After the long journey he rested at a campsite. He gazed into the fire as it crackled and danced. The red embers floated up in the air, mingling with the star-filled sky. To pass some time he told the story that started his journey along The Way.
A girl across the campfire beamed. The orange glow of the fire lightened up her face. "Oh Rhue, I really hope you find her! In fact, I just know you will!"
"Hope.... something I possess little of."
"Don't say that. Trust the Purpose! I'm sure that you and she are destined to meet again!"
Rhue grunted as black smoke curled in a stream under his nose. "The Purpose.... even it has betrayed me."
A man let out a sharp, reflexive laugh. "Betrayal? I think not. Something that doesn't exist isn't capable of betrayal."
The girl's eyes widened. "No, you're wrong! It does exist." Behind her defenses she couldn't reconcile she and her father were arguing about this again. "Sometimes I can even feel its call."
"You're just young. When you get older you will eventually see the folly of such naïve beliefs."
"I don't believe that for even a second!" She glanced at her mother for support, but the older woman just looked afraid to get involved.
Rhue stood from his resting place and turned to leave, but only took a few steps before the girl called after him.
"Where are you going? You need to rest!"
"No. I can't rest any longer. She must be further along The Way."
She wasn't sure what to say. During their short time together, she had developed a compassionate feeling towards Rhue. She felt he was a good man, and wanted him to be safe. "Be careful. The Blue Scarves are rumored to be somewhere in the area up ahead."
"Those murdering bandits are somewhere nearby?"
"Yes, don't get taken by surprise. May the Purpose guide you!"
"Thank you," Rhue said before walking towards another lonely sunrise.
Her mother broke the silence. "That boy scares me."
"He's not dangerous," the girl said. "Just ... confused."
Her father waved a hand over his face. "Oh well, it doesn't really matter. I doubt any of us will be seeing the likes of him again. He's setting quite a pace for himself."
The girl's eyes glinted. "Maybe he'll become a Forerunner."
"You know, you might be right. He seems like the type. The Forerunners are a crazy lot."
"I don't know about you two, but I'm turning in for the night," her mother said.
"Yes, it is getting quite late."
Her parents moved away from the campfire. She heard the rustling of the tent flap, more rustling and muttering and finally silence. The girl sat with her back to the fire, staring into the star-speckled darkness. It was a while before she heard another noise. She turned to face the sound. Through the flurry of flames she could see a dark figure against the starry sky. Moonlight glinted along the edge of a long, sharp blade.
"Purpose, help us."
Rhue sat by the river and splashed cold water onto his face. It wasn't clean, but it helped remove the sheen of morning sweat. He stopped when something caught his eye. He bent down and found, wedged between two rocks, a piece of jewellery some poor wanderer must have lost.
What's this? Is it some kind of pendant? Almost like the one she used to wear.... I have no need for it.
He gave it a slight push, sending it out of the rocks and back on its course through the river. I wonder where this river will take it? What a sad thing ... to have no control over ones destiny.
Rhue rose to his feet when the noisy river birds scolded his sluggishness. He strolled past a man who stood fixated at the water's edge. He carried a silver sword on his back that glinted in the sunlight. The man turned around to face him. "Hail wanderer, the Purpose joins our ways. I am Therin of the Nelin Stretch."
"I am Rhue of the Landorin Stretch."
Therin raised his eyebrows. "Landorin? I see.... You're up and about early today, my friend. Is there trouble behind you?"
"No, I'm just trying to make good progress."
He drew his blade. "Care for a few passes? I need some practice."
Rhue stiffened and stepped away from the stranger. Was he being attacked? "What! What are you talking about?"
"The Plunge. Haven't you ever taken it before?"
He tugged his ear. "I haven't ... ever. I've been busy with other things."
"Well, I guess I could teach you a few things. Just the bare essentials of course."
"The Plunge is a form of one-to-one combat known to many wanderers along The Way. Two combatants stand opposite each other and swing their swords. The damage you deal to your opponent is largely dependent on your Plunge skill." Therin paused, placing a hand to his cheek. "I can tell just by looking at you that your Plunge skill is close to nil, but enough chat. Let's do this!"
Rhue moved into position and gripped his sword, ready to charge. Therin rushed at him and appeared to be telling Rhue to do the same. Unprepared, he ran forward, swinging his sword, but Therin hardly seemed fazed by the attack.
"Keep working at it and you might make something of yourself. It has been nice meeting you, Rhue. I'm going to stay here and listen for a while."
Rhue blinked. "You're going to listen? To what?"
He tilted his head to the side. "It talks?"
"Yes, but not in the way you might expect. I know you are in a hurry so may the Purpose guide you."
"And you as well."
Rhue continued along the grassy ledges that curved and twisted in wild patterns. He raised his head when a small, red mammal with long ears hopped past him. And as he did, the creature ran away like lightning.
Wow! That looked like a Red Swiftfoot! The fastest known breed of rabbit! It would be really nice to have one of those.
These were valuable creatures due to their rarity and difficulty in capturing. Rhue decided it would be worth his while to try and catch it. How hard could it be?
Rhue ran after it, through the growing number of trees. He followed the slight movements in the bushes that would lead him to his prey, occasionally receiving scratches on his arms and legs. Eventually, he found the Red Swiftfoot in the middle of a clearing. There were leaves scattered all over, which he knew would be a problem. His father once told him Red Swiftfoots have good hearing but bad eyesight, and those leaves were just waiting to crack under his boots. He had to be careful.
The next few moments seemed like an eternity. While creeping around the leaves, Rhue had to arduously watch the Red Swiftfoot in case it turned his way. Eventually, he was able to sneak up behind it and grab it. He held it up victoriously, relieved he had finally caught the creature.
"This little rabbit is going to help me get some much better equipment once I get to the next settlement. Looks like a male. I wonder what I should call him?"
Rhue heard a voice from nearby. "Why not call him Lucky?"
"Who's there?" Rhue asked, spinning around to locate the voice. He no longer had any need to when a man with spiky black hair and a sword on his back walked into the clearing towards Rhue.
"Hail, I am...." Rhue said.
"Save it, wanderer."
The stranger held his head high. "Are you interested in selling that Red Swiftfoot to me?"
"No. He's not for sale."
"Good ... good."
"Yes, because I'm not interested in buying him."
Rhue scratched his head. What was he after? Before Rhue could open his mouth to ask, the man drew out his sword and pierced it into Rhue's chest. He fell to the ground in pain. His first instinct was to cry out, but no sound came out of his mouth. Rhue couldn't see it, but he felt the blood as it leaked out of his body.
"Thanks for the Red Swiftfoot. I'm not the patient type so you can imagine how hard it is for me to catch them."
He smiled, whirling his sword at his side, as if the deed he'd just committed meant nothing at all. "I'm probably doing you a favor by taking this little guy off your hands. A runt like you could get hurt carrying a prize like him around."
He paused. "Oh wait. You already got hurt. My mistake. Why don't you contemplate what's just happened here while I go and make some money at the races? Later, blue boy."