Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Voice in the Wind

Author's Note:

Some of the first writing that I ever did was in the Star Wars universe.  Those writings were juvenile, unfocused, and not that good.  Ultimately, it was just me as a writer practicing my prose.  Star Wars took up a great deal of my childhood (I used to know almost everything about this universe and I read every single book ever printed until after the New Jedi Order series).  This story, therefore, is dedicated to George Lucas for creating Star Wars, and those writers who have written in the Star Wars universe.  I think that many people will agree that this franchise has been one of the most successful and endearing of all science-fiction works.  I hope that you enjoy A Voice in the Wind.

Before you begin reading, it is recommended that you take a quick look at the pictures of both a Hutt and a Talz, the two main species in this story.  It's good to have a visual image in mind when you're reading.  All Huttese has been translated with the help of The Complete Wermo's Guide to Huttese.

A Voice in the Wind
M.R. Michel

Jesko na joka, Lappa!  Yoka to Bantha poodoo!”
Lappa squinted with his day-vision eyes at the slithering form of the Hutt in front of him and let out a penetrating buzz with his proboscis.  For a Talz, the pitch of his voice resonated at a lower octave; it was more a dull droning that a brisk shrill.  It had gotten him the names slow worker and mind lacker in his youth. 
“Now listen here, Zolda.  Just because you’re larger than I am, doesn’t mean that you can boss me around.  Commander Keldjion sent us both out here, and by the spirits of my ancestors, that means we’re to treat each other as equals.”  The vocabulator that he held in his hand transferred his words into Basic so that his companion could understand him.
Zolda the Hutt let out a booming laugh.  His great maw of a mouth spread in a grin large enough to swallow multiple womp rats.  “O ho ho, my friend!  You really are Bantha poodoo!  Keldjion sent you along as my guide, nothing more.  It is I,” he said, gesturing with one tiny hand at his immense chest, “who am the important one!  If the Imperials do not form an agreement with my clan, then they will not be able to continue to mine from your wretched planet.”
Lappa looked out at the swirling white eddies of Alzoc III and couldn’t help but agree.  Snow fell in clumps around them and the ground underfoot was often slick with ice.  In all directions there was primarily only one color:  white.  Off in the distance, Lappa could see the peaks of the Helara Mountains poking up just above the horizon.  Nearby, a few scraggly fir trees struggled to eke out an existence in the bitter cold.  It was kind of bleak, really, even if you hadn’t lived here for your entire life.
Lappa crossed his arms over his chest.  The two sentients made an odd pair.  Zolda was the heir to a wealthy Hutt clan and just coming out of Hutt adolescence.   For a Hutt, at least, he was fairly wiry and his body could move quickly over the ground.  He had yet to gain the multiple layers of wobbling fat that his species slowly accumulated over the centuries.  Right now he was quite comic in appearance, as goggles covered his bulbous eyes to protect them from the sunlight that reflected off of the high-albedo snow of Alzoc III.  Lappa, on the other hand, was a Talz, the species that was native to this planet.  He was a towering monolith of white fur with a set of double eyes.  He used one pair for seeing during the harsh, bright day, while the other was adept at nocturnal vision.  A proboscis descended from his jaw; Lappa used this both to eat and to communicate.  His hands were padded scimitars with which he could dismember his prey.
Now Lappa absently hid his claws inside of his thick fur.  The Talz had long suffered under the yoke of Imperial slavery.  His father’s father had recounted grim tales of when the Imperials first came to Alzoc III—of how they had rounded the Talz up into pens and then shaved the matriarch from head to toe as a demonstration of their power.  The horror had only increased from then on:  inadequate rations, backbreaking labor, and limited medical care to serve as a bulwark for the variety of diseases that humanity had brought with them.  But there were also happy memories.  The old Talz had nestled Lappa deep within his fur and told him of better times on Alzoc III.  He narrated times of plenty, of when each Talz had enough to eat and even to store through the long, hard months.  There were stories of the creator goddess Ipzula-ru, and of how the Talz had wandered under the sun and listened to the voices in the wind for wisdom and understanding. 
Now—now, there was nothing.  There was only the crack of the Imperial whips and the chortle of their nefarious allies, the Hutts. 
“Let’s move, Gundark slime!  The sun will set before we reach the rendezvous.”
Lappa turned and looked at Zolda.  He did not see a fellow sentient, but only a mechanism for violence, an arm of Commander Keldjion.  It was then that Lappa felt something move within him.  It was anger, but there was something else there that he had never felt so acutely before.  It was the heaviness of the years of his youth wasted as the personal slave of Keldjion, a thick-jawed man who ruled with an iron fist.  It was the bite of Lentha-ru’s refusal to share the mating crèche because he was too close to the Imperial overlords.  It was the agony of watching his father fall flat on his face in the mines, scars crisscrossing his back, finally set free to a better world.  And above it all he thought he could hear the voice of the goddess, the lovely shrill of Ipzula-ru.
You, yes even you, my different one.  Even you are beloved!
Lappa tweaked his proboscis and answered the Hutt.  “Of course, Master Zolda.  We must not be late for the meeting.  Your father will be angry if I do not deliver his son in time.”
“O ho ho!  Finally, the furry idiot has a measure of intelligence!  Indeed, my father will be most angry if Hunter’s Glory must wait on me to return to Nal Hutta.  He will be furious, anyways, since Commander Keldjion would not even give us one stormtrooper as an escort!  Perhaps my father will make you into a jacket, slow one!  The quality of your fur is one of your few redeeming qualities, ho ho!  That and your limited intelligence.”
Lappa ignored the jabs that Zolda threw in his direction and thought about the situation between the Hutts and the Imperials.  It was true—he was a slow thinker. But hastiness was not a good thing to have.  It helped to think about the whole situation.  Zolda, as with many young Hutts, was irreverent of authority and lived only for his own wants and desires.  More than once he had insulted Commander Keldjion, and the human had been furious when he found the Hutt attempting to woo one of his more attractive adjutants into a lifetime contract with the Hutt clan.  If the two oppressors could be somehow set against each other…
“Let’s move, you slug!  Even my thick hide is beginning to feel the bite of this cold.”
Lappa bowed at the waist.  “Of course, Master Zolda.  The rendezvous is in this direction.”  The Hutt fell in behind the Talz, muttering in Huttese.  Lappa wrinkled his proboscis in disgust as the winds shifted direction and he got a good whiff of the Hutt’s body odor.  How could someone take absolutely no pride in their personal appearance?  Lappa took great care to comb his fur each morning before work.  His comb was one of his most prized possessions—it was made of polished Torsk bone, and had been crafted in times long ago.
“You know, Lappa, you aren’t such a bad sort, even though you aren’t a Hutt.  Certainly better than that pile of excretement, Keldjion,” Zolda said.  “You’ve worked for that man for years, haven’t you?”  The Hutt’s booming voice echoed across the snowfields.
“Yes, I’ve been his personal servant ever since I can remember,” Lappa answered.  What was with this sudden change in mood?  What was the Hutt trying to do?
“Hmm, hoo!  Yes, it would stink to work for that fleabag.”  The Hutt stopped slithering and clutched Lappa’s leg fur.  “Just between you and me, the Imperials could use a new overseer on this planet.  And you know, it’s so easy for accidents to happen in a mining complex.  Oh ho, yes!  Falling rocks and collapsing tunnels.”  The Hutt grew serious.  His tongue slithered from one side of his enormous mouth to the other.
“But you, my Lappa!  You are beside him all the time.  If perhaps Keldjion did not make it back from one of his production tours, then you would maybe tell the Imperials of how this great tragedy happened?  Rocks become so easily dislodged, eh?”
“I will not take a part in any of your schemes, Zolda the Hutt.  My people are pacifists, and cannot willingly harm another sentient being.”
E chu ta, koochoo!” the Hutt swore.  “You’ll pay for that, slime!  No one denies Zolda the Hutt and gets away with it!”  He began slithering again, angrily.  “Where is this rendezvous?  I should see the wings of the Hunter’s Glory by now!”
“It is just a bit further, master.  Have patience.”
Lappa tweaked his proboscis nervously.  Was what he was doing right?  What would his father say?  Surely the goddess was guiding him!  What would Lentha-ru think?  The thought of lying cuddled in her embrace stiffened his resolve.  Lentha–ru could not deny him after this, even if he did have a strange voice!
He gazed around the Hutt’s form and saw what he was looking for.  A faint trail of steam rose from one portion of the ground.  To an untrained observer it was hardly noticeable, especially if one wasn’t a Talz.  Lappa began to follow this path, his long legs striding effortlessly.  The Hutt could barely keep up.
“Slow down, you Talz worm!  I wasn’t made for this dastardly world.”
“I thought that you wanted to get to the rendezvous quickly,” Lappa said dryly. 
“Don’t play smart with me,” Zolda said.  “I can back up that threat about turning you into a carpet.  Come to think of it, my uncle’s new barge could use some floor decorations.”
Lappa carefully sidestepped part of the path in front of him.  The Hutt came on behind him, his massive bulk leaving a furrow in the snow.
            “Did you hear me, you living carpet?  I can—”
            The Hutt let out a squeal of terror.  The snow underneath him seemed to collapse, and a gaping mouth fastened itself to his stomach.  Rows of incisors began gnawing at the Hutt’s underbelly.  The snow slug unhinged its jaw and began to widen its grasp on the struggling Hutt.  At the same time it wrapped its muscular body around the tail of the Hutt and began squeezing.  Zolda let out a strangled cry.
            “Don’t just stand there, help me!  Do something, you heartless kung!”
            “I’m a pacifist,” Lappa said.  “I can’t do anything.”
            “My father will have your head for this!  You led me to this thing on purpose!”  The snow slug was still working at Zolda’s underside, but the Hutt’s skin was leathery and tough. 
            “You know,” Lappa said, “this is kind of ironic.  From one slug to another, he might have been your kin.”
            Zolda groaned, his flabby arms grasping futilely at the air.   “I’ll do anything, Lappa.  I’ll make it up to you.  I’ll—I’ll free your people.  The Imperials will leave.  We don’t need your ore, anyway.  Please!  Oh, it hurts!”
            Lappa considered.  The Hutt probably wouldn’t keep a promise, even under the threat of death.  A cold, sinking feeling entered his chest.  What had he been trying to accomplish here?  Zolda’s death wouldn’t matter.  They would only send another in his place—and that Hutt might be worse.  He calmed himself and listened to the wind.  There, above a pitch that human ears could hear, he recognized the voice of Ipzula-ru.
            Different one, beloved one!  Fruit of my womb, offspring of my loins!  I am your progenitor and your Goddess; I am the nectar flowing through your veins.  You have suffered, it is true.  But how petty, how telling!  To ease your suffering you desire others to suffer.  Cease this madness, or no longer call yourself by the name of Talz.  See now this vision, and know that you will soon be free!
            In his dream, Lappa saw two Talz that stood by a river frothing with whiteness.  Alongside the river lofty cedar trees stood proudly, and beneath them low shrubs bore golden-red fruit.  Was this a vision of how the world once was?  His father’s father had told him of this tale, but—could it be?  Brightly colored creatures flew between the branches, and as Lappa watched the two Talz embraced each other and sat on the bank.  They took exotic flowers in their hands and raised them to their proboscises, sipping the sweet nectar.
            Lappa recognized the faces of his parents and was overcome.  He ran towards them, letting out a cry of joy.  His proboscis quivered with ecstasy.  He embraced his parents lovingly, relishing the feel of their fur on his face.  His father’s face held a proud, stern expression.  His mother wept, the tears trickling down her face.  Somehow, her fur didn’t seem to get damp.  He wrapped his proboscis around his mother’s.  He was home.  This was where Lappa belonged!
            Then the vision shifted and he saw Ipzula-ru herself.  She was seated alone in the snow, and her head was bowed.  The goddess’ pelt was blindingly white, and after a moment Lappa had to avert his eyes.  But he could not help but look back once more.  Ipzula-ru raised her head and titled it gently.  Those eyes—they beckoned like no others!  They were a strong azure of clarity and understanding.  Lappa looked in those eyes and knew what he must do.  The world dissolved in a flurry of snowflakes.
            He turned to the Hutt and tugged him forward.  The snow slug already had about half of the Hutt’s body in its mouth and the effort was fruitless.  Lappa unsheathed his claws and bent in the snow.  Ipzula-ru, forgive me! he prayed.  I must take a life in order to save one.  He began slicing at the jaw hinges of the snow slug.  The slug let out a piercing shriek and began to thrash in its death throes.  In a few moments it was over.  Zolda threw off the dead skin of the snow slug like a moth shedding its cocoon.  Then he sunk to the ground, a pile of weary flesh.
            Deep gash marks crisscrossed his flank, and Lappa could see that the Hutt was in great pain.  Still, this did not stop him from delivering verbal abuse.  Coona tee-tocky malia, wermo!  I almost died!  What were you doing?”
            “I—I am sorry, Master Zolda.  It is so hard to take a life, even one such as this creature’s.”  It is hard to save a life, too, he thought.  Especially one such as yours. 
            “It is only a dumb animal,” Zolda said.  He shivered.  “My wounds hurt so much.  Lead on, Lappa.  We must be near the rendezvous.  I must see a doctor.  My father will know what to do.”
            “Very well.  We will hurry.”  Lappa began to backtrack the way he had come.  It did not take long for the Hunter’s Glory to come into sight.  The wings of the vessel were covered with new fallen snow, and they glinted from a distance.  Lappa could see a number of small figures moving about beneath the ship, tiny black grains against a backdrop of whiteness. 
Suddenly, he felt cold metal pressed against his back.
            “You thought you could kill me off, didn’t you?” Zolda said.  He shoved the butt of the blaster against Zolda’s back and the Talz turned around slowly.  “You moron.  It’s so obvious that you led me away from the ship in order to kill me.  Only you’re a coward, and couldn’t finish the job.  I have no pity for cowards.”
            Lappa stuttered.  “But—you’re injured!  And how—”  He looked at the blaster and fell silent. 
            “Hutts never tell their secrets, especially not to their enemies.  Did you think that I would come to this hellhole unarmed?  You’re more naïve than I thought, Talz.  You’ve never met a Hutt before, I can tell.  I’ll have these wounds healed in no time.  This blubber is more than just insulation, you fool.  It’s a shame that you’re too stupid to realize that you could have profited greatly by a deal with the Hutts.  We may have even alleviated the suffering of your people, if you had worked with us.  But now it’s too late, ho ho.  The Talz will be enslaved forever, and you’re one of the reasons why.”
Zolda steadied the blaster pistol.  Lappa extended his arms and lunged forward, his claws sweeping upward.  He would not take a life, but the Hutt would not forget his last meeting with Lappa of the Talz, beloved of Ipzula-ru.
The Hutt fired, but the trajectory of Lappa’s body did not change.  The Talz’s claws cut the strap that held the goggles onto Zolda’s face and they fell off into the snow.  The Hutt tried to twist his arms downward, but it was too late.  He blinked rapidly and the harsh light that was reflected from the snow seared his retina into a pile of mushy pulp.  Zolda bellowed in agony and rolled his bulk in the snow, thrashing. 
The smell of seared flesh and blaster discharge filled the air.  Lappa lay on the ground, his body bleeding out the last of his lifeforce.  At least now the suffering was ended, and he could rejoin his people.  Above him, he thought that he could hear something.  He strained his ears and listened over the moaning of the Hutt.
It was the sound of voices in the wind.

*          *          *

On Alzoc III, the wind howled and whipped through bare mountain peaks.  It whistled across snow fields and danced through the bare branches of cedar trees.  It sang a song of completion and joy.  Above the white plains, a new voice joined in with the harmony. It was a chorus of thanksgiving and petition, of somber reflection and genuine celebration.  It was the song of the goddess Ipzula-ru.  It was the song of life.  It was the song of the Talz.

The End

Feel free to share your thoughts!


  1. Slightly depressing, but pretty good otherwise.

    Only question is, if the Talz are pacifists, then why do they have "scimitars with which he could dismember his prey"? Or do they only kill to eat? If so, it still seems a rather grisly way for a pacifist to kill, even if it is only for food.

  2. I'm glad that you liked the story, Andrew. It's interesting that you point this out, because partly I took liberty with some of the aspects of the Talz, and partly I followed conventions. The wiki for the Talz reads like this: "Despite these fierce claws, most Talz were gentle and kind-hearted creatures." From this, and their almost zero-sum resistance to the Imperial overlords, I construed that they must generally be pacifists. However, I couldn't just ignore those claws. The other thing is that there are only mention of two animals and one plant on the planet. Therefore, my assumption is that the Talz must be carnivores (I don't think you could live off of eating a cedar tree). This would be a reason for the claws; the only other thing that I can think of would be as a defense mechanism against dangerous animals like snow slugs. Overall, I tried to make Lappa have an internal battle inside of himself. When he does kill the snow slug, he asks forgiveness of his goddess, even though it isn't an intelligent being. I hope that helps clear some of it up! What did you think about the Hutt character? Sometimes I think that the Hutts get a bad rep, but vilifying the Hutt worked well for this story.

  3. That is interesting. I was kind of just messing with you though. :)

    As for the Hutt, it was a given that he was going to be a complete jerk and hater. Everyone knows that Hutts are evil all the way through. They would sell their own parent to make some cash, then buy them back at a discounted price to make them work, until they die, as their slave. Also they smell bad and are fat.

    Finally, as Qui Gon Jin so wisely said in "The Phantom Menace" computer game, "The mighty Jabber is even more grotesque than I imagined."

  4. A masterfully woven tale which imbues the detail of the extended universe with the same life and passion Lucas brought to his prequels. The scene in which Lappa envisions his parents was particularly touching, and I could feel my heart breaking as he met his tragic demise.

    I had never thought much about the Talz, but you described his inner journey with such compassion that I feel a deep respect for them growing, and will consider adding some action figures to my collection.

    Please, keep writing! You could easily become the next Kevin Anderson!

    1. Thanks, Steven! I'm glad that you enjoyed the story, and thanks for sharing your input. Kevin J. Anderson is one of the best authors in the Star Wars universe, so it's an honor that you could in some small way think that my prose could one day measure up to his!