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Before the Saga The Claws of Father Cold

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by gaarastar58, Dec 29, 2017.

  1. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Era: Saga, Pre-TPM
    Characters: Baze, Chirrut.
    Description: Life on the streets of Jedha's Holy City can be tough. Urchins like Baze Malbus not only have to compete with other beggars but also the clutches of the fearsome Father Cold.

    Part 1

    The toll of the great bronze bell in the Kyber Temple echoed through the streets of Jedha City, indicating that the sun had touched the mountains on the horizon. It would strike again when the sun sank out of sight, although the sudden drop in temperature was more than enough signal the night was drawing in. The bell would chime again when the sun breached the north-west horizon again in the morning, as it always did, but some in the Holy City would not live to see it.

    Huddled in a doorway just off Tythoni Square, Baze pulled a thin blanket over his body and tried thinking warm thoughts. Cold was a killer on these streets. He stalked the alleyways and wynds of the ancient city, claiming the lives of the destitute pilgrims who found themselves washed ashore on the steps of the Kyber Temple as well as urchins such as Baze sleeping rough on the streets. According to legend, the great bell rang to welcome the retreat of Cold to his layer in the gloom of the great wall which ringed the city, known simply as Old Shadows since even at its zenith there were corners the sun’s light did not touch. Then when dusk approached Father Cold would creep through the streets once more.

    Baze didn’t pay much attention to legends told by rheumy-eyed old fools, but he understood the meaning behind them well enough. A man carrying a heavy pack of droid parts kicked at him and swore as he walked by, nearly tripping over Baze's legs in the darkness. Gathering himself up into a tighter ball, Baze fought down the urge to swear back and maybe get a boot in the stomach for his troubles. Nobody in Jedha City liked urchins much. They stole from market stalls, raided food stores and generally caused mischief wherever they went. Baze had vague memories of a time before he lived on the streets being told that it was wrong to steal, but had quickly realised that there was no other way to stay alive. He tugged his blanket tighter around his shoulders, listening to the raucous sounds drifting down to the alley from a tavern at the corner of the square. He would have been better off finding shelter in the catacombs beneath the city where the steam pipes and power conduits kept the tunnels warm, but the closest entrance was guarded by a gang of older boys who had claimed it as their own territory. At some point they would be pushed out by another gang but that didn’t mean much to Baze tonight.

    The chime of the Kyber Temple bell drifted down as the sun dipped below the horizon. Baze blew into his cupped hands and rubbed them together. His stomach growled. He had abandoned his usual haunt near the Path of Judgement to try begging in Tythoni Square, one of the cities biggest trade hubs, hoping that off-world travellers and traders might take pity on an orphan boy but his hopes had been dashed when he saw the throng of children littered around the square, all pawing at coats and holding up begging cups. A couple of urchins has taken exception to having a new kid on their turf and had tried to scare him off but Baze was big for his age, with a stocky build and fighters reflexes and he had sent them scurrying away. But that was the only piece of luck he’d had today, and now he was stuck in an unfamiliar quarter of the city at night and his normally unimaginative mind was picturing the hunched, skeletal form of Father Cold stalking through the alleyways, claws scraping along the sandstone walls.

    A sound further down the alley made him jump, but it was only an ancient droid tottering from one doorway to another. Gathering up his blanket, he got to his feet, deciding that the best thing to do was find better shelter. He wrapped the threadbare material around his head and headed away from the square, checking doorways along his route in hopes of finding a deep porch where he could bed down for the night. He hadn’t gone far when he heard a scuffle up ahead. Peeking around the corner of a building he saw a pair of boys standing over the huddled form of a third.

    'We know you’ve got food, skug!' hissed one of the lads. He swung his leg and kicked the boy on the ground in the stomach. 'Give it here.’

    Baze witnessed scenes like this everyday on the streets of Jedha. The strong took from the weak. It was simple. He sized up the two lads with an experienced eye. He recognised them both from the marketplace and knew their names were Todhe and Kells. They were younger than he was by a couple of years, shorter than him and they carried no obvious weapons. The taller of the two, Todhe kicked the kid on the ground again.

    'You want us to hurt you some more?'

    As the second kick made contact the injured boy wrapped his arms around his attacker’s leg and sank his teeth into the Todhe's ankle. The older boy screamed, trying to tear himself away from his victims clutches, and Baze finally got a better look at the kid on the ground. He was small, perhaps a year or two younger than himself with thin gangly arms and, like most of the urchins in Jedha City, was obviously in need of a good meal. His pale eyes stared unseeingly as he hung on tight to the other boy’s leg. He was blind.

    Kells crouched down and managed to wrench the two lads apart. Todhe hopped around on one leg, swearing. 'I’m gonna kill you!' he said. Reaching into his belt he yanked out a home-made knife made from a long sandworm tooth.

    That was when Baze punched him in the side of the head. He managed to hit the sweet spot on the temple, just where the skull is thinnest. Todhe went down hard, dropping the knife. Kells whipped around and dived for it but Baze kicked the blade away and thrust his knee up into the other boy’s gut. Kells gagged and went down alongside his companion, who was moaning and making feeble movements with his arms and legs. Scooping the knife off the ground, Baze towered over the two stunned lads.

    ‘Get lost,' he said.

    Kells glared up at him but there was nothing he could do. Baze was on his feet, he had the knife and Todhe was too stunned to be of any help. Without a word Kells dragged Todhe to his feet and they staggered off into the night. Slipping the knife into his belt, Baze turned back to the blind boy. The kid was still crouched on the ground, clutching his stomach and panting heavily.

    ‘You’ve got blood on your face,' said Baze.

    The boy dragged a sleeve across his mouth, leaving a red smear on his chin. 'Thank you,' he said. ‘My name’s Chirrut.’

    Baze snorted. 'Is it true, have you got food?'

    Chirrut's head turned warily towards him, his eyes gazing disconcertingly over Baze's shoulder. 'I have a little.’

    'Give it to me,' said Baze, moving closer.

    Chirrut shuffled away until he backed into a wall. He was a pitiful little waif, thought Baze, nothing but skin and bone. The kind of kid who Cold would soon come to visit.

    'I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if you don’t give me the food,' Baze warned him.

    Reaching into his jacket, Chirrut pulled out a small bundle. He clutched it tight to his chest, unwilling to let go of something he had fought hard to protect. Baze decided he needed some incentive and stamped his boot down on the boy’s foot. Chirrut winced but didn’t cry out, and it occurred to Baze that not once during the scuffle had he heard the boy make a sound. He pressed down harder.

    'You want me to break your ankle?' he said, his voice calm.

    Chirrut lowered his unseeing eyes and held out the bundle. Lifting his foot, Baze snatched it and stuffed it into his pocket. Without another word he span on his heel and walked away.

    The light was fading fast, and the temperature would soon plummet even further. Baze patted the food in his pocket, but as glad as he was that he would be getting something to eat for the first time in two days he felt hollow inside. Jedha City’s streets were unkind. The strong survived, and Baze reckoned a few bells from now someone would come across Chirrut’s body scrunched up in a shallow doorway somewhere, cold and lifeless like driftwood on the shore.

    That was just how things worked around here.
     
  2. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    I like this so much! The idea of the deadly Father Cold, his skeletal claws raking the stone wall as he searches for those who would freeze in the night, is creepy and glorious. You’ve really brought the grittiness of Jedha City to life here.

    I haven’t read a Chirrut & Baze origin story before, and this is shaping up to be really good (but then again, look who the author is; it’s bound to be great). I like the edge of gruffness in young Baze that we see in him as an adult, and Chirrut has that quiet strength to him. Already you’ve caught their essential personalities.
    Great work, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these two go from competitive urchins to a formidable team.
     
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Intense!!! =D= You describe the literal hard-fought survival that is essential in such an environment. You can sense Baze's "I do what I must" but you can already tell that underneath he doesn't much like it. It hasn't robbed him entirely of his innate goodness of character. [face_thinking] I too eagerly await Chirrut and him teaming up. As in all other such situations, there doubtless would be strength in numbers.
     
  4. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    They have been so much fun to write, I had a lot of fun re-watching R1 the other day and imagining this life-long friendship they have, it made the ending have so much more impact for me and made me realise why I enjoy writing fanfiction so much. Thanks so much for your kind words!

    Part 2 is well on the way to being posted, so hopefully you won't have to wait too long to see them together again. Glad you enjoyed it. This was supposed to start out as a piece of flash fiction for my Snippets thread but in the end I just couldn't stop writing about these two.
     
  5. Master_Lok

    Master_Lok Wacky Wednesday Winner star 6 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Dec 18, 2012
    @gaarastar58 - a wonderful introduction to Baze and Chirrut. I could see Jedha very clearly in your prose, and also picture these two starting their journey this way.

    Wonderful read.

    Thank you for posting.
     
  6. BookExogorth

    BookExogorth Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 4, 2017
    This was good. I liked your legend; it was an interesting part of life in Jedha. I'm interested as to where this will go because it's a great start, and you write Chirrut, Baze, and the character of the city in compelling ways.
     
  7. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Part 2

    Pilgrims visiting the Holy City generally came to visit one of the well known landmarks, such as the Kyber Temple or the Dome of Deliverance. A few of the more historically minded might take the time to walk the entire length of Old Shadows, which had been built in the old days when Jedha was not just a city but a fortress. Few visitors ever gave much thought to the rock on which the city stood. The sandstone mesa rose out of the desert surrounding it, protecting the city from the devastating floods which swept infrequently across the moon’s surface. Ancient inhabitants of the city had not only built the towering structures on the surface but had burrowed deep into the rock itself, constructing a labyrinth of passages and tunnels which in recent times were mostly abandoned. Over the generations many stories had been told about the catacombs. It was said they were haunted or that strange creatures that had never seen the light of day lurked in the deepest caverns.

    Jedha City’s urchin population liked to give substance to such rumours. They crept around the catacombs, shrieking and wailing, trying to scare each other. Shunned by everyone except waifs and strays it had become not only their playground, but a safe place they could retreat to at night away from the clutches of Father Cold. During the harshest winters they would huddle together in droves, small bodies pressed up against each other sharing their meagre warmth, only emerging when the monks from the Temple appeared with food for the homeless.

    Baze had spent years exploring the many caverns and passages of the catacombs. He knew most of the surface tunnels, and boasted that he was one of the few who had ventured further down, although even he didn’t claim to have visited the deepest and darkest corners. That knowledge helped him now. His footfalls thundered off the cramped stone walls as he ran, ducking from one passage into another. Short, scared breaths bellowed in his ears and through them he heard the shouts of his pursuers. Ahead the tunnel forked and he took the left hand path, knowing the other led to a dead end. He stumbled on some loose rocks but kept going.

    All urchins learn to run. Even for bigger and stronger ones like Baze there are always older lads and even a tough urchin won’t last long in a fight against several others. Running is sometimes the only thing you can do if you want to stay alive.

    Skidding to a halt, Baze clambered up a small cliff, using handholds which had been worn smooth by generations of use by urchins like him. He knew he would never outrun his pursuers down here. They knew the catacombs just as well as he did. If he could reach the surface there was a chance he could disappear in the throng of humans and aliens crowding Jedha's streets. Pain flared in his shoulder and he nearly lost his grip on the cliff face. Glancing over his shoulder he saw the vague shapes of kids in the darkness below, some starting to climb, others scrambling around looking for more rocks to throw. Baze hauled himself up, ignoring the hail of stones which clattered off the rock around him and occasionally found their mark. Pulling up over the lip of the cliff he allowed himself a quick look back. It was a mistake. A stone glanced off his temple, breaking the skin above his left eye. He started running again, blinking blood out of his vision.

    Soon he reached a larger cave where the cold light of Jedha’s day filtered down into the twilight. A few urchins were dotted here and there in corners playing dice games or drinking or simply slumped in exhausted heaps trying to keep warm. A few looked around when they heard the commotion but no-one appeared that interested in Baze as he crossed the cave and sprinted out the narrow arched doorway cut into the rock. The noise and fluster of Jedha City embraced him like an old friend and he felt a surge of relief. He weaved his way through the crowd, brushing past a group of pilgrims and narrowly avoiding a fist from a disgruntled Rodian that he nearly knocked over. Tythoni Square lay ahead. It was market day which meant there was double the number of people around which would make it all that much easier for Baze to melt into the crowd.

    At least, it should have been.

    Without warning Baze's feet were swept out from under him and he hit the ground, smacking his head on the worn paving slabs. Twisting like an eel he reached for the knife in his belt but a foot kicked his hand away and a length of durasteel pipe hacked down at his head, forcing him to curl into a tight ball.

    'We got him!' shouted the boy holding the pipe, and even through the pain Baze recognised Todhe’s voice. He tried reaching up to grab the makeshift weapon but Kells was there too and he planted a boot in Baze’s kidneys, and then there were other shapes around him as the rest of the gang caught up. They looked over him, faces dark against the grey sky and Baze tried to prepare himself for what he was sure would be one of the worst beatings of his life.

    The leader of the gang, a squint-eyed fifteen year old named Jax, shouldered his way through the circle. He was smiling, which Baze knew was a bad sign. Jax pounded one fist into the other.

    'We gonna make you pay for disrespecting our turf, skug.’

    Baze kept his mouth shut. Things probably couldn’t get much worse, but he’d learned you could never tell with Jax. No leader likes to be mocked in front of their crew, and if he tried to act smart he was likely to get a knife in the belly.

    ‘Teach him a lesson he won’t forget,' said Jax. The rest of the gang closed in and Baze felt his body tense up.

    Thwack!

    Jax yelped as a wooden stick slashed down and hit him at the base of his neck. He whirled round, eyes popping out of his head, and saw Chirrut standing behind him, a narrow wooden staff held diagonally across his body in a fighting stance.

    ‘What the...' gasped Jax, his mouth dropping open. Words seemed to fail him. The boy who had attacked him was not only alone, and half his size, but was also blind.

    'Leave him alone,' said Chirrut.

    Now it was Baze’s mouth that dropped open. A few of the gang members started to laugh. Jax glowered down at the boy. Reaching out he grabbed the walking stick and jerked it out of Chirrut’s hands. 'Beat it kid,' he said, swishing the stick through the air and prodding Chirrut in the chest.

    The blind boy stumbled back unsteadily and fell over. The gang laughed. Go away you idiot, thought Baze. Get out of here. Instead Chirrut got to his feet and squared up to Jax.

    ‘I fear nothing,' he said. 'All is as the Force wills it.’

    ‘You’ve been hanging around the mad monks too much,' said Jax. 'Now get lost before I hurt you.’

    Baze glanced around at the gang. They weren’t laughing now. He suspected some of them were wondering why Jax didn’t just flatten Chirrut but clearly Jax didn’t want to make it seem like a runt like Chirrut was worthy of his attention. He gave the kid another shove. Chirrut backed away, holding his hands out now that he no longer had his stick. Jax laughed and turned back to Baze.

    That was when Chirrut tackled him to the ground. A collective gasp ran around the circle as the rest of the gang saw their leader go down. For a few seconds they stood frozen, mesmerised by the sight of the small boy raining down kicks and punches on Jax, then as one they surged forward. Chirrut fought like a Cathar, biting and hissing and scratching at everyone who came close. Baze saw Kells try to make a grab for him but Chirrut slithered out of his grip and kicked him in the balls. But it was one against seven, and every member of the gang was bigger and stronger than he was.

    Well, two against seven.

    Baze screamed as he lunged for the nearest boy, knocking him to the ground with a powerful right hook. The blood seeping from his wound was beginning to clot around his eye and he could barely see but that didn’t matter. The next face Baze saw was Todhe’s, and he relished the spark of fear in the boy’s eyes as Baze doubled him up with a fist in the abdomen. A hand grabbed at his arm but Baze whipped around, backhanding his assailant across the face. Somewhere close by he heard a shriek as Chirrut clamped his teeth into someone’s wrist.

    If this had been a story they would have fought the gang off. But it was still two against seven, and it didn’t take long for the gang to regroup. The resulting beating was easily the worst Baze had ever experienced. Mercifully a boot caught him in the temple and he missed a lot of it, but when he came to he felt like he had been trampled by a herd of banthas. He lay in the dust, aching all over, staring up at the cloudless sky. He tried wiggling his fingers and toes, then his arms and legs. As far as he could tell nothing was broken. With some effort he rolled onto his side and noticed Chirrut lying a few feet away.

    With a groan Baze sat up. His stomach was agony and when he lifted up his shirt he saw the most incredible pattern of bruises forming on his skin. He crawled over to Chirrut and prodded him.

    'You alive kid?'

    Chirrut stirred. 'I'm too sore to be dead.’

    Baze grunted. His right eye was swollen shut and his left eye was still caked with blood. He reached down for his waterskin but realised it was gone, along with everything else of value he’d been carrying, including the knife he’d taken from Todhe, and his blanket. A man carrying a bundle of clothes wandered past, stepping over Chirrut’s outstretched legs, and Baze realised they must have been lying out in the alley for a while without anyone taking much notice of them.

    The two boys dragged themselves into the shelter of a doorway, out of the path of the pedestrian traffic, and assessed their wounds. It wasn’t too bad. Baze was sure he’d be pissing blood for the next few days and Chirrut had some nasty cuts across his back where Jax had laid into him with his stick, which lay nearby in splinters. They sat together for a long time before Baze broke the silence.

    'Why did you do that?' he asked.

    'I don’t like Jax,' said Chirrut.

    Baze frowned. The only life he had ever known had been spent on the streets of Jedha City and he had never met anyone like this strange kid. He looked like a stiff breeze might blow him over but there was a toughness to him as well, not to mention he fought like a demon.

    'I think you’re crazy,' said Baze.

    'I think you’re lost.’

    Baze struggled to his knees and looked down at him. ‘You don’t know anything about me,' he said.

    'I know most people would have broken my ankle,' said Chirrut.

    'Yeah well... don’t expect me to come to your rescue just because of this. If you get in another fight you’re on your own,' said Baze, getting his feet under him. He swayed unsteadily for a moment, his head throbbing, and gazed down ant the boy huddled at his feet in the doorway. The light was fading fast and it wouldn’t be long before first bell sounded and Father Cold emerged to stalk the alleyways once more. Baze didn’t owe Chirrut anything. The only person you could ever count on in Jedha City was yourself and something told him this kid would get him into trouble. But he would certainly die if Baze didn’t help him. Reaching down he tugged Chirrut to his feet. The boy still seemed half dazed.

    'We should find some shelter,' he said. Taking Chirrut’s hand he led him through the darkening alley back towards Tythoni Square. The blind boy stumbled drunkenly, tripping over his own feet and knocking into things. Baze tugged his arm to make him keep walking. After a while he realised that Chirrut was mumbling to himself, chanting the same few lines over and over, like a prayer.

    'I am one with the Force and the Force is with me. I am one with the Force and the Force is with me. I am one with the Force...'

    On and on it went. Baze shook his head, tightened his grip on Chirrut’s hand and led him on, wondering what in the galaxy he was getting himself into.
     
    AzureAngel2 and divapilot like this.
  8. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb action and mutual, literal support between Baze and Chirrut. Chirrut certainly handled himself very well in that brawl with the bullies.
     
    AzureAngel2 and gaarastar58 like this.
  9. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 14, 2002
    As one of the reviewers intimated, you always do quality work.

    This was sublime. All the more for being based on one film.

    It was great leading with Father Cold like a preternatural threat who operated between the tolling bells.

    Excellent world building, and some dynamic action between the urchins.

    Excellent work. :xwing:
     
  10. Seldes_Katne

    Seldes_Katne Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2002
    Very much enjoyed this - we didn't see nearly enough of Jedha in Rogue One. (I sometimes wish we could get official travelogues of planets in Star Wars.) This piece not only expanded the background of two characters, but also of the city as well. I guess every place has its ghost stories, and I can see why children would be passing this one around.

    It's difficult to find good stories featuring Chirrut and Baze, and this one was a pleasure to read.
     
    Findswoman and AzureAngel2 like this.
  11. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    'S math a rinn thu!

    (= An exclamation of praise or endorsement of an achievement.)

    To fear the reaper is always wise. The Doctor would call it a super power.

    The circumstances in which both boys grow up in will prepare them for their tasks as future guardians of the Whills.

    And, as I learnt from many Charles Dickens´ novels, kindness can be found in the most desperate hours.