I was asked once to create a back story for a friend's ranger. She liked depth and asked me to write one with real character, but vague enough to insert her own self on top of that. I thought it was a good enough story to share.
It has been several days since my Brothers and I have arrived at the Paladin’s makeshift fort. They have erected a few tents at the edge of this wilderness. Under the command of the King, we are to assist our holy warriors in purging the forests from its evils. While my Brothers and I will not be doing any culling ourselves, we will be healing the warriors should they become injured.
First-Arms Ryhon greeted us curtly upon our first meet. He and his men keep a distance from us and instead focused on their duty. They are strong men, built for honor and courage, sword and steel, and their minds are driven and focused. My brothers and I are more in lines with peace and pacifism, and physiques to match. While not a weak lot, our clerical prowess more than defines our usefulness.
I admit I know not what lies in wait in the vastness of the forest line. I only know what it produces. Armsmen return after days on patrol with bites, venom marks, and severe gashes. They rely on us to save them, in life or death. While they are close to God, we are closer and more prepared. What an odd symbiotic union we make, so far from the kingdom and its people; to strike out against God’s creatures to save our own lives, in the name of God.
I have come to realize that there are rotating patrols of Armsmen and that a total of 8 paladins there are. We Brothers, five in whole, are more than enough. It will be two or three days of rest and domestic work while we wait for the injured to return. When they do return, they are bloodied and wounded. Some refuse to rest, God Bless the Paladin, and report back to patrol as soon as possible. They are driven by something I simply cannot comprehend. Bless them, nonetheless.
During our downtime, we rest, pray and clean. We talk about our lives before the order or our time at the temple. We do what we can to occupy our time.
It can be boring and lonely.
We were attacked in the night by some beast. Thankfully, there was an Armsman, Jankor, I believe, to defend the camp. I caught not what it was, as it fled by the fierceness of the Armsman’s steel. He took another wound has he called himself to battle before armoring himself. We had to re-stitch the stomach.
The paladins agreed that one Armsman would always stand watch in camp while the patrols took place. They are eerie by their lonesome selves. They are ever valiant statues of stone. I swear upon holy word that Armsman Luca took his watch on the high mound watching over the camp, and he moved not for two days.
Therefore, there is always one holy gargoyle keeping watch, interested in nothing we do or say, or even our pleasant company.
Pleasant surprises. The merchant came around today as he always does upon each fortnight. We received our supplies, medical bandages, and foodstuffs. With the merchant was Brother Tobas’s sister. It was a short and brief union. Her travels had led her here, so far away from any home. The family land was lost, and she had nowhere else to go.
This was no place for a maiden, of any background. She knew well of our orders strictness of the fair sex, but she pleaded not to be sent back. She wanted to be here, far away from any home, any people, and any lords.
We accepted her and jokingly dubbed her Sister.
We had not known how much we needed Sister. There is a love in her that we Brothers, or Armsmen, could not have known. She is quiet but cheerful. Each morning, she joins us in prayer and in work. She tends the garden, mends our robes, and cooks. I have had her stew last night, and by the holy word, I have never had one better. Her love went into it and enriched it; much like many of us.
There was compassion to her that none of us knew how to clone properly. Perhaps it was because she was the fair sex. Perhaps she was covering her past experiences with a smile; a genuine, heartfelt (but scared) smile. Whatever happened to her down the road of life before she came to this remote post is shrouded in mystery.
She encourages us to smile. She hums hymns. She dances as she moves. She gives praise. She tells us to mind our manners and keeps our spirits up. Sometimes, I find it exhausting to keep up with her enthusiasm.
And so does she. When she is alone at night, she finds little sleep. I have seen her sit up at night, staring at the stars. I know not what she thinks of, only that it is not here with us.
The Brothers and I were cautious about the Armsmen, with us having a female present at the camp. While warriors of light and Armsmen of the King, they are men, and thus boarish to the end. For the most part, they have kept their usual distance. No advances, even by lingering looks, have been made.
Sister tries her best with everyone, including the Armsmen. Tho insultingly mistaken, she often calls the Armsmen brothers as well. After we attempted to correct her, she revised their title to Big Brothers, instead. Because it came from her, all have forgiven Sister.
A bit of sadness today. Armsmen Kor’lin had passed from his post. He was dragged into camp, gored from groin to the rib. The beast shredded asunder the paladin’s armor and impaled shards of that steel into the body. As a true champion he held out as long as he could, but to no avail, for he was beyond our saving.
Sister sat with him during his last moments. She sang to him an old hymn, a child’s song really. It was sweeter than any wine. All of us paused in our duties to be an audience in Kor’lin’s passing moments. After he cried, he passed. There was not a dry eye in that tent, except one. As stoic as the paladins were, they openly wept for their big brother, but Sister, while deeply saddened by the loss, smiled as best she could. She wanted her warm smile and golden voice to be the last memories of this just man.
Sister remained with him even after our rites had finished.
Individually, each of the Armsmen thanked her in private for her highest honor. She would smile back and thank them for their bravery.
Sister had finally broken the wall that the paladins have socially put up between themselves and the rest of the world. She had become expediently adept at her duties that lapses of downtime allowed her to talk with the Armsmen more often. Admittedly, I was jealous of her fawning over them.
Sister was well into womanhood, and none of us forgot that. At times, her title of Sister and our constant title of Brother keep our minds in check. There was love for her; a love that none of us would forsake our oaths partake in, but to not acknowledge it would be equally foolish.
Her love, in hindsight, was not for the flesh, but for knowledge. She wanted to know more about God, so our earlier days were far more interesting to us and her. When she learned all she could of religion, she turned to medicine.
Nowadays her love has turned to weaponry and hunting. Brother Tobas confided in me that in her youth, their father would often take them hunting for light game. Sister, I supposed, wanted a bit more meat for the Brothers, big and small.
The Brothers and I have grown concerned for Sister. No longer satisfied with hunting small game in the surrounding hills, she has begun hunting at the forest perimeter. Granted, an Armsmen would accompany her, but reckless the whole idea still seems.
Furthermore, the Big Brothers have begun to spar with Sister. We understand that each person, under the grace of God, has a path they must follow. It is not our lot to interfere with another’s path, no matter where it may take them. We are here to assists God’s Will alone. But we Brothers gave pause to consider if Sister is upon the right path.
We have confronted her that perhaps her path is not amongst the Armsmen. (They do not accept the fair sex into service, anyways!) After several days of this, Sister has begun communicating with us less. She has taken up the sword and shield and left her bread and needle behind.
The other day, I awoke and saw that Sister was no longer with us. I received devastating word that she has gone on patrol with the Armsmen. Her curiosity about the natural world has succumbed her to the point that knowledge demanded a first-hand experience. The day was silent as we awaited her return. The quiet concern dulled our meals and conversations. Our prayers were longer and sullen.
We slept that night restless embrace, in deeper prayer for Sister and her immediate return.
I cried. I feared the worst, we all did. The patrol returned today. Two of the Armsmen needed slight attention, but it was Sister that caught our eyes. She walked into camp covered head to toe with dried blood! We would never have guessed that the blood was not hers.
She had no armor beyond a shield and a smile. And smile she did when they returned. She had made her first kill in the honor and glory of God. Upon our aggressive inquiries, we came to know that her talents saved the lives of three Armsmen and that she handled herself more so than a man.
I do not truly know how to handle this news. I tremble as I log this event, for I fear that I am losing her to her path, God willing.
Sister’s absence has come to pass more often now. She has long since replaced her summer dress that we’ve come accustomed to with barbaric hide armor. As the Autumn months approach and fade, she longed for warmer attire, but also protection. There is not enough materials or smithy knowledge to fashion Sister her own armor.
Gone too is her smile. Sister has adopted the stoic expression of her fellow Big Brothers. We Brothers don’t smile much anymore. We have lost our Sister to her path. Shame that.
The Armsmen have lost one of their own today in the wilds. With mixed blessings, it was not Sister, but First-Arms Ryhon. There was no body to bring back.
Oddly, Sister acquired a new companion; a wolf pup to be exact. The pup created curiosity in the camp has Sister took to the time to rear it. Sister’s transformation continued as she now began to craft her own bow and collect a personal set of herbs for healing.
Armsman Yardley confided in me today. Sister fell an animal with expert ease; a beast that would have torn through the ranks of our holy warriors effortlessly. He told me that she cried has she slit its throat and she prayed for it. Additionally, she would strike out on her own at night while the men settled camp. That is when the pup came to be.
I now see her, wolf pup by her side, sitting upon the high mound at night. Still looking to the stars and thoughts far from us.
I wonder what she thinks up when she looks up to the infinite glory that is God above, or if she really sees Him at all.
A messenger came today. The King has seen fit to recall us for the winter. We brothers, big and small, are a bit reluctant to heed the call. Sister has taken leave to patrol by herself. There was no question to her safety now, for she could out master the wilds better than any of us. But it would be against our God’s greater judgment to leave her behind.
However, God’s will is the King’s Judgement, and we must obey. We drew lots, for one of us would remain behind to take Sister home. As it were, I had the luck of God shine upon me.
And now I wait as the others retreated back to civility.
Sister returned nearly two weeks after the messenger. She was a wild thing now, one with the woods. I felt I lost her to God’s wooden world. But that was her path.
I told her that it was time to return. She refused. She refused even after I told her that it was God’s command. She smiled back at me, a smile long lost, or so I thought. It was a smile that was genuine and calming. My God’s Will commanded me to return with her, and her smile commanded me to forget my oath to Him.
She could not go back. She did not say this, but her actions already told me she was home. Sister turned from me and retreated into the woods, pup at her side.
I stood mouth agape in the cold wind. I could not do it. I could not lose her.
I ran after her into those forbidden trees, leaving all reason and safety behind. I called for her by her true name, but she never returned. The forest, the beasts, the brush– the world; it all swallowed her up, soul and all. It blanketed her and protected her.
It punished me for the pursuit. The wood cut and skewered my skin in several places. The cold and harshness of its world repelled me. It is as if God Himself punished me for my actions.
Sister has gone where I cannot. Sister is gone. She found her path.
She is gone.
And that is how Sister became a Ranger.