"WHY.. WON'T... YOU... JUST... LISTEN!!!", Chases angrily shouted at the large kodiak bear between punches. His eyes bloodshot as he screamed hoarsely, the wood elf druid had worked himself into a frenzy, as the charm spell wore off on the bear that was now attempting to flee. Nearby onlookers whispered quietly to one another, puzzled by his scandalous and erratic behavior, as most druids were known to be protectors of Tunare's majestic animal creations.
"I saw him charm a bear, and send it to it's death by attacking two nearby Dervish Thugs at the same time, while he sat back and laughed! Disgraceful!", Tolion said to his friend Aluedon.
"Well, at least he didn't send his bear after you, along with a band of Dervish Cutthroats! I was only trying to entertain my friends with my music which apparently did not agree with his tastes!" Aluedon replied, remembering the ugly incident a few days earlier. "I hope that druid gets what he deserves one day!"
Chases paid no attention to the rumors being spread about him in the Commonlands, but his friend Jazonk the monk grew concerned with his increasingly angry outbursts, particularly after witnessing the recent carnage of dead bears. "I'm worried about you, brother. We have earned many a headband together, but every time you're out here in the wild, you seem to be a different person. Speak with Master Ran'un - perhaps he can help you, as he helped me." Of all the different adventurers he encountered, Chases admired the monks' ability to remain calm in the heat of battle, and he agreed to speak the the guildmaster of the Ashen Order monks.
Master Ran'un noticed Chases observing him from a distance at the Theater of the Tranquil, as he practiced sparring within the Ashen Order dojo. He paused a moment, signaling for the wood elf to come closer. "Chases, you have earned more sashes and headbands than most of our other students - but you know that I cannot accept you as a pupil" he said, "You have already chosen a different path. We strive for inner peace first and foremost, as followers of Quellious - without this, we cannot bring order to Norrath, but we only add to the chaos. "
Chases pleaded desperately, "But Master Ran'un, I have worked harder than any of your disciples! I will challenge any one of your students in combat, you will find me more than worthy!"
Master Ran'un inspected the wood elf's bruised and raw knuckles. "Look at your bloodied hands. Yes, you fight with ferocity, anger and power - but not with focus. Without focus, each punch only pushes you further away from the peace that you seek." Downtrodden, Chases was about to walk away, when Ran'un beckoned him back while continuing, "While I cannot accept you as a student, I can help you with some exercises every morning here in this courtyard, before the sun rises. One day you must be willing to confront the source of your anger, as unpleasant as that may prove to be."
Weeks later after his training, Chases returned to the plains of Karanas, to practice some of the exercises Master Ran'un had taught. "Clear your mind", Master Ran'un would say every morning - which was tougher than it sounded. The Eastern plains of Karana was where he first met Exes the barbarian rogue years ago, at the nearby fishing village. He was immediately smitten with the way she smiled at him, flashing just a hint of her mischievous nature. They spent days exploring the nearby mountains, fishing and chatting at the great bridge or the waterfall - that was all just a fleeting memory now, but one he could not easily forget.
"Avoid conflict when you can", Master Ran'un had encouraged. Chases tried hard to distract himself of his memories of her, by slowly and intentionally walking, and not running, across the plains. With every slow and deliberate step, he scouted carefully for gnolls, gorge hounds, and lions wandering all about, to make sure he did not unnecessarily attract their attention. He remembered that fateful day years ago, where he and Exes were chased by a griffon into the nearby Gorge of King Xorbb, a labyrinthian maze filled with dangerous muddites and minotaurs - but it was the evil eye's gaze that they could not avoid, as they were separated as she went running blinded in the other direction toward the goblin stronghold of Clan Runnyeye. He had called out to her several times, and though he could hear her voice faintly around each bend and corner of the never-ending maze, every step seemed to take him further away from her. Separated, and now lost, with the only path forward blocked by the evil eye, he hoped that she would make it through safely to Misty Thicket, while he turned back reluctantly to take the longer journey through Highpass Hold before the darkness of night fully set in.
"Patience. Study your opponent first, then wait for the right time to strike." Chases intently watched a nearby griffon, for telltale signs of an imminent attack. Sometimes it was the subtle change in the flap of their wings, or a certain glare in the eyes, just before the swift and powerful strike of the claw on its prey - this was what made these flying beasts one of the deadliest creatures and best hunters all of Norrath. If only he had heeded this advice as he was making his way through Highpass Hold to find Exes - instead he lashed out wildly and out of control at every creature he had encountered, expending every ounce of energy, as he desperately tried to reach his one love. He barely made it out alive through the pass, wasting several days just to recover - and he wouldn't have made it if it wasn't for a band of adventurers that helped him dispatch the roving gangs of Shralok Orcs that almost overwhelmed him on the other side of the pass. The adventurers told him that they had seen a barbarian matching Exes description in Rivervale, accompanied by the strange sight of a polar bear, just a few days earlier. Upon hearing the news, Chases staggered out into the Kithicor Woods without saying another word to the bewildered adventurers - but nothing could prepare him for the toughest part of his journey that was yet to come.
"Focus your mind on one object, concentrate!", Master Ran'un would say, whenever Chases was fidgeting while he meditated. Sitting now at the mountaintop overlooking the Karanas, his thoughts still raced at the anger and humiliation that he experienced in Rivervale - and the only object that came to mind - a simple fruit pie. After making it to through Kithicor woods to the city all those years ago, he had picked up this pie to surprise Exes, whom he caught a glimpse of briefly as she wandered toward the Fool's Gold Tavern, accompanied by the polar bear as the adventurers had mentioned. But just as he was about to surprise her from behind, Chases noticed that she was cuddling with the bear playfully outside the bank - when all of a sudden the bear transformed back into a powerful barbarian shaman! His jaw dropped almost as fast as the pie fell from his hands, as Exes turned around to see him - but it was too late, as she appeared to have been caught red-handed. Disgusted, Chases turned around without saying a word, leaving Exes with her ursine paramour and the crumbled fruit pie on the floor - and he never again stepped foot in the city.
But why did he force himself to keep thinking about the pie that he dropped on the floor all those years ago? It represented all the painful memories that were locked up inside him, his deep-seeded hatred of bears, and his cynicism and distrust of others from that point onward. But he remembered the cryptic final words of Master Ran'un before he left on his journey. "Consider all possibilities - not everything is apparent at first. These objects that come to your mind represent turning points in the flow of time. While you cannot change the past, you can revisit these turning points - and they may bring you clarity in your path."
The fallen pie would indeed remind him of his pain and suffering, but it also was a symbol of his hope, perseverance and yearning - it represented all the battles and struggles that fought, just to be reunited with her. These defining experiences were just as real and powerful as the disappointment and pain, and perhaps even more so - and ultimately they brought him to this mountaintop today to experience this brief moment of true peace that he has sought for so long. Taking a deep breath, Chases cleared his mind to focus on the pie, while a fiery heat slowly enveloped each of his tightly clenched fists, which suddenly burst into flames - as he ran to help a party of young adventurers in the distance desperately trying to escape the claws of a nearby griffon attack.