ABY 853
Mid-Rim - Mytaranor Sector - Kashyyyk System - Kashyyyk
The 'Shadowlands'
Three Days Later

The cable-ride from the lower sub-platforms beneath Northayyk's broad shadow, down far to the near unlit surface, was estimated to last close to over ten hours. Only a literal handful of individuals, either brave locals or foolhardy offworlders, made the venture every other year. Some came laden with enough kit to last them a lifetime in the unkind wilds, wishing and willing to prove themselves equal to the old legends. Especially old, lost Jolee Bindo, the half-mad human who made surviving the undergrowth a pastime. Some Wookies, out of misplaced pride or prejudice, found that piece of local history a blight. Kashyyyk belonged to her children; the Wookies wouldn't let a thrice-damned cantankerous monk outdo their own exploits. And so a few more unprepared souls died at the turn of every year, to their hubris.

Lof's paws readjusted the ride of her bandoleer harness and the wide belt clasped about her hips. The looping was reaffirmed, tightened into place, the attached supplies of ammunition and medical provisions triple-checked against 'human' error. Upon her wide back she carried an added pack, compact with field kit dolled out to patrol regulars that kept the peace in the city sublevels. And in her paws laid an oiled, well machined bowcaster, constructed of tempered wroshyr-grain and durasteel. Lof bragged that she could score nine out of ten shots on the fifty meter ranges and the ten was just a misfire. That was on her bad days, she would add with gruff chuckles to mounting guffaws and hollers, sipping down grain-vodka at The Tall Bark.

For her venture, she kept prudent company. Four members of Vaazyyc Bolters, wizened veterans and trained climbers that wore silvery car-lines across their bulked forelimbs and stout muzzles. Despite her precautions, she felt under-prepared in their company. They had strapped to their frames lengths of treated wood-plating, able to stand the blows of vibro-weapons and peel back lancing laser-bolts. Boxy shield generators sat nestled over their thighs, while their Ryyk swords hung from greased scabbards. Their bowcasters were of a definite heavier make, showcasing machined casement interwoven with idle carvings, double the length of the traditional crossbow held easily in Lof's palms. The Aide mentioned they looked keen to march to war; they grunted that the Notherworld's fastness could not be underestimated.

Together they fell through a layer of motionless fog, an hour away from making surface-fall. Here, where the wind ceased and the wroshyr-trunks widened into their wrinkled, hulking root-beds, light dimmed. Illumination came from ancient lanterns running on replenished sap-fuel, stapled to the trunk bark, phosphorescent algae and plant growths, frekkflies with glowing bellies the size of a human forearm... and a general, indescribable 'gloom' that lent an eerie cast of detail. Lof felt her thick throat lump, shaken slightly as the platform completed its fall. It nestled atop a leveled wroshyr stump, a gangway carved down through the rotted wood to the earth proper. Her guards fell into march, hustling her into their center midst. Though their bowcaster's were left idle in their grasps, four pairs of keen eyes and sharper snouts kept watch on the surrounding flora miasma


Thirteen Days Later

It took eight days and a frightening trek through a deep valley more akin to a lengthy crevice before a fresh trail was found. It was another five days before they encountered a hidden encampment. Lof sniffed water from her button nose, glancing about. The camp was arrayed in a tight circle; tent, firepit, a dip of dug dirt that showed sign of food preparation, a below-earth salt box for drying and storage, pitched lengths of plastic, weighed over waiting buckets for catching dew water, and a makeshift shack of Mouf-hide and wroshyr-plank. The guards identified a well-used sleeping roll laid out in the tent, alongside several secondary 'day packs' of assorted wood-fashioned tools and a washed chamber pot.

[There's no food,] One remarked, turning over the salt-box with a heavy foot.

[He's on the hunt then,] A second escort replied. [Which means he can only be a day or so away. The humidity and the heat spoil kills fast down here.]

[Not to mention he'll have to be making a fast trek back before scavengers move in once the kill's been scented,] Loff murmured, training her nostrils to the bedding. There was a scent of sweat, sour body, odour, fleshy moisture, and... a kind of stale, hard fragrance. It made her nose buzz, like she pressed it flat against a flash-battery. [Hmmmn...]

She took the lead when they departed, going east by south. They were now thirteen days off from the lift-ascend, with another week's travel on hard pacing if and when they recovered 'the boy.' Lof didn't even know his name. She curled her bowcaster up into the catch of her armpit and shoulder, scanning the swiftly along as she took a Trakrrrn run cut out amidst the long blade-grass. Despite the absence of telling footprints, the way was lead by an unerring scent that clung in familiar bunches along the air, soggy earth, and broad-leafed ferns. The boy. Underneath foggy vestiges of half light, skirting a dung-trap, Lof realized she didn't even know his name.

Like soundless starlight, he came by way of a small guncutter and made his way down to the Notherworld. He said maybe only a few words to a trapper-shop that he paid generously for supplies, then departed. He didn't come for Wookie wares, nor stayed midst the tree-houses or bothered visiting the local brouhaha's. Traces through his vessel registry couldn't be made without a lawful course, otherwise the Chieftain and the council would dip into the illegal. But Lof made sure Kerriish was informed. Though, once he reached the root-floor, it was virtually useless to keep track of his whereabouts. The undergrowth simply consumed his trail. Northayyk was content to assume he'd be dead within thirty days, if his luck held for a few weeks.

A bleak crunch underfoot halted their procession. Lof cursed with a guttural warble under her breath and sank fast to a knee. One of the guard softly queried to hold position for a moment. Bowcasters trained the too-close tree-line running with the Trakrrrn trail; listless, heavy fingers kept squeezing pressure over the trigger-catches. While they kept the wait in case some nearby predatory fauna came to investigate the brisk 'smash', Lof dared to look down by her knelt legs. Her bright eyes widened. Bone. Brittle, marrow-scoured bone, the colour of spoilt milk and sodium. A long fang, still too sharp, had sunken through her calve fur and into the skin when she fell to her knelt. Gingerly, the Wookie tugged it free and laid it against the earth. The scattering crack belonged to a now shattered skull, with sunken sockets, strong cheek ridges, and broken rows of rotted teeth.

A Wookie skull. Lof's fast appraisal counted more off-white hints settled amidst the run-trail, partially consumed by encroaching earth, moss-grass. They mere amidst a 'burial hurl', where the myriad dead claimed by the Gulag Virus centuries prior had fallen from the high ledges of Northayyk. Fifty thousand Wookies, consigned to bleak demise. Lof motioned her find to the Vaazyyc, who cautiously picked up the boy's trail and quietly sped on. It would be even more ominous amidst the Notherworld if they tarried in a bone field. Lof wished the boy would soon materialize.


A guard butted past Lof, a fellow female, bow-sights drawing a long stare down a disused trailway that ran off the Trakrrrn path. It swirled into a vague resemblance of a broken portcullis, the long, natural tunnel dripped with foetid moisture and walled with lichen and algae growth. Past, it opened into a low clearing dominated on all sides by Yissgrin hardwoods and looped branches of spiked leaves. Below ran a storm of churning earth. A hollering pack of hefty Minstyngar simians, some ten by what the guard could count, were descending upon a ragged blur. Blooms of hard light cut through obscured curtains of shade, whacking through careless limb-swings and bucking kicks.

Lof smirked. [Well Chief Kerriissh wasn't wrong...]