Woad was a colossal super-earth with incredible gravitational force. Its sun, Rojah-8476, was nearing the state of becoming a pre-planetary nebula when it began to burn off helium and its surface swelled to encompass the entire system. The red giant consumed Woad in an eroding process over millions of years. The inhabitants had no choice but to abandon their home and flee into the cold depths of space.
Beings of enormous strength that could resist the extreme gravity evolved on the surface of Woad. The five-meter unisex race had bright pink muscular bodies and were blind, or rather they didn’t have eyes. They visualized the world around them with a kind of sonar that radiated from their bodies.
At the dawn of their civilization, the Woad focused on geology, using crystalline minerals from the planet’s endless mountain ranges to make tools and clothing. After their planet reached an uninhabitable state, the survivors took to encasing their bodies in stone. The weight made them comfortable in lower gravity environments and the look and feel reminded them of their lost home. It doubled as strong protection from both the elements and adversaries.
The Woad built chunky utilitarian spaceships out of intensely strong stone and powered them by an exothermic chemical reaction. A blue crystal called wodite was combined with a yellow sulfur material resulting in a powerful green thruster engine. This potent combination propelled Woad ships across vast distances while utilizing only trace amounts of fuel.
The first Woad ships were met by Varan deep space explorers. It’s rumored that the Varan helped many of the Woad relocate to a new planet. The Varan government’s official position is to respect the desire of any species that wish to remain apart from galactic communities. They will not disclose the location, nor will they confirm or deny if it even exists.
Other fleeing Woad vessels were met by the armies of early space empires, who recruited them as super soldiers. The Warriors of Woad were once famed as the most powerful army in the seven systems. Various factions used them to engage in epic land battles.
By the time their planet was completely destroyed they had already gone out of fashion as interstellar henchmen. Some were kept on as personal bodyguards and showpieces. They became status symbols of the ruling elite. As their numbers faded, they became things of legend.
The Woad were thought to be immortal because of their extremely long lifespans. They were considered philosophers of ancient wisdom living on and on for generations, often being passed from one ruling party to the next. They sat in huge stone chairs, unmoving statues, for decades on end.
When called to action they would stand as if not a moment had passed and take up a cause for good. They hardly spoke and only responded to the most formal and earnest requests. Their actual age was unknown, but the handful that remained in the service of the emperors of the seven systems have been around for more than a hundred thousand years.
Emperor Oblast, who disbanded the Empire and restored freedom and peace to the known galaxy, kept his personal guard of eleven Warriors of Woad in a hall on the front deck of the flagship of his galactic fleet. They sat motionless, staring out into space through a huge window.
On the first day of his daughter’s 14th cycle of Grandor, the year she would leave childhood behind and begin to have the responsibilities of an adult member of the royal family, the Emperor was shown a recording by his head of security. The most astute scholars and devoted shamans had trouble getting more than a few words out of the Woad. His daughter, Nuirka, managed to have a conversation with the Chieftain. The Emperor’s heart filled with myriad emotions from pride to sorrow as he watched.
Grandor Flagship Security File 197654312.W.38.24
Night watch motion detector alarm initiated recording:
Light reflected off the full moon that slowly made its orbit outside the panoramic window. The eleven Woad sat motionless, monolithic sculptures of stone in their chairs. A small person could be seen moving through the moonlight. Her crimson cloak vibrant in the monochrome scene.
Young Nuirka Oblast, the only child of the Emperor, walked up to the central figure and stood to look at him. Her soft skin shone the palest blue. Her shaggy thick earth-toned hair spiraled down with bright blue highlights catching the moonlight when she tilted her head. When she smiled at the towering giants, her perfect golden teeth sparkled and added to her youthful beauty.
“They say you’re a million years old.” Her sharp accented voice broke the silence of the room.
“Grandmama says you’re blind fools who’ll follow orders only when they feel like it. Father told me your morality was something to emulate.”
She was a smart young lady.
“Supposedly you only respond to formal speech. Is’at true?”
The room was silent. Nuirka could nearly hear her own heartbeat.
She curtsied low, bending one knee forward, and holding out the edges of her cloak. She nodded her head down, then looked up slightly.
“Great Chieftains of Woad, who guided and protected my grandfathers for generations. I seek your counsel on this night. The night before I become a woman in the eyes of my people. Will you hear my requests and respond?”
To the amazement of her father and the head of security, they did.
The center figure with the most elaborate face carvings on his stone-covered head moved an arm and spoke. “The Woad will counsel the Emperor’s daughter.”
“Thank you great Chief. I came of age in a time of war. My childhood took place on a conquering warship. As a little girl, I played at your feet. My father told me you meant safety for him and for me and for our family. My mother was killed this cycle. I fear because she left the safety of your side. Will you keep my father safe?”
“If we are able.” Said the leader of the Woad in a reverberating deep voice.
“And if my father is to die, will you guard me as you protected him?”
A look of anxious relief flashed on Nuirka’s face.
“The end of the war is in sight and threats to my father’s life have increased exponentially. Others do not share his dream of peace. Do you believe he has set us on the correct path?”
Nuirka spoke as formally as she could, avoiding any galactic slang.
The central Chieftain leaned forward in his seat. His stone covered body grinding across the stone chair. The light stripes of white quartz that ran around his black torso glowed in the darkened room.
“The Woad have known eons of war. The Woad have known peace. The protection of life is paramount. It is life that experiences the universe.”
“Yet you are warriors, are you not?” Nuirka tested the giant.
“We have been warriors, but only as the last of last resorts.”
“Would you fight again?”
“For a just cause that resulted in peace and limited harming of innocents.”
“If my father’s war were not meant to end wars would you abandon him?”
She was stunned. The Woad had been part of her family history. Ancient paintings of them hung in the palace on Grandor Prime. The Woad, she thought, would never leave.
“And would you leave me then too?”
“The Woad would wait. We are patient.”
“You sound like my teachers.” Her comment met no response.
“Will you teach me? I am an adroit student.”
“We teach those willing to listen.” The Woad sat back. “Your mind is strong and quick. To survive, a leader must also have a strong and quick body.”
In a flash, the stone giant was on his feet. He was easily three times the height of the teenage girl. He leaned down and swung his great rock arm at her. Nuirka jumped into the air like a cat and sidestepped across the passing forearm. She landed on the floor again. The Woad stood up straight lifted a boulder of a fist above her and brought it down with incredible speed. She dodged it with a millimeter to spare. The edge of her cloak momentarily stuck under the Chieftain’s hand.
Nuirka was breathing fast and her heart was racing. “I’ve studied self-defense since I was a 4 cycles old. I’ve known nothing but war. What will I do in peace?”
“You will learn. You will grow. And you will teach others the way. You will use your power and technology to bring better lives to others in need. All species should live like those on Grandor.”
She looked up at the being towering in front of her and smiled. She loved Grandor Prime. It was a paradise compared to most worlds. Everyone had everything they could ever need or want, life was spent experiencing, learning, playing, and growing. Things like hunger, greed, war, disease, and malice didn’t exist there.
“On Woad we had no daughters. We do not reproduce in that way. Our people were once countless in number. We grew out of our time of war and self-destruction. We learned that we were the most important resource on the planet. When our planet died, only we remained.”
Nuirka gave them an empathetic look of true compassion.
“The sun brought heat and intense weather. Our world was a stone world. Our technology was built from the rocks. Our tools, our homes, our vehicles were all made from stone. When the seismic activity increased our buildings crumbled. Millions died. The chemistry of minerals saved us. It was an investment in science and not war that led us to the ability to escape. We launched a great anchor into space and climbed a rock ladder out of the atmosphere. In orbit, we constructed our stone ships and powered them with crystals mined from the depths. It was our commitment to peace that saved our species. Only a unified Woad could have built a stairway to heaven.”
“Then why are you still warriors now?” Nuirka wanted to know.
“Our technology was primitive. We were slow lumbering fools in space. Only our ability for long life and our self-sustaining metabolism let us live long enough to find others. We drifted through empty space for centuries, hoping. To survive we became soldiers. For millennia it was our only worth. We lost most of our species in wars fought for others. Others that did not learn the lessons of death.”
“What is your name?” She received no response.
“Why did you try to hit me?” She said, changing her line of questioning.
“To test your skill. To know how and when to defend you. To know that you could defend yourself.”
Nuirka, still looking up at the Woad, seemed out of questions. Her mind was racing. Even her father had never got the Woad to speak so much. A one or two-word response was the best you could hope for.
“If I come to you again, will you tell me more?”
“As you like. We will teach you the ways of the warrior and its follies. We will teach you the ways of the philosopher and of peace. We will teach you the science of stone.”
The Woad returned to his chair and sat.
“Thank you Chieftain of Woad.” She nodded her head again.
Nuirka walked toward the door and looked back before leaving.
“My Mother always said I was safe with you around. She was right.” She smiled, turned, and walked out of the room.
The security recording returned to a black and white still silence. The ancient quartz stone beings sat in their chairs. The moon outside drifted slowly toward the dark side of the planet.
END OF FILE