[Yes, I’m reviving this. And I’ll probably not even get the 3rd chapter done before I quit again. But oh well, I just fail that way.]
[This chapter, now that I’ve reread it, seems really random… but it’s supposed to be that way. It’s a setting-chapter. So it kinda sucks to read. Ah well.]
The twang of the bowstring
The zip of the shaft
The thud of an arrow hitting its mark:
Sounds made by the archlings
As they practice their craft,
Commencing at dawn, not stopping till dark.
From below, from up high,
In fire and in ice,
With the breath of the wind in their flight,
Our arrows shall fly,
True and precise,
Whether morning, midday, dusk, or night.
Ryn and Kennan had just exited the gorge and were staring out into the valley where the town of El Nath was built. From where they stood, they could see everything: from the cliff ledges directly below them, then the hilly ice fields, and the familiar snowy path that served as a breeding ground for Yetis. Beyond that, they could just barely see a column of smoke rising from the treesprobably from a village cooking fire. There lay the town of El Nath, which Ryn called home.
Twenty years ago, according to the Maple history books, Orbis nearly fell from the sky. Alcaster of El Nath and Grendel of Ellinia combined their magic, casting a powerful spell in order to keep it in the air. Eventually, the sages of Leafre found the cause of the problem and stopped it. However, the power of the mages spell had taken its toll on the valley of El Nath. Over the next three years, the snow began to melt. No new snow fell to replace it.
With this change in the landscape, much of the valleys fauna disappearedand with it, the villages main source of food. Thus, famine gripped El Nath.
Every once in a while, a boatload of Henesyan crops arrived at Orbis Station, which was then sent to El Nath. But Henesys had its own mouths to feed, and could not spare much food.
The snowy village sent its greatest warriors out to the area known as Wolf Territory to find food. In this hunting party was an archeress known as Lennah. She was to be Ryns mother.
A baby Pepe slid down an icy hill as Ryn heated a bowl of instant red bean soup.
Were close to town now, said Kennan. Another half hour of walking should do it. He leaned over for a look at the bowls contents. They call that red bean soup? Looks like dyed mush, if you ask me.
Ryn sampled some. It tastes okay. Nothing like the real stuff, though. She paused, and then said, So whatre you going to do about the crystal?
When the Pepe reached the bottom of the hill, it vanished into thin air. Neither of them noticed. Kennan replied, Well, I dont know. Free market, probably. Someones bound to have some.
Far away, beyond the cliffs behind them, a dark-hued Pepe appeared from nowhere.
The wolves of Wolf Territory were vicious and difficult to hunt, and even when one did succeed in killing one, didnt provide much good meat. Lennahs hunting party set up camp there while they tracked and hunted. Every month, what meat which was not consumed was hauled back to El Nath, where it was frozen in snow and would last the villagers a month. Then the hunters returned to their camp in the mountains and repeated the cycle again.
Ryns father, a chief bandit named Kareem, was lost on the second of these hunting trips and turned up two months later in Mu Lung, among the peach monkeys. A passing crusader, mistaking him for an actual peach monkey, killed him before he realized he was human. Kareem was buried in the peach garden as Peach Throwing Stranger. He did not live to see his daughter born.
The following winter brought the worst blizzards El Nath had seen since the great thaw. The hunters, returning with their Wolf Territory harvest, found themselves caught in a storm and were forced to find refuge in a mountain cave. For four days, the storm gave no sign of letting up.
On the fifth day, the snow continued to fall and winds to blow, but now softer and more gently. The hunters broke camp and hastened toward the village, arriving at their homes minutes before the snow returned. The elements raged on for the next few days, only letting up for several minutes at a time, and it became clear that they would not be able to go out again until the blizzards stopped.
80,000 mesos. Thats my final offer.
Kennan considered this for a moment. You got that for half that price-
I have to make a living. Then the shopkeeper showed Kennan the inscription on the swords handle. Cutlus-54, see? Normal cutluses are 52. This ones above. Worth at least 150k, but Im letting you have it for 80. Take it or leave it.
Kennan turned to Ryn. You want it?
She shrugged. I suppose so.
Alright then, 80. He counted eight 10k pieces and laid them on the table. The shopkeeper handed the sword to Kennan and took up the coins. Anything else?
Ryn was born that winter seventeen years ago, on the eve of the Solstice Celebration. Having been conceived and fed in the famine, she was a small child at birth, barely five pounds. She had a small amount dark hair on her head, and light amber-russet eyes.
The skies cleared up a week before, and stayed clear through to the day of the solstice. El Nath was in a cheery mood, for the storms were apparently over and had replenished the snow on the ground. Soon the mountain creatures would migrate back to the snowfields that had disappeared during the great thaw. Soon the famine would be over.
People rarely climbed Orbis Tower anymore, preferring to use the faster Magic Teleport Spot or take the more adventurous route of descending into Aquarium, taking a dolphin to Herb Town and flying by hawk back to Orbis. Thus, the eighteen floors sandwiched between the first and twentieth usually were void of people. Leatties and baby Pepes made their home in the icy lower floors, nearer to El Nath, while above a large colony of stone Sentinels flourished.
Heh watch your step, Ryn. She had nearly slipped on an icy portion of the ground. Using the wall to steady herself, she replied, You have snowshoes. Why dont you give them to me, and then we can see how many times you slip, hmm?
Kennan took Ryns hand and pulled her onto the bare stone. Nah, Ill pass on that.
So youre just gonna admit that youre not as agile as your sword-pupil? She laughed as she started climbing the rope up.
Your mother, Lennah Pierce, was once the most powerful ranger in El Nath, and your father Kareem a quite capable chief bandit. My parents are farmers. Theres a difference.
So Im supposed to have inherited all of their traits. Real logical. I cant even shoot an arrow right.
Ryn scrambled onto the floor above. Kennan got on the rope after her. And thats a pity.
It became apparent eleven years ago that Ryn had not inherited any of her mothers skill at archery.
Not quite here, let me help you. Lennah knelt down so she was level with the girl, took her hands, and placed her in the correct position. She let go; the six-year-old Ryn attempted to keep her arms still where her mother had left them.
Good. Now pull back the string, aim at the tree, and then shoot. Can you do that?
The girl drew the string back cautiously. Unsteadily, she tried to point the arrow at the tree and keep it there. She dropped the arrow.
Mm how about we try without the arrow first. Just practice drawing the string back and aiming. Keep your arm straight. Right. Good. Now point it at the tree
She watched her daughters wavering arm and sighed. Maybe, she thought, shes just too young. Maybe shell get it later on. Hopefully.
When Ryn turned ten and still hadnt shown any progress with the bow, Lennah sent her to live with Aunt Athena for the summer. With Athena, Ryn learned no better, but she did see much in Henesys that was new to her, that she had never come in contact with in snowy El Nath.
Kennan, at the time a little older than Ryn was now, had been taking training sessions in the sword at Mu Lung Temple. It was his ambition to learn the way of the paladin. His training took place during the winter and spring, and he spent the summer and autumn at home helping out in the fields. And so when Ryn spent the summer with her aunt Athena, Kennan was in town.
One afternoon, when Kennan had nothing in particular to do, he sat on a bench in Henesys Park and watched the people. There were several preteen boys racing down the street; a bald man either napping or meditating, he couldnt tell which; two little children enjoying some leftover moon cakes; and a girl trying to shoot a bow but not doing such a good job of it.
There was something that seemed familiar about this girl.
He walked over to her. The girl saw him approach, mistook his intentions, and started complaining to him. Its not my fault I cant shoot a bow! So what if Im a Pierce? So what if Mom was good at this? Im not her!
Whoa, whoa. I didnt say you were. Calm down, now. He stood there, a little awkwardly, as the girl realized he wasnt there to critique her. He said, Dont worry, I cant shoot either. Youre not alone. But if you dont mind asking, are you Athenas daughter? He didnt recall her having any children.
No. Im her niece.
A hazy memory surfaced in his head, one of a winter ten years ago spent in El Nath. A baby girl with light amber eyes Youre Lennahs daughter!
The girl was confused and slightly taken aback at this stranger knowing her mothers name. Do I know you?