Bedtime on Concordia
A blazing campfire cast three shadows across the open plain. The longest stretched from the angular form of a man still clad in the armor of his people, the fire’s light stumbling and bouncing across decades of pockmarks and scrapes in the Mandalorian iron’s surfaces. The other shadows’ figures were clad in training gear, their bodies still growing too quickly for proper armor to fit for long.
Galron watched his twin daughters over the flames. Tayn and Mari had done well in the day’s hunt, handled their weapons and gear properly, and shown great patience. He would tell their mother that they were growing into proper warriors, just like her.
Tayn looked into the light with a furrowed brow. When he caught her eye, she asked, “Should we have such a bright fire? Someone could see us from a long way off, right?”
Galron smiled at his daughter’s craftiness. “You’re right. But out here, natural predators are more dangerous than other people. And since the wildlife doesn’t see fire much, they’re afraid of it. Keeping a nice, bright fire will stop them from coming in for a nibble while we’re trying to sleep.” He chomped his teeth noisily at the girls, who giggled as they unloaded their packs.
The very instant Mari’s bedroll stretched out across the ground, she issued her usual bedtime edict: “Story!”
A light breeze whispered through the grass as Galron considered the request gravely, as though there were even a remote chance he would refuse. “You don’t feel too old for stories yet?”
“They’re old stories,” Mari answered, “so what if we’re getting old, too?”
“Oh, now they’re old stories,” Galron feigned insult for all of two seconds before his smile broke back through. “I guess I’ll just have to tell you a new one.” He scratched his cheek for a moment. “You’ve heard of Shae Vizla?”
Heads bobbed in unison, dancing shadows exaggerating their excitement. “Everybody’s heard of Shae Vizla! She blew up the Jedi Temple!”
“She played a big part, at least. Shae breached the temple’s defenses, opened it up to the main attack. Took down dozens of guards single-handed. She likes to fight alone, did you know that?”
“Not always! She used to always fight with her brother.” Tayn corrected him authoritatively.
“But a Jedi killed him.” Mari added, appropriately solemn.
“That’s right. And she had a grudge against the jetii for a long time. It’s probably why she signed up to attack their temple in the first place. Now, just after that is when the treaty settled in--”
Simultaneous groans briefly drowned out the crackle of the fire. “The treaty part is boring,” Tayn lamented. “Skip that part.”
Galron raised his hands in surrender. “I should’ve realized I was dealing with experts. It doesn’t sound like I have much to tell, you two already know so much.” He could see pride in the girls’ eyes.
Mari wasn’t done with the subject yet. “Shae must be old now. Is she even still fighting?”
“Don’t know of too many old Mandos, do you?” Both girls shook their heads. “That’s because you have to be really tough to stay alive that long. You ever see an old Mando, they’re the most dangerous one in the room. Can probably teach you more than anybody else.”
Galron’s daughters considered this as they crawled into their bedrolls. “So if Shae Vizla is still around, did she fight on Corellia?” Tayn always loved stories about urban combat.
Mari preferred space battles. “What about Kuat? I bet she fought at Kuat!”
Galron tossed a bit more wood into the fire. “As far as I’ve heard, she hasn’t been in any battles for years. She’s off the grid, her and her whole clan. If anybody knows where they went, they aren’t saying.”
This answer was so unacceptable that the girls all but launched back to their feet. “But the war’s back on again!”--“There’s fighting everywhere!”—“Why wouldn’t she come back for that?”
A silent glance from their father returned the girls to their bedrolls. Once they had laid back down, Galron stood and stretched his arms. “I’ve heard some folks say she’s lost her edge over the years. That she doesn’t come back because she’s afraid. They always say it quietly, though.”
“Then they don’t really believe it,” Mari spoke with the unwavering certainty of youth. She was looking up as Galron walked to the girls’ side of the fire to inspect their gear, her eyes practically glowing with reflected flames. “If they believed it, they wouldn’t be afraid to say it loud.”
“Shae would come back and burn them up if she heard that!” Tayn agreed enthusiastically, aiming her fist skyward and mimicking the woosh of a flamethrower for emphasis. In Galron’s mind, the construction list for her armor gained one more item.
Satisfied that his daughters had placed their equipment and weapons within arms’ reach, Galron returned to his seat. “I think you’re right. I think she’s just waiting.”
This drew a hush from his audience. “Waiting for what?” Tayn asked.
“A real challenge.”
Both girls turned, their expressions demanding an explanation.
“I’ve never heard of anyone alive who’s seen more battles than Shae Vizla, and she’s always come out in one piece. Maybe they just aren’t enough for her anymore.”
“But this is the biggest war ever! If that’s not a big enough challenge, what is?” Mari was incredulous.
“I can’t even imagine.”
Eventually, the girls settled for a story about Mandalore the Conqueror. It seemed impossible that they hadn't heard it before; Galron suspected they were humoring him. Growing up fast.
Tayn was snoring softly now, but Mari was restless. Her rustling was barely audible over the sound of more fresh logs snapping in the flames. “Do you need something?”
Mari’s voice was soft. “Can I borrow your buy’ce?”
Galron’s helmet was perched on top of his pack; he picked it up and stepped around the fire to his daughter’s side. “What is it that’s threatening my girl’s head? Hawk-bats? Orbital bombing?”
“No. I just heard that warriors have to sleep in their helmets sometimes. I want to practice.”
Orange light danced across the visor as Galron slid the helmet gently over Mari’s head. It made a soft clank when she rested her head back on the ground.
“You’re not looking for a big challenge, are you?” Her voice sounded strange, echoing out the bottom of the too-large helmet.
“I’ve already got two.” Galron smiled at his reflection in the visor.
Mari’s hand reached out and squeezed his. “Good night.”
“Good night.” Galron returned to his place, selecting a stout branch from the woodpile before sitting down. He drew a knife from behind his shin plate and began carving.
He wouldn’t be getting much sleep, but his daughters would each have a new practice sword by sunrise.