~A common sellswords idiom
A Ranger’s Tale
"Young Mistress, high tea is now ready," announces the Houseman, a greeting grimly voiced contrasting starkly against a lavish room full of paintings and leather bounded books. Through a window sill mahogany made, the vibrant sun pours its radiance onto a bed covered in silky white.
"A thousand gratitude, Twong."
A seated noble lady of different lineage notices a butterfly fluttering forward its flight following two dragonflies ahead. A middle aged maidservant is about to finish the final touches on her mistress’ loose raven curls, Alestrial Eliaden deciding otherwise.
"Mother Ross, you don't have to include the flowers."
"But Young Miss..."
"No buts," smiles the beautiful maiden, "Your knowledge on Alestrial Eliaden is nowhere inferior to the rest. After all, 'tis merely a high tea session arranged not by my own will."
The winsome Cinha beauty gives a cheeky wink as she gets up from her oaken chair, flowing locks of jet black lustre resting against her bare flawless back.
"And with Young Master Dukes, no less!" clearing his throat, Twong continues his curt statement, "Surely that brash litt..."
"Please stop complaining, Twong," sighs Alestrial, soft eyes of darkest brown flashing before Twong a hidden steel tempered true, "I know you are distressed by gossips abound, but Guy Cody is my bond.”
“He has pledged himself under me in the name of honour and I have given him my promise via merit. It is that simple, do you still understand me not?"
Upon proclamation heard, the elderly Houseman can only eat his own dish of crow. Forty years of servitude and here is. A social anomaly never before seen, a daughter of noble upbringing associating herself with a smallborne boy. His mistress sneered in secret behind her back, Twong is nevertheless sharp enough to detect delighted troublemakers exchanging malicious japes. If not for Yeovil imposing thinly veiled threats with rapier half exposed, things would have gotten out of hand.
Hate to say this, Yeovil, but you’re one hell of a good scoundrel.
The adopted daughter of House Eliaden is never an individual far removed from the First House Patriarch himself. The Kalarans lauded Erasmus Eliaden as the greatest thinker of all times, a philosopher advocating perfect balance between idealism and realism. As for his beloved Young Mistress, she has always been like a gentle sword most regal, a blade which somehow got unsheathed by someone most unexpected.
As Alestrial looks out into the clear blue sky, her thoughts reaches out to another person nobody else has known.
Will we meet again, True Apostle?
“So where will mortality take itself? What is the manner of debt demanded from things doomed to pass?”
Before that visage fairer than all, the silent Lord of Lancers stares blankly at the First True Apostle’s back. Locks of wintry snow teased by gentle breeze, petals of white invade the azure sky. Avalon is indeed a sight to behold, this ethereal kingdom verily every creation’s final destination. From Yggdrasil hails chaos and life, Avalon conceives order and the truth behind eternity.
“Which is the head, wherein lies the tail? Who are we to assume the first and last?”
Diverting his gaze away from the Azure Moon never-fading, Aor offers a quaint smile towards his counterpart. Ziron is no fool. Once a mortal, forever one. What does the future hold for those like him, he wonders. Unlike the Tree, the Lake is governed by an absolute law.
The Last Law.
As the phrase echoes in Aor’s head, his curved Elven blade sheathed rattles by itself slightly. Standing up, he glides past Ziron as words neither a parting taunt nor intended barb resonate throughout the entire realm.
"Come then, boy. Show me the path our Kind should have taken. Perhaps dreams of what-if will bring about rewards never begged for."
“I may have done in some children because I can’t be fucking bothered with checking my potions. But hey, I already paid penance by pledging my remaining life as a Parish! If others have a problem with their kids buried six feet below, let them fuck each other like rabbits again so that more kids will come!”
Those were the words arousing the killer in the last True Apostle, drunken or not. Aeranath would rather turn the Answerer against himself than to call himself a good man. There’s no rationale justifying his murderous whims, he’s not about to hide himself behind the wall of righteousness and hypocrisy. A hunter will not rest till his quarry lies dead before him, the cause of death decided by the predator and not the prey. If good people are good at walking down the street with nary a fear, then insidious men are capable of hiding behind shadows.
“I am a Parish! You can’t kill me! I’m a good man! I repented a long time ago and…”
"Show me a sinless man and I will gift you a stainless blade."
Such is Aeranath’s answer issued forth, his sword stained blood.
The Ranger has claimed another victim's head, his impunity this time round displayed within confines of a chapel's walls.
The last True Apostle is never an idiot. No one is guilty of seeing him as wholly sane, yet the Ranger is more righteous than the rest. Unto all who fear and judge, they are doomed for condemnation. Not by the hands of others, but words of their own. No one can ever understand Chaos like Chaos Incarnate himself, for a wolf knows best the sinful man.
A casual punt granted, the sound of severed skull ricocheting is nothing less than music to the Ranger’s ears. Then comes a scream of hysteria and a quavering little boy reduced on his knees. His grin melting away, Aeranath strides towards the bot who is now crying and begging for mercy.
One step… two steps… then come the third. With deft flick of his hand, Aeranath ignites the building. But not before allowing the frightened boy to escape unscathed.
Dusk has arrived, the sky coloured red. Beneath oaken pillars strong and proud, foxes and bears prowl alike. Underneath the setting sun, a skein of geese sound their call. Ravens caw, a wolf is heard howling afar. Day is nearing an end, verily soon night shall bring forth its own hunting host. A female grizzly approaches a man strong in shoulders and girth, excited cubs indulging in a game of romp around him. Uttering a guttural growl, her brood cease their play. Following their mother’s lead, the cubs obediently follow her back home.
“Hail, Erik Bearfriend.”
The Lord of Berserkers gives no acknowledgement, for his comrade needs nothing of that. How many years have passed since the Age of Renown, Erik cares not. Out of the Peerless Four, only he is left. The Lord of Fencers has passed away, the same goes for the Lord of Archers. As for the Lord of Lancers, however…
“All hail Ziron Deadman.”
“That’s some unpleasant title, comrade Erik.”
Sitting down next to his hulking friend, Ziron cast a sideward glance. Nothing has changed for the sole survivor of the Peerless Four, be it his looks or orbs of amber. Curly black hair cropped accompanied by stubble, the only unique thing about Erik’s rugged look is the wear and tear conferred by the wheel of time itself.
“Don’t you find it mocking, Ziron? Even the most savage of beasts have their den, but what about us?”
Knowing what Erik is hinting at, Ziron can only look upwards towards the sky. It is indeed a beautiful sight with birds flying west. As a falcon manage to catch its quarry in mid-flight, Erik offers Ziron a bottle of wine.
“Did you drink it from the bottle?”
“Why, yes. Does that make us gay if we happen to share a bottle? I’ve seen siblings done that before, so we can’t obviously accuse people of permitting incest, no?”
“Son of a bitch,” chortles Ziron as he takes a swig, after which he spits out the contents in disgust.
“Why, Ziron? Too sweet for you?” smirks the rugged woodsman.
“Erik, you bloody bastard,” laughs the Lord of Lancers despite his prior reaction, “You know I like my drink to be dry.”
“My bad then,” shrugs Erik, his towering frame stretching itself as he stand up tall, “I enjoy me wine to be a bit sweeter.”
“Much sweeter,” corrects Ziron, a thumb stroking his goatee thoughtfully.
“You still remember Jin’s final moments? That very battle which drew the Age of Renown to an eternal close? He’s not one of us, but he surely fought better than all four of us combined.”
“Never a hero, never will be…” muses Erik as painful memories start taunting him like a sadistic victor before the vanquished, “Do you think Aeranath deserves to be a hero should life deal him a different hand?”
“I’m just mentioning a past unrelated to that boy, but it seems I’ve chosen the wrong time to bring it up.”
“Wrong type of past as well, arsehole with a goatee.”
In spite of the words used, Ziron can see from three miles off that Erik has never harboured any bitterness. And it merely makes the Lord of Lancers feeling worse, for it was his belief that Aeranath would do far better in following Erik. A pause then start permeating the atmosphere between two brothers in arms, the Lord of Berserkers folding his arms across the chest.
“You don’t believe me? That I’ve fucked at least five sluts in the past three days?”
“C’mon, yer a fib! Yer daddy and mummy are so bloody rich. Why’d they allow you to force fuck them if you can bribe them?”
“Because there are two different types of sluts. The willing ones and those who fake themselves.”
Erik only remembers too well that very event in the tavern. He also recalls equally well the unbridled fury boiling in him. He could have easily lopped off a scoundrel’s head with his trusted woodsman axe, yet someone he’s too familiar with got himself one step ahead.
“Shit! Head’s gone! Someone fucking murdered him!”
It wasn’t that unnamed arsehole’s friend who sounded the alarm, but rather the nearest serving wench blessed a sweet look belying a vulgar tongue. Surely that kind of girl Aeranath would enjoy shagging, notes a sardonic Erik. As it turned out…
“What have you done, Aeranath? Warping behind that fucker and taking off his head?”
“You forgot to mention that I warped away immediately after doing so. And besides, you’ve verified him as a fucker, no?”
“You’ll put yourself into trouble!”
“Me? Why always me? Why not us instead?”
“A boy does not simply cut off a man’s head with a sword, let alone wielding the Answerer.”
That was countless years back, this was a time where Erik still held out hope that whatever being taught could have a positive effect on the last True Apostle. They say a boy will always become a man after his own heart. If so, what manner of heart was Aeranath’s all the while? A hardened heart or a bleeding one? Mayhap both added together, who knows?
“I saw that exchange between you and Aeranath.”
Shocking him back to his senses, Erik narrows his eyes towards a wistful Ziron.
“You linked your conscience with some bloody animal, am I right?”
“What if my answer is yes?”
“YOU FUCKING IDIOT!”
If Ziron is truly made of flesh, blood, and bones, Erik’s fist would have connected cleanly. Alas for the truth otherwise, Erik growling like a bear robbed of its kill.
“I know the nature of my existence better than you, O’ Lord of Berserkers.”
“Does that mean the great and might Lord of Lancers should abuse whatever left of him in any way? I may not know the whole picture, but at least I understand what it takes to have you evaporated! Do you know the danger behind your action?”
“I’m sorry, Erik,” smiles an apologetic Ziron, knowledge of what Erik said only forcing forth an iron mask forged from bravado, “It seems that my presence have opened up wounds more grievous than a mere gash across the arm. Farewell.”
A familiar figure turning incorporeal and vanishing altogether, Erik can only vent his frustration with a roar brimming with helpless rage.
The woods betrays an eerie feel, bestial growls uttering behind the shadows of death. All have warned Cari not to venture alone into the woods, for hungry beasts are always out to hunt a morsel or two. Yet how can she look on as her only kin wastes away like a withering tree? The only good thing she’s had was a fiancé, but even he was brutally taken away when the War of Mourners’ Ford erupted. Then her life ends abruptly before beings fouler than mere animals hungry for living flesh.
Let the hunt begin, such are the words bringing euphoria within the Ranger’s soul. There is no logic behind his decision, only a desire to feel alive rather than merely surviving.
“Only animals are content with survival, not those blessed with emotions and so much more.”
Ziron’s advice spurring him on, Aeranath at least isn’t pig-headed enough to deny credit whenever due. He recounts his first kill, that moron was no different from the beings he’s now hunting. How many animals created from elements alone have he slain?
Ten? Hundred? Thousand? Bah, it doesn’t matter how many they are.
Losing count of time and the number of kills, Aeranath at last senses the last batch of elemental scum closing in. Unearthly shrieks failing to unnerve him, a deft stroke slices apart a serpent made of water.
A wolf of solid ice greets him next, the Ranger warping himself unto several positions. Seven steps in all, seven wolves vanquished and dissipating in furious howls. Aeranath has expected more, Aeranath in the end is not impressed.
An ape of fire leapt at him, Aeranath realises too late the attack. For the animal has done so behind the cover of the trees, the last True Apostle on the other hand getting himself consumed by a hunter’s throes. Hungry roaring hailing from a pride of lions raised from the earth, the wolf in Aeranath merely mocks them all.
A lightning bolt begins its descent, the Ranger himself being marked for collateral causality. Whatever created by the mind will always be materialised, nature itself the only limit. Such is the true face of Magic.
The bluish arrow consumes both the ape and lions, the latter utterly shattered to pieces. The primate, however, remains alive.
“A pierce from the Answerer and ‘tis forever goodbye.”
Fragrarach crackles in delight, tendrils of purple energy detonating Aeranath’s prey from its insides.
Then his movement pauses, the momentum halted. The True Apostles are specialists in hunting Demons of all extent, their keen senses of otherworldly nature earning them the self-title called Hounds of Arashynn. The Ranger might be a bastard born, but he’s no mongrel when it comes to understanding the Seed of Yggdrasil.
“No identity, no unique individuality,” snarls the Ranger, the damning scene taunting him like a nightmare undefeatable.
“This girl… her lips, cunt, and arse… you still remember that Tamurian whore without a name…”
“You’re fucking begging for a horrible death,” retorts Aeranath, his every single word laced with pulsating wrath, “That is if you can truly reach Avalon in the first place.”
With a hiss capable of deafening even the hard in hearing, the serpent of steel bolts towards its insolent enemy. Yet, the Ranger chooses to take the hit cleanly across the shoulder. Stepping past the final enemy, Aeranath merely raises a middle finger with back facing that thrice damned worm.
“Poor little girl. You may have been raped like a whore, but I will grant you a death deserving of a lady.”
With a sigh from the wielder, Fragarach claims its first non-Demonic kill of the day. Then with a shrug, Aeranath starts mocking the snake even though there is no mirth evident.
“What’s wrong? Not willing to stab me from behind?”
Hissing in anger, the serpent lashes out. It is said that any Aesir may have a hard time fighting a Demon of higher level, but no self-respecting Hound belonging to Arashynn would ever subject himself into such circumstances. And Aeranath is the son of Rowein, the most feared Hound ever conceived by Avalon.
The serpent is indeed a cut above its cohorts, blurring slashes in courtesy of a razor tipped tail opening wounds faster than wild feline’s claws. The last True Apostle shouldn’t have been so weak, yet Aeranath knows the reason why.
Fuck Corruption Impulse, fuck that arsehole saying I’m the only one immune to this stinking pile of shit.
Ironically, the unnamed individual remains only half correct. There is a reason behind Aeranath’s power below even the most mediocre of his kind. And the Corruption Impulse isn’t that.
Fool… idiot… retarded mutt… a curse to every maiden professing her love for you… die… die… die…
Aeranath’s heart then remains still, his soul railing against death.
Not today, not tomorrow, not until I reach my final destination.
The Ranger becomes a witness to his own past. Not of that unnamed Tamurian maiden so brutally raped and killed, but that only lass able to conquer him. She has nothing of note apart from beauty complete with a flair for song and dance. No little girl should ever boast of taming a wolf, yet Kagetsu no Hyo’Ah defied such a thought with gentle ease. Then comes the most damning moment of his life, that very point of time where the lone wolf becomes forever alone.
Blood… her blood on my hands… her blood staining Fragarach… a lie… you fucking liar… you promised me! FUCK YOU, LARS ALTERFATE!
His mind can only recall a tune, a song Hyo’Ah always enjoyed singing. She sang it with joy and a longing heart, Aeranath sings it with the blackest hate directed against some unknown entity he knows nothing about.
The steel serpent receives a violent slash across the jaw, the Answerer’s blade humming in silent rage. As a being bereft of emotions defining the best and worst of mortals, it nevertheless feels fear tingling down the spine. Every lashing of the tail can only hit open air, its fangs missing the target by more than mere inches.
The battle is now clear for both combatants, for one is only a beast beneath even an animal whilst the other has now assumed the role of a violent dancer. Amidst the trance, Aeranath can still discern his movement and his enemy’s futile resistance.
Standing firm on his right foot, the Ranger executes pirouette after pirouette. This is no lady’s dance, but a swordsman’s waltz. Stride after stride, step after step. Slash after slash, thrust after thrust. The serpent is now brutally pierced in numerous places, vicious wounds in courtesy of cutting rage marking its inevitable downfall.
His laughter echoes throughout the starless sky, repeated curses wishing death tearing through the silent night. Then the song stops its tune, Aeranath at last starting to breathe normally. Gone is the adrenaline, for his hated adversary is dead. Shards of metal melting away, vapour of grey accompanying the word demise. Casting one last glance to the dead girl doomed to feed the birds, Aeranath turns his back without looking back.
“Wow! Is that Magic?”
“Fuck off, boy.”
“Erm… what’s a fuck off, kind sir?”
“You dumb fuck, what makes you think I am a kind person?”
“What’s a dumb fuck?”
“Alright, never mind the questions and answers. Just tell me your name, so I know who exactly to leave alone.”
“Cody. The name’s Guy Cody!”