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Two Plus Two Does Not Make Five - Attn Owen


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Rhya halted abruptly at the edge of the village, bending to remove boots and socks with uncharacteristic impatience. The previous day seemed to have left her with a bone deep feeling of constraint. She wasn't quite sure how to get rid of it...how to regain the freedom of spirit normally provided by the Stedding. She wiggled her toes on the soft carpet of the forest, breathing deeply of the scent of pine needles and stretched her arms high, elongating her spine in a satisfying stretch before padding off in the direction of the tree house with a  sigh of relief.


The trip back to the Stedding from the cave that morning had been a trial despite being all downhill. The atmosphere had been more than a little tense. What sleep she'd been able to get overnight proved insufficient as a restorative, leaving her with a lack of energy, a brain that wouldn't function and a very much lowered mood. Conversation had been somewhat desultory as a result and they were no sooner home than Rhya went straight to bed. When she eventually woke some hours later, considerably more herself, she didn't know for sure where Owen had gone but his office seemed most likely. No doubt to deal with some of the usual mountains of paperwork that awaited him there.


Rhya had taken herself off to visit Aislyn, always her port in a storm. The older woman had become something of a cross between older sister and favourite aunt; a vessel for Rhya to pour all her troubles in and, in return, gain much needed insight, wisdom, and practical advice. Today had been no different and the Sage had lavished comfort and food on her, then forced Rhya to look at her recent reactions and assumptions carefully, and to consider whether there could be another interpretation. If there was, Rhya couldn't see it; she was nothing if not stubborn when she got the bit between her teeth, but Aislyn had at least planted doubt.


Enough doubt that Rhya was still thinking everything over through the afternoon as she worked on her herb garden, becoming more unsettled with each passing hour. Unable to concentrate on her work, she headed indoors to prepare their evening meal instead. Whatever the truth, all she wanted was to talk to Owen, to get rid of the wrongness that was suffocating her.


As if thinking of him had the power to summon him, she heard his voice drift up from ground level as he conversed with another and stiffened slightly, uncertain for once as to what Owen was thinking or feeling and of how she should proceed. For all her internal debate, she hadn't truly considered just how to broach the subject or how to explain herself. 



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Owen was grateful that the location of the Stedding was not higher up in the mountains as this meant they missed the worst of the weather that could plague the mountains and at the higher altitudes it was not unknown for snow to remain all year round. Many an unwary traveller had been caught out by a sudden storm and lost more than just their livelihoods. As it was, the wind was stronger enough to take the edge off the temperatures and make some of the Wolfkin scurry for the warmth of their homes. Owen however had work to do and so instead turned towards the Ranger barracks and before starting work he went to the underground archery range that the rangers had recently completed and started to shoot some arrows, more to distract himself from the puzzling reaction from Rhya to completing their training.

Much later in the day, Owen left the barracks and started to walk home. Along the way he met a couple of the Wolfkin who were out and about and was nearing his home when Ham hailed him. Owen turned in the direction the voice came from and waved to his fellow Ranger who was returning from a scouting mission.

Ham gripped Owen’s arm in greeting and gave Owen a quick overview of what he had learnt while he was away from the Stedding. There was nothing out of the ordinary just conformation of information Owen had heard from the Band's Scouts.

“So, I guess I am too late then?”

“Too late for what Ham?”

“Rhya’s celebration on becoming a Ranger. I take it she passed the tests with ease. How did she take to your trick of throwing yourself off the cliff, I bet she gave you a good roasting for that one?”

“Actually, I am not sure how she felt my friend; she has not been herself since the tests so much so that we did not celebrate after her final test. Hopefully she will feel more like herself later and then we can hold the ceremony. For now, I will give her the time she needs to work through whatever is concerning her”. With that Owen bade goodbye to Ham and continued the  short distance to his home more concerned about Rhya than he had let on to his friend.


OOC: It is up to you whether Rhya hears Ham's comment or not.

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Recognising Ham's voice, Rhya took several eager steps towards the balcony railing with the intention of adding her welcome to Owen's, but slowed to a stop a few inches from the door, the words of greeting dying on her lips, when she realised that she was the topic of conversation. 


A celebration?  Rhya was warmed by the older Ranger's apparent faith in her ability to breeze through the experience, but the idea left her a little dazed, mostly because she'd been too absorbed in her own troubles to even think about it, but also because a very small part of her had still doubted the possibility. Knowing that Owen wouldn't let her attempt the test if he didn't think she had a good shot at it was one thing, actually succeeding was another. It wasn't meant to be easy after all.


And it certainly wasn't, the rueful thought slid through her mind just as the full import of the rest of the exchange sank in. Ham knew about the cliff jump. Moreover, he expected her to find it funny! Owen's response, his clear concern and consideration... it was so typical of him. And now that her head was almost back to normal, that fact only served to emphasise how contrary his words of the previous day were.


Could she have misunderstood? Aislyn may well have been closer to the mark than I thought possible, Rhya chewed abstractedly on the tip of her thumb, the smallest tendrils of guilt beginning to stir as she agonised over the idea. She hadn't moved by the time Owen's footsteps sounded on the balcony and he walked, seconds later, through the door before her. Somewhat taken aback to  find her standing as if rooted to the spot and blocking the doorway, he began to say something but in her rush to be rid of the overwhelming uncertainty plaguing her, Rhya was quicker.


"I feel like I'm going crazy, Owen!" she took a hurried, agitated step forward. "Last night... the words you spoke before you jumped off the cliff. About dying alone. Having nobody mourn the loss. I was upset, hurt, by that. Deeply. No, no," she shook her head at the look on his face, "I didn't think you meant it that way. Although it crossed my mind for a mere moment." Honesty forced her to the admission. "But I, well, I thought you were crossing a line. It sounded to me as though you were using how I feel about you to push me...test me to the limit. And if that was what you were doing... that's not alright," some of the pain and hurt she'd been feeling sounded in her voice as she struggled to find the right words, to get it all out. "Because you wouldn't do that with any other trainee. But if that's not what you were doing..." Rhya's eyes clouded in confusion, her hands waving in erratic circles in emphasis of her words, "then tell me what you did mean...please? Before I start climbing the walls. I was so convinced I understood but now... I'm a lot less sure. I wasn't thinking very clearly at the time, of course but..." Suddenly realising that she was babbling, Rhya clamped her lips together, staring at Owen as though she might drown if she looked away. And maybe she would. He was the one thing she'd been sure about for all these months, so having any doubt about that was like feeling her world collapse. Light, woman, you really are losing it. He's going to think he's bound himself to a complete lunatic!



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Good grief Rhya, give me chance to get in the door before you start babbling at me.


“Would you mind if I entered our house before I attempt to answer your questions?


Without waiting for an answer Owen gently, but firmly, moved Rhya into their house, indicating she should sit down in her chair. Before she could start talking again, Owen pressed his finger to her lips, silencing her next words. “I will explain everything in a moment Rhya, but I also need a drink, so wait there, contain your impatience and I will make us a hot drink.” Owen quickly prepared two cups of tea and returned to where Rhya was waiting, handing one of the mugs to Rhya, Owen sat down next to her and placed his mug on the small table next to the chair.


“What we did yesterday I have done with all the Guardians who wanted to become Rangers, most passed the tests, one or two did not and instead choose a different path. The testing must be difficult; they are designed to push the trainee to their very limits, and sometimes beyond and I make no apology for that. When we are out of the Stedding we must be fully in control, we need all of our skills to survive and more importantly succeed in our quest.” Owen paused, picked up his mug and took a sip of his drink allowing Rhya time to absorb what he had said.


“Another aspect of our training is to prove to the Rangers that a recently tested guardian can with stand the rigours of our lives, we must know that the Ranger standing to either side of us can be counted on to do what is necessary, and that brings us to the hard part.”

“It is no easy task to leave the Stedding, alone, knowing that every hand will be turned against us and one slip on our part could lead us to our deaths. Alone. No one would mourn us, no one would know our fate. To die for a grand cause seems heroic, noble if you like. To know that our death would be important and mean something makes the choice easier. When it is not for some noble cause, when we are asked to lay down our life in some fly blown hovel in some unnamed village then where is the fame in that?”

Again, Owen stopped talking and took another sip from his mug. Eyeing Rhya over the rim of his mug, Owen could see his words were having an effect, which did not surprise him, Rhya had a good brain, when she used it, and was not normally prone to emotional outbursts, well not many.


“As for using our relationship against you. I make no apologies for you thinking that; however, it is something we must do, we must induce stress and tension in a Guardian, we must take them to the very edge of what they can cope with. We need to know how a person would act under extreme conditions. I have done this with everyone I have trained, as was done to me and every other Ranger who has gone before.”


It was a lot for Rhya to take in, Owen realised that. However he could no more cut off his own arm than he could change the training regime. It might not seem so now, but over time Rhya would come to understand that what had gone on here was exactly what she and the other trainees needed. Succeeding in Ranger training should give a boost in confidence and provide the necessary skills to survive in any difficult situation.


“I think before you answer or ask any questions you need to quiet your doubts, calm your mind and try to see this without the barrier of emotions, find your centre, Rhya.” Owen was not being disparaging to Rhya, it was obvious she had had a hard time with the recent lessons, and she needed to see it for what it really was, survival.


White Fang

Ranger Leader

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Rhya was having what could only be called an epiphany. It wasn't particularly pleasant. With absolute clarity, she could recall every moment where she had blurred the lines throughout her test. Not intentionally or even consciously, but it happened and it had led to her imbuing Owen's words with meaning that wasn't there. He didn't cause her upset, she'd brought it on herself. Her head had been the one bouncing between the personal and the business at hand but she'd had the nerve to castigate him! 


Cradled in a cocoon of calmness as she was, having followed Owen's instruction, to find her centre, out of habit as much as for the common sense behind it, Rhya wasn't directly feeling the emotion connected to her realisations. It didn't stop the stricken expression that settled on her face nor the consternation in her eyes as she returned Owen's patient look. There was guilt, and shame, clamouring for entry beyond the borders of the peace surrounding her. 


Well and so, Rhyanon, that achieves nothing. You'll not be making the same mistake again, so don't be wallowing in it. The inner voice chastised her categorically, giving no quarter. Truth. She didn't get the luxury of feeling bad when she was in the wrong. Rhya squared her shoulders, mentally bracing herself, and let the unnatural calmness slip away to be replaced by her own more usual demeanour.


"I'm a fool," the bald statement hung in the air a moment, "my head was so twisted around that I couldn't see how I'd misinterpreted your words so badly. And you speak of not apologising to me... neither you should! You have nothing to apologise for. I, on the other hand," her lips twisted in self disgust, "am deeply sorry, dear heart. Forgive me?" In the sane light of day, Owen's explanations were reasonable, logical, exactly what she would expect. Maybe she wasn't as fit for this role as she'd hoped. Nonsense, her inner self was back and having none of it. You'll make an excellent Ranger, look who trained you! There's just more to learn...always more to learn. Truth once more.


Rhya reached out, curling her fingers around Owen's. His were calloused, yet soft; strong yet gentle. Like him... full of contradictions. With a sharp intake of breath she pulled her hand away again, and dragged her wayward thoughts back from from the direction they seemed permanently determined to take. This craving to touch and be touched was impossible! It had to end some time. Was this something all 'kin experienced? Aislyn hadn't been able to give her a satisfactory answer. It wasn't even purely physical, it was more than that; it felt soul deep. Dark lashes swept faintly rose stained cheeks as Rhya's gaze slid down and away. She stood hurriedly. "Did I hear mention of a celebration?"



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 "My head was so twisted around that I couldn't see how I'd misinterpreted your words so badly. And you speak of not apologising to me... neither you should! You have nothing to apologise for. I, on the other hand," her lips twisted in self-disgust, "am deeply sorry, dear heart. Forgive me?"


Owen was slightly bemused at the sudden about face and by Rhya giving him permission to not apologise to her, but even more so when she asked his forgiveness, an event so rare Owen was not sure he had ever heard her say those words before. Shaking his head at what he perceived as the absurdity of the situation, Owen took both of Rhya’s hands in his and kissed them.


“There is nothing for you to apologise for Rhya, the training is taxing and effects many people in different ways. However, it is edifying to know you are willing to acknowledge mistakes even if it is unnecessary.”


Whereas before there was an eddy of emotion swirling around Rhya, now all Owen could detect was a strange sense of satisfaction, although calling what he could sense satisfaction was a stretch, to say the least. Her control of her Wal was improving almost daily, but sometimes strong emotion could still get the better of her.


It was early evening when Owen and Rhya left their tree house and started the walk to the Ranger Barracks, although not for the purpose Rhya was hoping. Owen had decided to change things this time seeing as she had overheard Ham earlier in the day. When they arrived at the Barracks, Owen asked her to wait outside while he went in. The look on her face when Owen emerged from the Barracks, and took her hand to lead her towards the centre of the Stedding, took all of Owen’s self-control to not smile. What Rhya had not noticed, was the small bundle that Owen carried, it’s shape and size gave no indication what the bundle was.


Eventually Owen and Rhya arrived at the Hole in the Wall, all lights were out, and it appeared deserted. Owen opened the door and indicated Rhya shod go first, as she drew level with him Owen spun her to face him and kissed her. Eventually breaking the kiss Owen spoke. “This is your night Rhya, enjoy it."



White Fang


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Now what's going on? Rhya's thoughts reflected the bemusement on her face.


She knew from the stories each of them told that the Rangers usually celebrated new additions to their ranks amongst themselves at the Barracks, yet Owen had not even allowed her to enter that building. He seemed very pleased with himself but merely gripped her hand firmly, leading the way to the village, then through it and beyond to the inn. She knew there would be no point pressing the issue. The inn stood in darkness, a silent brooding shadow in the mid evening dusk, but that was no inconvenience to the extraordinary sight of a Wolfkin and didn't stop Owen pulling her up to the door and opening it, waiting for her to precede him into the bar. Some private celebration perhaps?


As if to confirm that suspicion, Owen tugged her back into his body and kissed her thoroughly. It was enough to leave her breathless but before she could gather her wits about her, he was stepping back and adjuring her to enjoy the night. She was about to demand answers but the words died on her lips as lights suddenly blossomed all around the room, from multiple sources, causing her to whirl around, only to meet a ground swell of noise coming from what appeared to be a gathering of most, if not all, of the Wolfkin. As the cheer reached a crescendo, people moved towards her, hands outstretched to offer congratulations, and Rhya's eyes flew from one face to another, taking in the genuine warmth and approbation being offered. She blinked rapidly against the sting of tears and swallowed in an attempt to dislodge the unexpected surge of emotion closing her throat.


She belonged here, this was truly her family. The feeling of being fully accepted finally sank in, in a way it never had before. Knowing a thing and knowing a thing were very different. More than a little overwhelmed, Rhya returned hand clasps and back thumps, and exchanged bantering comments, on auto pilot until most folks had moved away to collect drinks at the bar or to find seats. Finally sharing a bear sized hug with Rahien and a gentler, though no less loving, embrace with Aislyn, Rhya was able to catch her breath.


Her voice was a little plaintive when she then demanded, with a grin, of the Rangers nearest to her, "I'm expected to fade away from thirst now? Or worse, I must provide my own drinks at my own party? Is this some final test?"


This sally was greeted with laughter, promises of ale on the double and no few requests for her to give them a song...alongside some disparaging remarks on Owen's flute playing... but though Rhya laughed, she vouchsafed no other reply as her attention was already elsewhere. There was only one person who would understand her well enough to know what this meant to her, that she would wish to share such joy and warmth with, and her eyes sought Owen in the unusually crowded room. 


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  • 1 month later...

Owen followed Rhya inside, a slight smile on his face as he knew what was about to happen. Normally when a Guardian successfully completed their training the celebration was held in the Rangers' Barracks, but Owen knew Rhya had close friends outside the Rangers so he had decided it was only fair to break with tradition and choose another venue, and The Hole in the Wall was more than suitable. While Rhya  worked the room, enjoying/enduring the attention and well-deserved congratulations, Owen sort out to find Burrich and Ham.


“Well now Owen, I see you survived Rhya’s training. There were many amongst the Rangers who thought you wouldn’t.” Burrich smiled his lopsided grin as he said this while Ham handed Owen a tankard of his favourite Dark ale. “So, tell us Owen, was training your wife worse than your own training? I mean if Rhya had not passed you would not be able to sleep anywhere for fear of what she would do to you.” By now some of the other Rangers had joined the three of them and all had smiles on their faces. The ribbing continued for a while before conversation turned to more mundane topics concerning the safety of the Stedding.


“Rhyanon Glendawr, front and centre.” Owen had made his way to the small stage and it was from there that he summoned Rhya. Disentangling herself from the throng of Wolfkin still congratulating her, she climbed onto the stage and stood next to Owen. “Tradition is important to the Rangers, as it is to all Wolfkin, and tonight is no different. Rhyanon Glendawr you have shown during your training the steadfastness, dedication and self-sacrifice that marks you out as a Wolfkin Ranger, and as a sign of that we are here to present you with the marks of your newfound station. Firstly, tomorrow morning you will report to the Rangers' Barracks where you will collect your new weapons and your armour. These items have been made to the exacting standards of the Wolfkin, may they serve you well no matter where you find yourself. Tonight however, we have two gifts for you, the first is this.”


Owen now handed the package he had been carrying to Rhya and as she was unwrapping it, he continued speaking. “This cloak has no magical abilities, but it will keep you warm and dry in all but the direst of conditions. As we all know, a cloak needs a broach and all Rangers have the same broach.” Owen waited until she had the cloak settled around her shoulders and then pinned the wolf’s head broach to the front of her cloak. As he did so he leaned in close to Rhya and spoke softly enough that only she could hear. “I am really proud of you, my love, I hope you are as happy as I am?”


White Fang

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Rhyanon Glendawr. It was rare that anyone addressed her by her married name and so it was still novel enough to sound utterly captivating to Rhya. Especially when spoken by the voice of the one responsible for her having it! How very far I have come in so short a time. Changes I could not have predicted had I tried to do so. A family lost and a family gained. An inheritance lost but a purpose gained. The love of my father lost but the love of a husband gained. 


Owen leaned in close to Rhya, bringing her meandering thoughts back to the present. “I am really proud of you, my love, I hope you are as happy as I am?”


Skin flushed with heightened colour from the unusual circumstance of being the focus of so much attention, Rhya turned sparkling eyes Owen's way and replied in kind to the quietly spoken query. "How could I not be?" The slow smile that was his alone spread across her face. "To become a Ranger, and to do so without disappointing you? I am really proud of me too! But those things are simply added bounty," she laid long fingers against his chest, feeling the regular, solid rhythm of his heartbeat, "to the wealth I already had right here beneath my fingertips."


Her eyes dropped to the wolf's head now pinned in the folds of her new cloak. "It's a very pretty broach though, is it not?" True delight, that she couldn't quite hide, suffused her voice then, somewhat belying the calmness of her previous words, and causing Owen to smile. "And new weapons and armour too! It feels almost like my Naming Day." 


Rhya stretched up on tiptoe, pressing a loving, if brief, kiss against his lips and murmured, " Come then, we had best be sure to speak to everyone quickly."


"Why the rush, Rhya?" came the apparently innocent, but clearly amused, reply.


As if he hadn't the first notion! she thought, raising an eyebrow at him in disbelief. "Because we need to go home... so I can thank you. Properly..." she grinned, spinning off back into the crowd of well wishers, with the rare sound of his laughter in her ears.


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