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There was a soft twang followed by a sound like a sudden breeze as two arrows spun through the dark forest toward an elk bull standing in the midst of his herd. The arrows pierced through the shadows and sped at their mark. The bull lifted his head as though he suspected something was afoul, but it was too late. The arrows both struck his side and he stumbled upon their impact. The other elk tensed as they struggled to gain a sense of what was happening. The large, proud bull mustered his strength and rose to his feet again but was immediately penetrated by two more arrows. The other animals understood that he was under attack and fled together away from the direction of the danger. The bull collapsed when another pair of missiles found their mark in his side as though he had accepted his fate.
Rothan and Durbar stood side by side proudly watching their target succumb to their assault. They lowered their bows when the great beast fell to the earth and proceeded to move towards him in order to finish off their prey.
They moved swiftly through the forest brush in the dark cover of the high canopy which blocked out most of the sun’s rays. Pulling a dagger from his hip, Rothan slit the bull’s throat to end his agony.
“This will do nicely,” said Durbar admiring the bull.
“No doubt we will feast like kings tonight my friend,” Rothan responded.
“Aye, let’s dress it here so that we can cook it as soon as we get back to the camp.”
“Good idea, I am as hungry as a bear,” Rothan chuckled.
The men started to strip the bull and gut him, but their work was not unnoticed. There were some other hunters tracking the elk herd that day and they were interested in taking advantage of the work that had already been done. They watched patiently for a while, sizing up their competition, the smell of blood filling their noses.
It was not long before the temptation of stealing away a kill was too much to resist and the hunters encircled the friends and their meal.
Durbar sensed their movements and twice looked up and scanned the dark surroundings. Though he could see nothing, he was alert to a danger he could not identify. When he heard a soft growl however, he knew that he and his friend were in great danger.
“Rothan,” he whispered, but it was too low for his companion to hear. Again, he whispered though a little louder,
“Rothan.” The young prince lifted his head up and stared quizzically at the woodsman.
“What is it?” he asked lowly.
“Draw your sword slowly,” Durbar instructed, “but do not make a sudden move.” Durbar led by drawing his sword first and Rothan followed, still unsure as to what was amiss. Durbar tensed and gradually stood up then his friend followed suit. Before he could stand completely upright, the hunters attacked.
Half a dozen wolves burst from the thick brush and rushed toward the two men. Durbar and Rothan swung around, swords drawn, ready to meet them. The wolves did not slow their assault but continued to bound towards the men. A wolf leapt at Rothan and he jumped backwards while swiping ineffectively at the snarling wolf. Another wolf reached Durbar from behind and the woodsman was forced to slash at him while leaping up to avoid a bite.
The men survived the initial wave, but the wolves encircled them and closed in with teeth barred, saliva dripping from their curled lips, and low growls rumbling from their throats. The men backed up until they bumped into each other facing away from one another, satisfied that their backs were covered.
The wolves proceeded to test the men by lunging nearer and nearer to them without exposing themselves to any serious danger. The men held their ground as their hearts pounded in their chests and their muscles tensed. Only the assurance of their companion helped the pair to keep from panicking.
Without warning the wolves attacked all at once. Each man faced three wolves, so they swung wide trying to keep the beasts from them. Both Rothan and Durbar slashed a wolf apiece and sent them to the ground. Durbar managed to parry the other two wolves’ attacks and kick one in the side as he stepped to his left to avoid a bite. He was unable to finish off that wolf however, and the beast continued his pursuit of Durbar.
Rothan did not fare as well. Though he struck one down, he was unable to hold off the other two and a wolf managed to clamp down on his right leg. The prince yelped in pain and buckled over to try and wrestle the wolf off which allowed the other to bite into his left forearm.
With hair standing up down their backs, the wolves growled at Durbar and inched closer. The woodsman stood tall with his sword drawn back, prepared to strike when the opportunity presented itself. The yelps from his friend sparked his attack as Durbar knew he could wait no longer. He feigned to one side and when the wolves lunged, he spun and slashed one in his side. The other snapped at the woodsman’s hand but was not quick enough. With fire in his eyes, Durbar swung downward as he continued to spin and slayed the wolf with a blade to his skull.
With his attackers dispatched, Durbar turned his attention to saving his friend. Rothan was doubled over and found himself underneath two wolves who were trying desperately to incapacitate him. Durbar quickly ran his sword through both of them and tossed the wolf carcasses to the side.
Rothan was limp but alive. His breathing was heavy and labored and he was bleeding from both his leg and arm.
“Rothan! Rothan! Are you all right?” Durbar pleaded. Rothan merely coughed and writhed but appeared to Durbar to be all right. The woodsman quickly set about to dress the wounds as his friend tried to recover from the attack. Durbar was worried about shock but Rothan managed to calm down and was lucid once more.
“Thank you,” Rothan murmured to his friend. “You never cease to amaze me. You will always be the Sureshot.”