Remnant of Glory
The man who went by the name “Karrn” walked the tumbleweed infested streets of the sprawling slum of a town that had seen better days. The signs were everywhere shimmering in the noon heat that made Karrn want to take off his jacket if that ratty orange item wasn’t central to his identity. Beggars sat outside the local chantry which incidentally was the only building made of stone though the paltry dome would be laughed at on any civilized planet while the few priests hardly looked pious. One sorry specimen staggered drunk and leaned on one side of the building and vomited over his shabby grey robes while another was catcalling some rail thin alien whore in an unintelligible voice that was most likely from being on some sort of intoxicant. It evidently didn’t work because the female aliens nose frills went up in annoyance and she kept walking. The beggars could tell that the priests were not the best and thus did not even look up to watch, their eyes fixed in despair on the ground. The graffiti on the mostly stattico or wooden walls of the town were full of ethnic slurs of one kind or another and one even denigrating the supreme Shogun himself. To do that would be suicidal but Karrn thought ruefully if he had to live in this place he might consider Being beaten to death by some mercenary thugs a blessing. All around them were merchants hawking their cheap wares of all sorts including the deadly seeds of the acaki’an plant which would give a human a high more powerful than any known drug but in return would drive you into a violent frenzy if you took to much. On another stand lay fine silk most likely pirated and was grouped next to obviously fake “ti’mizkzw artifacts” in fact Karrn thought one of them looked was a run of the mill chamber pot with metal spikes hastily welded on. The smelly merchants were yelling in tongues even Karrn couldn’t understand and he had mastered 15 languages over his long career as noble soldier and now as a blaster for hire.
At his side was his pain in the ass young ward Sug El-Maradon in his long imitation Wanbi robes and with a family heirloom Katen almost as large as his body who was panting in the heat of this spirit-forsaken hellhole as his blue skin gleamed with perspiration. His body language was one of teenage angst as he slouched and looked around with a feverish nervousness no doubt bursting to ask his master what they were doing here and what they would do next.
”So what now?” Sug asked with indignation as he quickly moved out of the way as a farmer herded his emaciated cattle then going back to Karrn’s side
“It better not be wiping out another grugal nest like the last damn time. It took the rest of the day to get the droppings out of my hair.”
His hair was styled in a manner that Sug said made him look like a hero but Karrn often thought privately made him look like the pompous teen he was. Karrn in irritation snapped back
“Quit bellyaching Sug the townsfolk gave us guildershen “ he was getting quite sick of his attitude. Pay was pay.
Sug interjected again “I don’t care about the money I want to have grand adventures like the Wanbi of the stories not be glorified pest control or musclemen for some shithole lord!”
Karrn rolled his eyes stopped walking and turned around facing the brat saying slowly and patiently
“Those legends are a bunch of rancid engine grease Sug you’re grown now so you should know better,I’m not having this discussion again.The only power that is genuine is manipulation,look at that beggar.”
Sug shut up and looked though he continued scowling moodley.The beggar who had before been walking jerkily behind them for a while now shouting
“Spare,Spare I need spare” in broken Galactic looked confused and suddenly as if he had no control over his own body, threw the can up in the air and ran the opposite direction clucking like a chicken. Everyone else on the street gave him a wide berth,eyes looking at the ground,absorbed in their own problems. Sug looked incredulous at Karrn
“That’s not a very honorable way to resolve conflict.”
”You’re right.” Karrn chuckled “But it’s funny, very funny”
They continued on their way passing through the outskirts seemingly going nowhere if there was any nosy observers. By the putrid smell they were immersed in now they were in the factory slums as buildings were reduced even further to mere hovels of mud with obviously no overriding design. Children played here in the refuse heaps and in the stream of sewage and green muck cackling like some predatory birds all the while the one factory in town a hulking mass of crude metal was billowing black smoke against the pale blue sky towered over all like a Demon Prince of the 9 Hells. The factory mercenaries could be seen walking in little groups either drinking fermented stuoucha milk or gambling in their cheap brown body armour that only protected the chest and front of the legs. They would be the laughing stock in a core world but out here had no rival and all the peasants looked furtively at them like mice looked at cats. The fear was like a smog in the air and it came from everybody from housewives weaving on the front steps to the old man milking his goat in a pitiful fenced yard. Karrn checked his map but he still couldn’t see where the boarding house was.
He was going to ask Sug for some help deciphering that worn scrap of paper but he was interrupted by Screams of pain. He looked around and saw it coming from a thin bearded man in the stocks as he was beaten by an electric whip wielded from a mercenary who was laughing maniacally like a kid who had found a new toy. The placard on the prisoners neck indicated that he had been the one to create the graffiti against the Shogun.
”Damn fool!”Karrn muttered under his breath while that naive young tanril Sug furrowed his brow in concern for the poor man probably wondering if they should help,his fingers reaching for his Katen sword though he quickly dropped them when Karrn gave him a raised eyebrow with a look that said “Don’t waste your time.” They continued until they reached the destination a large out of place wooden pagoda which from the sound of it was packed with people. Just as Karrn was about to knock the sliding door was opened slightly to reveal a haggard and bitter looking woman who growled at them with a gravelly voice
“Place is full,the best I can do for you is the Cow shed behind here” she spat bloody phlegm on the porch and then said “Five Guildershen take it or leave it.” Sug was about to make a fuss about that but Karrn preemptively kicked him in the shin,smiled and handed the coins over. Just before the angry woman closed the door however she mentioned
“If you really need a drink that bad there’s a traveling canteen a block from here I sure as hell ain’t going over to the shed to bring you stuff I got enough trouble as it is.” Karrn despite wanting to sock the old woman simply smiled and said
“of course madam” as she slammed close the door. Sug rounded on Karrn
“You let her walk all over us,no way i’m sleeping in a cow shed!”.Karrn sighed
“Look kid do you really want to argue with every asshole this side of the galaxy ?It doesn’t work, I tried before when I was your age and it left me on the run and everyone I fucking cared about dead! ” Sug deflated by the outburst said Quietly
“Your right of course. So should we look at the shack first or should we drink at that tavern?” Karrn thought about it for a moment and then said
“Drink first,we could find all sorts of jobs at a dive canteen like that.”
As they came around the corner of the street the canteen was revealed to be a yurt of ourgas hide much repaired most likely from numerous brawls and the sounds of drunken laughter could be heard from inside. Meanwhile on a makeshift bench next to it two old insecaons aliens were arguing in their chittering fashion over a dice game. As karrn warily approached the yurt full of the din of many drunken degenerates he was reminded of why he hated people. However before Karrn could steel himself to walk inside Sug’s pointed ears twitched and he pulled Karrn out of the way just in time as a particularly bulbous headed trewfic was thrown bodily out of the yurt by bulky Zerd.
He rounded on them in broken galactic basic
“What you want,state business or fuck off!” Karrn slowly picked himself off the ground and shot one look at Sug who was shaking with outrage at the shabby treatment into taking his hand of his sword. Karrn walked forward hoping he wouldn’t have to shoot the dumb aliens head off as he’d done that enough in Great House War. He gave a grin while saying
“Simple travelers looking for a drink and maybe a job.” The Zerd responded with a
“If you cause trouble you out” and let them pass though not before leering at Sug as he passed whispering
“I wish I kill you weakling.” Karrin had to drag Sug out of the aliens way,he had no intention of letting his ward get killed not after what he had promised to her after all.
“Stop” he told himself as he stood in front of the archway “don’t go down that road again” the pain those dying moments brought him even after all these years surprised Karrn. Sug than turned around and was about to bicker with Karrn about being pulled out of the way until he saw his friends face contorted in agony of memory. Sug slowly calmed himself down and softly said
“Shall we go in?”This brought Karrn back and he looked embarrassed. He roughly pushed past Sug who followed. However the sight and smells of the Yurt made the young non baseline stand agape and aghast.
In the center of the room was a roped off ring where two humans were fighting with their hands tied behind their backs thus resorting to having to bite and headbut eachother. On the dirt floor many different humans and aliens each more looking more drunk than the last sat cheering uproariously in many tongues. They were served by a service cyborg that had seen better days in fact it looked like his head had been screwed on backwards while generations of vomit and spilled drink had made it’s colour impossible to discern. Karrn continued to stride confidently to the back while Sug who was mentally dealing with what he was seeing followed slowly behind. Sug got that old feeling again. The sickening sense that what they were doing wasn’t right. They should do…something,anything like a chivalrous warrior of old but Karrn always refused because of that damn incident in a past he refused to talk about. Sug was drawn out from his thoughts as he noticed what Karrn was walking towards. At the back of the large yurt stood two humans wearing long black cloaks and smoking what looked to be a hookah. Karrn made his way to the two “strangers” gingerly avoiding a sleeping drunk that stunk to high heaven with Sug right behind him. Karrn lazily addressed the first man
“I can tell it’s you Epses you don’t need that ridiculous cloak”,Sug snickered in amusement as no matter how many times Karrn had recognized people in disguises the reactions were always priceless. Epses jumped and then swore in a whiny voice while the other cloaked figure stood stock still.
“Got any jobs? Were just passing through but coin is coin” Karrn asked as the first man removed his cloak revealing greasy black hair and a large hooked nose. Epses scrunched up his face in a look to disgust and self pity.
“Too late Karrn this new mercenary Zorga and his band took everything that pays any money in town’ Karrn swore as he had hoped to avoid this and kicked the ground while Sug looked dumbfounded.
Epses went on talking as he drew his blaster on them and the other cloaked figure pulled down it’s hood revealing a silent raven haired woman wielding a sickly green glowing Zarentium sabre. She bared her teeth and then opened her mouth allowing Karrn and Sug to see that their was only a stump where her tongue had been. Sug felt the bile rise in his throat but Karrn kept his cool.
“He’s put a bounty on your head worth a considerable sum,doesn’t want competition see?” Epses said in his nasally voice grinning he took a step forward the pistol aimed at Karrn while the noise of the patrons was swiftly silenced as everyone wanted to see what would happen. Karrn didn’t hesitate he quickly flung himself at Epses kneeing him in the stomach causing the blaster bolt to hit the floor instead while Sug clumsily blocked the swing from the mute aiming at Karrns head with his heavy Katen. Epses was no fighter and Karrn pulled the blaster away from him and wrapped his arm around his neck and pulled him to his feet. He couldn’t have done it fast enough too as the mute had kicked Sug square in the face and dropped him to the ground with his nose bleeding. The woman rounded on Karrn but thinking quickly he raised the blaster to epses head. The merchant started bawling
“Stop Karrn stop we can make a deal i’ll call off mute too please!” Karrn feeling vindictive screamed
“You better swear on your life you son of a bitch or i’ll blow your head off” to which Epses responded by whimpering all the while a warm substance slid down his pants. Haltingly Epses called off the mute off to her visible confusion and Sugs hastily hidden relief as he slowly got off the ground. Karrn said in a cold hard voice to Epses
“now you better make damn sure that you don’t-” the sound of blaster fire interrupted him as a group of five of the local lords mercenaries ripped through the tent wall firing indiscriminately because they obviously couldn’t be bothered with working out who had started the commotion. At that point all beings that could run did towards the other end of the tent where the exit presumably was and those who could not run slithered or crawled. Karrn saw Sug use the commotion to swing his sword in the direction of the Zerd who had insulted him cutting his arm off in one swift motion adding screams of agony only adding to the confusion. He would have done more but Karrn grabbed his arm starting Sug to his senses. The mute surprisingly also went with Karrn who dragged her employer Epses with the gun still to his head while she cut quickly and skillfully an exit out with her sword while Sug brought up the rear looking ready for anything. Inside though he felt as if he would collapse in sheer fright if anyone had the mercy to let him. They all continued to run out on the streets that echoed with screams as more and more mercenaries realized what was going on and went to join in the killing and looting as the slum burned and the peasants ran desperately searching for safety as they were shot down like dogs. The altercation in the canteen had set off a firestorm of rage and death that had obviously been building up for years before the duo had arrived. Karrn as he ran reflected that it was probably better that the mercenaries massacre the people of the slum instead of focusing on them but he still felt a brief stirring of outrage that he quickly crushed. Morals got people killed,morals always made things worse. In anycase all the mercenaries were to disorganized and gave them a wide berth to go after the easir targets to kill and loot though the mute slashed one particularly stupid one of their number who got to close. Karrn just to be safe however made them run through the backyards of the hovels which everyone else followed to his surprise. He must have still had the battlefield charisma despite how much he had tried to bury it. The slum folk who were fleeing the carnage didn’t seem to even notice them except for one shrieking woman with a crying baby under her arm who threw a pan at Sugs head. Karrn led the way still having his arm wrapped around a crying Epses who struggled to keep his feet and begged the heavens to save him from this humiliation though his pleas went unanswered. Suddenly up ahead Karrn regonzided the Pagoda which had so far been unscathed though that was only because the old woman and several motley clients who had guns were arrayed on the porch ready to shoot anyone who tried to approach. He quickly dropped Epses to put his hands up and shouted pleadingly to the old woman as he got nearer
“Don’t shoot” though she leveled her gun at him anyway threateningly. Epses who was desperate to save his own skin squeaked
“For the love of god woman let us in! I’ll pay you as much as you want!” and to emphasize the point he got a sack of coins from under his robes and then got onto his knees pleadingly while the dust stirred up by the fighting blew by and the Mute and Sug stood with their backs turned holding their swords menacingly enough to anyone running by that no one would bother them. The old woman sniffed disapprovingly but she still picked up the bundle of coins though gingerly as if she thought they would bite her and grunted out a
“Fine go round back” which sent a wave of relief up Karrns spine who then roughly pulled up and shook a still blubbering Epses to his senses. The Mute and Sug still suspiciously eyeing each other followed Karrns lead into the overgrown backyard of the inn where a Cow was standing in a corner froughing at the mouth obviously spooked by the noise of the riot. The shack itself had seen better days but it was better than staying outdoors so each of them went in with Epses all but collapsing to the dirt floor where he lay traumatized it seemed. Though Karrn was now dead tired he started as his eyes adjusted to the light and he realized there were others with them.
3 careworn farmers had been huddling scared around a small fire. As Karrns eyes adjusted he realized how much of a sorry sight they were. In their eyes was fear,distrust and resentment. The oldest one was about fifty with scraggly greying hair and an eyepatch while the other two men were conjoined to the hip and looked about in their mid 20s and had the same red hair. In the back of the room a bald man who looked about 80 and looked to have lost half of his skull strummed on his banjo and his wide staring eyes made it abundantly clear he was blind. What really interested Karrn however was another man who sat just outside the barn by a surprisingly clean stream who was methodically shaving his head while humming a tune seemingly unaware of the chaos around him…
Everything after Empire Strikes Back is shit.