It was a sunny day in Quel'Thalas. As always, the beautiful blue sky was free of any clouds. The warm sun shined down and warmed the land which was mostly covered by fine green coloured grass. The twittering of the birds echoed through the forests.
The Eversong Woods was home to many animals. Squirrels, birds, deers, boars, lynxes, dragonhawks and many other creatures lived there. Most creatures lived in peace together. Only the lynxes looked for trouble and hunted other creatures for food.
Even though the lynxes were the only numerous predators in the forests in the forest, the balance of power still existed in the forest. The lynxes were known for attacking travellers and everyone who came in their near. That was the reason why they were hunted by the local inhabitants - the high elves.
The high elf hunters, known as the Farstriders, killed those beasts to make sure that no race in the Eversong Woods and in other forests in Quel'Thalas would extinguish. Also, they used their flesh for food and their fur for clothing. All in all, the Farstriders were doing a very good job of maintaining balance in nature.
One of these Farstrider was Sylvanas Windrunner who strolled through the forest at this very moment. She was Ranger-General of Silvermoon, meaning that she was the leader of the Farstriders. She was wearing brown leggings which were decorated with blue and golden coloured armour pieces.
These armour pieces made her look good but their main purpose was to protect Sylvanas. Her upper body armour consisted of a breastplate which exposed her belly and parts of her well-formed breasts. Her shoulder plates had the form of the head of a hawk which eyes were portrayed by expensive blue gems.
Most of her blonde, almost golden, hair was hidden beneath a blue hood which was connected with a blue cloak. Her cloak was so long that it even reached to her feet. But she always paid attention to her surroundings, making sure that nobody would accidentally step on it. It didn't even bother her in combat when she moved as fast as a gazelle.
Over her shoulders hung a majestic bow, which was made out of the best wood which could be found in the nearest forests and decorated with lots of gold, and a quiver which contained twenty-four arrows. All in all, her outfit was very expensive but also very magnificent. Sylvanas was the Ranger-General of Silvermoon, meaning that she was a well-known and well-respected personality. The people expected a lot of her and a lot of people were looking up to her, so she had to wear such magnificent clothes to impress everyone.
She was a very beautiful woman. A lot of people would say that she belonged to the most beautiful women in Quel'Thalas. Even though beauty meant a lot for the high elves, Sylvanas didn't really care if she looked gorgeous or not. She only wore such clothes and cared for her appearance because the others expected that from her.
She was respected because of her beauty, her rank, her determination and her skill in combat. It was normal for her that she had a lot of admirers who showered her with gifts and proposals. She always accepted the gifts but rejected the proposals.
She was one hundred and sixty years old which was nothing for a high elf. Lots of high elves became at least two thousand years old if they didn't fell in battle. Sylvanas was very young for a high elf, but not too young. She had reached adulthood sixty years ago but found herself still too young to raise a family. She wanted to see more of the world, fight more battles and kill more enemies before she would settle down and become a mother. Becoming more and more successful would be difficult if she had a family. Of course, she wanted to have a family one day. But not at this time and not in the near future. Probably in the distant future.
She spotted one of those, who had proposed to her years ago, leaning against a tree. The male had short blond hair and wore brown leggings and a leather vest which had been dyed greenish. His cloak, which was green and not as long as hers, was also connected to a hood but unlike Sylvanas the man hadn't put it on. He was also carrying a bow but it didn't look so magnificent as hers. He was just an average Ranger-Lieutenant, meaning that he didn't earn that much to be able to purchase such splendid weapons and armour pieces.
"Good morning, Ranger-General" he greeted politely, lowering his head in respect.
"Good morning, Velon" she greeted back and gave him a quick nod. "How are you doing?"
"I'm doing fine. Thanks for asking" he responded.
"Have the others already arrived?" she asked curiously as she walked past him and continued to follow the path through the forest.
"They have. We are only waiting for you" he responded, following her quickly.
"How many candidates do we have today?" she didn't look at him as she talked with him. She just looked forward as she walked through the forest.
"Twenty if I remember correctly"
Sylvanas stopped suddenly, turning around. She tilted her head and raised an eyebrow, giving him a surprised look. "Twenty? So many?"
"It has surprised me as well. I didn't expect that so many interested young men and women live in this area" explained Velon and got closer to her until she stood right in front of her.
"I can't complain about so many interested citizens. I'm only hoping that this time more potential recruits are among the candidates. I went to Tranquillien three days ago. It shocked me that none of the ten candidates was good enough for our standards. They weren't even close to fulfilling our expectations. Hopefully, more candidates who live in the near of Suncrown Village have potential. We have lost a lot of good men and women during recent wars and skirmishes. We absolutely need more recruits or the Farstriders die out if we have to go to another war against the trolls and orcs"
"I've seen them practicing. Lots of them have potential. I think that at least five possible recruits are among them"
"I'm hoping you are right. We will see"
"Yes, we will"
They didn't say anything else during their travel. They left the forest behind them and followed the street until they came to a small camp. The camp consisted out of five tents, two large ones and three of medium size. There was also a provisional-built training area. Training dummies, shooting targets and other practice tools had been built up in a line. Two of Sylvanas' rangers were standing in the middle of the training area and talked about something. They stopped talking and saluted to her when they spotted her. She greeted them in return and regarded her surroundings.
"It seems that you have been working hard over the past hours. This does look better than I've expected"
"Thank you, Ranger-General" one of the two elves, a female, responded.
"Where are the candidates?" asked Sylvanas, crossing her arms in front of her chest.
"There" responded the other elf, pointing at the closest of the two large tents. Sylvanas gave him a thankful nod and walked to the tent which was large enough that fifty persons could fit in it. She walked through the entrance, looking around without hesitation. About ten young elves stood in the left corner and talked, ten more were spread out in the tent. Sylvanas noticed that the candidates had built groups of three to five people. There was only one elf who was not surrounded by others. He was sitting on a small stool in the right corner of the tent and regarded his bow.
He seemed to be the only one who hadn't noticed that she had entered the tent. He was so focused on his bow that he didn't notice that she was getting closer to him. Sylvanas stopped right in front of him, tilting her head as she regarded him closely. The others smiled amusedly as they stared at the young elf, who was still lost in thoughts.
Sylvanas put her hands on her hips and continued to look at the elf, wondering when he will notice her. She kept standing in front of him for two minutes before she cleared her throat. The young elf jumped up as he spotted the Ranger-General in front of him. It was unmistakable that he was frightened by her sudden appearance. - At least it had looked like she had appeared right in front of him out of his point of view.
"R...Ranger-General" he stuttered nervously, blushing heavily. Like his voice, his hands shook heavily. The other candidates began to laugh about his behaviour but they fell silent as they noticed that Sylvanas was looking at them, making a strict face. She kept staring at the candidates for a few moments before she turned back to the lonely elf who was putting strands of his half long blond hair behind his left ear.
"And who are you?" Sylvanas asked the nervous elf, regarding him with interest.
The elf needed a few moments to calm down a bit. He was still nervous but at least he was able to speak a few words without stuttering. "I'm Kelrian, Milady"
"Milady? Just call me Ranger-General"
"As you wish, Mil... Ranger-General" he responded, chuckling nervously. He tried his best to hide his embarrassment but it didn't work quite well as he had hoped. Sylvanas didn't need to turn around and look at the others to know that they were making fun of him. She was about to scold them as a familiar person stepped in the tent.
It was her older sister Alleria. She looked similar to her except that her outfit was coloured in green and was decorated with less gold than Sylvanas'. Alleria was not as beautiful as Sylvanas was but she still belonged to the most beautiful and popular women in Quel'Thalas.
Alleria's lips formed a happy smile as she saw her baby sister on the opposite side of the tent. The candidates stepped away, allowing Alleria to get to her sister. Alleria threw her arms around the neck of her younger sister, pulling her in a tight hug. "It's good to see you, dear sister"
"It's good to see you too, Alleria"
Alleria's sky blue eyes stared into Sylvanas eyes which looked exactly like hers. "You took your time, didn't you?" she asked with a cheeky grin on her lips. "We expected you an hour ago"
Sylvanas stepped away from her sister and regarded her from head to toe. "A small group of trolls kept me busy. You as a Ranger-Captain should know pretty well that dealing with them could cost a lot of time. You know, killing them, burning their corpses and stuff like that"
"Alright. You are finally here, that's all that matters. Now we can go to the training area and find out what these candidates are capable of"
"Go ahead, sister" spoke Sylvanas and pointed at the exit. Alleria nodded, signalizing everyone to follow her as she left the tent. The candidates took their things and followed the Ranger-Captain quickly. Kelrian was the only one who needed longer because he dropped his bow two times when he collected his things. Sylvanas shook her head slightly. A frown was visible on her forehead as she regarded the nervous adolescent.
He was clumsier than all the candidates she had seen during all the entrance examinations she had attended since she had become Ranger-General. She had been very young when she had stepped in the footsteps of her mother had and become Ranger-General. This meant that she had attended lots of examinations. She was very experienced so she could assume that this teenager wouldn't do very well. But she knew better than to judge someone by the first impression the person had left, so she was curious what this elf was capable of.
She waited patiently until Kelrian had collected all of his things. He blushed and gave her an apologizing look before he rushed to the tent's exit. Sylvanas followed him quickly, preventing at the last moment that he would drop his things again. Their hands touched for a short moment when she did that. Sylvanas didn't mind but Kelrian's cheeks became redder when he realized what had happened. He looked away, not wanting that Sylvanas would see him like this.
He increased his walking speed and went to the others. Sylvanas wanted to warn him that his things were about to slip out of his arms again but it was already too late. The bow, his quiver, his knives and other items he needed for the examination fell onto the ground. The other candidates broke out in laughter as Kelrian bent down to pick his things up. His head was as red as a tomato. Alleria rubbed her forehead, shaking her head. It was unmistakable that she felt embarrassed for him.
She looked at Sylvanas, wondering what she was thinking about him. Alleria expected that this young man wouldn't be suitable for the Farstriders. She was curious if Sylvanas was sharing her opinion. Everyone who had eyes would share her opinion. Alleria couldn't figure out what Sylvanas was thinking because she was making an impassive face and didn't show any emotion. Alleria shrugged and walked to the training dummies, signalizing her sister to come to her. Sylvanas didn't hesitate and walked over to her.
One of the members of her squad gave her a folded parchment. She unfolded it and looked over it before she started to read out the names which were written on it, checking if everyone was present. She was pleased as she found out that everyone was there. She knew half of the names which had been written on the parchment. At least half of the family names were known to her.
Kelrian was no exception. His family name was Sunsinger. The members of his family weren't noble but they are well known and well respected. They were known to be the best priests in Quel'Thalas. So, it made sense that Sylvanas was wondering why the child of a priest wanted to become a Farstrider. Sylvanas had never heard of a member of the Sunsinger family which wasn't a priest or a paladin. Not even the most distant relatives. Sylvanas didn't have the time to figure out why Kelrian attending on the examination nor did she want an explanation from him.
Sylvanas greeted the candidates and told them that she was glad that so many came this day. She explained quickly how the entire examination would proceed. Everyone listened curiously without disturbing the Ranger-General. Sylvanas' speech was over after half an hour. She told everyone that they had half an hour to practice before the tests would start. Everyone nodded and began to warm up.
Lots of elves ran small rounds, loosened up and stretched their limbs. Some of them decided to not warm up. Instead, they shot arrows at aim targets, threw knives at dummies or ran around the small trees which had been planted in a line next to training grounds. The distance between the small trees was big enough to allow the candidates an ideal parkour.
Sylvanas was leaning against a bigger tree, arms crossed in front of her chest as she regarded the candidates. Her eyes fell on the nervous priest son who was aiming at a target. He was biting his lip nervously and his arms were shaking. He let the arrow loose, making a disappointed face when it flew past the target. Alleria, who was standing not far away from him, had troubles suppressing her giggles. It was unmistakable for Sylvanas that Alleria wasn't believing that this young adolescent would pass the examination. Sylvanas, on the other hand, didn't give him up that easily for a reason she couldn't explain to herself.
She walked over to him, stopping a few feet away from him. Her presence didn't make things easier for the already nervous teenager. On the contrary, her presence made him even more nervous and distracted him, causing that his arrow missed the target and hit the next one to the right.
"Well, at least you managed to hit the bull's eye" Sylvanas said amused and pointed at the red circle in the middle of the aim target which was used by another candidate. Kelrian didn't laugh about Sylvanas' joke which was meant to lighten up the mood and take pressure from his shoulders. Instead, he stared ashamed on the ground, blushing heavily.
"Did someone ever show you how to use a bow?" asked Sylvanas, making a step closer to Kelrian. He didn't look at her when he shook his head in response.
"Why?" asked Sylvanas as she stepped closer to him. She put her hand under his chin, lifting it so that he was forced to look at her. She was making a serious face, signalizing him that she wanted to hear an answer.
"Well... I..." he started but didn't finish.
"Yes?" asked Sylvanas, not losing her patience as she looked at him. He was biting his bottom lip nervously as he looked at her. The red colour of his cheeks hadn't changed at all. Sylvanas noticed that she was still holding his chin. She removed her hand and folded her arms behind her back, tilting her head a little.
"To be honest, no one in my family knows how to use a bow. Among my friends are no archers, so there is no one who could teach me how to use a bow" he explained. Sylvanas heard laughter coming from behind her back. She turned around immediately. The strict look on her face was enough to silence those who had laughed. They looked ashamed on the ground or continued with their training sessions.
Sylvanas turned back to Kelrian who was still blushing. His blushing face looked cute to her.
"How old are you?" asked Sylvanas. She ignored the confused look from Alleria. She didn't need to look twice at her sister to know that she was asking herself why she was talking with this candidate who seemed to have by far the least experience with a bow of all.
The others seemed to do fine, at least according to what she had seen so far. Only Kelrian looked bad compared to the others. Still, Sylvanas didn't give him up that easily. She didn't know why she was doing this. She could just stand next to her sister and watch the candidates while they prepared themselves. Instead, she had decided to help this young inexperienced teenager so that he would have at least a small change against the other candidates.
"Fifty-five" he responded shyly.
"Fifty-five, so you are only half an adult"
"Yes, I am. I'm reaching adulthood in forty-five years"
"Until then, I'm pretty sure you will get better" responded Sylvanas.
Kelrian's eyes widened. "Do you... Do you advise me to leave and return when I'm older?"
"To be honest, I think it's better if you practice more if you really want to become one of us. I'm afraid that you would only disgrace yourself if you keep going. On the other hand, you could try it as well. Maybe you will make it if I show you how to hold a bow"
Kelrian was speechless. He didn't know what to say and think at this very moment. He knew that he wasn't the best when it came to hitting targets but he wanted to become a Farstrider so badly. Not because he had dreamed of becoming a Farstrider since his youth.
He had always dreamed of becoming a famous priest like his father. But he had failed the priest examinations two times in a row. He didn't want to learn an occupation like trader, baker or tanner. He didn't want to become an explorer either. He wanted to be useful, to do something important for the citizens of Quel'Thalas. Like protecting the innocents from dangers like trolls, orcs or wild beasts. To achieve his goal, he had to become a Farstrider.
Alleria walked to her sister, pulling her a few feet away from Kelrian. "She didn't say that you can't become a Farstrider. We only think that you need a few more years of training. A ranger without experience wouldn't be useful for us. This is nothing personal, I hope you can understand that"
Sylvanas turned her head, looking at her sister. "Give him a chance. He has applied for this examination, so he deserves a chance to show us what he is capable of"
"You just said yourself that it would be better for him to wait until he gets older and more experienced so that he wouldn't disgrace himself in front of everyone" responded Alleria. The confusion was hearable in her voice and visible on her face.
"Well, I have changed my mind. He deserves to have a chance"
Alleria raised an eyebrow and shook her head. "Fine, if you think so, Ranger-General" she responded and walked away to the other Farstriders who were regarding the scene curiously. Sylvanas noticed that the others had stopped warming up while she had talked to her sister, so she signalized everyone to continue warming up. They didn't hesitate and obeyed her.
She turned back to Kelrian who looked a lot more nervous than usual. "You should try it" she said and gave him a small smile. He gave her an insecure nod. "Come I'll show you how to hold a bow correctly"
She stepped behind him and wrapped her arms around his body, correcting his posture. Kelrian's blush became worse when he noticed that the Ranger-General's body was pressed against his back as she helped him. He could feel her hot breath on his neck. He could feel his skin tingling nervously and his heart beating faster than it had ever beaten in his life. His thoughts started to deviate. Fortunately, he was brought back to reality when Sylvanas waved her hand in front of his eyes and shook him carefully.
Kelrian blinked in surprise, his cheeks became even redder as he noticed that he had been lost in thoughts.
"I've corrected your body posture. Now it should be easier to hit at least the right aim target"
Indeed, Kelrian hit the target which was fifty-four yards away from him. He hit every shot but only the outer circles of the target. He never got past the third inner circle. In Sylvanas' opinion, he was not doing bad, considering that he hadn't used a bow very often before. But he was nothing compared to the other candidates. Most of them hit the bull's eyes with most of their shots.
Sylvanas already knew that she couldn't accept all recruits. In the end, she had to discuss with the other examiners who would be allowed to join them. She already knew that Alleria and the others would speak out against Kelrian. She was only hoping that he would be doing better in the other disciplines.
Unfortunately, he didn't cut a good figure in the other disciplines. He lost two of three times in close combat, he was slower than the others in the 1000-feet sprint and he was the last to arrive on the opposite shore of the lake. At least he was able to follow the tracks of an animal. But that was not enough to convince Sylvanas, Alleria and the other examiners.
In the end, the little committee decided to allow eight of the twenty candidates to join them and become their new recruits. Alleria had the honour to speak to the candidates and tell them who had passed the examination and who should try it again in four years. Also, she told a few candidates that it would be better for them to look out for another profession. The candidates who made it through the examination cheered loudly. Most of those who were told to return in four years didn't look very happy but they weren't angry or devastated.
The ones, who were told to look out for another profession, made angry, sad or devasted faces but they didn't say anything. They just muttered a few unrecognizable sentences and left the camp after they had said goodbye to Sylvanas and the others. The ones who had passed the examination followed Alleria to the large tent.
The other candidates left except for Kelrian who stood on the same spot he had been standing since Alleria had started her speech. He was staring at his feet, struggling hard to hold tears back.
He chewed on his bottom lip and played with his fingers nervously. He didn't notice that Sylvanas getting closer to him. She stopped right in front of him, putting her hands on her hips. Her lips formed a sympathetic smile as she observed him.
Sylvanas realized that he still hadn't noticed her. She cleared her throat, chuckling when he startled. He blushed and ran his fingers through his hair nervously, looking away a few moments later. Sylvanas tilted her head and frowned, wondering why he was avoiding eye contact.
"You don't need to be ashamed of yourself. It's only natural that those, who have trained since their youth, would pass the examination. You don't need to be ashamed that you aren't as good as they are" spoke Sylvanas with a comforting voice.
Kelrian responded quietly, still refusing to look at her. "I disgraced myself in front of everyone. In front of the other candidates, in front of Ranger-Captain Windrunner and... in front of you as well..."
Sylvanas exhaled and regarded the young elf in front of her. He was staring at the ground, tears were formed in the corners of his eyes. He was shaking nervously. His facial expression told the Ranger-General that he was very disappointed in himself.
Sylvanas had seen a lot of candidates who had burst into tears after they had failed. Sometimes, she had ordered her subordinates to comfort them. Sometimes, she had left them in peace and let them overcome their grief alone. But this time she didn't want to leave this elf alone or send another examiner to comfort him. For some reason, which she couldn't explain to herself, she wanted to be the one to comfort him.
She put her left hand on his shoulder, waiting until he turned his head and looked back at her. "You did very well for someone who didn't train at all. I'm pretty sure that you will pass the examination in four years if you practice hard enough. You just have to believe in yourself"
"Are you sure?" asked Kelrian. He wiped the tears away, giving her a hopeful look.
She smiled at him. "Of course, I am. I can see if a person has potential or not. I'm able to find out very quickly if a candidate would become a useful Farstrider or not"
"Do you think that I could become a Farstrider one day?" he asked shyly, making a step closer to her.
His eyes widened in surprise, his mouth hung wide open as his ears received Sylvanas' words. The surprise was quickly replaced by hope.
Sylvanas chuckled and patted his shoulder softly. "You have to train very hard to reach this goal. As you may have witnessed, the examination is not easy"
"I know. I will train very hard and pass the examination next time. I promise" he spoke, sounding very convinced about this.
"I hope you will. Can I ask you something?"
"Of course, Ranger-General"
"Why did you attend the examination? As far as I know, every member of your family becomes either a priest or a paladin. This tradition exists hundreds of years. Don't you want to become a priest?"
His facial expression became sadder. He broke eye contact with Sylvanas and turned his head a bit, looking at his fingers. "I attended the priest examination twice. Last month and four years ago. But I failed horribly. It seems that I'm the only one in my family who isn't qualified to be a servant of the light". His voice sounded weak and was filled with sadness.
"I'm sorry to hear that" responded Sylvanas, not knowing what else to say at this very moment. She was silent for a few minutes, staring at Kelrian as she tried to figure out how she could comfort him.
Kelrian looked up eventually, staring directly into her beautiful face. It would be a lie to deny that Sylvanas was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her eyes glowed brighter and were by far more beautiful than every sapphire he had ever seen. The colour of her skin resembled the colour of peaches. Her majestic hair was so beautiful that even gods and goddess would be envious of her. She was taller than most elven women. She almost as tall as most males she was working with. Even with his fifty-five years, Kelrian was still a teenager. He was not fully grown, meaning it was only natural that Sylvanas was a head taller than him.
Kelrian regarded Sylvanas as a goddess. As the most beautiful creature, he had ever seen. Most inhabitants of Quel'Thalas admired her. Men or women, even teenagers like him admired her. He was not sure what he felt about her but he knew that he was definitely attracted by her. No sane creature would deny that Sylvanas was breathtakingly beautiful.
After having stared into her eyes for almost five minutes, Kelrian finally managed to break the awkward silence. "I'm not even sure if I want to become a priest. My father always wanted that I would become a priest like my older siblings. I attended the priest examinations because he wanted it and not because I wanted it"
"But you want to become a Farstrider, right?"
"Yes, I do"
"Why do you want to become one of us?" Sylvanas asked, giving him a smile, which signalized him that he didn't need to be afraid.
"I want to do something useful for the citizens of our kingdom. Protecting those who cannot fight from dangers like orcs, trolls or wild beast counts as useful"
"You know that baking bread, cultivating vegetables, fruits and grain is useful as well, right? There are many other professions which are necessary for our society. Blacksmiths, village or city guards, tanners and many other professions. Why do you want to become a ranger?"
"Well, if I can't heal injured people, then at least I want to protect innocents from getting hurt. My father brought me to a military hospital years ago. Most of those who were treated there were farmers, villagers and other innocent people who did nothing wrong. The orcs and trolls were the ones who invaded their villages and murdered or at least heavily injured them. I want to prevent that more innocent lives are getting destroyed by these creatures" he explained.
Sylvanas sighed out in relief. "That's something. A lot of people want to join the Farstriders because they want to achieve glory and fame. They want to earn a lot of money and collect trophies and treasures. I don't want to deny that they want to protect our people but the main reason for many people to join us is the amount of money they can earn. It's very sad but I can't change things. I'm just glad that lots of people want to join us. We need more recruits very badly. We need more experienced rangers. Still, the recruits need to have potential. We cannot allow everyone to join us. I hope you can understand this"
"I do. I will get a lot better within these four years. I promise"
Sylvanas smiled. "I hope you do. We can always need someone who is as motivated as you are. We need more motivated recruits"
Kelrian returned her smile. "I'm glad that you think that I can pass the next examination. I will give my best"
Sylvanas chuckled and nodded her head. She patted his shoulder softly and gave him another smile. "I guess I will see you in four years. Farewell, Kelrian Sunsinger"
His heart skipped when she said his name while smiling at him like this. Happiness overwhelmed him. He wasn't angry at himself anymore. He wasn't disappointed in himself anymore. Of course, he was not happy that he didn't pass the examination but he was motivated enough to train hard for the next examination. He wanted to become a Farstrider so badly but he also wanted to impress Sylvanas, the most beautiful woman in Quel'Thalas - and on Azeroth probably too.
"I will give my best. Farewell, Ranger-General" he waved and looked at her for a few moments before he turned around and walked away, leaving the training area behind him.