Saturday, May 20, 2006

An Old Ranger's Story

I'm salvaging some of my old stories from the SWG rangers forums "Campfire Tales"

What do I miss most, son? No, not the chase, tho, to be sure, that was always a thrill. Walking and crawling, sometimes for days, to get just the right position to pick off the wanderers from the pod. Thinning the herd by taking out the weak, the sick, the old.

Yourself and your brothers riding in, fleshing and skinning the carcasses before the flyers got to them. I'd lay up in the hide, watching you all work, remembering when I was learning the trade and had to rush in, work fast and get out before the bulls got scent of you and charged.

Oh, that mad run back to safety, eh? Leaping over rocks and gulleys, shimmying up the 'scarps as if you had wings in your heels. Hah! True, true, several tonnes of armoured temper right behind you does kind of focus the mind.

Good days they were son, great days. I know I never told you or your brothers, but, well, they're gone now I guess and, yeah, no point in getting us upset. Eh?

What I miss most. No, not the nights we'd all spend, camped up there in the highlands, taking turns on watch in case the locals got wind of our presence and decided to run us off. Or worse. The chat round the fires, seeing you lads beaming with excitement at the memory of the day, aye, that was always worth more than all the credits in Theed.

But no, what I miss most son, it's the smell of fresh clawed earth. The way it used to come in on the morning breeze as the bantha herds began grazing for forage. That musty, damp smell of the nights dew burning off in the dawn suns. I'd lay in there, behind your mother, my back to the wall, sniffing the breeze coming through the ventilators and know there would be one more good days hunt.

She'd stir, we'd say our good morrows, and the day would begin full of hope.

It's not been the same since, well, since we had to move up here to C-net. Aye, I know, we couldn't keep the old place going, just the two of us and with your mother gone I couldn't look after all you lads. Not properly. I only wish I'd tried harder to get you all to go live at your aunts... perhaps then you'd not have been there when the recruiting sergeants came looking for 'a few good men, steady with a rifle and not afraid to fight for their freedom'.

Aye, aye, I know, the Alliance was a noble cause. They're all noble causes. Och, never mind me, am just a silly owd fool. I'll be fine, I'll be fine bye and bye. Just let me sit by the window a little while, pretend I can still smell pantha poodu.

Those were the last words I ever heard from the old Ranger. That evening in the apartment in C-net. Shuttles roaring past outside, the smell of their turbines heavy in the damp air.

My wife and I found him the next morning, head tilted to the one side, his eyes fixed somewhere miles away. In his hands he held some datadiscs, letters from the commander of the Alliance unit we had all served in. Letters that wore my poor mother down, bit by bit, as they arrived.

We burned her remains on a pyre above the old farm on Tatooine, returning her to the planet as ash, the better to bring new life forth. Father promised her he'd come back to her one day and, today we we will spread his ashes on that same hillside, among the sweetgrass that grows there now.

I suppose it's the sweetgrass that's drawn them in, but the local farmers say they've never seen so may bantha in the valley on so many years.

There is a smell of moist, fresh earth from their foraging as I step forward to light the pyre.

There'll be good hunting Father. Travel well.

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