Call to Arms
by Seldes Katne
Out of the dawn mists came the notes of a single message horn, sounding the first call to arms.
General Ceel, senior commander of the Gungan Grand Army, guided his kaadu to the head of the forming ranks of infantry. These were the foot soldiers who would carry personal shields and hand weapons, who would form the walls between the maccanek army and the Gungan people. Everywhere he saw expressions of grim resolve and concern. Never in the memory of anyone now living, not even the oldest elder, had the Grand Army stood together and marched in full strength. Most of the soldiers served part time, each regiment and cavalry unit drilling on different schedules, only occasionally serving at times of natural disaster or in defense of their homes against the large aquatic monsters that infrequently attacked underwater communities.
Today they would face a new kind of monster.
The invading maccaneks had overrun the Gungans' cities, and the survivors had taken refuge here, in the Sacred Places of their people, places filled with the mysterious statuary whose stories had been lost to the past. Now at last the time had come to strike back, to draw the maccanek army into the open and into battle. The plan was for the Grand Army to assemble its full strength at the edge of the swamp and make a stand in the grasslands beyond.
The battle strategy had not been the Gungans' first choice. Captain Tarpals, whose mounted patrol had fought the maccaneks in Otoh Gunga and covered the retreat of the civilians, had planned for a number of hit and run retaliations, harrying the maccanek army that outnumbered the Gungans. Ceel and his colleague General Yoss had both agreed -- despite the individual soldiers' commitment to their people, most had little actual battle experience.
But now the Gungans were allied with the Naaboo, the humans whose ancestors had colonized this planet a thousand years ago, who had until recently shared an uneasy peace with the amphibious natives. The Naaboo leader, Queen Ah'midaala, had brought them a plan -- to capture the leaders of the maccanek army, to destroy the thing that controlled the maccanek soldiers, and to free the planet from the invading force.
The plan had called for a diversion, for a show of strength against overwhelming odds and firepower that made it seem as though the Gungans had no concept of strategy at all. Yet this plan might well be the best hope they had; if it succeeded, they would free their world. If it failed, they would become hunted, forced to flee into the swamps in small groups and fight for their survival. Most of the Naaboo had already been imprisoned. The fate of the two civilizations were now entwined; either both would triumph, or both be destroyed.
Ceel peered through the mists at the horn-bearers who stood atop statuary scattered about the Sacred Place. He raised his right fist to eye-level and traced a single tight circle in the air, signaling the second set of calls.
first message horn, joined now by a handful of others, sounded a new command.
General Yoss, her ear-like haillu pulled back and tied in place, glanced over her shoulder at the artillery divisions falling into step; the ill-tempered falumpasets with their battle wagons and catapults in tow, the enormous, plodding fumbaa carrying the shield generators. It took two handlers each to keep the huge reptiles pacing through the swamp mists; the fumbaa weren't the brightest creatures on the planet, but they were among the strongest.
Like many of the career military, Yoss had heard the stories of the great battles fought by the Gungans in long-ago times, including the last great assembling of the Grand Army. They had fought against the Monster of Thunder, and the gods themselves had come to their aid, fighting alongside the mortal soldiers. The Monster had at last been destroyed, but his children even now swam in the depths of the Core, still occasionally rising to attack the Gungan settlements. The decedents of those long-ago warriors still practiced the war arts and would today follow their ancestors into legend.
At the first sounding of the message horns, the moments of surprise had quickly given way to resolve and determination. Everywhere throughout the hills and pools of the Sacred Place, soldiers had risen and stooped to gather weapons: the long cesta poles that were used to hurl the plasma energy buumaas, the sling-like atlatls, the oval frames that, when activated, would become personal shields. Mates and younglings had converged on the soldiers preparing to march. Here a female scout had exchanged affectionate nuzzles with her three mates; there a male had lifted his youngest child for a final swing into the air. Those too young or old, those remaining behind with the ruling council and their leader, had gathered to bid farewell to those going forth to fight.
Seeing the artillery units in place behind her, Yoss signaled to her own messenger to sound the message horns for the next series of calls.
message horns, now a dozen strong, called the last of the army to form ranks.
Captain Tarpals's command, the Third Mounted Patrol, came trotting together with practiced ease -- all but one. Jar Jar Binks, newly promoted to the rank of general, fumbled with the kaadu's reins and listed sideways in the saddle. Tarpals reached over and caught the animal's bridle, holding it steady until its rider could regain his balance. The Gungan leader Rugor Nass had capriciously granted Binks his rank; Tarpals knew the youngling had barely the basics of military training. Most of the Grand Army's command staff had not found their ruler's decision amusing. General Ceel's sole comment had been that Binks should set a good example for his people and die well. At last, Tarpals had taken pity on the former outcast and suggested that if General Binks had no other plans, perhaps he would consider riding with Tarpals's patrol during the battle. Tarpals wasn't sure whether Nass had promoted Jar Jar as a reward for his contact with the Naaboo, or to increase the chance that Jar Jar would become a casualty of war. Jar Jar's previous transgressions were still remembered in Otoh Gunga.
Tarpals commanded one of the only three permanently active cavalry units of the Grand Army. The patrols served as the security force of Otoh Gunga; cavalry members rode the patrol circuit that connected the settlements outside the capital city. The patrols kept the peace, warded off the wild beasts of the swamps and seas, carried news between settlements, and arbitrated disputes among civilians. They were the few soldiers that actually saw active duty most of the time. They would soon stand at the center of Grand Army and take the brunt of the enemy's offensive should the main shield fail. Tarpals and his officers had insisted upon it; they had held the enemy back in the streets of Otoh Gunga and would now avenge their fallen comrades. The Third Mounted Patrol had already suffered losses in the maccanek attack on Otoh Gunga; the gods alone knew how many more would be lost before the battle ended.
gazed around at his officers and cavalry riders, then at General Binks, who for
the first time looked almost solemn, then signaled to the messengers to call the
As the horns sounded their final notes, a heavyset figure folded his arms and gazed down at the newly assembled Grand Army.
Surrounded by his council of advisors, Rugor Nass watched as the last of the soldiers moved into position. He knew, as did his council and his commanders, how risky this battle was. Everything depended upon a fragile chain of abilities -- upon the skill of the Naaboo pilots flying against the maccanek control ship, upon the daring of their Queen and her escort seeking to capture the enemy leader, and upon the courage and commitment of the Gungan soldiers facing their unliving foes.
A thousand years ago, after the initial battles against the aliens who had come to this world in their starships, the Gungans had withdrawn into the swamps and lakes, building their underwater cities and leaving the high grasslands to the Naaboo. For a thousand years the two societies had maintained a wary distance, the Naaboo considering the Gungans to be backward primitives, and the Gungans seeing the Naaboo as arrogant weaklings. But it had all changed when the maccanek army had laid claim to the planet both races called home.
Now it had come down to this -- to join with the Naaboo or face extinction. However the tides of battle turned, the Gungans would be changed forever by events not of their choosing. Many would offer their lives in defense of the very people who had scorned them. The survivors would either become hunted refugees, or would finally take their place as equals in the eyes of the Naaboo.
Having made the great decision, Nass could now only stand and watch the soldiers march forth -- those in his position did not lead troops into battle; like the Naaboo Queen, his place was with his people. Along with those remaining behind, he could only watch, and hope, and wait for the final outcome of this historic day, this pivotal battle, this call to arms.
Author's Note: All characters, creatures, and situations belong to George Lucus, creator of Star Wars, and were merely borrowed for this story. The author has received no financial recompense for this fic.
A bit of background: Generals Ceel and Yoss don't actually appear in The Phantom Menace, but they are both mentioned in the Databank at the official Star Wars site (http://www.starwars.com), as is Boss Nass's first name.
Intended as something of a "missing scene", this piece was written in response to The Star Wars Fan Fic Writers' Silent Challenge! (http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=5985412), posted at TheForce.Net. The premise is simple: write a Star Wars fanfic short in which the characters do not speak aloud. The stories on this thread range from action adventure to internal monologues to humor. There are some excellent fics there (most having nothing to do with Gungans at all, in case you're wondering). Thanks to Gr-Adm-Thrawn, The Musical Jedi, Syntax, Erin-Starlight, and everyone else on the thread for offering comments and good fanfics!