The short story: A team of adventurers goes to Felucia to capture a live rancor for an unknown client.
The long story:
It's not clear who wants a rancor, or what on earth he or she or they want it for. What sentient being in their right mind would have a use for one? And if they did, why would they want it alive? And if they wanted it alive, why does it have to be /unharmed/? None of it makes much sense, but the job parameters were specific: Go to Felucia. Capture a Rancor by any means necessary. Do not harm, injure, or maim the rancor. If you are harmed, injured, or maimed... too bad. Mysterious. Ominous.
But as long as the checks clear, who on Nar Shaddaa asks a lot of questions?
The pilot has better sense. He's a big fat human man who somehow flies an enormous transport like it's a feather. He promised he can touch that ship down anywhere, but also refused to do that until the rancor is captured, so a long hike was required from the initial landing zone, toward Rancor Territory. They've got a known range... just most people are smart enough to steer clear of it.
Felucia's fungus forests are a wild array of bright color and surreal shapes, sounds, smells. There are a thousand ways to die here, and a journey of a thousand miles can still be botched on the last step. The sense of living things is so vivid here, it doesn't take the Force to perceive it -- but this is life untamed, and everywhere, always, it feels like someone is watching.
The proper area has been dubbed by travelers, adventurers, and the very few Felucian locals as the Rancor Graveyard. Rancors travel this area freely, but something about this place is obviously not good for them. Perhaps something to be eaten here? Or there are several sharp precipices -- maybe they fall into canyons? Or maybe, in their dim little way, they're just driven to gather in one place at the end of their lives?
High on a bluff at the end of the forest, the team of adventurers can see below them: There are some prey animals moving about at forest edges below. There are some steep drop-offs, and many, many rancor bones. There is the remains of a village, walled with bones and constructed of the same, abandoned in the middle of the area. And roaming about: one rancor. A huge, monstrous rancor. It looks very unsafe.
"The hell is this person going to do with a rancor?" Tarion wonders aloud as he wanders down off the landing ramp of the ship, a metal spear leaning casually against his bare collarbone. "Eh, the hell do I care! They're paying /chunky chits/ of credits for this chodycreep, and that's good enough for me," the renegade bounty hunter announces with a broad, lopsided grin. His choice of attire is sort of the industrial version of their environment, only rather than fallen bones and forgotten corpses, he's clad in fallen bits of metal and forgotten kitchen equipment.
A shiny colander, replete with tiny perforations, crowns his head with a durasteel dome, various bits of junk strapped here and there to his body, parts of it left bare, some literally taped down. His legs are covered even less than his torso, revealing a pair of bedazzled burgundy trunks with 'Ra Ra' proudly emblazoned across the rump in twinkling rhinestones. Gripping his spear like a walking stick, he meanders forth with all the determination and single-minded focus of a very large crow. "Look at the size of those bones! You could make a little hut out of them and live under it and charge tourists admittance to view your collection of mental disorders. Or grind them up and sell them as an aphrodisiac! Bones for... you get the point!" A confident chuckle escapes his grinning mouth as he kicks a large, brittle femur. "If it weren't for all the like, natural nature here, this would be a great place."
Domino surveys the area and mutters "Why I keep taking jobs that take me out into nature? Ughn. On the bright side there's evidence these critters are very, very, stupid. Anyone know how much one of these bad boys weighs? Could rig a net or cage and take advantage if them apparently running clear over this bluff. At least I hope thats from dumb rancors meeting gravity and not like the dinning room for something that eats Rancors." She shifts her weight a mite anxiously. "The better question is, Tavers, is what went wrong in our lives that either of us needs credits THIS badly? I learned to stop questioning people's weird wish lists though I wish I'd broken that habit before I spent a bit working for the Cartel."
She looks around again, "These things are huge so we definitely not hiking, the thing's gotta come to us. Thoughts?"
While checks brimming with credits are always good, making sure people you know well who choose to go on a near suicidal mission to collect massive beasts with more claws and teeth than sense is up there on Threl's list of things to do. Keeping fools alive that didn't decide to wear anything even resembling armor? That's on the lower end of the list. When she heard what was going on, even with the credits, she nearly backed out, but when she heard Domino was on the list? By the mother. So, she spent the time leading up to this learning about Rancors. Most of it said 'stay away,' avoid at all costs,' and 'extreme danger,' but that was almost like a regular day on Shili with the Akul.
"It hard to not injure Rancor. Need trap large enough to incapasssitate, no hurt. Deadfall. Pit Trap. Tranquilizer."
Sometimes, curiosity gets the Togorian, so he arrived on his own ship. This seemed like a well paying challenge to Dhr'rall, a bounty by a different name perhaps for the Core Hunter. He finds the place a little more fragrant and damp than his homeworld, but it is not unbearable as of yet. He's got his rifle, but this time he's choosing to start with carrying the stunnet launcher. He hopes his luck with it will improve or he is going to have a very bad night.
Tarion just gets a double-take of his shaggy head. Glowing jade pupils just stare incredulously at the atide of him... possibly because of the collander. Definitely the collander. "Dhr'rall thinks maybe we make less noise?" He sniffs towards Domino. "Likely drink less first?" It is unclear if he actually scented something or not. In the meantime, he's slipping into the Shroom-ngle... but not so Ninja vanish as he disturbs yet more bones to rattle away from where he moved to.
The Adventurers are for now safe on their low bluff overlooking the Rancor Graveyard (or, in Dhr'rall's case, the paths of Shroom-ngle in which he is moving). The rancor itself is snuffling around the bones of the graveyard, picking up large bones and making rumbling, chuffing noises to itself. It picks them up and sets them down, shuffles heavily a few steps away, then picks up and inspects new ones, setting them down. It's hard to say what it's looking for. Nesting material? Ancestors? The creature is massive, however, that much is clear. A net sized for humanoids would not be able to fully restrain it, but would perhaps be able to get its mouth shut, if placed just right.
Dhr'rall's not-quite-silent approach startles a few beasts out of the Shroom-ngle, though happily for him, they don't seem to be predators. They're quadruped, herbivore-looking things, with long rectangular heads and sail-like rows of thin little spines long their backs. Tusks jut upwards from their lower jaws, perhaps formidable against the right predator, but unlikely to do much against rancors. They seem unwilling to trespass far from the Shroom-ngle. They're easier to catch than rancors, and one could possibly be used as bait. But teammates can also be used as bait and they're right here.
"I don't /need/ the credits, I /want/ them, you insouciant zoochberry tart," Tarion corrects Dom with a sniff, the blunt of his spear catching on a fallen branch and nearly snapping the sharp end into his face. "Ow! Krif." Rubbing at the sore spot where the haft smacked his jaw, he continues on. "Clearly they can be caught, we've all heard of so-and-so crime boss's pet rancor he feeds the undesirable to, they've got to get them /some/how. Wait, you guys had drinks before?" he demands, suddenly offended before he even hears the confirmation.
He squints down at the Rancor in the graveyard, worrying at his lower lip as the machinations of his mind begin to produce ideas. Terrible ideas. "Well, I could probably jump onto its back and ride it, but steering might be a problem. So it's better if we throw one of /you/ onto its back, and then I'll prod it with my spear to keep it moving towards the shuttle," he suggests with a lazy smile that creases only one of his dimples as he waves a cybernetic hand in the direction of Dom and Threl. "It'll be easy, just relax. Who wants to be tossed?"
Domino pauses at Tarion's insult, surprised at the colorful language and fortunately the helmet conceals her expression but for the first time Tarion is Noticed-and not because that armor he's wearing, "Big Shaking it off she agrees "They can be caught but I am betting the people who catch them have a plan. I'd love to see you try to steer a Rancor, Tavers, but maybe not at the expense of a payday. How about this: I will get one up by the ledge and Bone-humper and you bring it down and then we all haul it aboard?"
"It have arms, you twit." Threl mutters to Tarion, making a call back to a long time ago with an insult she learned just out of medical school. "you miss your throw, it grab, whoever you throw is meat." That said, Threl's nose wrinkles as she sniffs the air. "Rancors smell good. See terrible during day. These..." She yanks some kind of plant from the ground that oozes a thick, sticky sap with a...ahem...pungent odor. "This probably overwhelm Rancor senses.
Threl Ravrari notably starts slathering it on herself. HEr armor will definitely need cleaning after this, but thankfully the environmental seals keep most of the stink out.
"Dhr'rall agrees riding Rancor, terrible idea." The sibilant hidden voice from the Shroom-ngle speaks up. Dhr'rall takes a moment. He starts applying Threlplant to himself, hopefully it makes him inedible too. Knowing their luck they're covering themselves with the Rancor version of Seasoned Salt. "Bratling has not terrible idea." The Togorian offers from his hiding spot, his voice keeps moving. "With how area shaped. Can trail it along base of cliff." A clawfinger emerges from the Shroomgnle followed by the rest of him, it is pointing down the incline. "Can see other bones in there, other rancors fallen in over time. All bones now. So. Need bait to get it to end up over cliff. Once down in hole. Can take time to put to sleep, tie up for transport." The massive head nods sharply once. As if he just described picking up laundry. "Dhr'rall not make good bait."
Rancors have little bitty eyes. I mean, one eye might be bigger than a human head, but compared to the rest of their bodies -- pretty small. It seems likely that Threl is correct, day vision is not their thing, and they're far more likely to rely on smell! Thus her application of the local weeds' sap seems like it's probably a good idea for anyone who does NOT want rancor attention, but it is, indeed... pungent. It lingers. Even after one cleans his or her belongings.... it's going to linger. It'll be a month from now and then out of nowhere, unfairly, a whiff of that damn Felucian weed. You can never truly say Bye Felucia.
The Rancor itself is still shuffling along, and an incautious movement of one of its feet sends the jawbone of some long-dead relative clattering off to one side. Dhr'rall's plan, combined with Domino's, seems relatively sound: Lead it along the cliff base. Get it to the edge of the ravine, where an almost sinkhole-like crack in the earth is already filled with rancor bones. Lead it over the edge... somehow. Somehow make sure it does go over instead of thinking better at the last moment. Watch it fall! Congratulate selves! Easy right?
"I don't believe you, this smells terrible," Tarion complains as Threl starts pulling up plants and smearing the sticky, sappy innards all over herself. "...alright, I /guess/ I believe you," he hedges reluctantly, plucking out some plants of his own and beginning to smear them on his junk armor and exposed skin. Then he inhales deeply, through his nose. Which turns out to be a mistake, judging by the immediate choke and sneeze that follows.
The bounty hunter's eyes follow the path laid out in vague terms by the others, fingernail picking at a poking burr of metal on his spear absently as he considers it. "I still think we should throw one of you on it. Probably the Togruta, she's already scented up and I bet Shili has a rancor-riding festival or some kark like that every winter equinox," he stereotypes ignorantly, letting his mechanical hand rest on his hip. "Then I'll just herd it along, I've got the spear, how hard can it be? You people are stressing the details way too much, I'm telling you. I am a professional. I could do this myself. You're lucky to have me here," he reassures them while a glob of sap rolls slowly down his cheek.
"Let's DO THIS!" Without waiting for further advice, he takes off, moving with surprising stealth along the low rim, angling to position himself behind the rancor in order to herd it along towards whoever decides to play bait. Unless he gets its attention too early and just ends up being eaten.
Domino creeps through the weird spungey ground where the moss and fungi make their happy home, ducking and darting nimbly. She looks around and having never hunted much less run from a predator she makes rookie mistake and chooses the most direct path back the way she came, not the least obstacle ridden. She draws in a deep fortifying breath and then springs up and waves her hands, "Sack-faced Fart-breathed worm-chow! Lookit me and my tastey morsels flapping in the breeze! Yooohooo! I am Peaches and I am Dark And TASTY!"
The key to hunting giant monsters is to harry. To get it's attention and move it where the trap is sprung by keeping it moving after the hunters or, in this case, the dark-haired bait. "It not able to turn fast, Dom. Run at angle, then change angle to different way. Straight line, you no run faster." Threl says this /seriously/ over the comms to anyone who might be listening. Which Tarion, strangely, does not seem to. Threl, on Tarion's departure, does not run, does not climb a tree, does not do anything but sink into the jungle to keep an eye on where things will end up going. With Tarion running off like a madman into the distance after the monstrous wild Rancor, Threl's determination of Tarion's 'twit-ness' has moved into the square and cube realm. It's factorial twit being put on display!
It was a good idea. It WAS. But the path Domino picked just wasn't the greatest path through the bones, and the finds it's harder, slower moving than anticipated... and the rancor is faster than anticipated. It notices her indeed, bellows out a terrible roar, and then stomps forward and snatches her up with a huge, terrible hand! Roar!! It smells like rotting meat and the water in the rivers of hell. It's a physically assaulting scent. It's the scent equivalent of someone saying we need to talk. It's just horrible.
Good news: all this commotion HAS lured the rancor to the edge of the ravine, perhaps more by accident than competence, but it has. BAD news: It has Domino, and seems likely to chomp her if it isn't distracted!
Buuuuut, everyone does get a bigger share of the money if it just eats her, you know?
There is this moment where he just rather stares after Tarion Jenkins as he hauls off after the rancor after all that talk. There may even be some eye twitching, but just shock, not rage. Blink. Blink. Bait-ino does her job. Flapping like some sort of psychotic game bird. Threl gives the sound advice of Serpentine. However. Domino has done her job too well and yet too poorly... and is snatched up by a rancor. The Togorian acknowledges this is one way to go, and with a sigh announces his presence. He shoulders the still new to him Stunnet launcher roughly. It comes up for a snap shot, trying to not hit domino in the process is going to be hard as it is. Not a problem when your stunnet goes Jussssssst a bit outside.
Somewhere behind the rancor, hidden in the fungus, lurking among us, is Tarion. Bathed in the reeking Threlplant gel, his colander perched atop his head at a jaunty angle, a carefree smirk sprawled across his face as he watches with growing amusement when the beast scopes Dom up and bellows in her face. He can't see the strands of thick spittle roping out from its fangs, being behind it, but he can imagine them, and it fills the empty wallet in his chest with joy.
There's a moment there where he holds up four mechanical fingers, counts them off with his mechanical thumb, and then subtracts one of the fingers while the roaring fades into the background of his mental abacus. With a sigh, the fourth finger rises back up and the hand joins the other on the haft of the spear.
His approach is relatively shielded by the covering of goop, and there's no doubt the hunter has some experience approaching large, hungry, oversized, smelly aliens from behind with intent to enrage. The spear darts forward with something akin to speed and precision, grazing the incredibly thick hide and doing absolutely nothing. It's like the feeling of having a fly buzz close to you without touching you, probably.
"Krif me, you stink worse than I do!" Tarion yells up at the monstrous creature, already moving away and out of arms' reach, but the rancor's arms are really long and his spear is not any longer. A careless foot nearly turns under him as loose rocks near the edge give way beneath his weight.
Some dumb little creature was squawking at him! So annoying! The rancor was juuuust about to eat that dumb little creature when suddenly all sorts of OTHER dumb little creatures are popping up all over, throwing things! Flying things (net) and pokey things (spear)! It's so strange, these creatures have never been in the graveyard before. But the rancor does not like them, no sir it does not! Its hands open as it roars again, this time at Tarion and Dhr'rall. It's frustrated and angry and there are too many targets! Frustrating!! This poor rancor was just trying to peacefully LIVE its LIFE and now it is having the worst day!
Domino falls when the rancor opens its hands, distracted by the boys. It's not fun, but it beats getting eaten.
Domino had a blowgun, loaded with darts even, in hand in preparation to try to slow it down if she had to but she had no idea she'd get so little a chance to do so. As she's snatched up she shreeeeeiiiiiiks and flails wildly trying to escape it's grasp, dropping the blowgun in the process of desperately trying to escape the creature's grasp. She can escape nearly any restraint made by sentients but talons is not exactly anything she's ever trained for. Fortunately the Rancor joins the ranks of those who find Domino wholly unsavory. She shriiiieeeks all the way down, the sound cutting out only when she lands on the ground and the breath to make sound is knocked from her. Snatching her weapon back up and scrambling on all fours for the nearest cover she makes escaping the damped thing her first priority.
There's really not much that can be done at this point. A monster having Domino in its grip means that lethal force would be a bad idea at the least, since injuring the Rancor would mean having to find another one, and she doesn't think anyone is up for that at this point. So she starts running towards the Rancor - stupid - and grabs a massive hunk of that horrible-smelling plant. And at a run mind you, she hucks the wad as hard as she possibly can towards the Rancor and, to her amazement, it actually /hits??/ The Togruta is actually /amazed/ and /stunned/ for a second that she actually hit it before survival kicks in and she keeps running towards where Domino fell to help her get to safety!
This poor Rancor. He lost his snack. People are flinging things at him. The chief disadvantage that rancors face against quick, clever sentient combatants is that rancors do not think quickly at all. Their repto-mammalian brains are slow to understand and respond, and this one seems flummoxed by how many different things are happening at once. It's when they focus on YOU, one assailant in particular, that things are guaranteed to start going bad for the small and squishy.
Threl's gobbet of hideous rancor-repelling plant material hits the beast mid-roar in its open maw, and seems to stick right up against the roof of its mouth! The rancor makes a gargling noise and lifts its head sharply in distress, licking and rolling its head like a dog trying to get peanut butter off the roof of its mouth. The sudden movements cause it to take an incautious step backwards, and ---! It's too close to the edge, the rancor has missed its step, and with a terrible howl, the crunching of bones, and a tremendous cloud of dust, the rancor falls into the ravine pit!
Thoroughly stuck, it groans, and whimpers.
They have hefty chains in their packs, now all they have to do is fit them. No problem!
They all move as some sort of dysfunctional unit, but there is eventual progress! Domino is dropped as Dhr'rall and Tarion are roared at. Dhr'rall finds himself blinking a moment. Is that what he does to people when he spreads arms and roars a challenge? He will rethink this later, so far Domino is alive as far as he could tell from the shrieks she had made, so he has to focus on how to corral the large beastie.
Threl winds up, and strikes out a rancor! Impressive, most impressive. Still it is a sudden surprise that the Rancor stumbles while dealing with goo-butter in its mouth. Dhr'rall leaps forewards the stunnet aimed right at the massive head of the rancor, time to muzzle it. He doesn't take the time to pity the groans and whimpers it makes. Fwoomp! Net to the face!
"I love it when a plan comes together," Tarion preens atop the ridge of the cliff, beaming down at the fallen rancor in spite of the fact that there was hardly a plan and it only came apart. Using his spear for balance, he picks a hasty descent down towards the beast, scrambling and sliding until he washes up on a giant ribcage, a space whale beached on a shore of bones. Like the tide, he rolls back off the rack of ribs and clambers along and around the bones to reach it.
"Not so scary now, are you?" he taunts the thing, chuckling smugly as he reaches into the threadbare big o' useful supplies he was provided with and pulling out the rattlin' chains that make up the second half of Dhr'rall's spooky ghost costume with those bones. With clumsy hands, he begins the dubious process of securing the prisoner, and after successfully catching one clutching, clawed fist in a loop of links, he moves to the other.
Karma is fickle, however, and this hand is less willing to be restrained, instead swatting the bounty hunter like the fly he was earlier compared to. "OW, kriffing hell! I hate this overgrown, sentient pile of fungus fertilizer! If I wasn't getting paid to keep it alive I'd kill it myself." Blood trickles down his face from a superficial split that looks very ugly but isn't at all dangerous, mingling with the plant goop. "If I got the chance, in fact, I would kriffing harass this stupid, ugly, stinking sack of ill intentions a second time. I mean, the odds of that are low, but I'd do it, I don't even care."
Domino minces in place a moment, watching anxiously as if she's fighting the urge to be back on the ship. When the creature looks like it's about to break free she gives another girlish shriek and crowhops backwards, she almost runs but the realization she can't out-run it has her lurching forward to grab one of the chains and tries to lever all 100 pounds of her slender frame aided by adrenaline "WhyDidIDoThisIT'sSoStupidOhAllTheKRiffinStarsIDon'tWannaDie!" When it inevitably struggles there's another SHRIEEEK and she turns her head away but she does not let go.
Threl knows /exactly/ what Domino is feeling right now. Being attacked by a creature bigger than you does something to your brain for a while, triggering that ultimate fight or flight reaction. Keeping an eye on the wild rancor, she trots over towards Tarion in his junk armor, unslinging her medkit and cracking it open, coming across a freshly shed tooth from the Rancor they were hunting. Woo, trophy! Tucking it away, she makes it to Tarion. "You need fixing?" The dents in the armor from the backhand indicate that, yes, probably. She gives him a quick scan and starts her triage, checking for broken ribs, sternum, bruised lungs, liver, any ruptures....basically making sure Tarion will survive the trip back to Nar with this Rancor.
"Someone call ship. I no want to be here when more rancor show up to investigate."
"This why Dhr'rall stand over HERE." Dhr'rall offers helpfully to Tarion. He's keeping the stunnet rifle on the rancor, just in case considering their luck really. "Killing Rancor now means less payday..." He makes a vague gesture back towards the Fungle. "Plenty more that way to try luck on. Wait until this one loaded?" Whatever else he is about to helpfully add is ceased when Domino's shrieks begin again. He has zero idea what she just gibbered however, he just watches the efforts while keeping that rifle on the Rancor. He's not getting within claws reach if he does not need to. Threl breaks out the medkit and has a wonderful idea. So it's up to Dhr'rall to summon the pilot. Which takes some doing for a moment. "Just get here, or Dhr'rall eat you in front of Rancor just to spite pilot and rancor."
The rancor whimpers again, surprised and hurt, with an agonized pitch to its voice as Dhr'rall's stun net muzzles it quite completely! Stun nets are designed to affix, not to be comfortable, and Dhr'rall's aim is true. Dazed by the stun mechanisms, the rancor slumps, though it does still have enough presence of mind and preservation to take a swing at Tarion when he fails to restrain it securely!
Domino finishes the job after steeling her willpower to do so, and right about the time Threl is harvesting teeth and patching up Tavers, the engine roar of the transport comes into view! Broad doors cluh-CLANK at the underside of the ship as they disengage, and a series of pulleys comes into view! They're designed to be mag-hooked into the chains and tractor-beam assisted, but normally these systems are for cargo, not huge dangerous predators. Hopefully it works. Possessed of the good sense not to leave the adventurers behind and try to claim all the reward for himself, the pilot lowers from a separate hatch a box very like a shark cage... and also looking cobbled together... but it'll serve to bring the heroes up without landing the ship or stranding them in rancor territory. Maybe he was lying a little about landing this ship anywhere.
"Hook it in and come on up!" the pilot's voice encourages over loudspeakers, "We'll get this thing locked and loaded, burn fuel hard back to Nar, and get paid before it breaks loose and eats us!"
The chains and hooks and pulleys groan and strain as they struggle to lift the beast, but up it goes, out of the ravine... shortly thereafter, sealed in the specially fitted cargo bay. Away from its habitat and its life, and off to some fate unlikely to be pleasant.
Too bad for the rancor. But for everyone else: Success, and paydaaaay!