Saturday, October 23, 2010

Another excerpt from "A Ranger's Tale"

Chapter 21


The forest surrounding the Howling Caves was much darker than the village. Full of shadow and mist, I thought it ominous. Encroaching storm clouds threatened to shut out what little light filtered through the thick canopy. The twisted penuke trees, draped in long, weeping vines and the lonely howls echoing from the caves brought sadness to my heart. It was as if they were telling me nature itself was out of balance here, and injustice had left its mark.

“You feel it too, don’t you?” Galadin whispered.

Unexpected tears clouded my eyes. “Yes. What happened here?”

Galadin sighed. “Pirates. The Goldtooth and others. They take what they want and leave the land barren. The people here have learned to protect themselves, but the wildlife isn’t so lucky. The bear are starving, since the plunderers kill off their prey. The poison on our arrows should dispatch them quickly.”

A little farther in, we found bear tracks. We concealed ourselves and followed the trail until we came upon a mother bear several feet away. Not far behind was her cub. Saggy skin hung over prominent bones. The little one cried pitifully to its mother, who couldn’t have had any milk to give. I raised my bow, took a deep breath, and shot the mother in her neck. The poisoned arrow worked quickly to put the weak mother out of her misery. Galadin did the same with the cub.

The wind picked up, and leaves blew all around us. We dropped concealment and continued through the forest. Light rain began to fall.

Galadin studied the sky. “I think the storm’s headed this way. We best turn back soon.”

We had reached a large rock outcropping, where the wide, dark mouth of a cave yawned before us. Growling echoed from inside. My skin crawled. We quickly concealed ourselves, but the huge bear that lurched out of the shadows either smelled or spotted us, and it charged our way. Galadin fired an arrow into the beast’s chest. The bear stumbled, but pulled itself up and charged again. Galadin dropped his concealment and ran backwards while he nocked another arrow, but he tripped over a root and fell on his backside. His last shot only managed to graze the bear’s shoulder, further enraging the animal.

Terror gripped my heart as the bear hurled itself toward Galadin. In one instant, I had an idea. There was no time for doubt. I nocked an arrow with a glowing hand. Searing fire erupted from my fingers as I aimed and shot. A fiery shaft flew from my bow, hitting the bear as it made a final leap toward Galadin. The bear blew apart, filling the air with singed fur and flesh.

Galadin lowered his arm from his eyes, shook bear parts out of his hair, and stared up at me. A grin spread across his face. He held out his hand, and I helped him up.

“You never fail to amaze me, Caliphany Aranea.”

I picked some bear flesh off his vest. “Call me Cali.”

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