An Aruous Quest – Chapter Five

A Change Of Heart

 

When they got back Voeren made a tea of chicken stew. Then when Arden was asleep, he began plotting where the village, the Gists and all of the other features of terrain there were onto a large sheet of paper. When he finished he marked out the key points of good ambush positions in a circle around the Gists camp site with crosses.
“Surprise!” he mumbled under his breath. The next morning Voeren noticed a high increase on the amount of shady and scruffy men lurking in the nooks and crannies of the town.
“Now’s the time.” he said to himself after a seemingly aimless trek through the village. They went back to the small cottage and carried on training. Then, at past noon they headed out towards the Gists’ camp. Voeren had chosen their path wisely. The two green-clothed rangers made their way through small woodland, then on past the plains and they reached an area of large and tall foliage and bushes, the perfect cover for an ambush.
“You stay here Arden, watch what I do and learn from it.” whispered the senior Ranger. Little did he know that his enemy was there, ready, waiting. As Voeren sneaked off into the camp, the hairs on Arden’s neck stood up.
“Something’s not right.” the small, timid boy said, rapidly becoming braver by the minute.Arden heard a loud,
“AAAAHHHHRRR!” from the distance. Peering into the camp, he could see a large sphere of people, all brandishing weapons, standing around a diminutive person in a green cloak. Arden cursed under his breath as he noticed a pool of blood beneath his master’s mouth.
“Well, well, well. What do we ‘ave here then, boys?” Arden heard one man ask as he stepped out into the middle. The leader, Arden thought. He suddenly saw a leg fly out at Voeren and kick him in the stomach. While this was happening the sphere expanded to leave the chief arm room.
“I recon we should kill this Damn idiot off, don’t ya’ think?” Arden’s heart froze as the roars of agreement bounded across the country-side. Not another death? he thought, disconsolate at the prospect of losing another person in his life. Whilst the crowd started chanting Arden grasped the Ranger’s bow beside him, knocked an arrow, aimed at the chest of the soon to be executioner, pulled back to full draw and let the oak and steel soar. Arden missed his target. Luckily it hit his weapon, sending it spinning into the forehead of the man to the left. Howls of alarm came from throughout the circle as the lifeless body dropped to the floor with a large sword embedded in his face, just above the eyebrows. Voeren took advantage of the momentary confusion and lashed out at the leader with a recently acquired enemy sword. Still stunned by seeing an arrow fly past his face by mere centimetres, the quick-thinking Ranger caught him unawares as he sliced through the man’s legs like a hot knife through butter. The criminals’ morale dropped as quickly as their chief did as they saw him fall to the ground. Unsure of what to do, they did what any good thief would do, they ran away scattering into the forest.
“Come back! You flee-ridden cowards! He’s just one man!” he screamed as he comprehended the deserting men.
“Not one man, one Ranger.” Voeren whispered in his ear. And with that, he knocked the man out cold.
“Master! Master! Are you all right?” hollered Arden as he ran up to the camp site and towards the bloodied Ranger. Voeren turned round to face Arden.
“Yes, yes, I’m all right, thank you.” He stopped and looked at his apprentice. Voeren no longer saw the frightened, dazed little boy anymore, he saw Arden for who he really was, a fine young gentleman, eager to learn and help in any way he could.
“Thank you, for saving my life.” Voeren said.
“When we get back, I think I need to improve on my skills with the bow.” Arden told his master, feeling determination flooding into him.
“And everything else!” chuckled Voeren. “Welcome to the Rangers’ CORPs.” he said, smiling as Arden began to laugh, the first laugh Voeren had ever heard from him. As Arden filled up with joy, he wondered why he had ever given the feeling up.
“Let’s go and see what treasures they stole this time.” Voeren said, nodding at the group of makeshift huts, houses and caravans. Swiftly weaving in and out of the crude homes, it took no time at all to find the stolen goods.
“Voeren! Over here!” Arden shouted to the senior Ranger, who rushed round. Arden pointed to a now-open loose floorboard with a large chest surrounded with gold, jewellery and bags of money, presumably stolen from the RRB (the Royal Raudanas Bank) or transfer carts. Voeren lightly opened the chest only to find weapons.
“Well, they may not have been able to steal that much stuff yet, but it looks like they could’ve.” Arden told his master as he peered over his shoulder and into the box containing an assortment of arsenals.
“Arden, see if you can find anything to carry the gold and jewellery.” Arden nodded and set off towards the other huts.

Once Arden had found a batch of large boxes and bags, they loaded the valuables onto some horses found in the Gists’ stables, and set off in the direction of mount Garly. Baron Porter was pleased to see that the stolen items were all back in one piece.
“Once again you seem to have saved me from a whole lot of trouble, Voeren. For that, I thank you.”  Caspian told his friend. Meanwhile several of the remaining Gists slowly returned to their now worthless campsite. They groaned in despair as they gazed into the now empty chest below the floorboard. One of them, by the name of Alex, said to the rest of the group,
“Let’s scavenge anything of worth, and then set off north.” The others nodded. Just then there was a loud, growling noise coming from outside, followed by a strange, un-earthly sound, almost like brittle nails sliding down a sheet of metal. One of them swore loudly as the others covered their ears and shivered. All eyes on the doorway, weapons ready, gradually, one finger at a time, a hefty, hair-matted hand curled round the doorframe. Its nails dirty, covered in dried-blood and grime. Next came the ears, quickly popping out, followed by the creatures brow. As quick as lightning, the rest of the beast sprang out and in a blur of motion, tore open Alex’s neck and flung him into the others. One tried to get up to confront the monster, franticly thrashing his dagger about. The beast snarled as blood drew from its shin, catching on the matted hair. It leaped onto his chest in retaliation and sunk its moon-white fangs into his long neck. Hurriedly finishing them off in a frenzy, the beast left the hut and merged into the night, ready to await new orders, new targets.

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