The following is a fan-made story and has no affiliation with Rivals of Aether or its official cannon. Shoutouts to Windows for help with research and editing.
“Stay right there son, everything will be fine.” Ranno’s mother held out her arm as if willing Ranno to stay where he was. The young frog paused, instinct forcing him to obey his mother’s command. At just 10 years old, the long boat hook was already becoming too heavy for his small arms. Ranno’s mother turned back to face their attackers. Three figures stood before her, a hawk, a falcon, and an eagle, who was staring intensely at Ranno with sharp, yellow eyes.
Calmly, Ranno’s mother addressed them. “We have never had any trouble with the Air Nation, why would it send a military force to attack our home?” She looked to a corner of the room where another frog lay crumpled in a heap, motionless. “We are a peaceful colony. My husband uses his gift to help people.”
The eagle’s head darted swiftly to the body of Ranno’s father. “News probably doesn’t reach this backwater swamp, but the world is changing. We’re done listening to those foolish old goats–the Air Armada makes its own decisions.”
Ranno stepped forward. “I don’t care what you call yourselves, you hurt my dad! You need to leave, or–” Suddenly the words were forced from his body. In a flash, Ranno was on the floor with a large talon clamped over his throat. Those intense yellow eyes looked down at him. “We’re at war, boy,” the eagle said over Ranno’s mother’s pleading cries. “On the other side of this swamp is the Fire Kingdom’s military training facility. That facility relies on food and supplies from Merchant Port. Only way to get there is through this swamp, which is too toxic for anyone to pass through. Unless, of course,” he looked over at Ranno’s father, “you have a way to remove the poison from the water.”
The eagle lifted Ranno by the throat and tossed him over to his cronies by the door. “Hold on to him while I deal with mommy.” Ranno struggled, but his captor’s wings were too strong.
Ranno opened his eyes, forcing himself to return from the memory. That moment had not interrupted his meditation in decades. Perhaps this would be more difficult than he thought. Rising to his feet, he shook his head. With her last words, his mother had made it perfectly clear. Their family had accepted this responsibility, and Ranno had left it abandoned for far too long. He looked up at the trees guarding the entrance to the Swampy Estuary. “Mother, father,” he said softly to himself. “I’m finally home.”
“Mom, use the poison! Make these guys pay for hurting dad!”
Ranno’s mother knelt next her husband’s body. “My son has not learned to use his gift. Without us, there will be no one left to teach him.” She stood, looking at Ranno. “My son, you still have so much to learn, but I know we taught you the value of a life.”
“Mom, what are you doing? Don’t–”
“Let my son live, and you’ll get no resistance from me. Perhaps one day you’ll realize the mistake you’ve made today, and repent from your violent ways.”
The eagle looked back at his comrade who was holding Ranno. “Take him outside, we’ll figure out what to do with him later.” His head darted back to Ranno’s mother and he began walking towards her. “You’re a smart lady-frog. It’s a shame you allied yourself with the Fire Council.”
“We are allies with no one. However, I cannot allow anyone travelling this swamp to suffer its poison. Our family has held this duty for generations, we will never abandon it.”
He raised a talon. “That’s a shame. You’re really giving me no other choice.”
“Wait, no! Mom, what are you doing?” Ranno struggled as hard as he could, but couldn’t break the hawk’s grip on him.
His mother looked at her son one last time. “Value life above all else, and never forget how much I love you.”
Ranno kept struggling and yelling as he was carried out of the hut. “No, stop! Mom! Moooooooom!!!
Slowly, Ranno walked towards the entrance of the swamp. He had not set foot in his homeland in 30 years. He’d traveled the world, but somehow always found an excuse to avoid this region. Finally, he had run out of excuses. As he continued, he began to hear voices up ahead. One was a low, gruff voice, the other much softer and lighter, a child’s voice.
“Hurry now, Claiyen” said the low voice we have to keep moving!”
The child began coughing loudly. “No one survives in this swamp, the poison will kill us before we make it out!”
“We have no other option. Those monsters are right behind us, our only hope is to lose them in the–oh no, they’re here!”
“We should just kill him and be done with it, we’ve already been here too long.” The falcon looked up, as if expecting to see something coming at him from the sky. “I can’t believe we the captain talk us into this, the general is going to be so mad!”
The hawk threw Ranno onto the ground. They were now outside the family’s hut, standing on the wooden bridge that connected their little home to the bank of the swamp. “Come on, you heard what Krell said in there. This swamp is a key piece in our fight against the Fire Kingdom! Once these frogs are out of the way, it will be useless to them. The general didn’t order this mission, but when we get back, we’ll be heroes!”
“I know your self-proclaimed general quite well,” a voice rumbled in front of them. “I rather think he’ll disagree with your assessment.” Ranno looked up towards the voice to see a massive creature, taller than anyone he’d ever seen. It was an old bison. His horns curled toward the sky, his grey-patched fur shook with every movement. He spoke again, this time looking directly at the falcon. “Leave the boy and fly away. Kill a child, and you can’t even begin to imagine the punishment you’ll receive when you return home.”
The falcon flapped his wings, quickly rising into the air. “You are interrupting a mission of the glorious Air Armada. Anyone who protects an ally of the Fire Kingdom is our enemy!” He dove right at the bison, moving so fast Ranno’s eyes could barely follow.
Just as the falcon was about to strike, his aged opponent stepped aside. It seemed impossible that something so large could move that quickly! He spun as it sped past him, suddenly driving a hoof into the bird’s side. The falcon crumpled, its wing clutching the spot where it was struck, and fell out of the air, crashing onto the bridge.
The remaining villain stepped backwards. “Captain, get out here! We’ve got a problem.”
The eagle stepped out of the hut, his eyes darting to the bison. Though the yellow eyes were still just as intense, Ranno thought he saw a hint of fear. He walked towards the bison.
“Is it time for The Pilgrimage already? I figured you monks would be hiding in those mountains for at least another year.”
“Ordinarily that would be true,” that low voice shook Ranno’s chest again. “But your little crusade has changed things. It is the duty of our order to monitor the events of the world. The fracturing of the Air Alliance is an event which will affect every corner of our world, including, it would seem, a colony of pacifist frogs.”
Those intense eyes darted to the falcon, laying on the ground holding his side. “Get up, we’ve done what we came here for, it’s time to report back.” He looked back at the monk. “Observe all you want, but don’t get in our way. The Air Armada is going to finally rid this world of the Fire Council and their greed. Today was a great victory! We’ve slain an ally of the Fire Kingdom, we’ll be heroes!”
Ranno’s savior let out a low, rumbling sigh. The young frog felt his body shake with it. “The creatures of this swamp value life above all else. Their pacifism is so deeply ingrained in them, they couldn’t have fought you even if you had killed this young tadpole. You’ve slain no enemy today, all you’ve done is deny the world something truly pure and innocent. If anything remains of the general I knew, you will want to think carefully before returning to your ship.” He spread his hind legs, bringing his hooves to bear in a fighting stance. “However, if you remain here, I think you’ll find the results equally unpleasant.”
The eagle looked at his injured comrade, and back at their new foe. “Come on,” he said, “we’ve accomplished our mission. We need to report back.” He quickly rose into the air, the hawk following quickly behind. The falcon slowly rose to his feet coughing. He struggled at first, then finally managed to climb into the air, chasing after his comrades.
As they disappeared into the sky, the bison turned to Ranno. “Are you alright, little one?” he asked.
Ranno couldn’t move. He just stared at the entrance to the hut. “My…my mom…”
The old bison walked past Ranno, looking into the hut. He sniffed the air and let out another low sigh. Walking back to Ranno, he knelt down beside him. “I am sorry, little one,” he rumbled, “they have passed beyond this world.”
Ranno stood, shaking his head. He tried to force back the tears as best he could. “I’m going to find that eagle, and I’m going to kill him.”
The bison looked down at Ranno. His eyes were so soft, but they struck Ranno with the same intensity as the eagle’s had earlier. “Little tadpole, I know the rage you are feeling. When we lose someone, the world stops making sense for a time. He placed a hoof on Ranno’s shoulder.
Ranno stepped away from the bison, clenching his fists. “I saw the way you took down that falcon. Teach me to fight like that!”
Turning away from Ranno, the monk responded, “in this life, we are given a great power–the ability to choose our destiny. Your parents had the power to defend themselves today, but they chose not to use it. I knew them well, they had helped me cross this swamp on several occasions. During that time they taught me much about their philosophy of peace.” He turned back to Ranno. “If you follow me back to my home, I will teach you everything I know, and give you the power you desire. However, I will also continue your parents’ work, and teach you to value life as they did. Ultimately, it will be your choice to keep chasing your anger, or to live as your parents would have wanted.”
Rushing quickly towards the sound, his feet splashing through the mud, Ranno soon came upon the source of the voices–and what had been chasing them. Two panthers, an older male and an adolescent girl, knelt on the ground holding each other. Judging by the wreath of flame around each of their necks, they were citizens of the Fire Kingdom. The girl was still coughing. With each choking cough, her flame seemed to spit and sputter. Ahead of the couple, three shapes were moving closer. They appeared to be three more panthers, each with their own wreath of flame around their neck.
However, something wasn’t quite right about them. Their flame seemed to have a purple glow to it, and their fur was not the same jet black as the two frightened creatures huddled in front of Ranno.
“Father, what do we do?” coughed Claiyen.
The older panther moved in front of his child. “Alright, that’s it! Destroy our home, destroy the whole village, but you won’t lay a finger on my daughter! Come at me you filthy–” his taunts were suddenly interrupted by a fit of coughing. The panther fell to his knees pounding on his chest, searching for some relief. Suddenly, he felt a rush of wind and saw a shadow move over him.
Ranno landed with a soft splash, standing between the panthers and their would-be assailants. His feet dug into the mud as he crouched into a low fighting stance. “My family has protected travelers from the poison of this swamp for generations. However, until now, we refused to raise a hand against any living creature. My parents valued life above all else, and taught me that one should seek peace in all things.”
One of the beasts in front of Ranno let out a roar. It charged at the frog, fist suddenly coated with a deep purple flame. As it swung, Ranno lept into the air. With a flip, he landed three swift kicks to the top of the creature’s head. It staggered back, falling to one kneed. Ranno landed next to it, ready for the next round. Something was wrong. He’d been in enough battles to know how it felt to kick something, but this creature’s body felt off. It was almost…fluid? Shaking his head, Ranno turned towards the two remaining enemies.
“I will honor my parents legacy, and work to create peace in this world. To honor them, I have mastered my emotions. I have no wish to fight. If you leave now, no harm will come to you. I do not care about vengeance or justice, but you may not harm these two.”
The creatures charged at Ranno together. He raised an arm, blocking the swing of the first, then spun and landed a kick directly to the chest of the second. The first attacker swung again, and Ranno blocked once more. Then, suddenly, a purple tentacle shot out of the beast. It struck Ranno in the side, sending him flying into a pool of water. Ranno slowly rose to one knee. Looking up, he saw that all three creatures were up and staring at him, waiting to see what he’d do next. Looking down, Ranno saw his reflection in the water. His memories of his father were hazy so many years later, but when he looked at himself he felt as though his father was staring back at him. Then he noticed the green mist rising off the water. The toxin had grown so thick without anyone to cleanse it.
Ranno plunged a hand deep into the water. “Peace is a wonderful goal, but many confuse pacifism as inaction. My parents died because they would rather give up their lives than cause harm to any living creature. I have a somewhat different point of view.” His skin began to glow a sickly green color. Slowly the mist above the water began to fade, almost as if it were being drawn into the frog.
He stood and faced the monsters. “For this world to truly find peace, those without power must be protected–not just from poison, but from any creature who wishes to do them harm. For me, being a pacifist is not about inaction, it is about protecting peace at all costs, wherever we can find it!” Ranno breathed in, and then out again. As he exhaled, three green bubbles formed in the air in front of him. He jumped into the air, and with three swift kicks sent the bubbles hurtling at the beasts. When they hit, each creature became trapped within a bubble.
Slowly, Ranno walked towards them. “I have come home, and this swamp will return to the peace my parents wanted.” Now directly in front of his foes, he planted his left foot in the mud, drawing his right foot behind him. “Anyone who desires it will have safe passage, and sanctuary in this swamp.” He clenched his fists and drew them close to his side.
“But if anyone wishes to do harm to another creature, I will protect my peace with all my strength!” With three swift punches, Ranno sent the bubbles flying into the air. They soared over the treetops and disappeared out of sight.
Ranno turned to the bewildered, coughing family behind him. He quickly moved over to them, placing a hand on each of their heads. His skin glowed green once again. Slowly, they felt their coughing subside as the poison was drawn out of their bodies. Ranno closed his eyes and placed his hands together as if praying. In a flash, several green bubbles rose out of his skin, forming a ring that crossed his chest. He stood, offering a hand to Clara.
“Come,” said the poisonous pacifist, “I will see you safely to the other side.”