Heya! I'm really bad at this whole blogging thing... I just prefer spending my free time writing the books!
BUT I understand that this is important too for the few people who come to the site.
As such, and as a secret surprise for anyone who somehow finds this, here's a chapter from Book 4. It's an interlude, so it has no spoilers about the rest of the book, but I really enjoyed re-reading it and writing it. If you've somehow made it here and haven't read books 1-3, this might be a bit spoiler-ish.
It made me think, do all of you have a favourite chapter from the books? Even if favourite isn't the right word, is there a chapter that stuck out to you or made you want to keep reading?
Book 4 has several chapters I would call my 'favourite' but the chapter 'Merchants' in book 1 will always hold a special place for me.
Anyways, without further ado, here's the pre-edited chapter from Book 4, Collapse, set to release in October of this year (probably).
Chapter Title: Goodbye
The two humans crouched as they watched their prey in the distance. The young girl didn't move as she waited for her father to make his move. This wasn't their first time out hunting together, but this was her first time out hunting something this big. Rabbits and small deer were one thing, but her father was giving her the chance to see him hunt a true beast today - a monster.
Six was usually too young to hunt a real monster, but for the Ranger family, hunting was taught from an extremely early age.
Rana watched as her father motioned for her to watch as he took out his bow. Lining up his shot, she saw that the monster still hadn't noticed them. Only slightly taller than her, the boar-like monster didn't look too intimidating, but she had been taught well enough not to underestimate any beast.
Holding the arrow in place, Rana knew her father was waiting to see if there would be any unexpected gusts of wind. When the forest remained still, she heard the bow release and barely saw the arrow fly directly towards the beast.
The arrow struck true as it took the beast unaware as it fell almost instantly.
"Yes!" Rana yelped, earning a look from her father.
Her hands shot up to her mouth instantly as she recognized her mistake.
You never know what other monsters might have been hunting the same prey. And she knew she had just given away their position to anything, or anyone, else nearby.
She scolded herself as her father looked around to check for any other hunters nearby. When nothing showed up, he didn't say anything as he quietly made his way to the felled monster.
He knew, even at six, that he didn't need to tell her what she'd done wrong.
Looking back at his daughter, he knew she had a hard life ahead of her, but he was proud.
Getting to the boar, the death had been quick and most of the meat was still usable. He thanked the forest for its gracious bounty before starting to wrap it in rope to be brought back to their home.
"Come, Rana. Show me you've been practicing," He called, which got Rana to hurry over.
A smile on her face, she spent the next few minutes preparing the monster for transport.
"Mom! We're home!" Rana yelled excitedly as she reached their home. On the outskirts of their small town, they didn't have much. It didn't matter; all Rangers were taught to overcome. Even those who weren't part of the main family knew how to survive.
For branch families, though, there was sadly a lot more to overcome.
"Rana, quiet down, my love. We have company." Rana's mother came walking out of their home. Behind her was another set of men, all fully equipped.
"Yes, you have company indeed! Welcome home, cousin. I see the hunt went well. You even thought to bring your young daughter along, what a treat for the young one," the man at the front of the group said.
Rana ran over to her mother quickly, hugging her leg tightly.
"Yes, Bren, the hunt went well. What can I do for you?" Rana's father responded curtly. He looked at his wife, noticing no marks or bruises to show that she had been harmed.
"Your wife is fine. We heard that she is expecting a child and came by to say hello. We also have news to deliver. A Dungeon has been found east of here. You have been appointed to the expedition." Bren continued.
"I cannot leave my wife when she is expected to give birth any day now. The Dungeon will have to wait."
"It wasn't a request.
You have a week to prepare. Hopefully, the baby comes within that time; otherwise, you'll be seeing them after you return." The group didn't wait for his response as they started their walk back to the town.
Remaining quiet, Rana's father, Rohan, watched as they left as he greeted his wife.
Rohan left later that evening, but wasn't out for long before he came back. Looking at his face, he was even more angry than when he'd left. Rana didn't understand as her mother started to cry upon his return.
They didn't even celebrate the successful hunt that evening.
Rather, Rana ended up eating the rations they'd brought on the trip instead.
Days passed as her father prepared for his trip. Several times her mother would ask him to remain, or to run away from the family altogether, but he continued to persist that he could not abandon the family. He was fortunate to have been born in the Ranger family but was unfortunate to have been born outside of the main branch.
Always the first to scout out dangerous Dungeons. Always the first sent to fight the dangerous monsters. And always the first to be discarded if a scapegoat was needed in times of strife.
Rohan knew there were countless advantages to having the Ranger name, but couldn't think of any as he held his crying wife in his arms.
On the fourth day since their return, Rohan thanked the spirit of the forest as his wife went into labour. Inviting the midwives into their home, Rohan was blessed with a young boy to carry his name, Adam.
Rana looked down at her brother and smiled.
Rohan left three days later for the Dungeon to the East.
"Adam, come inside for dinner," their mother yelled. Another day spent hunting, and they had only earned a rabbit for their troubles. With their father gone, Adam spent most of his time learning from the people in the town. The town was full of hunters and others with the family name, and many were willing to help them learn.
After a year away, their father eventually returned, but his time back was always short-lived. For the first ten years of his life, Adam was relatively happy.
Sure, the family members with the most power would generally treat him the worst, but he excelled for his age. Showcasing skills with a bow, tracking, and stealth that were well above his years, many knew he was bound to follow in the footsteps of his father as a great Ranger.
Not to be outdone, Rana excelled also. And when she turned sixteen, the Goddess approved by giving her the ARROW affinity. The year she left for the nearest Prep was likely his most difficult, but Adam pushed on as he helped his mother and father as best as he could.
Upon her return, she found that little had changed.
Any affinity that allowed them to better use a bow or arrow was highly sought after. This, however, only increased the pressure the siblings would receive from the main family as they were expected to take part in more and more hunts. Eventually, even before gaining an Affinity, Adam was also asked to kill and hunt G-Rank monsters. Rana made sure to join these hunts, ensuring he would remain safe.
Their father was away on missions often, but the family would take most of the Dungeon profits as they were often contracted by those around the continent for their skill and Skills in combat and tracking.
One night, Adam asked his father and mother yet again why they couldn't just leave.
"This is our family, son. You are too young to understand it now, but we cannot abandon our family," Rohan explained.
"That same family treats us like slaves to be used and discarded. The same family that talks behind our backs and treats us like secondary citizens! They need us more than we need them, and you still refuse to see it!" Adam yelled, before storming out of the house.
"Follow him, Rana." their mother said, a single tear falling from her eye before she wiped it away.
"He's right," Rana said as she went after her brother.
Rohan looked to his wife, who said nothing as she hugged and consoled her husband.
Another year passed, and on one of his missions, Rohan never returned.
With their father gone, their mother was then asked to take his place. Adam and Rana protested, noting that she hadn't practiced or trained in years, but their mother insisted that it needed to be done. Rana offered to go herself, but their mother stressed that that was exactly why she needed to go.
At nineteen, Rana was well on her way to becoming a true Ranger. And despite how the family treated them, she’d shown great progress with both her Skills and ability to use her internal energy.
Still, she didn't dare defy her mother as she stayed behind to look after and continue to train Adam.
Often, they joked about the irony of it all. They were part of the family for protection, and yet, most of their time was spent protecting each other from the family.
Not long passed and their mother was brought back to them. This time, their parent had lived, but no amount of healing was able to fix the leg she had lost in the process.
Crippled, the family finally took pity on their family as they let her stop joining the missions.
With their mother now incapable of going, however, they all knew the day Rana would be asked to take her place was inevitable.
Unwilling to watch another family member be hurt or killed, Adam pushed himself harder than ever to earn as much money as he could for the family. As the days passed, his skills grew, but at fourteen, he still wasn't of age to earn an Affinity.
He heard stories from his sister about schools that helped kids learn about their Skills and yearned for the ability to be free from the shackles of his family.
The dependency on the family waned as Adam grey more self-sufficient. He sold to tourists passing through and even occasionally ventured further to make money in nearby towns. On each trip, he learned more and more about the world around him. Each trip he would hear about the wonderful Ranger family whose prowess was known across the kingdom for their skills and the good they did for people everywhere. This only helped to anger him further as people didn't know the type of pressure that was placed on them to meet those ideals.
Through these trips, however, he finally felt the independence he was promised from the Ranger name. This, nevertheless, didn't last long as the family started to notice they were no longer participating in hunts for the village or Ranger missions. They saw Adam's abilities but knew they couldn't ask a fourteen-year-old to go. And as such, it finally meant it was time for Rana to go. Again, Adam protested, but their mother was now dead set on never leaving. In her view, their lives were not perfect, but they had a well-known name and a legacy to pass on. She held firm that Rohan would not have wanted them to leave, and so she refused time and time again.
Adam knew that he couldn't let another tragedy happen. Speaking to his sister, the two of them came to the difficult decision to leave the family. They knew the weight of their decision but didn't care as they begged their mother again to join. Their mother was disappointed, but barely protested as she simply refused and swore to never leave the Ranger family. She chose to stay and be taken care of, in part, by the village.
The main members heard their decision and stated that they would lose any privileges that came with their family name. They would never be allowed to return, and any mention of them using their name for gain would be seen as a violation of theirs against the family. As side branch members, they had very few rights to begin with, and would be given little to leave with. They didn't care, happy to get away from the oppressive family that had given them so little and asked so much.
Years passed and they made their way from town to town as they earned enough money to survive and live. Adam eventually received an Affinity, BOW, which he immediately started to practice and use. Now outside of the village, at the age of sixteen, he joined the Krader Prep and finally felt at home.
Rana continued to travel, but eventually joined a team of Dungeoneers who appreciated how capable she was at such a young age. Even after Prep, Adam decided to stay in Krader to continue to grow and take jobs surrounding the area.
They continued to see and hear from each other often, knowing they were all the other had left.
And it was exactly these thoughts that swept through Adam's mind as he looked again at the bow Lin had given him. The bow his sister had earned on her final Dungeon Dive. The bow signaled that despite having a mother back in their village, he was well and truly alone.