There was a noise outside. One that had the father worried, but the boy, not so much.
“It’s just a bird, pa,” the boy replied, dragging his blanket over to the fireplace and curling up in the biggest chair.
His warm moments were short lived as his father rushed over to the fireplace and extinguished the flames. The boy remained silent, but was shocked by the expression painted across his father’s face. As young as he was, he knew when his father was scared.
“You are to go to your room and hide,” the father ordered his son. “Please, do so quickly and quietly, like I showed you how.”
The father squeezed his son’s shoulders and gave him a meaningful look before turning him around and giving him a slight push towards his room. By the time the boy entered his room he turned to see his dad stare at the front door.
“Lock it, boy.”
His son closed the door reluctantly and locked it, taking the key for himself. It was time to hide.
The father collected his sword and wrapped it around his waist. If it were to come to it, he would use it to his last breath. Of course, it was time to to face them. The rangers, as they were, were hunting him for so long. Only by facing them now did the father stand a chance of freeing himself from this tyranny.
The rangers circled the building outside, there small calls to each other unnoticeable to the untrained ear, but the father knew. The rangers didn’t notice him slip outside, mixing among their ranks, getting closer to their leader.
It wasn’t until the leader saw the bloodlust in the father’s eyes that he realized there were one too many rangers. Swords were drawn, but they didn’t clash.
“It has been some time, Gregory,” the father murmured as the other rangers circled around him. “Why now? Why, after all these years of peace, you have to get revenge?”
“This is not revenge,” the leader replied solemnly. “You know as well as I do why you must die and if it was the other way around, you would understand.”
“I’m afraid you misunderstand. It has long since been the time for action. Your code denotes it, so go home and keep the brotherhood intact. I’m sure there have been many rumblings against you coming here.”
To this, the other rangers lowered their heads, cutting their leader a glance.
“I see, you forced them to join you,” the father replied. “Gregory, if you have been made leader the first instruction you give is for the hunt, to bag the animals and feast. Not to settle old debts.”
Now there was a whisper amongst the rangers. Gregory eyed his underlings and understood what must be done.
“You are right, it would be foolish of me to make them fight,” Gregory nodded. “So it shall just be me and they can bear witness to what happens here tonight.”
With that, Gregory raised his sword and the father raised his.
“So be it.”
The two moved towards each other and with a clash of steel. Their fight was professional at first, but their movements became more violent as the battle lengthened. Their skills too evenly matched so it came down to test each others speed and strength.
The strike exchanged were fatal, yet blocked expertly. Gregory saw himself as the victor in this battle, but the father had not given in yet. He would not be swayed so easily by the likes of Gregory and his guild. With each movement he parried Gregory’s strikes and prepared himself for a life or death moment.
With that interruption, his fate was sealed. His heart lurched as he heard the struggles of his son who was held back from the fight. The momentary distraction was all Gregory needed to deal the strike that killed the father. Sword pierced his heart and blood poured to the ground. Pulling his sword free, Gregory watched the father fall to the ground, dead.
The boy cried out, tears running down his angered face. He began striking the rangers, but his small fists could do nothing.
“He had a child,” one ranger told Gregory. “What shall we do with him?”
“This child is innocent of this man’s crimes,” Gregory stated. The boy focused on Gregory, yelling murder. “Oh really?”
Gregory approached the child and struck him. The boy fell to the ground, nose bleeding.
“Now that you’ve stopped that noise I am going to make my next words very clear,” Gregory began and the boy listened. “Your father was a murderer. A cold-hearted monster who not only killed our master, but your mother as well. Her other children still live happily with the man she loved, but they will never know the love a mother can give their child. You will never know.”
The boy stared up at Gregory, unbelieving and more than that, uncaring. As far as he has lived his life, his father has treated him well. Caring for him more than most ever did.
“What shall we do with him?” the same ranger repeated.
“That isn’t our problem,” Gregory noted. “If you is a ranger’s son he will have no problem surviving on his own. Something tells me the monster taught the kid a thing or two about eating berries and catching small wildlife.”
The boy listened and it was true, but to think they would leave him here alone after all they have done?
“Take me with you,” the boy shouted. Gregory paused.
“You have no claim to a place in our guild,” Gregory grunted. “Nor would I let you with your intentions. Choose now; will you kill me for what I have done or make peace with what your father was? If you it is the first we will meet again or perhaps I shall kill you now if you wish to try your luck!”
With that, Gregory marched into the dark forest, followed by his disciples. The boy was alone in the great forest now, but worse that that, his heart was lost as well.