Women will complain about the harsh acts of men and the effect men have on one another in groups but, whilst a man forges his own destiny, and whilst the exterior of a man is weathered and eroded by menfolk, the soul of a man is crafted by women. And at the heart of every man’s story lies a single woman. A man may be shaped by a number of women but there is only one that he carries with him wherever he goes: the woman who makes him the man he has become. For a few, the lucky ones, that woman is the one with whom they end up; a true soul mate, for one soul was crafted by the other. For the rest she is simply a burden he must carry, one that he can no more set down than he could an arm or a leg.
I begin this way, dear reader, so that you will understand the importance of the story I intend to tell. You will have heard the legends of Swift, the Silent Ranger, the Jade Arrow, and I could narrate countless stories in more detail and in more vivid colour than you have ever heard them before. I could tell you of how he silenced the raving Mad Duke with a single glance. I could tell you of his feats of combat, unleashing three arrows from the crest of a bank and being stood behind his target, blade drawn, by the time they struck. I could tell you of how he came to be accompanied by his twin panthers, Rhyme and Reason.
Any of those stories might inspire awe, but none will reveal to you the man’s soul. Only this story can and, in its telling, it will cast a new light upon every story you have heard of Swift, just like those I have mentioned.
It was with her that he learned the eloquence of silence. She was reluctant always to ask for what she needed and often spoke in poetic riddles, so rather than listen to her words he listened instead to what she needed. It developed into its own form of communication where a look spoke a verse and a gaze told a story. In silence they could argue for days. Though he may not have used his voice, in truth he spoke volumes to the Mad Duke.
I discovered that the supernatural speed, for which he earned his name, is not in fact speed at all. Rather it stems from her exploration of the flexibility of time. She shared with him the secrets of its malleability, allowing him control over bursts of slowed or sped time that appear to the outside observer as impossibly rapid movement. As described above he might launch a volley of arrows, trapping each of them in a bubble of slowed time together with their mark, meanwhile repositioning himself to strike, then release his target and the arrows at once to allow time to flow to its inevitable conclusion.
And the naming of his panthers was no passing folly. At her loss, torn from him by a cruel discovery they could not have foreseen, he decried a life that lacked rhyme or reason. So, in their naming, he ensured those missing ingredients would always be close at hand.
-R’lyoth Arkin, Guild of Scribes, First Rank
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