Excerpt: The Sureshot Rises

An excerpt from The Sureshot Rises The Sureshot is in town!

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Durbar pulled his cloak over his head and began to walk to the east end of town, toward the keep and the garrison. The inn wasn’t far from the Harmon Keep. Durbar found it without a problem. The sign above the doorway had a picture of a large solitary pine on a hill. It looked like a mighty giant standing defiantly against his foes; its branches appeared as swords ready to attack. From outside, the inn seemed to be rather busy and there was a noise like the rushing of a great river flowing from the patrons inside. Light invitingly escaped from the cracks in the large double doors. Durbar drew a deep breath and stepped through the doors into the light.

The Lone Pine was a large place. There were a lot of tables throughout the room with a small stage in one corner. In the middle of the back wall was a bar. There were a couple of women serving drinks to patrons. Large chandeliers hung from the ceiling that held four small torches each. There were also torches on the walls. Large buck antlers adorned the walls and furs covered the floor. A huge bear pelt hung on the wall behind the bar. To the left of the bar, while facing it, there were stairs, which led up to the rooms. There were twelve rooms altogether. The innkeeper and his wife lived in one and their daughter in another. The other ten were for guests. The inn was bright and loud. It felt alive to Durbar, very different from the lonely cabin, lost in the woods and lost from the world.

Some people stopped their conversation when Durbar entered the room and stared at the dark, cloaked woodsman. He stood for a moment by the doorway scanning the scene before him. He noticed a crowd of people in the far right-hand corner. He didn’t see Prince Rothan anywhere else so he thought he would pass by to see if he was at that table.

Durbar weaved his way through tables, chairs, and people toward the corner table. As he approached, some of the people standing by it noticed him moving toward them and stepped back whispering alarm to the others. As more people saw Durbar, the crowd parted to avoid his path, which led directly to the prince. Some thought that he might be an assassin sent to kill Rothan. No one could see Durbar’s face because he had his cloak pulled far over his head. Rothan had his guards with him, and as they saw Durbar they stood up, drew their swords, and waited for the approaching man to make a move. All the people between and near them scattered with the threat of violence. Durbar stopped just before the table and paused for a moment. Rothan called out to him as he too stood up, drawing a dagger from his belt, “Who are you? Identify yourself! Why have you come here to threaten me?”

“I have threatened no one, and I am here by your request,” Durbar answered voice clear and strong but forced as his spirit sounded the alarm and the hairs on his neck and arms stood up. Durbar’s eyes darted from one person to another and then back to Rothan. He felt like a hare surrounded by foxes and though he froze in his tracks, his heart raced and his gut told him to flee. Suppressing the trembles deep within, he stood tall.

“What?” shouted Rothan. “Who are you? Tell me now!”  Durbar slowly raised a hand to the hood of his cloak and pulled it from his head revealing his face. Everyone just stood still, waiting for Rothan’s response. He himself was searching for the man’s identity. Then it struck him.

“You…” he began, “you are the man we found in the forest. You are the one who shot Jeshker’s cap from his head. You are Sureshot!” A wide grin crept across the prince’s face.

“Sureshot?” asked Durbar, eyes squinted and brow wrinkled.

“Yes, that’s what I have been calling you because I never got your name,” blurted Rothan. “Fron, Jeshker, put down your swords,” he ordered. The two men glared at Durbar as they slowly sheathed their swords, and the prince returned his dagger to his belt. People in the inn began to whisper. Many of them remembered the mystery man from Rothan’s story. Most of them were a little afraid because of Durbar’s dramatic entrance, but they were all interested in seeing the mysterious bowman for themselves.

“Before we go any further, I must know your name,” ordered Rothan.

Durbar thought for a second. “I am Durbar, son of Adar.” His name meant nothing to those who heard it. They already knew him as Sureshot. Nothing else could match the name Rothan gave him.

“It is good to meet you formally, Durbar, son of Adar. I am very glad to see you. I began to wonder if you were going to come. I am sure that people began to think that I made you up. After all, it is pretty hard to believe that you are so good with that bow of yours. Come, sit down and have a drink with us. Tomorrow you can come with me to the garrison to train, but tonight we’ll celebrate!”

“I have no reason to celebrate,” Durbar answered coldly.

“Of course there is reason to celebrate. We are going to win the games this year. My team and I can’t lose. We have some of the best competitors around and now we have the Sureshot!”

“We? I haven’t won anything yet.”

“Oh, come off it. I saw you shoot your bow. You are amazing. You’ll win hands down. Have some faith.”

“I don’t need faith, but I am tired and need some rest now. Therefore, if you have nothing else to discuss, I will get a room and some sleep.”

“Of course, as you wish. I’ll have the barmaid show you to a room,” he offered, raising his hand and beckoning the maid. A young woman approached his table.

“What can I do for you, sir?” she asked eyes cast downward and voice soft.

“Show my friend Durbar, Sureshot, here to a room. I will pay for it.”  Durbar cringed when he heard his new title.

“Yes, my lord,” the barmaid replied bowing slightly.

“Before I bid you goodnight, I thought I should return something,” said Durbar. He produced the blue cap he shot from Jeshker, Rothan’s guard, a few months earlier, and tossed it onto the table. He then turned and followed the barmaid to a room, hearing Rothan’s laughter behind him and the roars of the folks around his table. Durbar was sure his guards were not as amused as the prince.

The maid led Durbar to a room at the end of the hall.  She opened the door and he entered. The room was plainly furnished with a small bed, wooden bench, and a mirror on one wall. A large rug was in the middle of the floor.

“Does this suit you, sir?” asked the maid.

“This is more than adequate, thank you,” he answered. He then reached for the purse he won from the guard. It contained ten silver pieces and eight coppers that were Fron’s and the ten silver pieces that Znak paid him for the goods he sold that night. He tossed the girl a silver piece, and she thanked him enthusiastically then left, closing the door behind her. Durbar placed all his gear against the wall opposite the bed, stripped off his clothing, and laid it out on a chair next to the bed. He washed his face in a washbasin on the table below the mirror. He looked up at his reflection, water dripping from his face, and said, “There is no turning back now.”  With that, he dried his face and slipped into bed. Despite the excitement of the day, he fell asleep easily and peacefully.

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