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The Prize at the End of the Rainbow

The planet of Gribbo was not one many would consider a vacation spot. Some would go as far as to say they would never step foot there in their life. But to Wyrm, it was home. Wyrm, like the rest of the swamp planet’s dominating species, was a whippen; a large humanoid frog. To him, the perfect day would be waking up and enjoying a nice handful of bugs for breakfast, hanging out at the acid pits with the locals, and ending the day with a nice mud bath. He did not understand why everyone didn’t want to live here!

Lately though, his daily routine was a bit different. Every week or so a starship crashed on Gribbo’s surface and everyone from the surrounding villages would scavenge what was left over. Wyrm loved to partake; it felt like chasing a rainbow while also hoping to find survivors along the way. Sometimes though, he found it hard to go through, he assumed if the other whippens were focused on the ship’s remains then nobody made it out. This week’s crash was especially exciting as Wyrm heard murmurs that it was a trade vessel planning to visit a new colony somewhere in the system. Trade ships are always very large and can hold a lot of people and even if there are no people, they always have the coolest stuff.

Today would be the first day Wyrm goes to the crashed ship. Backpack on and knife in hand, he was ready to go. The first step he took outside of his hut caused a small splish, followed by a plunk. While Wyrm liked playing in mud, now was not the time. He made haste; the first stop was that tree in his front yard with the extra crunchy bark. With a stab and a peel, Wyrm tore a large piece of bark off and ripped it in two, placing one piece in between his teeth and the other in his pocket.

“Hmm… missing something,” Wyrm thought to himself. He pondered for a second before scraping off some moss from a nearby rock and laying it on the bark and taking a second bite.

The second stop was the pond out back. Wyrm hopped over and dunked his face under the water for a second. Reeling back, he wiped the murky water all over his face before splashing the rest of his body. He was ready, now all that was left was waiting for the serpent. Gribbo had a unique form of public transportation. While not as prominent as the whippens, giant amphibious serpents also inhabited Gribbo. These massive creatures, once enemies with the whippens, found peace over their shared love of tasty foods and need to travel great distances. Wyrm went and sat on his usual log for a few minutes before the serpent barreled through the mud and stopped next to him.

“Now arriving: Wyrm’sssss hut!” the serpent announced as it came to a halt and grinned at the elated whippen. “Going to the ssssship too Wyrm?”

“Yes, one ticket, please,” Wyrm replied, pulling the bark out of his pocket and holding it out for the serpent to take.

With one bite, the bark disappeared from Wyrm’s hand as he made his way toward the serpent to find an open seat. The serpent’s back was especially packed today. All the way from the front of its neck to the end of its tail, a whippen sat, muttering amongst one another about the possibilities of loot. With most of them, sat a much smaller creature the whippen population called nothing else but “slaves.”

Wyrm turned to smile at the two whippens behind him, both of which said nothing in response. He then turned to face the group in front of him: three whippens and their slave. The red furry creature sat in its owner’s arms with its head over his shoulder and pointing toward Wyrm. Its eyes sat trained on Wyrm while a thin bead of drool ran down its mouth and over its owner’s shoulder. Wyrm gave it a grin and waved. The creature’s head perked up and it returned a wide grin and a purr. The creature’s owner took notice and yanked it out of Wyrm’s view, disregarding his presence after doing so. Wyrm frowned but decided to start looking at Gribbo’s landscape and kicking his feet back and forth.

Just before he started to get bored of looking around, the trade ship came into view and Wyrm perked up. The other whippens on the serpent started gathering up their equipment in preparation of getting off. The ship was bigger than Wyrm could ever imagine, it was at least five times as tall as his hut! Looking around though, the excitement started to fade as he noticed many of the whippens already at the crash site were looking through their loot, no crash survivor in sight. The serpent finally halted, and everyone got off and began making their way toward the ship.

“Good luck!” Wyrm said to the group behind him. “Have fun!”

“Good luck!” he continued to the group in front of him, and then to their slave. “Do a good job, little pal!”

He went on for a few minutes until everyone received their luck and passed him.

As he got to the entrance of the ship, he whispered to himself. “Good luck, Wyrm!”

The inside of the vessel was not quite how Wyrm imagined. What was not already scrapped of the interior was currently being scrapped. There were not any neat decorations or gadgets. But most importantly, the only living beings Wyrm could see were whippens and their slaves. Deciding he wanted to share his misfortunes, he started to look around for other whippens to try to make conversation. He stopped by the entertainment area and attempted to speak to the whippens there, but they seemed to turn their backs to him. After that, he made his way to the mess hall and met up with the whippens who were in front of him on the serpent. As soon as they saw Wyrm they shot their heads in his direction.

“Our room!” one yelled. “Go!”

He took the hint and made his way toward the sleeping quarters. Each room had a person in them except one at the end. Slowly, Wyrm inched closer until he realized the room was in fact empty. Once he got inside, he began pulling drawers out, tossing mattresses, and pulling bags open. There were some food rations in a cooler, a water purifier and lantern on the dresser, torn up clothes inside the dresser, a blanket on the bed, and a hunting trap and rope in the closet. Right before leaving, he noticed even the closet door was loose and ripe for the taking. He took everything in his arms and made his way outside the ship.

Wyrm found a spot away from everyone else and opened his arms, dropping all his spoils. Two other groups of whippens that came with him on the serpent were already outside looking over what they managed to scavenge. It was a lot compared to what Wyrm got but that was fine with him. What was next was adjusting everything for transport. The cloth scraps would go in the backpack first, followed by the rations, then the blanket overtop the rations, that way the food was safe. The metal door would go over the backpack with the handles through Wyrm’s arms while the rest of the rope and hunting trap would hang from the sides of the backpack. Next, the compass and writing utensils would go in his pants pockets. Lastly, the water purifier could be carried in his left hand and the lantern could be carried in his right hand.

Ready to go, he grabbed his possessions and made his way toward the serpent. Just before he got to the creature, he turned his head toward the trade ship, hearing loud yelling coming from that direction. A couple dozen whippens and their slaves ran from the ship in panic.

“Gonna blow!” one yelled.

Wyrm cocked his head as an explosion came from the rear of the starship. Everyone outside recoiled and raised their arms to protect against any debris. A fire erupted from the rear following the explosion though most of the ship seemed unharmed. The whippens that ran from the ship began scoffing in disappointment and made their way toward the serpent.

“Lost my things,” one remarked.

“Not gonna risk that unstable one,” another said.

“Don’t wanna be ‘round when that fire spreads,” one continued.

Wyrm stopped walking and started surveying his fellow whippens to see if any of them or their slaves were hurt. During his scan, he spotted the group of whippens that sat in front of him on the serpent, they were without their slave. Wyrm’s eyes widened as he quickly waddled over.

“Where’s your friend?” he asked the group.

“Huh?” one asked, glancing at both of his companions.

“The… your…” Wyrm hunched over and gave the group a blank stare while slightly opening his mouth, letting out a bead of spit to imitate the whippen’s slave.

“Mean that dumb red thing?” the whippen retorted, puffing his neck out in a chuckle. “On the ship, doesn’t work.”

Wyrm’s eyes widened and his head darted toward the ship. “He’s a survivor!”

He set down the water purifier and lantern and knelt into a hopping position but fell over sideways. He turned his head and saw the metal door drooping down and sinking into the mud.

“Get outta here, thing!” Wyrm yelled and ripped off the backpack.

Free of any constraints, he crouched down and kicked off the ground with an immense force, propelling himself forward into the air. In almost an instant, he landed at the door of the ship. From behind he could hear a multitude of voices yelling at him as well as yelling various obscenities.

“The dining area!” Wyrm practically yelled to himself.

He started retracing his steps, the areas he visited were close together, and hopefully the slave has not moved. Just as Wyrm entered the recreation room, a secondary explosion threw him off his feet and caused the ship to start shaking. Wyrm tried to stand but immediately fell over. He looked down at his hands and then slapped them to the surface of the ship, sticking the two together with his frog-like toe and hand pads. Slowly he crawled until reaching the dining area. The fire from the explosion had already reached this room and inside near the middle of the room was the lost slave.

The slave did not seem aware of his surroundings and was busy biting his own arm. Wyrm’s eyes widened as he searched for an opening. Finding one, he leaped from the floor to the side wall, then to the ceiling around the fire, and down next to the lost slave. The impact startled the slave, though his expression quickly turned to joy when he noticed what the impact was.

“Hey there, little guy,” Wyrm greeted the creature, and took him up in his arms.

Retracing his leaps, Wyrm hopped back out of the ship and into the familiar swamps of Gribbo. The first thing he noticed was the emptiness of the area. What was just a staging area for looting this crash was now two concerned whippens worried Wyrm would not find his way out. The second thing he noticed was that all his stuff was gone. Everything but the small creature he held in his arms, letting a small bead of drool roll down his chin and onto Wyrm’s chest. The whippens, once realizing Wyrm lived, began gathering their things to leave.

Wyrm let out a sigh and looked at the creature he was holding. “Well… I don’t see your friends here,” he said softly. “Hey, you can come live with me!”

The creature looked back at him and continued its thousand-yard stare. Realizing the serpent was long gone, Wyrm pondered for a moment.

“Well, it looks like we’re gonna have to walk. That’s okay, it gives us more time to get to know each other!” he tapped the creature’s nose and giggled. “Say, I don’t really like the name ‘Slave’ how about something else… What do you think of Henry? I’ve always wanted a Henry!”

The creature purred slightly in response. Wyrm hugged him and pointed in the direction of his hut.

“Well Henry, get comfy, this is gonna be a long walk,” he continued, smiling, and beginning to walk. “You know Henry… I think we’re gonna be real good friends.”

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