We have been on the move for days now, and the Black Sands of Socorro engulf us more with each passing moment. As competent as our crew may appear, we would surely be lost by now if we had not employed the services of scout Vuul. He knows the desert – its’ patterns, dangers, and safe-spots – more than anyone we could find at Soco-Jarel starport. Already we have avoided storm fronts from a distance, and encountered fire spouts which almost put a grim halt to our mission – I would have likely feared for our lives, if it were not pilot Tyr behind the controls of our speeder.
At one of our camp-sites I am joined by technician Manco in the search for dry wood for our evening fire. A menial task one would think, but as we quickly learn, the Black Sands make fools of those who would assume. The moment we begin collecting dry roots we are ambushed by a swarm of giant black wasps. We both back away but they are quite persistent. I manage to attract most of them away from technician Manco, and evade their agile attacks – all except one sting; a very sharp and piercing sensation penetrates my skin.
They buzz around momentarily as if preparing for another attack, so I take the chance to escape down a short drop behind me. I run towards technician Manco along the lower ground and grab him from the ledge above – his trembling tells me he too has been poisoned. We retreat back to camp and are luckily able to cleanse the poison from our bodies.
The following day we come across a Mutriok trail which leads us to suspicious large foot prints – it is close – the final stage of the hunt is now upon us. Pilot Tyr remains with the speeder with the force cage prepared while the rest of us continue the hunt on foot. We move cautiously but with good speed, and our efforts are rewarded when we climb over a ridge to see our prize – a lone Monnok.
With only a few gestures our crew splits up to form attack positions, scout Vuul steps back to observe us curiously. Technician Manco sets up his rifle at the edge of the ridge where we are, friend Vrinko and Urgle pair off to the right to flank the target, while I remain with Manco – our Jawa may be the smallest of us, but his attacks are usually the loudest – if there is anyone who will need some protection in this fight, it will be him. We hold as the flank team gets to their position, but our wait is cut short when the Monnok suddenly looks up in alert…
The familiar sound of technician Manco’s blaster fire echoes off the dark jagged ridges surrounding us, a blast of sand is thrown up next to the Monnok – the shot missed.
The second shot appears to have hit, but our target seems unaffected – the blaster fire draws the Monnok straight to our position. Technician Manco mutters something as he checks his weapon, and with that I charge forward to intercept the beast. The Monnok appears to grow in size as it approaches, and I now notice the spears it wields. This will be an interesting fight. To the right I can see a blurry friend Vrinko running in, I will certainly meet with the beast before he does. The sands around me vibrate more intensely as the Monnok gets closer.
I see a blast hit the Monnok’s head, and just like that, it stumbles and falls head first into the sand. Moments later I reach the stunned body and jump on it to restrict its movement, should it come to. Friend Vrinko and Urgle get to me and tie the beast up with synth rope. It momentarily awakens but is quickly knocked back unconscious with a stun blast from Urgle’s pistol. Pilot Tyr arrives in the speeder and we move our prize into the force cage, to my surprise the beast is lighter than appearance had me believe. Scout Vuul joins us as we clean up, his initial curiosity now turned into awe.
The journey back to Soco-Jarel is surprisingly quiet. We all agree that it is best we not attract attention at the starport, pilot Tyr agrees to drop off our hired equipment, get our ship and pick the rest of us up on the outskirts of town. After bidding scout Vuul farewell, he heads back to town with pilot Tyr.
While we wait I visit one of the Judges shrines in the nearby dunes. It is a strange feeling, when we first witnessed these monoliths at the start of our journey they seemed eerie and unnerving, as if the trinkets left around them were offered out of fear. Yet now, the statues emit a sense of sadness. They seem helpless. The offerings appear not as fearful gifts, but as tokens of sorrow and remorse. At first glance one might suspect the Judges warn travellers of the dangers ahead, but in truth, they plead trespassers to turn back and leave the natural and sacred Black Sands alone.
I look back at the disabled creature in our cage – helpless and broken. We did not heed this plea – instead we took what was not rightfully ours. While the hunt may appear successful, there is something about this job that does not sit right with me. I see the Traitor’s Gambit approach above the distant sands. In a final attempt to seek forgiveness for our actions in the desert, I leave behind one of my crafted herbal remedies at the foot of a Judge.
We set out for Dynann to reap our reward for capturing the prize. I dutifully watch over the Monnok in the cargo bay for most of the trip, while examining one of the spears it had carried. It shows remarkable craftsmanship, conveying a sense of history, dedication… pride. I also notice I am not the only one giving the creature attention…
Technician Manco has been voluntarily visiting and feeding our prize for the whole trip. Perhaps he senses something similar to what I sense. I leave the two in the cargo bay and return to our common room. The other spear has been already put up on the trophy wall – I attach the second spear so that they cross defensively. I find little use for the trinket around my neck I received from the elders back on Socorro anymore, and hang it up on one of the spear-heads.
Chessel Bard greets us on our arrival on Dynann. His eyes light up on sighting the Monnok. I cannot help but notice a less enthusiastic Jawa than usual in technician Manco. His attempt to bargain with Chessel for the reward seems obviously forced – we end up accepting the original offer of 6000 credits.
Though he tries to hide it, I see the Jawa’s eyes follow the Monnok as he is taken away by the handlers. Chessel banters with pilot Tyr for a while and then provides us with three new targets which he has an interest in. A Ghhhk, a Mantellian Savrip, and a Ng’Ok; perhaps after we help Urgle out with his ‘situation’ we could continue to hunt these rare creatures.
For now however, I feel it is a good time to reflect in my quarters. Yes – it has been a while since my last rejuvenation.