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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1696974-The-Ranger
by Raoc
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Fantasy · #1696974
A skilled man takes on a dangerous mission. Cramp Entry, 8/06/10
         A crack of thunder shook the encampment.  The horses stirred anxiously.  Fat drops of rain began to thud tympanically on the stretched canvas of the tent.  David ran a stone expertly along the edge of his sword.  The light from the tent entrance grew dimmer as the storm began its march over the camp.  He heard scrambling footfalls approach and stop at his tent.  He looked up to see a boy standing at the opening of his tent, water dripping off his nose, eyes fixed solidly on David’s sword.

         “May I help you, young man?”  The boy shook off his daze.

         “That’s a fine sword, sir, I’ve never seen one like that,” the boy said in awe.

         “There are very few like it in this part of the world,” David replied, “Did you come just to admire my sword?”

         “Uh, no sir, I come from Lord Marcus, he wishes your presence at once.”

         “Understood, I’m on my way.”  David said abruptly.  The boy scampered off.  David wiped the oil from the blade, and returned it to its subtly ornate scabbard.  He fastened the scabbard to his belt, threw his satchel over his shoulder, and exited the tent.

         He patted his horse on the neck as he exited, as if to reassure it that he would return soon.  He marched down the row of tents, past steaming, faltering fires.  The rain was falling steadily now, and heavier.  The compacted dirt underfoot was becoming soft and slick with mud.  Thunder rumbled through the valley.  He came to a tent larger than most, but just as plain, except for the uniformed guards and the stoic standard-bearer by the entrance.  David exchanged nods of recognition with the guards and entered.

         “David, come, time is short,” said Lord Marcus.  He was standing over a large table with a map.  David didn’t need to look at the map to know what it showed: they were surrounded, cut off from resupply, reinforcements, and communication.  David approached Marcus with a nod of respect.

         “David, you know our situation.  Scouts have reported in, aside from some minor changes in position, the Army of the North still has us completely surrounded.  We have an opportunity, however.  My soothsayers tell me this storm will get worse through the rest of the day and throughout the night.”  David glanced briefly and suspiciously at the withered old man sitting in the corner.  “This may be the chance we need.  A man of your skills, may be able to use the cover of the storm to pass through the enemy’s lines undetected, and go to the city of Redthorne for help.  If they only knew of our situation here, they could muster their army to reinforce us help us break out of this valley.  Can you do it?”

         David looked at the marked enemy positions on the map.

         “I will have to go on foot, directly to the east, then steal a horse on the edge of their encampment to make it to Redthorne in time.”  David thought as he spoke. “It will be four days at best before they will be able to be here, and that’s if they are willing to help.”

         “They will, give this to the city Overseer,” Marcus handed David a smooth black stone with a strange foreign character engraved in it, “Four days is close, but we’ll hold out until you arrive.  Make haste.”

         “Yes, sir.  If you please, Lord Marcus, have someone feed my horse?”

         “Of course.”  Marcus said with a smile.  “Godspeed.”  David nodded and left the tent, headed east.

         The rain was falling in sheets, now, and David marched stalwartly into the cold wind that was driving the rain.  The sun should still be up, but the thick clouds blotted out everything but a dull, twilight gray.  The outermost patrols wished him luck as he passed, and he entered the forest on the edge of the camp.  The rain fell more randomly under the tree cover, being alternately blocked and funneled by the leaves.  The wind whipped the tree tops to and fro violently.  He stopped suddenly.  Before him, what had been a humble forest brook was now raging, rain-swollen torrent.  He stepped forward with caution, and decided that he had little choice in the matter.  He waded in to his thighs and reached out for a small tree that found itself battered by the rapids.  He held to the tree as continued in past his waist.  The stream flowed with such might that it took all his strength to hold to the tree.  He went for it, leaping clumsily for the middle of the stream, and thrashed wildly against the rush.  After much work, he grabbed a tree on the other side, and far down stream.  He reeled himself in and stumbled out of the muddy water, the muck of the bank sucking at his boots with every step.  After a few minutes rest, he forced himself onward.

         The patrols on the edge of the enemy camp were difficult to find, as they had mostly sought shelter from the gale.  The last light of the day was now gone, and as the storm raged on, David began picking his way cautiously through the enemy encampment.  He weaved between tents, avoided animals, and stayed well clear of firelights.  He made it past the camp, and began looking for a mount to take him to Redthorne.  He found it under the shelter of a thick grove of trees, along with its master.  Choosing to save time at this point, he approached the man directly.  He didn’t react at first, but when David failed to respond to his greetings, he became alarmed.  David drew his slender blade as the man drew his, but David’s was quicker, and with a flick of the wrist, the man was done.  David calmed the horse and mounted him.  He had far to go, and little time.  David spurred the horse forward, and the pair charged off into the driving rain.

999 Words

*I had to edit this one too much to fit it within the Cramp's word limit.  If you would like to read the full expanded version, you can find it here:

 The Ranger: Chapter 1  (13+)
A skilled man takes on a dangerous mission. (Expanded from the first draft)
#1697232 by Raoc

Thanks for reading!
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