A Ranger Reborn: shadow in the Wilds
Well here we are, it's been nearly five summers since the Wilds took me in. And I must say I've... One second.
As he released the string on his war-bow a brilliant rune-encrusted arrow became a blur of searing flame before piercing the torso of an unsuspecting buck.
Where was I? Ah yes five summers... Well I've made some changes I have immersed myself in this lifestyle of give and take as is the balance of life here in the wilds.
I made my was down the ridge and into a clearing to collect the prize I had borrowed from the land. Upon reaching the lifeless creature I noticed his arrow had pierced the body of the creature penetrating it and striking a tree several yards away. I chuckled and moved to the tree and with surgical like care plucked the arrow from the trunk of the tree. A drop of sap ran from the puncture. I quickly caught the bead with my finger and slid it back up to the puncture then covering it with my hand and kneeling in silent prayer. When I finished and removed my hand the puncture was dry and nothing was left to tell of the puncture aside from a missed chip of bark.
I arose to my feet and moved back to collect my prey. With ease I boar the creature upon my shoulder and without sound moved back into the wilds. It was as if my feet moved above the leaf and twig littered floor of the wilds with each step nothing but silence. Here and there I stopped to forage vegetation and berries from within the wilds ever-so careful not to damage the body of these life bearing beings.
The sun, on occasion, sparked a bit light through the tree tops and created a bounty of golden light that shown like gems upon the floor of the wilds. Moments like this my mind would wander, the light reminded me of the glow of that sword used by that Paladin from Waterdeep. I would dwell in thought about my mother whom I lost what seemed like a lifetime ago. But I have also come to peace with the loss.
I thought back to the day I finished her memorial in the wilds, a tribute of thanks, if you will.
Me: ahh, mother. I wish you could be here. There is beauty here that is beyond comparison. There is no bias, no malice no judgment there is just the wilds a living breathing world that respects when respected. It nurtures those who give thanks for its gifts.
Voice: grey this is special day for you.
Me: how so?
Voice: on this day you have accepted the wilds as your family and in your pursuits to become one with the wilds you have earned the respect and love from the wilds. As long as you maintain the give and take midst the wilds they shall protect you as we have and forever will.
I smiled looking up at her.
Me: thank you Earthmother.
Earthmother: thank me not for your deeds have made you the man you are. And as such id like to give you a gift, a artifact long guarded by the wilds, seized ages ago from the Plane of Fire.
The Earthmother laid her hands flat as a bow appeared in her possession as if out of thin air.
As I examined this bow it was easy to see that this was no ordinary bow. The length of the bow was covered in runes and symbols depicting battle. The frame of the bow is a wood not of this plane. The runes along the bow seemed to fade in and out in a dark violet color. The string of this odd bow was not tied to the limbs but rather grasped the recurve. I reached out and with a pluck of the string I released the string immediately as flames danced from my touch to the recurve and back to the serving area in an almost breath-taking dance.
The Earthmother smiled at me before explaining,
Earthmother: it is ok, the flames are cool to the touch. But let loose an arrow from this bow and it will be encased in a burning fire like that of an erupting volcano.
Me: you would give this to me?
Earthmother: it belongs to you. The wilds have chosen you as the guardian of this artifact.
Me: i, I dont know what to say. Thank you Earthmother for this gift and so much more. I can never repay the kindness you and the others have shown me.
Earthmother: that is the way of the wilds grey... There is no debt only balance.
I arrived back at our camp where Skyfyre greeted me with a approving smile.
Skyfyre: i see your walk was fruitful?
Skyfyre: and the crickets? Did you bring some crickets?
Skyfyre said breaking her sealed smile with a slight chuckle.
Me: sigh.... No crickets Sky... Yuck..
As the night went on Me and Skyfyre sat around the fire talking and feasting with the others. I'd come to know most everyone quite well.
Avyrel was an old elven ranger who spent his days tending to a small garden and sleeping. Well mostly sleeping. But when he fired his bow, even at several hundred years old, he did not miss. I heard tales of his youth where he slain a dragon near the fields of the dead with nothing more than a bow and arrows from such a distance that the dragon had no chance to retort
And Merriak a human druid whom tended the land of our camp and handled any neccesary healing. Merriak was rather amazing with his gifts, able to mend flesh and bone with just his hands. He taught me a bit, well enough to take care of myself, but his understanding of nature went beyond the wilds. I once saw Merriak create a rainstorm from a cloudless night to nurture the wilds after a dry spell.
Elric was a human ranger from the rangers guild outside of Waterdeep. His memorial lies near that of my mother. He died of a mysterious illness that Merriak never even saw coming. He was strong, a natural leader and Skyfyres' partner. He was my friend. It was he whom taught me to shoot. I think about him often. In his final days he gave me his boots and told me to always tread as he would. The boots were beautiful, made from some other-worldly black metal. All along the boots were runes and symbols carved directly into the metal with ceaseless perfection. The carvings glow quite brightly but the light shown is only seen by the wearer.
Then there was Nlorin... This elf was something else. He didn't really stay in the wild with us but rather appeared and disappeared just as quickly. Bringing us exotic goods from distant places along with stories to boot. He however was a joker. At any expense to get a smile or laugh he would go. Granted he was funny and a lot of fun to have around, but really more as a visitor than a permanent resident. We suspected on many occasions that some of the items he had “acquired” weren't exactly acquired in any manner we wanted to know about.
There were a few others but they kept to themselves and as is the balance in the wilds I did the same.
The next morning Skyfyre woke me up before the sun broke dawn.
Skyfyre: hey, get up we got noise.
Me: ok, im up, im up, yeah gimme just a second.
I scrambled out of bed and in a mad dash grabbed my gear and made my way outside. Skyfyre was waiting for me outside.
Me: ok whats going on?
Skyfyre: to the south scouts report activity near trollbark.
Me: lets go!
We set off into the still lingering darkness of the wilds headed south. While making our way through the wilds we noticed an eerie silence. Even the wind seemed hushed. We kept moving but cautioned out pace. Looking out into the darkness I could see shapes of small creatures moving towards us but not aggressively but rather in panic. Skyfyre looked at me and nodded, she saw it too. We both drew our bows and paced our movement to a silent crawl. We noticed a glow from the south Skyfyre motioned to me to break off and find a vantage point above. So I did. I moved south west deeper into the wilds towards a steep ridge.
When I arrived at the edge of the ridge i was looking down on an elite pack of trolls bearing the markings of Ghore. My heart raced. My memories invaded my mind and that night was as clear as it is now. Sifting through ashes searching for my mother just down the ridge from where I sit now. Past and present became one. I reached down to my side to check that I still had my mothers sack attached to my belt. I did and a calm washed over me as I regained my senses. I decided that a ridge wouldn't do. I looked about for a large bushy treetop overlooking the ridge and found it. I climbed the tree deep into the cover of its branches.
I could see clearly that there were dozens, to many to count in such a short time. This was some form of ritual. They were dancing about in a seemingly tribal manner all in worship of one troll. The troll of focus was holding up a staff and swaying back and forth and in front of this troll was a globe of some kind of light.
I began scanning the area looking for Skyfyre, I saw nothing. So, impatiently, I watched these creatures drawing my bow and seating an arrow into the sending. My draw hand touching only the nock of the arrow I took aim at the guest of honor. Still waiting I saw no sign of Skyfyre.
I glanced at my arm holding the bow firm and for some reason was reminded of the first time I'd fired a bow and the burn of the string dragging down my arm as I misfired. It seemed so long ago but I can remember that pain like it was happening right now.
My attention snapped back when I saw a large shape holding a smaller shape. It was moving towards the trolls.... No.. It couldn't possibly be... It was. This bastard troll had Skyfyre by the neck and was carrying her into the troll camp. My heart began to race, what do I do? Without much thought took aim and fired upon the bastard. One shot burning like a falling star ripped through the head of this troll. As it slumped to the ground Skyfyre fell with it.
Something must have drawn the attention of the trolls. I heard nothing, but clearly they did. They turned and began to move directly towards Skyfyre and their dead kin as if the sun were guiding them.
Me: shit... they see in the dark.
As fast as I could I strapped 4 arrows at a time into the sending and drew back and let the stars fall upon them. Four shots three dropped, reload, again four shots four drops, again four shots four drops...
This continued for a few minutes keeping these beasts at bay, but Skyfyre didn't move. Worry started to wash over me, four shots two drops, four shots one drop, focus I thought. But there were just to many several had made it to Skyfyre and with my position clearly given I had little time to act. As I looked on I loaded four more shots into the sending and in that moment time froze to a crawl.
One of the trolls overlooking Skyfyre drew back and then plunged a long, what appeared to be, spear through Skyfyre and into the ground. Everything stopped. It was as if gods of time had frozen this world in this moment and all I could do was look on. I felt something I hadn't felt in years. The very same feeling I felt when I knew my mother was gone. Fear, sadness, panic and loneliness. These were all just glints in a moment that were replaced by rage as time released its grip on me. I let loose a roar into the dawn that was clearly a gift from my father. In an instant an eruption of arrows burned down upon those bastards. I don't know how many I killed but I knew I was going to kill one more.
I drew back four arrows into the sending and with time frozen I released a breath and took aim as I let loose four hellish flames and in an instant time resumed and the staff was dropped and like that the light vanished and their precious ritual was ended as that foul creature and its staff dropped to the ground, its body collapsed into a heap. In that moment I took a form of joy from what I just done. It was like resolution filled my heart for my mother and now for Skyfyre.
It was short lived. I knew now I had to get the hells out of there because if they can see in the dark my options for disappearing were greatly decreased even in the wilds. It stung like hell leaving Skyfyre behind but I kept thinking about what she and the Earthmother taught me about give and take. Skyfyre will return to the earth and will again be reborn.
Once I made my way back to the borders of the wild I rustled up fresh leaves and littered them with a sprinkling of water from my flagon creating a layer of preserved leaves covered in morning dew. With my movement untraceable I took to the trees letting them guide me home.
Once I returned to the heart of the wilds I took me no time to notice I was alone. There was no one left?
Me: hello? ... anybody? ... what the hells? where did everyone go?
A blinding light appeared before me I couldn't see anything. I raised my arm to try and block the light to see beyond it. It began to fade slowly. When I could make out the figure I immediately knew who it was.
Me: Earthmother, where is everyone? What has happened here?
Earthmother: dear child. Their spirits have left this place and returned to the wilds. You slain a trollop this home is no longer safe for you.
Me: spirits? Skyfyre is dead. The trolls killed her.
As the words left my lips sadness washed over me and I fell to my knees. A tear rolled down my cheek and feel to the floor for the wilds. The Earthmother pointed at the ground where my tear had touched earth and said,
Earthmother: look child.
As I opened my eyes a tree began to sprout from that very spot! I was overcome with tears as I remembered what Skyfyre had told me “hatred will keep you from becoming who you were meant to be.” I looked up at the Earthmother and said,
Me: everything has a purpose in the wilds, its a living being of give and take and in the end everything returns to the wilds.
The Earthmother smiled and nodded.
Earthmother: indeed child. We have given you all the guidance we had to share your time here comes to an end. I have called the other spirits back into the wilds where they can be born again.
Me: And Skyfyre?
Earthmother: most certainly! She will forever look over you... My dear Krysel Skyfyre... She loved nothing more than Elric and then the land he became part of. And now she returns to him. Do not be sad for it is a thing to rejoice for.
Me: what must I do now if my time is at an end?
Earthmother: this world is a very large place and the wilds cover most of it. I will always watch over you and the wilds will protect you as long as you protect them.
Me: where do i go?
Earthmother: i heard tales of a place to the far north past the evermoors and even mithril hall, a kingdom of orcs unlike anywhere else before it. A civilized place where you would receive a warm welcome.
My mind leaned towards anger for a moment... But Skyfyre entered my thoughts...
Me: ok, I will try Earthmother.
Earthmother: one last thing before you go... a gift.
The Earthmother smiled as she collapsed her hands together and then drew them apart. As she did an object faded into existence. It looked to be a quiver.
Me: it is beautiful Earthmother!
I said as I knelt down to pick it up the Earthmother explained,
Earthmother: this quiver is the last artifact kept hidden in these wilds. I give it to you. It is made from dragon-hide and has been hidden here for ages.
It truly was a sight to behold the craftsmanship of this quiver was exquisite, it is covered in ancient runes and the strap is studded with what appear to be dragon teeth. I slipped it over my head and rest it against my back.
Earthmother: no matter how many arrows you release they will find their way back to this quiver.
Me: thank you again Earthmother I will never forget the kindness I was show here.
Earthmother: this is where we part ways dear child. Bear upon you our mark and no longer be known as grey but as my dear child Xyrik, shadow in the wilds!
In Loving memory of Elric a.k.a. Eric - A Sojourner lost in 2015
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