With Caution And Care, A Prologue
Adding a prologue to Ranger of Path was a tough decision. I worried it would distract readers and add complexity that would hinder immersion. I also didn’t want anything told through the prologue that would be better done with later chapters.
Like adverbs, filtering language, and bracketing scenes with sleep, I’ve heard prologues should be avoided if possible.
Ranger of Path is a story that needed this prologue.
It’s a short prologue, starting from the point of view of a squirrel and then a tiny creature called a brownie. It offers readers vital context to an event that orients the main characters of Ranger of Path and it’s sequel, Valkyrie of Desire.
Here it is, as added to Ranger of Path:
A boy is caught pulling the legs off a cricket.
“Don’t do that. How do you think it feels?”
The boy chews on his lip and says, “Unhoppy?”
—Ishkur Inshushinak Ishtaran
A squirrel pokes its head out of a hole in an old fir tree. On a moss covered rock below, a man little bigger than it trills and waves an acorn with a right arm that’s shorter than his other by a third.
With greenish skin and limbs thin as twigs, he is a brownie, a fae friend of the forest and no danger. The squirrel scurries down and snatches the nut.
The brownie smiles and trills a bird’s song as he lies on the moss.
A hint of smoke stings the squirrel’s nose, and it rears up with whiskers twitching. The acorn falls, and the tiny animal bounds away, chittering a warning.
Stunted arm pressed against his chest, the brownie cartwheels off the rock and tumbles to a cobbled stone path that leads to his tribe’s habitat. Once a road, it was built by humans an age ago, but has been overgrown, hidden by nature and the efforts of his tribe.
He stumbles and rolls and runs. Everything and everyone he knows can burn. His thimble-sized heart beats fast as a hummingbird’s wings and air pumps through his lungs in a constant stream. Fire is a brownie’s worst enemy.
Smoke thickens ahead where his ancestors live on in the form of a grove of trees. They provide shelter for his people, and their auras have comforted his soul since birth.
He cocks his head as distant trills scream out. Fellow brownies in pain.
A figure aflame walks out of the smoke. Naked, with the hips and breasts of a human female, she glows like heated metal with hair that dances within a pillar of fire.
The brownie shivers and crawls forward. The woman roars and a shimmering wave of red energy bursts out from her, moving fast as arrows in every direction. It hits him and flows on. He shakes and tumbles away from the elemental beauty and his smoldering home.
Distance eases the mystic fear tinting his aura, and he punches himself with his stunted arm and cries sappy tears. It was his duty to watch the old path as it connects to a human town only a few days away. His queen had even warned a danger was coming.
At an oak tree, he climbs to a tangle of grass, twigs, and leaves. Tufts of gray fur decorate an entrance to the empty squirrel’s nest. He trills an apology for the invasion and wiggles inside.
Curled into a ball, the brownie tries to trill a song but can only cough and caw like a crow. He has failed his people. His stunted arm twitches, and he forms a fist.
In the language of humans, he says, “Avenge to make amends.”
Whoever brought fire to his home must pay.
Here is the start of the first chapter:
1: A Simple Mission
Pay in advance for this game
Bathe both before and after
Don’t you dare forget my name
Or you won’t survive this whore
—Hildr Vas Trumurne
All griffins shit logs. Long, thick, and adhesive. When launched mid-flight, the spears of excrement generally hold together until impact.
Ishkur, a disgraced ranger, cleans an aviary for the beasts at the top of a speckled granite tower. Built by the hands of giants, it straddles a deep crack in the land. Plowed fields cover one side of the narrow canyon, and a verdant forest covers the other. His mother was human and his father an elf, so this spot between worked and wild land suits him, even if the humble job does not.
The tall aviary serves a town that’s half alive. Stretched along the farmed side is a hive of people. They fill the stone structures and wooden extensions along a well-worn dirt road that curves away from dusty bridges.
Ishkur pauses at a window overlooking the long abandoned half of town, which is being excavated for treasure and expansion. He narrows his green eyes as axes chop trees that have spent centuries stretching limbs from granite ruins. He spoils his laugh lines with a frown as orange flags are planted to mark a wide cobblestone path of a past age and turns back to his chore.
Spinning a dung rake like a polearm, he rolls the last of the arm-length droppings into a chute. Forgive the splatter. He tosses the rake and picks up a mop and bucket. If I clean up the mess.
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