Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

Under the Shadow of the Builders
Part 10- Bacca's Legacy

Ev had the foresight to bring a long length of braided nylon rope down into the Shadowlands with her. The Wookiees proved to be geniuses at knots and lashing. Using a similar technique they would to carry their kills back up into the treetops, Freyyr and Zaalbar prepared each other's passengers. They twisted a sort of crisscrossing harness out of the rope that allowed Carth, Ev, and Mission to sit back comfortably while lashed across the Wookiees' backs.

By the time Zaalbar harnessed Carth to Freyyr's back, the Wookiee squatting down so Carth's feet could still touch the ground, Ev and Mission were already tied onto his own back. For balance reasons, Mission was somewhat sandwiched between Ev and Zaalbar. Both of the girl's legs dangled out to Zaalbar's sides and their arms wrapped around his chest for extra security.

Carth found himself doing the same. Finally, Zaalbar finished the lashings and tested his knots. Everything was secure. As Freyyr rose up to his full height and Carth's feet left the ground, he felt a sudden surge of terror. What have I gotten myself into? With one hand, he made one last check to make sure his blasters and all the rest of his gear was secure, then wrapped his arm back around Freyyr's furry chest. He could feel the rise and fall of the old Wookiee's rib cage with each breath.

The father and son conferred for a few moments then started towards the base of the nearest woshyr tree. As they walked, the Wookiees didn't seem at all bothered by the weight on their backs.

“Zaalbar says we're all ready to climb up,” Ev reported, “How are you doing Onasi?”

“Well enough,” he reported, trying not to remember just how high up they had to go.

Freyyr growled something quietly.

“Oh, and he says that we should stay quiet once they're climbing so we don't attract anything unfriendly,” Ev advised.

Carth was about to reply when Freyyr leaped up onto the trunk of the tree. His heart pounded, and it felt as if the bottom of his stomach had just fallen out. Soon, however, he began to feel comfortable with the rhythm of the old Wookiee's climbing. Lunge up, lurch down. Swagger to the right, swagger to the left. Carth couldn't guess how old Freyyr was, but he was still strong and confident.

Carth looked over and saw Zaalbar rising up next to them. On his back, Mission grinned and Ev winked at him. Carth tried to smile back without looking terrified.

Carth, you're a pilot. Flying around in space, or even in the atmosphere, is much more dangerous than riding a Wookiee up these trees, especially when there's battle. You never get worked up for afraid of heights then. Buck up.

His pep talk failed him. Carth accidentally stole a look down and he was already a few stories high. High enough to set his heart pounding again. He wondered how Mission and Ev were doing but couldn't bring himself to look.

Carth shut his eyes and buried his face in the matted fur on Freyyr's back. The next half and hour or so was a period of time Carth tired not to think about and, afterward, tried not to remember. He tried to loose himself in Freyyr's rhythmic breathing and the muffled thunk-thunk as his claws connected with the woshyr bark.

After a long time of climbing, Freyyr's rhythm broke. He paused and swayed slightly from side to side. Carth opened his eyes, hoping expectantly for the Great Walkway. Zaalbar climbed up close next to him and the two Wookiees conferred quietly. Not far to their right was a massive bough sprouting off from the trunk.

“Fun, isn't it?” Mission whispered.

“Sure,” Carth replied. Fun could be one word for it...

Suddenly, the Wookiees moved of again. They walked their way sideways across the trunk until they reached the limb, and then began jogging along it. Carth bobbed along behind Freyyr like forgotten baggage. Again, Carth shut his eyes tightly and clung desperately to Freyyr. His arms had started to ache long ago.

Carth thought it couldn't get any worse, but it did. When the Wookiees reached the end of the limb, they paused and made a measured jump to one just below it. Carth's eyes snapped wide open despite himself. Freyyr and Zaalbar, one after another, landed in a low crouch then started off jogging across the next limb. They made six more jumps of that sort—Carth was counting—before they climbed up one last trunk and swung up onto firm ground.

Carth opened his eyes, breathing hard. Freyyr and Zaalbar stood side-by-side on a sturdy wooden platform at the edge of what appeared to be a Wookiee village. Walkways crisscrossed between the massive trunks, around which the buildings were structured. Houses seemed to encircle entire trunks with doors at odd intervals. The gently sloping roofs appearing to be made of layers of woven grasses or bark reached up another few stories with occasional window-like openings. These buildings were stacked one on top of another for as many as three levels. Above, Carth could see even more of the wooden walkways and their long supports.

Almost immediately upon arriving in the village, Zaalbar set to work untying Carth. In a few moments, the lashings sagged and he dropped to the walkway. With his feet on solid ground and legs feeling like jelly, Carth was profoundly glad that the whole ordeal was over. As Freyyr turned to Zaalbar to let Ev and Mission down, Carth set to work coiling up the discarded rope. We might need this later.

Even before Mission's feet touched the wood of the walkway, a crowd of agitated looking Wookiees gathered around them. Three, bearing bowcasters and vibroblades, stepped forward waving their weapons and howling threateningly.

“It seems that we're neither expected nor welcome,” Ev said, sliding up to Carth. “Ready to instigate a revolution?”

Carth nodded.

Freyyr and Zaalbar growled defiantly and tried to move in front of their charges, but Ev, Carth, and Mission weren't about to be protected. Stepping out to flank the two Wookiees, they laid their hands on their weapons and stared threateningly out at the gathering crowd.

It was all for show, Carth knew. There was no sense in starting any kind of revolution without the support of the whole village. It was up to Freyyr and Zaalbar to get the villagers to hear them out.

They didn't get very far. More armed Wookiees moved to the front of the crowd and surrounded the party, yodeling instructions.

“We're being escorted to the Chieftain's Hall,” Ev explained just as they began walking, encircled by Wookiee guards.

“So much for some soap box speaking,” Mission mumbled.

As they passed over walkways and in front of other buildings, they acquired more and more spectators that followed in a trailing crowd behind them. The air was filled with the grumbles and howls of anxious Wookiees.

At last, they came to the Chieftain's Hall. Like the rest of the buildings, the walls were made of sticks tightly lashed together and a wicker-looking roof. Outside of it, however, stood two guards next to a large gong.

“Say Big Z,” Mission whispered, “If that gong rings, the whole village will come running, right?”

Zaalbar grumbled something in a low voice and Missions eyes danced with mischief.

Just as they neared the door, Mission darted to the left, ducked, and rolled between the legs of their escorts. The Wookiees whirled around, but they couldn't match the speed of the agile Twi'lek girl. In an instant, she was back on her feet and planted a firm kick on the gong.

It rang out thunderously, singing through the air. Birds resting on the roof took off in surprise and Wookiee howls rang out from all corners of the village and beyond.

Growling angrily, one of their guards seized Mission by the shoulders and flung her towards the door, right into Carth. He caught her and stabilized her. “You okay, Mission?” he asked.

“Not hurt a bit,” she replied, then added with a grin, “Now we'll get our audience.”

“Good thinking Mission,” Ev commended and ducked inside. Carth and Ev followed after her.

The inside of the Chieftain's Hall was spacious and empty. The peaked ceiling rose up high above, supported by rafter logs. Some parts of the hall had an attic-like second floor, however. Scattered along the walls were benches, crates, and baskets. Standing at the far end of the Hall with a blade-less hilt in his paws was Chuundar. There was no mistaking the Chieftain. His coat was blonder than Zaalbar's, much more like their father's and around his neck hung a broad metal necklace. Behind him, he was flanked by two armed Czerka officials. Upon seeing Freyyr and Zaalbar, he roared angrily.

Zaalbar roared back and strode fearlessly toward his brother, Freyyr at his side. They stopped as far forward as their guards would allow them. Carth, Ev, and Mission rushed to their side. An argument between the three Wookiees raged while the hall slowly filled up behind them. Now and then, other Wookiees would give their opinion. It was all lost on Carth.

Finally, Freyyr held up Bacca's Blade and yowled triumphantly. Chuundar screamed back, waving the hilt in the air. The hall was alive with murmurs and growls.

“So they're comparing pieces of the vibroblade?” Carth asked Ev quietly.

“Oh, sorry Onasi,” Ev apologized, “I forgot that you didn't understand Shiriiwook. Zaalbar and Freyyr have accused Chuundar of working directly with the slavers. Chuundar denies it, of course. They revealed Bacca's Blade and their intentions of returning Freyyr to his rightful place as Chieftain. From what I can catch from what the other Wookiees are mumbling, Zaalbar and Freyyr might have some supporters already.”

Zaalbar, in a rage, pointed at the two Czerka men and then at Chuundar while howling angrily. This set the rest of the Wookiees chattering all the more.

“He's telling everyone how Chuundar has been leading Czerka to their hunting parties all along in return for weapons,” Ev translated into his ear, “He says that Czerka has him by the leash and that he is weak on his own. Czerka gave him his power. He has no right to hold the hilt of Bacca's Blade.”

Given the reaction of the two Czerka personnel—or lack thereof—it seemed that neither of them understood Shiriiwook either.

Chuundar roared back angrily, but Freyyr interrupted him with a new set of accusations.

“He let outsiders who have no care for Kashyyyk defile Rwookrrorro and the Shadowlands. They kill the wildlife, plant their machines in the ground like trees, and treat Wookiees like animals,” Ev continued her translation, “Chuundar may have promised that by learning Galactic Basic, it would make them stronger, but it has become a weakness. It makes them into better slaves.”

The Wookiees watching on behind them began to roar with anger. Freyyr continued.

“If he tried to sell out his own brother and father, his chieftain, to the slavers, he would not hesitate to sell out any of the rest of his people, and he has not,” Ev finished.

The Wookiees around them looked on the verge of a riot.

Chuundar drew his vibroblade, tucking the hilt of Bacca into his belt, and roared.

Freyyr took Bacca's blade and rushed at him while Zaalbar drew out his bowcaster. The fight began.

The pair of Czerka officers and a few Wookiees remained on Chuundar's side, but they were largely outnumbered. At first, the Czerka men shot frenzied blaster bolts into the fray, but when they realized that they were fighting on the losing side, they tried to sneak away. Carth took down one while Mission shot down the other. Ev, meanwhile, dove into the fray, protecting Zaalbar and Chuundar from any blaster bolts that came their way. She deftly reflected them off her violet lightsaber as easily as she had from the remote back on Dantooine.

In minutes, the fight was won. Chuundar and all of his supporters lay dead. Above the howls of the other Wookiees, Freyyr roared out, holding the reassembled Blade of Bacca above his head. Everyone fell silent and looked in his direction.

As he began to speak, Ev fell back and hurried to Carth's side. “He's rallying all of them to him as a new chieftain, well, old chieftain,” Ev explained quickly, “Now is the time, he says, for them to drive out the outsiders and the defiling taint that they bring with them. He wants them to wipe Czerka off of this planet. Now he's assigning roles to the various warriors.”

“It's like he never left, the way he commands them,” Carth observed.

“I'm sure Freyyr missed his people,” Ev replied quietly, “His own exile probably didn't drive him as mad as the thought that his people were being fooled, abused, and sold away as slaves while he could do nothing about it. Now it's time for justice.”

Freyyr evidently finished his assignments, because the crowd of Wookiees filed excitedly out of the Hall, uttering war cries.

Freyyr turned to Ev, Carth, and Mission. He addressed them directly and Ev translated as literally as she could, “You have done a great thing, outsiders, and showed more compassion for the Wookiees than any of your kind have in a great while. We owe you a greater debt than can ever be repaid. I hesitate to ask more of you, but Czerka must be driven out. A revolution has been set in motion. I have sent my quickclimbers to nearby villages to rally them to our cause as well. Kashyyyk will return to the Wookiees, but it will be a long, hard fight. You will find that my people have already moved to the Great Walkway. I am afraid that, in order to return to your ship, you will have to cross a battleground. If you see fit, I ask you to assist my people as you cross through. You are all worthy and powerful warriors.” He turned to Zaalbar and continued, “Zaalbar, my son, I can never apologize enough for the disgrace that I made you endure. Stay here with me and help to rebuild our village and our world.”

Zaalbar shook his head and replied, Ev translating quickly, “You honor me, father, but I cannot. I owe a life debt to Ev Pell. It is something I cannot break. She is on an important mission and, I feel it is my duty to continue with her.”

Freyyr regarded Ev with new-found respect. Ev had difficultly translating when the conversation was directed at her, “You must be truly great Ev Pell. My thanks goes out to you again. You and your friends will be the only outsiders welcome here for some time to come. If there is any reward that we can give you, please say so.”

Ev finished her translation and stammered, “I'm just glad to see a people taking its home back again. I can't stand for slavery any more than you can, Mighty Freyyr. I'm sure you'll need all the resources you have to fight off Czerka. But, as Zaalbar said, we are on a long journey and our supplies are not endless. If you have any extra food to share, we would greatly appreciate it.”

Another Wookiee that hung close offered an idea.

“He says that there's a crate of fruits and vine vegetables that their trader never came to pick up,” Ev explained, “I bet it's that girl's shipment that Czerka wouldn't let her through to get.”

Zaalbar tentatively stepped forward and addressed his father.

“Zaalbar just asked him for the Blade of Bacca,” Ev explained, surprised.

Freyyr's response was slow, but he ceremoniously handed over the weapon. Zaalbar turned it over his paws, examining it end to end. Suddenly, he lunged forward and wrapped his father in a warm hug with his free arm.

Carth felt a warm smile spread across his face. The father and son broke apart and Freyyr shooed them along on their way. With one final thanks and a wave, they left the Cheiftain's hall. Rwookrrorro was much emptier than it had been when they arrived, but those Wookiees that saw them pass cheered encouragingly.

As they started out down the Great Walkway, Ev suddenly exclaimed, “That's right! The others will want to know what's coming their way.” She fished her comlink out of one of her hip pouches and called, “Ebon Hawk, this is team free-the-Wookiees. Are you there, Ebon Hawk?

“I read you, Ev,” Bastila's voice fuzzed over the connection. “What is it?”

“Freyyr has taken control of the village and Chuundar is dead. Freyyr has just started a planet-wide Czerka expulsion. Expect an army of angry Wookiees coming your way.”

“Understood,” Bastila replied, “And you are on your way back now?”

“We'll probably help out the Wookiees on or way, but yeah,” Ev replied as they walked, “Oh, and tell Jolee if he wants to help kick out Czerka, the Wookiees will welcome his assistance.”

Carth didn't hear Bastila's response, if there was one. Ev had already stowed the comlink again.

The Wookiees moved much more quickly to the Czerka area headquarters than they did. By the time they re-entered the compound, the struggle was almost over. Many uniformed employees lay dead, while others fled to the single remaining transport, and still others tried to put up a fight. Only a few remained.

Amid the howling Wookiees, Jolee gleefully Force pushed and stunned whichever Czerka employees dared to come his way. Juhani and Canderous had also joined the battle with enthusiasm, and the Wookiees seemed glad to have them there.

Zaalbar, Carth, Mission, and Ev met little resistance as they made their way up the walkway. Carth only fired a few shots himself to scare of a last trio of Czerka staff towards their ship. In less than an hour, Freyyr's goals were accomplished. Carth was sure that clearing the whole planet of Czerka would take much longer, but the fight had begun well.

“Woohoo!” Jolee hooted as they approached the Ebon Hawk, “That's a lot of cowardly businessmen that Kashyyyk won't be seeing for a while. Good riddance!”

He approached Ev and slapped her on the back. The two walked up the loading ramp side by side. “Now tell me about your little revolution in Rwookrrorro,” he started, “How did that go?”

Shaking his head, Carth watched them go. He waited for Zaalbar, laden with the crate of food, to ascend the ramp before he too boarded the Ebon Hawk, last of all.

- Next Part -

 

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