship Carth had ever seen. From the green velvet upholstery, matching shag carpet, and silk damask drapes over the passenger viewports to the gemstone-like buttons on the personal climate control panel at each seat, it spoke of royalty. Chairs and long sofas, accompanied with polished wooden tables, provided enough room for nearly fifteen passengers. Carth whistled appreciatively.

Laurel caught his meaning. “And does it ever have a smooth ride too,” she beamed and settled into the pilot's chair. Only a green, silk curtain separated the passenger cabin from the cockpit. Laurel left it open.

Ev slid onto a couch next to Carth while Mission claimed a whole sofa for herself, sprawling out with her head laid on her arms. Bastila, Zaalbar, and Juhani quickly found their seats, but Jolee had to pace the full length of the shuttle before choosing a seat that pleased him.

With a wide grin on his face, he settled back into the velvet cushions. “Now this is how it's done,” Jolee nodded satisfactorily, “The rest of the Republic aught to take hospitality lessons from the Tetans.”

“Jolee!” Juhani hissed as the shuttle door closed, hoping none of the Tetans had overheard his comment.

Laurel laughed from the cockpit, “Actually, Her Highness would love to know she has your approval, as being better than the rest of the galaxy at what she does. Though, it is a fact she takes for granted already.”

“In that case,” Ev said smiling, “Pass along our appreciation.”

“Will do,” Laurel nodded as she readied the ship's ignition. “To the summer palace then.”

The hardly heard or felt the shuttle lift off. Soon enough, it was soaring over Cinnagar towards the coast.

“She wasn't kidding about the smooth ride,” Carth marveled.

“I suppose you're itching to be back behind the controls of a zippy little fighter yourself,” Ev observed.

“A break is nice, now and then,” Carth shrugged, “I'm too tired today anyway to think about piloting anything.”

“Say,” Ev started, “Just how did you get permission to fly us on this ship, Laurel.”

“I'm not a fruit and veggie-pilot like all of my future in-laws,” Laurel answered, deftly piloting the ship, “if that's what you're suggesting. Usually, I am Senator Liz Yerrn's personal escort-pilot. I fly her two and from Coruscant, and wherever else she needs to go, and act as a sort of low-profile bodyguard.”

“I did hear someone mention that Senator Yerrn is the King's sister,” Bastila noted.

“Exactly right,” Laurel nodded, “So I asked very nicely that, if I wasn't needed this evening, could I fly you all to your lodgings, as my future sister-in-law was one among your company.”

“It is nice to see a familiar face,” Juhani said, “Thank you for volunteering. The strangers are all beginning to blend together.”

“Last time I saw you all, there was an eighth in your company,” Laurel observed.

“Right,” Ev remembered, “Canderous smuggled himself out of Corellia, our first stop on the tour, as quietly as he could. We're not really sure where he went off to.”

“This all must have been strange for a Mandalorian,”Laurel nodded, “How many systems have you visited in the last two weeks?”

“Twelve,” Jolee answered dryly.

This time it was Laurel's turn to whistle appreciatively. “No wonder you all look so tired. Well, aside from the pace, how are you enjoying the tour?” she asked.

“The food's been good,” Mission mumbled into her arms.

“We have seen how the wealthy and elite of the galaxy live,” Juhani said, but there was no awe in her voice, “And have lived a bit of it ourselves.”

Bastila was in agreement, “I will forever appreciate the life of a Jedi, so free of all these politics.”

“So you'd rather be chasing down Sith Lords than being fed like a queen?” Ev teased.

“I didn't say that,” Bastila snapped tiredly.

Ev grinned at her, “I know.”

Bastila gave her a smile smile back.

“I could leave behind all the palaces of the galaxy just to be among the holy wroshyr again,” Zaalbar rumbled.

“You and me both,” Jolee nodded.

“From what's been said said about your planet, Kashyyyk,” Laurel started, “I'd love to see the Wookiee trees myself too. For all the places I've been with the senator, I've never seen any kind of awesome flora like that.”

“You understand Shyriiwook?” Ev asked suddenly.

Laurel smiled and tapped at her right ear. “Ear-bud translator,” she replied, “It's a tool of the trade for senators, so I figured I should have one too. I'm amazed more people don't have them. They're really quite affordable, and not too uncomfortable, once you get used to having one in.”

“If everyone could get one, no one would bother to have the decency to learn to speak or even understand the language of where they were living,” Jolee rattled, “It makes an outsider seem like he doesn't give a whiff about his host people.”

“I suppose you're referring to Czerka Corporation on Kashyyyk?” Ev observed.

“Hrumph!” was Jolee's only answer.

“Well, I honestly would love a chance to visit Kashyyyk myself,” Laurel said, “If either of you want a lift back there, I could easily arrange for a few days off to take you myself.”

“Kashyyyk...” Zaalbar rumbled wistfully.

“That'd be nice,” Mission mumbled her assent, curled up on the couch, “Big Z'd like that.”


Ev's rooms in the Tetan Summer Palace opened onto a broad balcony with a spectacular view of the ocean. Reflections of Empress Teta's three nearly-full moons glittered on the gently dancing waves below. Ev leaned lightly on the railing taking it all in, yet remembering nothing.

She sighed and shook her head. “This isn't where I should be right now,” she murmured and turned away from the sea. The night air was warm and humid around her. Despite the exhaustions of the day, Ev could not bring herself to sleep. Hundreds of people remind her that she was Revan, both destroyer and savior, every day of the tour. She wished, knowing it was futile, that she could be just Ev, nothing more.

A presence in the Force caught her attention at the edge of her mind. Someone—Zaalbar, stood at her door. Before he could work up the courage to disturb her, Ev Pulled the suite's door open with a flick of her hand.

Zaalbar hid his surprise relatively well. “May I enter, Ev Pell?” he rumbled, “I wish to speak with you.”

“Yes, please come in,” Ev replied and strolled through the open balcony doors and into the room towards him.

Ducking, Zaalbar stepped inside and the door closed behind him as Ev gave it a gentle Push through the Force.

Ev sank into one of the overstuffed armchairs near the door. “Do you want to sit down?” she invited, gesturing to the loveseat across the caff table from her.

Zaalbar sat stiffly down on the floral linen cushions.

“Something's bothering you,” Ev observed of the tense Wookiee sitting across from her.

“I was speaking with Laurel Grergen,” Zaalbar started in a low rumble, “And she said that she is free to return me to Kashyyyk, if I can go.”

Ev nodded, “I know you want to go back.”

Zaalbar reached back over his shoulder and drew the Blade of Bacca then rested it in both is hands across his lap. He stared reverently down at it for a moment before replying, “This blade reminds me of my people and of my father. My father did me a great honor in giving me this blade. It has served you well. But in giving it to me, I know he expected me to bring it back one day, and rule as the chieftain of our tribe.” He paused, but Ev did not interrupt. She sensed he had more to say. Still looking down at the vibroblade, he finally admitted, “But I am torn between two vows: a vow to my people that I owe through birth, and a vow to you. I owe you my life.”

Ev leaned back and nodded. “I expected as much,” she said. “Do you remember what I said to you on Coruscant, the day we were given our awards?” She did not wait for him to reply, but supplied it herself, “I told you that you would be best serving out your debt to me by rebuilding the lives of your people on Kashyyyk.”

“You say this only to give me what I want,” Zaalbar accused, finally meeting her eyes, “You do not understand the gravity of the debt I owe you.”

“No, I do,” Ev replied seriously, “And I'm asking you to do what I want. Lucky here, that our wants are the same. Zaalbar, when I was with your people and I saw how Czerka treated them, it made me as mad as a Wookiee.” She cracked a sly smile as Zaalbar wuffed an appreciative laugh. “I care about what happens to Kashyyyk, and right now, your planet is at a critical point.”

“What do you mean?” Zaalbar asked.

“Kashyyyk has so much potential for change, positive change, right now,” Ev explained. “The Republic's eye is on your planet right now. In fact, it's on you too. Czerka wouldn't dare move back in for that reason, and for the beating they got at the hands of your people.”

Zaalbar growled warmly.

“Zaalbar, you, as a hero of the Republic, could lead your planet into the Republic,” Ev pointed out.

“But I am just another Wookiee, once exiled as a madclaw,” Zaalbar protested.

“And the future chieftain of Rwookrrorro,” Ev pointed out, “You have charisma and leadership, Zaalbar. That you showed in our travels and when you took back your village from the slavers. Your people respect you now, look up to you. On top of that, thanks to your Cross of Glory, so does the rest of the galaxy. You are poised to make a difference, if you chose to.”

“What do you want me to do?” Zaalbar asked.

“Oh, there you go again,” Ev threw her hands up, “I want you to think for yourself. Think: would this be good for your people? To enter as a full member of the Galactic Republic?”

Zaalbar scratched the fur on his head thoughtfully. “The Republic does not allow slavery. There is trade and protection,” he thought out loud. “All of these could benefit my people.”

“Then there are some things you need to do before the Republic can accept you,” Ev nodded approvingly. “First, you must have some sort of centralized government that can represent and control, to an extent, the whole planet. Second, since so much in the Republic revolves around trade, you should identify products of value that you can offer into trade. This could be raw materials, foods, or technology. I know you Wookiees have a knack with gadgets. And, thirdly, your government must comply with the Galactic Constitution and all of its precepts.”

“That is a lot to ask,” Zaalbar said warily, but Ev sensed hesitant approval.

“I'm not ordering you to do this,” Ev replied, “I'm asking you to consider it, to talk it over with other Wookiees you trust. Ultimately, it's about what is best for your people, and only your people can decide that.”

“You want me to talk to my people about this,” Zaalbar repeated, as if unsure, “And if it is what they want, do it.”

Ev nodded. “And that would serve out the debt you owe me,” she said, “I'm sorry if this has put you in a funny position.”

“There is nothing to be sorry for,” Zaalbar said, standing up. He sheathed the Blade of Bacca on his back again. “Thank you, Ev Pell.”

Ev stood as well. “It has been great traveling with you, Zaalbar,” she said, “I wish you all the best.”

“Laurel Grergen said she can take me tonight, so I will be going now,” Zaalbar said.

“Mission would hate for you to go without telling her,” Ev pointed out seriously.

Zaalbar fumbled at his belt. “She said she approved of me going back while we were on our way over here,” he mumbled.

“I doubt she was aware that was what she was mumbling,” Ev pointed out, “She was half-asleep.”

“I do not want her think I want her coming with me. She enjoys this tour so much, she should see it through to the end,” Zaalbar added.

“And you hate saying goodbyes,” Ev assessed, “I know how you feel. I do too.”

Zaalbar wavered, still standing across from her silently.

“Fine then, go,” Ev said with a smile, “Rejoin your people and serve them. I'll make it up to Mission for you.”

“Thank you again, Ev Pell,” Zaalbar said, “I will forever be in your debt.”

Ev cracked a smile and saw him to the door. “Take care of yourself,” she said as she opened the door for him, this time with her hand on the handle, “And may the Force be with you.”

“I know it will be with you,” Zaalbar replied, then turned down the hall, taking the first steps back towards his home.

Ev turned back to her room and too her bed. With that bit of hope for the future calming her inside, she was at last able to sleep.


***


Jolee, Juhani, Carth, Ev, Bastila, and Mission, along with their droids, sat in a conference room aboard the Brilliant that had been converted to a temporary lounge for the duration of the victory tour. The room was decked out with comfortable but utilitarian couches and chairs as well as a number of collapse-able plasteel tables. A buzz at the comm system near the door was all that was needed to speed a luckless—or perhaps lucky—ensign in to wait on their needs. It was, however, a privilege that none of them liked to make use of if they could help it. That is, except maybe Jolee and Mission.

“I can't believe we're already heading back to Coruscant,” Mission breathed, sprawled out across a large armchair.

“I would hardly call three weeks 'already', Mission,” Bastila commented, from her own chair. “I am looking forward to returning to the Jedi temple after all of this big-to-do they have been making around us.”

“I could use some peace and quiet myself,” Jolee agreed, sitting next to her.

“But I still can't believe all the places we've seen,” Mission blurted, then counted on her fingers, “Coruscant, Corellia, Drall, Talus, Tralus, Selonia, Duro, Abregaod-rae, Humdarine, Balmorra, Alderaan, Caamas, Arkania, Chandrilla, Ralltiir, Trantor, all the planets in the Empress Teta System, Pantolomin, Sullust, Bothawui, Mon Calamari, Toprawa, Bandomeer, and Aargau. I didn't even know some of those places existed before! And we were treated like kings.”

“Treated like heroes, I'd say,” Carth chuckled. Although he shared a couch with Ev, both did their best to show no untoward affection to one another. There was no telling who could be watching on the security camera feeds.

Mission threw her hands up and slumped back contentedly into her chair, “This was so much fun. I don't want to end.”

“Fortunately or unfortunately, it needs to,” Juhani said, “We have our duties to get back to.”

“Duties? Like what?” Mission asked.

“Us four are at the mercy of the Jedi Council again,” Ev explained, cracking a smile, “to send where they want us. Last I heard, we're headed back for the front, to help clean up some of the remaining Sith strongholds.”

“All together?” Mission asked, leaning forward curiously.

Juhani nodded, “I hope so.”

“At least that is what the Council seemed to be suggesting before we left,” Bastila added.

“Query: Will I be permitted to join you in terminating the Sith, master?” HK-47 asked.

T3-M4 tweeted something indignantly.

“Admonition: Of course not,” HK-47 replied impatiently, “You would be useless to her, as you are not outfitted with advanced combat protocols.”

Ev stifled a laugh, “Of course I'll have you HK. But I will need to get the Jedi Council's permission first. It shouldn't be too hard.”

“Statement: You have my thanks, master,” HK replied, “I have been deprived of the joys of combat and assassination for too long.”

“Blood-thirsty hunk of metal,” Jolee grumbled under his breath.

T3-M4 chirped expectantly, swiveling its head towards Ev.

“Right,” Ev stared down at the little droid, “I thought you should stay with the Ebon Hawk, T3, which is in Carth's hands now. If that's alright with you.”

T3 tweeted satisfactorily and retreated into a corner again.

“Well, like these guys, I'm headed back for the front myself, after I'm promoted to captain,” Carth explained to Mission, “If I survive the campaign in the Luire System and do a respectable job, they'll put me on track to a promotion to admiral.”

“And you'll be getting busier with each promotion,” Ev teased, giving him a light push on the shoulder.

“Oh,” Mission uttered, sinking back into her chair.

“What are your plans, Mission,” Juhani asked.

“I, um,” Mission started, “I guess I hadn't thought about it much. I figured I could just stay with you guys,keep traveling, and stuff. I guess that's not going to happen if you're all going back to war though.”

“You'll have to find your own way, Mission,” Bastila said, “I'm afraid we cannot take you back to the Jedi Temple with us. You would not have a place there.”

After a moment of deep thought, Carth suggested, “You've got a knack for computers. I could put in a good word for you if you wanted a job in the Navy Tech Corps.”

“There you go again, trying to get jobs for everyone,” Ev laughed.

“Thanks,” Mission replied thoughtfully, “But I don't think the army is my thing.”

“Navy,” Carth corrected her reflexively, then added, “Well, know that that's an option for you if you change your mind later on.”

Mission sighed dramatically, “I wish Big Z hadn't left all suddenly like that. He would've had some good advice.” After a pause, she added indignantly, “He didn't even say goodbye!”

“You know he didn't want you to feel pressured to leave the tour with him,” Ev reminded her. “Look at how much you've enjoyed the last week.”

“Yeah, but now he's gone anyway,” Mission mumbled, “After all this time with him, I don't know what to do without Zaalbar.”

“Then why don't you go visit him?” Jolee suggested gruffly, “That seems like the obvious solution—or the best way to put off making a decision anyway.”

Mission straightened up and her eyes brightened. “That's a great idea!” she exclaimed. “Do you think he'd mind?”

“Mind?” Ev laughed, “I think he'd love it. He's your best friend, after all.”

“So, once we get back to Coruscant,” Mission turned on Ev, “Can you take me back to Kashyyyk?”

Ev smiled, “I'm sure I can weasel out of my Jedi duties for a couple more days.” She turned to Carth, “Carth, can I borrow the Hawk?”

“It's as much mine as it is yours,” Carth replied, taken aback by her question.

“Carth,” she reminded him seriously.

“Yes, you can borrow it,” Carth replied, relaxing.

“Thanks,” she said, then leaned over and whispered into his ear, “And while I'm on Kashyyyk, I'll see what kind of arrangements can be made for our wedding.”

“You do that,” he said softly and smiled back at her.

“Now Mission, do you have any business to take care of on Coruscant, or shall we depart immediately after arrival?” Ev posed to her.

“I don't have nothing to do there,” Mission said with a shrug. “Let's head right out.”

“Bastila,” Ev started, “Can you make apologies for me to the Council for this?”

“They won't like it,” Bastila cautioned.

“Of course they won't,” Ev replied shortly, “What do they like that I do?”

Bastila cracked a smile, “I will tell them that you are seeing off Mission, another recipient of the Cross of Glory.”

“Thanks,” Ev smiled back at her. “I appreciate it. You're much better at chatting with all those Jedi Masters than I am.”

“I'm going to see Zaalbar!” Mission exclaimed, clenching her fists excitedly.


***


Mission and Ev stepped off the Ebon Hawk onto the landing platform in the old Czerka compound. The sun was setting over the humid forest; the great wroshyr trees casting long shadows across the platforms. Two Wookiees stood ready to greet them, bowcasters leveled and trained on the two outsiders.

“Who are you?” a silver-brown Wookiee growled tersely. He was the taller, and probably older, of the two.

“Speak up,” the second Wookiee, who had a much darker brown coat, yowled impatiently.

“Woah! What's with all the hostility? We're only here to see Big Z,” Mission protested flippantly, taking a few steps closer. The silvering Wookiee cocked his weapon threateningly.

“Mission,” Ev said cautionarily and put a hand on her shoulder. She addressed the two Wookiee guards, “My name is Ev Pell, and this is Mission Vao. We are here to see Zaalbar of Rwookrrorro. We flew with him and fought with him during the wars.”

“Ah, Ev Pell,” the taller Wookiee lowered his bowcaster. The other followed suit more hesitantly. “Mission Vao. We have heard of your deeds both here against the slavers and in space, against the Sith. You will always be welcome here.”

“Forgive us for our cold greeting,” the younger Wookiee rushed to say, “We did not know it was you. Chieftain Freyyr has said that no outsiders be allowed to walk freely among the trees until they have proven their good intent. We want no more slavers here.”

“And we respect you for that,” Ev nodded. “Now, would you be so kind as to allow us to travel to Rwookrrorro to visit our friend?”

“Lorrlo,” the older Wookiee turned to his companion, “Take them to the village.”

“Of course,” the young Wookiee, Lorrlo, agreed.

“I mean no insult by this,” the older Wookiee explained, “We all know that you are great warriors and can easily defeat the kinrath that stalk our boardwalks, but it would look very bad if we did not escort heroes such as you.”

“And, unescorted, we might appear to be spies for the slavers,” Ev observed.

“You are as wise as you are mighty, Ev Pell,” the silver-brown Wookiee commended.

Ev merely nodded, brushing aside the compliment.

“So how's Zaalbar?” Mission asked eagerly.

“I will take you to him now,” Lorrlo replied, “And you will see for yourself. You will see that he has gathered many other great chieftains in Rwookrrorro. I have not seen such a gathering before in my life.”

A sly smile spread across Ev's face. “Then we shall look forward to meeting them as well,” she said.


Lorrlo led them safely across the maze of boardwalks that connected the small spaceport to the center of Rwookrrorro village, with only a few kinrath to hinder them. At the village's gate, Lorrlo proudly announced them to the guards, and their names traveled in rumbles and whispers all across the settlement. As Lorrlo continued to lead them towards the great head house at the center of the village, Wookiees regarded them with looks a mix of respect and curiosity. Nearly dark, torches flickered in their metal holders all along the boardwalks that made up the tree-top town.

Finally they reached the door of the head house. “These are friends and fellow warriors of Zaalbar, come to see him,” Lorrlo announced to the single guard by the door.

“They are feasting now,” the guard said in warning.

Ev sensed a wave of nervousness wash over their escort, but Lorrlo moved beyond it and pushed through the door. Ev and Mission followed after.

Nearly twenty Wookiees were sitting around a long wooden table which held a great banquet, even by Wookiee standards. Every Wookiee possessed the posture and confidence about him that suggested leadership, and every Wookiee's eyes were on them.

“I am sorry for the disturbance,” Lorrlo grumbled as confidently as he could, “These are Ev Pell and Mission Vao, here to—”

Suddenly, Zaalbar was standing out of his seat at the far end of the table. “Mission! Ev Pell! Welcome,” he roared warmly, “Make room. Get some more chairs.”

Almost immediately two more Wookiees appeared out of the shadows hauling wicker chairs, wooden bowls, cups, and other utensils for the meal. The Wookiees shifted down, making room for Ev and Mission near Zaalbar.

“Zaalbar!” Mission exclaimed and rushed down the table towards him. She wrapped him in a waist-high hug. The big Wookiee returned her gesture.

Ev followed more calmly after her and took a seat between Zaalbar and his father.

Releasing Zaalbar, Mission scolded, “I'll never forgive you for leaving without saying goodbye.”

“Mission, please,” Zaalbar pleaded, “You know I don't like saying goodbyes.”

“Okay fine,” Mission acquiesced with a smile and plopped down into her wicker seat. Her nose was just level with the high table. Ev fared only slightly better, having difficulty reaching the foot set before her.

Zaalbar rumbled a laugh, then called, “Bring some large cushions for these small people.”

A rumble of appreciative laughter flowed around the table.

“Welcome back, Ev Pell,” Freyyr said quietly.

“Thank you, Chieftain Freyyr,” Ev replied with a smile, “I'm glad to be back.”

Finally, when both Ev were seated high enough to be seen by all the other Wookiees gathered there, Zaalbar introduced them, “These are Mission Vao and Ev Pell. You have heard me tell of them in my journeys and have heard my father tell of their part in ridding our world of the Czerka slavers. They will forever have our gratitude.”

The other Wookiees rumbled and cheered.

Turning to Ev, Zaalbar explained, “These are some of the greatest chiefs in our region. They have come to discuss the future of our world.”

“I had hoped so,” Ev said lowly. “You never cease to impress me Zaalbar.”

“I was only doing what you asked,” Zaalbar rumbled quietly back at her.

“Because you thought it right,” she replied, “And see how they respect you?”

Zaalbar turned away, embarrassed.

Just then, Freyyr waved over one of the Wookiees who had been serving the meal. She carried two garlands of dried flowers, nut shells, and carved bone ornaments and handed them to Freyyr. Standing to his full, impressive height. He draped one over Ev's head and the second over Mission's. The young Twi'lek deftly flicked her lekku out of the way so it would rest around her neck. “Ev Pell, Mission Vao,” he roared proudly, “You have the honor and bravery of a Wookiee. As warriors returning victorious from the war, we welcome you as ones of our tribe.”

Again the other Wookiees roared and warbled their cheers.

“Wow, thanks,” Mission beamed.

“Thank you for this, Freyyr,” Ev said as he sat down again, fingering one of the carved fragments of bone that hung around her neck. “In return, I have something for you,” she said, pulling two large datapads out of the satchel that now hung over the back of her seat. Handing one to Freyyr, she said, “This is a copy of the Galactic Constitution, its amendments, and the other relevant laws rights of the Galactic Republic that govern its member worlds. And this,” she said, handing the second to Zaalbar, “is a database of the twenty most recent worlds to join the Republic and the steps they had to take to do so. Use them and reference them as you like.”

“You honor us, Ev Pell,” Freyyr said.

“No, you honor me. I am only returning the favor,” Ev replied, then stood. Though it gave her little more height, it was the effect she was concerned about, “Ever since I met Zaalbar and then again when I first landed on this planet FOUR months ago, I have been impressed by the valor, honor, and pride of the Wookiees. You are a great people of great strength; both in a strength of body and in a strength of spirit. It pained me to see such a people's dignity destroyed, torn down by slavery. But, now you have taken back what is yours, your planet and your unquestionable dignity. You are a great people, resilient and wise, but I fear that others will try to walk the path of Czerka and try to enslave your strength once again.

“Thanks to Zaalbar, the Galaxy knows you exist now, and they are curious. Czerka cannot easily repeat their past actions now, and this is a blessing. From them, you are protected by your fame. But in time, your fame will fade, and others will try again, thinking that no one will notice.

“You are at a pivot point, leaders of Kashyyyk,” Ev continued, clenching her fists in the air boldly, “Now, while the Republic's eyes are on you, you could chose to change the trajectory of your people, or you could continue as you always were. This is yours, and only your choice. But I do urge you to consider the future. The Republic is built on a system of mutual respect and cooperation for all sentients and all worlds. Slavery is outlawed. Trade and communication is encouraged. I urge you, good Wookiees, consider what good—and of course what harm, could come of joining the Republic. You are a great people and you do not deserve to fade into obscurity once more.” Ev sat down again with a satisfied smile on her face and the head house erupted into a jumble of roars that neither Mission nor Ev could parse or understand.

Then Zaalbar stood up and roared above all the commotion, waving the datapad in the air, “Ev Pell speaks true. We will not allow the curse of slavery to enter our forests again! We will become more than scattered tribes, each vying for honor amid the shadows. We will become a great people, one people, united as the Wookiees of Kashyyyk!”

Again the Wookiees roared excitedly. Ev noticed a crowd of Wookiees of the village peering in through the open door.

Excitement, pride, and anticipation were almost tangible in the air.

“Let us feast to the future of Kashyyyk,” Zaalbar said triumphantly and returned to his seat.

All the Wookiees began to fervently devour the food in front of them. The hall continued to rumble with conversation.

“You're good,” Mission whispered to Ev across Zaalbar.

Ev chuckled, “Thanks. I'm told I have a lifetime of practice.”

“So Zaalbar,” Mission started, picking at her food, “I was wondering, I don't really know what I want to do next, so, can I stay here with you? I can help with this, uh, whatever you're doing.”

“Mission, you are my closest friend. You befriended me when no others would, exiled as a madclaw,” Zaalbar replied, there was a warm smile in his eyes, “As my father said, you will be as one of the tribe. You will always be welcome here.”

Mission grinned and hugged his huge, hairy arm. “Thanks Big Z,” she exclaimed, “You're the best.”

“And you too, Ev Pell, are welcome to stay as long as you like,” Freyyr added.

“I thank you for your hospitality, Freyyr,” Ev replied, “But the Jedi have work for me that can't wait any longer. There are still Sith in the galaxy, and so, I can't rest yet.”

“Will you at least allow us your presence for the night?” Freyyr asked.

Ev nodded, “But I must leave with the dawn. Duty to the Jedi and the Republic calls.”

“We are glad that you have come,” Freyyr said, flapping a massive hand in Zaalbar's direction.

“I will look forward to returning again,” Ev said.

“Then, until that day comes, as you Jedi say,” Freyyr began solemnly, “May the Force be with you.”


- Next Part -


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