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She was one of the worst patients Rían had ever had. Not the worst case, by far—the burns were many, but none of them were particularly severe—but the worst by way of attitude. She truly did not understand that she had been in mortal peril and mortal pain—especially now that she was recovering, and she would not even give Rían the satisfaction of a name.
Her colouration suggested she was from the Bree-lands (and very far afield), and the freckles on her face and shoulders and the calluses on her hands meant her family farmed, but that did not explain the trousers, or the rusty sword that she had been found with. They had found her in an abandoned cabin that had caught fire—Rían had not enquired into the causes, but there had not been a storm that night.
But she was about to find out. “I am not releasing you from my care,” she said, as she changed the girl’s bandages, “until you tell me your name, your parents’, where you hail from, and what you were doing in that cabin.”
“I’m not telling you my name,” said the girl, “or my parents’, or where I’m from. You’ll just send me back.”
“And why is going back so bad? You nearly got yourself killed out here.”
“Yes, but I got these wonderfully hideous scars, and I got rescued, and it was all such a grand adventure…”
Rían had never thought she would hear someone say “wonderfully hideous” and actually mean it.
“Did you run away?”
“Not… not necessarily. I just decided that now would be a great time for an adventure that didn’t involve getting married.”
“Oh. Hence the hideous scars?”
“But they don’t stop me from being useful around the house—I’ve already figured that out, so you see I must stay away from home.”
“And what are you going to do, out here?”
“Become a Ranger.”
Rían nearly dropped the roll of bandage cloth she was holding. “Aren’t Rangers horrid and suspicious people?”
“Yes—but that means they get left alone all the time, plus they get to carry around these whacking big swords and glare at people.”
“Where did you get yours?”
“The sword. Where did you get it?”
“From my dad’s mantel. Our ancestors sent some people out to help the King, long ago.”
“And you truly want to become a Ranger?”
The girl nodded eagerly. “I know it’s hard work, but it’s got to be a lot more exciting than pulling weeds.”
“It is very dangerous as well, much worse than accidentally setting your own camp on fire. And there are other traditional requirements—those of blood.”
The girl held out her burned arm.
“I meant ancestry—Rangers come from a high and noble lineage.”
“But they’re all suspicious-like!”
“Rough bark can hide a fine core.”
The girl suddenly looked at Rían appraisingly. “Where am I, anyhow?”
“In the healer’s cot in Taurdal. I already told you that.”
“But who lives in Taurdal?”
Rían returned to her work.
“Are they Rangers? Can you let me see them?”
Rían sighed. This was definitely a case for the Chieftain.
The prompt for this fic was a picture, given here. The name "Taurdal" as a Ranger village was borrowed, in tribute, from the fan film Born of Hope. If this Taurdal is in the same location as the film's, the nameless female is indeed far afield.
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