Warriors and Champions13
A Tragic Story
Lizeth was sitting in her yard when I came up. “How did your training go Ray?”
“Rayner is truly a master with a sword. I can’t believe that there is anyone capable of beating him. He has learned too much and his skill is beyond anything that I can imagine. He taught me a lot but now it is up to me to hone my skills. When he fights there is nothing held back and yet he is always in control. I wish I could have seen him when he first came to Norshire. I bet he was a wonder to this town.”
Lizeth didn’t offer any words so I asked a question. “Lizeth you said that when you first saw Rayner that he was like a feral animal but when he saw you something changed. What made him change? What was it about you that made him into who he is today?”
“Are you sure you want to know Ray? This is an answer that has a lot of sadness and grief to it. If you cannot handle the burden of knowledge don’t ask.”
“I understand Lizeth and I want to know what happened.”
“Alright don’t say I didn’t warn you. In order to understand Rayner’s story you must first understand his background.
“Rayner came from a warrior society. From childhood all the males are taught how to fight and survive and throughout their childhood they are tested on how well they fight and adapt. And those that don’t pass are kicked out of their village left to wander the world alone and unprepared. Until at last the last challenge is presented, the pathway into manhood and acceptance of the village.
“This rite is very dangerous and by its nature few survive because the village maintains its strength through the warriors so those warriors have to be stronger than anyone they face. Rayner passed the rite and was accepted into the village as a man and as a warrior. However since Rayner passed the rite in a faster time than anyone else he was given very high honors. One of those was the ability to choose any eligible woman for a bride. And this pleased him since he had grown very fond of a certain woman and her fond of him.
“Their love grew in secret during his time of training and a few short years after they were married they had two beautiful children, a boy and a girl. The boy soon started his own path to manhood and did very well. Later on Rayner and half of the warriors were called out to destroy a large group of marauders. But this group was one of the most deadly and feared marauders even in Rayner’s homeland. And Rayner knew what he was up against and hand selected his men to fight them.
“Rayner and his men caught up to the marauders and soon there was none of them left alive. Something told Rayner that something wasn’t right because they had beaten them too easily and their leader wasn’t among the dead. Rayner had he men march home quickly to tell the council the troubling news. The smell of smoke and blood filled his nose and Rayner ran full speed into the battle that was destroying his village.
“In the aftermath of the battle Rayner found that only one of the council survived and that his family had been taken by the marauders. In his fury Rayner swore that he would rescue his love and his children or avenge their souls. The council member told Rayner to take some warriors with him but Rayner refused saying that had he not taken all of the best warriors the village would not have been destroyed. This was his task alone to pay for his mistake and to make the marauders pay for the destruction they caused.
“Rayner ran as fast as he could tracking the marauders. The first thing he saw was a group of the marauders bodies and his son’s mangled body among them. Tears flowed from his face as he looked at his son’s lifeless body still clutching a sword he used to kill them. Rayner ran faster and came upon the encampment.
“With no thought for his own life he went into the camp and started laying waste to the marauders. Overwhelmed by his own failure to protect his family and village and with all the sorrow and pain of his own dead son and the thought of vengeance Rayner killed all of the marauders including their leader.
“Rayner looked for his wife and daughter and soon found them tied up and badly bruised and beaten. Not caring for his own wounds Rayner picked up his wife and daughter and carried them to the spot where his son fell and picked up the body and walked back to the village. After seeing his wife and daughter were cared for Rayner dug a grave for his son and buried him. After his mission was over Rayner succumbed to his wounds and fainted.
“Days later Rayner rose and went to see the council member for punishment. However the member said that he had done nothing wrong for how could Rayner know about what the marauders true intentions were. But the guilt was so great upon Rayner that not even his wife was able to soothe his guilt. To Rayner there was only one option that he could take and that was to forsake his home and become a wanderer and a vagabond. He said goodbye to his wife and daughter and left his homeland to come to this land.
“Rayner was only able to live when he was in battle so he became a mercenary. And with his skill many people wanted to hire him and were willing to pay him large sums of money. But Rayner didn’t care for money but for what the cause was. He would never attack any defenseless person or people and would never harm any innocents.”
“Many assassins were hired to kill him however this land is not used to the kind of fighting that Rayner faced in his own land and these assassins always failed. A few years passed and Rayner took a job that was going to be his last job as a mercenary. The employer assured Rayner it would be an easy fight which Rayner did not want to hear because Rayner wanted a challenge. But he took the job anyway.
“The job itself was simple, to take control of a town overrun by rouges. The slaughter was great and when Rayner was in the center of town he began to realize that he was taken advantage of by his employer. He came across a small child, a girl. Her eyes were red but she made no sound just stood there looking at him. Rayner saw a woman that seemed like she was looking for the child since she had other children with her.
“Rayner gently scooped up the girl and took her to the woman. When he started to talking to her the horrible truth was revealed. For many years the town was harassed by bandits that acted like so called protectors as long as the town did whatever the bandits told them to do. But as each year passed the bandits’ brutality grew and grew until outright war broke out.
“Rayner also found out that the girl was now an orphan her mother died last year and her father was killed during the battle that was taking place right now. The rage and sorrow swelled within Rayner. He had taken part in a slaughter just like the one that happened in his own home. Rayner told them to gather any remaining survivors and hide.
“With the same rage he had with the marauders and his guilt of his past Rayner took the battle to the bandits. They soon started to flee but Rayner hunted them all down and killed them without remorse. He went back to the village and told them that they would soon be free from the horror of the bandits. And before he left he made a promise to them and especially to the girl. He arranged for all his money to be sent to the town for them to rebuild their town and lives and to hire proper guards from the king.
“And without another word Rayner went to find his now former employer to deal justice upon the rest of the bandits. With his clothes still stained with his blood and his wounds still mostly unattended he waged war against them. His killing was very cold and without mercy. Although Rayner was slowed down by his wounds and losing strength with every swing he waged on. There was no other thought or purpose in his mind even death was dismissed from his destiny until he had wiped out the bandits.
“At last he killed the bandit leader and his mission was over. With his life force draining from him like his blood Rayner wandered for miles. Passing out here and there but he did not die but trudged on until he fell outside of Norshire.
“Later on Rayner told me that when he first saw me he saw the little girl that only looked at him without crying or making any noise at all. That is why his eyes changed and that is why he lived and continues to live. In that moment he realized that a warrior’s fate is not to fight battles until the day he is killed but to fight to protect. A warrior is rejuvenated when he has someone to protect and will continue to live and fight.
“From that day Rayner thought of me like a little sister, someone to protect but not be overbearing. Just like the day we first met Ray, Rayner knew that I wasn’t supposed to be down there but he would only remind of that fact and let me deal with the situation as I may.
“But to continue on with the story, do you remember when I told you about when I gave him my ribbon? Well the ribbon that was replaced was given to him the day he left his home. Without fully knowing why her dad was leaving forever, his daughter gave him a ribbon that she had made personally. That is why he had a hard time letting go of it. It was the last real reminder of home and his life that he once had.
“And when he told me about that ribbon I cried for days. For I now knew about his tragic past and the once happy life he had. And now he had completely given up his former life. He completely cut the ties that kept part of him tied to his home. Rayner told me to stop crying and not worry about the past especially his. There was nothing that could be done about it and there is nothing that can change the past, we can only learn from it and better our lives.
“I don’t know what he did with his old ribbon but I hope and suspect he still has it close to his heart. I think now he keeps it as a reminder, not of his old life but as a promise that he will always honor his past and his love.”
As Lizeth finished I could not help but feel mixed emotions. My heart felt sorrow at his loss and tragedy, I also felt honor in being trained by him, and I felt like my problems were nothing. But most of all I felt an extreme pressure in my destiny. I knew that Rayner wanted nothing more than to fight Astoroth alone to protect Norshire. But he had to place his faith in a boy that had never seen war and was scared to fight.
I excused myself and went into the house and up into the loft and lay down on my bed. I was lost in my thoughts about Rayner’s story and my own future. I could not believe that Rayner was living with greater sorrow and regret than I. I felt like a fool and like such a small person. Here was a man that had lost everything important to him and so riddled with guilt that he self-exiled himself for penance. And here I was muttering about a few incidents that caused no real harm but in my finite mind was like I committed the gravest sin. I still had everyone that I loved around me and wasn’t faced with loss like Rayner.
With everything Rayner was faced with he still chose to rise and protect those around him. He was able to set aside his own desires and goals for those he loved and served. And even at this moment Rayner still believed that I could save this land and help him protect his people. I began to understand why Rayner loved fighting so much. It wasn’t about finding himself in war and being able to live. It was about protecting others from the horror or war and destroying the evil that infested the world so that those good people could create a better and brighter world.
Rayner thought of himself of an exterminator and would gladly give up his life if it meant that the world would become brighter. However, he also thought of himself as unworthy of being able to create a brighter future. And as sleep was overtaking me I thought one last thing.
Rayner thought that by giving up his life that the world would be better. However it would bring darkness into the life’s of those closest to him. The people of Norshire would be forever saddened at his death. It seemed to me that Rayner, after the death of his son, was forever seeking a battle in which he could die as bravely and as honorably as his son did. Tears formed in my shut eyes as I realized that this was true.
In every battle that Rayner fought alone he cared nothing for his own life and made sure that no other innocent would die in battle but him. All those fights he was at death’s door but was always called back by someone that loved him. I realized how short and fragile a life really was. A life is only one small pebble in the flowing river of time. And that we needed to make sure that we continue to live to bring happiness into the lives of those who love us. I knew that no matter what I had to survive my battle with Astoroth. I had to live so sadness would not be found in those I love.
© 2014 RichardBBenson