by Just Jae
Meegan's life is upended by a band of slavers.
The young half-elf stood behind a tree at the edge of the small clearing. She twisted to peek out at the stag. The deer was small, but Meegan knew the meat would last her mother and her for a long while, and the hide would make nice boots and gloves since she had almost outgrown the last ones her mother had made. She looked forward to her mother teaching her to make her own clothing.
She nocked an arrow and, in a single, silent motion, pivoted to her right around the tree to face the clearing. As she drew the string toward her left cheek, the stag lifted his head from his foraging, ears swiveling. Dipping to the right, he bolted into the forest.
It was then the sound reached her ears. Muffled voices drifted through the trees. Lowering her bow, she listened for a moment, cocking her head from side to side, turning in a slow circle, trying to pinpoint the origin in the usually quiet forest. It took her a moment to realize that the sound was coming from the direction of her home. They were not expecting visitors, not this early in the season.
She sprinted toward the giant oak tree in and around which she and her mother, Loriel, had built their home. As she neared the small clearing, she slowed and crept forward, remembering her mother's precautions. Paling at the scene unfolding before her, her hand tightened around the grip of her bow. A group of dirty, unshaven, unkempt men taunted her mother. The bandits circled the elf and roughly shoved her from one to another. Though the young half-elf spoke the Common tongue, she could barely understand them through their thick accents. She could tell from the tone that the outcome would not be favorable.Â
Her gut knotted as she set an arrow to her bow and aimed at the man who had just pushed Loriel to the ground. He leered down at her and laughed at the struggling elf as he held her down with his foot. The brigand was fumbling with something at his waist when the young half-elf let the arrow fly.
The arrow struck him in the back, and he stared at his companions, eyes wide, the tip of a hunting arrow protruding from the left side of his chest. Meegan watched Loriel roll to one side when the missile struck, coming to a crouch a few feet away. The man collapsed to the ground, dead. The other brigands drew their weapons, looking around for the source of the deadly shot. The young half-elf stepped into the clearing. She had three more arrows ready, one nocked and ready to draw.
"Well, boys," the biggest of the men said, "looks like we'll see twice the profit."
He motioned to the others to flank the young half-elf, and they moved to surround her. She let one arrow fly toward the speaker and quickly set and fired the remaining arrows. The first struck the man in the throat. The second arrow hit him in the shoulder, spinning him to the ground. The third flew into the forest. The others moved around the young half-elf to grab her. Before she could draw again, one of the brigands hurled a dagger at her head. She jerked to the right and felt a searing pain as the blade grazed her left ear.
While the men concentrated on the young half-elf, Loriel drew her small knife and sliced at the man nearest to her. The man struck at her as he stumbled, the uncontrolled blow slicing across the torso of the petite elf.
The young half-elf let the bow slip from her fingers and drew her hunting knife and skinning blade. She had little experience fighting with her dagger. Still, having seen what these humans were doing to her mother, she fought with ferocity, if not with finesse. She launched herself at the man closest to where her mother lay, bleeding on the ground, intent on gutting him. The young half-elf came at him so unexpectedly he stumbled back, his injured leg unable to hold his weight. As he tried to gain his balance, she swung her dagger in a wild arc, feeling flesh part.
Meegan overbalanced and stumbled forward, arms windmilling frantically. Her headlong rush ended when she collided with a tree.