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Arrow in the Tree
The night was dark and hollow, save for a touch of laughter and music from the trees. The forest was so thick that any sound made fifteen feet from the ground would have been muffled. The scent of pine was rich, and aside from the singing and laughing, the world was asleep.
With the world as still as the stars in the sky, the two archers in the trees felt safe and secure on their platform in the trees. Recently, the younger one had taken up playing an old style, six-stringed instrument. The older one felt content to make fun of the younger ones skill, usually ending with the younger one red in the face and the other laughing till his face was blue.
Beside them sat a small fire, crackling and snapping in the night. It was large enough to give light and warmth, but just small enough so that it’d just look like another star in the sky to anyone on the forest floor. It might seem dangerous to have a campfire in the middle of a platform in the trees, but the stone and metal firepit kept it in. Last night’s rain had certainly helped too.
“Ah boy, you should play another tune. I think that last one was better than the rest, you might be improving!” The older archer suggested sarcastically.
“Oh come off it ol’ Bob, I know you really do like it. Besides, if you didn’t, you wouldn’t ask me to keep playing.” The younger archer lifted an eyebrow and smirked.
“HA!” Bob snorted. “Keep playing, and some day you might be playing for the cows instead of the pigs!” Bob fell back laughing.
The young archer growled under his breath but for the most part rubbed off the insult and put his hand to the instrument again. Bob sat back up and looked patiently at the boy in front of him.
“No requests from the crowd tonight?” Bob asked sarcastically.
“Didn’t know I was playing for coin.” The young archer retorted.
Bob grimaced, he didn’t expect that comeback. “Well I don’t have any coin, but how about I start some fresh coffee while you play?”
“Make it a tea for me.”
“Pitiful.” Bob shook his head. He moved for his pack before realizing he forgot something. He looked back at his apprentice and said, “How about you play “Old Man in the Woods”.”
The young archer nodded his agreement, a suitable tune for the mood. He picked out a couple of the main chords from the song and strummed them experimentally. Soon enough he was ready to play, He looked at his mentor and gave him a nod. Bob moved closer and waited like an impatient child, and after the first few lines of the song, he joined in for the chorus.
After the song was over Bob removed the boiling water from the fire. He produced some coffee beans from his bag while his apprentice got a tea bag for himself. The smell of rich coffee melded with the aroma of peppermint tea.
“You may like that tea, but one day you’re gonna run out, and you’re going to have to try coffee again.” Bob said.
“I don’t think so old man, I probably have more bags then you’ve got beans.” The young archer lifted his eyebrow again.
Bob jerked up, nearly spilling his coffee. “Old Man?!” He exclaimed “I bet I could still beat you to the ground and back!”
“Is that a challenge Old Man?” The young archer stretched the words playfully.
“Indeed it is. Now, get to your ladder, and we’ll see how Old I really am.”
As the apprentice stood up and moved towards his ladder he couldn’t help but throw one last jibe. “Funny how you suggested “Old Man in the Woods”!”
“GO!” Bob called out, he was done with his apprentice’s sarcasm.
The young archer scrambled. He wasn’t even on his ladder when Bob said ‘go’. He jumped on the ladder and slid down, catching a few splinters on his hands. The trees were so thick the ladder couldn’t even reach the forest floor. At the bottom of the ladder the apprentice landed on a thick branch. Still ten feet from the ground. He heard a voice, it was Bob. Probably already gloating on how he beat his apprentice to the ground. Probably laughing so hard he’d be rolling on the ground in laughter. Then he heard another voice. This one was foreign. The young archer was immediately on alert, dropping to the next branch ever so careful of any small sound he was making. He spotted bright white lights on the forest floor, lurking in the light mist.
The apprentice flicked his eyes from side to side, watching the lights move in what seemed like a search pattern. He could see ol’ Bob in the middle of the group; some sort of white torch lit up his face. A bright torch attached to a small metal cannon it seemed. The apprentice made out what seemed to be five white torches in total, all of them blinding with their intensity of directed light: Explorers. The old humans who had come back with a vengeance that the kingdom could not understand. The young archer could he see that the one that was talking to Bob had his torch aimed right at him, he seemed in control of the situation. He couldn’t make out the words but they were definitely talking. He had to help Bob. He picked out his target and raised his bow.
The string slapped against the young archer's wrist guard as his arrow went through the thigh of the man holding Bob hostage. He fell into Bob’s hands who instantly used the situation to his advantage. Three of the five torches spun around on to where the scream came from and saw that Bob had the man, with the arrow in his thigh, turned around and was holding a knife to his neck. The last white torch spun towards the sound of string slapping on leather. The archer was fast though and sent an arrow in his direction. The man holding the torch fell to the ground, dodging the arrow; he recovered quickly and the torch he was holding made a bright flash and a loud sound. An instant later the apprentice felt the wind around his head move and the smallest jolt of electricity, as if something electric had gone by it and only missed by an inch. He quickly moved to another branch in the forest, hiding from the attackers.
Slowly, Bob had edged the man he held firmly closer to his tree. Two of the three torches hadn’t wavered. The only one who did was firing towards the young archer because of a call from the one who fired at the sound of string slapping on leather. Bob moved inch by inch closer to the tree. He planned on making a run for it as soon as his apprentice let off another volley, providing he hadn’t been hit beforehand. Step by step Bob moved. Then suddenly the man on Bob’s right went down; he could just make out the arrow in his calf, the second guy turned his head, distracted. It was the distraction he needed though. Bob shoved the guy he was holding forward onto the distracted one. They stumbled and fell. Bob scurried up the tree. On the last branch his apprentice grabbed his arm and heaved him up. Bob motioned to the ladder next to them and the young archer started up.
The young archer had barely made it two feet up the ladder when a loud sound and bright light flashed out of the corner of his eye, followed by an uncontrollable pain and shock under his right arm. He let go of the ladder involuntarily and fell back. Bob had just barely caught him below the branches before he felt the same pain from more places in his lower body. Pain and shock, but there was no trickle or warm blood.
Bob could see the pain in his apprentice’s eyes and he held his arm fast. He tried to heave him up, but as he did a shock went up his arm and he let go involuntarily as well. He cried after his apprentice as he saw his body fall to the ground and land like a sack of potatoes. He cried louder when he didn’t see his apprentice get back up; all he could see was him just twitching uncontrollably. Then he felt the wind of the projectiles from the men below and he hid behind the tree. His apprentice was gone and someone was attacking his kingdom. He had to warn the king! He reached up and flew up the ladder in the brief break of shooting the Explorer’s below had done. Once he was up to the platform it was quick and easy to get back to the castle in the tree walkways. He stopped for a second and wiped a tear from his eye. He had to push on, for his apprentice. Bob stood up with a fire he hadn’t felt in years. He ran hard, not stopping for a second, not until he was back at the castle.
The world around Bob began to swim as he reached the battlements. He pressed on though. He was going to get his revenge.
“EXPLORERS…! EXPLORERS IN THE WOODS!” Bob screamed at the guard on duty.
Bob heard the guards yelling at each other and bells ringing shortly after. Then, the gates opened, Bob walked into safety. It was time to gather the troops for battle.