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Of Elk and Wildlings

We went up into the mountains here on an elk hunting overnight trip. It was myself and three other Guardians, Kal, Manny and Reyn. Packing the meat out is tiring, but the amount of meat you get means you can conserve other less perishable resources. Plus we jerk a lot of it and make pemmican for traveling, and we get the leather, sinew, bone, etc. Let's just say nothing goes to waste. When we go on these, we tend to use our bows. We can replace and reuse arrows, but making new bullets for rifles requires resources that are much more difficult to scavenge. What's more, the bow is nice and silent, which means you don't alert all people and animals for several miles to your presence. When you don't know what's out there, you are better off being as quiet as possible. Just after dawn on a cool mountain morning, I managed to get myself a nice sized bull elk. Unfortunately, when you are hunting with a bow, you sometimes have to track them some distance before they finally drop. When we finally caught up to the beast about an hour later, a group of Wildlings had already begun ripping apart the carcass with stone knives and their teeth. Dealing with Wildlings is always risky as you can never be sure what is going through their heads or what they might do next. When I say "Wildling," what I mean is people who have grown up on their own in the wilderness, usually in small groups. Adrias says the term is "feral," but they are something more than mere animals. Maybe "barbarians" is a better term. They can very quite a bit and some come close to having a sort of civilized culture. In fact, it's those ones that are the most dangerous as their culture is one of their own devising based on god knows what they remember and passed down from the old days. The group we found is part of what we call the "Younglings." They are descendants of a group of children who survived on their own after the dark. A remarkable accomplishment, but without adults, particularly elders, to help them along, their version of "society" has become very strange and violent. For example, their tradition is to kill or run-off the old. Being "old" means having any gray hair, among other things. Their rules are the rules of children and they behave like children in adult bodies. It's very...weird. When we came across the five of them, we pulled up short. Normally its a good idea not to confront them as they are unpredictable. On the other hand, it's not a good idea to let them get into their heads that they can steal your kills. You need to keep them in their place or you will find them digging up your garden next. It's much like running into a bear. You make yourself look as big as you can and make as much noise as possible. Much like a bear, when they don't retreat in the face of that behavior, you are in trouble. They didn't retreat. Kal never saw the rock that killed him, catching him right in the temple with a sickening crunch. He went down silent, lifeless and heavy. A rock, how caveman is that? My shotgun blasted two in the chest in quick succession while Reyn and Manny opened up with their pistols. It was over in less than 10 seconds and the five Younglings lay dead. It was completely pointless and irrational and that's the danger of Wildlings. We made a stretcher to carry Kal's body back on and took what of the Elk we could under the circumstances. We couldn't linger in the vicinity in case more Younglings showed up. It was a quiet, emotional trip back. Kal was a good guy and I will miss him. I remember when we first met at the Big Lake during the Pow Wow many years ago. He had just won a new in box harmonica and was proudly showing it off to the other would-be Bards. He had a wry smile and that harmonica was as much a part of him as the nose on his face. They were a pair destined to be together. The hardest part about living in this world is that anyone can be taken from you at any time and you never get used to that.

What is a Ranger?

I've decided to break up the religious talk with background on other topic areas as religious discussion in mixed company is best in small doses. So today's topic is a definition of the term "Ranger" as I and my tribe use it. A Ranger at Homestead (which is where my tribe is located) is anyone who has come of age and mastered all their basic training. Another way of putting it is everyone at Homestead is a Ranger or is in the process of becoming one. There is no opting out of this training as it teaches you what you need to survive in our world. The training is not easy either. It is not uncommon for youth in training to die because of their mistakes. Then again, its not uncommon for adults to die while out on a mission. The system is set up in a way that provides a gradual learning curve. By the time you are facing challenges that can kill you, you have had enough training. Its basic survival, combat, land navigation, horticulture, butchery, bushcraft, and anything else you need to walk out into the wilderness alone and survive indefinitely. The training reflects the world we live in, harsh and unforgiving. Why are we called Rangers? Well, there's a number of different reasons why we prefer that term. First of all there's The Book. Books are pretty rare these days. Some would say extremely rare. Before I started studying with Adrias I had seen two, if that's any indication. Back when things were going to hell, books weren't usually the thing that people grabbed as they ran for their lives. Books tended to be discarded or burned for heat. In fact, most things that didn't provide an immediate increase in your chances of survival tended to disappear. The Ranger Handbook was one that did survive. While we don't fight wars, we do have our conflicts, both between tribes and clans. We always have to be prepared and we always function as a team with a purpose. Knowing how to construct an Op Order is as important to us as knowing how to make your first bow. Supposedly, back before everything went dark, there were other types of Rangers here, at least that's how Adrias tells it. Some looked after the land and animals, making sure others didn't prey on them. Supposedly there was also a school here back then and they even called themselves the Rangers. Things are a little cloudy about this as there were a couple of schools. One was down river from Homestead and the other was over the mountain and out in the woods, the type of place only Mreens could use. I Of course, while books didn't survive in great numbers, music and the odd vid left on a data key somehow managed to hang on. If there's one thing people from the past seemed to like to keep in digital storage, its music and vids. That's why we even know who Aragorn was, and let's face it, who wouldn't like to be like him. In many ways, he is more like us than the other Rangers. We live off the land, frequently operate in small groups and fight with bows and knives when we want to keep things nice and quiet. If you gave Aragorn a nice old fashioned slug thrower, you'd be hard pressed to tell him apart from us when we are operating in lotek mode. Our hitek magic is as good as anything Gandalf had, so I guess we are just missing dwarfs, elves and orcs. The Wildings might fill in for orcs in some ways, if you squinted real hard. Then again, if you were squinting around them, you'd probably end up dead and on their dinner menu. You can't be too careful around them. It seems I have wandered a bit, but it's all good info you should know. The term Ranger fits us, for a number of reasons. It's what we call ourselves and what others call us. People know not to mess with a Ranger, because if you do, more will show up. Looking back I will have to revisit some of these topics, but that's the way of things. It will be awhile before you begin to understand my world and what it means to live in it.

Fall From Grace - Introduction

How the Old World came to an end remains a matter of some debate. As I said previously, this is the 183rd year after the end of the Dark Years. The world, as you know it, ended long before that date.  Nobody is really sure how long the dark period lasted, or how long it took to get to that point.   I don't even think 183 years ago was all that special, other than the fact that for the first time people had more than enough food to get them through the winter and they held a huge celebration once they noticed that things were slowly getting better.  Winters were getting shorter, growing seasons were longer, hunting was better and people finally had a chance to think about something more than surviving one more day. Depending on who you talk to or what god (or group of gods) you believe in, the way the world ended varies.  It all breaks down into 5 rough schools of thought.  They are called, in no particular order, the Rapture, Ragnarok, the Big War, Toxic Earth, and Moonstrike.  I'm going to give a brief description of each now and I'll go into more detail about them one by one later.  I will say up front that I'm not a particularly religious type.  That's not to say I don't believe in the gods, but I don't subscribe to any of the religions.  The reasons why we got here are less important to me than what we do moving forward.  All of the 5 share one thing, they actual events are shrouded in religion and it can be difficult to tell the truth from the belief. The Rapture: This is pretty straightforward.  The idea here is that one of the old gods came down and judged mankind.  Those that were worthy were saved, those that were unworthy were damned, and those that were neither got to try and survive the long dark. This is most popular among the Catholics and some of the other pre-Dark religions that have managed to survive. Ragnarok: Evidently the gods of ancient Earth decided to have a war and everyone was invited.  It's a good yarn about Loki, Thor, Odin, Heimdall, a serpent that wraps itself around the Earth, giants and a three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hell.  They say that Loki had a legion of demons that came down from the heavens where they lived in Asgard and started attacking the humans of earth.  The demons wielded strange energies and fought in ways that humans could not defend against.  This one has lasting power as it explains some of the odder creatures of the forest, and, of course, the demons. The Big War: This is the most believable story about the end.  Back then it wasn't about tribes and clans, but nation-states that ruled large chunks of the world and always hungered for more.  As with any finite resource, when there isn't enough to go around, then troubles arise.  Nobody really knows what caused the final battle, but the old world nations went at it using everything they had or could dream up.  They say the tech hunting Demons are a by-product of this war.  Creations designed by humans to seek out their enemies even after the creators were dead.  Now, even though the war is long over, they continue to follow their creator's orders. Toxic Earth: Supposedly humans on old Earth weren't big on living with nature and saw it as a resource for exploitation and control, rather than management and preservation.  Eventually the system became destabilized and Mother Nature struck back.  It is hotly debated whether this reaction was a natural process, or a supernatural one. If you have ever seen a toxic wasteland, you know how easy it is to believe in this one.  The thing here is that the Earth seems to be able to survive just fine, given time.  It's us poor humans who have the difficulty surviving. Moonstrike: They say that once upon a time the Earth had two moons and one fell from the sky as a fiery ball.  The resulting collision destroyed much of the world and what was left wasn't too pleasant.  This story frequently gets combined with the Rapture.  That way an angry god gets to hurl it at the Earth as a punishment for mankind's sins.  People don't seem to like to believe in random events.  It's easier to believe that some agency was at work for some hidden purpose than random chance decided today was the day you would die. I will come back and explain these in more detail when I have time.  Each has its strengths and pitfalls and the exact nature of each changes depending on the local interpretations of the stories and how strong religion has taken root in a group.  At Homestead, for instance, the religions are represented, but few people are strong believers, and even then, only the Healers are what one might call "devout."  Other places might combine two or more of these religious groupings into a single whole, or even have their own unique set of beliefs.  People were isolated from one another for so long that groups found their own paths.  Every year brings a new discovery of a tribe, enemy or trading partner and with it comes news about the outside world.  It's a world of surprises, some more deadly than others.

I'm No Time Traveller

I wanted to make it clear that I'm not doing any fancy time traveling.  I use my personal system to upload these entries to Adrias' device, which I have dubbed "The Time Bomb."  I call it that mostly because it scares the hell out of me and I'm afraid its only a matter of time before it explodes, turning me into a bright pink mist to be scrubbed off the walls by other diligent Guardians.  That's the reason this is called Final Dispatch.  I'm never sure when any given entry will be my last one.  Between unstable technology, uncertain power and an indifferent, if not hostile, world, it's hard to say how long I will be able to continue this. At any rate, nobody is traveling in time.  Adrias assures me that to do so, it would require an amount of energy that only a sun could produce.  On the other hand, getting a few bytes of data to change in a database in the past only requires a days worth of reserved wind, water and solar energy and the proper bits of old tech.  Even that I find staggering.  At Homestead this much energy would be hoarded for critical systems and the occasional Community night.  Of course, Adrias has the ability to pull a lot of energy from the water here by making use of the remnants of the old dam. It's a good thing we are buried in a mountain here as sending these messages creates a pretty big EM signature.  You don't want to be doing that unless you are properly shielded, otherwise the Demons, or worse, would pay you a visit.  That's one of the many reasons why a lot of people shun the old tech.  Wield too much of it and either it will kill you, or someone (or thing) will kill you for it.  "Finding the balance in things," as Adrias would say, "is always the key to success."

Greetings From the Future

This is largely a matter of faith. My faith that this jury-rigged creation of Adrias' will actually work and the faith of whomever reads this that the information is true and reasonably accurate. I am not sure which of us has the larger leap to make, but I don't have the liberty of choice. Adrias says this will help me with my knowledge of history, my storytelling and my "old" English. I am not sure how talking to an audience whose reaction I cannot see will help me very much, but there is usually a method to Adrias' madness.  Adrias says I should talk about my brother too, that it will be good for me to tell his tale. That will be equal parts pleasure and pain for me. I know Adrias misses him.  We all miss him, but he was as close to Adrias as a person could be, or more accurately, as close as Adrias ever allowed someone to be.  Adrias is someone else I will have to write whole entries about, just to scratch the surface of his story. What you, whomever you are, will be reading are notes about my life and the history of my world.  I suppose it's your world too, but it's not a world you would understand or recognize.  So much has happened between your time and my own.  Hell, I don't even know how much time has passed between you and I.  I'm writing this in the year 183 A.D.  Back at Homestead I learned that A.D. meant something different to people in the past.  To us, it means "after the dark," that long time when everyone and everything was killed or destroyed and the world changed for better or worse.  That's a topic for another time though as the stories about that time and what led up to it are a life's work to memorize, much less tell. My name is Ione and I'm a Ranger.  I'm not sure if that word has the same meaning for us as it does for you. I'm also a Bard.  Again, while the word is supposedly the same between our times, I think the concept has changed significantly. I will explain both of these things in future posts. The one good thing about this is I have much to share, so my problem is more one of picking what's most important, or at least interesting for you to know.  The bad thing about this is that I have to do this in addition to my chores and studies with Adrias and the others, not to mention the travelling we do. At any rate, I will do the best I can to be consistent and set a regular schedule, all things considered. I suppose I am leaving you with many unanswered questions.  Well, a good story starts with a mystery and my story begins here.