Concept Art Writing Prompt: The Planet with the Ring of Bones

Illustration for article titled Concept Art Writing Prompt: The Planet with the Ring of Bones

This week's spooky Concept Art Writing Prompt takes us into space, where a planet is ringed by thousands of dismembered skeletons. What stories take place in this planetary graveyard?

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This week, we're featuring an older piece by legendary science fiction and fantasy artist Bruce Pennington. As always, we invite you to write a story inspired by this piece of artwork and post it in the comments.

Illustration for article titled Concept Art Writing Prompt: The Planet with the Ring of Bones

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ManuelBrown
Guild_Navigator

"Will that damn band ever play something different?" Wes Gladro inquired as he stepped into the dimness of the cantina. He had heard the same old Bith song played so many times he could hum it inside a krayt's belly.

Things were slow today at Chalmun's. Only a couple of spice smugglers,some mid-level courtesans,the typical Rodian enforcers looking to collect some debt for the Hutts and a couple of environment suit-clad Trandoshan spacers. But among the spice smoke Wes managed to recognize a familiar face. It was Fern Carremo,a fellow Corellian like himself. The old man was famous in every spaceport for making outrageous tales of his daring escapes in his old days as an arms runner.

"Hey,old timer! Haven't seen you since last we met in Abregado. You still smoking those nasty death sticks?"

Carreno looked at him with a tired gaze. It was clear the glory days of the old smuggler were well behind him and he now looked like a man drained of all enthusiasm.

"Wes Gladro..." the old spacer responded in a voice so tired it almost sounded droll. "No,I quit smoking those a while ago. I've renounced...a lot of things. But do join me and treat me to a drink or five. I recon you still owe me for not ratting you out when you rigged that Pazaak table in Nar Shaddaa."

Gladro smiled,remembering the cursing grunts of the group of Aqualish he had conned in that ocassion."Fun times. But tell me,weren't you semi-retired working as an advisor with the Mon Calamari?"

Carrano nodded. "The Calamari wanted experienced pilots who had dusted the very edge of the Outer Arms of the galaxy. They had no problems with my past. I wasn't a captain or even a first officer,just the consultant who knew when to tell the NavCom to turn and avoid falling headfirst into a dark matter sinkhole. The ship that I was on -it had some Calamari name that I can't possibly pronounce- was assigned to a team of Calamari anthropologists. Their leader,First Deacon Grexbor was hellbent on finding the remains of a very ancient warring race called the Czer-Czer. Apparently a long time ago,when the Galaxy was still a big place,these Czer-Czer fellows had been the very first race ever to form an stellar empire in a section of the Outer Spiral.

"Deacon Grexbor had found evidence that the Czer-Czer had all reunited in a place they called "The Great Confluence" and then...they all disappeared. Every single last one of them out of billions,all gone. Vanished without a trace out of the pages of History. And Grexbor wanted all the academic glory (as if that is going to pay any sabbacc debts) for finding their resting place.

So there we were at the edge of the Unknown Regions sending probe after probe to any piece of space that wasn't inhabited. I was bored out of my mind,and my only company in a ship full of eggheads was my designated assistant Yimlu. Yimlu was a Chadra-Fan -y'know,those short bat-like fellows with their squeaky language- and the worst cheater at holochess I've ever met. He'd talk on and on about his homeworld and sing unsufferable songs about the Sounds of The Gods. But I came to like the little guy,and for some reason he grew fond of me.

One day a probe droid returned with exactly what Dean Grexbor had been waiting for,the black box of an ancient Czer-Czer ship. From what the Calamari team could decypher, The Great Confluence was a rally point where they were massing their ships for one grand swooping attack on the Galaxy. Its location was a point somewhere smack dab in the uncharted depths of the Unkown Region.

Grexbor wanted to set course immediatly to it,but his team and myself protested this. We could suddenly run into a multiple blackhole alley,not to mention any unknown hostile opposition we might find. But Grexbor in the end had the final word and we set the ship en route to this mysterious point in space.

After three light jumps we found it,though I wish to all space deities that we hadn't. It was a single solitary gas planet orbiting a sub-giant star. An astronomical odditty,but hardly one unheard of. The second we started to approach its orbit things started to go wrong. The Calamari started to feel strange headaches and poor Yimlu was screaming that he could hear a "great voice" chanting an strange lullaby.

But I didn't feel any form of panic I saw the first readings of the scanners. The planet had an outer ring made completely and entirely of...skulls! Thousands,millions,posibly billions of bones drifting in orbit forming prefectly concentric rings around the planet. This had been the fate of the Czer-Czer and it made absolutely no sense at all.

But we didn't have time to ponder the enigma that we had before us,because right then and there the Madness struck. The Calamari crew began to wail in their gutural tongue and claw each other in an state of utter savagetry. I myself could hear a loud humming in my skull,like having having your head inside a giant hydrospammer. The humming became unbearable and was unable to think.

And then it happened -Grexor became...possessed by...something. His great eyes became blank and what sounded like a different voice - a voice no organic tongue could pronounce- came out of his mouth He rearranged the NavCom and set course for the planet's atmosphere. There was nothing I could do,I was laying on the floor of the command bridge unable to master my limbs while the Calamari while and tore each apart. My whole world had become that paralyzing humming,and within that numbness I found an strange peace. As if being called gently to leap off a cliff by an hypnotizing Chamalisk from Ondaron.

I should've died there,but as I lay there I felt myself being dragged. It was Yimlu,good ole Yimlu. Somehow his Chandra-fan senses made him less sensitive to whatever unknown force that was attacking us. He dragged my limp body in a cryopod and activated the emergency signal. The last thing I saw before the cryopod made the jump to light speed was the Calamari ship slowly descending into the planet,like a predator about to gulp down a morsel.

I was rescued near the Outer Rim by Devaronian privateers who thankfully had heard of me and here I am. I have not reported back to the Mon Calamari council because... Y'know,the Jedi speak of a Light and a Dark side. I used to laugh at such simplistic dogma,but not anymore. That place,that...planet -if that is what it really was- was a place of the Dark Side. And now I'm terrified of getting offworld again in fear of hearing that humming ever again. I'd gladly jump over the Five Fire Rings of Fornax before listening that demonic siren song ever again."

Wes Gladro was completely silent after listening to his friend's story. There was an unwritten code among spacers that forbade him to pressing him with more questions. And in the end,there was really nothing more old Carrano could say. He paid his tab,gave hi friend a silent handshake and stepped outside the noisy cantina.

The stars above the spaceport of Mos Eisley seemed to have somehow lost their radiance. And the dark behind them was ever darker.