Stop and try to light a fire

The forest canopy keeps most of the rain from falling, but not all. Tinder and wood that are dry enough to light are hard to find, but finally the Ranger has enough to last the night. It takes all of his woodcraft to coax the small fire to start, but the warmth and light are reward enough.

As the heat works on his bone-deep chill, the Ranger can feel his knotted muscles relax. This small clearing near the path is a good enough place to spend the night, he decides. He sets up his makeshift camp, using strips of rawhide to tie one of the two blankets from his bedroll between a pair of slim saplings. It is at least some small protection from what rain manages to filter through the leaves above. When he has settled beneath his blanket roof, he eats sparingly. Provisions are low. If he doesn't find a village soon, he will have to hunt. He lies back on his bedroll, his strung and ready bow beneath one hand. After a time, the Ranger sleeps, trusting his senses to wake him if there's a need.

And wake him they do. He knows he hasn't slept long. His small campfire has not yet burned itself out, though it is dying. The ancient trees creak in the wind, but his sensitive hearing makes out another sound beneath the rush of wind and rustle of leaf and branch: the low crackle of something creeping through the undergrowth.

For a moment longer, the Ranger feigns sleep. One hand closes around his bow, the other slides slowly to his arrows and closes around one of the shafts. The faint sound of sneaking movement from the shadows on the far side of the fire pauses.

Now, he thinks, and springs suddenly to his feet. The arrow is nocked and bowstring drawn back to firing position so fast that the Ranger's hands blur.

Twin points of red light bloom in the shadows across the clearing. Whether they are eyes that only reflect the dying fire or glow with their own angry light the Ranger doesn't know.

The End

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