This story is dedicated to Markus who suggested the crossover and helped in the story's development. Enjoy!
Kamura calmly replied, "That's right, every single one. Of course I grieved over the loss, but Anakin has been so wonderful to me. He helped me to deal with the grief, but even now it's still painful. Somehow, now that we've met, I think I can meet with my old friends again. The Herd probably thinks I'm dead after all these years, so I am a little nervous about facing them."
They walked along the canyon trail – Kamura and Marbe – with Anakin, Xander, and Kirel a few steps ahead. What a marvel, thought Marbe, to encounter these intelligent creatures. Not only do they possess the power of speech, but they also exhibit wisdom, compassion, a sense of loyalty and duty. She wondered if the creatures her father encountered during his two visits to this planet were just a astute and wise. They would have to be, or Ricar wouldn't have spoken of them so highly.
Remembering her father's words on that Holocron, Marbe wanted to know if Kamura had at least heard of the dinosaurs her father met. She asked:
"Kamura, do you have any recollection of animals like you that lived eons before? I'm asking because my father visited this very planet long ago. Not once, but twice. He described creatures that lived in a valley, but Artmo Hox said those he met in your Nesting Grounds didn't resemble..."
With a look of wonder, and curiosity, in her eyes, Kamura replied, "There are many folktales of a great herd of long ago. And yes, they did live in a beautiful valley much like the Nesting Grounds. But that was, as you said, eons ago, and sometimes I wonder if the tales are just that: fanciful legends. Let me see, according to my mother's stories, there were varied creatures. One family was huge beyond compare, great long necks and tails. Of course, now, only one of the great sauropods survives, at least I think she is still living."
"And who would that be?"
"Her name is Baylene, and she is the last of her kind. Far taller and larger than the longnecks of old. According to many a wanderer, nearly all her family died out. Pestilence mostly. Her mate, sister, and daughter all died of the dreaded sickness. As for the brother, I don't know what became of him. If Baylene is alive, I assume she is with the Herd, but creatures as she do not migrate. Then again..."
She hadn't noticed the men up ahead had stopped abruptly; she and Marbe nearly collided with the bulky Anakin. That much deep in their conversation they were.
"What is it,' asked Kamura, "why are we stopping?"
Anakin shushed his mate and said in hushed tones, "I'm not sure. I sense a presence. Maybe carnotaurs lurking nearby."
"Carno...what?," asked Kirel, his hand on the lightsaber. Although the Jedi didn't know what a carnotaur was, he too sensed impending danger.
"A huge predator," replied Xander who wisely scanned the immediate surroundings. If a carnotaur or two should be nearby, the travellers would have to find shelter soon, or an apt escape route. In this narrow canyon, such places are rare to be had.
"Carnotaurs are far larger than us," continued Xander. "They usually hunt in pairs or trios. Big body, big teeth, able to chomp us down in one gulp–"
Anakin, noticing Kamura's sudden discomfort, quelled the young iguanodon with a disapproving look. Then he said to Marbe and Kirel, "I don't know if my mate has told of a past, unfortunate encounter with a carnotaur. Tragic episode, but we've managed to deal with what life hands us, such as the Fireball disaster."
Marbe nodded, saying, "She told me, which is why I wondered how you and she managed to avoid your Nesting Grounds all these years."
Kamura said, "I spent my life just wandering here and there, not ever thinking of rejoining the Herd. When I met Anakin, I simply settled in his forest home. Then came the Fireball, and all its destruction. We had hoped to rejoin the Herd; in fact, Anakin's brother, Bruton, asked him just that. But Anakin declined the invitation. Of course this was before the disaster. Afterwards, we decided to remain on the road, hoping to settle some place, but I was content to keep migrating, never once settling. Yet, somehow, I kept getting a nagging feeling to go the Nesting Grounds. At first, I didn't want to, but Anakin encouraged the trip. Besides, there is nothing for us back home. Our forest, what is left of it, is hardly suitable. It will take years before everything is fresh and green–"
The sound of distant thunder alerted the travellers to seek shelter, and soon. Besides, any rain would wash away the tracks left by the two droids. Already, Kirel could make out to where the tracks led, to a nearby cave, to which he directed his party.
"I hate to interrupt," he said, pointing in the cave's direction, "but if we're to find your Nesting Grounds, may I suggest we take refuge there. Our droids' tracks lead to it, so they may still be there. Don't worry. R2 and HK are completely harmless, and besides, with them, we'll have more on our side in case a predator shows up."
Xander looked at Kirel half-amusedly, saying, "I was just about to suggest that. Hmm...I suppose your droids, whatever they are, serve as sort of both protection and assistants. They sound like someone I'd like to have around."
That said, the party followed the tracks to the cave, and no time too soon as it began to sprinkle, increasing to an annoying drizzle. Inside the cave, Marbe took out an illuminator, aiming the light to check out the cave's interior. No predators, no droids. Just pitch black and overhanging stalagmites. Aiming the beam at the cavern floor, Marbe followed the direction of the droids' tracks.
"Apparently they went deeper inside," she said. Turning to Anakin, she asked, "Does this cave have another exit? If so, our droids could be on the other side. Perhaps they found–"
She stopped herself in the realization of another sensation. This was not unlike the one she experienced much earlier, while on the skiff, when she heard the most beautiful music and actually saw the person producing such sounds.
"Something wrong, Marbe?," asked Kamura, settling to rest.
"I just felt," said that lady, "a strange sensation. As if I'm so near to someone I will come to know. Someone who could be in my future..."
Just then, her comlink beeped. She had turned it off during the trek from the lakebed, and why she did this was a mystery. Perhaps it was the fear of the unknown, an unwanted feeling for a Jedi. It was that Holocron her father recorded long ago, his very words stating that great things will come to his children, especially Marbe. Her destiny will be found on this very planet, not back on Coruscant. Kirel will go home; she will remain behind, but in what capacity? It is clear there are no humans here, just animals who, despite their wisdom and seemingly solid grasp of the Force, could never help fulfill that destiny. Or could they?
"You turned off your comlink, Marbe," said Kirel, now seated on the ground and rummaging through his provision pack. "Not a good idea, especially if Artmo Hox is trying to contact us."
Half sheepishly, she said, "I don't know why I did that. Oh well...It is Master Hox!"
Through the darkness of the cave, through the pattering of drizzle, Master Hox's voice resounded. Oh what a joy to hear the great Jedi Knight's voice after all these years. So he is alive, and he's found Ricar's children.
"Marbe, Kirel," said Hox. "I'm at the Nesting Grounds, with the Herd. Your droids are here with us, and we're anxiously awaiting your arrival."
Kirel's eyes grew wide with astonishment. "Master Hox! You're alive!," he exclaimed, forgetting the usual tight rein on his emotions. Then, after calming down, he spoke into the comlink, "We're here, in a cave just beyond the canyon."
From the other end, they could hear Artmo Hox chuckling along with other voices they could not readily identify. Well, at least Master Hox is not alone, and the droids made it to the Grounds without incident.
Artmo said, "Now, please listen carefully. You cannot, as Aladar has informed me, take the outside route as the old entrance is blocked. The Grounds can only be accessed from that cave. I assume you've followed the droids' tracks...Continue to follow until you come to a breach. From there you will see the Nesting Grounds. May the Force be with you."
The comlink went silent, and the Jedi's travelling companions looked on in amazement. Never before had they seen such devices. A little box with which these strange creatures communicate with each other. Their weapons, such as what blasted those raptors, are a marvel. If a carnotaur should happen by here, the Tasous would be ready for them; but, as Xander noted, neither Marbe nor Kirel seemed to carry anything remotely destructive. So, if they say they're warriors, where are their weapons?
Marbe sensed the young iguanodon's unspoken questions and replied, "Jedi do not carry blasters or laser pistols. We use these." She then unsheathed her lightsaber exposing the sharp shaft of purple light. With expertly crafted moves, she demonstrated the many classic duelling moves, brandishing the lightsaber, allowing it to swoosh through the darkened cavern.
The dinosaurs watched in awe as Marbe swooshed this marvelous weapon about. Its purple shaft cutting swathes through the darkness. Kirel, also wanting to demonstrate his Jedi skills, drew his lightsaber of a brilliant blue. Together the Tasous treated their prehistoric friends to a mock duel. So amazed with the young Knights' skills, Kamura said, "How is that made? What makes it work? Does it cause much damage?"
Kirel explained, "This is the weapon of a Jedi, and, as Marbe said, far more civilized than a blaster. Leave such weapons to the droids and bounty hunters."
Marbe said, "We make our own lightsabers; each apprentice is expected to do this before. I made mine, as did Kirel, although we didn't have our father with us, physically, to guide us. From his recorded instructions, we were able to train in ways of the Force."
Hearing the mention of the Force gave Kamura pause. Didn't she experience many visitations from a man called Ben Kenobi? Didn't he tell her the son thought lost is actually alive and so in tune with the Force? She had to ask:
"What is this Force? The reason I'm asking is that I've had a series of incredible dreams. One such human appeared in my dreams so many times, and I believe you may have known him. His name is Ben Kenobi."
Kirel and Marbe looked at each other, and Anakin and Xander didn't know what to make of Kamura's sudden interest in this Force. Perhaps she is finally gathering the courage to face her old friends among the Herd. Perhaps she anticipates a joyous reunion with several Herd members, notably Eema and Sarama. Yet, and Anakin could tell by the look in her eyes, despite her relaxed manner, Kamura was still apprehensive.
"Kamura," he said gently, "My dear, it is late. The weather has turned miserable. May I suggest we get some rest."
He turned to Marbe, saying, "It may not be the most comfortable of accommodations, but it will do for the night. Why not send your friend a message on your marvelous communicator. Tell him we will arrive tomorrow after a good night's sleep. Besides, if a carnotaur should happen by..."
Xander frowned, knowing what Anakin was about to suggest, and said, "I already know. I'll stand watch for a while."
He had hoped to get some sleep himself as he was getting rather weary from the long day's journey. For what is was worth, Xander really didn't mind acting as sentinel. He was so close to the Nesting Grounds; and with the Tasous here to help protect, any carnotaur who would dare show his ugly face would have to deal with the business end of a lightsaber. He just hoped he didn't get so bored he'd fall asleep at the most inopportune time.
Beneath the shelter of thick trees, away from the general populace, Zini was busy entertaining one of his many lady lemur friends. On this drizzly evening, Zini cozied up to Luna, a pretty lemur lady who Plio and Yar had hoped to be "the one." That meant the one who would – could – become Zini's life partner. While the roving prehistoric Romeo was content to play the field, maybe it was time to settle down with one woman, and Luna seemed a likely choice. Besides, most of the other female lemurs had already been taken, what with those survivors from the still damaged Lemur Island finally finding their way to the Nesting Grounds. Luna was a recent arrival, and, to Zini's relief, unattached. Maybe he did find "the one."
However, despite the rambunctious Zini's amorous mood this night, both he and Luna discussed those recent arrivals: the droids R2T7 and HK47. The former was almost like Artmo Hox's astromech droid, completely harmless and loads of fun. The other one, the one who looked, walked, and talked like a human, was another story. While the Herd graciously received their new guests, a few had reservations about HK, especially Zini.
"Did you see the look on Artmo's face when he brought those two in?," asked Luna.
"Yep," replied Zini, handing another ripe fig to his lady, "and that guy, that HK, isn't right. Even Yar and Mac think he's up to no good. What bugs me is why Artmo's friends would bring such a guy along if he's gonna start trouble."
Luna then said, in somewhat confessing fashion, "I couldn't help it, Zini, but I overheard Artmo tell Aladar and Eema that this HK guy was as assassin droid, whatever that is."
"Assassin, eh?," said Zini, now becoming greatly interested. His initial plans to woo Luna seemed so far from his present mindset; he had to know, that is if what Luna said was true.
"You do know what an assassin is, don't you?," he asked. Luna shook her head.
He answered at once, "Someone who kills for the thrill of it. You know, like those renegade raptors the flyers tell us about. They don't kill for food; they do it just for the heck of it. The flyers say those raptors don't even eat their victims, instead they just leave 'em for the other predators to pick off."
Luna almost cried, her eyes welling up. She said in nearly sobbing voice, "Oh, Zini, what if HK is really like that. I don't like that thing he carries. Do you really think he'll hurt any of us?"
Zini was sympathetic towards Luna, and he reassured her the Herd will not let some outsider attack. He was about to suggest that they keep this just between themselves, but then he heard a rustling in the nearby brush, then a voice. Hmm...Sounds familiar, but who is he talking to?
"Sh!," whispered Zini. "Keep your head down. Listen."
"Listen to what?," asked Luna.
"Quiet down, Luna. Don't what him to spot us. Come on, let's listen."
Protected and concealed by the thick leaves, and the darkness, Zini and Luna peered through the foliage and saw HK47. He was quite alone and talking into something. The lemur couple could overhear his entire conversation, and they just wished to know the second party.
"He's using a thing like Artmo's, to talk the others coming."
"Hush!," hissed Zini. Trying to get a closer look, he and Luna parted the foliage, listening to HK's one-sided confab:
"They're in the cave, just past the canyon. Where are you now? How will you travel? Oh, on a speeder, I calculate you could be here within the next two or three days. Yes, look out for predators; they lurk all over. Now, once you land, head straight across the desert until you come to a lakebed..."
Luna's eyes grew wide. She whispered to Zini, "I think you're right. HK is up to no good. But who is he talking to?"
"Beats me," said Zini. "The other guy, from what I gather, is far away from here. He's not even at the desert yet. So..."
"So it'll take him some time to get here. Do you think we should tell Aladar and the others?"
Zini nodded, replying, "I think we should, Luna. You know, Artmo said his friend's kids are coming here. That must be who he talked to earlier. They're in the cave now."
With a shrug, he added, "Oh, let them get some rest. They'll be here in the morning, then maybe we should get Aladar alone and tell him what this HK is up to. I just wish I knew exactly what he plans on doing."
That said, the lemurs sneaked out of their hiding place while HK continued to give his as yet unknown friend more instructions.
Meanwhile, in the cave, two Jedi and three iguanodons bedded for the night. For some, restful sleep; for others, a fitful night of disturbing visions of things to come – of the far-off future.
Copyright @2006 by P.R. Parker. All Rights Reserved.