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