A Nap in the Shade

Dantooine is warm around this time of year. The scenery around the Jedi temple, excepting the space port, is covered in rich grassland. On the warmer months, Jedi apprentices often have many parts of their training out in the field, surrounded by nature and the planet’s native creatures.

As was usual this time of year, the weather was comforting and warm. Gentle breezes swept through the small valleys formed by the hills and little crags that offered protection to the Jedi Temple from the Mandalorian War several years prior. Outside of the rocky outcroppings, farmlands dotted the hills about as far as one could see, with grains and simple crops making up a majority of the scenery.

As with many of the places that surrounded the Jedi, anyone particularly sensitive to the Force could feel the near-formless whispers of energy as students, teachers, transients, and travelers made their way through the relative bustle of the Temple. Since so many manipulated the currents of energy here, and so much of the terrain was left uncarved or colonized, the delicate web of interconnected forces thrummed like high-tension power cables, and those sensitive to its tidal forces often found themselves pulled and thrust by forces they couldn’t pause or stop. The wind, however gentle, ran in parallel with the whipping of the currents that crashed eternally beneath most everyone’s senses.

The energy would occasionally accrue in choke points, vented into little alleys or dwelling in rock formations by accident. These alcoves, intentional or not, often turned into self-forming hazards. Bidden by forces they couldn’t feel, creatures would grow more hostile as they spent time in their nests. Over days, it might make the creatures seem usually restless. Over months, perhaps a bit fitful and territorial. Over the course of a year, the creature would be thoughtlessly aggressive, likely to swipe at anyone who even thought about approaching. The numerous cave systems, though interesting places to explore and good shelter from bad weather in other circumstances, would often become dangerous as everything inside would draw invisible lines and attack any and all who cross them. Even quiet groves would gain an edge of unease that swayed students down impulsive paths, perhaps even enough to sway them to carving their future paths with violence and disharmony.

As a result, the advice most everyone gave for travelers cross through Dantooine was simple: avoid the Jedi and students who kept to themselves—the secrets their mind harbored often thrashed if disturbed.

Although they were accompanied by a Jedi, and were on Dantooine to be trained as an apprentice, the traveler had been told this advice before. So, when the traveler-turned-apprentice sat alone in the fields, feeling the grass sway against their calves and watching the clouds drift across the sky, most of the various mercenaries and merchants who drifted through Dantooine gave them a wide berth. Most apprentices and masters at the Temple were busy with their usual tasks. So, the apprentice sat alone, content to let their thoughts pass harmlessly as the wind and Force accompanied the passing of an afternoon.

Between the dangers of training, and the ongoing impression that their apprenticeship was just the preamble an impending cataclysm, the breakneck pace was beginning to feel like the way life would have to become. Instead of internalizing the sense that every next task had to be chased, the traveler took the quiet moments to head to the fields, find some shade to sit under, and watch the weather change. They were content to sit this way until a runner from the school would come to find them, give them another errand, and the quiet of the afternoon would be lost.

Eventually, someone did find them. An older man, clad in simple robes, trudged up and looked over the plains silently with them for a moment.

After a few minutes of shared silence, the old man swept his hand over a space of empty grass still in the shade, but still comfortably out of the apprentice’s personal space. “This seat taken?”

The apprentice shook their head. “Help yourself.”

The old man sat down, whispering out groans as they did so. “Oh, these old bones never behave the way they’re supposed to. You live for sixty years with your body behaving one way, and then you age, and it starts doin’ different stuff. Never tells you why, no one’s around who you can ask, so you toddle along as best you can with what you have. Helps you appreciate the quiet moments.”

The apprentice, unsure of how to respond, offered a noncommittal shrug.

“It’s nice to see someone so young sitting in the shade on a nice afternoon. Most folks your age are in such a big hurry to climb the next hill, live the next adventure.” He paused for a moment, and pushed at the dirt with the end of his walking stick. “I was in too much of a hurry when I was younger. Didn’t know that I was rushing to get to this. Creaking when you get up, groaning when you sit down.”

The apprentice turned to the older man, and frowned a little. “Sounds hard.”

The old man returned the gaze with a smile, and rapped on the ground with the old, sand-scratched wood of his staff. “Can be. Don’t have to. Jus’ wanted to commend you on havin’ your head on straight, all this ‘do stuff’ nonsense is like a poison that gets in your brains and rattles around until your common sense is in tatters. Gettin’ to where young folks’ve never had a nap in the sun before.”

For reasons the apprentice couldn’t really articulate, they’d felt like they’d done all the rushing around, and felt like if they let it dictate everything they did, it’d end terribly. They said as much to the old man, without knowing exactly why.

“Sound like wisdom to me,” the old man said. “Do me a favor and help an old man up?”

The younger of the two got up, and offered the older gentleman a hand. With a few creaks, the old man got to his feet, and dusted off the front of his robes. “Well, I’d keep listenin’ to whatever past life is givin’ you smart impulses. All that hurryin’ never did anyone any good. Last time anyone like you was in a hurry to solve stuff, ended up bad.”

The apprentice tilted their head to the side. “Anyone like me?”

The older man waved his hand dismissively. “Nothin’ important. Younger fellow. Real hotshot. Saw him once or twice around these parts, always raised hell in the way Jedi do when they think they’re bein’ paragons of the Force. Whatever that means.”

The apprentice couldn’t think of anything worth replying with, so they said nothing.

“Oh, by the way. Jedi Master at the temple asked if anyone saw you to direct you to the temple as fast as possible. I’m too old to deal with every fool thing the Jedi ask folks to do, much less quickly, and seemed to me like you needed a few minutes’ quiet.” With that, the old man started walking away. Before he got out of earshot, he called back, “Don’t go forgettin’ about the sunlit naps, though, youngin’. Nobody’s hurry is important enough to get in the way of rest you need.”

The apprentice mused on that a moment, watched the clouds drift for a second more as the sky turned a few hints more orange and purple with the passage of the day. Then they made for the temple, it was time to continue their studies.

Taylor Hidalgo Avatar

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