The Sureshot Rises

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The boy asked Durbar if he would like something to drink, and Durbar asked him for some cider. He then sat quietly all alone at the front table while trying to keep calm and avoid eye contact with anyone. Klaud returned and filled his goblet. At least he now had a place to put his hands, and he clutched the drink with both of them as he sipped it. He kept his eyes down so as to not make eye contact with anyone in the room. At first all was well, but his strategy of avoidance was soon tested.

A woman at the party noticed Durbar sitting nervously by himself. She immediately found him interesting because he was obviously not used to formal situations, and she had never seen him before. She herself was an attractive woman, a little taller than most with flowing brown hair and deep blue eyes that were like two dark pools of water. She was a fair lady, but not meek or fragile. She decided to approach Durbar after studying him from a distance for a time like a hawk tracking a squirrel.

She walked over to where Durbar was seated, but he did not notice her because he was staring into his goblet. She paused for a moment to give him a chance to notice her, but the young bowman did not waver from his strategy. Soon she abandoned the subtle approach and addressed him directly.

“Hello,” she began, distracting him from his drink. Durbar heard her and even suspected that she was talking to him, but really hoped that she was not. He waited a moment to see if anyone else answered her, but when no one did, he concluded that she had in fact spoke to him. He looked up to make sure, even though it betrayed his plan and saw the woman standing only a couple of feet from him. She was staring directly at him. He froze when he knew that she was talking to him. She was socially experienced and so she sensed his fear and tried to put him at ease.

“I haven’t seen you here before? Are you new to Harmon?” she asked.

“No. I mean yes,” he stammered and then cursed under his breath. She smiled at his shyness.

“My name is Verayzija, but most people call me Vera. I am a merchant here in Harmon and elsewere. What is your name?” she asked.

“I am Durbar,” he mumbled breaking eye contact. Verayzija knew that he was unused to social situations and so dismissed his rudeness for not standing up and sat down in the seat next to his instead.

“What brings you here?” she asked.

“I came here to compete in the games.”

“Ah, yes, of course. And you must have won something because you are sitting at the head table. Am I correct?”

“I won the archery competition.”

“Oh my. You are the Sureshot then, aren’t you?” Durbar smiled when she mentioned his nickname. It appeared everyone knew it by now.

“Yes, that is what Prince Rothan calls me.”

“I heard about you obviously,” she continued, now fully understanding his unrefined manners. “You beat Tarbon. He is very good I understand. I think he usually wins the archery match. I missed the games this year myself. I didn’t make it back from Golak until late last night. Still, you did very well I hear and congratulations are in order.”

“Thank you,” he murmured, wishing the conversation would end. However, Durbar continued to talk to Verayzija until it was time to serve dinner. She talked about her travels around Dirka and some of the people she knew. Durbar learned that her father was a merchant, and she learned everything she knows from him. She talked a little about some robbers that were harassing caravans in Dirka and what they were doing to try and stop them. She said that she was trying to convince someone to send some troops to capture the bandits but so far was unsuccessful.

Durbar actually began to relax around her. She had a way of making people feel more comfortable, and it helped him to open up a little. He told her about how he was living in the woods by himself and how he met Rothan there. Then he told her about the tournament and how he found out that his father was in the garrison, but was careful not to tell her too much about his father, even though it was difficult to avoid. The revelation was still fresh in his mind so he could not help himself. It felt good to talk to someone who didn’t know more about him than he did. She in turn gave him some etiquette tips for dining and what to do when the royal party was announced. She was just explaining this very thing when someone came out and blew a horn announcing that the duke and his family would be entering. Verayzija thanked him for the conversation and took her seat at one of the side tables.

The Sureshot Rises

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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.

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.

Poem for Sureshot the Assassin

Was up at 1 am last night and this came to me. Might slide it into Sureshot the Assassin!

When you take a man and ruin him

Then blood will blot the sun

You beat him whip him torture him

Then blood will blot the sun

You try to break his spirit within

Then blood will blot the sun

Betray him though he be your kin

Then blood will blot the sun

Toss him in the lions den

Then blood will blot the sun

Laugh and spit with an evil grin

Then blood will blot the sun

Break his heart and pour in sin

Then blood will blot the sun

Make the man an assassin

Then blood will blot the sun

Beware of his retribution

Then blood will blot the sun

His arrows will pierce your skin

Then blood will blot the sun

Sureshot Excerpt: Durbar meets the archery captain

“Well, here we are,” declared Karr at last. “Let me introduce you to the captain of my archers.” Karr led him toward one of the men who was shooting. He was tall and had massive arms. His hair was short and his face clean like most of the other men Durbar had seen. Karr stopped them before reaching the man. The bowman held his massive bow up to shoot. It was finely crafted and had metal plating at the handle and tips. Durbar had never seen a bow that had metal before and wondered what the purpose was, but let it go as decoration. The giant man pulled back on his massive bow and loosed an arrow. It flew with amazing speed and struck the target just outside the center circle, driving the entire tip of the arrow into the wood. The spectators cheered and the man held up his bow in response.

Karr was clapping lightly having seen the man shoot better. “Tarbon,” called the general, “come here. There is someone you have to meet.” Turning, bow in hand, the man came over to Karr and Durbar and saluted the general. Karr returned the salute.

“General Karr, what brings you out to the range?” the bowman asked.

“Well, this here is Durbar, the prince’s mysterious Sureshot that he has been talking about for the last few months. The prince wants us to allow him to train here before the competition. Word is that he is taking your place on his team.”
The huge man towered above Durbar by about five inches. He glared down at him with fiery blue eyes. His face was square and flat and looked to Durbar as if it had been pressed that way.

“So, this is the man Rothan thinks is better than me, eh?” he questioned in a deep voice, almost a growl.

“The prince’s opinions are his own,” answered Durbar.

“Well, what do you think?” Tarbon asked pointing a finger at Durbar’s chest.
“I know that I am better than you.”

“Ha! Ha! Ha!” the man roared leaning back, holding his belly with one hand as if to keep it from bursting open. “And how do you know that? You just met me and you have never seen me shoot.”

“I saw you just now.”

“And after just one shot you know you can beat me?”

“Yes.”

“Well, if you are so sure, Mister Sureshot, then let’s have a little competition right now.”

Durbar was really starting to hate his new alias. “I will not decline,” he answered confidently.

“Good! General Karr would you kindly judge our shots and determine the winner?” Tarbon requested?

“Of course I will Tarbon, but are you sure you want to do this right now?” the general questioned with some apprehension in his voice.

“Why not? I want to show all of the men that I am still the best archer in Harmon.”

“As you wish.” He thought for a moment. “Let’s make this easy. Ten arrows at the one-hundred-and-fifty-foot target. Ten points for a hit in the innermost ring, eight points for the second ring and so on. The man with the most points after ten shots wins, simple. You can use your own bows but not your own arrows. I will give each of you ten arrows made here at the garrison. Do you both understand?”

Both men nodded. By this time, word of the Tarbon-Durbar match up had spread like a wildfire, and everyone in the near vicinity had gathered to watch their captain and the challenger, Sureshot, compete in a pre-competition match.
“Good. Tarbon take row three; Durbar, row four,” Karr ordered. The general called a couple of men and told them to clear the targets, get the men a ten-arrow quiver, and move everyone into the stands. As they were preparing the range, Durbar strung his bow and pulled back the string a few times to loosen it up and make sure it was secure. The range was finally set up and each man stood ready.

General Karr announced, “Okay, men, I expect that each of you will be courteous to the other while shooting. Tarbon, since this is your range, you can start.”

“It would be my pleasure, general,” snorted the captain.