A Ranger's DeathMature

The evidence of the battle was as blatant as dark blood. Arrows were strewn all over the forest. A dozen orc corpses lay on the ground, as ragged breathing cut through the air.

It had been a scouting squad that Keigo, and his dying companion, had happened upon. They should have been more prepared since they had been tracking the Orc raiding party along the Sodalan coast.

"Keigo..." The man said with a mouth full of blood. Two arrows protruded from his chest, both very close to the heart.

"Don't speak." Keigo said quietly, his hands quivering, unsure what to do now. He wanted to appear calm like a ranger should - calm and collected.

"Go." He uttered, " I am not ashamed to die here. Quietly. Unheard of. Unknown, nobly for a greater cause. A Rangers death." The man said with as much pride as a dying man could have.

"Raerik, your death will not be in vain." Keigo seethed as the warmth and life faded from the man. “Rest in Peace... Old friend."

Keigo removed a silver amulet, depicting a sword and bow crossed over a horse, from his friends corpse. He tied it to his belt before preparing to ride. He wished he could give his friend a proper burial, but time was of the essence. He gathered all the undamaged arrows he could, and whistled for his horse.

The animal had been startled by the battle and ran off with much of his gear. In the suspense of waiting for the ungrateful steed, the forest seemed to breathe a moist fog that rushed through the trees. In the distance the sound of hooves sounded. Keigo gave out another whistle as the horse burst through the thickening fog.

Keigo's departure from the forest was uneventful, but the fog seemed to be following him. As the canopy of the forest got sucked into the horizon, the fog could be seen creeping along it. He did not let himself be bothered with the oddity of the fog, but made great haste towards the crumbling ruins that stood at the bottle neck in the land. It was the easiest way to travel over to the next valley, and it also served doubly for a hideout for raiders, and bandits alike.

This was also where Keigo hoped he could achieve an ambush. He urged his horse faster till they reached the grey ruins of a long passed ancient culture, whose only remaining legacy was to foster a home for weary travelers or devious bandits.

The stone walls were crumbling, as vines and bushes encroached on what used to be a guard tower. In the inner parts of the ruins the once solid brick walls were now filled with holes and cracks. Stone stairs seemed to lead nowhere as the structure was now a pile of rubble below from the ceiling upwards.

At first inspection the ruins looked abandoned, but Keigo kept his guard up. He began to cover up pitfalls with various cloth materials strewn about the ruins. He setup trip wires that would send unfortunate foes into well placed rubble that would shatter skulls. He also managed to loosen a large brick piece on the guard tower that now hung over the edge precariously waiting for a nudge or tackle of encouragement to fall. Within a few hours the orc raiders had appeared over the horizon.

Now he waited in the guard tower as the raiders made their way forward. Some of the orcs were riding dire wolves, they surrounded caravans hulled by stolen oxen. It was fair to guess that those caravans held their most recent pillaged goods.

The vanguard of the orcs began to pour in through the front entrance. Keigo resisted his urge to push the large block over them now, but if he waited he might achieve splitting the force, which in turn could cause chaos among the orcs; making Keigo's job much easier in both; staying alive and reducing the strength of these raiders.

Half of them had made their way into the ruins when Keigo pushed the block; it hit the ground with an earth shattering bang. Dust began to fill the air. The orcs started cursing, and barking at each other.

Keigo knocked an arrow into place and fired it at the orc that appeared to be delivering orders to the others. The arrow hit its target with brutal accuracy, as the orc leaders eye had turned into a bloody mess. The orcs screeched incomprehensibly, knowing now that they had walked into an ambush. The orcs riding the dire wolves tried to regain control of their subordinates. But it was a pointless exercise, as one by one arrows pierced their skulls.

Below Keigo the sound of armoured footsteps echoed into his ears. They found him. He slung the bow above his shoulders, and drew his great sword. One charged through the staircase and stopped in shock of seeing the half elf there.

Keigo used the orcs surprise to his advantage and cut him down with ease. The orcs behind it charged in angrily as their comrade fell to the ground. Kiego parried one of them while tripping the other before slashing both down. These orcs were unusually organized but their skills were fairly mediocre for such a band.

Keigo glanced out, it looked like the orcs had managed to regain some order as they began to notice that their enemy wasn't many. Arrows began to fall around the half elf. He raced down the stairs dispatching any further orcs. On the bottom floor he ran into another group. An arrow grazed his shoulder as he stepped out of the way of an swinging axe. He batted away a sword whilst grabbing a dagger on his belt, slashing the neck of one opponent and dismembering the axe wielder with it.

Another arrow narrowly missed him as he kicked the axe wielding orc to the ground, and charged at the archer. The archer attempted to fire the arrow, but it was too late as Keigo's sword had already impaled him through the abdomen. With the guard tower cleared, Keigo's eyes darted out on the streets doing, his best to keep hidden from the confused and disarrayed orcs.

Some of his traps had come in handy as a handful of orcs were trapped in the pitfalls. Behind him an orcish screech echoed through rubble filled road. About half a dozen orcs raced towards the lone ranger.

Keigo, knowing that outrunning them would worsen the situation, stood his ground. He threw his dagger, managing to catch one on the shoulder but not hastening its advance. One came into range of his sword and was dispatched with ease as Keigo swatted its neck.

He sidestepped another swing and caught another off guard as he swung his sword down its back, but now he was surrounded. No amount of sidestepping, or quick sword movements would save him now. Not that he didn't try as he went for the orc that had his dagger embedded in its shoulder.

Their blades meant and Keigo waited to feel the blades of his enemy cut him down, but it didn't come. Taking the advantage of still being alive he overpowered his opponent by summoning his strength to force the orcs sword back. He grabbed his dagger and cut the orcs neck to turn around to face the other orcs, but they were on the ground dead, replaced by short statured creature with cold eyes.

" A halfling?" Keigo said under his breath.

"Yes a Halfling. Is it so impossible for a Halfling to be as skilled as I?" The little man asked, with an irritated flickering as he swiped the dark blood off his blades.

"It's not that." Keigo said quickly, keeping an eye on the Halfling assuming he was an ally for now. More orcs were closing in, probably drawn in by the sounds of battle.

"Want to see who can kill more?" The Halflings voice said from above.

"How did he get their so fast?" Kiego whispered to himself as he parried a violent swing from a war hammer. Ducking low he went to strike his opponent down but his opponent fell to his knee's with a knife sticking out of its back. That Halfling was efficient. Two more orcs came at him but were taken down in quick succession from the Halfling.

"Are you just going to let me do all the work?" The Halfling chuckled.

Keigo didn't reply but instead sheathed his sword and drew his bow, taking rapid shots that dropped five advancing orcs. As the Halfling gracefully traversed the train above street level, he misplaced a step and tumbled to ground level in between a few orcs. He managed to take one on his way down, but the other two would have had him if it weren't for two swiftly fired arrows, that injured one and killed the other. The Halfling dispatched the injured one with ease.

The streets seemed to quite down for a moment as the two looked for their next quarry. Before an air of complacence was built, one of the ruins burst into dust as a dire wolf, twice the size of a horse, came through it. Keigo shot two more arrows, aiming for its head, but the wolf was moving too fast and the arrows sunk into its flank - having little effect.

Kiego rolled to the side, avoiding the snapping jaw of the over grown grey and white beast. He fired another shot, aiming for the throat, but missed as he was thrown against the stone wall by the creatures legs.

Riding the beast was an orc commander, with a crossbow aimed at him the half elf. Still stunned, Kiego lay still as the Halfling threw two knives, the combined force of the pair knocked the crossbow to the ground.

"Get on your feet elf!" The Halfling yelled from above. The beast viciously turned towards Kiego. He rolled out of the way and drew his sword in time to meet a canine the size of of forearm.

With both hands on the hilt, Keigo plunged the sword down the beasts gullet. The creatures body reacted violently, and collapsed. Leaving Keigo penned against the wall. The wolves rider unmounted, and took out a menacing black dagger with a jagged edge. Managing to get one of his hands free Keigo grabbed his own dagger and threw it, missing the orc entirely. Fortunately, the Halfling with better skill at throwing such objects, sunk a knife through it’s skull.

"That was close."

"I wouldn't say it’s over, this thing has pack mates around here somewhere." Keigo replied, kicking the wolf corpse off of him before struggling to reclaim his sword that was deeply embedded in the beast.

"True." The Halfling said grabbing his knife out of the orcs head, before examining the orcs silky black dagger. Something about it caught his eye.

"The name is Keigo."The Half-Elf said, extending his right arm, which was still covered in dire wolf blood.

"Err... Racieus." The Halfling said, hesitating to shake the blood covered hand, "No offense. but that name is not very Elvish."

"It's not, I'm only Half-Elf. I was named by my human mother." Keigo said trying to rid the blood from his arms, “So how long have you been here, did you know about the orc raiders?"

“Long enough to see you put together those weak traps." Raciues replied.

"What?" Keigo said shocked. He had trained many years to be able to detect people trying to hide their presence, and he had thought he had become very good at it.

“Don’t be so dismayed, my job is to be undetectable." Raciues said smugly, “Anyways, we should see if we've dispatched this band of orcs."

“Yes." Keigo agreed. The two made their way to the guard tower only to notice a new addition to the scene. A troll standing about two stories high, staring the two down.


The End

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