The Trials and Tribulations of a Wookiee
Author's Note: This is my first published Star Wars fic. The story does not mesh with any Extended Universe, but is rather my take on things that occurred after Return of the Jedi. This story focuses on my original character Katarra, and her life, more specifically crafted around the Star Wars Combine. Read and review if you like, but please no nitpicking, flames or grammar corrections.
Chapter 1: The Shadow Forest
The distant howl of some predator broke the silence of the woods as her head jerked up in alarm. It was still distant, far out of range of her scent no doubt, but the fact that she heard it sent chills rippling down her spine. Quickly, another log was added to the small fire cradled within the hollow stump of a dead tree, the only way to hide the tell-tale light in this dim dreary atmosphere. Though it was not yet night, it was near impossible to tell within the darkness that swallowed all shadows and hid those which hunted here. She was an easy target, not only with the fire she had carefully hidden, but there was little one could do to hide the bright white which shrouded her entire body.
She threw another log at the fire with a low growl. It was that very color that cursed her, that had ended in her exile.
She was one of the few rare of her kind born with a disability: white fur. White fur was extremely unfortunate for Wookiees who relied on their brown coloring to blend in with the tall wroshyr trees to avoid predators and hunt. White stood out like a sore thumb. One might have thought that this alone would have been enough, however there had been a few others born with such a disability before who lived long and happy lives with family. Katarra was not one such Wookiee.
Though in this dark tangle of overgrown brush and foliage, her fur appeared more a dingy gray than the brilliant white it should be. Of course, it had been ages since she had the luxury of a bath. Swamp water was not the cleanest to use for such a manner. Yet, hiding down here within the grime and filth was a far better choice than to return back top-side where she was shunned, cursed and hunted.
Yes, voluntary banishment seemed mild in comparison.
Bright blue eyes casually studied the flickering flames hidden within the stump, watching the embers rise briefly before dying a short distance into the air, the dark smoke blending in well with the gloom all about. A small waft of wind touched the smoke, scattering it into a whirling pattern of wisps. Immediately, Katarra's hand tightened around the knife at her belt as her blue eyes slid sharply to the right.
There was no wind down in the Shadow Forest. Such natural gusts did not penetrate the thick foliage of the wroshyr trees above. Something was here. Or someone.
Despite standing out among her brethren, Katarra was no less sharp-sighted than the rest of her kind. She spotted the shadowy figure long before it realized it had been spotted. It was smaller than her, but that did not necessarily mean it was no threat. Ferocity could come in small packages. Expertly she entwined her dexterous fingers around the knife, lifting it out of her belt and waited. If it were a predator, it would circle to her back first.
A sneeze rang out loudly through the small copse. Katarra blinked. That was no predator. Sure enough, a moment later a small figure stumbled out into the light of the fire, and though the wookiee did not relax, she released the grip she held on her knife.
A human girl barely out of cub stage blinked disoriented by the sudden light she had stumbled into. She appeared far more filthy than Katarra herself was, covered in dried and damp mud, hair stringy and caked back, clothing lacking color and distinction. The only splash of light came from unusually green eyes that blinked curiously around as she studied the area she had arrived at. Moments later, those eyes paused as they landed on the bright blue gaze of the wookiee sitting beneath the roughly woven blanket thrown casually over her shoulders. A bit thrown by finding another sentient being there, the girl took a small step back. "Um…" Green eyes quickly darted about to confirm that the wookiee was alone before returning to the unblinking gaze. "I'm sorry… I saw a light…" The girl nervously swallowed, her throat dry, but this didn't prevent her from taking a hesitant step forward. "…would… would you mind…?"
Blue eyes studied her intently wordlessly. The girl appeared emaciated and without a weapon, hardly a threat. However, Katarra also knew looks could be deceiving. But she had never been a sentient to turn another being down. She gave a low whuff and inclined her head towards the fire in a welcoming gesture.
Immediately the girl seemed to relax. A grateful smile spread across her face as she approached the fire and sank down to her knees, placing her hands closer to the warmth of the flame. "Thank you." She said, clearly grateful. "You have no idea what I've been through…" She paused and glanced over the muck caked in the wookiee's fur. "…then again maybe you do, if you've been down here a while." Katarra made no reply. She had never been one to speak unless she had something worthy of being heard, and in this day and age there were still a majority of humans who did not understand Shiryywook. The girl must have known this, as she quickly made up for the lack of response by sitting back on her heels and smiling towards the wookiee. "I'm Shiree. I'm sorry I don't understand your language… but I'm guessing you understand me, right?" Katarra responded with a small nod, to which Shiree smiled. "That makes it easy. You're the first person I've seen down here. You have NO idea how glad I am to see you…" She shuddered involuntarily, wrapping her muddy arms around her thin frame. "No offense… but I hate this place."
Katarra chuckled lightly, as Shiree smiled to find her words hadn't offended the wookiee. The Shadowlands were not a favorite place even for the wookiees, though it was often revered for it's challenge towards hunters. Few wookiees ever ventured down here after their coming of age, a place only the banished ventured as they had no other place to go. A place of darkness, of death. There was no offense in hating such a place, even for a human. Instead, Katarra leaned forward and pulled the rough blanket off of her large frame and tossed it towards the shivering human who had no fur to protect her from the chill of the forest.
Shiree caught it awkwardly, giving her a grateful smile before wrapping it doubly around herself. She nearly vanished in it's voluminous depths, but her shivering soon ceased. "Thank you." She said softly. "You're very kind. I…. Don't suppose you have any food or water?" Her eyes lowered as if in shame for being forced to ask such a thing.
A small water skin landed in the human's lap, followed by a thick leather bag filled with dried meat. With hardly a glance towards her host, Shiree dove into the food and drink with vigor. It was only once she had her fill that she finally sighed and addressed her companion. "I owe you so much… thank you sir."
Katarra snorted loudly and let out a small quiet bark of amusement. At Shiree's pause and confused expression, she shook her head once, and pointed towards the human.
"Er…" Shiree said, clearly thrown. After a moment's thought, she blinked. "Oh… I see. It's ma'm then?" At the resulting nod, she smiled. "I apologize. I suppose I haven't met many female wookiees… and I'm not sure how to… er… Tell you apart." Katarra snorfled an amused chuckle, grinning widely towards the ignorant human. This wasn't the first time she had run into this. She was used to it. Shiree responded by smiling and leaning back against the curve of a small tree nearest the dead stump. "Bet you're wondering why I'm here, right? A random human in the woods…" She smiled wryly as she seemed to find the situation amusing. "My ship crashed some distance from here…" Her eyes lowered again, abruptly appearing somber. "…the pilot died… And I don't know how to fix the ship…" She shuddered, wrapping her arms deeper in the blanket. "I was just traveling. There were others with me, but they didn't want to leave the ship… But no one came to find us like they thought, I don't think there was anyone to see us crash. I decided to go looking… I thought there might be someone down here…" She looked up uncertainly. "I knew it was a long shot, but I was going to be back by nightfall… But…" She trailed off again, this time sinking lower into the blankets, her eyes misting over. "When I got back… they were gone. There was some blood… and signs of a fight. I think one of the animals had gotten them… It probably was attracted by the crash…" Katarra's eyes softened a bit as she listened to the story. She'd learned not to trust people at their word, but what harm could such a story be in a place as this? The girl was clearly defenseless and starved. It had probably been days since she'd left her ship, and finding food down here took skill which one such as her clearly lacked. "I guess I thought maybe I could find a way to climb a tree… but they're so big… And I'm not too good with heights."
Katarra snorted a bit and shifted so she was half-leaning against the tree. It was no surprise to her, but she wasn't sure how she could help the human out. She could theoretically take her to where a village was, if she remembered. The problem was down here there was no map to the areas above, and she was in unfamiliar territory. If they were lucky some marks would be on trunks directing them, if not they were both out of luck. In addition, she had no desire to risk being executed by surfacing in an unknown village. She had no friends there. Theoretically there was a tribe that lived near the shore, but that was a very far distance from here. Still, she had no particular destination in mind, and was not the kind of creature to simply leave the girl to fend for herself.
There was another option.
She turned her gaze back to the girl and wondered if it were possible. It depended how badly damaged the ship was, but it was worth a shot. If she could repair it then the girl would have a way off the planet. But there also was the issue of piloting it. She had no desire to leave her home world, but if Shiree couldn't pilot a ship, she might have to assist. It was an issue to think over while they rested.
Katarra kept watch most of the night, knowing the young human needed her rest. She slept soundly through the entire night, even when Katarra was alerted to the presence of a kkekkrrg rro as it prowled about. However, seeing an alert adult wookiee ready to fight sent it scuttling back into the darkness with no meal. The girl would have been easy prey, fortunate for her she had ample protection this night. Katarra took a few naps here and there, but was always fully alert the moment she sensed a presence. Wookiees had an innate ability to know their surroundings, having grown up and lived amidst their home forest all their lives they knew what sounds to listen for. Katarra especially was in tune to the dangers the Shadowlands presented. She had been fortunate not to run into some of the more dangerous beasts that roamed the depths, and those whom she had encountered usually ended with a bowcaster to the gut. She was not an unskilled opponent.
Needless to say, by the time Shiree sleepily blinked awake after resting for hours, Katarra had driven away any threat, and waited calmly by the fire roasting a few mallakin over the fire. "Is it morning?" She murmured, gazing upwards at the dim shadows of the trees that surrounded them, no more light penetrating the gloom now than before. "It's impossible to tell here…"
Katarra shrugged slightly. She herself had no concept of day or night anymore. She had been down here too long. The predators made no distinction, they hunted when hungry, slept when tired. There was no nocturnal cycle here, as it was constantly night this far down. Instead, she pointed at the roasting fowl and plucked one off the fire, holding the stick out to the human. Shiree took it and sniffed lightly, making a face. "Smells awful… you're sure it's edible?" Katarra took her own and nipped a bite off, made a face and shrugged. Shiree sighed. "Right. Tastes like crap, but it's food." She tentatively nibbled on a cooler portion of the bird and did her best not to show how bland and plain it tasted. Nothing this far down had much in the desirable palate of fine cuisine. "Thank you." She said, aware that while it might not taste good, it would keep her alive. "You've done so much for me already." The young girl paused, then looked hesitantly at the white wookiee. "I don't suppose I could ask you for one more favor…?" Katarra paused in her meal to listen, chewing at a bite of the mallakin. "I don't suppose you know anything about fixing and flying a ship? Or could you find a way to get me to the surface where I could get a ride somewhere?"
Katarra considered that. She was no ship mechanic by far, but nearly all wookiees had some basic knowledge of mechanics. Most of the younger generation spent time off-world learning ship repairs or other mechanical work. She herself had experience with many different kinds of ships, but it just depended how much damage Shiree's vessel had. Nonetheless, she had no intention of leaving her here to fend for herself. If it meant getting her to a village, so be it. She growled low and nodded once to the human. Shiree was immediately visibly relieved. "Thank you so much! I owe you everything… I swear, I'll find some way to repay you for all your help!" Katarra merely shrugged lightly and continued with her meal. She was not one who enjoyed lavish praise, deserved or not. Egos were for those who were insecure about themselves.
The two finished their meal, drank the water that Katarra had left in her water skin, and packed up. The wookiee expertly snuffed the fire out, effectively plunging them into near darkness. Shiree quickly found it was best to hover close to her protective bodyguard as they began to make their way back towards her crashed ship. According to the human it had taken her about a week of wandering. Katarra had more skill in direction and in tracking, so she estimated it would take them three to four days if they were lucky.
It only took them two.
The first sign that they were on the right track was the obvious wide path they stepped out into abruptly without warning. Katarra looked up, peering intently into the gloom. There were missing branches, disturbed spider webs and vines missing from their usual hanging vantage, and charred moss on the trees. After carefully studying the path, Katarra headed directly towards the direction the ship must have taken, traveling at a steep downward angle. It didn't take them long to make their way through the thick forest. Soon enough, they pushed aside the branches to find a crashed freighter in a small muddy crater. It was an older model, small and used clearly for it's speed and size. It had somehow miraculously managed to avoid plunging into the thick bog everywhere, and landed on a harder spit of land, therefore had not sunk down into the ground. It would be easy to jolt free, if she could repair the damage.
"Finally." Shiree said softly, sighing in relief. "I thought we might never find it again… I was confused when I ran…" Katarra growled low, not bothering to comment if the human couldn't understand her, and instead crouched to the ground, studying the area carefully for tracks. Shiree started down, but a quick paw stopped her. "What's wrong?" Katarra nodded, pointing a claw towards tracks clearly visible even to human eyes. "Oh…" she whispered, kneeling down beside her and nervously glancing to and fro, as if the creature were watching them. "Is it dangerous?" Katarra frowned and squinted carefully at the tracks. They were days old, with the smell of stale blood. This matched with what Shiree had told her about her comrades who had befallen one of the carnivorous species. It looked like urnsori tracks… it was rare that these creatures ventured to the Shadow Forest, but not unheard of. Normally they preferred to lurk within range of wookiee hunting territories with hopes of getting some tasty prey, but in some areas of Kashyyyk Katarra had heard that they exclusively lived in the lower forest. The tracks were certainly big enough, and the amount of blood told it was a vicious attack. She gestured for the human to stay put, and slowly crept out into the small clearing made by the ships crash-landing. She listened intently, and studied the tracks, completing a circuit around the ship. When finally she returned, she was satisfied it was safe, and stood tall, striding calmly back towards the human. Shiree came to her, glancing about nervously. "Is it safe?" At the wookiee's nod, she sighed shakily. "Thank goodness… Let's get inside… I'll feel safer knowing they can't get at us in the ship."
It wasn't hard to jump the cables at the docking control. The ramp came down easily, showing the ship still had ample power. This was a good sign, and Shiree quickly darted inside the freighter as Katarra closed the door securely behind them and began her diagnostic. The pilot had been skilled enough to land the ship without causing major damage, from what Katarra had seen on the outside. There was some minor hull damage, but nothing stood out as irreparable to her. She made a point of going to the cockpit to do an immediate diagnostic while Shiree went to clean up with some pressurized shower facilities. Katarra longed to do the same, but finding out what kind of work she had to do was the priority for now. As it turned out it was only some minor re-wiring that appeared to be malfunctioning. Power supply was good, but the engines weren't kicking over. They showed no damage, but it was likely some torn cables or jarred chips in the computer keeping the connection from being made. She'd have to get into the belly of the access ports to find out for sure.
Fortunately they had plenty of time. No creature was going to be able to sniff their scents from within the ship, and there was no creature strong enough to break it's way into the ship without serious force. They were safe.
Once Shiree finished cleaning, Katarra took her turn if only to get the gunk off her fur so she didn't muck up the lines as she went crawling about. Soon enough, she was hard at work, not at all minding having to squeeze into narrow access ports to get at what she needed to. This brought back memories all right.
Katarra grunted as she pulled free the hydro spanner from where it had been jammed in the access panel and studied the configuration one last time. Satisfied, she shut the hatch and strode back towards the cockpit. That should just about do it. She squeezed through the small hatch that entered the human-sized pilot's area and pushed her large frame into the too-small chair and deftly flicked the engine switch. The light came on green.
"Finally." It had only taken two days to fix the damage, and by now Shiree had perked up considerably around her large companion, becoming quite friendly and helpful. Katarra had also relaxed slightly, though the human couldn't understand her it still helped to speak out loud to voice her thoughts.
"Did it work?" Shiree poked her head in hearing the rumbling growl. Upon seeing the green light on the dash and the subsequent grin of her comrade, she smiled. "Great! Good work!"
"Nothing to it. Just had to fix that damage in the hull. The rest was just wiring." Katarra growled, knowing the human couldn't understand her, but it helped a bit to just say it out loud. "Now all we have to do is get this bucket of bolts off the ground."
Shiree smiled and sank into the co-pilot's seat watching as she began to fire up the engines one-by-one. Each one went on with a roar, until the board was lit up with the back-ups as well as primary systems all in the green. The ship was ready to go. "Thank you so much… you've worked so hard for me, and asked nothing in return."
Katarra just snorted in return, starting the initial warm-up sequence for take-off. They'd been over this before.
However, the next words made her blood freeze.
"I'm afraid, though… I haven't been entirely truthful." Katarra's eyes snapped up as her paw hesitated over the last switch. Blue met green eyes as she stared intently up at the human standing next to her. Shiree's eyes were somber, her face lacking the childish cheer it had held these last few weeks. Instead, she appeared older, more reserved, and her eyes stared down knowingly at the wookiee. "I apologize for deceiving you… but I had to see what kind of person you were. Would you help a child in need, or go your own way. We had to test you."
"Test me?!" Katarra growled angrily, suddenly her rage grasping at her like the heat of a fire. "Test me how exactly!?"
"We had to see if you were a good person."
About to bite back another angry retort, it took a moment for Katarra to realize the significance of that phrase. "You understand me after all, then?"
"Yes." Shiree smiled apologetically, spreading her hands. "I'm sorry, again."
Katarra sighed, and closed her eyes, feeling her anger boiling around her far too strongly. Calm center… calm. She opened her eyes, keeping her anger in check and instead of speaking angrily as one of her kind might in this situation, she stared accusingly up at the human. "Tell me the truth then."
Shiree slipped back down into the co-pilot's seat, folding her hands in her lap as she leaned forward to meet the angry wookiee's gaze. "Understand I did this not with a desire to anger you, but because we had to know."
"You said that. Who is 'we'?"
"Well…" Shiree smiled slowly. "…the fact is, 'we' is someone who is very interested in meeting you." That made her stiffen with alarm. Had they found her then? Was her cover blown? Shiree must have sensed her alarm, for she lifted a hand quickly to stop Katarra from rising. "Before you say anything, allow me to explain, please. I know I haven't earned your trust today with this, but let me at least say my part before you get the wrong impression." Katarra narrowed her eyes, but sat back down in the small seat, and waited, fur still bristling on her neck despite the urge for patience.
"Thank you." Shiree said softly, smiling warmly. "I appreciate the chance." She paused a moment, and when Katarra didn't move, she continued. "The reason I'm here is not because I crashed on accident, but on purpose. I crashed here in order to find you, actually." Katarra's eyebrow lifted but she said nothing to interrupt, so Shiree continued. "I had to make it convincing, rest assured that blood was mine I brought along as a prop. Word has gotten out about your deeds, not all of them good, but all of them significant. A white wookiee with a thirst for vengeance and a dislike of the Old Empire. A wookiee who did not murder and kill, but enacted a good beating before dumping criminals off at the local authorities. A wookiee who has a bounty on her head more expensive than half the crooks out there. No matter who you ask, you have left quite an impression. We know that you've been running and keeping ahead of bounty hunters, and wouldn't come if we sent an invitation. Which is why he wants to meet you himself."
She just smiled knowingly. "He wants to help you. He won't cause you harm. He wants you to listen what he has to offer, and you are free to turn it down any time."
Katarra's fur practically bristled as her blood ran cold. Someone powerful enough to be able to track her down was a dangerous man with a lot of money. She knew how these things operated. It was probably some crime syndicate wanting to hire her for her exemplary skills… but if that were the case why would Shiree mention her moral obligations of not preferring to kill? Perhaps it wasn't as dire as she thought, but Katarra hadn't lived this long on her own without being smart.
"He just wants to meet you. You're not obligated to do anything, or agree to anything." Shiree said softly. "But I wouldn't say no, if I were you. You've made quite an impression out there… and you'll need friends. Hear him out at least. It can't hurt, can it?"
Katarra frowned, staring out into the jungle through the window. Could it hurt to hear what this man had to say? She was certain that she had nothing of interest to him, other than perhaps her infamy. Perhaps he just wanted to make an alliance. As Shiree said, it couldn't hurt to hear him out if this were the case. She was low on friends at the moment.
But it still made her nervous. Who was this mysterious person?
She studied the small woman, whom she knew had to be older than she appeared. No doubt she had expertly piloted the ship in such a way that had been convincing enough to indicate a crash. This woman alone was no one to trifle with, but Katarra had seen no weapon on her before, and still none now. If she wished to trick or trap her, surely some kind of weapon would be called for, even for self-defense. She had seen not even a simple knife.
"You can bring whatever weapons you like. Name the location even." Shiree said quietly, her green eyes calm and pleading. "If you even prefer to speak over the comm., I'm sure he will oblige though he would like to meet you in person."
Katarra sighed, and ran her claws through her tangled fur. If this had been a bounty hunter, she would have liked to think that they would have been more cunning than to send a defenseless woman to fetch her to a meeting where she was invited to bring weapons. She made up her mind. If she didn't like it, she would leave. She was no one to trifle with, after all she was a wookiee. Nonetheless, the whole situation made her nervous.
Katarra was still questioning her decision to go through with it when their ship touched down on a very unstable platform several thousands of units away from their blast-off location. As Shiree lowered the ramp, she smiled encouragingly at the wookiee. "I'll wait here. He's the only one here, you needn't worry."
Katarra still took her bowcaster.
It had been just over 30 years, and it was very difficult being back here again.
Katarra paused at the start of the walkway into the village, wood that was dry and creaked at her every step, overgrown with vines and moss from the mighty trees the walkway wove around. No other being larger than a mynock had passed this way, as the dust was undisturbed. There were small paw prints along the railings of small tree-dwelling creatures that had made this place home, but otherwise the eerie silence that pervaded the woods told her she was a stranger here. How different things were now from how they had once been. The last cheerful memory she had of this place was of cubs running and laughing, the market busy with trade, and strong warriors bringing home food for their families. It had been a cheerful place, and one that she remembered fondly from her youth. But the empty village sat a ruined image of the past before her now.
She could still make out a few buildings that had not yet given in to the decay of the years, though they were as overgrown with vines as the rest of the trees. But the basic skeleton of houses still could be distinguished if only by their general shape, not by wood frame. Her heart felt heavy as she slowly took careful steps across the walkway, each footstep light before she placed her full weight on it. With no care being given the wroshyr wood that made up the planks, they had become very dry and brittle, easily able to give way under weight such as hers. She wondered briefly how the much smaller human, at least she assumed he was human, had made his way through without leaving a trace. Perhaps he had come another route, as there were other landing pads available, if they still stood. The dust remained undisturbed this way, clearly he had not come through the village from the same direction as she.
She carefully picked her way through the overgrowth, finding it easier once she got into the thick of the village. Here the vines had overgrown so much they were supporting the walkway more than the exterior sections. She stepped from vine to vine, not having to worry about where her footing went. But no sooner than she had set foot around the corner than she froze. At first she wasn't sure why the hackles on her neck began to rise, and then her sharp blue eyes spotted movement. A man was standing with his back to her only less than twenty meters away... directly in front of what had been her own home, her family's own residence. She grit her teeth tightly, freezing in place as not to draw the man's attention. He didn't appear to be much of a threat at first glance, but a sharper look told her that the blaster at his side was at the ready. He was not a tall man, dressed in an ordinary orange jumpsuit that told her he had come here in a single seat fighter. He wore no helmet, obviously having left it back at the craft. His hair was a sandy brown, tousled and untidy, not neatly combed like a man in the Imperial Fleet might wear it. Though he had a blaster clipped to his belt, his stance was casual and non-aggressive, as if he weren't expecting any trouble. He hadn't appeared to notice her yet, as he continued to study the remains of the house, one of the only dwellings that had been preserved completely, standing almost as it had been, save a few patches in the thatched roof, and a few vines growing out of the windows.
Slowly, carefully, Katarra pulled her bowcaster free and held it before her as she slipped silently over the vines towards him. She expected him to turn sensing her presence, but when he didn't, she jabbed the butt of the weapon into his back. "Don't move." She growled in a low throaty voice, warning the man. "If you can understand me, lift your hands where I can see them."
The man had frozen in place at the prompt, but then slowly lifted his hands so she could clearly see where they were. "I mean you no harm." He said in a calm mellow voice, much younger than she expected of him. "You may take my blaster if you wish."
Katarra glanced down at the weapon, briefly considering it. However, she had no reason to relieve him of his weapon as long as she had hers fully loaded in her arms. She took a step back, allowing him some space. "Turn around." He did so slowly, keeping his hands out in a surrendered position. Blue eyes met with blue as they exchange gazes briefly. The man was middle aged for a human, and wore a calm smile without any sign of fear in his eyes. Either he'd been expecting her, or had nothing to fear form a fully grown and armed wookiee. Either way, it didn't ease her concerns. She stopped only a few feet from him, keeping her weapon fully trained on his chest. At this close range, a bowcaster would tear holes in him if she fired, and they both knew it. Still, he seemed unconcerned, keeping his hands lifted away from his weapon. "What are you doing here?" She asked suspiciously, blue eyes darting briefly behind him to the place she had once called home.
"Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but I was waiting for you." He smiled almost apologetically, a small shrug lifting his shoulders. "I can assume you are Katarra, right?" He grinned almost boyishly at her. "There aren't too many that match your description I'm afraid."
Katarra gave a small snort, not amused by his attempt at humor. "I know you are here for that reason, I want to know why you are HERE." She clarified, gesturing with a nod to the building behind him. "Why did you choose this house?"
"Ah I see." The man said, inclining his head slightly to the side. half-watching the house. "Well it is one of the only buildings untouched by age, I was curious as to why this was. In truth I haven't been here long, I was just curious. I didn't touch anything, you have my word." His expression sobered. "I know death is a very sensitive subject to your people and would not disrespect your customs by desecrating a site where death occurred."
Katarra frowned, but her bowcaster lowered a bit. Something about the man told her that he was telling the truth and meant no harm. But one thing did bother her. "How did you know death occurred here?" She asked softly, her gaze shifting back to the house and lingering on the empty shell. It stirred up poignant emotions within her and she had to look away before she could let them grasp control of her.
The man seemed to sense her feelings and spoke softly. "I apologize if I brought up unwelcome memories. It doesn't take much imagination to know what must have happened here." He hesitated. "May I put my hands down?" Katarra sighed and lowered her bowcaster completely, unloading the round and slinging the weapon back over her shoulder. She had a knife if she needed it, but something about this man calmed her. He took that as an unspoken yes, and lowered his hands, but did not let them drift near his belted weapon, keeping them in front just to ease her further. "As to how I knew death occurred here..." He took a few steps to the side and placed a hand on the tree, lightly tracing a deep scar that was ingrained into the wood. "This was not made from any blade, the edges are dull and smoothly polished, as if high heat struck here... but there are no scorch marks indicating a blaster either." He glanced up at her, expression gentle. "It was made by another means, and one that isn't typically used for good things." Katarra winced a little. He was right... and furthermore that meant he knew more about what had happened than she'd thought. Either he was very observant, or... She glanced sharply at him, studying him carefully. He was a fighter, and probably trained to notice such things. "Might I ask what happened here?" He said softly. "I don't wish to pressure you into revealing anything you don't wish to, but I would like to hear what happened in your own words."
"You know what happened already?"
"Somewhat." He admitted, shaking his head slightly. "I've heard the tales told by other tribes who had dealings with this village, but their tales were very deprived of details. No one witnessed what happened here, but there were ample rumors as to what they thought happened."
Katarra glanced to the building then back to him and frowned slightly. "Why would you want to know such a thing?" She growled uncomfortably. "It's hardly something that concerns you."
"That may be true, but it doesn't mean I'm not interested..." He said quietly. "A great tragedy happened here, one that has never been fully explained as the single person who could tell others what happened has never come forth to do so..." His eyes were oddly knowing as they lifted to meet hers. "Such a burden must be difficult to bear. Wouldn't it be easier to have a friendly ear at least hear the story, so one other person might relate to you? To set the record straight and stop the rumors from growing?"
"I have told no one because none would have believed it." Katarra stated firmly, gripping her fist tightly at her side, her eyes averted. "My people would not have understood."
"Perhaps it might be different. I'm not one of your people." He pointed out.
That much was true, obviously. Katarra slowly walked past him and strode towards the building, coming to stop in the doorway and staring in at the cluttered floor littered with vines and moss. Some of the thatched roof had fallen in and was carpeting the floor, hiding the evidence of what had once been a violent aftermath of battle. The floor looked pristine, but one small brush of her foot pushed the fibers aside and sent them tumbling down through the gaping hole in the floor. The man whistled low beside her. "Hadn't seen that there... Looks to be a long way down."
"It was." Katarra said shortly, kneeling down to push enough fiber aside so they could see the dark shadows swallowing that which had fallen. "A very long way."
"But you didn't fall the whole way." The man's voice was calming, soothing, prodding for answers that she hadn't anticipated sharing, but felt compelled to do so anyway.
"No...I didn't. I caught myself on a branch only a few hundred meters down." She said quietly. "I climbed back up. By then, they were gone... and everyone was dead." She fell silent then, lost in the memories, staring absently at the dark hole before them, staring into the shadows, lost in their grasp on her thoughts. It was some time before her companion spoke, and when he did it was gentle, soothing, and understanding. "I'm sorry." He said softly. "No one should suffer such a loss as to lose their family."
"What would you know of it." Katarra growled darkly. "You have no idea."
"Actually..." he said quietly. "...my family was murdered by the Empire. Had I been there at the same time, I too would have died." Katarra glanced sharply over at him, eyes wide. He smiled quietly, his own gaze sad. "I still question what would have happened if I'd been there that day. Their only crime was buying two droids with important information. They never even knew why they were killed. It was because of them that I took the path I follow now, that I joined the Rebellion." His gaze lifted. "But I also realized that while for a time I held myself responsible simply because I had lived, that my life was the gift that their lives allowed for. Mourning them did no good. Just because you an accept what happened and move on does not mean you will forget them, or what their deaths meant." He said quietly. "You cannot harbor vengeance for blood. Taking a life to make up for lost lives, is it worth it? Would it truly provide you with the satisfaction you seek?" Katarra frowned and looked away. "Sometimes justice is better brought about not by seeing an eye for an eye, but by thinking what those who were lost might wish to see their memories honored. Killing someone will never bring them back, it will not make up for the dozens he killed, it will only satisfy your need for vengeance, and then you are left with blood on your hands. It truly is not worth the price. Take it from me… I know."
Katarra shuddered. His words struck an all-too familiar chord within her. How was it he seemed to know exactly what she was thinking? He was right, though she longed to have his blood stain the graves of her family, her clan, what would that bring but mere closure to a lifetime of hunting? It would not bring them back, merely end the search with a life lost at her hands, something she had yet to do. As much as she longed for his death, to actually kill this man was not something she truly looked forward to, even had she the power to do so against his arcane magic. She shut her eyes, tightly gripping her paw at her side. "I must see this through. The one responsible must pay for what he's done."
"That may be so." The man said softly. "But is it worth killing for? Wouldn't merely bringing him for a fair trial before those whom he wronged, to hear what he's done, to tell your story before judges be better, to set the record straight, to tell everyone the truth, to see him sentenced and punished as society deems should be his retribution? Wouldn't a life in prison be more of a punishment than a quick death?"
Katarra growled and abruptly stood, turning from the small house and stomping away from the man. He didn't follow her, but she didn't go far. Once she reached the tree, she slammed her fist into it's trunk, and did nothing more than bruise her paw. Almost as soon as she had vented her frustration, she felt it deflate, strangely vanishing to be replaced with calm, her thoughts oddly clear. She stood there, leaning into the tree for its strength, the man's words running through her mind. He was right, logically. But wookiees didn't tend to think in logic, they thought with their hearts and emotions. Perhaps he'd known this, and why he'd tried to calm her with his words.
And perhaps something else.
She lifted her head, glancing aside to see the man had approached and was standing a respectable distance from her. "You are not just a soldier, are you?" She asked, suddenly feeling tired and drained.
"You got me." He said with a small grin. "Sorry for not introducing myself." He offered a hand out to her. "Luke Skywalker."
Katarra grasped his hand in greeting, the hackles on her neck oddly quiet. Strange… and here she'd thought shaking hands with a Jedi would have been drastically different from that of any other man.
As it turned out, Luke Skywalker did not live up to the fearsome reputation that was told in the legends and tales of the Jedi. He was extremely normal in most ways. If it hadn't been for the fact she had the feeling he knew more than he let on, he easily could have been any fighter pilot in the New Republic. He didn't show her any proof of who he was, but she didn't need it. His words alone proved who, and what, he was. The Jedi were learned people, who believed in peace and harmony above all else. The tales of their battles were known too, but that was not what the wookiees revered in their tales of their history. The mysticism was skeptical, but the respect for their knowledge well-earned.
"I won't pry into your personal life already more than I have, but I must tell you that I wouldn't have come to speak with you if I didn't think it was the right thing to do. I've watched your deeds, spoken to others who have spoken of you, some not favorable, others who respect you. I feel you're a good person, you want to do the right thing, and you have morals, judgment for good. You help others without asking for compensation, and even when lied to you don't over-react as my friend Chewie might." He smiled fondly, provoking a smirk from Katarra in response. "You're the right kind of person who would be happy helping others, doing what you feel is right."
Katarra stared absently at the trees, watching a small sliver of light find it's way down through the thick foliage above, only to vanish swiftly as it had come. Her claws were digging into the railing as she held tightly to it, the tenseness of this situation like a weight on her shoulders. She still wasn't sure why he was here in the first place. He had talked about how he was impressed by her, how much he admired her character, but what did that have to do with anything?
She lifted her gaze to study the sunlight filtering through the foliage above, dancing in the small breezes that ruffled the thick branches high up. "Why exactly are you here, Jedi?" She asked quietly. "Why have you sought me out, why have you pried into my past? What do you hope to gain from this?"
To this, he simply smiled gently and fixed her with a knowing look. "Because, Katarra. I was not sure until I met you, but now I am certain. Within you lies the spark of life that fuels all that the Jedi stand for. You are in tune with the force, and I would like you to return to Coruscant with me to learn the ways of the Jedi."