Excerpt: Sureshot the Assassin

Coming soon…

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Waiting in the shadows was a small group of cloaked men, which appeared merely as shadows in the night. Rothan helped his friend to them. Durbar could scarcely hear what they were saying, but he gathered that they were going to take him into their care.

Rothan explained the scenario to Durbar. “These people are going to get you out of the city and away from my father. It is too dangerous for you to stay here. This is the best I could do. They have your things. I brought them from Stena, your bow too.” He began to weep once more, with tears rolling off his cheeks.

Durbar could not do the same. He was bereft of tears. They were left on the floor of the keep. He did manage to smile. “Shhh.” He comforted. “It is all right.”

“No!” Rothan exclaimed. “It is not all right. It is all my fault. I got you into this. It was my ambition and drive that brought you here, and now your life in is danger.” Rothan was desperate to prove his loyalty to his friend, but Durbar did not blame Rothan, but instead was thankful for him.

“You gave me something that I never had before. You gave me a chance to be loved by people. You helped me to make something of myself. And you also have been a friend, which is something that I have never had before.”

“But it was because of me that it was all taken from you. You would have been better off staying in the forest, away from this city, and away from my father.”

“Perhaps not,” countered Durbar, “the days since I arrived here have been the best in my life.” He paused after saying these words and held Rothan’s look for a minute. He knew that the young prince was his friend and that he could trust him. This was confirmed by the risks Rothan was taking to save the young bowman from the threat of the duke. Rothan too, could see in Durbar’s eyes that he was loyal to him and that the accusations that Orthan made were completely false. Never did the young man think to assassinate the duke or himself. He could hardly stand the thought of it.

“Well, never mind that now,” added Rothan, composing himself. “Right now you have to leave. I do not know if I will see you again. But know that I will never forget you. You will forever be on my heart. I will try to persuade my father to abandon his plans to destroy you, and if I can I will send for you. If not, I may contact you later, and inform you of the situation. I am wholly sorry for getting you into this predicament. I only hope that somehow I can assist you in regaining the honor that was taken from you.”

“Thank you,” whispered Durbar as he embraced his friend one last time.

Excerpt from Sureshot the Assassin: A Skeleton Returns

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While everything was going well in Stena as the young men began their officer’s training, elsewhere word of the Sureshot was getting around. In Harmon people were still discussing the new local hero and his deeds during the mock battle and the fall games. The soldiers too were talking about him, and predictions about his deeds at Fort Stena were frequently discussed. The archers were quick to tell others that they knew him better than anyone else. The man who used the Sureshot’s bow was the envy of everyone. He told the story over and over again. He told it so often that even the officers and Prince Warren heard the story.

Prince Warren did not like Durbar at all. He was in fact jealous of him because the man was a simple woodsman, who rapidly became a hero in Harmon after competing in the tournament. He even went so far as to say that he hated the man, more because his older brother Rothan loved him so much than any actual dislike for the woodsman personally.

While Warren was training at the archery range one day, he heard the story of the young bowman who shot Durbar’s blackwood bow, and he only fumed the more because of it. Durbar’s fame only increased Rothan’s popularity, and Warren hated no one more than his own brother. With the older prince still at Fort Stena, Warren grumbled quite loudly about the Sureshot; so much so that the Duke himself heard him one night while the family was eating dinner. Warren was mumbling lowly to a friend of his about how the soldiers of the garrison continued to talk about the Sureshot even when he was away at Stena, and that he wished he had never heard of the Sureshot. At first, Duke Orthan tried to ignore the whispers and mumbles, but they wore on him like the claws of a rat scampering across the floor at night, and Orthan decided to chase the rat off so he could enjoy his meal.

“Warren!” Duke Orthan shouted. “Why is it that you have been in such a poor mood lately?”

“Nothing father,” Warren replied trying to dismiss the subject, knowing that it was a bit juvenile to despise a man so much who had done nothing to hurt him personally.

“I will not tolerate your moping during our meal, tell me now what the matter is,” commanded the Duke.

“Well father, I am just growing tired of hearing about Rothan’s archer all of the time. The man that they call the Sureshot.”

“Ah yes. The man who won the archery competition last spring, and again this fall, I remember. He shot a perfect score I believe. He did well in training too I hear, yes?”

“That is correct, father.”

“What has he done now? I thought that he was at Stena.”

“He is father. But the men at the garrison are still talking about him. I heard that he let one of the other archers there use his bow and now everyone is talking about it. They even say that he named his bow something.”

“The man named his bow?” Orthan chuckled at the idea as something silly and fun.

“Yes father.”

“Well what would someone name a bow?”

“They say that he calls his bow Adar or something, whatever the name is I believe it was named after his father.”

The Duke froze in his seat. His eyes grew wide and he clutched his fork and knife. Sweat formed glistening beads on his brow and he felt a pain in his gut, as if someone had pierced him with a blade. He could hardly believe his ears. Not for many years had he heard that name, and it was one that he hoped he would never hear again. He did not want to over react, so he asked again just to be sure.

“What did you say he called it?” the Duke asked his son in a tone more focused and serious as he leaned forward to be sure and hear the answer clearly.

“Adar,” repeated Warren, unsure why his father cared. Duke Orthan continued slowly.

“Tell me again,” began the duke cautiously, “Why does he call it such a name?”

“I think they said that it was his father’s name, but they say he is dead now.”

“Adar is dead? Are you sure?”

“That’s what the men at the garrison said, father.”

The Duke squinted his eyes and concentrated hard on his next move. He knew that Durbar was now his enemy, and he immediately considered the man a spy or assassin. He could think of no other reason why Durbar would come to Harmon and join the garrison. He knew that, if he and his two sons were assassinated, as Orthan’s only other relative, Durbar alone could claim the seat in Harmon. Durbar could potentially challenge Orthan for the city without assassinating anyone and the son of his older sister. The duke was not about to allow such a thing however. He would not allow his nephew to shake his hold on the city. He knew that he must move quickly, even though Durbar was days away from Harmon.

Excerpt: Sureshot the Assassin

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 foul, 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 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 pricked 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 all over their bodies. 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 intself. 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 slain 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.”