“I’m sorry…” I said, sadness dripping from my voice. “If we continue this, it’ll only bring more pain.”
“Wait, Garen. We’ll figure something out, my father is an idiot, we both know that! Please, I… I need you!” She cried.
“I know, so do I… But regardless of what your father is or isn’t, he’s still the king, and as the king, he has the final say….” I continued, the melancholy dripping from my words never stopping, “Remember what happened to your brother… How he is now… If the king finds out… It’ll be worse than his fate for both you and him, you know he doesn’t favor you as he does him…”
Tears sprung from her face, “Still! I don’t care what he says! If you're so worried about that, then let’s just go! Go far away! Just me and you! I’m willing to give up everything if you don’t have to leave!”
I smiled sadly, “I know…. And I love you for that, but I am a ranger, and nothing short of death and exile can make me leave this place…”
“If you're so smart, then why are you doing this! It’ll be torture!” She cried.
“... I’m sorry princess… I hope I can serve you and your family well in the future, but for now, I’ll be taking my leave…”
“No! Stop it! Don’t act like you don’t know me! It was real! All of it… And it still can be!”
“I know princess, what we had was real… But from now on, I can’t know you, and it can’t be real anymore…”
I walked away silently.
“Aaaaah,” I jolted awake with a gasp, sweat dripping off of my body. Drenched, I held my head.
“Hey, what’s wrong?”
The space next to me shifted, a girl with brown hair and green eyes lifted herself off the left side of my bed. “Garen, did you have a bad dream?” She said, “What can I do?”
“Y-yeah, it was about that day…” I said shakily, still holding my head. “I still can’t get over it…”
“Oh, I’m sorry…. I know she meant a lot to you, but no one is expecting you to get over it, certainly not me…”
“Thanks, Angie, I know I could count on you.”
“Expect nothing less from a partner like me!”
“Y-yeah…” I laid back down, “She was my world…”
“I know, and she was invaluable to us as well… I sure do miss her…” Angie said.
“Sigh…. If only things were different…” I said tearily, choking up.
“Hey now, calm down. One day, maybe it will be, and when that day comes, you’ll be the first to greet her out of all of us.”
Suddenly, a loud alarm rang. It was a bell that echoed throughout the compound I was sleeping in.
A voice could be heard, “All rangers report to your commanding officers! The Barbarian army has broken through the gates! They are making their way to the palace right away. All rangers must go and protect the royal family!”
“Oh no…” I said.
“Get up, we need to go right away, it's a ranger’s duty. We need to meet up with Sid along the way.”
I rushed out of bed, the others in my dorm shuffling around as well. I quickly discarded my drenched clothes for a leather armor set and light clothes. Swinging my quiver along my back and grabbing my bow, I sheathed my daggers and followed my comrades outside.
Every ranger that rushed out of the Ranger’s compound was a green-eyed individual. As natives of Garriven, every ranger had dark brown hair and light brown skin. All except for me. My skin was a light-shaded tannish color that had a reddish tint to it. It was more on par with those of the natives from the indigenous lands of the native islands. Regardless of the skin color differences, I was still a green-eyed individual, blessed by the nature spirits that served as the protectors of the kingdom, and granted higher physical ability and magical powers.
In the Kingdom of Garriven most people had brown eyes. The only exception to this was the royal families Hazel eyes and the rangers. The rangers were blessed by the spirits and served as the Kingdom’s elite soldiers. Every one of them had green eyes to mark them and was stronger than any normal human. They could manipulate the plant and animal life around them as well as the earth and air. From an early age, every person born with green eyes was trained as a ranger, but the ratio of green-eyed people to brown-eyed people was 1:100. In a large kingdom like ours that had around 5,000,000 residents, it made around 50,000 rangers at any given time, not counting the untrained and retired.
Around 40,000 were on active duty, and only the best resided in the capital, Griem Terris. We, as I was one of the best rangers, were called the Royal Rangers, tasked with protecting the royal family. Our numbers amounted to 2,000 of the elite. We were not to be trifled with.
In the olden days, the rangers would keep the kingdom safe from any attack. Them, along with the normal army, could keep even the fiercest of the Navalmen or the barbarians away.
Those days have long passed, and while the power of the rangers hasn’t been diminished, the power of leadership has.
Ever since the Crown Prince’s incident and decline 8 years ago, the kingdom had split into factions and the stability of the King had been thrown out the window.
The king had never been very stable, to begin with, probably due to his lack of a good childhood. When the king was just a child, an epidemic of the black mind-cure spread through the kingdom. Only 10% of all people got the disease, and of those only 20% got life-threatening symptoms. And of that 20% that got life-threatening or lasting conditions, only 10% of them actually died.
The king’s parents were unlucky enough to be in all of those categories. The king ascended to power at a young age and the court nobles used that as a way of manipulation. He was controlled relentlessly and that led to the fragility of his mental state as well as his conservative or fossilized views.
Regardless, we as rangers had to protect him. I put that thought at the front of my mind as we rushed to the king’s quarters. I was certainly not thinking about her…
“Hey! Garen, let me catch up!” A familiar voice shouted.
“Hey, Sid…” I said, smiling slightly.
An unkempt hair of brown and a grin filled my vision. Sid, along with Angie, was one of my accomplices. We were old friends and worked on the same squad. We made a good three-man team. Angie was a master with the bow and Sid of the close combat. I did well with the less savory work, such as assassination and stealth but had proficiency in both of the areas that Angie and Sid excelled at.
“Let’s go, quickly now!” Angie said.
“Alright…” Sid replied.
Of the 2,000 royal rangers, about 200 were assigned to the king’s quarters, those included me and my friends.
“Okay, move out people! If the army does its job then we won't even need to fight, but don’t let your guard down.” Our commander, Great Ranger Robert said.
“Yawn… Hey boss, calm down, those damn barbarians and Navalmen are no match for us, especially with me here!” Said a ranger, he was Millis, a snotty noble upstart.
“Hey, Millis Markura was it?” Robert said
“That’s right, the second son of the Markura family, who rules Vanahahight.”
“Well son, the barbarians don’t care about your name. There’s a reason why the barbarians have existed for so long, every one of them is more than a match for a ranger. You're lucky there aren’t so many warriors of their kind…”
Millis steeled his face, “Look kid, I’m glad you're a ranger, but don’t get overconfident.” Robert said, “Don’t rely on your name or anything other than your comrades and yourself…”
“Uh, yes sir!” Millis turned red and stood up straight.
“Sir, the status report!” Another ranger, a new one came in. He ran fast and spoke directly to the commander.
“Go on…” Robert said.
“The Navalmen army has been pushed back outside the walls sir, they were no match for the Royal Army in their home turf… But a small number of barbarian elites made their way past the army, I believe they are headed this way…” The messenger continued.
“Rangers! You hear that, barbarian elites are on their way over, be prepared, these are elites, they are not to be trifled with!” The commander said loudly.
“Sir, they should be here at any time!” The messenger warned.
“Alright, get ready!”
“Sir…. Argh!” the messenger screamed, a large greatsword had lodged itself in his head.
“...” Every ranger was silent.
“Rangers! On guard!” Robert said.
“Y-yes!” we said.
The defensive rangers formed a line in front of the door to the royal quarters. The quarters were only accessible through a large door in front of a foyer with a tall ceiling. It was good to fight in, as there was a large amount of space to move around.
Rangers with shields, known as shielders, formed a front line. The melee fighters, such as Sid formed a line behind the shielders. The ranged fighters formed the backline, Angie was with them.
I fought with the shadow squad, the covert type of ranger. We were trained for primarily information gathering and stealthy fighting. Therefore we were best suited as bodyguards. The king had forbidden anyone from accessing the royal quarters other than the royal family and their servants, so we weren’t allowed to directly protect his majesty right now, but we could defend the door.
A large laugh filled the air, “HA HA HA HA!” A gruff voice said, “Gahreian Geonilim Ton Is Baratinil!!!” A large man, one with red hair and black eyes showed itself. He took the large greatsword out of the messenger’s head and held it aloft.
“You! Rangers! Mwuh Ha Ha Ha!” the barbarian shouted, apparently, he knew a bit of the language. “Die!”
He moved at breakneck speed, the commander and other frontline fighters went forward to intercept him. Behind him, four other barbarians with greatswords approached, they all looked ferocious.
Barbarians were a minority ethnic group that lived in the lands west of Griem Terris. The City of Griem Terris was at the base of the Lush mountains, in the north of the lush valley. The Lush valley was a basin created out of a ring of mountains that surrounded fertile land. The mountains gathered magic and concentrated it in the valley, making the valley very fertile and full of both forests and animal life. It was land that was easy to live off of, and a target to many other countries. The Kingdom of Garriven wasn’t all the lush valley, but the valley was a large part of its livelihood. Without the lush valley, the kingdom wouldn’t exist. Historically, only a few times has the lush valley been infiltrated, the only entrance was to the south, a small strait that included a large forest. It was tough land to traverse if you weren’t familiar with it, and rangers were stationed there permanently as part of their training. The forest amplified our natural magic, and it was dark and without many paths.
The mountains kept most armies out, as its terrain was even worse than the forest. This time, the barbarians took the chance to take the mountains. It wasn’t an impossible route, but an army would have no chance of going through. That’s where the Navalmen came in, the Navalmen were a group of people that formed their own kingdom north of Garriven, separated only by the Red Bay.
As a seafaring nation, they possessed ships and numbers galore, they were also very war-like. The barbarians lived directly south of the red bay and often fought the Navalmen. Regardless of that, they both hated the Kingdom of Garriven. The reason for this was because Garriven had conquered much of the Barbarian’s former land, and confined them only to a little area north of the distance forest, an artificially planted forest that was thick with magic. Barbarians possessed only physical magic, a type of magic that enhanced physical strength and endurance.
Rangers and Navalmen possessed a magic that manipulated the world, in addition to physical magic, which was largely universal.
Despite that, Barbarians were still a threat, and the Kingdom could never get rid of them, their magic and warrior strength were too much. So the kingdom went with confining the Barbarians to a small stretch of land, the Barbarians couldn’t swim, and they didn't like the Navalmen, and the distance forest was thick with magic that repelled those who didn’t have an aptitude for elemental magic. It would do things such as cause nausea and other types of illness to any barbarian that entered.
You could say that the Kingdom had often disenfranchised and destroyed the Barbarian’s livelihood.
As for the Navalmen, they were mad for the simple reason of not being able to expand. The Navalmen and the Kingdom had roughly the same amount of strength, and with the Garriven allied kingdom of Malight, a kingdom south of the mountain range that separated the Navalmen Kingdom from the rest of the continent, they were able to keep the Navalmen from conquering and expanding.
The Navalmen wished for more land and power. The Kingdom prevented that, so they had to get rid of it.
The Navalmen had provided funds and technology and the Barbarians knowledge. The Barbarians had been mapping the mountains for generations as it was the only route they could take. To the west lay the Shore Priestom, protected by the Holy Water Knights, they were much stronger than the Barbarians, and not only that, were allied with them. The Barbarians had them as allies purely out of generosity, and it was their only way of getting out of their own lands for any reason. The forest to the south and the Navalmen to the north… Only the mountains provided means for revenge. The Priestom would never let an army pass through its borders, as it was also allied to Garriven, but the mountains enabled a small group of elite Barbarian soldiers to pass straight to the capital.
The Barbarians were just waiting for the right time… the right amount of numbers. The Navalmen came to the Barbarians with a very attractive proposal. They would provide more troops for the Barbarian revenge, and the Navalmen would get a chance to crush the Kingdom.
We didn’t even know until the army was just outside of our walls. By then, only the royal army was dispersed throughout the kingdom, and only the rangers and the city guard existed to protect the capital. We fended them off for as long as we could… With reinforcements coming through the kingdom’s various bases and reserves, we could put up a fight.
But now we were on the last leg, the fighting had gotten inside the walls. We had to protect the royals as much as we could.
The barbarians came fast, and the other rangers tensed108Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡKHxlVtcz6t